NBC’s The Cape is the network’s newest attempt at perfecting the serialized superhero television format. Set in the fictional Palm City, The Cape is centered around the soon-to-be masked vigilante Vince Faraday (David Lyons) – the last remaining “good cop” in a city filled to the brim with corruption.
Following the explosive death of the Chief of Police at the hands of Palm City’s super villain Chess (James Frain), Faraday must seek employment with Ark, the corporation seeking to privatize every governmental element of this struggling city.
After stumbling upon Ark’s secret transportation of illegal weapons, Faraday comes face to face with the mysterious Chess - who turns out to be none other than Peter Fleming, the billionaire owner of Ark and Faraday’s most recent (and final) employer. Follow Fleming’s framing of Faraday as the nefarious Chess, Faraday loses his family, reputation and almost his life.
With the help of Max Malini (Keith David) and a gang of circus performing bank robbers, Faraday is able to transform himself into his son’s favorite comic book superhero and Palm City’s only hope at redemption, The Cape.
Series creator Tom Wheeler, the scribe of the upcoming Dreamworks Shrek spin-off, Puss in Boots, fortunately took a note from the numerous fans complaining about the long, drawn-out storytelling that plagued the now-forgotten Heroes and was able to include all of this back-story and Faraday’s subsequent transformation into The Cape within the first 15 minutes of the series premiere. This implementation of quick-paced plot progression, while typically resulting in disjointed storytelling, resonates perfectly within the graphic novel stylings of The Cape and thankfully continues throughout.
Helping along this accelerated rhythm is the investigative blogger and The Cape’s pseudo sidekick, Orwell (Summer Glau) who, with her police corruption-revealing website and Watchtower-esque handling of information, serves to quickly highlight our protagonist’s next objective and makes sure there is never a scene that lingers too long. Unfortunately, there are some exceptions where a heavy-handed attempt at emotion slows the story down to a crawl.
In terms of supervillains, Chess/Peter Fleming proves to be the most poorly realized nemesis of the series’ many. While his role as the main antagonist and proverbial patriarch is clearly defined, it is his stable of caricaturized henchmen that provides much of the great suspense and intrigue contained within The Cape’s two-hour premiere.
Despite Scales (Vinnie Jones) perfectly embodying the typical brooding enforcer for Chess’ malevolent plans, it is Cane, the master poisoner for the secret society known as Tarot, that not only provides the most enjoyment, but also offers viewers a glimpse at what intriguing subplots will be touched on as the series progresses.
Of course, one rhetorical question that persists throughout is whether The Cape is reveling in its inherent campiness or attempting to be seen as an equal to some of television’s best dramas. Whether intentional or not, the numerous scenes of awkward dialogue, obvious jokes and over-emphasized emotional sincerity makes for an endearing viewing experience, akin to the 1960s version of Batman, starring Adam West.
Unfortunately, it still remains to be seen whether or not television viewing audiences will warm to a series such as this. While there are enough action scenes to keep everyone on the edge of their seats, a musical score equal to that of many theatrical releases and a unique take on television’s superhero genre, the overall jocular delivery may cause many to wrongly dismiss The Cape for being a poorly executed series, rather than the enjoyable ride that it most surely is.
Without seeing any episodes following the premiere, it’s hard to tell whether or not this quirky, yet entertaining, style of storytelling will continue. But, if one thing can be unequivocally said about The Cape, it’s that it has promise.
Despite preconceived notions of skepticism and disappointment from potential viewers, The Cape delivers – for those able to suspend disbelief - a thoroughly entertaining viewing experience, with solid action scenes, a terrific score and an intriguing plot paced so quickly, you’ll feel as if you’re watching a visual representation of a graphic novel.
The Cape premieres January 9 @9pm, on NBC. Following its premiere, the series will move to its normal timeslot on Mondays @9pm, starting January 17.