Thursday, March 10

The Cape

There may be spoilers below.  I will try to note the truly major ones.  This post is meant as an analysis of NBC’s show The Cape.

The Cape is the story of Vince Faraday, a cop who is framed as Chess, a criminal mastermind.  Believed dead, Vince must try to expose who Chess’s true identity so that he can return to his family.  Blocking him however is the power that Chess holds.  Chess is more than a criminal mastermind – he is Peter Flemming who leads ARC, the newly established private police force.  As far as arch enemies (no pun intended), Flemming is more like Lex Luthor than the Joker or Venom.  Vince joins a circus group that performs robbery on the side.  There he is provided with a mysterious cape, which he dons in an effort to expose Flemming.  Thrown into the mix is Orwell, who runs a website dedicated to exposing lies and corruption, specifically targeting Flemming.  Orwell and Vince team up to achieve a mutual goal.
The Cape seems to quite a risk for NBC take, and it looks like it hasn’t paid off.  Ratings dropped considerably since the first episode and they changed the anticipated number of episodes from 13 to 10, planning for the 10th to be aired online only.
What went wrong?  Why didn’t this show work out?  Superhero movies seem to be the big rage right now.  Yet, this superhero themed TV show fell flat?  Having watched the nine episodes released up through now, I’ll offer my insight into what was good, and what need work.

First of all, the villains.  For the most part, every episode introduces a new villain.  While exciting to see new faces, by the ninth episode, I had no idea which villains would return in future episodes and which ones had their one time showing only to be gone.  If this were to become a multi-series show, certain villains would have to return.  Introducing new villains for every show would quickly get boring.  Plus, they’d run out of villain stereotypes to use.

The main villain, present in every episode is Chess.  As mentioned earlier he is the Lex Luthor of the show.  As Peter Flemming he is constantly in the public eye, and yet Vince knows he’s not all he’s cracked up to be.
Next is Scales.  Scales is the stereotypical brute-henchman.  For the most part he follows Chess’ orders, except for the times when he can be convinced that Chess isn’t looking out for him … which seems to be every other episode.  Of course, this means he and Chess are the only recurring villains through this point.
Kozmo enters the story in search of the cape.  He was promised it at one point, and desires it to continue his criminal activities.  There is not much depth in him.  He just wants the cape and he wants it now.  He added nothing substantial to the story.

Dice is one of the more intriguing ‘villians.’  Her father was killed by Chess, and she knows Chess’s true identity.  Her one goal in life is to kill Chess.  Why is she a villain?  Because she wants to kill Chess, whereas Vince wants to expose him so his name will be cleared.  Therefore he must stop Dice from killing Chess.  Dice also has this strange ability to accurately predict (or foresee?) the future, expect when that involves Vince.  Still, they idea that she knows the true identity of Chess is intriguing, but not fully utilized.  She seems like the perfect villain to return in later episodes.

Goggles and Hicks are probably among the more boring villains.  They are two brothers who specialize in assassinations.  One is a computer geek and the master at locating targets while the other the master and killing them.  And of course the computer geek is overweight and loves junk food while the guy who does the actual assassinations is the quiet type.  Chess hires them to kill the Cape (he doesn’t know Vince is alive).  Goggles and Hicks then fill the role of another villain stereotype – they become the villain who learns the Cape’s secret identity.  Yet, their code of honor keeps them from revealing it to anyone else.  Next.
The Lich was given two whole episodes, which two too many.  He is a deformed man who uses mind altering drugs in powered form to bend people to his will.  His back story was extremely weak and it mainly served as a way to reveal that Orwell (SPOILER) is the daughter of Peter Flemming (END SPOILER).   But I saw that coming the first time Flemming mentioned anything about a daughter.

The first episode which I thought actually started to break the mold of superhero stories was Razer, the 9th episode.  Razer, the villain, wasn’t even present that much.  Scales was hiring Razer as another major henchmen to strike fear into the locals.  Razer’s specialty is making explosives.  However, Vince and his circus friends find out.  They ambush Razer and Vince disguises himself as Razer so he can infiltrate Scale’s hideout and record insider information to show Scales works for Chess/Flemming.  The major down point is when he is found to be an imposter – all because he placed an identifying scar on the wrong side of his face.  Why wasn’t this noticed before?

Another element in The Cape which is interesting is the Circus act.  Though Vince was a good cop (by good I mean both effective and morally good) he is taken in by this group of criminals.  Though he doesn’t approve of their actions, he has to refrain from interfering with their work, for they provide him not only with the cape but with skills such as disappearing in a cloud of smoke, hand to hand combat, and tight rope walking (for those times you have to run a tightrope between two skyscrapers).  The circus act is also filled with the stereotypical circus people.  But the situation itself seems unique enough: a crime fighter who has no good choice other than to hole up with a bunch of criminals.

Another thing about the cape is that Orwell is played by Summer Glau.  Now, Summer is a great actress.  I thought she was terrific in Dollhouse and I’m enjoying the few episodes I’ve seen of Firefly so far.  She also seemed decent in Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles.  However, she plays the stereotypical computer geek.  I’d love to see her branch out her acting roles a bit.

The action sequences are terrible.  Often times I don’t even believe punches land, or the action is cut in a disjointed way.  I realize there is a comic book effect they are trying to achieve, but so far it isn’t working.  The writing is also weak, especially when it comes to dialogue.  Exposition is relied on a bit too often, and when there is no exposition there are cheesy quips that I think are supposed to make me laugh. 

One of Vince’s closest friends (before he was framed) also turns out to be a thug for Chess.  It is this friend that helped capture Vince to frame him and now works closely with Flemming.  To keep up his charade, he stays good friends with Vince’s wife, pretending to comfort her, all the while making sure she believes that Vince was Chess.  This seemed like another forced point in the series, and I feel like I’ve seen it before—many times.

One of the better parts of the cap is actually the opening credits sequence, which is designed to look like comic book panels.  Given that they are trying to recreate the comic book feel in the whole show, it helps a bit when dealing with the cheesy aspect of it, however that is no excuse for some poorly developed characters.

So why did I keep with it for nine episodes?  Partly because I wanted to see where it went.  The idea of a live action superhero TV series was intriguing.  Plus, they do have good elements.  As noted earlier, some villains do have potential.  Some of the circumstances have potential.  However, they weren’t fully utilized.  If the writing was to improve even a little bit, I think this would be a much stronger show.  I also hate to see yet another one of Summer Glau’s shows cancelled, but sadly this seems like the one that least deserves to continue. 

I’m hoping the final episode is good.  They are still working on it, which means it may actually serve as a conclusion.  I’ll let you know if I watch it.

Has anyone else watched The Cape?  What did you think of it?

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