Monday, January 10, 2011

The Cape (TV Show - Spoiler Warning)

We watched the premiere 2 hours of The Cape on NBC last night.It was less of a 2 hour premiere than it was a one hour premiere and first episode shown back to back, in that the story in the first hour wraps up, and a new plot line comes up for the second hour. There is continuity of course, and it worked just fine for me as I like getting 2 hours of a new thing right up front. This way we got the origin, and some development as well.

The Cape, as far as I know, is an original TV property, which is good, as it allows for none of the fan ranting that a character is being portrayed wrong, etc. that you get from properties that were comics first, or otherwise have an established run of some sort. It is VERY much in the style of superhero comics, and fortunately it has a sincere golden age vibe to it without being a deconstruction or a camp heavy send-up of the genre. It has a sincerity to it and also a good amount of humor and fun in its execution and character personalities and their interactions with one another. What was good about this show is very similar to what I find appealing in the Fox show Human Target. There is action and adventure, but there a compelling characters, and decent character interaction, etc., without coming off as too heavy or dark, but also not too light or campy. It is a nice balance.

Here are the basics:
The show takes place in the fictional 'Palm City'. Good cop, former soldier Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is our hero. He is on a police force that not only has a good bit of corruption, but one that is also on the verge of being privatized by a giant security firm called ARK, which is run by billionaire Peter Fleming (James Frain). At the beginning of the show, a new, good police commissioner is being sworn in/introduced, whatever, and he is killed with a new sort of explosive device right under everyone's nose, and with Faraday overseeing the security detail on the commissioner. The crime was committed by the masked murderer known as Chess. Later, Faraday's friend on the force suggests he join ARK prior to the firm taking over the police, and that way he can be in a good position, etc. Faraday gets a message from mysterious covert blogger Orwell, who routinely exposes corruption in the police and government. The message points him in a direction to uncover the truth about Chess and the explosive used to kill the police chief(or whatever he was). Faraday goes all good cop and pokes around, finding out that ARK is smuggling the explosives in other products. His friend betrays him, and Fleming, who of course is also Chess, sets up Faraday as being Chess. Faraday flees and seemingly gets killed in an explosion, but is actually taken into custody by a group of circus folk and performers who rob banks as The Circus of Crime.

At no point so far in the show are you winked at. Yes, if you over scrutinize, some of this will seem ridiculous, but it is done in a way that lets you stay immersed, and doesn't take you out of the story so much that you start nitpicking or worrying over those things. Circus of Crime is a pretty awesome thing, and certainly a well used device. I get a golden age feel to it as you have these sort of exotic mentors and a well trained hero that is based firmly in good. He works with the circus, and helps them commit crimes, but they establish that their crimes will be against ARK and Fleming, so it works with Faraday's need to avenge himself because of him.

Max Malini (Keith David) Is a standout in this as a master illusionist and sort of curator of the craft who has turned to crime, but not abandoned showmanship in the least. Once he signs on to help Faraday, he provides him with a special one of a kind pure spider silk cape with a weighted hem, etc. and overseas his training in all of the great super hero friendly circus disciplines. He arranges a regimen of instruction in fighting styles that favor a cape, as well as cape based disappearing illusions and hypnosis, etc. Some of these at the hands of other circus folk. There is no sense of time in the training montage, but at the end of it all he becomes The Cape, a shadowy figure who uses stealth, escape, and a cape that acts like a whip in many ways to thwart crime and get at The man who separated him from his wife and son (since he is considered dead, but would put them in jeopardy if anyone discovered he was alive.)

Comics, in particular a comic called The Cape, are important in this story. He gets the idea from the comic book that his son likes, and that he shares a special bond with his son over. They covertly read the comic together at night when the mom is out of the room, etc. I thought that was a nice nostalgic element there too. The idea of a parent and child bonding over comics is a pretty nice on to me. My daughters share an appreciation of comics with me, and when I was little, before I started getting comics with adult themes and art in them (Love and Rockets) My dad used to pick up my comics and enjoy reading them as well. I like that it is shown here, and that a primary part of his using the comic character persona is to show his son who he can't be with, that one person can make a difference.

As if I needed more to like about this show, Orwell(played by fan favorite Summer Glau... I saw it written that way somewhere, so I had to use that line myself) is like Watchtower from Smallville, rolled up with Eyes Only from Dark Angel. Very very similar to both in the tech and media/ exposing corruption angle, and the ability to do anything with computers, etc.) Her character is pretty good, but may be a slightly weaker point of the whole setup. We will have to see how it develops.

I am pretty sure I will continue watching this for a while. I really do like all the elements that are brought together. It has so many things in it that are comic tropes without seeming stupid. You see something, or hear a reference Like the secret criminal society the Tarot (which sounds like The Fraternity(from Wanted) and all the other shady organizations named after tarot or chess, etc.) and it makes you smile and nod. It hits a lot of notes, and does it in an authentic seeming way, what I was calling sincere earlier.

The pilot is available online, and I think will air again tonight. It is worth giving a watch if you like super heroes in my opinion.

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