EPISODE REVIEW: The Cape: "Pilot" and "Tarot" (Season 1, Episodes 1 and 2)

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NBC trots out another superhero franchise after the train wreck that was "Heroes".  Will this one catch on?

Spoilers follow if you haven't seen these episodes.



Vince Faraday is a family man and an honest cop.  Apparently in Palm City, that makes him a rarity.  Since he is trusted, he is put in charge of the new Police Chief's security detail.  Unfortunately, it does not go well, as the Chief is assassinated by a villain named Chess with a grenade of L-9... a particularly nasty explosive.  Due to the political fallout of the assassination, and the obvious corruption of the Palm City police department, ARK corporation, headed by Peter Fleming is asked to step in and provide a private police force.  

Vince sees the writing on the wall, and meets with Fleming, in hopes of becoming a cop for ARK.  The meeting goes well, so he goes home and spends time reading comic books to his son.  

He is busy orienting himself to ARK, when his computer goes fritzy.  A computer hacker with elite skills, named Orwell tells him of Fleming and ARK's involvement with the smuggling of L-9 into Palm City.  Faraday follows this lead, calling a buddy of his to help.  Remember what I said about a corrupt police department?  Well.... his buddy isn't really a buddy.  When Faraday shows him L-9 hidden in baby dolls in a train freight yard, he is promptly jumped and thrown under the bus (or train, as the case may be.)  He awakes to find Chess, who reveals himself to be Fleming (big surprise). After the requisite speechifying, Fleming has his Chess mask nailed to Faraday's head (ow!) and sets him loose in the train yard where ARK troops and cops (and choppers and so forth) chase him across the tracks.  Faraday finds himself underneath a fuel tanker.  He finds a loading door underneath and manages to crack the lock and fall beneath it, just as tracer rounds ignite the fuel and make a big ba-da- boom.  (It had to be tracers, right?  Doesn't anybody watch Mythbusters?)  

The concussion knocks him silly, and he wakes up for the second time in the day from an unscheduled nap to find that he's now being held captive by the Carnival of Crime- a bunch of circus folks who've turned to bank robbery, using all their carny tricks to achieve their ends.  They think that they've captured Chess, and think that he can help them with their bank jobs.  

Well, he's not Chess, and once he gets the mask removed, he tells them that he can probably help them more than Chess could, as he knows everybody's security features and schedules.  So, to avoid being killed for the.... nth time today (I honestly lost count), he throws in with the Carnival of Crime and is a screaming success.

Vince isn't happy about his latest success in crime, so he strikes a deal with Max, the leader of the gang.  In return for his help, Max will help him get his family back.  Vince is now presumed dead... and he's presumed to have been Chess.  Not good.  And should he show his face and reveal himself to be alive, Fleming has threatened his family.

Vince finds an old cape while exploring the gang's hideout.  He puts it on and tries some fighting manuevers with it.  Max finds him, and after a bit of exposition, gives him a better cape with rare properties that allows him to perform interesting grappling moves, provides protection and anonymity and many illusions.  Thirty Seven, to be precise.  We begin the training montage, where the various members of the Carnival of Crime pass on their trade secrets in illusions, fighting, hypnosis, knife throwing and, of course, cape handling.

A thug named Scales, because of an unfortunate dermatological condition acquired by Bullet Tooth "Juggernaut" Tony, is the one who is smuggling the explosives in toys into the city. (ouch.  Tortured Sentence Alert!) Vince (as the Cape) attempts to stop Scales, with pretty dreadful results.  Vince ends up in chains at the bottom of the bay.  He channels his inner Houdini and breaks free.  Before he's able to re-engage with Bullet Tooth Scales, he spies someone else who is observing the operations.  It turns out to be Orwell, the hacker.   She figures out who he is, and quickly joins forces with him.

Chess, in the meantime, has grabbed Max and is trying to get information from him about the Carnival robberies.  This doesn't last long, because Max is a brilliant escape artist.... and does the expected.  He escapes.  In the process, he's shot.  Rollo (one of the Carnies) contacts Vince and tells him that Max has been grabbed.  Vince heads out to the rescue, with an earpiece from Oracle... I mean Orwell... in his head.   

The Cape and the Carnies arrive to find that Max is gravely wounded.  He gasps some last words to Vince and slumps over.... not dead.  He's irritated, as he wasted perfectly good last words on a false alarm.

Vince heads out to stop Chess from making a big bang with all that L-9, and with help from Ora ... I mean, Orwell,  he succeeds in foiling the eeeevil plot- though he fights Chess to a draw.

A bit later, in an midilogue, he foils a pawn store robbery- though the pawn store owner thinks that 'The Cape' is a lousy superhero name.

At a city commision meeting sometime later, the head of the jails and prisons is railing on against Fleming and ARK's bid to take over the prison system.  After all, he already runs police, and with this kind of vertical integration, he will soon have a monopoly on force in  Palm City.

Although the plan is fairly obvious, the Cape breaks into Fleming's penthouse and digs into his records.  Fleming apparently wanted this to happen (duh.  His nom de guerre is 'Chess'.  He's going to be one move ahead), and he sics his latest villain at him, an assassin named Cain who has a penchant for artful poisoning.  He speaks of poison almost as a chef would speak of food.  Turns out that the dagger that he stabs the Cape with was poisoned.  Faced with certain death, the Cape jumps out of the window where he is picked up by Oracl... I mean Orwell in a gull wing Mercedes.  That's not conspicuous...

She dumps him with the Carnies who use a combination of leeches, nightshade, physical violence and prayer to bring him back from the brink of death.  The fact that Vince was so stupid as to be caught irritates Max, so he sends Vince to bed without his cape.  Vince is determined to see justice done and regain his family, so he sets off to create his own hideout and a mask for himself.

While Vince begins to train himself to deal with a poison knife throwing assassin (by making a knife throwing machine to practice with and subjecting himself to small amounts of Iocane powder...), Orwell rescues Portman, the man who is currently standing up to Fleming.  She sees Cain and notices again the Tarot Card tatooed on his arm. 

She finds the capeless Vince beating the crap out of petty thugs for information on Cain, otherwise known as Frank Miller Batman tactic no 2.  She tells him that Cain is a member of a super secret assassin's guild known as the Tarot.  She suspects he's their poisoner.

No kidding.

The Cape (sans Cape) visits Portman to encourage him to stick with the battle.  

Max visits Vince's new Cape-Cave to deliver the cape and a speech.  Orwell has found a lead and ends up at a classy restaurant where Fleming is trying to wine and die... or dine, Portman into reversing his decision on the prisons. Cain identifies Orwell from her earlier rescue of Portman, and proceeds to fight and chase her through the kitchen.  He has poisoned Portman's chicken; all he needs to do is keep Orwell occupied for a couple of minutes and hope Portman's not a picky eater.  The Cape shows up, dodges flying poisoned knives and grills Cain.  I don't mean 'grills' as in pumping him for information.  I mean 'grills' as in Burger King.

We close with the Cape standing on top of a building, looking heroic.


It was an entertaining couple of hours.  I enjoyed it- a bit darker than 'No Ordinary Family', but not as ponderous as "Heroes".   The whole Superhero who can't contact his family or Very  Bad Things tm will happen is reminiscent of the late, lamented Now and Again  ( I really miss that one...) and this show shares a lot of the tone of N&A.  It falls into a lot of the tropes of the Superhero genre, but seems to do so with a wink and a smile.  Max's attempted death scene and subsequent 'epic fail' was hilarious; the show has a healthy sense of humor, even when it treads over cliches.  

The idea that Vince would get training from a bunch of criminal carnies made the same sort of absurd sense as the idea that a cape could retract and expand as the 'spider silk' cape exhibits.

The family subplot looks like it will pay off fairly quickly.  I'll talk a bit more about that after next episode.

Will Conservatives Like This Show?:

I don't know.  I'm not sure if I really like it or not yet.  It's fun- it's about family and friends and heroics.  Vince is a former soldier and a cop, and we like that.

Problem is, the Evil Corporation privatizing city services trope is out in full force here.  It's implied that ARK is a Halliburton-esque entity.  I could do without the whole 'privatization is bad' theme.

So, it's your call.  If you can ignore the corporate stuff, it's a fairly entertaining (if not always logical) romp.