The Cape Is Absolutely Ridiculous

"So this is real?" Summer Glau asked the hooded, caped man standing in her office at one point during last night's premiere of The Cape. That was the same question running through my mind for pretty much the entire two hours.

Filling the television voids left by Heroes and, I'm guessing, Night Man, NBC's newest action show is absolutely ridiculous. It's like someone combined the production values of the Knight Rider reboot with the cleverness of Batman & Robin. As a TV show ostensibly inspired by comic books, The Cape manages to fundamentally misunderstand both television and comic books. It's a garbage show, basically. However! And this is a big compliment: It's not boring!

The Cape is about a guy who thinks his beloved family is better off believing he's dead. That's pretty much all you need to know about his decision-making abilities. However, he has his reasons: Framed and defamed for being Palm City's archvillain Chess and then publicly "killed" on live television, Detective Vince Faraday goes underground—literally—and falls in with a troupe of bank-robbing sideshow performers, then decides to impersonate his son's favorite superhero in order to bring down the REAL Chess. Fair enough. As a superhero origin story, it's tremendously trite (no modern comic book would dare be so unimaginative), but there's a pervasive weirdness to this show that prevents you from changing the channel. It's delightfully random—a bank-robbing raccoon! A knife-throwing machine!—and its refreshing shamelessness makes it a superhero drama for the True Blood age. (Y'know, if True Blood were unsexy and not clever.)

Perhaps hoping for quality by association, The Cape gives us True Blood's James Frain as Peter Fleming, a billionaire weapons dealer seeking to privatize local law enforcement who also moonlights as Chess, the dastardly villain who'll frighten the masses into acquiescence. As far as villains go, Chess is no Joker. Frain is fine in the part, I guess, but for a villainous mastermind who says things like "bring the submarine around," he doesn't seem to be having much fun.

Luckily The Cape seems to acknowledge Chess' shortcomings by pairing him with secondary villains, like Vinnie Jones' reptilian henchman Scales and knife-throwing poison enthusiast Cain. And in introducing the concept of The Tarot, a secret society of outlandish killers hired by Chess to do his dirty work, there promises to be a Rogues Gallery of sorts—which, since superhero franchises live and die by the strength of their villains, better contain some pretty fantastic characters in order to overcome the essential vanilla lameness of the title hero. And oh man, that terrible CGI cape/whip! Plus the character is just boring. At least Batman had a screwed up psychology and an alter ego. But being emotionally compelling is NOT The Cape's main priority.

And then there's the pacing of the show. Holy jeez. It's not just that the plot moved fast—the cold open alone contained several hours' worth of story—it's that it seems to have skipped over most of it. While I appreciate The Cape's willingness to cut to the chase, it actually felt like they took the script and ripped out every other page. Really important plot points were glossed over or ignored, and every opportunity to give these characters dimension or an emotional hook were avoided. The Cape thinks we don't need to know how our hero infiltrates a billionaire's penthouse even though, yeah, actually that could be really suspenseful to see. Thanks for avoiding that potentially entertaining moment, guys.

A comic book can tell a story rapidly because it trusts the reader to really pore over the panel at his or her own pace, not to mention the fact that popular comics have years—decades!—of backstory and characterization to make you care about what's at stake. The Cape wants to skip over that whole "making you care" phase and just get into the action. Which, fine. The action is fine. But nothing ruins an action scene like not caring, and last night I just didn't care.

I'm no huge comic book fan, but didn't we as a society finally agree that comic books can be a sophisticated form of storytelling way back in the 90s? Why are TV shows (*cough* Heroes) still trying to emulate only the biggest cliches and stereotypes that aren't even in vogue anymore? Basically, if The Cape were a graphic novel, it would be the Mama's Family of graphic novels.

Anyway, back to the review. Well, Summer Glau plays Orwell, a very confusing character who's basically a hot lady version of Matt Drudge—assuming Matt Drudge dons disguises to personally go out and get the scoop. (He does that, right?) She ends up exhibiting far more prowess as a superhero than The Cape does, but she's just the sidekick. I mean, I'm guessing she's his sidekick. They skipped over that scene. And apparently also the scene where The Cape's family leaves the suburbs and moves into the projects?

Also, Palm City is played by Chicago but has its own Library Tower, and at night it looked like a deleted scene from The Spirit?

Oh, and the sideshow act! Did I dream that part? They were barely even in the second episode, so I hope they aren't being phased out. Those weirdos were interesting enough, but what a fever dream! Really liked the dwarf strongman. And Keith David, whose resumé includes everything ever filmed, is excellent as ringleader Max Malini. It was a bummer when The Cape moved out of their underground circus tent (?) and into an insanely unguarded, very dusty lair with a dial-up modem. It's definitely no Bat Cave. (Sorry for all the Batman references, but this show is so up-Batman's-butt that I really have no choice).

I'll tune in next week, but warily. Much like first few episodes of The Event, I KNOW I'm watching a pile of failure, but I'm still intrigued by the general idea. Plus, like most people, I could use a little fun in my life. That's all I want, just a little fun. Fortunately, "just a little fun" is EXACTLY what The Cape is!

What did you think of last night's premiere? Stupidly fun or just plain stupid?

Comments (173)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Peterson: you hit this show on the nail. Portions were fun, others were stupid. What this show reminded me of was Steve Rude's The Moth, a beautifully illustrated comic that featured a circus-based gymnast disguised as a moth, The Moth was your funny basic entertaining comic book. Some of The Cape is so much like the Moth, I am surprise Rude is not suing. And that's the problem with this and Ordinary Family and other shows. Just start with your basic "suspension of belief" comic book story. Check out both Marvel and DC cartoons on Disney and Cartoon Network. The problem always arises when they add too much stuff, too much conspiracies, and don't follow "comic book" premises. I'll give this a few more episodes. Ordinary Family finally got rid of all the family "in nagging" and is becoming a fairly decent show.
Reply
Flag
It's your classic comic book hero. Not saying they are giving any time for character development but it's still pretty good. I doubt that the overall goal for this show was to be TV's most watched show but they are giving the audience something to have fun with. I liked it.
Reply
Flag
Bring back Manimal!!!
It was better that this crap!!
Reply
Flag
its not bad and not good..

but still watchable and somehow entertaining.
Reply
Flag
It was awful, really awful.The dialogue and storyline are just puerile!
Reply
Flag
I remember when superheros didn't go around killing people. Also.. how exactly did that guy fall outta that penthouse window and not make a big stain on the ground? Does he have like super healing powers? There's too much inconsistency I think i'd rather watch Merlin.
Reply
Flag
this show should be on Nicktoons or DisneyXD! my 10 year old was all for it. the cape is not meant for adult viewers.
Reply
Flag
I enjoyed it as a mild distraction. I have my DVR set for tonight since I have loads of homework before I head off to college again tomorrow. I'll make a judgment in a few weeks.
Reply
Flag
who cares what the acting is like...let David Lyons take off his shirt and I'll watch. I'm glad he got a job after they killed him off of Australia's Sea Patrol. I liked him on that too!
Reply
Flag
OMD, Totally sucks, I say cancel it immediately, I was like: What an awful way of spending my time, gladly for me, after seeing this piece of S#&IT, I got to enjoy myself and have a good laugh watching Episodes and Shameless, I\'m truly sorry for those who couldn't :S
Reply
Flag
I think it's good. Listen if you do not want to see people in costumes don't go watching a show about superheroes.
Reply
Flag
I didn't expect to like it, but was pleasantly suprised. I don't like the casting of the son or wife, but like everything else.
Reply
Flag
I'll keep watching cause I love Summer Glau, that poor girl=(
Reply
Flag
It looks pretty stupid to me, but that's just my opinion.
Reply
Flag
I LIKED IT!!!!
Reply
Flag
I don't know if I'll keep watching or not. With James Frain and Summer Glau, I thought it might be good, but it wasn't.
Reply
Flag
you right gem-in eye, to be honest the cape is ''Ridi''..............wait for it ...................wait for it ......................... ''culous''
Reply
Flag
they got rid of terminator, they got ride of dollhouse, they got ride of firefly but I bet they keep this one around, Summer Glau is really cursed.
Reply
Flag
I just watched the two episodes, and I I'm not a fan but will certainly see the next one, it has potential rather than other crappy series that should have died on the first season but are still running and are still crappy...
Reply
Flag
Bet he's counting himself lucky his kids fav comic wasn't Wonder Woman :)

As for the show - methink stupidly fun. It's got Summer in it so I'll be awatching each week. Sometimes I need time off from the heaviness of LAOSVU and since Human Target has been nuked by the Poochie bomb The Cape came at just the right time - Summer = Win, nuff siad !!
Reply
Flag
the circus thing reminded me completely of the original Ghost Rider - Johnny Blaze (no not the hybrid Nick Cage version)... Actually after seeing that portion it made me wish they'd made the original ghost rider a tv show
Reply
Flag
True Blood is clever? Could have fooled me.
Reply
Flag
I think it knows how dumb it is and has fun doing it. I certainly have fun watching it. Plus, is The Cape's origin really that trite? As someone who has read thousands of issues of comics books, I can't think of anyone with the same origin story. The carnies are a bit retro, but that's it.
Reply
Flag
Maybe they're trying to make the story line move faster than Heroes did, but I think they turned the speed dial to 11 since it moves so fast there isn't time to actually show how scenes are connected.
Reply
Flag
It was a really fun show to watch, not my favorite, but as long as it keeps with the hilarity or improves in quality, I'll keep watching. Besides, I'll need a new superhero show now that Heroes is finally dead, and Smallville is in its last season. (This show is pretty similar to early Smallville actually.)
Reply
Flag
It's "trainwreck television". I want to turn the channel, but I can't! It's almost as if they skipped pre-production and shot the rough draft! I can't wait to find out how much worse it gets in the one or two episodes that will air before it gets canned.
Reply
Flag
I say THE CAPE deserves more than a choice between being stupid or really stupid. While it's not the best show to come down the pike it's most certainly not the horrendous dreck that the review and some of the previous posters make it out to be. I'm sure it will always be an aquired taste but I'd like to give it a little more time to see where it can go. For sure I'll be watching next Monday and hopefully for some time thereafter.
Reply
Flag
I stopped watching when he started doing the lame-ass cape twirling crap after all the bank heists... worst show I've seen in a long time!!
Reply
Flag
I did enjoy the show and enjoyed the fast paced getting to the point. Of course, I wasn't doing anything else when watching the show, so I managed to see the whole thing and not miss those crucial parts. Every hero has strengths and weaknesses, and it's nice to see The Cape has both and learns from them, gets better. I would enjoy watching more episodes, and am very interested in who the ("someone else, someone you wouldn't be proud of") Detective was before he became a cop. Due to the slow speed of other recent shows which got axed, I can understand how some of you weren't ready for this pace. It's ok. You have some time to catch your breath.
Reply
Flag
was pretty terrible
Reply
Flag
A big problem is that without any other knowledge, The Cape sounds like it's a soap opera, maybe set in the waterfront town of fictional Cape Lovehope.
Reply
Flag
It was awful, really cheesy.
Reply
Flag
I'll take The Cape over Jersey Shore, Real Housewives of Anytown USA, Sara Palin Shoots another helpless animal, Bridezillas or any of the dozens of moronic shows that the networks shove down our throats every season.
Reply
Flag
10 minutes into it, I wanted to change the channel. 10 minutes later, I really really really wanted to turn the channel. 10 minutes later, I turned the channel. I truly don't understand how shows this bad get made, let alone actually put on TV.
Reply
Flag
i usually do not agree with such presumptuous articles but man do i agree with you...NBC has some class in choosing horrible shows and ruining few good ones they had (Heroes)... that being said, while i think Cape can be improved in the future but NBC's track record leaves me with little confidence!!
Reply
Flag
I enjoyed the hell out of The Cape and will return to watching it until it's canceled in a couple months as NBC doesn't like good shows but has no trouble with keeping crap on the air, The Office, Community & 30 Rock all great examples of bad tv and I don't care what the critics think or what the wanna be's and pretentious idiots think those shows are awful. Also I'm 42 and I have a career and I'm not a comic book nerd, yes I can read and write so all the slams have been answered.
Reply
Flag
I thought the Pilot was pretty good. Better than the Event..atleast The Cape made me care enough to want to watch the next episode. Either way..until one of these shows are renewed for next season..I probably wont watch either. Neither one were worth canceling Heroes so far
Reply
Flag
personally.... i thought this was actually a good story... i'd like to see where they go with it
Reply
Flag
I only tuned in because Summer was in it. It was OK, nothing spectacular. I didn't think it was god awful either. The stupid parts were that the Cape makes his big entrance and proceeds to get his ass kicked by Scales. Hahaha... nice hero. And I didn't get the whole thing with his family and his son. Way to torture your family by letting them think you are dead. Nice dad.
Reply
Flag
Yeah like others are saying I only stayed because of Summer but even with her in it I couldn't watch the whole thing. Terrible!
Reply
Flag
Hey, its far and away better than any reality show, dancing show, or amateur hour show(Dancing, Idol, got talent!)
Reply
Flag
I completely agree with everything you wrote and I feel exactly the same way. I was quite disappointed as I thought this show might have had promise when I watched the previews.
Reply
Flag
Even though I didn't watch the Cape and would never give it the time of day because it looks dreadful, I love your reviews!
Reply
Flag
very disappointed in the first episode...not sure if i will give it a chance.
Cast is a bit weak, and the characters don't make it any better. The CGI work is nothing compared to heroes. Give it one season tops before it gets canceled.
Reply
Flag
Nice to see maybe when you're 15 years old. The story is told rather rapidly in the first episode, the cape was born too quick.
Reply
Flag
I agree with this review. The only reason I continued to watch it at all was that it was being carried on the local channel that has the best weather coverage, and the show kept being interrupted with news of the ice storm we were experiencing. The weather anchor was very apologetic about breaking into the programming, but I honestly didn't care in the least. At least now I know that the show wouldn't have been any better if I'd gotten to see the whole thing. The only thing I don't agree with is having any interest in seeing it again. If the pilot was that bad, I don't expect the rest of the episodes to be an improvement.
Reply
Flag
@LukeJavan8
Actually, Dick Grayson is 1 of 5.

Dick Grayson (Current Batman)
Jason Todd (Red Hood)
Tim Drake (Red Robin)
Stephanie Brown (current Batwoman)
Damian Wayne (current Robin)
Reply
Flag
Not a very good show (It almost reminds me of another bad written and produced show: The Event). They have James Frain, Vinnie Jones, Summer Glau (:D), Keith David as their cast and they didn't manage to write a good script for them ...
Reply
Flag
A pile of failure that keeps you interested, isn't much of a failure, now is it? I really cannot agree much at all. Most MODERN comic books and graphic novels are rehashed. This is actually new. Unimaginative? I've never seen anything like this show, any caped superhero who actually USES the cape or rather has a purpose for it, batman's theatrics aside. This Vince Faraday is a hero with something worth fighting for, with a tragic story about his name, his honor, and the future of his family - something I rarely see. Most superheroes you can pick out of the hat have the synthetic cause of the necessity of their actions. And if the show really tried to take the time for backstory, it would've easily failed in the rough marketing of modern television. Come on? This is what a show has to do to survive. It has to jump, and jump high. And that's exactly what The Cape is doing.
Reply
Flag
**** reality. Get an imagination.
Reply
Flag
Load More Comments

Like TV.com on Facebook