Time for a confession: I've been following NBC's "The Cape" since it premiered last month. A few of you were taking pot shots at it back in the "Wonder Woman" thread and I won't deny that the show has problems. But now, with the news of the series' downsizing and likely cancellation
, I'm left with a lot on my chest. I'm left with praise and appreciation for what the show did right, drowned with criticism for the many, many misguided ways in which the show squandered its potential.
I've got a lot of time on my hands right now, so with your indulgence, I'd like to take this time and vent. Hell, maybe some discussion will come of this. Let's start with the obvious:Vince Faraday
A cop forced into hiding, framed for murder and left for dead. He starts crimefighting to clear his name and deliver the rightful murderers to justice. In theory, this sounds like a great premise. In practice, it's a writer's deathtrap.
See, Batman was cool enough as a superhero, but Bruce Wayne is also a billionaire playboy with a multinational corporation to run. Both could make for some great entertainment in their own right. Likewise, Clark Kent can gather intelligence as a reporter before he dives into action as Superman. And Spider-Man... well, he's Peter Parker. Need I say more?
But after Vince's origin, where's left for him to go? He can't have a civilian job, since he's technically dead. He can't have a social life, since everyone thinks he's a serial killer. He can't have a love interest, since his faithful wife and son are waiting for him at the finish line. As a result, the only thing Vince can do is sit around and whine about his station and how much he wants to go back home. He's been doing that ad nauseum and it got old after three episodes or so.
But easily the biggest problem with The Cape is that he isn't a superhero. He just isn't. A superhero would consider it his mission to fight crime and save the innocent. This guy is only interested in his own vindication. Case in point: The guy saves a whole train full of civilians, but he's still upset because the villain wasn't successfully unmasked. There's also the most recent episode, when he's forced to save the villain not because murder is wrong and personal vengeance isn't the same as proper justice, but because he needs the villain alive to clear his name. FAIL.
The costume is kinda cool, especially the cape itself, and the teleportation trick is just the right kind of over-the-top. Still, the writers wrote themselves into a hopeless corner the instant they came up with this premise.Orwell
I really don't think Summer Glau is using her full potential. It's been six years since Serenity and she's yet to find a role (with the possible exception of Cameron) which has utilized her skills like River Tam did. I think Orwell may be her worst yet.
All that we know about Orwell is that we know nothing about her. That schtick might work if this character was remotely fun or charismatic in some way, but the character's giving us nothing to work with and Glau's effort in the role could be measured in negative numbers. It's like they're not even trying to hide the fact that her casting was purely for fanbaiting.
Perhaps worst of all is that Orwell's given potential ways to help in the crimefighting, all of which are completely wasted. We see that she can kick ass, but she's not called upon to do so nearly enough. She's got technological skills and a huge amount of money, but she can't make The Cape a grappling gun or some shit. She's got a prominent blog that doesn't affect anything after the pilot episode. She has a twisted family life, but -- according to the Comic-Con panel -- that won't come into play until the season's last three episodes. For their sake, those had better not be the three episodes that just got cut.The Family
I can understand how the show wants to keep Dana and Trip active. They're our hero's primary motivation, so it's good that the show should keep them in mind. Still, is it too much to ask that they get something constructive to do outside of flashbacks?
The show focuses way too much on Trip, which wouldn't be such a problem if not for the fact that 1) he doesn't have anything constructive to do, and 2) the kid playing him can't act. More emphasis should have been placed on Dana, who's a defense attorney. There was a point when the show seemed to be pushing her in a direction that would eventually put her in direct confrontation with our villains and that would seem like an interesting way to go. Instead, that angle seems to have been dropped entirely. Stupid.The Carnival of Crime
Here's one of the things that the show did right. Keith David is brilliant as always and he's playing the mentor role with aplomb. Martin Klebba also deserves a mention, as he's actually given the chance to act and flesh his role out. That's a very rare opportunity for a midget actor to get and he's running like hell with it.
The big problem here is that the Carnival is tailor-made to be a great Rogue's Gallery. Here we have a wide variety of talented supervillains, every one with a personal connection to our hero, yet the series never makes anything of this. It's a damn shame that Vince didn't part ways with them after the train robbery; if there was any time to turn them from uneasy allies to reluctant enemies, that would have been it. Gah.The Villains
Chess, Scales and Kozmo are all larger-than-life characters, cheesy in all the right ways. In these characters and their conflicts with The Cape, I see the lighthearted escapism that I started tuning in for to begin with. It's also worth noting that James Frain, Vinnie Jones and Thomas Kretschmann are all clearly having the time of their lives in their respective roles, and that counts for a lot.
The only real weak link in this lineup so far is Dice, played by the woefully miscast Mena Suvari. Her motivations and origins simply weren't villainous enough, her flirtations with Chess were just icky and her alleged sociopathy didn't come through clear enough. What's more, her whole "predicting the future through savant intelligence" was recently done much better on an episode of Fringe. And when your attempts at pseudo-scientific fiction are getting outclassed by Fringe, it's really time to start reconsidering your options.The Music
This, ladies and gents, is the main reason why I keep tuning in. Bear McCreary is really bringing his A-game to this show and his blog entries about each episode are a lot of fun to read. His main theme is wonderful, the villain's themes are all wonderfully used and the Carnival's Eastern European score adds a lot of flavor to the proceedings. If there's a more talented composer working in TV today, I'd very much like to hear his work.
So. Sorry that post turned out so long. I have no idea what any of you will get from that, if anything. Watch the show or don't, but precious few episodes are left until the series' likely cancellation. After this and the mess of plot holes that The Event turned out to be, it looks like NBC will have to look for another tentpole. Maybe Wonder Woman will be that smash hit they need. I hope it is.