I tuned into NBC's two-hour premiere of "The Cape" -- the Pilot episode and "Tarot", the second episode -- expecting something awful, but instead I was pleasantly surprised by the new superhero show that wears its silliness proudly on its sleeve.
"The Cape" is about Vince Faraday, a cop who is framed both for the murder of the chief of police and being the man behind the masked villain "Chess". Believed dead in an explosion, Faraday ends up with a group of circus freaks who are something of Robin Hood-esque bank robbers, looking to take down Peter Fleming (the real "Chess" and the Luthorian villain of the show), and they teach him how to become a superhero. Eventually, Faraday meets up with Orwell, a blogger who believed he was one of the few good cops in the city and also wants to take down Fleming, and she provides him some hero guidance too.
The two-hour premiere played out like a typical superhero origin story, with tragic deaths, unlikely mentors, obvious villains, a training montage, the creation of the costume... just everything. And while that could come off as a knock on some shows, I got the sense throughout the whole two hours that the cape was going through this step by step to show viewers just how much of a comic book show this was going to by.
While "The Cape" isn't specifically based on any pre-existing comic, you can point to any number of specific elements and connect them with their comic book origins. The main character is a bit of a poor man's Batman, which makes him something of an analog to Big Daddy from "Kick Ass". His carnival-based training seemed familiar, though I can't pinpoint it exactly. The costume creation scene came right out of every comic book movie ever made. The relationship with his family -- the wife still believes Faraday is dead, while the son thinks he's alive because The Cape told him so -- has similarities to Curt Connors when in his Lizard mode. Orwell is a barely renamed Oracle from the Batman universe, but she's played by the über-hot Summer Glau, so I'm not complaining. And I've already mentioned the similarities between Fleming and Lex Luthor, though there's also some Wilson Fisk there too.
I think the most enjoyable thing about the show as a whole is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's nowhere near as campy as the Adam West "Batman" series, but it's not trying to revolutionize TV/The World like "Heroes" was. The main character seems to be grounded in something resembling reality, but many of the characters around him -- particularly the Carnival crew and the villains -- are over the top in a fun way. Never was this more evident than in Keith David's Max, the leader of the carnival thieves, who fully threw himself into every scene he was in, having fun with every aspect of the role.
I'm not sure "The Cape" has anything more than niche appeal, and as long as NBC understands that, it'll be fine. Because it sticks so close to its comic book tropes, at least in the premiere, it's going to be hard for the show to achieve the kind of breakout success that "Heroes" achieved, but given what happened to "Heroes" beyond its first season, that may be a good thing. I'd rather have a fun, action-packed, kind-of-campy-but-kind-of-dark-too superhero show that appeals to a small audience than a muddled mess that tries to be everything to everyone.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.