NBC premiered its new superhero show, The Cape, in a two-episode push. Did they succeed in creating a graphic-novel milieu sufficient to keep people tuning in week to week?
As you can imagine, the opening was an origin story: how The Cape was bullied by big bad into becoming a hero seeking not only vengeance but justice (no mention of truth or the American way). Being an origin story, the first episode of the pair was fairly predictable. In fact, it was sort of reminiscent of Robocop. But there are only so many tropes available for a superhero tale so I’m not going to hold that against it.
Actually, I’m going to praise the show for giving us a lovely group of hero-side support characters. Obviously the main support comes in the guise of Orwell, played with fanboy squee-lishousness by the ever-popular Summer Glau. She doesn’t disappoint. In fact, this role has already allowed her to exercise her acting chops by being not only a blogger but a field operative able to hold up her side of a fight or disguise. While it’s easy to dismiss Orwell as another Oracle (Birds of Prey) or Eyes Only/Logan Cale (Dark Angel), Orwell starts with facets the others had to acquire along the way.
The support doesn’t end with Orwell. Our hero is also helped out by “The Carnival of Crime”. A rather unsavory and quirky bunch if ever there was one, but they train the Cape and have his back. They become the family he was forced to give up. Usually it’s the baddies who get the henchmen…not so, here. I really like this group. They add color to what would otherwise be little more than a Batman knockoff.
Then there are the arch-villains–for you can’t have a legitimate superhero without some very much larger than life villains. The main bad-guy is Chess–a corporate bastard who tries to take over a city through the modern tools of business (or an exaggeration of the modern tools of business…it’s so hard to tell the difference sometimes). Chess isn’t as charismatically brilliant a mastermind as Lex Luthor, nor is he as fiendish as the Joker. Personally, I find him a wee bit wanting. So far the other evil-doers seem to be the usual rogues gallery.
I had my doubts about this show after reports of the luke-warm response it received at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. I was further concerned during the panel discussion when it was said that the stories hadn’t yet been broken. That they weren’t ready to dish on the stories for the first six episodes (at least) gave me pause–that’s stuff you need to know before you even pitch the pilot.
For the most part, I’m less concerned now than I was then. The episodes were fine. Not great, but fine…at least as good as what we got with the early episodes of No Ordinary Family–which grew and got a full-season order. Unfortunately, there was time-killing in the second episode. To be fair, the second episode can be the most difficult one of any series as you are trying to break into your normal story while also not blowing all of your plot points at the very start. Even so…there was time-killing.
I, for one, am going to stick with The Cape…at least for a while. The highest praise I can give is that I liked it well enough to watch even if Summer wasn’t in it. That she is in it only makes me happier–especially if they expand her role a little. (Seriously, what is it with this under-utilization of the Glau? TSCC certainly could have used more Cameron–so said the fans–rather stridently at times.) My recommendation is to give it a few episodes to see if it grows on you. There is a lot of promise here that could payoff if the creative folk don’t squander it.