As NBC tries to re-capture an audience with The Cape, the comparison to Heroes is inevitable. But while Heroes started falling apart around Season Two due to shoddy writing and convoluted plot lines, The Cape manages to stumble right from the start.
The first glaring problem is the flat and one-dimensional characters—the result of the show’s too-quick pace. The creators don’t give us enough time to take in the impact of the story. With the introduction to the protagonist David Faraday (Vince Lyons), a rare good cop in a corrupt city (think Gotham), we see some quick shots of him around his son but no real human interaction. Immediately after that, Faraday’s new Chief of Police is killed by a masked villain named Chess. Sick of the corruption, Faraday goes to work for this major corporation named ARK which is taking over the city (like that’s not creepy). Faraday is then tipped off to weapons being smuggled in by Orwell, an anonymous Internet blogger that delivers the Truth to the People. Chess confronts Faraday, and low and behold it’s ARK’s CEO. Using Faraday as a pawn, he puts the Chess mask on him and has the cops chase after him. Faraday’s life is now in shambles. His family thinks he’s dead, and the media think he was Chess. All of this happens within the first fifteen minutes of the show, well before the audience could develop any emotional connection whatsoever with the character.
The show also has trouble balancing its comic book aesthetic with its aspirations to be a drama. The result is more like a Disney Channel original movie. A scene with a broken man who’s lost everything is followed up by a bunch of clowns robbing a bank with one doing a jig on the counter. It just doesn’t work, and the tone often feels disjointed. Gag jokes are littered throughout the episodes, almost as if they are trying to appeal to a much younger audience. But was anyone really laughing when the Hypnotist magically made Faraday wear women’s panties? All this dilutes with the drama elements of a man wanting to do right by his son. Faraday, after all, takes his alias from his son’s favorite comic book hero. And really his main motivation to fight crime is to get back to his family. But when the show needs to be serious, it gives us a sterile, simple take. When it needs to be funny, it rides the line of almost being juvenile.
Batman is clearly a heavy influence on the story. The second episode “Tarot” even ends with a shot of Faraday on the top of a building with his cape flapping in the wind. Faraday, like Bruce Wayne, is an average man without any super powers. That’s fortunate since I could only imagine how much cheesier it could have gotten had they armed our protagonist with lightning bolts. The lack of supernatural phenomena keeps the show grounded, and makes the climb back to the top more daunting for our protagonist. It will hopefully allow the show more room to flesh out Faraday as a person, as he struggles to take on crime in this city. It also means that Faraday will need some help. Orwell (Summer Glau), is an interesting ally. Acting as an information hub, she has insights into the city. But Glau will need more screen time if we’re to better understand Orwell as a character rather than a caricature.
But ultimately, the pilot was a mess, stumbling over itself to the precipice of incoherence. The second episode “Tarot” was an improvement with more character development, but it still felt hollow. The outline of the story could be interesting if it were simply slowed down a bit and balance the cheesy and the charming more in a way that Chuck proved possible.