Pilot Review: The Cape

Mid-season arrives. Christmas has been and gone and the networks are shuffling their schedules about, with about a half dozen new arrivals to lure people away from the gym, or those books and their good intentions and back to their sofas. With seven new shows already cancelled, there’s plenty of space on the schedules and a number of shows that are hoping to fill the holes. The Cape is trying to plug a hole.

The concept immediately made me roll my eyes. A cop is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, he dons a cape and fights injustice. My big question was – what direction is this going to take? Is it gonna be cheesy Superman, or dark Batman? Is it going to be set in a world where superheroes are common place or is it going to be ‘our’ world, where superheroes are only found in graphic novels and comics? Is he really going to have superpowers, or is it just going to be a man dressed in a cape?

The problem is, the answer to all of those questions is ‘yes’. The Cape has utterly no idea what it is, what it wants to be, who its central character is, what the rules of the universe are or what its tone is. It’s all over the place. There are moments of silly comedy (tricks with hypnosis) but also deeply moving scenes. Some shows can blend these together to seamlessly describe the way those contrasts really happen in real life, this one did not. It’s got some of the cheesiest superhero tricks (hammy signature lines, utterly insufficient disguises), but no one comments on the ridiculousness, no one seems to bat an eyelid that there’s a guy in a mask calling himself Chess and killing people with magical explosives. Does that mean that superheroes and villains are all over the place? It didn’t seem like that was the case. Similarly there’s no real indication that any of these people have superpowers, they’re just well trained and well equipped. Well that is until Vinney Jones turns up and has scales and the special effects go to town so that people disappear in puffs of smoke.

The lead character has problems with or without his daft costume. Everything about him felt very flat – he loves his son, he wants to uphold the law in his city and he doesn’t like corruption. But… despite the fact that ‘all he wants to do is be a cop’ when his captain and friend are killed, he doesn’t stay to fight the corruption, he quits and joins the private police force. He doesn’t like corruption but it really doesn’t take much for him to fall in with a bunch of armed robbers. The only thing that rings true about him is the relationship he has with his son.

I’ll admit that I’ve only watched the first of an apparently two part pilot,when the first episode finished and seemed to be self-contained I just couldn’t face watching the second. Maybe the next episode got amazingly better. Maybe it made better use of Summer Glau instead of just having her pout, flip her hair and bring in a certain demographic of view. Maybe it found some confidence to settle on a direction instead of endlessly throwing ideas and themes at the audience like some kind of trial pick-n-mix. I’m not optimistic and I’m afraid I’m not going to keep watching to find out.

That said, as I generally try to do, I avoided the reviews until I’d written my own, and on reading other people’s thoughts I wonder if I have maybe been a little harsh. While I at least have not fallen into the (apparently) popular trap of comparing it to Heroes (I didn’t think they were really comparable to be honest) TVSquad and CliqueClack, reviewers I usually trust and agree with, both liked it a great deal more than I did. While obviously I am right and everyone else is wrong, I’d recommend reading one of their reviews for a balance. And of course feel free to watch the show and form your own opinion ;0) generally a lot more charitable and favourable than I am!

Links: Official website, imdb, tv.com

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  1. September 3rd, 2011
    Trackback from : Narrative Devices
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