"The Cape": Old Ingredients Baked Well

I’ll start by saying I like “The Cape”.

Those of us will Geek Cred will recognize all of the parts of this show, and where we’ve seen them before. Let’s examine:

guy framed for murder/crime – “The Incredible Hulk”
protagonist believed to be dead – The Spirit, “The Lone Ranger”, “Knight Rider”, RoboCop
dark, brooding hero with no powers – Batman
secret tech guru who keeps tabs on the city – Oracle
mentor who teaches protagonist all the tricks – Batman’s mentors, Mentor
inside person in the DA’s office – Harvey Dent
Evil Nemesis – just about everyone
hero based on a comic book character – Barry Allen’s Flash
bad corporate CEO who takes over the police – RoboCop

The list goes on, for those of us who really want to delve into it. The thing is, it’s not the individual pieces that make the show work or not. “The Cape” is more than the sum of its parts.

This show has one big thing going for it: it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which was the biggest mistake “Heroes” made after its first season. “Heroes” got riddled with angst and family drama, when it should have been focused on saving the world again. “The Cape” doesn’t have that much ambition, and that can be a strength if the writers keep perspective. As long as it remains superficial fun, the show will work.

The use of familiar comic book memes and tropes may work, or it may not. Again, it’s going to depend on the writers keeping things in perspective. Over at io9, Charlie Jane calls out the use of themes that were popular in comics long ago, and notices how the show keeps referencing the past as its defining theme. I think it actually works here.

In the modern age, we’ve got so many shows that are angst-driven, emotionally over the top, and so riddled with drama, that it’s hard to take any show seriously anymore. And that’s what makes “The Cape” work: it’s not serious, even when it’s serious (can you imagine if this show was on the CW? Yeesh). Does the dialogue need work? Maybe. And the internal logic is sometimes thin.

But go back and watch “The Green Hornet” or “Batman” from the 1960s. Watch “The Greatest American Hero” or even “The Lone Ranger”. For that matter, “The Incredible Hulk” would be in this list, too. It’s not about the story logic, even though it’s important that the shows hang together.

Let’s face it; David Banner is going to get mixed up with crime and evil every week? In superhero stories, the logic doesn’t have to hold up to outside scrutiny. It only has to hold up within its own universe.

And I like that “The Cape” has taken familiar themes and given them a bit of a twist:

Vince Faraday, instead of avenging the death of his family (like Batman and the Punisher), he fights instead to keep them safe by staying “dead”.
Max Malini – Alfred pretending to be the Joker; he’s the mentor who also poses as the Clown Prince of Crime
Orwell – Oracle with a different set of wheels

Now, given that there’s nothing original in “The Cape”, it would seem that the show wouldn’t work. But remember, before Batman there was Zorro, and before Superman there was Jesus. So is any character really that original?

A big stickler for me, however, is the “One man can make a difference.” line that kept popping up. It pulled me out and made me think of “Knight Rider”. That needs to go away.

Granted, it’s not Shakespeare. And so far, Summer Glau is severely under-utilized. But I blame that on the fact that there are too many balls in the air in the pilot. Of course, that’s a necessary evil in an origin story. So we’ll have to see if it balances out as the series progresses. At least Orwell is a semi-strong character, not the damsel in distress or pretty-face ignorance.

And Martin Klebba as a butt-kicking half-pint circus performer is sweet. Seeing him take down a guy three times his size with a wrench was just fun.

Is this going to get phenomenal ratings? Probably not. But the days of 22 million viewers is gone. Broadcast networks need to understand they won’t get too many more viewers than cable.

As long as “The Cape” remembers what it is, and doesn’t try to be what it is not, it should find an audience.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

2 thoughts on “"The Cape": Old Ingredients Baked Well

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  • January 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Well, that explains why so many veterans had a problem with the characters.

    I also did not like the line about one man making a difference. It seemed trite after so many references.

    I did love the carny crew. It was over the top fantasy. Living in the underground, robbing the banks in their crazy get-ups. It was sheer zany.

    I didn’t care for the seemingly instant bond that “oracle” and The Cape had so soon after he was separated from his wife and son. That turned me off. It almost seemed like “cheating.” And, that seemed to suck.

    I hope that it sticks around for a while.

    It was a pleasurable break from all the crime and drama in the news.

    Thanks for reviewing.


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