My history with the X-men is a long one. I would go as far as to say that some of the characters are more like distant family than they are characters at all. No, I’m not crazy, and yes, I know they’re just characters, but I spent a great deal of time with the students of Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters
NBC has new heroes. No not those heroes, but some other ones on the new TV series, The Cape. The Cape stars David Lyons as the good-cop-turned-super-hero. At first you think, gee, that’s so meta because a lot of heroes have capes, but this guy actually fights with a cape, so take that, post-modernism.
The deal is that he was framed for crimes he did not commit, and is now believed to be dead. Vince Faraday takes on the persona of The Cape, striving to put right what once went wrong, and make the city a better place for his wife and young son. What are his powers, you ask? Well, he’s sort of a jack-of-all-trades, if the only trades in the world were circus acts. The Cape is skilled in escapism, magic, hypnotism, weight estimation and the like. He could also probably land one of those metal rings on the top of an old-timey milk bottle and win you a giant stuffed animal. [By the way, did you know that expertise is commonly characterized by 10,000 hours or 10 years of deliberate practice? This guy learned all that circus shit in a few weeks. At this rate, he could probably speak conversational Icelandic after a few days exposure.]
The Cape is mentored by the circus’ de facto leader, Mass Effect’s Captian David Anderson… er, Keith David. Max Milani (actual character name) is not just a ringleader, but he’s also a ring-leader… yeah, criminals. Carny bank-robbing criminals. Imagine what you can do with that. Only problem is, these guys seem strangely altruistic by the second episode, so the jury is still out on this “carnival of crime” (their words, not mine). Hey, did you know that Max Milani is a reference to Max Malini? He was an illusionist around the turn of the 20th century. Hey-o! Someone is doing their character research!
Oh, there’s also a corporate head-honcho, who is naturally evil insofar that he wants to privatize all of the city’s public services (police, prisons, maybe even garbage collection, who knows) so that his defense company can remain financially viable in this “tough economic climate”. Or maybe he just wants power. Anyway, he maintains the Star Wars stereotype that the British are evil. That guy’s villain name is Chess. They call him Chess because he uses chess metaphors to frame his thoughts and speech. He’s also got some rad early 90’s hologram technology which he uses to plot out his sinister plans. He must be a visual thinker.
Finally, there’s Orwell, played by Summer Glau, best known for her portrayal of Paige Pratt on CBS’ Cold Case and Mandy Cooper on CBS’ CSI — which, until today, I thought were the same show along with Law and Order, NCIS and Burn Notice. You know how there’s always that “guy at the computer” that helps the hero out in the field? You do? Well that’s Orwell! This is an obvious reference to… you guessed it… Orson Welles (Or+Well, duh!). Orson Welles voiced the character of Unicron in the 1986 classic, Transformers: The Movie. Much in the same way that Unicron was omniscient (remember that core full of CRT monitors?) she is always where the action is, taking pictures, hacking computers, and feeding data to The Cape to keep him one step ahead of the evil Chess. And, no, just because she sits at the computer doesn’t mean she’s in a wheelchair. She does a little field work too and drives a bunch of fancy cars.
Ok, really now…
This show treads a dangerous line of being comic-y to the point of seeming insincere, but if you can get into that head space, it is worth watching. Sure, NBC doesn’t take any big chances with another program about good guys vs. bad guys, but its colored differently enough to feel refreshing, even if the characters and themes of the show will seem all too familiar to comic fans. The show seems like it has come further than other new programs do after two episodes, but the origins are sometimes the most interesting parts of hero stories. And, if Orwell turns out to be somehow related to Chess (as the show seems to steer you toward) it may be time to start punching people. There are a couple of moments, however, where the show seems to be self-aware, taking a sudden deviation from cliche comic references. Hopefully, this show will get enough viewers to develop the characters and storyline a bit further, but beware the curse of the Glau!
The Cape airs only one hour of the week on NBC, or all the time on Hulu (thinly-veiled sarcasm). Look for more opinions and conversation about The Cape on Episode 12 of Rated NA. Happy viewing.