tek's rating:

The Cape, on NBC
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Caution: spoilers.

Okay. The show is set in fictitious Palm City, where apparently there's a lot of corruption in the police department. There's also a masked criminal called Chess, who's been causing lots of trouble, I guess. At the start of the series, there's a new police chief who is supposedly going to start fixing things, but he's quickly murdered by Chess. There was a police sergeant (and former soldier) named Vince Faraday (David Lyons), who tried to save the chief, but failed. (I was worried Faraday would be blamed for the chief's murder, but I needn't have... at least not yet.) Anyway, there's this billionaire named Peter Fleming (James Frain), the CEO of Ark Industries. I guess his company trained a private police force for work in other countries, and now he wants to set up a similar force in Palm City. Meanwhile, Faraday's partner, Marty Voyt, is apparently already working for Fleming, and gets Faraday a job working for him, too. However, there's also a mysterious blogger called Orwell, who exposes all sorts of corruption. Orwell sends Faraday a message about some illegal arms shipment (through Ark), of the same thing that was used to kill the former police chief, and Faraday and Voyt go to check it out. Unfortunately, Voyt was already aware that Fleming was crooked, and set Faraday up. (Sort of; though it does seem he didn't want things to go down the way they did, and later we'll learn Marty is basically working for Fleming out of fear for his family.) It turns out that Fleming is actually Chess, but he frames Faraday, makes the public believe he was Chess. And then lets Faraday go, but while he's running away, Ark forces chase him, and he apparently dies in an explosion. In the aftermath of the incident, the mayor finally allows Ark to privatize Palm City's police.

But of course, Faraday didn't actually die. He was found by a group called the Carnival of Crime, circus performers who are also bank robbers. They're led by a man named Max Malini (Keith David), and at first they believe Faraday was Chess. He convinces them otherwise, but they're not fans of police, of course. Still, he ends up using his access to Ark security codes or whatever to help them rob banks. But naturally, Faraday isn't really interested in that. He wants to clear his name so he can return to his wife, Dana, and son, Trip. He also wants to get revenge against Fleming. Now, Faraday and Trip used to read a comic book together, about a hero called the Cape. And then one day, Faraday finds a cape at Malini's circus, and decides to become a superhero. (Stop laughing.) Malini actually gives him a different cape, which is better. Designed for some great circus performer from the past, I guess. It really is a pretty cool cape, okay? I can't explain to you its various qualities entirely. It's not like magical or anything, but... it does things that seem kind of unlikely. And Malini teaches him how to use it properly, mainly for grabbing things, in a whiplike fashion. He also teaches him to become an escape artist, and vanishing tricks (with smoke). Other people in the circus teach him stuff like hand-to-hand combat (which you'd think a decorated former soldier would already be better at than he was), and hypnosis, for some reason. I'm not entirely sure why these criminals are helping him become a hero, and I can't help wondering what will happen if he ever does clear his name and become a cop again. Probably he'd look the other way, but I can't imagine he'd able to do that indefinitely. But whatever. Anyway, I do like the circus folk (most notable among them is a little strong man named Rollo; there's also a hot trapeze artist named Raia, and a hypnotist named Ruvi). And I think it's cool that Vince is hanging out with them, for now.

Anyway, he starts calling himself the Cape (which makes me think if the public ever finds out, the comic book publisher would want to sue him for copyright infringement, but we'll see). When he begins trying to take down Fleming, he meets Orwell (Summer Glau) in person. Seems she does more than just blogging about corruption, she's actually taking some risks of her own. And she seems to have a mysterious past, which I'd like to learn more about. Anyway, the two of them become allies. She seems good at providing information, as well as other kinds of support when he goes up against the bad guys. I should also say that the Cape appeared to Trip at one point, to tell him his father was innocent, and someday they'll be together again. For now, Faraday has to let everyone, including his family, believe he's dead, because naturally, it would be dangerous for them if Chess knew he was still alive, let alone that he's the Cape. But he does continue appearing to Trip as the Cape. Meanwhile, Dana is having trouble finding work because people believe her "late" husband was guilty, though of course she doesn't believe that. She's also worried about her son, and doesn't believe he really met the Cape, though she does eventually meet him, herself. Anyway, she ends up getting a job working for a lawyer. Anyway, the Cape has to go up against a number of villains, who work for Fleming. Most notable among these is a crime boss named Dominic Raoul, aka "Scales" (Vinnie Jones). Fleming and Scales don't always get along, however.

Not sure what else to say, really. The show can be cheesy or just plain ludicrous, but it can also be pretty fun. Naturally one must suspend disbelief, but I think the effects look good, and the characters have definite potential. There's some decent drama and humor as well as action. Chess is a good nemesis. It's nice that even if Faraday seems to have learned a lot in an unbelievably short time of training, he's still clearly not infallible; it's almost as much fun to watch him lose a fight as to win it, I think. And over the brief time that the show aired, it began to set up various interesting threads about several characters. I wanted to learn more about Peter Fleming and Chess, who is apparently a split personality. (Even if Fleming himself is evil, he doesn't seem to be quite as evil as his alter ego, who could potentially prove a threat to himself.) I wanted to learn more about Orwell; while we do eventually learn something very interesting about her, there's clearly much more we don't know. I wanted to learn more about Max, who had his own reasons for helping Vince. And of course I wanted to see how the main story played out, along with all these side issues.

Unfortunately, the series only aired for nine episodes before being cancelled, and a tenth episode could be watched online at NBC.com. Something pretty major happened in that episode, but there was still a great deal of story that never got a chance to be told, which is frustrating. It wasn't a great show, but it had some real potential, and it's just a shame that potential never got to be fulfilled. (I think I probably would have rated the series higher if it had lasted longer.)

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