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NBC, the network that brought us every bad episode of Heroes is back with a new show about superheroes, less than a year after Heroes went off the air. Did NBC learn anything during the last 11 months about making shows with superheroes? No. The Cape is our earliest contender for worst show of 2011.
The pilot opens with our hero Vince (Who will later become The Cape) at home with his son and wife. Through machine-gun exposition, we learn that Vince is a cop, there’s a criminal mastermind named “Chess” on the loose, and that a mysterious, unidentified hacker named “Orwell” is exposing corrupt cops.
Less than three minutes into the show, the police commissioner is assassinated by the “Masked Killer” Chess. Although he wears a mask, Chess has a distinctive cleft in his chin, and has an accent. Two scenes later, Vince meets an evil businessman who has a distinctive cleft in his chin, and an accent. Even though the entire audience instantly knows that this guy is Chess, there’s still a scene later on where he dramatically pulls off his mask to reveal his secret identity (Complete with a flash back of this scene just to make sure that even people with recent head wounds can follow the plot).
Eventually, Vince runs afoul of Chess who, being a criminal mastermind, instructs his henchmen to staple his mask onto Vince’s head. There’s an abrupt cut, and we find Vince running around with the police chasing him, because they think he’s Chess. The chase ends with Vince miraculously surviving an explosion; he doesn’t have super powers, he just has terrible directing.
Vince’s unconscious body is discovered by The Carnival of Crime! They’re a band of circus performers who also rob banks. They’re led by Max, who is played by Keith David. Keith David deserves better than this.
It doesn’t take long before Vince vows vengeance against Chess, and with the help of his new circus pals, he undergoes the shortest training montage in the history of the superhero genre. Vince is shown taking his first lesson in hypnotism, then is shown to have completely mastered it- with no middle ground depicted at all. The same holds true for his training in martial arts, where he is depicted getting beaten up by a circus midget, then displays his mastery of hand-to-hand combat by beating up a man half his size.
Vince also learns to use a cape as a weapon. That’s Vince’s super power. He can swing his cape like a weapon. The whole damned show is built upon this idea. Keith David has some exposition about various forms of martial arts that used capes as weapons, and there’s some gibberish about the sort of fibers used to make the thing, but it all comes across as completely ridiculous.
Everyone now thinks Vince is dead, and they think that he was Chess too. That’s a major plot point for the show, and it is repeatedly hammered into the audience in later scenes: Vince must pretend to be dead in order to protect his family. Therefore, Vince assumes the identity of his son’s favorite fictional comic book hero The Cape. He does this so that he can still be an inspiration to his son, without revealing his secret identity to anyone.
One god damned scene later, someone discovers his secret identity.
The person who discovers him is the mysterious hacker “Orwell”, who is an unabashed rip-off of the DC comics character Oracle. Vince is the only person who has ever seen Orwell, and it’s supposed to be a big plot twist when we finally see who Orwell is. Unfortunately, Orwell’s secret identity was accidentally revealed in the show’s opening credits, which has a shot of actress Summer Glau sitting behind a huge computer. Yes, the mysterious super hacker turns out to be a pretty girl- just like Oracle in Batman.
So, The Cape and Orwell team up with the Carnival of Crime, then they all fight bad guys together. After they save the city, Vince visits his son, while dressed as The Cape. This scene is supposed to be touching, but we’re really just watching a father destroy his son’s ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
The show has far too many problems for me to explain them all in this review. It’s a train wreck from start to finish, and even the presence of several actors I like can’t salvage it.But stick around true believers, because NBC aired two episodes of The Cape back to back! Read my review of episode 2 HERE.