mxpw vs. Frea - The Cape - Pilot

Season 01, Episode 01, original air-date January 9, 2011

Fueled by a desire to reunite with his wife Dana and son Trip, former police officer Vince Faraday becomes "The Cape" -- his son's favorite comic book superhero -- and takes the law into his own hands and to battle criminal forces that have overtaken Palm City. Faraday is joined by Max Malini, the ringleader of a circus gang of bank robbers, who mentors Faraday and trains him to become "The Cape," as well as investigative blogger Orwell who wages war on crime and corruption in Palm City. Together, they must battle Ark corporation billionaire Peter Fleming -- The Cape's nemesis -- who moonlights as the twisted killer "Chess."

So Frea and I have decided to try a little experiment with mxpw vs. Frea. We're going to try and review another show besides Chuck. What is that show? Well, as we are both unabashed Summer Glau fans, we decided to give The Cape a chance. Here are our thoughts.

Just to warn you: massive spoilers ahead.

mxpw: Also, we've decided to do each part of the two hour series premiere separately. First up is the episode entitled "Pilot."

mxpw: We start with meeting the hero of our piece, Vince Faraday (David Lyons). A detective with the Palm City Police Department, Vincent appears to be a honest man in a den of liars, thieves, murderers, and dirty cops.

Frea: We know this because he shares a sympathetic conversation with a coworker who is edgier than the others because she checks "Orwell's" blog (my favorite reference of the episode, by the way). Too bad that sympathetic coworker is dead before the opening credits when the evil master-villain Chess kills the Palm City Chief of Police. Vince then decides at the prompting of his best friend that since the police force is going to be privatized anyway, he'll move ahead of the game and join the ARK corporation. His interview is with the head of ARK himself, Peter Fleming (James Frain).

mxpw: His interview goes well with Fleming and soon Vincent has joined the ARK team. But wait, all is not as it seems, as it appears, thanks to the mysterious blogger Orwell, that ARK is involved in a lot of illegal activities. In particular, the weapons smuggling of the highly dangerous L9 explosive, the same weapon used to kill the Police Chief. Vincent goes off to investigate one such weapons shipment, enlisting the help of his partner. Only, twist, his partner is now a bad guy working for Chess, who we soon learn is actually Peter Fleming. Vincent is framed for the murder of the Chief, and forced to wear Chess's mask and set loose so that ARK's goons can hunt him down. In the process of trying to escape, he is mistakenly thought to have died in a big explosion.

Frea: And here's where Denny Colt puts on the red tie and--wait, what?

Frea: Oh, sorry. Seems I was wrong. Vince is dragged away from death or being found by Keith David and his "Carnival of Crime." He bargains for his life with the use of the master key to all of the ARK Corporation bank vaults, allowing the Carnies to repeatedly rob banks with everything from hooker gear to raccoons (seriously, I'm not making this up).

Frea: And then the fateful partnership begins. Vince Faraday must remain "dead" in order to keep his family off of Peter Fleming's radar, but he just can't let the city fall to injustice. What's a desperate man to do? Well, he doesn't, you know, start a blog and whine about it. Orwell's already got that market covered. Instead, it's time for long-johns, a breastplate, and a cape! The cape's special, you know, spider-silk, one of a kind, touch as Kevlar, special effects included, yadda yadda yadda. It's up to Keith David—or Max, if you prefer, though that'll get confusing with our Max here—to teach him how to use this cape for ways other than blending in at your garden variety Ren Faire.

mxpw: There is a fairly humorous training montage where Vincent learns hypnotism, how to vanish into thin air, and how to beat up a little person. Eventually, Keith David declares Vincent ready, so off to fight injustice he goes.

mxpw: In what I'm not sure was intentionally funny or not, Vincent is immediately clobbered by the odd criminal nicknamed Scales (Vinnie Jones) and dumped into the ocean in chains. There, he finds his inner Houdini, I guess, and frees himself. He then sneaks aboard Fleming's ship and runs into Orwell, who we learn is Summer Glau. I, at this point, rejoiced and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Orwell takes Vincent to her lair, but Vincent is almost immediately called way to go rescue Keith David from Chess's evil clutches.

Frea: From there, we are treated to a very touching death scene from Keith David, who has been shot by Scales, only: Psych! Keith David's not dead. I'll admit it: I laughed. I thought it was great. Not as great as Rollo (said little person) beating the crap out of Scales (who my sister and I called "Shiny") with a huge monkey wrench, but Keith David makes everything better. The Cape and Chess have their first big battle, Chess is tossed off the boat, the day is saved, the city doesn't blow up from the shipment of L9 explosive that Chess was planning on unleashing.

Frea: Then we get the scene where Trip, Vince's son, wanders to the window and sees a strange man in a cape and breastplate tell him to do his math homework. Oh, and that Vince was innocent and some other stuff.

mxpw: And then the episode ends with Vince foiling a robbery by causing more destruction than the owner would have probably lost if he had simply given the robbers all his money. Said scene also includes two meta jokes, one about the proprietor being Borat (the actor was in the Borat movie) and the second joke about the lameness of Vincent's alter ego's name, which I suspect will be a running gag throughout the season. The end.

Frea: Also, the proprietor was Jill's Uncle Bernie. I feel like that's important.

Frea: He did not seem to be hungry like the wolf here, though.

mxpw: Nor did he seem in danger of falling to The Morgan.

mxpw: So, Frea, your initial thoughts on the first episode of The Cape?

Frea: You know, I enjoyed it. I think there were a lot of problems and I know a lot of people didn't like it, but I don't know, I'm always going to be a sucker for a good superhero story, and as much as I enjoy Superman and Spider-Man, I like a good Batman type vigilante, who doesn't have X-Ray vision (make your own SGLP joke here) or super strength, but has to rely on his or her wits in order to be awesome. There are a lot of comparisons to be made to Heroes, which was a show I watched for a season and promptly and happily abandoned when Chuck graced the airwaves. It's got a lot of strengths going for it (Summer Glau! Keith David!), but also a lot of weaknesses that I hope they'll iron out. What about you, Maximus?

mxpw: I think we are largely of like minds about this. I did not find Vincent uninteresting, per se, in fact I thought he became a much more interesting character once he joined Max and his crew. But the real strength of this show, I think so far, at least, is the supporting characters. Keith David is the real standout here, his Max is both entertaining and dynamic. Summer Glau, the reason why I even tuned in, is, well, hot and her wardrobe seems primarily comprised of short skirts. Honestly, what more do you need? Seriously, though, Orwell has potential. And the other carnival characters, particularly Rollo (who, as Frea mentioned earlier, was hilarious when he beat up Scales), as the standout.

mxpw: The plot is kinda weak and more than a little hokey at times, but the show has potential to grow into something more substantial. Or it could just devolve into a hot mess of cheesiness and hokum. It's just a little too early to call at this point

Frea: Yeah, the main problem I foresee is that I find Vince a bit underwhelming. David Lyons does a great job and the man looks fantastic in a wifebeater, but I'm hoping for some dimension to his character. I'm more interested in Summer Glau's character (who wasn't in this episode very much, but the instant she showed up on screen, I breathed out a sigh of relief like Max here) and the different Carnies. Rollo and Max, for sure, and the hypnotist, and the wide-eyed acrobat who had most of the funny lines.

Frea: The episode is broken up into "Parts" or "Scenes," like a graphic novel. In addition, the lighting is very orange and blue, very saturated to make the actual show itself seem like a graphic novel come to life. The Carnival itself seems to be very sepia and old-fashioned, whereas Orwell's lair is all that is high-tech and sleek, including the Termina--uh, Orwell herself, given her flashy computer setup.

mxpw: Heh. From River Tam to Cameron Baum and now Orwell, who seems to have a perpetually changing alias made up mostly of two first names, it seems. Yeah, Summer's Orwell is what has me most interested too, but I freely admit that might just be because, as I stated earlier, I'm a huge Summer fanboy. Already, though, her character seems to have at least as much depth as Vincent's (though it comes more in the second episode than this one) and that is a bit of a problem since Vincent is our lead.

mxpw: And since Frea already covered the carnies, I wanted to briefly mention James Frain here as Chess. I've always liked him and think he's a great actor, and man, he plays creepy/crazy pretty well (just watch the third season of True Blood to get an even more ridiculous performance from him). I'm interested in seeing how they maintain him as the series's Big Bad and just how crazy he really is.

Frea: I liked his mask a whole bunch. It was like Daredevil, but without Ben Affleck, so I didn't want to punch myself in the face to end the misery.

mxpw: Heeeee

mxpw: That is rather brilliant.

Frea: Thank you.

mxpw: Alright, I wanted to mention something that really bothered me about this episode: no sense of time. I had trouble buying into the episode at times because I didn't know how much time was passing as the episode went on. For instance, we don't really know how long it takes Vincent to train to become the Cape. Did it take days, weeks, months? How long has Vincent been "dead" for? The show makes it seem like it's only been days, yet you would think it'd take months for Vincent to learn all he does. That lack of temporal awareness in the plot really stood out to me in this episode (less so in the second).

Frea: Yeah, the timelessness distracted me as well. I was watching these criminals rob all of these banks in the beginning (though the raccoon made me laugh) and wondering, "Wow, they must have been really fast for them not to have simply changed the code!"

mxpw: Heh, the raccoon was rather fantastic, I thought. Especially Fleming's question about whether or not the raccoon acted alone, and then Marty's response.

mxpw: Which brings up another thing I wanted to talk about, the humor in this episode. There was stuff that was obviously intentional: the raccoon, Rollo beating up Scales, the hypnotism, but stuff that was equally obvious unintentional, like the aforementioned Vincent getting his ass kicked by Scales right after Max told him he was ready (at least I'm leaning toward it being unintentional). And that could be a problem for this show going forward. Intentional comedy is good, but being funny when they're not supposed to be is terrible for a show like this, that is already walking a fine line between interesting and totally cheesy.

Frea: Yeah, when Scales simply took him out, I was like, "Really? Uh...was that supposed to be funny?" I still can't tell. I think that's one of the places where the show really needs to find its footing. Superheroes invite a lot of camp, and you can either embrace it or pretend it doesn't exist, but you're right, it could definitely veer into "hokum" and cheesy. I thought that Palm City as a whole could have been a little more styled, like the Carnival grounds, because when you've got a villain who literally has scales all over his face and then a city that looks exactly like modern day Los Angeles with no gimmicks, it feels uneven.

mxpw: Right, and that's another thing this show needs to settle on. Just how realistic are they going to be? You have a cape that seems to have opposable thumbs, a bad guy covered in scales, another bad guy that seems to have snake eyes (literally), and a whole host of other potentially crazy comic book stuff, yet the world itself seems fairly unstylized and realistic. You can tell they are trying to be "timely" with a storyline about a Blackwater type company and the dangers inherent in using private companies like that to do what should be done by the government, but it's not really working yet. They should have slowplayed the ARK storyline and let us see them gradually and insidiously creep into power instead of throwing it all at us at once. Though, I gotta say, it's nice to see the future posited in Robocop is not entirely dead yet. Heh.

mxpw: Though ARK has nothing on OCP at this point.

Frea: I have to say: for most of this episode, I didn't buy that Vince actually knew his wife existed. It seemed to be all about his son. I mean, I can understand that, he seems to have a very close connection to Trip, but every time he mentioned his family, it was usually about his son. Thankfully, they repaired this in the second episode, but for this episode, I was like, "Uh, wow. That's a little cold, dude." Especially since I really liked his wife--Dana--and I think we're going to see great things from her.

mxpw: Yeah, I know what you mean, but that kind of father-son bond is pretty standard for comic book stories, so it didn't surprise me. Also, I kinda liked Trip, if only because he was what almost all child characters should be on most TV shows: seen, but not heard.

Frea: Ha! Can't argue with that one!

mxpw: So I don't really have much more to say about this episode. It was obviously an origin story, so it was primarily concerned with plot development. It needed about 75% more Summer Glau, but I am trying hard not to hold that against it. For the most part, I enjoyed it for what it is: escapist TV. I am not prepared to completely discount it and I think it has potential if they don't completely frak it up. It seems like it will be a good partner for Chuck on Monday nights.

Frea: So let's see, my Mondays as planned, Adam Baldwin at seven, Summer Glau at eight, and Nathan Fillion at nine. Sounds like a perfect Monday night to me. I'm going to stick around because I'm curious and because, let's face it, I like Summer Glau and Keith David and Rollo, and I think Vince's wife is going to lead us down an interesting path. If handled well, this could be a very interesting hour of TV, like you said, Max. If not, back to the Sarah Connor Chronicles and Firefly DVDs with us.


Frea: 6 Little People with a Monkey Wrench out of 10

mxpw:  2.5 Summers in a Short Skirt out of 5

What did everybody else think? Are you sticking around? Is Summer Glau not the most awesome thing about this show?  (Hint: the answer to that last one is duh)


  1. Anonymous11.1.11

    The show was beyond weak. They broke new ground. Failed to make me care about the hero. Frankly the little person would have made a better hero.

    I thought the acting bye the son was dreadful. I thought Chess immediately became the least intimidating villian of all time.

    Lastly magic should not be used to fight crime. I can't stress this enough. Slight of hand isn't real, therefore you shouldn't try and use it to fight crime.

    I give the .07 stars out of 1 because it can't be measured against other shows capable of getting multiple stars. I flag this as D-U-N

    Now on that subject of things being over before they start. How do you think the execs at NBC felt after the first screening? They stared at the screen and said to each other. We paid how much for this? They have to show the episodes they have because they paid so much for it. So while I don't expect an order after the first season, I do expect NBC to make every effort to recoup as much cash as they can until the ratings force them to stop. If I were them, I'd be making plans to turn this into a miniseries right now.

  2. Anonymous11.1.11

    I liked it as a companion piece to Chuck on Monday nights. I'm not sure it will ever become a top priority to watch but since it'll be on between Chuck and Castle, I can't say I won't tune in. That was pretty much the reason I watched the Event- it was something to do in the interim.

    And my mom's friend was right- Summer Glau, completely the best part. Vincent, doesn't do much for me.


  3. I am a Firefly fan, but Summer Glau was more of a curiosity to me. I became a huge Inara fan.

    I think the Cape is a wonderful compliment to Chuck. If it can get tighter, and concentrate more on the characters, I think I would like it more.

  4. @Anonymous - I'm not sure I follow you. Of course slight of hand is real, it's not something somebody made up. If you mean to say that people can't really disappear in a puff of smoke, well, no, but that's why it's called an illusion. That's the point. I mean, I really think you're unnecessarily splitting hairs here in saying that magic isn't real and shouldn't be used to fight crime. How is that any worse than being bit by a radioactive spider or having an obsession with bats? I mean, come on...

    The show has a lot of problems, but holding its use of magic against it seems to be pretty nitpicky to me.

  5. Anonymous11.1.11

    Here here @mxpw! I think @Anonymous, who enjoyed slating the show a little too much, needs to look up the term "science-fiction"
    Though I will admit that 'The Cape' Pilot was not as good as some pilots that are out there, it wasn't bad and it still has potential to grow, though of course it will never be in the same league as the one we all know as 'Chuck' =]


  6. This show should have been called 'Circus of Crime', and played up the evil corporation taking over the police angle in the promos.

    That's how I think of it in my head now: 'That show setting up C-List spider-man villains the Circus of Crime as the protagonists.' I was practically screaming at the TV, where's Princess Python and the Great Gambonos? Where's Human Canonball, and Livewire and Fire-eater. At least Ringmaster was in there, using his hypnotic powers to make Vince cross-dress. Best bit of the episode. (now ending egregious spider-man related fanboy outburst.)

    I don't know if it's the actor who plays Vince who's the problem, or if he's just too much of the straight man goodie two-shoes in the script, but the Circus of Crime characters are more sympathetic to me in a lot of ways, and feel much less naive than Vince.

    There's one bit, like a two-second throwaway line, from Keith David, that should have been blared all over those promos. 'That's how you fight a corporation; you go after their money' or something to that effect. But then Vince ruins it with his pie in the sky idealism about right and wrong and one man setting an example of blah blah *blah!*

    The 'Robin Hood' aspect probably gets me to watch the first two episodes live, like it did for Leverage, rather than after the fact on Hulu thanks to MXPW and Frea.

  7. Alaster12.1.11

    As said before it wasn't the best pilot but it was not bad either. I think it did exactly what it set out to do: show who's the good guys, who's the bad guys, and who's in between. I think the show will go towards DC-esqe characters and not the neurosis that many (if not all) Marvel characters are prone towards, not counting Batman's Marvelization half way through.

    I hope they make Ruvi and Rollo, the two main comic reliefs of the show. I think there's good potential for those characters. I do agree with your comments, especially the one about child characters. It does look like a nice compliment to Chuck and it does fill in the time between Chuck and my Canadian fetish. It looks like my schedule will be familiar to Frea's for three hours on Monday.

  8. Anonymous12.1.11

    as an aside... could we get another chapter of Fates soon?


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