Interesting new show from NBC, taking on the comic book/superhero genre, something you don’t often see in a live-action television format.
Vince Faraday (David Lyons – E.R., Eat, Pray Love) is the titular hero, once the only honest cop in Palm City, set-up by evil private security business man Peter Fleming (James Frain – The Tudors, True Blood) so he appears to be the cities resident psychopath, Chess, who is actually, of course, Fleming. Apparently killed in an explosion, Faraday escapes to a circus outside town, actually the cover for a group of bank robbers, run by Max Malini (Keith David – Pitch Black, Crash) an expert escape artist. With Malini’s help, Faraday takes on the persona of “The Cape” a comic book hero his son loves, so that he can take down Fleming, clear his name and be reunited with his family. Along the way, he gets help from Orwell (Summer Glau – Firefly/Serenity, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) a computer expert and networked watchdog.
It’s an interesting execution for an idea that we’ve seen a lot. There is plenty of Batman Begins in the first two episodes at least and, it being about a comic book superhero (right down to the cool opening titles), the comic-book clichés are everywhere. And of course, it has a montage sequence, which is one sure-fire sign of cheese.
Before I say anything else, I do think it’s very well cast. Lyons looks like an effective action hero, while retaining enough basic humanity with his family man status to not be The Punisher. The “honest man in a den of thieves” has been done to death of course, but this at least is following the more recent “honest man in a den of thieves who finds out there are more honest men (and women)”. That’s certainly Batman/Christopher Nolan territory, but its a good theme, and its good here.
James Frain is one of my favourite actors, and he’s pretty good as the villain. We haven’t really seen enough of him so far to get a feel for him, but he balances the “respectable business man” persona and the evil Chess with precision and he’s a genuinely intriguing bad guy .
Keith David I’ll always like, because he’s in so many things I love. He’s the mentor archetype here, and a good one: a criminal one. David is hamming it up in some scenes, and I’m not sure what kind of place he can have in the show after a while, but he’s always a delight.
Summer Glau, being a Firefly/Serenity veteran, I will always like. Still, she seems to be cast back into type here as the somewhat emotionless assistance, like River, Cameron and Bennet. That and its the computer hacker-God character which I’ve never especially liked.
The supporting cast is pretty good. Jennifer Ferrin fills in the role of Faraday’s wife, Martin Klebba gets the comic relief part as Max’s midget strongman, Vinnie Jones is cast perfectly as the menacing tough Scales and Dorian Missick is our conflicted former friend, who helped Fleming set up Faraday, but is now regretting it.
Oh and Richard Schieff (Toby from The West Wing) turns up in the second episode in what I hope is a recurring role because he’s awesome.
Anyway, the plot. Like I said, its been done, but to the extent that it doesn’t seem to matter when it gets done again and again (I mean, the industry is built on this story). I really do like how they have presented it here though. Fleming’s taking over Palm City’s Police Force, which is a nice change from the “taking over the world” motivation and the writers have done what they can to ground “The Cape” in reality (as much as they can anyway). No actual superpowers, barring Faraday’s unusual skill at surviving explosions he’s right next to.
And within two episodes, we have a rich universe created. We have the hero and his support team (he even has a bat cave already) but we also have a number of villains that can turn up again in future episodes, a supervillain organisation being alluded to for future exploration and a strong plot for a first season, where the issue is decidedly personal.
I think there is great room for arc style storytelling here. You could have a main villain and the quest to defeat him/her every season, interspersed with plenty of stand-alone “bad guy of the week” episodes, with “Tarot” serving as the overall antagonists. Big chance for a show like this to go stale, and it’ll be interesting to see how they can keep it fresh.
And the show is committed to a sub-plot regarding the fortunes of Faraday’s family. It’s not my favourite part of this story, but its good that they’re committed to telling it from the off, rather than ignoring it. Seems like his wife is going to be playing a Matt Murdoch type role in the future, and I’m sure that will involve The Cape at some point.
Thinking about it more, it really is a reworked Nolanverse. Faraday is Batman obviously, his wife is Rachael Dawes, Max is Alfred with a bit of Neeson’s Ra’s Al Gul, and Fleming is the mixture of the corporate and crazy bad guys Bruce Wayne has had to face. I’m not going to say “rip-off” because its patently unfair to apply that word to a genre that is built on the same basic story and characters for nearly every example.
Script wise, it isn’t perfect. A lot of hackneyed lines and clichéd dialogue but it isn’t a dealbreaker, not yet anyway. I think its one of those situations where it will improve in time, hopefully, not that it’s truly terrible right now by any stretch of the imagination. They have a good mix of drama, action and humour without straying into too much of each.
Not all good. Glau’s character doesn’t seem especially important just yet, Faraday seems prone to doing some very stupid things, some scenes just don’t work (one where David escapes from being tied to a chair is one) and the show blows through a lot of plot in a very short space of time. The first ten minutes contained enough information to form its very own episode, but the writers seem to be of the mind that the origin story had to be done, and done fast, which I wouldn’t agree with. The CGI isn’t great, but I expect that from a network TV show.
Overall, a good effort in the first two episodes and I’m going to keep watching.