The Cape of Good Hope
- Gary D. Robinson TheFish.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 1 Jan
Ted White, "The Spawn of M. C. Gaines," from ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME.
And this is how he often appeared -- avenger-like in the night, sometimes in menacing silhouette, or with his shadow cast before him, twice life size. He did things with that cape of his. Superman's flapped behind him like a red bath towel, but Batman's blue-black ribbed cape enfolded him like a cloak, often hiding his muscled body from view.
Just when you thought capes and masks were passé, replaced by masochistic leather and shades, capes are making a comeback. Against the advice of the midget fashion maven in THE INCREDIBLES, against the earthbound Smallville , in flowin', flappin' comic book glory, a new hero appears. His name? What else but The Cape, NBC's thrilling throwback to a less ambivalent, more heroic super-hero.
No costumed crime fighter simply appears, however, not without the all-but-patented Origin Story. In the first episode, we meet Officer Vince Faraday (David Lyons), an upright policeman working in crime-ridden Palm City. When the city fathers turn to billionaire Peter Fleming to enforce the law, Vince decides to become a corporate cop. Aided by a mysterious blogger, "Orwell," Vince soon learns that Fleming's company is behind the murder of the police chief.
He pays for this knowledge by being framed for the crime. On the run from the law, Vince is believed to be killed in an explosion. His wife, Dana, and son, Trip, struggle with grief and despair. They can't believe their loving husband-and-father was leading a double-life--cop by day, super-villain "Chess" by night.
Meanwhile, Faraday rouses amid circus performers. Led by master illusionist Max Malini, this motley crew doubles as the bank-robbing "Carnival of Crime." In a bid to clear his name and return to his family, Vince forms an uneasy alliance with Max. He discovers a fantastic cape, "made entirely of spider-silk," which, if he learns to use it properly, will provide a great weapon in his battle with Peter Fleming. To safeguard his identity and his family, he dons the cape and a mask. To build a bridge of hope between himself and his son, he assumes the identity of Trip's favorite comic book hero, The Cape.
The first episode is a delightful collection of heroic staples and styles going back many decades. It steals cheerfully from a variety of sources. I listed Robocop, The Man in the Iron Mask, Robin Hood, Batman, Michael Chabon's The Escapist, and Silver Age Marvel Comics before I stopped counting. Yet it all holds together, creating an exciting, even compelling heroic saga. It's a thriller, but with humor. It's absurd, but, unlike, say, Smallville, it never apologizes for being what it is.
And what it is is fun. In the first episode, for example, we're treated to such sights as these: our hero learns to fight and defeat a midget; a bank security tape reveals a raccoon waddling away with a bag of loot ("Do we think the raccoon acted alone?"). Strangling our hero with his own cape, the villain gloats, "I'll find out who you are. I'll find out who you love. How I will make them scream!" Gee, I love that kinda talk!
The dialogue is a treat, sprinkled like raisins on your favorite cereal:
"What do they call you?"
"Well…you'll work on it."
"Max, you're screaming again.
"I was using my stage voice!"
"What are you, some kind of super-hero? What do they call you?"
"You're not wearing a cape."
"I-I'm aware of that."
Of course, a super-hero is only as interesting as the villains he faces. The Cape has some doozies, starting with Chess AKA Peter Fleming. In the first episode, he appeared as a pleasing throwback to the serial villains of the 1940s, showing his respectable face to the world while indulging his penchant for masked theatrics with his henchmen. Chess' right hand man is the ugly, deadly Scales. How ugly? One crook prepares a rookie for the sight: "Just don't stare, man. Whatever you do, don't stare!"
In the second episode, we meet a French chef named Cain whose food will literally send you out of this world. The Cape must stop the father of all murderers' namesake from offing the lone councilman opposed to Fleming. Episode 3 brings us Kozmo, Max's former pupil and spiritual black sheep sibling to Vince.
Naturally, a fellow can't face such a formidable rogue's gallery alone. These days, a super-hero doesn't just need a sidekick, but a computer whiz. Fortunately, The Cape has "Orwell," (Summer Glau, seemingly born to play the outré) who fits the bill nicely. Thankfully, he makes a friend of Rollo, the little person who used to beat him up.
Max Malini, Vince's criminal mentor, is played with panache by Keith David, whose Emmy-winning voice has narrated numerous Ken Burns films. More father than friend, Max undergirds a powerful theme of The Cape: the passing of a legacy. What Max has passed on to Vince in the form of power, Vince wants to pass on to his son in the form of hope.
Once, when preaching about Elijah throwing his cloak upon Elisha (1 Kings 19), I called it a cape. I remember a boy in the congregation leaning forward. This young Superman fan was captured by the idea of one hero passing his cape on to another. I think of his bright-eyes locked on mine that Sunday, and it makes me think of the bond between fathers-and-sons, masters and disciples, the rock of mature wisdom from which a spring of hope flows in the form of youthful obedience.
As creator Tom Wheeler has said of this series, "It's about hope." There's always someone looking up to us--a son, a student, a younger friend. They may be looking for training. They may be simply looking to see whether somebody can live straight in a crooked world. That is their hope.
Mine is that I don't destroy theirs.
Gary D. Robinson is a preacher, writer, father, and despite himself, hero, living in Xenia, OH. He blogs at http://www.garydrobinson.com/
This Review First Published 1/19/2011