As I mentioned a few days ago, I might have missed this series if ABC.com had been streaming Season 2 of V. But for whatever reasons they aren't, and in the week I was waiting for them to start a friend told me about this show, so I figured I'd give it a try.
It's a very solid pilot. (I hate when TV shows call the first episode "Pilot." I mean okay, I realize that's what it is, but now that it's gone to series, can't you give the episode a real title? Back in the old VHS days, I just called the first episode the name of the series. The only show where "Pilot" would have worked for the first episode was Farscape, and what do they do, they go and call the first episode "Premiere"! What a wasted opportunity! But I digress.)
It's a very solid origin episode. Vince Faraday, one of the few good cops in Palm City, is framed by a villain named Chess for Chess's crimes, and then believed to have been killed. He's rescued by the Carnival of Crime, whose leader Max Malini eventually comes around to Vince's way of thinking and decides to help Vince stop Chess and clear his own name. Vince wants to do it in the guise of his son's hero, the comic book vigilante The Cape, to let him know there are still good people in the world he can look up to. So Max teaches him how to use his cape as a weapon and how to become an escape artist. And so the battle between The Cape and his arch enemy Chess is on!
When I first heard the hero was actually called "The Cape" I was kind of surprised, because the sentiment ever since the 1989 Batman movie seems to be that capes are a liability more than a benefit, something that the classic heroes are stuck with that no modern super hero would be caught dead with. So I really, really enjoyed the way this show takes the approach that a cape can be an asset to a crime fighter. Sure, at times the CGI for the cape in action looks a little obvious, but I'm never one to let an imperfect special effect stand in the way of my enjoyment of something.
David Lyons gives a good performance as Faraday. He drops his voice as The Cape, but not to the point where it sounds unnatural gravely like Christian Bale's Batman or Michael Shanks' Hawkman. And Keith David is fantastic as Max Malini, especially in his closing scene. Martin Klebba plays Rollo, part of Max's Carnival of Crime, and has some pretty cool fight scenes. I'm hoping he sticks around as a regular. And of course there's Summer Glau, who's playing the mystery girl like she usually does. Her part is small but crucial in this first episode, and I'm sure she'll be even more important as the series goes on.
Another thing I liked about it was that it was able to be gritty without being gory or ever taking it too far. We all know that super heroes rise out of tragedy, and seeing Vince so happy with his family in the beginning, reading comic books of The Cape with his son and discussing his career with his wife, I couldn't help but fear he was going to get the Punisher's origin. And in fact, that's the Chess's main bargaining chip-- he likes to threaten people's families a lot. But thankfully, since he thinks Vince was killed, his family is safe. So Vince must keep the fact that he survived a secret from everyone, especially Chess. The show is violent, and there's some blood but not so much it disturbed me. With a show like this, it could have easily stepped over that line, and I'm glad it didn't.
And I have to give major kudos to the opening credits. In an age where opening theme songs are an endangered species, The Cape not only has a full-on opening title sequence, but it's completely comic book oriented! And I was very surprised to see in the end credits that Bear McCreary does the music. This is the same guy who did the music for the remake of Battlestar Galactica, which I occasionally found beautiful but more often than not just fell flat with me. Yet here he creates some great super hero anthems, proving he's got a good range as a composer.
The only real flaw I felt the show had was towards the end, when Chess decides to re-emerge in costume. Now the fanboy in me is going "Oh yeah, you gotta have everyone in costume for the big throwdown!" It's a lesson I wish Smallville had learned a little earlier. Only in this case, it doesn't make sense. Chess has framed Vince by having Vince be stuck in Chess's outfit and turning the police on him. The police corner him under a gas tank that goes BOOM, right on TV. The world thinks Chess is dead but the real Chess gets away, which was all part of his plan. So why would you go back out in public in costume? Why throw away your victory where anyone can find out you're really not dead?
One last note... check out the other comic on Vince's son's shelf:
Ultimates 3? Really? I have to admit I didn't read past Ultimates 2, but for his kid's sake I hope they toned it down some. Ultimates was most definitely not a kids' book.
[UPDATE: I just checked with my friends at Joy's Japanimation. They definitely did not tone things down, they ramped it up. Definitely not a comic for kids! What was Vince thinking?!?]
NBC did a double premiere, but they're posted as two separate episodes. As of this writing, you can still watch them at nbc.com for free with limited commercials. I'll definitely be checking out episode 2 in the next few days.