Review: NBC’s The Cape is Stylish and Fun and Just What TV Needs

No spoilers.

NBC’s The Cape is just what broadcast television needs.

The Cape, the new drama series about an honest cop getting framed for murder and organized crime, is a stylish love letter to old-school comic books which is something you don’t normally see on broadcast TV.

The man framed, Vince Faraday (David Lyons), becomes The Cape, essentially a superhero without superpowers. But he takes on the guise of his son’s favorite comic book hero to try and get his family back after being framed and now thought to be dead.

Palm City, the setting of the series, has been taken over by billionaire Peter Fleming who looks to have his corporation, Ark, take over the city’s security by having the first privatized metropolitan police force, allowing him to freely continue his shady dealings.

Vince initially leaves what has become a completely corrupt police force for Ark, but as soon as he discovers the truth, he gets used as a pawn and loses the life he’s known.

Believed to be dead, Vince has to remain in hiding, but also figure out a way to clear his name without putting his family at risk. In comes Max Malini (Keith David), the ringleader of a group of circus act bank robbers. He and the rest of the gang help prepare Vince for his mission ahead, and Max bestows upon him the cape that he’ll use for both his persona and as his weapon.

As Vince heads out into the city to begin looking for evidence, he meets Orwell (Summer Glau), a mysterious blogger who has been working from the shadows to out corrupt officers and officials and hopes to take the city back from the crimelords.

At the heart of The Cape is Vince’s struggle to clear his name and the determination in being reunited with his wife and son, which he can only do by taking down the very people who framed him.

Overall, the series aspires to look and feel like a comic book come to life. From the excellent old school original theme and score by Bear McCreary to the (few) visuals of the fictional Palm City, the series has set the groundwork for a true panel-by-panel rendering of a comic book on screen.

The pilot episode, which was the first hour of the two hour premiere, was full and almost crammed with too much in an effort to lay out the backstory and groundwork for our new hero. However, a couple of episodes worth of character and plot set-up shortchanged the visual set-up of the actual setting of the story. A lot more visuals of Palm City outside of generic scenes of a city hall and palm trees and one shot of elevated subway tracks in a city neighborhood, would’ve helped build the atmosphere. It seems the city could become a character of its own, with many ins and outs and side streets and corners that tell a lot more story of what possible secrets this huge metropolis holds.

While the first hour of the premiere felt a little too crammed and rushed, the second hour held much promise as to what to expect week after week.

The Cape benefits from being stylish and flashy. For a series like this, you’re not going to be looking for nuanced writing and performances. Like Max Malini says in the first hour, No one cares about showmanship anymore.

Indeed. The Cape has plenty of showmanship and that adds to what should be a fun experience.

The Cape though needs to find a better balance of fun and darkness. We’ve already had overdramatic, convoluted and sometimes nonsensical superheroes on primetime. That’s what makes The Cape a welcome sight. We’ve seen what happens when a superhero show can get too ambitious for its own good.

The Cape plays on familiar themes, themes drawn straight out of superhero movies and comic books. What should help the show feel fresh is a balance between the action and fun and the deeper, dramatic side of the story. But it should remain simple, not straightforward or predictable, just not trying to be more that it should be.

The series is promising. A great start to what hopefully will be a fun ride week after week. It certainly deserves a spot for being something different in what can be a bland broadcast landscape of procedurals. Plenty of flash and style and a great cast that should shine once they get right into the action instead of just working on laying the foundation for what’s to come.

Even better, The Cape is a relatable and easily accessible hero that should capture both young and old. A show doesn’t need to be complicated, nor does it have to be dumbed down for it to be enjoyable. A fun and exciting ride is definitely what’s missing on broadcast this season… until now.

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