Written, directed and performed with a sometimes startling earnestness, The Cape can, at times, feel ridiculous. Comic book fans may have no qualms about swallowing their disbelief as a good cop (David Lyons) finds himself presumed dead and framed as master villain Chess, taken in and nursed to superhero power by a gang of roving circus performers/thieves.
Yes, a group of sneaky circus performers teaches The Cape how to fight evil. The little person instructs him in physical combat; the ringmaster lets him in on all the secrets of being an illusionist, then gives him a spider-silk cape that has the remarkable ability to yank a gun out of someone’s hand with just its hem.
But though the sincerity works for the usual crime-fighting plotlines, the more outlandish aspects of the story feel uncertain. When we first meet the underground circus, the tone feels out of sync with the ridiculousness of what we’re seeing. And Summer Glau, as an enterprising blogger named Orwell who is determined to bring the real Chess down, is a wan and wooden screen presence.
However, The Cape is still fun enough to be diverting entertainment based on the first two episodes; in two weeks, it resumes on its usual Monday night. Lyons is perfectly cast as the wrongly accused man determined to bring down the man who destroyed his reputation. That man is played by James Frain with an atrocious American accent when he’s billionaire Peter Fleming, and with his usual British accent and creepy contact lenses as villain Chess. And The Cape’s wife and son somehow avoid the pitfalls of seeming stupid for not knowing that he is still alive.
But your enjoyment of The Cape is directly affected by your appreciation of superhero sincerity. There are no camp or no tongue-in-cheek moments here—not even when Lyons sews his own mask. Whether the show’s tone will manage to avoid growing stale in a few weeks is still uncertain, but for now, there’s enough reason to keep tuning it. (Even if a superhero called The Cape is totally lame.)
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