Nathan Rabin is…The Time-Warped TV Recapper: Episode I, The Cape’s pilot
The incident remains fuzzy to me even after all these years. All I can remember is racing to a Phish show in Bethel Woods in the summer of 2011 as part of a mad, galloping herd hungry for sound and sensation. Then it happened, all at once with a big CRACK. I tripped on my sandals, and my face smashed into the hard concrete. Blood oozed everywhere.
I was taken to a medical tent, where I was examined extensively. After scanning my brain using a machine he kept in the school bus that doubled as his house, a kindly and possibly insane hippie doctor uttered the strangest prognosis in all of medicine.
I was, to his recollection, the only person in recorded history with this particular malady. The fall had affected the part of my brain that controls memory, and by some strange medical fluke, it only damaged the area devoted to remembering television shows.
The doctor declared me the world’s first Televisual Amnesiac. From that point on, every show that I watched, I would consider a new one. But that was far from the only eccentricity unique to my peculiar affliction. I would also imagine that I was living in the time period of the show I was watching, but only as long as I was watching the show. Furthermore, I was afflicted with an odd positivity that made me want to desperately like and overrate everything I saw, to an almost comical degree.
“I have a hard time believing I have this condition,” I said to the attending doctor.
“It’s no surprise that you’d go into denial. You’re the first person I’ve ever encountered with such a bizarre affliction, and I have seen more than my share of medical aberrations. I mean, my practice is half freak show and half HMO. Now, think seriously before you answer the following question and please, take your time in making a decision: Have you ever seriously considered wrasslin’ gators for a living?”
“Uh, is that something my condition would make me specifically suited for? Like, a superpower?”
“No, I just need a new gator wrassler, cause my old one died. Bitten in two by a gator, wouldn’t you know? He died doing what he loved: getting vivisected by a terrifying monster of the ocean.” I did not take him up on his offer. It wasn’t until several years later that I found a use for my odd condition. I would become Random Nerds’ official Time-Warped TV Recapper, diligently and enthusiastically writing up the hottest shows that no one else is writing about, either because folks seem to think they’re “egregiously awful” or “long-cancelled.
The first two hot new shows I’ll cover will be The Cape, the superhero show that looks like to revive the long-dormant “superhero” genre and get folks interested in comic books and superheroes once again, and Baywatch Knights, which looks to combine the thrills of Baywatch and chills of The X-Files, not unlike how Gymkata combined the thrills of karate with the skill of gymnastics.
The excitement with The Cape begins with its title. Superheroes traditionally wear capes! How #onbrand is that? The only possible better title I could think of for a show about a superhero would be Utility Belt, or Cowl, or Bullet-Resistant Body Armor, or Sidekick, because those are also things associated with superheroes.
The second cause for excitement with The Cape is its star, David Lyons, who portrays the role of Vince Faraday, a.k.a. The Cape. Pause your reading of this post immediately and turn to your quaint moleskine notebook, the one where you obsessively list actors destined to become the stars of tomorrow. You may add the name of one David Lyons to that list, alongside Skeet Ulrich and whoever played Hurley from from Lost, because you are going to be hearing a lot from Lyons in the days and years ahead. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the world’s greatest mega-star based solely on his work here. I see at least a half-dozen Oscars in his future, and perhaps even some People’s Choice Awards as well.
The pilot episode begins with simple, un-super Vince Faraday, a simple cop trying to make a difference in Palm City. As fictitious cities go, this one totally sounds like an awesome superhero city à la Gotham or Metropolis, and not like the kind of place where one could get a spray tan and/or post-massage hand job.
One day, the police chief of Palm City is murdered by a super-villain known only as Chess, played by one Peter Fleming, and Faraday finds himself surrounded by corrupt cops. One might even say that Faraday is locked in a deadly game of chess with his nemesis and has himself become a pawn in a much larger game # involving Rooks and Queens and Pawns and checkmate and various other chess terms.
Chess really drives the parallels between life and chess home in a lovely, understated way when he says, “My life is like a game of Chess.” Whoa now. That is some deep shit right there, because only smart people know about chess. I should know. I can barely play Checkers. More of a Snakes ’n’ Ladders man, myself.
This isn’t the only illustration that we are in the hands of some super-genius-level writers. In Palm City (which, again, sounds like a very real place and not a euphemism for masturbation), there lives a mysterious blogger named Orwell keeping an eye on the city and posting lists of corrupt cops.
Try to keep up: this is a reference to a writer named George Orwell, who wrote a pair of books called Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, which people who have gone to college have either read or pretended to read. I have to give The Cape credit for including such obscure highbrow references that only 95 to 97 percent of its audience could get.
The electrifying Lyons plays an honest cop in a dishonest city, where the police force has been privatized by ARK, a Halliburton-like aggregation of pure evil. Before he became our greatest and most beloved superhero, The Cape was a fictional comic book hero that Faraday’s son idolizes. When Orwell gives the man who will be The Cape a hot tip about a large man smuggling explosives into Palm City inside the bodies of dolls, Faraday is betrayed by his own partner and soon finds himself tied to a chair in front of a highly symbolic chessboard. Turns out Chess is actually the head of the company smuggling weapons into Palm City. Chess frames Faraday for his own crimes, and allows him to just enough time to escape for it to look like Faraday died in a giant explosion.
Vince Faraday soon finds himself under the big top of a criminal organization that calls itself the Carnival of Crime, a name that does full justice to both their penchant for law-breaking and their love of acrobatics. The head of the Carnival of Crime is Max, a sonorous professional bank robber and aficionado of the carny arts played by Keith David, who deserves a Peabody for his heroic recitation of dialogue like, “We hate cops. They arrest people like us.”
Faraday is in a bind, but he endears himself to Max by giving him a magical skeleton key that somehow opens every lock in Palm City. The Carnival of Crime is just like Insane Clown Posse: good-hearted souls misunderstood and judged just because they look weird and are serial criminals. Max tells Faraday that he can’t return to Palm City as Vince Faraday because then ARK will murder his family and there are several deeply moving scenes where Vince is all sad that he can no longer see his family without wearing a disguise of some sort. But what manner of disguise, you ask?
In a twist so realistic I can only imagine it was borrowed from a real-life incident involving the producers, Faraday decides to win his son’s love and affection by becoming the real-life version of the fictional superhero his son worships. It’s not unlike how I mostly watch and write about movies during the day but at night I prowl the streets under the guise The Spirit. That’s what they mean when they talk about art imitating life.
Max turns Faraday into a real-life hero using Circus Magic. Under Max’s tutelage, Vince Faraday becomes The Cape. The first thing he does to illustrate his incredible new powers is get beaten up by the little person who is Max’s sidekick. Anyone can beat up someone smaller than them, but it takes a very big man to allow himself to get beaten up by a very small man. Paradoxically.
Hypnosis, fighting skills, cape tricks, even more advanced cape tricks, trickery involving capes, cape choreography: The Cape’s training is intense and primarily rooted in cape maneuvering. Before you know it, Faraday isn’t being beaten up by the little person anymore. Now, he’s beating up the little person like a real hero.
The genius of The Cape’s costume is that it makes him look like a mentally ill homeless person pretending to be a superhero. The Cape might just be the first superhero to look like he’s clad solely in black trash bags tied together with duct tape. The Cape makes his grand debut facing off against a smuggler called Scales (Vinnie Jones), so named due to his scales. It is not an auspicious debut, however, and Scales tosses The Cape in a body of water where he almost drowns to death but is saved by flashbacks alluding to his son’s pure-hearted faith in his old man.
Just when I thought I couldn’t handle another crazy twist we discover that Orwell is not a fat, sad, middle-aged man who sits at his computer all day talking to people in a distorted robot voice. Orwell is actually a chick! The casting of attractive actress Summer Glau as a blogger/hacker—a role generally played by Kevin Smith or Kevin Smithian types— is not only the greatest triumph for feminism, but for women as a gender. Glau’s presence single-handedly undoes any and all sexism that has ever existed within the comic-book medium.
This sexy lady blogger woman offers to help Vince, who tells her, “I’m The Cape.” In that moment, a legend greater than all other myths was born. It was the birth of The Cape, and even though this show has just debuted to what I can only imagine is wild acclaim and unprecedented popularity and anticipation, I already envision the mighty name of The Cape and the charismatic genius who plays him echoing through the ages and changing the world of superheroes in ways we can barely imagine.
Rating: 10 Capes out of 10 (this will be my rating system regardless of what I’m writing about)
Up Next: “Tarot”
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