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Editorial: Written Podcast Extra: Big Dog’s Thoughts on THE CAPE

Welcome back to another of Big Dog’s thoughts! Hopefully you’ll find me a little more coherent than me trying to read my own notes. Forgive the bad grammar, I love to write, but I’m no editor. I should probably take up the offer to have people edit this stuff for me. I won’t say my writing is gold, but I think you can find some silver in it at least. The problem is that once people started to edit my work, they’d take the silver and hand back aluminum foil! In any case, I’m not going to be blogging today about my failings. This little written podcast extra goes to a review of the new superhero show; The Cape!

After having listened to the reviews that Matt and Carl gave of the show, I have to admit I was still skeptical of watching it. I read some of the early thoughts on the show, but nothing seemed to really impress me. As a matter of fact I really didn’t want to watch it at all after reading up on it on io9. That was due to the fact that it didn’t seem like anything new or original, and as pointed out by Troy in our 3rd and 4th podcast, I’d like to see them take a crack at an established character. That is, I want them to actually read the book and get it right! I know, an old chesnut that people have heard time and again. Regardless of it, I decided that since I’m now podcasting I had a responsibility to know what I was talking about. So let me give you the layout as to how I plan to do so. I’ll give you a little bio on our main character, our main villain, pepper both of these with the plot, and lastly my overall thoughts of the show. Mind you I’ll give thoughts on the characters as well as I finish the write ups. This is more for my benefit than yours. Keeps me on topic, and I hope to do just that. As with all things written on this matter, there will be spoilers. If you plan on watching this, avoid it! I’ll do my best not just data dump both episodes.

The Cape: Not just the name of the show, but the name of our newest hero. Vince Faraday is a good cop that keeps seeing the his fellow police officers going corrupt around him. After failing to stop the death of the new chief of police by our main villain; Chess, our hero gets an offer to move from the local police force to a private one. Of course Faraday isn’t convinced that this is a good idea, but a friend of his that works for this private force (named ARK) convinces him that this is the best way to go considering all the bad cops. He of course accepts the premise and interviews with the head of ARK. He gets sold on the idea after a very successful meeting, hoping that he’ll be able to finally make a difference instead of weeding through the corruption around him. The gist of what happens next is Faraday gets told by the Oracle character; Orwell, that Ark isn’t the good guys. He goes to investigate, tells his friend to come and see the evidence only to get framed by him and Chess. They unmask Chess who we find out is the head of ARK, to which they bolt the mask to Faraday’s head and send him on his merry way. This entails a chase from ARK’s enforcers and a news helicopter showing his face everywhere as he’s ripping off sections of the mask. He finally escapes via access to a tunnel, but is presumed dead after a tanker he snuck under to get access to said tunnel explodes.

Boiled down version of how he becomes the hero is even simpler: He meets the Carnival of Crime, who he helps with his Ark access card, why they didn’t make it null and void is beyond me. He finally makes friends with the head of the Carnival (Keith David) and decides that he wants to strike back at Chess, by means of killing him. Max (David’s character) tells him that it won’t do any good as Ark is bigger than one man. It’s obvious after Faraday finds an old cape hidden in costumes that he’s come up with this idea. His son’s favorite comic book hero is a guy called the Cape. So this isn’t a hard stretch to imagine that if we have a villain running around out there that taking the mantle of a superhero would be that far gone. However, being trained by a bunch of crime carnies, especially considering that he knows he’s going to be fighting crime other than just ARK seems a bit pointless. What makes it even stranger is that Max knows he will and still agrees to it. Regardless, Max hands him a better cape made of spider silk. This bit of super-science says it makes it stretchy enough to whip things out of peoples hands if the person knows how to use it right. Tougher than kevlar and weighted for maximum effiency. After a montage of him being trained by various carnies in disappearing, fighting, and hypnosis, not to mention cape twirls & thrusts, he hits the street in a live version of the costume he remembers from his son’s comic books.

My thoughts on the hero: This is guy is being set up as a Batman type. He’s got a motif going that can definitely draw parallels from Batman, but there’s some distinct differences. What plays up here is more a RPG character given his own TV show. In some lighter shade instances, it’s almost seems more like a “What would Thomas Wayne have done had he survived and couldn’t have gone home?” There’s so much about this guy that remains open for explaining and that much more that seemed too rushed for its own good. If you listened to the podcast, instead of just reading forward blindly, I agree with my fellow casters that there are some major timeline issues. His training is so fast and furious that he seems to have gotten his training done within the span of days. He’s a cop, and former military from what little we’ve learned of Faraday so far, so he’s used to having to learn quickly. Still, we’re talking about using a cape as both offensive and defensive weapon. It’s such an odd choice, but I give him some clearance for being focused on a task. However, since it’s not the only thing he’s learning to do, it makes it that much more a stretch. For instance, he’s also learning how to do 37 different kinds of disappearance techniques. He’s learning hypnotism. He’s being beaten up by a dwarf! Yeah… Those little cheesy bits like that make it funny, but also make me question some of his military experience too.

Regardless of all that, the guy comes across as a Batman/Shadow type knockoff character. The one big problem I had is that it took him through the mid of the second episode to make a mask for himself. It’s great to have a cape, but Darth Sidious he ain’t. He’s got all this crap happening to him, but out of sheer convienence no one notices that he’s Faraday. I give the guy the courage of his convictions on this one. He’s trying to clear his name and go back to his family. He’s also trying to make sure that his son knows that there are still heroes out there and that his dad is still alive and loves him. In that respect I give it points, sappy though it may be.

Chess: This guy is a cross between Hunter Rose from Grendel (which most people won’t know), a small time Lex Luthor, and Dick Jones from Robocop. Chess is Peter Fleming, the head of ARK Industries. So far as I know, his only point is to make his private police force the only police force in town. To that end, he has to come up with something in such a way that he can manage to frame someone else for Chess’s crime. So when Faraday comes along and discovers that ARK isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, bingo. We also learn that Faraday’s friend, Marty Voyt, is only working for ARK because he fears the safety of his family. It’s pretty much made clear that if you’re working for Mr. Fleming, you don’t leave easily. There’s more of an endgame here that you’re not privy to in 2 episodes, but so far it’s all been about trying to control the police and prison systems. That’s about as far as you really get with it.

My thoughts on the villain: I know, this is a very short write up on Chess. Honestly, there’s not much to say about this guy that I couldn’t explain by using the bits and pieces that make him up. Grendel, or Hunter Rose as I mentioned, was a gangster not because he wanted to be the greatest villain of all time. In his little universe, he became that, but it was because he was a genius that was bored. He only kept going back into Grendel’s costume because there were some challenges that were just fun for him, especially when he met with his nemesis; Argent. Argent was a werewolf, for all intents and purposes. Not to get too far into this story, let me cut it down. He wasn’t easy to fall like every other guy Hunter ever came across. He was old, dangerous, and worth the fight every time he went out. Eventually, Hunter would die because of Argent. However, Argent ended up crippled in the process. I see that bit of Hunter Rose in Chess. He’s bored, and he’s admitted as much. He likes a challenge, but he also likes control. The mini Lex Luthor in him wants Palm City to be his all his and eventually, I’ll wager, the world. He’s a man of fine tastes and always has a plan in place just in case something should happen. The only problem is that his inner Dick Jones hasn’t come up with a great enough ARK cop yet. I’m waiting to see if that’s on the way.

With this guy, I like the parts that come together. Much like our hero, it’s all something I’ve seen put together in an somewhat entertaining package. My problem is that there are times where the guy is completely stupid and can’t pull the Lex he wants to be. He knows that some guy busted into his place and tried to have him killed. There should have been ARK soldiers swarming the place trying to get him. Instead he had one lone assassin trying to do the job, a guy called Cain. I won’t get into him because I just don’t give a rat’s can about Cain. The most interesting part is he had a Tarot tattoo on his arm. Tarot in this universe is some sort of elite crime organization. I’ll see if they do anything with that. Other than this faux pas, the next part is not being able to turn a light on and notice who was under the Cape’s hood as he didn’t wear a mask when he busted into Fleming’s personal quarters. It was so easy to spot Faraday as he really doesn’t try to change his voice any. On the plus side, and this goes more for Faraday than Chess here, he did have the presence of mind to get one a lot faster than Helena Kyle did on Birds of Prey. Anyone remember that show, other than Troy and myself?

My other HUGE problem with Chess was brought up by Carl at our meetup. The guy wears a mask, and frames Faraday for being Chess. Instead of coming up with a new villain and getting different contacts, he puts on the same outfit and goes back into business. Um…what? I thought this guy was over and done with! Again, something of an interesting plot hole that I’m forced to look at, because if someone spots you, then obviously Faraday was framed and you’ve put the heat back on as to who you are. Maybe that’s the plan all along, just to get what you want out of the situation. I’ll give it some time to build up. Maybe this guy’s got something more under his sleeve, but I want him to distinguish himself from the other villains mentioned.

The overall thoughts of the show: I’ll say outright, this is a great deal better than I thought it would be. I just think I like it for all the wrong reasons. Much like my rant on Superman Returns, I have this feeling of nostalgia watching these elements come together and it makes me want to pick up the books of the individual elements so I can reminisce in what I know I like. There’s a lot of RPG elements I see in this, stuff that I could tell any Game Master (the guy who runs the story for those that don’t know) wouldn’t allow to go unpunished, and a want to distiguish the guy from just the plain part of the archetype. He’s out to avenge his “death” and return to his family. That’s all fine and well. Luckily, Faraday comes across as a nice enough guy so it makes it a lot easier to digest than say that of other rants you’ve heard on the podcast about character dramas. I like the idea that they do explore other elements going on, like what Faraday’s wife is doing while she believes her husband dead. She also maintains his innocence, and also tries to understand her son’s feelings about things too. She’s also trying not disillusion him about the Cape, because he’s told her that he’s seen him. He’s a comic character, but how far a stretch could it be if you have (or by her estimation, had)a bad guy in mask running around.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Carnival of Crime. I don’t know why a group bent on robbing banks would want to help a guy become a hero. Sucker for hard luck case, I suppose. Still it’s a bad idea to train the guy that will eventually have to stop you from pulling off a crime. Max shows signs of being my fave, he’s got a lot of great lines in it. Gives this heartfelt speech about how he really hopes Faraday can pull off this hero thing. Then realizes that he’s not dying (he was shot after being captured by Chess for robbing ARK protected banks) and says that he wasted a good last speech for nothing. The rest of the Carnival isn’t too bad either, but they work with Max too easily on this. I’m hoping in future that we learn they didn’t all so willingly help out. As conveniences go, this stretches it. To harp at the point further, I know that Faraday’s given them very little reason to distrust his motives. He did hand them the security key to bust into vaults. Now that he’s got to think like a hero he’s going to have to realize that while he’s hurting ARK by allowing his new friends to rob banks, it’s also hurting the economy around him. I only buy the reason he did it in the first place because of the paradigm shift in his world up to this point. Options that may not have been considered before all of a sudden become one of necessity. I wonder if it will continue on that idea or if it will fall flat of his face.

The character of Orwell didn’t get a write up because there’s very little we actually know about her. She’s a blogger and hacker. She’s on a personal quest to clean up the streets of Palm City and she’s allowing the Cape to be an extension of that. While he may see it more as a partnership, she sees it as a means to an end. She’s got a slight Batman attitude on that, but that’s as far as she relates to the Caped Crusader. Mostly she sticks to her Oracle role, but there’s something to be said about the fact she’s willing to go undercover to do the job. That means putting on a wig and changing the way she puts on her makeup, just slight things like that. The only problem I saw is that this little change didn’t keep her from being noticed by the assassin. Go figure, a guy trained to kill people will see right through something so flimsy. Still, I give her a Moxie Award for attempting it anyway. Next time think prosthetics!

In the end I give the show a C+ for it’s efforts. I’m hoping it’ll go miles further for what it does right and try to distinguish itself from the “Batman type”. I don’t have a problem in the world with them doing a dark crusading type, but first off our hero has sworn to kill our villain. That’s not something heroes do, much less Batman. A hero is something who is inspired to fight for hope, an antihero has seen hope die in his eyes and takes the problem out in the quest to reignite it for others. As I said before, Max quickly tells him that it won’t solve the problem as the next would-be Caesar will just pop up to replace him. I hope this sticks to heart with the character. If they’re going to play him up as a Batman, then at least TRY to adhere to that part of the of moral code. If he doesn’t then the premise of what you’re trying to do fails, and it’s a shaky premise for an unknown anyway. Why do I say that? Simply put, most people don’t understand what Batman is about anymore. They can’t understand that what he does is so that no one has to relive that night ever. Killing is too easy and solves nothing. I read a quote once upon a time that says: “Kill the spiders and save the butterflies. It’s rational until you realize that by striving for it, you become a spider yourself.” The meaning is fairly self-evident; by trying to save one in lieu of the other, then you’re no better than those you hunt. A hero of Batman’s calibur is far better than that. You want that type of character, you have the Punisher for just that reason. Again I point to hero vs. antihero.

In the end, I wish the Cape to do well. I’m not going to go out of my way for it, but luckily it’s in my “On Demand” stuff on my DVR. I’ll give it a fair shake and should it find its own identity I’ll gladly continue to watch via regular play schedule. It’s got all the ear marks to do good things, but I’m hoping for great.