Tonight's The Cape is built around sexual tension. Chess and guest star Mena Suvari as Dice are supposed to have it. Vince and Orwell continue their antagonistic/friendly/sexually tense relationship. And the sexy acrobat, Raia, finally has some scenes where she distracts Vince with her feminine wiles, although this story is played for comedy instead of driving the plot like the other two.
The problem with this is that sexual tension, in general, relies on subtlety. The Cape doesn't have that. It doesn't have actors who convey meaning with a single glance, let alone writers who can build character without resorting to “THIS IS A CHARACTER-BUILDING MOMENT!” Sexual tension is all foreplay; The Cape is all climax.
Yet I feel like The Cape's writers and producers feel like they have to try. They're probably right. Part of the show's appeal is that it works by reminding you of how stories work. It's all archetypes, and archetypes go through the motions, even when those motions are bush league sexual tension, pointless flashbacks, and an incredibly pathetic family life that's supposed to be appealing. It's not an effective long-term plan when combined with The Cape's fast-moving storyline, but I'm pretty certain that “long-term plan” was not a phrase that was easy to find in The Cape's initial pitch.
DICE: We open 10 years in the past with a creepy little girl named Tracy staring at dice, and stealing the “supergenius” power's special effect from No Ordinary Family. She can read probability and thus see the future, according to the conveniently placed exposition given by her father to a supposedly younger Peter Fleming. It's the exposition that's the problem. Speculative fiction shows love this kind of origin story cold open. The X-Files used it all the time, and even something like Angel, which usually stayed close to home, utilized it to introduce its electricity-channeling superpowered character Gwen. One of the main things that makes the origin open work is that it doesn't spell things out. We know something it weird about this character, but exactly what isn't clear—until someone dies. The Cape? Well, it prefers exposition, so creepy girl turns to her dad and Fleming and says that Fleming will kill her dad, but she'll kill Fleming.
Back to the present day, where Fleming is introducing a new system of prediction, which he calls “Tracy,” even though it shows up on the screen as “T.R.A.C.E.” He basically takes his speech from the premise of Minority Report about how predicting the future is totally awesome. It's unclear who he's giving the speech to, though. It's literally faceless people in shadows applauding until the camera manages to find Mena Suvari, well-lit, and wearing a necklace of two dice, which qualifies as subtle for The Cape because it didn't flash back to the previous scene.
OUR FATE is FIXED: Your kid is a brat, The Cape. And you’re a dish-breaking jerk. Yes, our hero is stalking his family, and things aren't going well. After he accidentally breaks the dishes his wife is washing by The Caping away in a huff, he arrives at his home? Headquarters? Studio? where he discovers a note from Orwell in a pretty obvious Times New Roman (really, Orwell, that's your font?) saying she got the info he wanted. That info turns out to be the police records of the Carnival of Crime in addition to Vince himself, which they have a rollicking good time reading. Meanwhile, Vince is mopey, which, seriously The Cape, don't make Vince mopey. That's your thing. You don't mope, or brood, or have angst. As long as that's the case, you're ahead of No Ordinary Family. DON'T FUCK THIS UP, THE CAPE.
Happily, it moves back to its default mode for dialogue and planning: nonsense. Max says “The Cape is your accomplice that will lead you home.” What? Who… wait. A flashback. Those always make sense – hammer-over-the-head sense, but sense nonetheless. It's a flashback to the time of the pilot, which was just a few weeks ago, but The Cape really wants us to remember. Vince leaves his idyllic house, as he tells Max, expecting to return. “But I never went back. Fate had other things in mind.” Yes, that's an actual line of dialogue.
Peter Fleming is wandering through a casino, pretending he's Steve Buscemi, when Mena Suvari shows up and flirts with him using her powers of prediction, eyebrow waggles, boobs, and exploding dice. Though it's not all that surprising, because you can tell that something's up when Dice is there, because there's an ominous “whooshing” sound and lots of slo-mo.
GOD is the DICE: After the explosion, Fleming is getting a checkup from his doctor, and there's an incredibly awkward conversation. I think we're supposed to view it as foreshadowing, especially when the doctor weights his words carefully to ask, “Any visits from your friend?” Meanwhile, Vince is happy about Fleming's would-be assassin, but Orwell throws a hissyfit and calls him stupid because his name will never be cleared if Fleming just dies. “Well, if you ever care about getting home!” she says. “Fuck no,” Vince should have replied, “my family totally sucks.” Then Orwell and Vince make up, or something, as Orwell says that T.R.A.C.E. represents the biggest, baddest thing ever, as they break into Dice's apartment. Dice shows up, puts a gun to Orwell's head, and tries really hard to be threatening.
CHEMISTRY: Dice reveals to Vince that he's a blind spot in her predictions! He's like The Mule, not The Cape! The Caped Mule? The Mule In A Cape? Of course, this doesn't seem to alter her plans in any way, which implies that she's not that bright. An ARK SWAT team shows up and takes her to a date with Fleming. At this point, The Cape tries a new trick, using split screen to go between Dice & Chess' date and The Cape hurrying over to see them. Except that they're talking with supposed sexual tension, while he's just jumping up and down on fire escapes. Ooookkkkay. Now, don't get me wrong, I like the split screen. It's a nod that the creative team behind the show realize just how silly and artificial it is, and are going all-out with that. Split screen artificiality is one of the big reasons I liked Ang Lee's Hulk, which I mention primarily in order to troll for an argument in the comments.
Eventually the split screen starts to work when they forget about The Cape and focus on Dice's Rube Goldberg-esque probability attack, which involves her rolling a coin backward in order to trigger a chandelier dropping just as she tells Fleming “I know your weakness.” No further explanation for that implies that his weakness is “Sitting Underneath Chandeliers” but guess what? The Cape saves the day.
FUNAMBULISM: Orwell and Vince are trying to get a read on what Dice is doing, as they watch her via hacked security cameras. Vince tells Orwell “You really are creepy.” Uh, dude, you never saw Firefly, Dollhouse, or Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles? This is Summer Glau's least creepy role yet. They eventually determine that “she's planning something.” Fucking brilliant, guys. I can see why you're the heroes. At any rate, they figure that she's going to attack during a party on a top floor of the building, which makes Vince decide that he's going to enlist the help of his circus friends to walk a tightrope across the way. He'd just seen Man on Wire as part of a crazy Frenchman documentary double feature with Exit Through the Gift Shop, see.
Vince tells Max his plan, and Max once again proves that Keith David is really slumming it here by bursting out with the best-delivered line of the night, “Why do you always bother me when I'm drinking!??” Max is overruled by his hypnotist and acrobat, who decide to do some experimental shit on Vince to teach him to walk the tightrope. This means that Vince gets hypnotized and then doesn't want to think about hips when confronted with an attractive blonde woman. So he falls and hits himself in the groin. Which is obvious but hilarious.
Meanwhile, his kid is still being an asshole to his wife.
Finally Vince gets up on the high wire, having decided that it would be best if he made the crossing WHILE IN HIS CAPE.
THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS: Orwell gets into the ARK computer system by tasing a security guard, which is pretty funny. It's not Alison Brie with chloroform levels of funny but funny nonetheless. Meanwhile, Fleming is unleashing T.R.A.C.E. by saying “We have seen the future, and her name is Tracy,” as if he's never met a guy named Tracy. I mean, come on! Gender-neutral names exist! Dice shows up with a plan to blow everything up, The Cape arrives just in the nick of time to foil that plot long enough to get the people out, then he blows it all up. Which somehow magically makes his kid stop being such a fucking asshole.
The episode concludes with another flashback, this time to Max with the implication that he had some kind of forewarning that Vince was going to get the cape, which is ominous! Also, Fleming hears something and sees that a chessboard has been set up, and he says his friend is back, which is ominous!
- It has been suggested to me that I include a bit more analysis at the end of these reviews, but The Cape seems uniquely impervious to analysis, and I'm known for overanalyzing. So, my question to you, gentle readers, is: If you were going to analyze something about The Cape, what would it be?