Forgive me if I deviate from the form slightly, but tonight's The Cape actually had enough content and deviated from its form enough that it's worthy of a structural analysis. In other words: This was actually kind of good, but why?
Simple answer: For an episode of The Cape, it actually had a notable lack of The Cape. The first half of the episode reduces Vince to a member of the ensemble, as he, Max, and Rollo investigate a murder that may not be, as Orwell basically gets her own episode, with pretty much no input from The Cape. It weakens slightly as the episode turns into another unexpected team-up, this time between The Cape and his ex-partner, Marty.
Part of the reason that it was able to move Vince to the side was that, surprisingly, the episode was a two-parter, ending on a cliffhanger. With more time to tell its story, instead of relying on simplistic, exposition/stereotype-based storytelling, there was some room for other characters. Orwell got more time to do something on her own, instead of nagging Vince. Rollo and Max were equal partners in the investigation, and the hypnotist, apparently named Ruvi, gets his own scenes. Sadly, Raia, the acrobat, is nowhere to be seen. Fleming is also not around much, but he gets some delicious sarcasm in with Marty around.
It's not just the characters who benefit from the more relaxed form; it's also the plot. The Cape's investigation moves along at a decent pace, but Orwell's chase for an heir who might be able to prevent Fleming's latest powerplay is much slower, with most of it taking place as just a conversation between her and the missing heir in a sanitarium. He even manages to subvert The Cape's bizarre dialogue, by saying a quote that doesn't make any sense, then attributing it to Tolstoy when Orwell calls him on it. Really, the scenes between Conrad and Orwell are oddly riveting, like they came from some other show. They're still over-the-top, but they're over-the-top in a way that seems to acknowledge the existence of subtlety and conversation as character-building, instead of merely declarative sentences. You could get the feeling that Conrad wasn't making much sense because he was somewhat insane, instead of the writers not knowing what they were doing. Props to Glenn Fitzgerald, an actor I hadn't encountered before this, for managing to bring a quiet intensity.
It was always probable that Orwell's plot and Vince's plot will come together, but because the episode is a two-parter, it manages to stretch the reveal for as long as possible. Toward the end, a direct connection is made, and at the very, very end, both Orwell and The Cape realize that their cases are one and the same. An effective twist is supposed to make sense in hindsight but surprise as it happens (or you figure it out right before the characters do), and this one actually delivers.
There's also a decided X-Files tinge to the episode. The cold open involves a creepy guy who suddenly attacks an innocent in bizarre fashion. It doesn't hurt that the actor, Tom Noonan, has actually been a Monster-of-the-Week from the X-Files (John Lee Roche from “Paper Hearts”). Then Vince declares that every police precinct has a collection of files for supernatural occurrences in the city. He says that they're named “the Lich Files, but they could be called the Boogeyman Files.” Or, perhaps, they could be assigned a simple term that indicates their unknowableness, say, the most common variable in algebra, or the mark you put on a map to indicate that something uncommon exists at that point? Regardless, the dose of proceduralism balances The Cape's manic energy nicely. On the other hand, The Cape's dramatic use of bold colors means that the background sure doesn't look like The X-Files, but we can only go so far with the analogy.
I had been saying that while, at this point, The Cape is more fun than No Ordinary Family right now, No Ordinary Family has had the tools to become a better show. I still believe this to some extent, but that show's continued insistence on wallowing in mediocrity, while The Cape actually found a way to improve this week, means that it's far more interesting to discuss than it had been. Who knows? Maybe we'll even miss The Cape when it's gone for reasons other than its high-paced idiocy.
The Crazy Stuff You May Have Come Here For:
- Vince has a totally obvious dream where his family doesn't know he's there. Because they don't! It's like his non-conscious mind is lacking imagination!
- Dana tells a video game-addled Trip “Your fingers are gonna be glued to that thing.” Is that seriously something that moms say now? No longer “You'll go blind if you stare at a screen all day?”
- “Leave the cape. We need the cop.” Max does his best to reach the characters-on-The-Cape-saying-”the cape”-over-and-over quota.
- “The boogeyman doesn't have an address.”
- Max tries to explain the drug used to create The Lich's zombies, saying that it's common “…in sub-Saharan Africa. Especially in Haiti.” Max needs a geography lesson.
- “A surgeon of the mind.” That's how you make an entrance. Thanks, circus folk!
- I actually kind of liked the music video-style editing during the hypnosis scene.
- The hypnotist discovers that The Lich is doing his thing in “Trolley Route 12.” “I knew it,” says Vince. Yet he did nothing. What an asshole.
- Rollo is suddenly Catholic.
- The vats of neurotoxin in The Lich's lair are conveniently labelled “WARNING: NEUROTOXIN.”
- “Terrorist zombies?? Now that's a bad combination.”
- Dana is making friends with Tom's now-ex-girlfriend from Parks & Rec. Oh please let Aziz Ansari be a guest villain on this show.
- Marty's police chief costume is really dumb. Also, he cannot recognize his former partner's voice, body, eyes, or lower half of his face.
- The Cape tells Marty, “You want a piece of me? Any time! But not right now.” Also, he would do anything for love. But not that.
- Conrad complains to Orwell about Fleming taking over the city. “And the people just let him do it.” Fucking people, always letting people do shit.