Looking Back At THE CAPE (2011) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At THE CAPE (2011)

In a world saturated with superhero narratives, 'The Cape' launched itself onto television screens with a flourish, striving to leave its unique mark. Premiering on January 9, 2011, this NBC series aimed to blend the allure of comic book heroism with the complexities of real-world drama. As audiences have experienced with series like 'Arrow' or 'The Flash', the balancing act between the world of masked crusaders and the gritty realism of daily life can be a challenging but rewarding undertaking.

Set in the fictional Palm City, 'The Cape' chronicled the life of Vince Faraday, a former police officer who is framed for a slew of crimes by the corrupt corporation ARK and its chief enforcer, Chess. Faking his death to protect his family, Faraday adopts the persona of his son's favorite comic book hero – The Cape. With this new identity, he embarks on a mission to clear his name and reunite with his family. Along the way, he encounters a group of bank robbers who become unexpected allies, and a mysterious blogger, Orwell, who aids him in his journey.

What sets 'The Cape' apart from its contemporaries was its commitment to staying grounded. Instead of lavish superpowers or an arsenal of futuristic gadgets, Vince's primary tool was a unique cape, which he learned to manipulate as a weapon under the tutelage of Max Malini, the ringleader of the bank robbers. This emphasis on skill and determination over supernatural powers harkens back to early superhero tales, reminiscent of characters like Batman or The Phantom.

The show’s creators were not newcomers to the entertainment world. 'The Cape' was developed by Tom Wheeler, who later went on to work on projects like 'The Lego Ninjago Movie'. Director Simon West, known for action-packed movies like 'Con Air', brought his cinematic touch to the pilot episode, ensuring the series kicked off with the right momentum.

Behind the scenes, 'The Cape' was a blend of passionate creators and a dedicated cast. David Lyons, who portrayed Vince Faraday, was previously recognized for his work on 'ER'. His commitment to the role was evident, as he trained extensively to perfect the physicality required. Notably, Summer Glau, playing Orwell, brought her experience from shows like 'Firefly' and 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles', cementing her place as a fan favorite in the science fiction and fantasy community.

Despite its ambitious setup and dedicated team, 'The Cape' faced challenges in viewership. The show debuted to a modest audience of around 8.4 million viewers. However, as the series progressed, numbers dwindled, averaging around 5.34 million by its conclusion. In an era where 'The Dark Knight' had redefined superhero cinema and shows like 'Smallville' had set high standards on TV, 'The Cape' found itself struggling to carve out a distinct niche.

One could argue that the series was perhaps a victim of its own narrative choices. While 'The Cape' sought to remain grounded, other contemporaneous superhero shows and movies embraced the fantastical. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was on the rise, with 'Thor' and 'Captain America: The First Avenger' releasing in the same year. These spectacles, with their grandeur and scale, might have overshadowed the more intimate story of Vince Faraday.

Yet, it would be a disservice to dismiss 'The Cape' as just another superhero show lost in the shuffle. Its influence, albeit subtle, can be seen in later superhero narratives that also attempted to fuse the mundane with the extraordinary. Shows like 'Daredevil' and 'Jessica Jones', while more mature in their themes, similarly embraced the idea of heroes without grand superpowers, relying instead on skill, wit, and sheer determination.

In reflection, 'The Cape' can be viewed as a bridge between eras. It stood at the crossroads, one foot in the old-school tales of masked vigilantes who relied on their cunning and another in the modern stories of heroes grappling with personal and moral challenges amidst their battles.

Its short-lived tenure found an unlikely immortalizer in the world of pop culture: NBC's beloved sitcom, 'Community'. Known for its quick wit and sharp references to contemporary media, 'Community' did not let 'The Cape' fade into obscurity without a nod.

In the episode "Paradigms of Human Memory", Abed Nadir, one of Greendale Community College’s quirky study group members, becomes infatuated with 'The Cape'. He vehemently believes that the show would last for six seasons and a movie - a phrase that ironically became a rallying cry for 'Community' fans. Despite being told by Jeff Winger that 'The Cape' would be canceled, Abed defiantly swishes a cape (a stand-in for the one from 'The Cape') and proclaims, "Six seasons and a movie!" This in-joke is not only a tongue-in-cheek prediction of 'The Cape’s' fate but also became emblematic of 'Community's' own journey and its fans' hope for its longevity.

This playful jest encapsulates 'Community's' self-aware humor, and its ability to turn even fleeting cultural moments into enduring and endearing jokes. Through this, 'The Cape' found an unexpected place in television lore, not as a superhero epic, but as a testament to fan passion and the unpredictability of showbiz success.

In conclusion, 'The Cape', though short-lived, deserves its place in the pantheon of superhero TV shows. It serves as a testament to the ever-evolving nature of the superhero genre, reflecting society's shifting perceptions and demands of its heroes. While Vince Faraday's journey as The Cape might have been brief, it was a reminder of the core essence of heroism – the indomitable spirit to fight against the odds, even when stripped of all but the most basic tools.

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