The Cape is an American superherodrama series. It premiered on NBC during the 2010–2011 television season as a mid-season replacement beginning with a two-hour pilot episode on Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 9 pm Eastern and Pacific Time. An encore played on Monday, January 10, with follow-up episodes continuing on Monday evenings in the 9 pm timeslot beginning on January 17. NBC subsequently cut the total number of episodes to be aired from 13 to 10 as a result of low ratings. On March 2, 2011, NBC announced that the series finale would be aired only on the network's website.
The series, set in fictional Palm City, CA, follows Vince Faraday, an honest detective who decides to leave the police force after he witnesses the murder of a new police chief by a mysterious individual known as "Chess". Faraday accepts an offer to work for a private security firm named ARK, owned and operated by billionaire entrepreneur Peter Fleming. ARK is petitioning Palm City to privatize the police and public safety operations.
A video streamed to Faraday from an investigative blogger known only as "Orwell" leads him and his partner, Marty Voyt, to a cargo train owned by Fleming's firm. They discover the train is smuggling implosive WMDs inside children's toys. Unfortunately, Voyt set up Faraday and delivers him to "Chess", who is Fleming, the CEO of ARK. Fleming frames Faraday for the police chief's murder and after securing the Chess mask onto Faraday, sends his security team after him while televised by News channels ending with a tanker explosion and Faraday's apparent death as Chess.
The entire city (including Faraday's family) now believes Faraday is "Chess" and has perished in the explosion. Faraday is abducted, but then becomes accepted, by "The Carnival of Crime", a traveling circus turned bank robbery ring. Their ring leader, Max Malini, trains Faraday in circuscraft in order to use a special black cape made entirely from spider silk, for defense against his intended foes. Max convinces Faraday not to reveal his identity, as this would endanger his wife and son. He then decides to fight Palm City's corruption and clear his name by adopting the visage of his son's favorite comic book hero, The Cape.
In the series finale, "Endgame", Faraday exposes ARK's corruption. Fleming, however, asserts that he is innocent and uses Voyt, the chief of his private police force, as a fall guy for the corporation. When Vince Faraday's wife Dana takes Voyt's case and convinces him to turn state's evidence, Vince takes his family and Voyt's into hiding to save them from assassins hired by ARK. Meanwhile, Scales locates the carnival and Voyt jumps in front of Faraday to save him, getting shot twice in the chest. As Voyt dies in Faraday's arms, Faraday removes his hood (though still masked) and forgives him for the betrayal, agreeing to care for his family. Though Voyt is redeemed in Faraday's eyes, Fleming leads the entire city to believe that he was corrupt. The series ends with Fleming still at large and Vince's family still believing him to be dead, though Orwell assures Dana that Vince loves her in the present tense (suggesting to Dana that he is still alive).
Cast and characters
David Lyons as Vince Faraday / The Cape – A former soldier and an honest cop who is presumed both dead and a murderer by the residents of Palm City. He is constantly trying to prove Peter Fleming is Chess, so he becomes the Cape, and helps fight crime and corruption throughout the city. Faraday is an excellent investigator and above-average fighter before going into hiding. During his training by the "Carnival of Crime," he becomes proficient in boxing, hypnosis, stage illusions, and acrobatics, which help him duplicate the extraordinary powers of his comic namesake. These efforts are further aided by a unique cape given to him by Max Malini, which had been specifically designed for these illusions; his training included emphasis on all thirty-seven illusions involving a cape. In addition to his attempts to clear his name, Faraday also uses the persona of "The Cape" to visit his son anonymously for short periods of time.
Keith David as Max Malini – The ringleader of a gang of circus-performers-turned-bank-robbers known as "The Carnival of Crime". He mentors Vince after saving him and trains him to become the Cape. Despite being a criminal who is willing to steal from good or bad people, he shows a strong knowledge of right from wrong, and abhors the use of killing, operating on what would appear to be a strong moral code.
Summer Glau as Orwell – An investigative blogger who wages war on the crime and corruption in Palm City. She becomes Vince's ally and helps him even though she is trying to keep her life and her reasons a secret and she is a skilled fighter. During a hallucination in the episode "The Lich (Part 2)", it is revealed that Orwell's first name is "Jamie" and that she may harbor secret feelings for Vince. It is confirmed that she is the daughter of Peter Fleming. There have been hints in the final episode that she fears she is going down the same dark path as her father due to his genes, starting with migraines.
James Frain as Peter Fleming / Chess – The billionaire founder/CEO of Ark Industries and the Cape's nemesis. He is a criminal mastermind, serial killer, expert hand-to-hand combatant, and is skilled with firearms. He is responsible for framing Vince for the murders. When appearing as his alter ego, Chess, Fleming's pupils appear as chess pieces, specifically a knight and a rook; it is revealed in the episode "Razer" that this change is made with contacts. He has an obsession with the game of chess, as he sees everything around him as merely a game, often using chess terminology in his speech. In "Scales", Fleming reveals he is a mechanical engineer. It has been strongly implied that Fleming has multiple personality disorder, as he has had conversations with his Chess persona, who urges him to kill everyone. The Chess persona tends to emerge when Fleming is stressed or threatened, though as the series progresses he becomes stronger, coming to the surface without Fleming's consent. He is somewhat protective of Fleming and reawakens in Fleming's mind after several assassination attempts by Dice. In the episode "Kozmo", it is revealed that he was trained as a soldier in Iran.
Jennifer Ferrin as Dana Faraday (née Thompson) – Vince's wife, who believes her husband has died. She takes a job in the public defender's office so she can give others what Vince never got, a chance to prove their innocence in a court of law.
Ryan Wynott as Trip Faraday – Vince's son, who idolizes the Cape. Vince hopes the Cape will convince Trip that there are good people left in the world.
Dorian Missick as Marty Voyt – A secretly corrupt police detective and friend to Vince. He is employed by Fleming because he fears for the safety of his own family. He continually visits the Faraday family to deliver more false "evidence" showing that Vince was really Chess. He was named as ARK's new Chief of Police in the episode "Goggles and Hicks". In the episode "Endgame" he is shot and killed by Scales, but not before finding out that Vince is the Cape.
Martin Klebba as Rollo – A dwarf who plays the role of strong man in Malini's circus gang. He is a good fighter, as is proven when he first fights Vince and wins and later easily wins against Scales with a wrench. He is shown to have a crush on Orwell.
Vinnie Jones as Dominic Raoul / Scales – A frightening criminal menace with a freakish skin condition that gives him the appearance of being covered with green and gold scales. His "scales" make him more resistant to damage. He is an enemy of the Cape. It was revealed in the episode "Scales" that he was at one time part of a circus sideshow due to his skin condition.
Richard Schiff as Patrick Portman – Palm City's Commissioner of Prisons, and the sole city leader standing in the way of Peter Fleming/ARK's complete assumption of the city's public safety services. In "Scales", Portman reveals himself as a Cape wannabe, although he is realistic about his actual abilities.
Izabella Miko as Raia – An alluring acrobat in Max's circus and a member of the Carnival of Crime.
Anil Kumar as Ruvi – A hypnotist in Max's circus and a member of the Carnival of Crime. He’s constantly reminding Vince to Not get cocky, every time Vince slips up
Elliott Gould as Samuel – Peter Fleming's psychiatrist who has been helping him try to control and ultimately banish Chess from Fleming's mind. He is one of the few people who is not intimidated by Chess' violent outbursts and threats.
Raza Jaffrey as Raimonde LeFleur / Cain – A French serial killer and master of knife throwing and poison. He is a member known as The Tower in the assassin organization Tarot. This dangerous mercenary was hired by Chess to kill the Palm City prison commissioner, but failed due to the Cape's interference and was scarred across the face in the ensuing battle.
Thomas Kretschmann as Gregor Molotov – A Russian magician known as "Gregor the Great" who considers himself to be a master illusionist, contortionist, and escape artist extraordinaire. He was the former student of Max, training under the stage name "Kozmo", and was the last owner of the cape before Vince took over. Gregor was imprisoned for 20 years for murdering a woman and was sent to various prisons throughout Russia, each of which he managed to escape. When Vince was given the choice between killing Gregor and sending him to jail, Vince allowed him to live, despite warnings that Gregor would certainly escape and return for the cape.
Mena Suvari as Tracey Jarrod / Dice – A savant who specializes in probabilities by breaking down the world in the language of quantum mechanics. She can predict the future through complex mathematical probability (Although the Cape represented an anomalous addition to her equations that threw off her predictions), and is the first of her kind, which Peter has studied so they can make T.R.A.C.E., a portable future predictor. However, Tracey has a dark side with sociopathic tendencies and connection issues. Tracey is the daughter of research physicist Henry Jerrod, one of Chess' victims, and seeks revenge on Chess, wanting to kill him for her father's death. Her attempts on Peter's life reawaken the Chess persona.
Pruitt Taylor Vince and Chad Lindberg as Goggles & Hicks – A high-tech team of professional contract killers who are the members of Tarot known as The Chariot. The two are hired by Peter Fleming to kill the Cape. They have their subjects down to a science: first they track them, then they study them by getting to know everything about their marks intimately before they kill them when the time is right. Goggles is the techie with his expertise in creating new gadgets (his catch phrase is "you can run, but you can't hide"), while Hicks is the assassin – the only people he meets are the ones he kills.
Glenn Fitzgerald as Conrad Chandler / The Lich – The heir of a Palm City founder, whose mother placed him in an asylum called The Orchard sanitarium as an infant. He has horrific scarring and feels no pain due to a skin condition. As the son of the "Oppenheimer of chemical weapons", Chandler developed a synthetic neurotoxin that causes paralysis and a deep suggestive state of the mind that slows the vital signs to make a person appear dead. He committed a series of seemingly-supernatural crimes. This leads the police department to dub him "The Lich", a moniker synonymous with "boogeyman", after a file in every Palm City precinct containing unusual or strange cases such as ritual killings, unsolved murders, kidnappings, and cults. Convicts on Owl Island told Rollo about a "psycho" with a face like a corpse who hired them to rob a hospital. He punished them for their failure by removing a finger from each of their hands.
Grant Bowler as Razer – An Australian bomb-maker who is contracted by Scales to kill Max to gain complete control over Trolley Park. He considers himself an artist at making bombs. As part of his allure, no one knows what he looks like. It is rumored that he has a wooden leg and the left side of his face is scarred from a bomb blast from his own creation. In "Razer", Vince interrupts Razer's arrival and disguises himself as the dangerous villain to become a member of Scales' gang and infiltrate his inner circle to sabotage his plan.
Michael Irby as Tommy Molinari / Pokerface – An associate of Scales who took on the moniker because he never blinks as a result of a gunshot wound to the head, lodging a bullet in his brain. Because he cannot blink, he requires frequent doses of eye drops administered by one of his lackeys. Vince once managed to replace his eye drops with turpentine and in retaliation Pokerface suggested Scales use acid on Vince when later they captured him.
The Cape has generated mixed reviews from critics, scoring a 54 out of 100 on Metacritic. Critic Ken Tucker described the show's premiere as "fun, refreshingly free of irony" with "a sensibility that allowed for a sense of humor without slipping into tiresome campiness." Other proponents of the show have said "if the premise sounds cheesy or busy, the execution is crisp and efficient" and "someone in network land has learned a lesson from Heroes." At the same time, Matt Zoller Seitz criticized the series pilot for failing to develop its narrative effectively. While having no complaints about the premise of the series, he wrote that the pilot "rushes through everything, pulverizing potentially engaging characters and story until the whole production starts to feel like a long trailer for itself." Peter Swanson of Slate wrote that the series "falls into a wasteland of its own making, where neither the stakes nor the jokes can distract one from the thinness of its writing."
The special Sunday two hour debut of the show garnered a 2.6 in the key 18–49 demographic. It placed third overall in terms of top science fiction genre network premieres for the 2010–2011 season, behind fellow NBC show The Event and ABC's No Ordinary Family. However, for its first non-repeat airing in its official Monday timeslot the show had dropped 31% to a 1.8 rating, with the next two episodes recording a 1.6 and a 1.5 respectively.
The Cape was nominated for a 2011 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Miniseries, Movie Or A Special for the character of Razer.
The Cape was referenced heavily in the fellow NBC series Community, mainly by the character Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), who is obsessed with movies and TV. The Cape is his main focus in the season 2 episode "Paradigms of Human Memory", in which Abed dresses like Vince and runs around school. In one scene (still in costume) Abed swipes Jeff's (Joel McHale) food off the table and runs away. Jeff angrily declares "Show's gonna last three weeks," to which Abed replies, "Six seasons and a movie!" After Community was removed from NBC's schedule in December 2011 and October 2012, fans used the hashtag "#SixSeasonsAndAMovie" to show their support for the show (Community, not The Cape) on many social media networks.
On January 15, 2011, Saturday Night Live premiered a skit spoofing The Cape. The premise of the sketch was promotional ads for "new" NBC series: The Scarf, The Bolo Tie, The Scrunchie, The Spanx, etc.