NBC, Monday, 9/10 PM
Written by Tom Wheeler & William Wheeler
Directed by David Straiton
“This is just too much fun for a Wednesday!” — Scales
The Joker was always more interesting than the Batman; Lex Luthor is a lot more fun than that straightlaced Man of Steel. It’s hard for me to keep the members of the Justice League straight, but I can never forget Doctor Doom. So in true comic book tradition, The Cape is evolving a set of villains more interesting than the heroes (always excepting Max Malini, who may have a foot in both camps anyway). This, the final episode of this show to appear on broadcast TV, features the two best villains of The Cape: Scales and Chess. Scales, the Down-Under Wonder, gets every good line in the script, while Chess makes the already creepy James Frain even creepier when he starts talking to himself. We even get a bad guy right out of the Dick Tracy name book: a damaged individual named Pokerface (Michael Cornacchia, The Iceman Chronicles). Yeah, when the bad guys all have stage names, you know we’re in for some fun.
“The business district is all the media cares about; outside that zone, it’s all yours.” — Fleming
When drive-by shootings between thugs and ARK police catch even ordinary citizens like Dana and Trip in the crossfire, Peter Fleming tries to impose some kind of order. It’s not that he wants to enforce the law, he just wants to keep the bloodshed out of the paper. So he calls a meeting with his rival Scales to divvy up the turf. He even flatters Scales by calling him the Godfather of Palm City. In the midst of this cozy convo, though, Fleming starts hearing Chess’ voice; this can’t be a good sign. The conversaton has two unexpected consequences: Scales finds Rollo eavesdropping and has him beat up, and Scales decides to call in an outside expert to bomb his enemies (primarily Max and the Carnies) out of his territory. Learning that no one has ever seen this “Razer” fellow, Vince decides to kill two birds with one stone, and infiltrate Scales’ organization by pretending to be Razer.
“Who do I have to kill to get a coldie and a sandwich around here?” — Vince
This gives David Lyons the perfect opportunity to scruff up, wear leather, and trot out his actual, real Aussie accent. With a little help from hypnotist Ruvi, the Carnies abduct the real Razer (Grant Bowler, Lost) and substitute Vince. Vince spends his time spying on Scales’ operation from the inside, and in a matter of days he has foiled so many heists that the minions are in full revolt. Inevitably, the real Razer escapes, Scales gets to indulge in the now-obligatory Bad Guy Speech that goes on forever, and finally outs Vince as an imposter. Max dons a different Cape in order to rescue Vince, who is being tortured, and Vince offers his clandestine footage of Fleming’s lieutenant, Mick Reese (Brian Howe, I Am Number Four), accepting a payoff from Scales to Orwell – who is not interested. It’s an inconclusive ending, but Orwell was never really in this episode anyway.
“Chess used to be an amusement, a creative means to an end. But we’ve grown apart.” — Fleming
Meanwhile, Fleming is facing a crisis: Chess is trying to take over. In an extended and rather pointless sequence with Dr. Sam (Elliott Gould, Removal), he confesses that he is not sure he wants his alter-ego to go away. “He has my back,” he tells Dr. Sam. But when Sam addresses Chess (complete with contact lenses shaped like chess pieces), he asks if he (Chess) can keep a secret from Fleming. I don’t know which persona is more lethal, Chess or Fleming, but it sounds like a bad idea to set them against one another.
“Get out of my head. Or find another new partner.” — Orwell
And Orwell seems to have trouble recovering from her ordeal with The Lich. Not that I blame her. She stumbles around, obviously depressed and disconnected, and although Vince asks about her health and sleep he shows no real understanding that she is in crisis. Finally, when he calls her to offer her the Scales footage, we see her sitting in the middle of her room, having painted most of it (including the floor) white. Alas, once again Summer Glau is being asked to play a robot with repressed emotions. When this show ends, I hope she’ll get a shot at doing comedy, or a musical, or something different. She’s too good to waste on these affectless drones.
“You put it on, now you gotta wear it for everyone.” — Rollo
Naturally, now that The Cape is finding its feet, NBC jerks the rug out from under it. The characters are more solid every week, the mythology is coming into focus, and the dialogue, especially for Max, improves with every episode. This episode exemplified what is best about the show – the dark, edgy tone, the sarcasm, the hope in the midst of rubble and chaos. Best of all, we get an ever more closely defined hero, one who wears the Cape but does not make the mistake of thinking that makes him anything special. Vince Faraday is the ultimate in humble heroes. But NBC, which last month cut the show’s order from thirteen episodes to ten, announced this week that the final episode of the ten, which should have played next Monday, will now only be available online. That is not an official cancellation, but it’s close enough that the cast is probably on the phone to their agents, looking for another gig. With ratings putting it at the bottom of the charts every week, The Cape was NBC’s lowest-rated scripted show. It will take a miracle beyond even the powers of Max Malini to bring it back.