The Cape episode 3 review: Kozmo

A bumpy outing for The Cape, but James is still on board for the ride...

This review may contain spoilers.

3. Kozmo

With the world of The Cape becoming ever-more fleshed out, episode 3 sees the show turn its attention to the titular cape itself. Who else wore it, and why? The answers hint at an interesting backstory, even though it does it in heavy-handed ways. “Some say it was Merlin’s cape. Others say Jack the Ripper’s.”

Ah yes, that would be Merlin, that famous non-fictional character, and Jack the Ripper, noted cape-wearer. Well, in The Cape‘s universe, at least.

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Nonetheless, the ideas that the cape’s previous owners might be interested in regaining it, and that the cape itself might exert some influence over those who wear it, are both solid ones that can definitely carry a story.

If there’s any problem with basing an episode on such assertions, it’s that even after seeing it in action, the cape simply doesn’t feel worthy of the importance it’s being assigned. If it had some supernatural powers, rather than the extra-normal properties (like, er, high tensile strength), you could understand it. But, so far, the show has avoided introducing any outright sci-fi/fantasy elements. The cape doesn’t actually seem to have any tricks left under its hood.

Luckily, this week’s guest villain, Gregor, was perhaps the most interesting the series has presented yet. We saw a glimpse of another dimension to Chess, as he mentioned his missing daughter, but the charismatic (and in many ways, legitimately wronged) Gregor was far more compelling even after a single episode.

Sure, it fell apart a little when he decided to stage an elaborate circus act to kill his enemies rather than just, you know, do it. But the series’ use of such set pieces has already danced on a knife edge so finely cut between ‘genuinely stupid’ and ‘legitimate homage’ that it’s hard to tell whether the show itself even knows what it’s doing. Once again, it scrapes by simply because it fails to show even a hint of self-aware irony.

After a couple of episodes as a convenient cypher, we also get a little exploration of Orwell (Summer Glau). It was a smart idea to have Faraday ask her the same questions the audience should also have right now (Who are you? Where did you come from? Why are you so skilled at everything?) and similarly, to advance her story without making it too obvious a focus. Quite why she chose to join up with Max and the carnival after her initial hesitance is hard to understand, but that she did it at all suggests a little more depth to her than we have previously seen.

Faraday’s wife, Diana, also had a little time to signpost exactly how she’s going to be important to the ongoing plot, and for the first time, we have a reason to believe that Faraday’s one man war has achievable goals. Maybe she’ll end up being fridged, maybe not, but right now it’s at least possible that Faraday might clear his name and be reunited with his wife and son. We believe it, not just because he does, but because we can see the events being set in motion already.

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There are still some elements of The Cape that are hopelessly cheesy. The dialogue, for example, is so poor that one can only hope that it’s being deliberately trite and melodramatic as an homage to the pulps it emulates: “Either you wear the cape, or the cape wears you”. Ouch. When you’re used to genre TV written by Whedon and his associates, seeing how the other half live is a rather brutal comedown.

On the other hand, one thing The Cape is good at doing is not treating its audience like total idiots. As soon as Chess started talking about his missing daughter, it didn’t take much of a leap to put two and two together and realise who he was talking about. And rather than string it out, the show made it clear by the end of the episode so that everyone was on the same page. Commendable stuff.

Praise aside, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but the series hasn’t lost me yet. Building a universe from scratch isn’t easy, and The Cape has the potential to become something much better if given the chance. Let’s hope it makes it that far.

Read our review of the series opener here.

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