Es-Cape Plan Episode Two: Tarot

Why I’m doing this…
Previously on The Cape

Before we begin this week’s review, let’s quickly review our major characters:

Our pal the Cape
  • Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is the bearer of the titular Cape, which also serves as his super-hero name. He was framed for crimes he didn’t commit, left for dead, and rescued by some carnival workers who taught him how to do super-hero things. The Cape wants to take down the villainous Chess and reunite with his family.
  • Peter Fleming (James Frain) is Chess, the murderous head of the Ark Corporation. He wants to turn Palm City into a police state for some reason and also sometimes has lizard eyes.
  • Dana Faraday (Jennifer Ferrin) is Vince’s wife who thinks he’s dead.
  • Trip Faraday (Ryan Wynott) is Vince’s son who also thinks he’s dead.
  • Marty (Dorian Missick) was once Vince’s partner but turned out to be working for Chess and helped frame Vince.
  • Max Malini (Keith David) runs the Carnival of Crime and acts as Vince’s mentor.
  • Orwell (Summer Glau) assists the Cape with technical stuff and is the world’s most powerful blogger.

With that out of the way, we’ll dive into the second episode, “Tarot”.

The Cape could easily buy that and become the Caped Cosmonaut.

THE CAPE

The cold open is mainly here to draw in the viewers of The Cape‘s lead-in and manages to remind us of the show’s basics and offer up some super-heroics in its short span. Vince is shopping at an army surplus store that two thugs try to rob at gunpoint. He quickly dons his cape and makes short work of them while destroying a display case and vending machine. While that damage probably cost more than whatever was in the till, he did save the owner’s life and gets a free flashlight out of the deal. The owner does comment upon the Cape’s rather unimaginative yet fitting pseudonym, and the exchange comes across well. It’s cute and funny and as long as we can only hope they don’t run the joke into the ground.

So much damage was caused.

If I were unaware of the show’s premise and caught this cold open after whatever show ran before The Cape, I would definitely be intrigued enough to stick around for at least a little while. The opening credits would seal that particular deal:

The only problem is that, after those credits, an unwary viewer might be expecting too much from this show. They do showcase from actual scenes from the show, at least, and meld it well with the comic book art. It’s a very promising thirty seconds, after a similarly promising cold open. Can the rest of the episode keep this up?

Patrick Portman, proving that one of the writers was a big fan of Marvel’s naming conventions.

CAIN

As the episode begins, Peter Fleming has the Palm City police department and is looking to add the city’s prisons to his holdings. Only Patrick Portman (Richard Schiff) stands in his way since he’s the Secretary for the Bureau of Prisons. Meanwhile, someone is experimenting with poisons while a television continues to talk about how bad and guilty and dead Vince Faraday supposedly is and Trip Faraday waits on the roof for the Cape to visit him.

The level of technology available on this show is very inconsistent.

He’s going to be waiting for a while, since the Cape is currently breaking into the Ark Corporation to try to obtain some information. He finds something about a French serial killer named Cain but is interrupted when Fleming (who lives in the Ark Corporation building) distracts him for long enough for Cain to show up and throw a knife at the Cape. Fleming is disappointed at this outcome, as the knife was poisoned and the limited entertainment value the Cape provided him is soon going to end. While Cain lists off the poison ingredients like a chef, the Cape jumps out of a nearby window in an effort to escape.

Look! A Tarot tattoo! Like the episode’s title!

It almost looks like the Cape is going to pull a Super Mario and use the cape to glide safely away, but instead he generates just enough drag to not instantly die when he smashes into a car on the street. Luckily, Orwell is there to save the day though Cain has managed to reach the street to smash through her car window before the two protagonists make good their escape.

I don’t think Orwell should be driving down this street, as it’s filled with a bazaar.

MAX MALINI

Orwell isn’t happy about this as the Cape has probably wasted their one opportunity to break into the Ark Corporation and almost gotten killed for his trouble. The only break is that the Cape has learned that Cain is in town to kill Portman to remove Fleming’s only obstacle in turning the city into a police state or something. This information is only somewhat useful as the Cape is still dying from a poison cocktail and since Vince Faraday can’t go to the hospital (due to the presumed death and many crimes that have been attributed to him) the only recourse is Max Malini at the Carnival of Crime. Orwell dumps him at the entrance of the Carnival to let them sort it out.

If I had to see this, so do you.

They manage to save him through a combination of leeches, punching, and a nightshade serum. While Vince is recovering, he has a flashback to the early days of his marriage. We learn two things: one, he was a member of a special ops unit so secretive he had to keep his identity in a coffee can which now holds his Medal of Valor. Two, he owned a popcorn maker. The first makes sense, while the second seems odd though we know very little of Vince past his basic motivations so maybe he was super into non-microwaved popcorn. Vince’s wife Dana still has the coffee cup, which is a nice moment that’s undercut when the traitorous Marty shows up with his wife and just goes on and on about how much more evidence they now have of Vince’s guilt. No one likes this.

Max’s office is what we all aspire to.

Back at the carnival, Vince has woken up to discover that Max has taken back the cape since he no longer thinks Vince is ready for any of what’s happening. Instead, Max suggests that Vince retrieve his family and skip town. Since this is only the second episode, Vince tells him to shove it and declares that he’s going to take down Fleming even if he doesn’t have the cape.

Only the rich characters have tech like this.

HUNTING PORTMAN

Since Vince is now on the outs with the Carnival and Max, he’s setting up a secret hideout at an abandoned train station using a bunch of obsolete computer equipment. Fleming, meanwhile, is spinning holograms in his high-rise apartment in the building that he owns. Someone in this conflict is clearly outmanned. While these two are doing this, Cain and Orwell are busy moving the plot forward. Cain has arrived at Portman’s office, disguised as a janitor, with the intent to kill him. Orwell is there to save the day by convincing Portman she’s there to interview him for her political blog and stymies Cain’s attempt by not holding an elevator for him. Score one for justice.

There’s no reason this should work as well as it ends up working.

There’s some nonsense about how Trip is upset because his mom isn’t using the Faraday surname to look for a job and then there’s a flashback where Vince explains to his infant son about how there’s been a justice-oriented Faraday in Palm City for 200 years. Currently, Vince is doing questionable things in his underground lair like shooting knives at himself and ingesting poison to build up an immunity. The latter works quite well, though the former works too well and it’s a funny moment when he realizes how bad of a mistake he’s made. He also finally makes a mask for himself and sets out to battle Fleming.

Anyone more knowledgeable about the Tarot: does the Tower have anything to do with poison?

FARADAYS ARE FIGHTERS

Vince’s first step is to beat up a bunch of thugs for information. In a nice bit of continuity, he namedrops Scales from the first episode. He also mentions someone named Johnny the Bull whom I can only assume is a minotaur. As Vince lets the final thug go with the promise of meeting up later for more information, Orwell shows up. She’s learned that Cain is the member of a cabal of killers called Tarot, likely acting as their poisoner.

Everyone’s holding Tarot cards! It’s the latest craze!

While it seems like they have all the relevant information, Vince still meets up with the thug at a bar. This proves to be a dead end as Cain showed up earlier to poison the whole bar, so it was basically a scene to show how deadly a killer Cain is. Vince isn’t too shaken, and just shows up at Portman’s office. Portman is all set to skip town because he doesn’t want to die but Vince convinces him to stay in town. Oh, and Dana has gotten a job while using the Faraday surname. She’s apparently a lawyer.

Look! It’s the Cape!

THE CAPE VS CAIN

Are all the final scenes going to follow this naming convention? Anyway, at this point Vince has been cape-less for nearly the entire episode and has learned that Cain’s real name is Raymond LeFleur. He was trained as a chef, and killed his entire family as well as three wives. Only the chef bit is relevant information, the rest provides some characterization for Cain. The chef thing allows the Cape and Orwell to deduce where Cain is going to strike, and they coordinate a plan to take him down. This is aided by Max, who returns the Cape’s cape after being impressed by Vince’s resolve.

That poor monkey.

The plan is a two-pronged attack. While the Cape goes to one of Cain’s old addresses, Orwell goes to the restaurant where Fleming is treating Portman to dinner. This, of course, is where Cain is going to poison Portman’s dinner. Orwell’s cover is as a food blogger which is just accepted without question. The Cape only finds animal cruelty at Cain’s hideout and so he heads to the restaurant where Cain has made Orwell and taken her back into the kitchen to perform a murder upon her.

He deserves this for the poor monkey.

Orwell manages to hold off this trained killer long enough for the Cape to arrive and distract him so that Orwell can go and stop Portman from eating the poisoned meal. She does this by throwing on a chef’s jacket and grabbing it from him. The Cape battles Cain, with the highlight being the hero catching a knife and throwing it back at him. It’s actually a short fight and we only see that the Cape won when Fleming enters the kitchen to see Cain hog-tied. The Cape waits just long enough for Fleming to see him and then vanishes. The day is saved, with Portman refuses to privatize the city’s prisons and the remaining Faradays doing just fine.

Vince really needed this mask.

The premise of the episode is a solid one with the whole “hero has to prove he’s a hero sans gimmick” being so standard it was used in Spider-Man: Homecoming. There are some baffling things about the world-building here that I’m not grasping for some reason. Namely, why is Peter Fleming so dead-set on turning Palm City into a prison state? In the holographic chessboard scene, there’s mention of something called “Siren” but there’s no reason why he wants to do any of this. It’s simply not come up yet.

Orwell: Super Blogger

Most of the characters are already at the point they’ll be for the rest of the series and they’re mostly fine. My only problem with Vince is that he needs an episode where he’s able to effectively Cape throughout. At this point, I like Orwell a lot better. She’s able to stand toe-to-toe with the Cape despite being a blogger, though in this universe a blogger is an ultra-powerful figure able to sway everyone’s opinions simply by declaring they work for a blog. This is patently untrue. In any case, it would have been nice if a future episode had Orwell don the Cape for a little while. She’d take down Chess in a matter of hours.

Please improve, Trip.

The only character at this point that I’m not on board with is Trip, and I don’t want to say too much about him since I believe he was around twelve when this show was made. I do think he conveys a sort of cursed child energy here, and were this a horror movie I’d expect dark things from him as things went on. In any case, I hope he’s given a chance to improve over the next eight episodes.

Vince, with his computer equipment in the background.

I also think introducing Tarot might have been a bit much. While I am completely on board for a cabal of code-named killers but to have their whole motif completely divorced from Chess’s whole chess obsession might be laying on too much too soon. An easy way to avoid this would have been to have all the villains be unified by one of these concepts. Chess could have been one of the Major Arcana, or Tarot could have all been chess-themed with Chess taking the name Black King or something similar. There’s a chance this may be remedied later.

“Tarot” was a fun episode with some growing pains typical of a second episode of a show like this once they have all the pieces on the board and are trying to figure out the best way to move them. Our next episode is “Kozmo” and we’ll be looking at it next Monday.

The show actually has pretty excellent cinematography, too.

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