This episode doesn’t introduce anyone new, opting instead to take all the elements it’s introduced thus far and shaking them up for what might be its best episode yet. Best of all, Trip and Dana were kept to a minimum. It’s Trip’s tenth birthday and Dana is unable to get home due to traffic, and so he’s left home alone while Dana’s boss Travis tries to get into their apartment. Trip won’t allow it and Travis only enters the apartment once Dana gets there, but he does offer Trip encouragement by declaring that Vince is only guilty once it’s been proven. There’s also a few flashbacks, but we’re mercifully short on Trip and Dana.
We start off with a re-introduction to Scales and his whole deal: he’s an angry reptilian wanna-be crime boss who has an anger problem and runs the docks. He was one of the more traditionally comic book aspects of the pilot, so it’s good to see him back. We quickly learn that, between Peter Fleming and Chess, he’s losing 75% of his profits and so the Cape seeks to turn Scales against his business partner. The plan is to have Scales out Fleming as Chess on a train that’s running a casino night event, an event the Carnival of Crime is also planning on attending so they can rob it though the Cape doesn’t know this yet. This is all in the cold open, which had a lot of work to do this week.
Fleming is only attending the event (which involves everyone dressing in costumes because of course it does) because he has a public image problem, and it probably doesn’t help when obvious miscreant Scales accosts him outside the train and threatens to out him as Chess if Fleming doesn’t help Scales get a contract with the mayor. Vince and Orwell are on hand to see all of this, but only Vince sees that Rollo is on the train and is packing heat. This spurs him into action as the Cape.
THE CAPE VS THE CARNIVAL OF CRIME
The Cape boards the train and immediately meets up with Patrick Portman from the second episode and since he’s also dressed up as the Cape it’s fair to say that an impression was left. Once the Cape tells him what the Carnival is planning on doing, Portman is eager to help. They find Rollo and the hypnotist Ruvi (Anil Kumar) and the Cape asks Rollo not to rob the train and is dosed with something by Ruvi for his troubles.
Meanwhile, Fleming is making good on his end of the deal but Scales does not make a good first impression with the mayor. He also doesn’t make a good second or third impression and it soon becomes clear that these high-class people want nothing to do with Scales. Fleming has left him to his fate but has run into Orwell, who verbally confronts him about all the awful things he’s done and then runs away.
A PROPER VILLAIN
Fleming gives chase but runs into Scales, who’s busy ranting at someone, and the former lets the latter know what he really thinks of him. This leads to Scales outing Fleming as Chess, but no one believes the angry reptile man. Sensing that things have gone awry, Scales activates the goons he brought with him and they proceed to hold up the train and become a more pressing concern than the Carnival of Crime.
Luckily, Portman is still helping the Cape, who gives him a gun and sends him off to do his best. Since he’s one portly middle-aged man with a gun against armed thugs, the only thing Portman seems apt to do is die. The Cape manages to create enough of a distraction to stop this turn of events, and then steals Scales’s gun and goads him into a train-top fight which was fun to watch but terrible to take screenshots from.
During the fight, the Cape sees Max and asks him to help out with this and is shot down. Instead, Scales seemingly kicks the Cape off the train and heads to the caboose where all the money is being kept. After another stand-off with Fleming where the two declare war on one another, Scales has his goon disconnect the caboose.
Unsurprisingly, the Cape isn’t dead and he now has to contend with a train that won’t stop. The only person who can help is the only mechanical engineer on the train: Peter Fleming. The two enter an uneasy alliance as Scales discovers that the Carnival of Crime was already on the caboose. They make short work of him and lock him in a cage, absconding with their ill-gotten gains.
NO JOURNEY TOO FAR…
There’s some semi-tense moments between the Cape and Fleming as they try to stop the train. The Cape obviously considers dropping him off the side while Fleming tries to trade the train’s safety for the Cape’s true identity. In the end, they stop the train but it’s instilled no good will in either man. Scales, meanwhile, escapes.
Afterward, Vince confronts Max about the carnival’s actions and declares that it’s inevitable that the two will eventually come to blows. This leaves a bad taste in his mouth, but Orwell (who is still hanging out in Vince’s lair) is quick to remind him that he helped save a train full of people and set Scales and Fleming against each other. Also, Patrick Portman has firmly established himself as an ally so things are looking good for the Cape. This leaves all the brooding to Orwell, as she ponders the impermanence of a parent’s love. The episode ends with Vince dropping off a birthday present for Trip.
As I mentioned in the intro, this episode may be the strongest since the pilot and if more episodes had been like this the series might have gained more of a following. The story was focused and all the major pieces and plots were used in service of the episode’s pacing rather than detracting from it by offering disconnected scenes to remind us of who’s in the show. I can’t even complain about Trip since his segments were short and largely inoffensive.
In two weeks, we reach the show’s halfway point with “Dice” and we’ll see if it builds on this momentum or squanders it. It could go either way at this point but this episode has left me hopeful.