'The Cape' review: Not for the cynical of heart

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NBC is getting back into the hero franchise with "The Cape." And for those of us who aren't necessarily avid comic book readers, the series makes constant winks but stays within a pretty realistic world. 

Whether you like it or not depends on your ability to leap with the show. We won't lie, though. While the pilot is well-executed, once we get into hour two of NBC's planned two hour premiere, we got the feeling that this may be too much of a good thing in one sitting.

Vince Faraday (played by David Lyons) is a cop - one of the good ones - in a fictional California metropolis called Palm City. His department is getting increasingly corrupt and some are defecting to Ark, a private law enforcement corporation that's trying to take over the police force. After the police chief is killed on his watch, Vince decides to join Ark, as well. Before he knows it, he's drawn into an international crime ring, which frames him for the chief's murder and attempts to publicly kill him. He's not dead, but he pretends he is in order to protect his family. In order to clear his name and get revenge on Chess AKA Peter Fleming ( James Frain), Faraday takes the identity of his son's favorite comic book hero, The Cape.

The comic book influences are clear. The series takes place in a moderately futuristic society and the characters are over the top. It's more like a "Batman," though, than "Superman" in its chemistry. What that means is there's nothing magical or alien about the heroes and their gifts. It's sleight of hand, technology, training and dedication that makes them super.

Faraday is likeable in that he's not perfect. The fact that a mask isn't a natural part of his costume at first gives us the feeling that his transformation into "The Cape" is an evolution that goes beyond the two-hour premiere. He suffers from a need to talk to his kid (even though it may confuse him even more). He rushes into situations. He has a hard time asking for help. He doesn't always land his punches or dodge knives all that well. All those qualities make him believable.

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Vince is surrounded by people who see the big picture and can remind him what that is. There's the very theatrical Max Malini ( Keith David), whose thirst for money is only matched by his desire to be the best ring master there is. And every scene with Summer Glau's Orwell is thrilling. Her character is continually full of surprises. We're undecided on James Frain's criminal mastermind, Peter Fleming. After seeing what heights he can achieve as "True Blood's" Franklin Mott, he appears severely underutilized in this role.

The trick to liking this show is that it depends on how cynical you are. If you're predisposed to thinking that a guy waving a cape around can't be anything but silly, then you won't be drawn into Faraday's dedication to clearing his name and the fight for what's right. You'll wonder why he doesn't just take his family and run when he has the chance. You'll basically over-think it. 

On the other hand, if you're one who gets sucked into stories of valor, can have a sense of humor about the characters and their abilities, and you can buy the idea that one man can make a difference, you'll enjoy "The Cape."

"The Cape" premieres Sunday, Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
Photo/Video credit: NBC