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The Cape: The Lich, Part Two

I’m going to miss The Cape, I really will.

Part two of “The Lich” was a satisfying outing for me. If it wasn’t the best payoff to the story of Conrad Chandler–aka the Lich–then it at least moved the subplots along significantly. It’s another example of how the show is able to use its resources to their most entertaining effect.

When we last left Palm City, Orwell was searching for the lost Chandler heir in an attempt to block Peter Fleming’s takeover of the ports. At the same time, Vince was searching for the Lich, a shadowy figure responsible for the bulk of disappearances of Palm City denizens over the years. Their cases came together when Conrad Chandler revealed to Orwell he was the Lich, just before drugging her with a potent neurotoxin.

As the episode begins, we see Orwell in a bridal shop, trying on a wedding dress while flanked by her presumed bridesmaids. The soft focus makes it obvious this is a dream sequence, but what is important here is that we learn her real name for the first time, Jamie. Meanwhile, in the real world, Conrad Chandler is planning to marry Orwell.

Okay, that’s kind of stupid, I’ll admit. It’s like every episode of Super Powers, when Darkseid tried his damndest to force Wonder Woman to marry him somehow. But Glenn Fitzgerald, as the Lich, makes it work. He underplays Conrad most of the time, and even when he cranks up the crazy, it’s low-key enough to really make the character insidious and skin-crawling. Kudos to the makeup department too–Conrad’s damaged mask makes the character difficult to look at for the squeamish.

Meanwhile, Vince and Marty have captured Preston Holloway (Tom Noonan, kinda slumming it here, but who cares where he shows up so long as he shows up?), who we were led to assume was the Lich until the end of the first part. Vince gets a phone call from Chandler telling him not to look for Orwell, which sends him over the edge. Marty separates him from Holloway and tells the Cape in no uncertain terms that it’s his collar, and that Vince had better get lost.

But Vince is still thinking like a cop. He pulls Holloway’s prints off of his chestplate (after Holloway had pushed him away earlier) and learns his identity, using that to discover the man was once the director of the Orchard, the sanitarium that housed Conrad Chandler.

Vince brings Max and Rollo with him, who come prepared with “dates,” which are in fact shotguns. (Rollo’s shotgun is sawed-off, naturally.) The three fight their way through the Orchard, but arrive too late to find the Lich and Orwell, who’ve since evacuated. Out of options and time, Vince has only one option left, interrogating Holloway. And the only way to do that is to ask Dana use her serve as a public defender to get him into the lockup.

I actually enjoyed the scene where he appears to Dana for the first time. David Lyons and Jennifer Ferrin were pretty much on their game, and Dana’s reaction to learning her child has befriended a masked vigilante is understandable: she freaks out. Vince proves he’s really “The Cape” and not just a crazy guy in a costume (though he’s still that), and Dana calms down enough to listen to his proposal. This involves going through her boss Travis, who requires some convincing, but ultimately acquiesces because he trusts Dana.

I’m happy the show decided not to follow up on the Dana plot last week, where Travis tried, subtly enough, to come on to her. That isn’t because of critical opinion on how well it would serve the show–the writers were obviously building to that moment. No, I just didn’t like it. The Faraday family is usually quite dull, but it’s good to see Dana actually do something useful instead of deal with her turgid spawn or weep about losing Vince.

The interrogation scene was pretty decent, with Vince using hypnosis to draw the truth out of Holloway. Much like the scene where Vince lifts the man’s prints from his armor, it’s good to see him thinking through challenges instead of just using his cape.

Able to lift Chandler’s location from Holloway’s mind, Vince, Max and Rollo return for the second round, this time unarmed (as Vince doesn’t want to seriously hurt or kill the Lich’s brainwashed minions). At the same time, Orwell, having “wed” the Lich, struggles to free herself from her paralysis, represented in her dream world by a door that beckons her through it. She already knows it isn’t really, but finally, she denies the safety of her dream–after a confrontation with her father, confirmed to be Peter Fleming–and snaps out of the neurotoxin’s trance before Chandler’s nurse can inject her with a potentially fatal paralytic. Meanwhile, Vince, Max and Rollo come out on top against the Lich and his goons in a fairly standard slugfest, one of my biggest disappointments about the episode.

Just to drive home that this episode has brought major developments to Orwell, when all is said and done, she reveals to Max that she is the mysterious blogger. That might not be the best move, considering he’s an unrepentant armed bank robber, but in this crazy world, you can’t always pick your friends.

Despite the relatively unspectacular climax, I quite enjoyed part two of “The Lich.” In fact, the entire two-parter gave each major character their time in the spotlight. We saw Marty’s growing ambivalence toward his employer, a sensitive, well-rounded, yet no less kickass Rollo, and most importantly, more of Orwell than we expected–not only her real name and her parentage, but her feelings (obvious as they’ve become) toward Vince, who she fantasized of marrying.

There was also the moment everyone who still cares about the show knew to expect, the first meeting of Dana and the Cape. It’s obvious she felt a twinge of recognition, or some sort of growing feeling of trust by the end of the episode (although anyone who knows her husband as well as she knew hers would know his voice at the very least; then again, let’s just say the Faradays aren’t entirely bright people). This subplot made the family a little less unbearable.

I feel I should comment on the dream world subplot. Personally, I don’t usually like them. Doctor Who went to that well twice in its third season, and it was hoary even then. It barely worked here, and only for two reasons: the extra revelations about her identity and character, and just how well David Lyons worked as a cardboard, dreamboat version of Vince. It wasn’t much of a stretch from actual Vince, but it worked here.

Actually, I should commend the entire cast. Summer Glau has loosened up considerably, peeling back the layers and showing us the vulnerability Orwell–or Jamie–keeps locked within. At the same time, it was also incredibly badass to see her get herself out of the Lich’s grasp–a very Batman thing to do. The guest cast was excellent, better than this sort of material anyway, but doing a lot with an above-average script (for The Cape, at least). Tom Noonan and Illeana Douglas were suitable loopy, but Glenn Fitzgerald was amazingly unhinged. He brilliantly underplayed the Lich’s madness, adding to his menace. Truly, the Lich was a nasty sort.

So we end up with a story I felt raised the bar, which makes it even harder to consider the show’s impending demise. There are only a couple episodes left, and I honestly can’t think of a way to save the show outside of exhorting you all to watch it. Could you, please? Be a friend?

F13’s rating: 4/5



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