First, a play-by-play summary of the pilot episode - Spoiler Alert: Details of the pilot will be revealed.
Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is a police officer in Palm City, with a wife and son at home. The chief of police is killed by a special explosive combustible liquid while in his bullet-proof limo. Other police officers look on and actively ignore the attack, as if they are in on it. Our man Faraday, aware before the attack is complete that something is wrong, tries to save the chief, without success.
With the assassination of the chief of police, Faraday is approached by a private police corporation, ARK, for recruitment. They view him as one of the only honest cops left in Palm City. Thinking this is an opportunity to do some good, Faraday plans to accept.
At home, Faraday reads a comic titled "The Cape" to his son. "The Cape" is about a masked hero who manipulates his cape as part of his powers in order to maintain justice in his city.
That night, while alone, Faraday receives a surprise computer message titled "Orwell is Watching," with a disguised voice telling him that ARK corporation is not what it seems. Following up on a lead provided by the mysterious Orwell, that night Faraday and his partner proceed to investigate what turns out to be a shipment of the deadly explosive liquid, L-9, that killed the chief.
His partner, Voight (Dorian Missick), turns on him and Faraday is captured by armed ARK soldiers. A masked man known as the Chess Murderer, whose real identity we are told is Peter Fleming (James Frain), is responsible for the death of the Chief. Chess is there when Faraday awakes, with faintly glowing chess pieces reflected in his eyes, in a face otherwise concealed by a mask.
Chess explains that he is setting Faraday up for the murder of the chief of police before proceeding to attach his mask, forcibly, to Faraday with a staple-gun-like device, letting Faraday loose to run and be hunted down by the authorities.
Faraday, now masked, flees attacks by ARK. News copters film the escape, identifying Faraday as the Chess Murderer due to his mask. Faraday manages to barely escape, though everyone believes him dead due to a spectacular explosion that jettisons Faraday into the sewers below.
Unconscious, Faraday awakes to see a strong-man little person, Rollo (Martin Klebba), surrounded by what appears to be a circus or carnival, living in the underground in the sewer complex. After being roughed up a bit, Faraday is approached by Max (Keith David), the head of this hodge-podge carnival.
Fearing execution by the carnival, Faraday bribes Max with his ARK pass-key, which could grant access to almost any bank in Palm City. Accepting the bribe, the carnival engages in a crime spree, resulting in a humorous montage of the of the armed carnival characters robbing ARK-protected banks. With the success of the robberies, Faraday is now accepted by the circus.
Meanwhile, back home, Faraday's family still believes he is dead and that he is the Chess Murderer. Faraday stays close and watches them during his own funeral, hoping for an opportunity to tell them the truth. Unfortunately, he is unable to do so for fear of incurring the wraith of ARK and jeopardizing his family.
Resolving to make the best of his situation and strike back at ARK, Faraday begins training. He finds a cape in the prop-room of the carnival,, one that resembles the one worn by "The Cape" character in the comic book he had read to his son.
Desiring to make a difference, to show his son and the people of the city that doing good is still possible, Faraday asks Max to teach him acrobatic circus arts so he can use the cape as the comic book character does, to perform seemingly magical acts of attack and defense, using mostly illusion. Max agrees, but with the caveat that Faraday must be willing to go all the way and learn all there is that he can teach him.
Faraday is then shown in a montage of training scenes, working with the cape to grasp objects, perform illusions, learn hypnotism, fight, throw knives, disappear under the cover of explosive smoke pellets and otherwise become a super hero with a carnival-act bent.
His training complete, Faraday is ready for his first mission as a superhero. Dressed as "The Cape," he attacks an ARK party, successfully capturing the guards and making a mockery of them as a demonstration.
Having captured the attention of the actual Chess Murderer, a snake-skinned specialist known as Scales (Vinne Jones) is sent to take out The Cape, while he hunts for the carnival.
In a quick fight, Scales takes down The Cape while he is about to attack an illegal arms shipment. The Cape is tied in chains, and tossed in the river, but his training in the art of escape allows Faraday to get him out of the trap and resume his assault on the illegal shipment. There, he is interrupted by an armed woman, Orwell (Summer Glau). The two talk and decide to work together to take down ARK and cleanse the corruption from the city.
Elsewhere, Scales has captured Max on a ship. Max is able to escape, though he is shot in the process, and flees on the ship while "The Cape" makes his way there.
Rollo also enters the ship and rapidly takes down Scales with a few swift swings of a wrench and a hefty dose of attitude.
Meanwhile, Faraday finds the seemingly dying Max who makes an impassioned speech to Faraday about his hope for good in the city. Max seemingly dies...only to open his eyes, laughing, complaining of wasting a "perfectly good death speech, providing a scene that resulted in plenty of genuine laughter from the Comic-Con audience.
Atop the ship, Faraday as The Cape takes on the Chess Murderer. In a rousing fight, The Cape defeats the Chess Murderer, though he is interrupted by a helicopter, and Chess escapes overboard.
Orwell congratulates The Cape and he asks who Orwell is. She says she is nobody, while she looks on at a photo of herself as a young girl with a man who appears to be her father.
The Cape finds his way to his house and, while in costume, tells his boy that all is not lost, that good does exist in the city, and that he needs to work on his math studies.
With the end of the pilot screening, Jonah Weiland took to the stage and introduced the creators and cast, including Dorian Missick, Keith David, Summer Glau, David Lyons, James Frain, Vinnie Jones, Martin Klebba, John Wirth (executive producer), Thomas Wheeler (executive producer) and Bear McCreary (composer).
The producers first explained that they are searching for a name for the place where the Carnival lives. "Right now we are calling it Carney-Town, but if you have any suggestions...let us know," said Wirth.
Weiland then asked each member of the cast what they liked about their character.
"What's not to like? I like him because he is magical, theatrical, and dangerous," said David.
"I'm just pleased I got a shot at that little shit at the end!" said Jones, pointing emphatically at Klebba at the other end of the panel.
McCreary spoke about his intentions concerning the music composition for the show, stating, "What I hope you will be hearing is a really thematic and rousing superhero score...the score that I look at as an inspiration is Shirley Walker's score from Batman the animated series...this was a score that was way ahead of its time and I grew up on it...every super hero needs a really awesome superhero theme."
"I'm happy to be bringing some girl power to this group," said Glau. "I think my favorite thing that attracted me to this role, is that Orwell has unlimited possibilities...I mean she is alone there, and she's following her heart."
Lyons spoke about how he enjoys playing a character on the fringe who has to choose to do the right thing.
Frain, however, made no such choice. "It turns out I'm the bad guy, which nobody told me about. I think big corporations need all the help and support we can give them, in order to be profitable," he said, to laughter from the audience.
Missick said "The thing I like the most about Marty is he's pretty...no, and also I like that he is caught in between the worlds right now. It leads to a lot of interesting stories...is he going to wind up on the dark side, or back with his buddy?"
Kiebbe replied "I'm really looking forward to balancing between good and evil. I don't think of my role as a little person, just as a bad ass."
Thomas Wheeler spoke of his inspiration for the show. "This is my love letter to comics. I grew up more kind of a Marvel fan - Daredevil, X-Men, Power Man and Iron Fist. I got an email from [comic book artist] John Cassidy and I was so excited. I also think that, when you're little, the first thing you're gong to do when playing a superhero is you put on a cape!"
Wirth agreed with that sentiment, saying "This is me when I was five years old in my Superman Suit. I still have the suit, it's in my back pocket." "We wanted a costumed crime drama, that's sort of a throw-back to the pulp era," he said.
Asked if we going to see more fights between Scales and Rollo, Writher replied, "I think the audience demands it!"
Without enough time for questions from the audience, the crowd was reminded that they could each receive a limited edition of "The Cape" mini comic-book, featuring a John Cassaday cover, as a give-away.