Episodic Thoughts: “Captain of Destiny” Episode 1
Captain of Destiny <張保仔>
TVB Series 2015
Cast: Ruco Chan, Grace Chan, Tony Hung, Maggie Shiu, Ram Chiang, Elaine Yiu, Joel Chan
Disclaimer: This is a watch as I write episodic thoughts and some information may not be accurate since this is memory based. Certain dialogue is reproduced with some creative license adopted. I apologize if there is any mistake. All opinion remains my own.
“When does having no obvious flaws is the greatest asset a man can possess?”
I have been anticipating this series for so long, I forgot how long. Let me begin by saying it is not a bad episode. It looks like a big production and it began with a bang and ended up with me scratching my head for a variety of reasons. But make no mistake; it has the typical TVB cliche everywhere. I have not read much spoilers so there are some things I do not know but could guess like a mile away. Like why would you have Ruco Chan be an artiste doing nothing when you know he must be the bad guy. That sort.
But first a recap and let me say, it started very very very well. I felt like TVB spent like more money into graphics these times, and yes it is still a bit fake and all but you know, at least they bother to show lots of ships for a scene with lots of ships. You know what I mean?
Narrator says it is 1810 during the rule of Ka Hing (Jia Qing emperor, the one who succeeded Qian Long, the one who deposed off He Shen and the grandfather in law of Cixi) and the Qing Empire is in intense fight on seas with fierce pirates. Both sides fought bravely for 3 days and 3 nights without winner or loser to be seen just yet. And my god, what a huge cannon on the pirate ship! Quote funny. In fact kinda like a rip off from Pirates Of The Caribbeans meet 300, but fluffier and a lot more slow mo. The Qing is led by aggressive Prince Man Ho, 11th Prince who seems hell bent on destroying the pirates as he declared;
I shall destroy the pirates!!
The pirates is led by an equally charismatic leader who we are told is Cheung Po-Tsai, obviously the man in the title as the series sorta reminded us “hey this is a series about this dude”. And even get a special stand pose and title shown.
Reason 1 why I scratched my head. Throughout the short 10 minutes intro, I can see Ruco as the charismatic leader of the Qing and he led his men into battle with battle cry. But I can’t see that in Tony Hung as Cheung Po Tsai who is supposed to be also as fierce and aggressive in his battle cry. He looked whiny. I think it is too early to judge Tony Hung’s acting; he can act but he can’t act as charismatic fearsome perhaps a bit flirtatious sexy pirate whose law is not having any law, as a juxtaposed against the strict and confined Man Ho. I couldn’t help but keep looking behind him because one actor fulfilled those criteria and if given chance he can be a formidable Cheung Po Tsai and that is Eric Lee. I am not even sure Raymond Wong would have fit the role. Sammy Shum has the flamboyance but not the commanding presence. Somehow Eric Lee was a standout in the short scenes, just one or two scenes and his look suits the entire costume. For me Tony Hung is the worst casting decision in this series.
And we are told the battle was fought over the modern day Chep Lap Kok and the battle was known as The Battle At Chep Lap Kok. Oh, there was a Chep Lap Kok then?
Suddenly we are shown the view of Chep Lap Kok and faraway in the sea the camera moved towards land and we have a nice graphic moment here where high rise building is raised and we have reached modern day HK. And immediately I felt disappointed. Urghhh.. time travel. Why? Why can’t they just do the story without time travel? Anyway we are shown an aggressive gun fight on the street and one man by the name of Yeung Tou Kwok, a dot com tycoon was held amidst fierce gun battle between smartly dressed villain/kidnappers and police, led by a rookie Wong Tai Mui, the super skinny Grace Chan.
My 2nd reason why I scratched my head. I like Grace, i think she can act but as she was running after the bad guys, I was so worried the gun may be too heavy for her. She looked like she was struggling with running properly. If there was another actress unconvincing as a cop like Yoyo Mung was, it would be Grace Chan and that is because physically Grace has no business being a cop. She looked like a typhoon can sweep her away with just a light breeze. Funnily enough next episode that is what happens to her, except it will be more than light breeze. The pants don’t even fit her.
Anyway 15 minutes earlier, we are told Tai Mui stopped a car with the rich man in it giving signals he was being kidnapped. Being very acute and smart, she knew but decided it was too risky to expose the kidnapping there and then and so let them go and called for back up. Hence the gun fight. Long story short, rich man was saved and as Tai Mui ran after an accomplice, she fell onto the scaffolding that crushed Lassie (the dog) and she shot dead the man. Right call since these people actually shot the police at point blank straight to the forehead so they were cruel and without conscience. She looked at the dead man’s handphone and in it was a message to the dead man’s boss that he has arrived so suddenly she panicked because she knew another accomplice was nearby but as her back up arrived, she lost the trail. Rich man wasn’t happy being pushed into some dumpster when she was trying to save him and he basically blasted the police for their incompetence. The reporters insinuated the same and Tai Mui was very angry since she said they did their best, the kidnappers were cruel and ruthless and when prodded further, her pride for her badge took over and she vowed to track down the one accomplice they couldn’t find and the media asked when? Or will they sweep that under the carpet after a few days? and she declared;
“HK has 30,000 police officers and I swear we will not rest until we find that accomplice and arrest him! Give us 3 days, 3 days and we shall show you our capabilities and that we mean business!!”
Back at the police station at Kwun Tong, in the city, she was praised by her fellow colleagues for her bravery. She was very very gung ho and I was thinking isn’t she just a rookie? Can she make such a promise? Indeed her superior demanded to see her and basically blasted her;
“WPC 16444! I heard you went for promotion interview as Sergeant? Sergeant right? So why did I just hear you make such promises like you were the Commissioner?”
She explained she was angry that her beloved police force was insulted and degraded. So yes, she has pride, she is brave, she is smart and she has a short temper and will stand up for what she thinks. Typical traits if a woman that powerful men in the past like, so rather convenient she will be time traveling. How come no mousy little unattractive girl ever gets to time travel huh? Anyway her boss demanded she signs a sorry card to be given to that dot com guy and she refused and he forced her saying;
“I know you think all things are either black or white. But listen; there is also.. the middle called grey area…”
So she signed and her boss then happily told her she got her promotion as Sergeant and she was so happy until he told her she will be re posted to Cheung Chau which would be like a waste of her talent and she wondered why, why to Cheung Chau and her boss simply replied he wanted to retire peacefully so basically to get her out of his sight. He was fond of her but he didn’t want to risk his career by letting her risk hers.
She went to the hospital to find out more on the missing accomplice when she found out that that day the scaffolding actually fell on a man who was there. Feeling guilty she rushed to his room and who we have? Yeap, Ruco who he said he was Bowie and was a street artiste, was there with his Lassie named Sonny and was drawing when the scaffolding fell.
Fishy story huh? That dog could be anyone’s dog. Why was he in some back alley? Just innocent bystander? Hey it’s Ruco so of course NOT!
They struck up a friendship and she liked that he didn’t judge her too harshly and even agreed on the whole black and white thing. She volunteered to take care of Sonny whilst he recuperate and so he was thankful. So we see her with Sonny as she carried him around (big dog, half her size!) when suddenly you can see Bowie driving a motor boat behind her. And when she was nearing Cheung Chau, she wondered out loudly;
“What did I do wrong to get to this point? What didn’t I do right? No! I will do better. I will become more easygoing but I won’t change my beliefs. I won’t change”
Got it! Tick the box for persistence and stubbornness,
And here is where I scratched my head again. Never did I feel she was any of those qualities. Her colleagues like her, she is hard working, she is not some anti social bitch so why did she feel the way she did? I tell you why! Cliche. That’s why.
She reached Cheung Chau and met old friends and so we are told she grew up on Cheung Chau! So it was like coming home for her when suddenly Sonny ran towards… BOWIE! She was surprised to see him there, I WAS SURPRISED TO SEE HIM THERE because I was thinking “Hey man aren’t you supposed to be so sick that you can’t take care of your dog so she had to take care of your dog for you and yet here you are!” and he explained he was better and wanted to take back Sonny but so loved the slight freedom he was having he decided not to take Sonny back first. She said she was glad to help, she liked Sonny and as she was impressed with his drawing and curious how come he had no job, so free, she said to him why not visit the Cheung Po Tsai Cave? Rather famous tourist spot and as usual, he smiled his enigmatic smile.
Tai Mui reached a shop and there was her sister played by Claire Yiu who was the owner of a dried seafood shop and sister was so happy to see her favourite little sister again.
Claire is very fair. Grace looks Indian, I am not gonna mince my word. Why not just say she is adopted or somewhere along the lineage she got an Indian grandma or grandpa and that will solve all the questions on her looks. But TVB seems to love to insist she is 100% Chinese and so choose to portray her as 100% Chinese when that is not convincing. It will be a huge problem when she time travels because she is supposed to be 100% Chinese. Can’t they just make it like some cheeky inside joke or whatever and just show or say she had an Indian grandma or something?
Back at bungalow, brother in law, Fu Ma (well a clever play of words here, sounds like husband of imperial princess) wasn’t too happy his wife was spending so much on the little sister and pushing his wife to make little sister pay rent and bills and even renovation cost when Tai Mui actually owned half the family home they were staying. She overheard and was also upset to see so much leftovers in the fridge which meant her sister was eating unhealthy overnight leftovers. She gave her sister money, claiming to ask her sister to save the money for her but her sister knew better and she told her sister she didn’t like Fu Ma who was mistreating her sister but her big sister said Fu Ma was a good man, didn’t smoke, didn’t gamble, didn’t go out and flirty and certainly never hit her and so had no such obvious flaws and that was when Tai Mui said my chosen quote. To her have we women lowered our expectations so much? Anyway she relented and decided not to pursue the matter,
Next day she started work and returned to the police station where everyone knew her. It was so laid back her immediate boss Senior Inspector Leung played by KK Cheung was busy eating. What I love about the scene in his room was the decoration. You can see life is pretty laid back where you can see a bowl of goldfish, a telescope, the olden day ship as decoration, etc. The attention to details in his room was impressive. She couldn’t stand it but he told her to relax herself and reminded her that he didn’t sleep whole night as he was busy looking at the meteor shower or something called Leonid that last appeared almost 200 years ago during Qing Dynasty. You know what that means right? Her portal to the past! Cliche.
So she had nothing to do and her sister doted on her, showing her off to friends who marveled at her uniform and how pretty she looked.
By the way she found out the one who got away was the Bandit King, man so famous for kidnapping rich people, unknown to all.
Meanwhile Bowie was near the Cheung Po Tsai Save sketching and he almost smirked to himself when he said;
Cheung Po Tsai … Bandit King?
So here lies the connection between Cheung Po Tsai and Bowie who was obviously the Bandit King. Except perhaps Cheung Po Tsai had more honour in him. Had to be, if not why would Tai Mui later like him? In fact she must have found out Bowie was Bandit King that she went back thinking Man Ho was bad or maybe she didn’t know and so liked Man Ho from the start. This we will know by next episode. Anyway he walked onto the save, leaving behind his bag and chair when rocks fell.
Tai Mui saw her brother in law buying some folks expensive food and openly criticised him in front of her sister when her sister explained Fu Ma wanted to be elected as some representative so he must spend what must be spent. Tai Mui didn’t believe that and felt her sister was being bullied when she got a call to got to the cave. She saw the stuff and knew Bowie was inside and immediately rushed in and found an injured Bowie with his feet stuck under some rocks and his finger fractured. He asked her to tell him a bad joke to divert his attention as he fixed his fractured finger. Manly! And she helped him with his leg and as he left, she followed behind and suddenly saw something shiny on the ground and it was a gold coin. Suddenly she saw an image of Cheung Po Tsai behind her, rubbing her eyes she saw him again and couldn’t believe what she saw; a mirage of a man dressed like a pirate and unbeknownst to her, that was Cheung Po Tsai.
And here I also scratched my head. What was the significance of her seeing his image? He wasn’t there; at the parallel time in the universe where if time moved in parallel with one another, Cheung Po Tsai was busy fighting in the sea! So is that a way to set up the fact that they were meant to meet each other? Cliche.
Next episode, she got flown back to the past together with lots of gold coins and her gun where she dropped onto the ship when the fierce battle was ongoing.
The more I see, the more cliches I see. I don;’t necessarily dislike this 1st episode which is fast paced and I decided I like it. But it just felt so atypical TVB all over.
First of, some good news.
CGI is ok. Seriously, ok for TVB standard. I’ve seen worst and that is The Journey Of Flower.
The acting is for most are quite fine. Strongest being Ruco and his enigmatic Bowie and his rather interesting Prince Man Ho. But it seems TVB can’t write a story to connect everyone without utilising lookalikes or mirage or whatever. I am however annoyed with his wig and the hat on top of his wig. Can’t he just be modern dude with shaved head?
The interior decoration is commendable, especially the Senior Inspector Leung’s room. The telescope and fish bowl tells a lot about the character.
The action sequence is awesome for TVB standard. Modern day gun fight was scary and the first 10 minutes was impressive even if we have more ships than sailors fighting. Hey any scene with Maggie Shiu throwing a dagger is cool to me!
And now some bad news.
The casting decision for two very important characters is questionable. Tony Hung is a miscast. Let’s wait until he has a proper line to deliver and perhaps then you may understand why I say he is a miscast from day one. Grace Chan is pretty, scarily big eyes, very expressive eyes too. But here her acting is back to raw but I am sure as she goes along she will be more comfortable. She may not work as a police officer but maybe as a sassy modern girl stuck in the past, she will be a better actress. But right now, I am just laughing myself silly whenever I see her running with a gun which looks so large in her hands. I also don’t see the traits the writing is trying to stuff down my throat from the moment the 1st episode begins.
The rest as I have mentioned in my recap.
But I am not giving up this series just yet. I like the story in the sense I love semi historical fiction. I want to see some bromance between the two leads. I am just not gonna be convinced Prince Man Ho is unmarried or that every male falls for our heroine just because in the past she is different when in present day, dime a dozen like us all!!
So far so good.
Oh make no mistake who is the lead her even if the title suggest otherwise.
This commentary is written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com and was originally posted at www.p2e-cod.blogspot.com.
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Episodic Thoughts: “Captain of Destiny” Episode 1