After a slow and rough start that makes "Captain" seem like much more of a joke than it really turned out to be, it develops into one of the better and most entertaining series of the year. Unfortunately, by then, most viewers had already tuned out, as evidenced by its low ratings.
Cast-wise, it is easily understood why people were hesitant and turned off by the decision to cast Grace Chan as the female lead and Tony Hung as the titular "Cheung Po Tsai."
I am genuinely surprised by the criticism Tony received for his performance here, even though the harshest criticism was mostly directed towards Grace. As much as I like Tony as a host and ove
rall person, I had huge concerns for him coming into this series. However, I thoroughly enjoyed him as "Cheung Po Tsai" once we got past the silliness of the first few episodes. Tony was able to use his real-life playfulness and easygoing personality to play the titular character with humor and fun. His emotional scenes are unsurprisingly more raw, but the only scene I felt was particularly weak was one in the later part of the series where he confronts Ruco's character from jail. In the end, I'm not sad that Raymond Wong had to pull out of the series, but happy with the way things turned out for Tony. I'll probably receive some flack for this, but I finished this series thinking he did indeed deserve the Most Improved Actor award.
The rest of the cast performances are a mixed bag. Joel Chan and Mandy Wong may have been third supporting characters who didn't appear until almost halfway through the series, but they were both very entertaining and unpredictable, which is hard to come by with TVB's trite love trianKelly Fu's acting is still raw with a lot of room for improvement, but she surprisingly did not ever annoy me much. While she was overly naive and kept accidentally getting into trouble in the beginning, I came to appreciate her and Otto Chan's loyalty and confidence in Ruco, and how the three really became friends. Maggie Shiu was enjoyable and a reliable supporting actress as usual. Ocean Zhu's character was just plain weird and could have been eliminated. I ended up being most disappointed by Elaine Yiu's performance having already known she received the Best Supporting Actress award for it. She would just give her best resting bitch face and say her lines in a catty way, and I stared at the screen wondering "She won an acting award for this?"
"Captain of Destiny"'s largest problem lies in the disjointedness of its two storylines: the storyline between the pirates, and Ruco's palatial drama. Both have their distinct strengths, as the pirates' provided humor and lightheartedness, while Ruco's storyline balanced it out with more substantial drama. However, it makes the viewer feel like they're watching two completely different series and made for some awkward scene transitions. There could be a very serious scene involving Ruco and his military, and then we would transition into a scene where Grace was being chased around by the pirates in white "ghost" costumes. It is not until around 20 episodes in before Ruco even meets Tony and Grace.
Another major problem the series has is its plot holes and sloppy writing, particularly when it came to the romantic storylines. I understand that romance was not the focus on the series nor should it have been, but since the writers decided to include it, they should have done a better job. Grace is shown clearly falling for both Tony and Ruco and mulling over her feelings for the two men, but then all of a sudden shows that she only loves Tony. Ruco is portrayed as heartbroken over Grace, and then all of a sudden expresses an interest in Kelly, who returns the interest. This isn't a messy love triangle. This is just bad writing, and it seems like the writers changed their minds midway through writing the script, but could not have been bothered to go back and make the revisions. With that said, to my genuine surprise, I quite liked Tony and Grace together, as their relationship was allowed to grow from friendship. Any love line involving Ruco though, was thrown together very haphazardly.
Perhaps the even bigger concern people had going into the series was not the cast, but the CGI effects. Although it could still be obvious what was CGI and what was not, the effects were definitely much better than expected and the battle scene was very well-done. The series may have had many flaws, but the visual effects ended up not being one of them.
Despite its weaknesses though, "Captain of Destiny" is one of the most entertaining series of the year. It can easily be binge-watched if you just make it past the first few episodes because it has good pacing and still has many elements a solid series should have, including some interesting characters, comedy, drama, a little action, and some romance (as haphazard as it was). With all the mediocre series this year, "Captain" should not be completely written off because of its less-experienced leads and rough beginning. It is still very much a grand production.
Rating: 3.5 stars