A sneak peek at The Cape (and a conversation with Vinnie Jones)S

Yesterday we got a sneak peek of the pilot to NBC's upcoming superhero drama The Cape, starring David Lyons, Summer Glau, and Vinnie Jones, who filled us in on his villainous turn as the reptilian crime boss Scales.

The audience saw approximately 40-or-so minutes of the pilot at the panel. The footage wasn't entirely complete, but had some neat action sequences, moustache-twirling villainy, and some cool visual effects using the eponymous cape. All in all, an old-school superhero yarn with a similar tenor to the first Spider-Man film. Here's what happened:

The story opens in Palm City. Vince Faraday, an honest cop, wakes up, kisses his wife, and has a generally wholesome morning. In the TV on in the background of the kitchen, the world is going down the toilet. The villainous crimelord Chess is on the prowl, sowing seeds of corruption amongst Palm City's finest. Luckily, Tom Ross – the new chief of police – is here to clean up Chess' act.

Faraday goes to the precinct. Bad news – Chess has threatened to kill the mayor. Faraday's on the lookout for the mayor, but while Vince's back is turned, Chess blows up Ross' SUV with "L9 Expanding Chemical," a volatile compound that expands rapidly with but a few drops. The SUV explodes, and Faraday rides away from the explosion on an SUV door like a bobsled. The corrupt police officers mosey off, pretending they were never there.

All the police corruption really sticks in Faraday's craw, so he quits, and joins ARK (a private security firm owned by Peter Fleming (James Frain a.k.a. Mott from True Blood). Unbeknownst to all, Fleming is Chess! Faraday learns this the hard way when he goes to the ARK railyard and finds L9 being smuggled in toy dolls. His old police partner, Marty Voight (Dorian Missick) has set him up!

(How did Faraday know where the L9 was? Orwell, a mysterious blogger, contacts Vince and tells him about the whereabouts. Orwell also warns Faraday of Scales (Vinnie Jones), a Killer Croc-like enforcer under Chess' employ.)

What does Chess look like? Snappy! A rubber half-helmet obscures most of his face and contact lenses – emblazoned with chess knights – pierce the eyeholes. Fleming needed a threat to receive an ARK contract from Palm City, and now he won't need his Chess persona anymore. Why? He's going to kill Chess. How will he do that? By stapling his mask to Faraday's head and having the ARK troopers kill "Chess" on live TV! How delicious!

Faraday survives the ARK troopers' televised assault, but everyone thinks he's dead when a gas tanker he was hiding under explodes. His wife and son bawl. Faraday actually tumbled into a sewer, where Max Malini's Carnival of Crime rescued him. Max (Keith David!) is a bank robber who heists banks with his gang of carnival-thieves. Max thinks Faraday is Chess and demands money. Vince can give him one better – the security codes to Peter Fleming's vaults.

A sneak peek at The Cape (and a conversation with Vinnie Jones)S

Malini robs Fleming blind – even a raccoon robs a bank (not making this up). Meanwhile, Malini teaches Vince in the circus arts to get revenge on Faraday. Vince learns hypnosis, martial arts, and equips himself with a special spider silk cape that allows him to grab objects (like knives and guns). The cape also assists in grappling attacks, like chokes and judo flips.

Now that Faraday has the necessary training to take on Peter Fleming (and eventually clear his name), he sends a message to the crime lord by tussling with some corrupt cops. Peter Fleming is enraged on the surface but has taken to wearing his Chess contacts in secret. The villain is actually delighted to have a nemesis!

Chess contacts his muscle, Scales, who looks like Vinnie Jones with python-like skin. He is incredibly surly and is on the phone with his therapist. The underlings don't make eye contact with him as they're afraid of being disemboweled. Little do they know that Faraday is in the shadows and watching their operation.

A sneak peek at The Cape (and a conversation with Vinnie Jones)S

But wait! Another mysterious man is photographing Chess' operation! Faraday confronts this shadowy figure, and it's none other than Orwell (Summer Glau). Faraday and Orwell engage in fisticuffs until they realize they're on the same side. Faraday chides Orwell for playing into Chess' ploy– she went ahead and publicized the doctored information that Fleming had leaked designating Faraday as Chess. She vows to help Faraday take Fleming down.

At the end of the preview, Fleming determines that it is Malini who's stealing from him. Fleming kidnaps Max, and the Cape and the Carnival of Crime go off to stop him. At this point, I had to leave to the panel and prep to talk with some of the show's stars, starting with James Frain and Dorian Missick.

Dorian, how would you describe Marty's relationship with Faraday? He sells him out pretty ruthlessly.

Marty's a guy with a good heart. He's a complex character because he's trying to protect his family, but he's still going to have to pay for his actions. The show is grounded in reality. It has fantastic elements of course [the L9 chemical, Scales, The Cape], but ultimately it's about real people.

James, how is it wearing those contacts? Would you say Chess is a creation of Fleming, or Chess an alternate personality of Fleming who's in control?

The contacts are fun. You'll be walking around, doing normal things, and people just begin freaking out. In terms of format, The Cape will be "Adventure of the Week." There will be new supervillains joining the story, but the question "Is Fleming a pawn of is alter ego?" is at the heart of the character.

Next we talked to the one and only Vinnie Jones, who plays the reptilian crime boss Scales.

Vinnie, how was it becoming Scales, both in personality and appearance?

The make-up was tough — it took four hours to put in on. It gets all over your head, your hands. For frequent filming we're going to refine the make-up. Scales is an ambitious character. He wants to run the cargo of P9 and will try to gain the upper hand whenever he can. What's nice about Scales is we can really make him his own character — unlike say the Juggernaut who people had preconceptions about. It's very hard coming into that. For Matthew Vaughn's X3, the Juggernaut was supposed to be front and center, and we had all these ideas about his character that just never came to be in the final film.

A sneak peek at The Cape (and a conversation with Vinnie Jones)S

I remember that script — Juggernaut was going to be Xavier's brother in England.

Yeah! What I'm loving about this is that we can do so much with Scales. We can tell how he got his scales, we can tell the back story of his wife and his therapist (who we never see because they're on the other end of the phone). Scales has got a lot to tell you for the series. I want to see thousands of him running around at Comic-Con next year.