Tianji Tower, the leading organisation of the pugilistic world (jianghu) is determined to overthrow Liu Ziye, the tyrannical ruler of the Liu Song dynasty. To achieve their mission, Tianji Tower replaces his sister Liu Chuyu with their own disciple and Princess-lookalike Zhu Que. Zhu Que meets the Princess’ learned companion Rong Zhi, who turns out to be a spy from Northern Wei.
Liu Chuyu and Rong Zhi’s relationship eventually breaks down over misunderstandings and differing loyalties, and the latter fakes his death in order to regain Chuyu’s forgiveness. Then Liu Chuyu as her memories erased by imperial astrologer and Rong Zhi gets his mind wiped. They meet five years later when Chuyu is sent to marry Northern Wei’s Prince regent, who is none other than the now Rong Zhi.
Cast & Credits
The first 16 episodes were great - so much going on, but it was all so entertaining. But then come episode 17 and it was a completely different story with somewhat different people - even though it was all the same people. Even so, I kept going. Episodes 17-53 though not as great as the first chunk of the drama were still decently entertaining to watch. Especially between the first two parts of the drama, there were just so many discrepancies about what was going on that they never resolved because it really felt like two completely different stories at times. And then somehow the final episode, ep 54 - my mind just went blank and I'm still not sure what I was watching... So I'm gonna rate this as 3 different parts.
A) Ep 1-16
B) Ep 17-53
C) Final ep 54
A) 9/10 - The first few episodes were so great. There was plotting and manipulation but it felt somewhat new and refreshing. Rong Zhi and Chu Yu's relationship was angsty but amazingly enticing to watch. The other characters at the Princess' manor were equally entertaining. It was a constant - what's going to happen next? What is Tian Ji Pavilion going to do? What is Chu Yu going to do? What is Rong Zhi going to do? Really fun to watch and definitely the best part of the drama.
B) 7/10 - the main core of the drama. The majority of the drama was focused on this part of the story - though it really makes viewers question why the drama was written to essentially be 2 different stories. Aside from the two main characters being the same people - though arguably their personalities were a bit warped - the rest of the drama was completely different. The setting moves out of Liu Song and into the kingdom of Wei (where Rong Zhi is now the Prince Regent leading the government for his nephew, the emperor) and Chu Yu is sent from Liu Song with the intention of peace through marriage. While this was the main core of the drama, it was definitely outshined by the first section of the drama, but nonetheless it was still an interesting watch.
There was a lot of framing and manipulation, which comes standard with these types of dramas, but honestly it was made a bit worse because there were SO MANY different people scheming that by the end it just feels like everyone was against everyone. Really it was hard to root for anyone just because of how much manipulation was going on.
Secondly, while miscommunication between the main pair is always a given, it was just a bit much sometimes. You have two very stubborn personalities, with one also constantly scheming to obtain power, but of course neither of them were willing to talk things out and would just essentially give up when the other was upset. It made it really hard to ship the main pair sometimes because it seemed like they were never going to be able to communicate well and understand the other person's feelings.
Lastly, between the second female lead actually playing two different characters there was WAY too much screen time attributed to her (specifically as General Huo Xuan) and honestly it got way too overbearing and annoying that I (and as I've read many others) pretty much skipped through all of her scenes. The writing really made it seem as if they wanted the second lead actress to be the main actress. Between the war zone story lines, to her story lines with Rong Zhi, to her story lines with Gu Huan - it was just way too much time focused on her and not enough on the main actors.
C) 5/10 - The final episode. There are literally very few dramas that have me honestly lost about what the hell happened by the end. Even this drama, everything seemingly went together up until the final episode. Maybe it was because they rushed the ending? Which is ridiculous because they had 54 episodes to work out this whole story, but the last episode was just super weirdly paced and there was so much going on. I honestly don't know if it was a happy or sad ending just because it depends on how you look at it, I suppose. By the end of it, I really just want to know who the writers were supporting this whole time because the way this ended - unless they're planning a sequel - just didn't make sense to me. In 40 minutes time, they crammed in so much stuff with no explanation and they were just like "Welp, that's it." Such a let down.
Song Wei Long (Rong Zhi) - As the male lead, I feel like SWL did a pretty decent job carrying such a weighty drama. He is definitely a young actor, so hopefully he will progress over the next few years, but even so I think he did a good job. Many people criticize him for not showing emotion very well, which I agree with to an extent. If it was any other character, I'd wholeheartedly agree that he was bad in that regard, but for this drama and this character, I think it still worked out well. Rong Zhi from the beginning was a very complex character who was very reserved, meticulous, and brilliant. For someone who is a genius at manipulation and scheming, I appreciated the fact that he was terrible at expressing himself and his feelings because it showed some kind of weakness in his personality. If he was great at everything, it would have made me dislike him honestly because no one can be perfect at everything.
Guan Xiao Tong (Liu Chu Yu) - A lot of my feelings about her probably come down more to script than it does to her actual acting, so it's hard to give her a fair review. In the first part of the drama, she was portraying Zhu Que of Tian Ji pavilion who took over the life of Liu Chu Yu to complete a mission. This character was smart and cunning, but had compassion and morals. Her character and acting were very entertaining as she portrayed the cunning Zhu Que but also the murderous/lustful Liu Chu Yu.
In the second half, it gets more confusing because you have the real (but not real) Liu Chu Yu and Zhu Que completely disappears (though it's the actually the same character). By now she's just a fairly basic female character. She's still smart (or just really lucky) as she gets herself out of trouble (with tons of help, of course), but she now harbors this idealized sense of morality - even though she is also a part of an imperial family and should be used to the scheming by now. And yet at every turn, she criticizes Rong Zhi and the others for fighting for power, even though it is something to be expected of people in power.
Again, these are all issues I have more with the writing for the character, more so than with Guan Xiao Tong's acting abilities. I think for what she was given, she did a good job - but nothing mind blowing.
Bai Lu (Huo Xuan) - I'm giving her a shout out mostly because I actually REALLY enjoyed General Huo at the very beginning and thought she was really entertaining, but eventually I just stopped watching most of her scenes because there was just way too much focus on her and it got annoying. She honestly did a really good job though (from what I didn't skip xD)
I'll honestly probably watch this drama again some time in the future because even though there was a lot of stuff I didn't like about it, overall I still enjoyed it as a drama (aside from that last episode). It was nothing groundbreaking or particularly memorable, but for some reason, I was still really intrigued watching it and still felt it was fairly entertaining.