There is an old Chinese saying, "A human lights the candle and the ghosts blow it out."
Hu Ba Yi is well versed in Feng Shui with specialization in tomb configuration, which he learned from an antique book he inherited from his family. The knowledge saved him when he fell into a ditch in a snow avalanche in Tibet. And again when he and his friends joined an archaeology team to explore the "ghost cave" located in Taklamakan Desert. As he helped the team navigate through the dangers, he couldn't help feeling that someone had predicted their every move and designed the traps and hidden passages accordingly.
"Candle In The Tomb" is a web drama based on the Chinese web novel series, "Ghost Blows Out the Light", written by The Ruler Under Heavens.
Cast & Credits
The drama is adapted from the uber popular same-name novel and hence the story is rich. A lot of it is just pure imagination on the author's part, but the good thing is that there is no cliches (like all the love stories you've been seeing), and it's a pretty "loyal" adaptation (yes, this is a dig at General and I). The directing is great, the jump scares are terrifying (the two kids in the first tomb and the professor in the penultimate episode - brilliant, brilliant acting on his part), the acting is decent, there's a little humour here and there, just bits of everything. But it's really well-executed, and that's what sets it apart from the awful The Lost Tomb*.
The main complaint I have about the drama is its pacing. The first episode is quite dull since it was mainly used to introduce the main and side characters, one which won't appear much in the rest of the drama at all. I think they have every intention to make a sequel (I heard that Da Jin Ya will have a larger role in the next books) and that's why they expended this much time in setting up everything. The first tomb exploration was quite eventful, and that's where things start to get interesting. However, the pacing problems began again. I mean, they took half an episode to bury Professor Hao!
Also, the whole archaeological team just seems like a huge burden to our three main characters. You're really just watching to see how they die out one by one, and it's difficult to feel sorry for them because of how useless they are. There's a huge reversal at the end but I won't spoil it here.
Other minor flaws include two dubbers for Shirley Yang because the original actor is Taiwanese, and the main dubber is not fluent in English, bad syncing for the English dubbed lines, Shirley Yang's exceptional picture interpretation skills, the archaeological team member who's obsessed with aliens (a horrible attempt at comedy) and so on.
It's difficult to elaborate on the highlights of Candle in the Tomb, because it is a very consistent drama, and thus the flaws stand out more. But trust me, despite what I have to say about the negatives, the drama is definitely worth a watch. In any case, I'm really looking forward to a second season, preferably with the same cast.
*There's bound to be recommendations for The Lost Tomb because the two dramas are of the same genre and are based on the same topic. Nevertheless, there's no need to spend time watching TLT. It's so bad that you should flush it out from your memory if you ever tried watching.
Though there are some other dramas that also relate to tomb raiding, Candle in the Tomb is executed best. A solid main cast, good sense of suspense, and an interesting storyline all made this my most enjoyable drama of the recent batch.
Jin Dong and Zhao Da are great as Hu Ba Yi and Fatty. Their acting and interactions made this a great watch, especially with Fatty being a greedy idiot. They also voiced their own characters, which added to their great acting. Joe Chen also does well as Shirley, being a strong and independent female lead, similar to some of her other roles. An Li Man was one of my favorite characters. I love the way he speaks.
The plot always kept me intrigued. A short drama, but it included multiple arcs. The mysteries of each place kept me hooked, and the cinematography, especially in dark places, was superb. I wasn't ever sure if our band of characters were safe. Romance was not prevalent but I do see a budding hint. No cheesy over-the-top romantic scenes like you see in other dramas here.
There are still so many plot points to explore and expand upon. I'm looking forward to seeing the sequels if there will be any.
Only con I think there is would be some of the side characters. Most of them were quite useless and just a liability for our main leads. How on earth were they chosen to go on a treacherous trek through the desert? And the drama just glossed over what exactly happened to them at the end (though I heard this was different from the novel).