Hou Liang Ping was appointed as an associate prosecutor and the director of the anti-corruption department in Bian Xi Province, to investigate a case of murder. His wife Zhong Xiao Ai, appointed by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, in the name of looking after the family, was also deployed to Bian Xi to secretly investigate the corruption of Hu. Experiencing many difficulties and setbacks, Hou and Zhong had been approaching the truth and the criminal groups behind the murder.
Cast & Credits
If you asked me to describe this show simply, I would probably liken it to a modern version of Nirvana In Fire, which sounds kind of ridiculous since the contents are so different. While the political intrigue is an integral part of both shows, neither forgets to insert some heart and some solid storytelling to weave its magic - and of course, both shows count on some amazing performances from a largely veteran cast.
The premise of this show is pretty simple - it's about exposing corrupt government officials, and the twisted web that they weave in a fictional city (and province) in modern China. (FYI - in recent years, with the rise of the new GS, the government's been really cracking down on corruption, especially within government officials, which is why they were okay with turning the novel into a drama).
While Prosecutor Hou Liang Ping is technically the main character, this is really a story about many different people, and how their lives are tied together. The main focus, of course, is telling the politics in a modern Chinese city works, and the scriptwriter does a phenomenal job of outlining many of the problems in Chinese society today without making it too black and white. Because too often, there isn't a clear cut answer, but just acknowledging and highlighting the issue is a major win for citizens.
In this same vein, the characters, even the ones who are exposed to be corrupt, are portrayed in an ambiguous light (and I mean that in the best way). One of the biggest issues with a lot of the shows about political intrigue is that the show is too eager to cast judgement on a character for the audience, but here, you can use your own judgement to decide what you think of a character and his or her actions. Almost all the characters are portrayed in a fairly complete light - so you'll have the full picture of what kind of person they are, what they have done, and why they have done it.
The pace is phenomenal - the first few episodes will leave you absolutely reeling as you're thrown right into a case that opens up the rest of the story - but then it slows down to allow us to catch our breath and to learn a little bit more about the situation and the characters. I think there were some unnecessary scenes, but there was obviously a big attempt to balance the dark and heavy with some light, slice of life moments, and I really did enjoy peeking into the lives of the characters.
Beware - there's a lot of low key and high key propaganda in here - I mean, it is a state-backed show - so it might be a little disconcerting if you aren't used to it, but I didn't find that it took too much away from the story, which was mostly very well thought out, as layers are unpeeled and you learn more and more about just how tangled the web really is.
This show featured probably one of the phenomenal casts in recent history, with a slew of talented, well known veteran actors, who took the roles and absolutely made it their own. In particular, Wu Gang and Zhang Zhi Jian, as opposing politicians, gave amazing performances that gave their characters, who were already interesting, even more depth. Hats off to the other established actors as well (there's too many to name, honestly), in particular Hou Yong, who is probably the reason why a lot of people kept watching the show, as he guest starred in the first couple of episodes as a small town politician and gave an absolutely electrifying performance, and Bai Zhi Di as the elderly retired Chen Yan Shi, who was a cynical and jaded ex-prosecutor and totally reminded me of my own grandfather.
I also loved Ding Hai Feng as the playful police commissioner and Ke Lan, who was a smart, sassy, and hilarious female prosecutor - the two of them often stole the scenes that they were in. If someone ever wants to do a spinoff based on these two, I'm definitely in.
Zhang Feng Yi, who I love, was sadly wasted in his role - he did what he could with it, but it really wasn't an interesting character since Sha Rui Jin was probably the most straight laced character in the entire show (aka boring). He is such a talented actor and I really wanted to see him in a more riveting role.
Lu Yi has received a lot of criticism for his acting, some of which is valid, but a lot of it is a bit unfair given how talented his costars are. Lu Yi does more idol dramas than anything else - I mean, he's not going to be amazing. He was fine - not great, not bad - but serviceable. And considering his character really was just meant to be a foil to some of the other characters so there really wasn't much depth there, he didn't need to be amazing.
Ensemble casts are the best when everyone's performances are elevated, and that's how I felt here.
I think you have to have some context of what modern Chinese society looks like to be able to really enjoy this show - even though a lot of the main characters are politicians, there's a relatability factor to it that really strikes a chord with the audience as the show touches on various social issues. I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this show to the point where I'm still discussing it with my parents. For those who dismiss this show as pure propaganda, I feel that's a bit unfair to a well thought out, well acted drama that does have a lot of fantastic social and political commentary. I would definitely recommend it!