Gong Sun Li, is the grand-daughter and disciple of military commander Gong Sun Yu. Jing Ke (first disciple) and Sun Li are childhood lovers and were forced to escape when Qin troops attacked. However, Sun Li’s wall-shattering beauty seizes the interest of the Qin Emperor, Ying Zheng, and she’s captured and sent to his palace. It’s then that she discovers she’s pregnant with Jing Ke’s child. Ying Zheng treats him as if he’s his own child. The tragic day arrives when Jing Ke tries to assassinate Ying Zheng.
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In more ways than not, the premise is unconventional - not only by Chinese dramas standards, but in the realm of romance. If one is even slightly familiar with early Chinese history, then the idea of a forced relationship with a man whose ruthless tyranny is more infamous than his merits in unifying what is now China, has all the ingredients for an interesting romance. A romance tying into real historical characters and their famed personalities, leaves one curious to see how this equally unstable yet devoted ruler thaws his way into the heart of the object of his infatuation, after taking her away from the life she wanted and those she loves.
Throw in a second lead (Jing Ke) whose name is synonymous in history with balls rivaling the Great Wall for his assassination attempts on the emperor, and imaginations be running wild from all sorts of directions this story can go, and the immense potential it has. Sounds very ambitious, doesn't it?
And yet it fell flat. Over-saturated with unoriginal, predictable tropes that take away substantial momentum from the bigger picture, and in the end achieved nothing for plot and characterization. Despite active ingredients for what could have been good storytelling and real conflicts, poor characterization is probably what ruined the drama. Characters that garner neither sympathy nor respect, whose actions make no sense of the insensible, and mostly controlled by situations rather than in control of. Drama begins with a plot only to end with none (minus the part where they stuck to history). Seriously, will someone please think of the plot?!
And then there's flashbacks. The only thing more overused is good ol' flashbacks with the cheesy music, to cement itself as extremely lazy, poor writing at its finest. One flashback in particular has me thankful for helping me realize self restraint levels I never knew existed.
Because everytime it comes up the urge to shave myself bald before pulling my hair out from seeing it for the 100000th time is real. To paraphrase another user, the excessive flashbacks is "an insult to audiences as if the lot suffers from amnesia" couldn't be more accurate.
And ultimately, all is left are frustrating characters, unfulfilled potential and whole lot of disappointment.
Not much to be said here. The cast does little to connect the audience, poor characterization aside on writers' part. Dilraba is wholly unimpressive as the leading lady , and proved herself as lacking depth to carry heavier roles like her character here. As for Zhang Bin Bin, he delivers as a mean guy with tender moments, but lacks the magnanimous charisma of a unstable frightening ruler that is Qing Shi Huang. Seriously just read up the guy on Wiki for those unfamiliar with Chinese history. Chemistry between the two however, might be the only saving grace for the drama, if ever is one.
Supporting characters played by actors for Han Shen and Li Zhong are more convincing than mains.
Music (7/10): The OST is good. And by OST I mean two songs for the entire 48 episodes. One in particular is the jack of all trades, used for happier moments to tragic ones, rain or shine, Li Er with Jing Ke, Ying Zheng, etc you name it. One can even guess when it cues and where. The producers of this drama tend to have a single favorite for everything, from music to flashbacks. Besides that, the OST reflects well the tragic theme of the drama, and is memorable. Though may be a function of being hounded into one's memory.
Rewatch: (5/10) only reason I can imagine anyone wanting to bother with this is for the leading pair during more romantic moments. One is better off finding those YouTube MVs for all those "swoonworthy" moments instead.
Am I being too harsh? Perhaps. However, as a frequent watcher of Chinese historicals, I can't help but feel unimpressed. Maybe a better writer, production team and leading cast would have brought out a better outcome. Went into this excited but came out with shattered expectations. Unfortunate because the cinematography, filming (minus choppy editing)and costumes are gorgeous, and despite the complaints, I wanted to like this so badly for parts I did enjoy. However redeeming aspects are largely overshadowed by what is not