744 A.D., Chang’an, the cosmopolitan heart of the Tang Empire. The remnants of a vanquished Central Asian kingdom have infiltrated the world’s largest city for a planned attack during the Lantern Festival. Meanwhile, the court is fraught with infighting. The aging Emperor is expected to announce the regency of the Right Chancellor during the festival and retreat to the mountains with his young lover. If the Right Chancellor becomes the regent, the reformist Crown Prince risks being deposed—or worse. Intelligence chief Li Bi, a young Taoist priest, and ally of the Crown Prince has only 24 hours to prevent both the attack and the regency. After a botched attempt to capture the infiltrators, Li Bi and his team call in the services of death row prisoner Zhang Xiao Jing — a war veteran, beloved police chief, and murderer of his last direct superior.
(Source: RSMasterfade at MyDramaList) Add Synopsis In Portuguese
Cast & Credits
A highbrow production with broad appeal.The Longest Day in Chang'an is an immersive, visually stunning, culturally authentic and thrilling journey back over 1000 years in time to Lantern Festival in Chang'an at the peak of the Tang Dynasty. This is a highbrow and very demanding drama that is immensely enjoyable even if taken simply at face value. The viewer gets to decide how much they wish to invest in it. The production basks in rich historical and cultural detail that marvels over the intellectual, political, legal, administrative, military, cultural and scientific sophistication of Chang'an and the Tang Dynasty more broadly. The faithfulness to historical accuracy and strong edu-drama aspect to this show has history buffs raving with ecstasy. As a layman, the finer nuances would be lost on me were it not for the many knowledgeable insights on this and other sites. That doesn't appeal to everyone and some have remarked on the frequent historical and cultural digressions that interrupt the story-line. My simple take is that "smart fillers" are better than the nonsensical fillers that other dramas spam us with.
The absolutely stunning cinematography is the first and most consistent impression throughout - every frame is beautifully angled to create a visual, vibrant feast for the eyes. Even flames from explosions burst in an artistic pattern of controlled natural assymetry. The production is not shy about indulging in artistic license and is littered with lithe and gorgeously willowy Tang ladies with only one small section acknowledging more ingrained images of the classical, prosperously rotund Tang lady. A number of Chinese manhua worthy characters are almost casually dropped in among the otherwise characteristically Tang dynasty cast including Djimon Hounson's Gao Le, the menacing African slave-trader and lord of Changán's underworld; a deadly female assassin who is fanatically devoted to her radical master; and a wildly improbable Western Persian Prince priest with impressive kung fu and building leaping skills. At the end of the day, this is very much a work of fiction and suspension of disbelief will be required as the lead characters achieve superhuman physical feats and survive certain death. All of which make for gripping, visually compelling and heart stopping action scenes.
The drama is not an easy, light watch. The first season (24 episodes) opens with the intense urgency of a fast moving, action packed thriller as the two leads Zhang Xiaojing (Lei Jia Yun) and Li Bi's (Jackson Yi) race against time to foil a terrorist plot during the Lantern Festival. The constraint of the 24 hour timeline forces the narrative to alternate between the high speed chase, political machinations around a power struggle and flashbacks that set up the backstory; all threads which converge in the unraveling of the conspiracy. The many plot twists interact with an extensive cast of complex characters from various factions with unclear and/or malleable loyalties in the power struggle between Li Bi's patron the Crown Prince and his powerful rival the Right Chancellor. In short, there is already a lot to take in so the occasional non sequitur cultural or historical digression can come off as one thing too many.
It took me a long time to care for any of the main characters in this show. Even relatively "good" characters are flawed, primarily driven by self interests and had questionable loyalties and morals. It wasn't obvious that Li Bi' s cause, the Crown Prince was more worthy than the Right Chancellor. Zhao Xiaojing's dealings with Gao Le alienated me; especially when it appeared his real motive was to protect the reckless and misguided Wen Ran. That episode and short lived character stayed with me for a long time because it is the first of many times that bad things happen to good people. And that is how good people can end up doing bad things. Thus there are no outright good or bad characters in this show, they are all products of events beyond their control. Time and again the drama explores how circumstances can push any character to act against his innate nature and self interest. It is a very realistic portrayal of the complexity of human nature's capacity for both good and evil and was acted out compellingly by a truly superb cast. I started to understand the true spirit of the drama when the plight of the common man of the Peacekeeper Corps moved the phlegmatic Li Bi to tears and made him their reckless champion. The real "heroes" in this drama are the common people; that is why it intentionally neglects the main characters and does not attempt to make you root for them and does not care if they have a happy ending. It celebrates the hardships and unrecognized capabilities of the nameless, faceless, powerless, voiceless man - from the forgotten soldier that gives his life for king and country to the ordinary citizens of Chang'an. It wants you to see them, hear them and care about them.
Season 2 (episodes 25-48) was much more enjoyable for me as the intensity of the chase abates and the narrative focus really zeroes in on the power struggle and the unvieling of the conspiracy and ulitmate mastermind. Finally the lead characters are also allowed to shine and shine they did. Zhao Yi Wei's Long Bo was the most provocative and masterfully portrayed character in the drama. As his path converges with that of Zhao Xiaojing, we see the many parallels between the one who seeks vengence and the one who fights to keep dreams alive.
I was surprised by how much I fun I had unraveling the conspiracy. It was very well done and largely kept to the unspoken bargain of hiding enough clues in plain sight that I was able to figure much of it out on my own. The motives of the ultimate mastermind were not convincing. While I had my eye on him as a suspicous character early on, I assumed he was just a link in the chain but not "the guy". It was a stretch that was probably one plot twist too many. One of the other suspects may have been a more credible choice.
Of course it is a foregone conclusion that the emperor was the ultimate villian. While the power dynamics between a manipulative and insecure emperor and his most trusted advisor and his heir has been done before, it was still extremely very well done here. I was completely satisfied when the son takes a leaf out of his father's book in the ultimate act of emotional manipulation. Checkmate. This was the most satisfaction I got from the ending. The bigger question of whether good things happen to good people is left open.
This is definitely the most epic, most idealistic, substantive and thought provoking drama of 2019. Its biggest flaw is that it is overly ambitious and tries to take on too many themes. That it came together so well is a feat in and of itself but as a result, it was not always easy to watch and certainly not something I wanted to dive right into after a hard day at the office. That said, I truly believe it is a must watch and may even be more enjoyable if taken more simplistically just for its stunning aesthetics, intrigue and action.
With each episode at 30 - 40 minutes a pop, this is easy to binge watch.
Speaking of watching, the subtitling Gods and Godesses thought enough of the Amazon Prime users to give us the whole season complete. Viki is catching up, but again on Prime it is complete.
If you make it to episode 10, then you may as well watch the whole thing because curiosity will kill the cat, and only viewing satisfaction will bring it back.
I do understand that my review does push for viewing, but to really understand what you are getting into...you gotta see for yourself.