Under the Skin (2022) poster
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Ratings: 8.7/10 from 4,633 users
# of Watchers: 11,600
Reviews: 45 users
Ranked #215
Popularity #1375
Watchers 4,633

The young painter Shen Yi resigned from the Academy of Fine Arts and entered Haicheng Public Security Bureau mysteriously. Interpol Captain Du Cheng was furious and said that he would never accept those who caused his comrade to be killed in the police force. Five years ago, Shen Yi, who was still a student, was sketching on the street. A woman brought a picture of a child and asked him to draw what the child would look like as an adult. However, this painting caused Haicheng detective Lei Yi Fei to be exposed as an undercover agent, and he was killed. Lei Yi Fei happened to be Du Cheng's long-time friend and confidant. The strange thing is that no matter how hard Shen Yi tried to recall for a few years, he couldn't draw the face of the woman who asked him to paint the child's photo. Five years later, the guilt became heavier. In order to find out the truth, Shen Yi accepted the invitation of Director Zhang of the Public Security Bureau and became a portraitist of the Interpol Team. Under Zhang Ju’s persuasion and arrangement, Du Cheng had to accept that he became a colleague with Shen Yi, but he was still full of annoyance and despised Shen Yi’s “drawing to solve cases,” and the two became the “ticking bomb” in the team. However, in several collaborations, Shen Yi has repeatedly cracked the "dead end" of cases with his "three-year-old painting," "drawing based on audio," "micro-color discrimination," and other stunts, which slowly started to impress Du Cheng. More importantly, the truth of Lei Yi Fei's death is still buried in Shen Yi's memory. On the way to find out the truth of Lei Yi Fei's life and death, the two people who were pursuing alone, gradually untied their knots and relied on each other. In the end, "the heaven-matched partners" worked together to uncover the dust-covered secrets and create a new world for each other. (Source: iQIYI) Edit Translation

  • English
  • 한국어
  • 中文(简体)
  • ภาษาไทย
  • Country: China
  • Type: Drama
  • Episodes: 20
  • Aired: Mar 6, 2022 - Mar 16, 2022
  • Aired On: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
  • Original Network: iQiyi Tencent Video
  • Duration: 45 min.
  • Score: 8.7 (scored by 4,633 users)
  • Ranked: #215
  • Popularity: #1375
  • Content Rating: 13+ - Teens 13 or older

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Cast & Credits


100 people found this review helpful
Mar 16, 2022
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 13
Overall 9.5
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 9.0

A picture paints a thousand words

As usual every year we will get at least one underrated C-drama gem in dramaland. Under the Skin is this year’s gem for me. Along with Reset, this drama becomes 2022’s first quarter surprise package. Another astonishing aspect is that although this iQiyi production is a detective investigation thriller and whodunit mystery, it doesn’t carry the Mist Theatre’s Light On series tag. Which is just as well considering the disappointment with the recent (2021) additions to the series.

For the first time ever in a Chinese crime drama, as far as I’m aware, the concept of forensic art is featured extensively as the main premise of the story. The narrative revolves around the talented and highly perceptive mock portrait artist, Shen Yi, and his partnership with police detective Captain Du Cheng of the Beijiang Branch’s Criminal Investigation Detachment. Each of them share an interwoven backstory that provides the backdrop of the overarching main mystery and the development of their dynamic and respective character growth. The drama is presented in an episodic procedural format where the leads utilise their unique skill sets in solving extremely unusual cases, usually involving murders.

Under the Skin is based on the original screenplay co-written by Jia Dongyan, winner of the 27th Shanghai TV Festival Magnolia Award for Best Screenplay, and Wu Yao, Gold Award recipient for the Feature Film category at the 2012 New York International Film Festival. Jia Dongyan also serves as art director for the production, which is directed by the prolific Xing Jianjun. Principal photography took place in Xiamen which began in March 2021. The production team reportedly conducted considerable research into crime scenes depicted in famous art pieces as well as the application of forensic art methodology in criminal investigations.

What I Loved

There are numerous aspects of the production which I absolutely love and in comparison with many Chinese crime dramas in recent years, for me this drama ranks amongst the best in the genre. It’s innovative, refreshing, and does the basics of storytelling very well with a fantastic cast and crew. It may not appear as gritty or visceral and perhaps lack a little bit of realism at times but despite what I feel are subtle flaws, the things that exceed my expectations leave an indelible impression indeed. To briefly summarise the positive points:

1. The forensic art premise that focuses on how art is used to aid police investigations in its various forms. Whether as a composite sketch, predictive facial renderings or age-progression/ regression predictions and many others, I find the entire concept and display extremely enthralling. I’m a huge fan of crime thrillers, noir and procedurals but I’ve never encountered such an in-depth study into this subject matter before. The added bonus is seeing all the beautiful art pieces and creative artwork on display.

2. The characterization of Shen Yi, an artist of immense talent who possesses a perceptive mind and sharp deductive reasoning. I find his inherently calm demeanour and generally empathetic nature deeply endearing. This character captivates not only with his enigmatic backstory but also his multifaceted and rather charming personality. He is by no means faultless or exemplary for he constantly has to face the presence of his inner demons throughout, as well as the initial prejudice by his colleagues but he gradually overcomes all these challenges with poise and sensibility.

3. The second male lead, Du Cheng, who at times feels more like Shen Yi’s sidekick. His character progression and the subsequent evolution of his working relationship as well as personal friendship with Shen Yi is heartening to see. The “buddy cop” depiction here which incorporates elements of enemies-to-friends and bromance is one of the most rewarding strong suits of this drama.

4. The well-structured and coherent storytelling approach along with uniquely written individual cases as well as the overarching mystery. Most, if not all, of the cases depicted are highly unusual as far as either the method of execution or the motive behind the premeditated crimes. Where the investigations are concerned, I love that this drama is straightforward and no nonsense where viewers are immediately immersed into the cases and without the interference of fillers, unnecessary side stories or off putting comic relief. Even when the focus shifts to the characters’ interactions and development, it never feels redundant or superfluous to the overall tone which remains consistent throughout the show.

5. The depth of the narrative. Despite being an episodic procedural, it feels more like an anthology of short stories because each case spans more than an episode. Rather than simply focusing on solving the crime per se, it explores the background and related characters involved within each case to the fullest, complete with all the emotions of the human drama. Most of the culprits are not merely bad or evil perpetrators but are written as profoundly layered individuals who are bound by a tragic twist of fate that has led to their existing circumstances. The drama very delicately imbues subtexts on current societal concerns and even cautionary tales that enhance the storytelling. I find it surprising that the presence of certain themes actually passed censorship; for instance the subtle hints of GL, showcasing domestic violence as well as psychological abuse and gaslighting.

6. I have to pay tribute to the production team because the technical execution is quite superb. The editing renders remarkable scene transitions, clear sound mixing and audio quality even if overdubbing is utilised, and the authentic production design. The music is truly on another level with an impressive versatility to capture the different moods, in addition to the sinister “Hitchcockian” vibes of the more chilling scenes. Coupled with the impressive cinematography and beautiful colour grading, each case has a distinctive feel to the atmospherics - carefree youth, sweet romance, melancholic sadness and regret, as well as intense edge-of-the-seat suspense. Kudos as well to the styling department for the way Shen Yi is presented. I really like his fashion and overall appearance which makes him stand out from the rest of his colleagues.

7. The perfect casting choices. It’s my first time seeing Tan Jian Ci in a lead role and what an inspired selection it has been. He is perfect as Shen Yi where his portrayal exudes much intrigue, charm and likeability that draws you in deeper as the story unfolds. He possesses a strong sense of presence that encompasses a wide variety of emotions indeed. I think I finally understand why he is chosen as the lead for Winner is King so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for him there. His co-lead, Jin Shi Jia, delivers a decent depiction of Du Cheng who balances grit with adorable goofiness at times. Both leads work very well together and are absolutely fun to watch.

Final Thoughts

Under the Skin is such a pleasant surprise and has to be considered an absolute gem for the first quarter of 2022, if not the whole year. Despite the somewhat far-fetched final arc and Shen Yi appearing exceedingly "superpowered" at times, they did not detract from the ingenuity of the writing and my overall enjoyment. I’m also tremendously pleased with the ending that provides a fitting and most satisfying closure to what truly has been a wonderful viewing experience. This comes very highly recommended indeed.

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84 people found this review helpful
Mar 9, 2022
20 of 20 episodes seen
Completed 0
Overall 9.5
Story 9.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.5

Under "Your" Skin

Under The Skin is a 20 episodes crime drama produced by Linmon Pictures . The narrative revolves around a forensic criminal profiler and a detective who meets again after 7 years and proceeds to work together to solve cases while uncovering what happened 7 years ago. Under The Skin is compelling, thrilling, and emotional. It has an engrossing plot, impressive cinematography, and art direction.

As a crime drama, Under The Skin is not groundbreaking, but in my opinion, it is one of the best out there. What makes Under The Skin different from any other crime dramas is how they solve the cases. Instead of just going through the tracks and pieces of evidence like any other crime drama, this drama focuses on another aspect, forensic art, which is rarely seen in other dramas.

The drama has simple yet interesting cases, it is compelling, easy to follow, and has good moral messages behind every case. The process of case solving is also relatively simple, but still engaging. Each of the story arcs manages to be complex and intriguing while still showing the very real human emotions being experienced by the characters. I love how there is always a human element in each case, the culprit is not labeled as a "black" character, but more to grey. The drama shows you their own fascinating background story and makes you understand why they took down "THE" path.

Under The Skin script shed a light on social issues, there’s a human element and empathy in every episode. For instance, in the first case, you can see women’s prejudice in the workplace and what women need to go through to break the glass ceiling. The cases are realistic, it may resonate with the audience. My personal favorite case is in episodes 11 and 12, “girls help girls - woman can understand woman, woman protect woman”

Under The Skin is written by 6 scriptwriters, 5 of them are females which is why you might find that a lot of the cases and plot mostly revolves around women. The drama also manages to showcase the diversity in the police force, there’s a female detective, police officer, forensic doctor, and more (also there’s a lot of pretty ladies in the drama).

Other than a compelling script, the script is also immensely elevated by the excellent acting of every actor and actress in Under The Skin. The actors and supporting actors and actresses acting are phenomenal, they add so much emotional nuance that brings the characters to life. Both of the male leads, Tan Jianci and Jin Shijia portray their character very well. Tan Jianci as a natural and gentleman, and Jin Shijia as a charming yet rough character.

Despite all its hits, it also has it’s miss. For me, the only miss from the drama is the plot holes in the cases and some of the cases are not wrapped clearly and perfectly. But other than that, the whole drama is a hit!

Under The Skin keeps you at the edge of your seat with the thrills and suspense at the end of every episode. I believe this drama is worth the binge, those who watch this will feel addictive to consume the whole drama in one sitting.

Fun fact: yes the whole criminal profiling profession is indeed that amazing and 神奇. In 2017, the murder of Zhang Yingying in the United States. The police was not able to identify who was the culprit, and they asked help from a Chinese forensic profiler, Lin Yuhui. And he managed to draw out the culprit just from a blurry CCTV and helped solved the case!

P.S. Season 2 is coming! on one of the scriptwriter weibo post, she mentioned she went to gather some materials for Under The Skin season 2 and she also mentioned the drama should've have some more art aspect but was omitted due to the limited number of episodes, and she hopes that she can put those ideas in season 2 and the extra episodes!
Weibo post: https://m.weibo.cn/1461807075/4673683987108245

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Recent Discussions

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Under the Skin: Forensic Art Behind Pictures by Cho Na 0 0 No discussions yet
Shin Yi's Portrait Journal by tsuyoi_hikari 8 0
Danetria OSBORNE
Oct 9, 2022


  • Drama: Under the Skin
  • Country: China
  • Episodes: 20
  • Aired: Mar 6, 2022 - Mar 16, 2022
  • Aired On: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
  • Original Network: iQiyi, Tencent Video
  • Duration: 45 min.
  • Content Rating: 13+ - Teens 13 or older


  • Score: 8.7 (scored by 4,633 users)
  • Ranked: #215
  • Popularity: #1375
  • Watchers: 11,600

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