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The Story of Ming Lan chinese drama review
The Story of Ming Lan
12 people found this review helpful
by PeachBlossomGoddess Flower Award1
17 days ago
78 of 78 episodes seen
Completed 8
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 7.0

A cacophony of crows.

The Story of Minglan is a leisurely and meandering account of how with patience and cunning, Sheng Minglan, the low born daughter of a concubine triumphs over many challenges to achieve both personal and social success. Minglan's father is a middling court official who over indulges his favorite concubine and allows her to turn his household upside down. The petty tyranny of harem rivalry leads to tragedy and Minglan ends up being raised under her grandmother's wing. Minglan's great misfortune has a giant silver lining because this formidable old lady is a force to be reckoned with. She sees to it that Minglan is well schooled and helps her navigate the many pitfalls of harem politics. Minglan blossoms into a quietly underestimated young lady who catches the eye of the most eligible bachelors despite her low status.

This drama digs deep into what lurks beneath the genteel façade of Confucian propriety among the status conscious Song dynasty nobility. The deceptively sedate, mundane, humdrum of women living lives of quiet desperation, occasionally broken by shrill outbursts that crescendo horrifyingly in a cacophony of crows. My eardrums barely survived the assault of this panoply of nasty, caterwauling women. The early arcs on Minglan's childhood and coming of age are the best, most empowering ones. The drama climaxes at her vengeance arc, where I found her quiet scheming and utter ruthlessness chilling and impressive. After that the domestic bliss arcs drag on far too long with the couple dealing with repetitive villains with all too similar modus operandi. We really did not need to see version 2.0, 3.0 etc of essentially the same not very smart wicked women archetypes that are too handily dealt with by our power couple.

Zhao Liying delivers a credible portrayal of a docile, Song dynasty noblewoman with hidden depths. The way she digs into you with her eyes, the fleeting cunning smirk and brief flash of fury in her placid gaze foreshadows her evolution into a full-on temper tantrum throwing wife! That said, Zhao Liying is still best at fierce roles rather than as a docile still waters run deep kind of character. Zhao Liying and Feng Shaofeng paint the perfect picture of domestic bliss.Their chemistry is that of a long married couple in harmony and less of the sizzling kind that flared up between her and Lin Gengxin in Princess Agents. It is rare to see Zhu Yilong in a costume drama and I felt real sorry for his Qi Heng who unlike both Gu Tengye and Sheng Minglan, has no free will as he is unable to free himself from the social strictures of his time. The cast overall is very strong with many veteran actors that deliver comical parodies of the ridiculous pretensions of the Song aristocracy.

I am afraid I did not enjoy this very well made drama as much as many other people did. The 70+ episode narrative goes on for too long, conveying an unnecessarily realistic impression of how suffocating it was to be a Song dynasty woman. Considering Gu Tingye's incredibly modern attitudes with respect to polygamy and empowering his wife, I am convinced it was impossible to be a Sheng Minglan in those times. Some of the early arcs are worth 8.5 but the story climaxes too early and is bogged down by repetitive plots in the latter half. This weighs my overall rating down to 8.0. This is a drama that patient viewers with robust eardrums will enjoy more.
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