Meet Yourself (2022) 去有风的地方

Summary:  Luxury hotel manager Xu Hong Dou 许红豆 ft Liu Yi Fei 刘亦菲 worked nonstop over the last 10+yrs in Beijing to climb the corporate ladder. But when her best friend suddenly dies of cancer, she realizes that there is more to life than just work. She resigns her position and heads to a beautiful village in Yunnan, a place her best friend always wanted to visit, for an extended stay.

There, the pace of life slows down as she meets handsome local Xie Zhi Yao 谢之遥 ft Li Xian 李现 and many other adorable inhabitants and visitors of the village. 

 

 

Total Episode Count: 40

Initial Airing Date: January 3, 2022

Platform: MangoTV

 

Initial Score: 7/10 – A calming modern day drama that could double as a Yunnan province tourism ad. Meet Yourself is sure to bring a smile to your face as you relax with Hong Dou during her stay while also learn some of the challenges of living in these villages.

Initial Thoughts:

In Liu Yi Fei’s first modern drama, Meet Yourself is the perfect drama to stave off the winter blues as we join Hong Dou in the lush green and colorful Yunnan province.

This drama will likely resonate more with millennials and older rather than younger viewers; those who have worked hard in their careers for several years but struggled to achieve work life balance. Xu Hong Dou is never “off” work due to the nature of her role nor does she take vacation or have time to cook. Her fridge is filled with expired foods she never cleared out.  (Is she me?) This brings a realism to her character and it makes sense why her best friend’s death hit her so hard. Many of the plans her friend made with her never came to fruition because Xu Hong Dou was always working.

When she ultimately decides to leave, she comes to a charming little Miao minority ethnic group village in Yunnan province to stay for 3 months. It is an absolutely lovely place and we are brought along for the ride as Xu Hong Dou sees what life is like once she stops hustling.  She meets Xie Zhi Yao, a local entrepreneur, raised in the village. As Hong Dou explores the village, we see the kindness of both the villagers and visitors on full display.  And there’s plenty of adorable animals around too!

Liu Yi Fei is once again captivating in this drama. I’m guessing Liu Yi Fei chose to film this role just so that she could enjoy Yunnan as well and it shows on screen. She gets to eat interesting foods, visit beautiful villages and learn Miao crafts! I guarantee that there will be an explosion of tourists hoping to visit such locales in Yunnan after this drama airs. Her chemistry with Li Xian is also quite sweet as well. Similar to A Dream of Splendor, you’re watching two adults build a strong foundation for a relationship and it is such an easy watch. 

What IS notable is that the drama does highlight the challenges of living in this type of village. Money can be tight for the locals and healthcare access a challenge. This causes many villagers to leave to the big cities for a better life.  The exact juxtaposition of Xu Hong Dou who left the big city. I’ll be interested to see how these storylines intertwine because they are social commentaries that are extremely relevant.

However, some of these side stories due to a diverse cast are not as intriguing as the main couple. The leisurely pace of the drama, thus far, also means it will not be one of the most gripping dramas out there. It’s a great drama to have on in the background but perhaps its not necessary to be fully immersed.

Full review to come!

Karen

 

 

The Blood of Youth (2022) 少年歌行

Summary: An aspiring young wanderer Lei Wu Jie 雷无桀 ft Ao Rui Peng 敖瑞鹏 from the House of Lei is traveling to the great Snow Moon City but finds himself accidentally at an the Falling Snow Inn instead. He accidentally destroys much of the inn after an encounter that turns rough and falls into debt with the mysterious owner of the Inn, Xiao Se 萧瑟 ft Li Hong Yi 李宏毅. 

Lei Wu Jie reluctantly brings Xiao Se along on his journey to pay off his debts. They meet another young man Tang Lian 唐莲 ft Li Xin Ze 李欣泽 who is traveling with and protecting a golden coffin.  They encounter many members of various martial arts houses, sects, and factions all fighting to obtain the contents of the coffin. This is a story of brotherhood, loyalty, and love as the young generation takes up the new Jiang Hu.

 

This is based off of the book 少年歌行 by 周木楠 and an animated series of the same name

 

Total Episode Count: 40

Initial Airing Date: Dec 26, 2022

Platform: Youku

 

Initial Score: 6.8/10 – An ambitious martial arts drama adaptation, the story moves at a brisk pace and weaves together multiple storylines of different martial arts factions, houses, and sects. The young leads are somewhat overshadowed by the star studded supporting cast but the solid story, impressive CGI, and intriguing mysteries make this an pleasant watch.

 

 

 

I honestly had no idea what to expect with this drama and decided to start this due to the free time from winter holidays. I’m currently at episode 12.

This is a martial arts drama that focuses on 3 main characters, each with a unique background from different martial arts houses or sects (门派). They each have their mysteries, skills, and goals and it’s fun to follow on the journey as we begin to learn about their backgrounds and how they are connected to the larger Jiang Hu and even royal court. The characters travel to unique cities and locations that have different martial arts specialists and our heroes must defeat or grow with each encounter. It is a refreshing departure from the usual romantic dramas or fantasy dramas that are all the rage. It’s an admirable attempt but there are several points that leave me wanting. 

The plot moves extremely fast, which is both a positive and negative. The positive is that we don’t waste time deliberating on pointless arguments or conflicts. The story moves quickly to the next location or the characters need to reach the next martial arts level. It’s kind of like a video game. You beat the quest, then move to the next quest, with some side quests thrown in the mix.

The negative is that the world building is also extremely fast in this drama and requires a lot of commonly known martial arts tropes that might make it difficult to follow for non-martial arts fans. For example, the House of Tang, which is where Tang Lian hails from, typically is proficient in poisons and hidden weapons (think hidden daggers or needles). This is known in Chinese culture and authors / dramas typically adopt this but we don’t get that explanation in the drama. This also means that a lot of it is done through talking, like “oh, this character just reached the next level” or “oh, here’s so and so, the best master of the spear”, which typically just means that someone shows up in a flashy manner. 

This also isn’t the type of martial arts drama that I grew up with, with a lot of hand-to-hand combat. It’s very CGI heavy, which seems to be the trend these days. To me, it doesn’t really feel like a martial arts drama but a fantasy drama mixed with some martial arts in it.  It just doesn’t seem like the characters are in danger at any given point. At first, I was critical of the CGI because in the beginning it didn’t seem very good but it definitely improves as the drama moves along. The acting from some of the younger leads leave much to be desired, but the presence of the older actors and the intriguing storyline allows me to ignore some of the acting misses. 

 

Cathy

 

Unchained Love (2022) 浮图缘

Summary: A young concubine Bu Yin Lou 步音楼 ft Chen Yu Qi 陈钰琪 is to be sacrificed as tribute to the recently deceased Emperor. However, she is rescued as she is literally being hanged by the ruthless and powerful eunuch Xiao Duo 肖铎 ft Wang He Di 王鹤棣  from a request from the Emperor’s younger brother the Prince Fu 福王 ft Peter Ho 何润东. Prince Fu desires Bu Yin Lou for himself and tries different tactics to win her heart even though she is technically now a Dowager Concubine. At the same time , Xiao Duo finds himself drawn to the spunky, sassy, and amiable Bu Yin Lou when he finds that she is an observant and gentle woman. However, their current stations in life prevent the relationship from going any further. Xiao Duo also has another mission at the Palace that he must face alone.

 

This is based off of the book 浮图塔 by 尤四姐

 

Total Episode Count: 36

Initial Airing Date: Dec 27, 2022

Platform: iQiyi

 

Initial Score: 7/10 – A lighthearted comedy that shakes up the traditional romantic palace drama premise with a Eunuch falling in love with a Dowager Concubine. The leads of Dylan Wang and Chen Yu Qi make a convincing couple and are supported by a fun cast of characters. The straightforward script makes this an easy watch with little depth.

 

 

 

This is Dylan Wang’s first drama to air after his surprising success from Love Between Fairy and Devil 苍兰决. He’s paired with the lovely Chen Yu Qi, who has had several dramas air over the years but without making much of a splash. 

I was intrigued by the premise of a ruthless and conniving eunuch falling in love with a Dowager Concubine. It is a cute watch because we see Xiao Duo falling in love with Bu Yin Lou but Bu Yin Lou has no clue this is happening because well, he is supposed to be a Eunuch! According to her, eunuch’s aren’t supposed to fall in love! The shenanigans and hijinks between the two when they first meet are quite funny. Xiao Duo finds himself being jealous at other’s attention towards Bu Yin Lou despite himself. 

Xiao Duo is a dark knight in shining armor only to Bu Yin Lou, while Bu Yin Lou is the witty damsel who tries to fight against her fate but often will rely on the power and money of Xiao Duo. This just means that we do fall into some of the same romantic comedy tropes. However, in this drama, you’ll just have to really go along for the ride and not think too carefully on the feasibility on any of the plot points.

The leads do a decent enough job as the main couple of the drama and they play well off each other. However, it is jarring when almost every other character apart from the two leads uses his / her real voice in the drama. This then gives the side characters more gravitas when they’re on screen compared to the leads. This is especially noticeable whenever the Empress played by Zeng Li 曾黎 is on screen. She just commands the attention of the audience (at least for me) that not even the Dylan Wang nor Chen Yu Qi are able to do. 

Overall, it just has a much smaller scope of a drama, so we’re focused squarely on the small cast of characters. It’s enjoyable for what it is, a romantic comedy.

I’m reading the book concurrently. The drama heavily leans into the comedy aspect and avoids some more of the explicit discussions surrounding eunuchs. I’ll discuss a comparison between the drama and the book for my full review. 

Cathy

 

Thank You, Doctor (2022) 谢谢你医生

Summary: The cool and mysterious Xiao Yan (肖砚) decides to join the EICU team, or Emergency Intensive Care Unit, at the Tong Shan (桐山) hospital. Bai Zhu (白术), a cardiothoracic surgeon, is also sent to the EICU after complaints from patients. Xiao Yan肖砚, Bai Zhu白术, and a few other doctors make up the EICU team, led under team lead Lu Ping An (陆平安). The team are faced with many ethical and medical quandaries on how best to serve their patients. As the drama progresses, Xiao Yan 肖砚 and Bai Zhu 白术 begin to see the similarities and bright spots within each other. The two begin to put away their prejudices and biases against each other. Individual stories, relationships, and trials are told through the patients and doctors of the EICU.

This drama is based off the book ICU48小时 or 48 Hours in the ICU

 

Total Episode Count: 40

Initial Airing Date: November 4, 2022

Platform: CCTV8, iQiYi, Tencent, Youku

 

Final Rating: 6.5/10

A serviceable medical drama that shines when it focuses on medical cases but squanders it’s two leads with meandering plot lines with loose ends and an annoying supporting cast of doctors.

The pacing of the drama moves at a brisk pace with its medical cases, sometimes too fast. For each case, the drama does raise some interesting ethical questions on how to treat the patients which does force the characters, patients, and us the audience to ponder the correct path forward. However, the majority of the cases move by so quickly that we barely get time to digest before we are whisked off to the next case.

The drama was at its best when it gave the cases more breathing room and showed the motivations for the different players involved.

The character that I felt had the biggest growth was actually the head nurse Jiang Shan. Her journey with her husband was a highlight of the drama. I think Yang Mi did a decent job as the outwardly guarded but inwardly altruistic Xiao Yan. I think the overall problem is the script in which it really didn’t give the doctors much depth. The paper-thin script for the characters really did hinder the back half of the drama.

 

Xiao Yan 肖砚– Yang Mi 杨幂


An emergency medicine doctor, she is a mysterious doctor who returns from abroad. She comes from a wealthy medical family that has led her to be very independent and practical. She pursued her studies abroad after high school and joined a Swiss hospital after completing her studies. The death of her fiancé Lin Zhi Yuan was a turning point in her life, leading her to resign from her position in Switzerland to come work at the Tong Shan hospital.

Bai Zhu 白术– Bai Yu 白宇


A very talented cardiothoracic surgeon, he is nevertheless stubborn and arrogant. He believes that only by taking chances, will there be miracles. He strongly believes in pursuing any path forward to save his patients which often puts him at odds against his coworkers. His teacher transfers him to the Emergency department in hopes of changing some of his perspectives

Jiang Shan 姜杉 – Wang Yi Nan 王一楠  


The head nurse for the Emergency department. She is the organized and capable marshal of the department. All of her co-workers respect the warm-hearted and generous head nurse. Her husband suffered an accident right before their marriage, rendering him immobile. Despite all the odds, Jiang Shan, refuses to leave her husband and stays with him until the very end

Lu Ping An 陆平安 – Li Jie李解


The department lead of the Emergency department. Everyone calls him “Mama Lu”. To better serve their patients, he decides to lead the new EICU at Tong Shan Hospital while espousing Safety First. He oftentimes has differing perspectives from Bai Zhu and Xiao Yan but during times of crisis, he does not hesitate to take the mantle of leader to protect everyone in his department.

 

 

Plot Overview:

Xiao Yan (肖砚) is a doctor who’s spent years volunteering with aide organizations such as Doctors Without Borders abroad. On one trip, her fiancé dies while trying to save a patient. Xiao Yan (肖砚) decides to head to Shanghai to learn more about her fiancé’s past. There, she joins the EICU team, or Emergency Intensive Care Unit, at the 桐山 hospital. Bai Zhu (白术), a cardiothoracic surgeon, is a rising star at the 桐山 hospital. However, his arrogance puts him into some trouble, and he’s sent to the EICU instead. Xiao Yan (肖砚), Bai Zhu (白术), and a few other doctors make up the EICU team, led under team lead Lu Ping An (陆平安). The rest of the team comprises of Xu Yi Ran, Bai Zhu’s best friend, Tang Hua, and resident Chen Zhi. They are supported by the head nurse Jiang Shan and fellow nurse Lin Zhi.

The EICU team is surprised at Xiao Yan’s efficiency when she joins the team. Due her past experiences abroad, Xiao Yan spends a lot of time trying to get to know her patients and believing patients have the right to choose. This is very different from Bai Zhu’s approach, who believes that medical research should dictate his diagnoses. The two constantly butt heads on the past forward for patients including whether tell a young girl that she’s terminally ill. This becomes most evident when the two come across a deadly car crash and have to rush to save the victims. Xiao Yan prioritizes saving the greatest number of patients but Bai Zhu focuses on one patient.

 

The Head Nurse’s husband, Mr. Jiang蒋先云 , was involved in a car crash years ago that resulted in him being paralyzed from the waist down. Despite this, Jiang Shan, continues to be his primary caretaker and the breadwinner in the family. The two receive some devastating news when Mr. Jiang finds out that he has late-stage pancreatic cancer. Mr. Jiang doesn’t want to continue to burden his wife but he’s saved by the EICU team. Surprisingly, it is Bai Zhu who tells Mr. Jiang to not give up on life. Xiao Yan, on the other hand, believes that each patient has the choice to choose.

At the same time, Bai Zhu’s son Xiao Guang is rushed to the EICU. Everyone’s surprised to see that Bai Zhu has a son, but are even more shocked to see just how positive and sincere the boy is. He has the rare disease Thalassemia, and despite all odds, has lived to the age of 8. The rest of the team gradually change their attitudes towards Bai Zhu after understanding that it was his perseverance that resulted in Xiao Guang’s life.

In Shanghai, Xiao Yan tries to find the memories of her fiancé’s past but constantly comes up short. Bai Zhu is the one that helps Xiao Yan find her fiancé’s old home. As the drama progresses, Bai Zhu finds himself more and more attracted to the cold yet kind-hearted Xiao Yan. Unfortunately, Xiao Yan needs time to move past her previous relationship.

Throughout the drama, we also see snippets of the lives of the other doctors and nurses in the EICU.

 

Overall thoughts:

Overall, I thought it was a serviceable medical drama that really shone on strength of its cases. The cases move at a brisk pace that gives us the viewers a lens on the difficult choices that patients, loved ones, and doctors need to make.

I don’t want to spoil too many of the cases, and I mentioned a couple during my plot review, but another one that sticks out to me is when a social influencer decides to head to the hospital to get “views”.

This is the second medical drama that I’ve seen this year and what’s interesting is that these dramas tend to put people in a better light than I expected. For example, during car crashes, there is rarely a hit and run, but at-fault party does his / her part to try and solve the problem. Maybe I’m cynical about these things but it is heartwarming to see people to take responsibility. When the drama does show some despicable characters, it just makes it more jarring.

The drama does its best when it does allow the cases shows the motivations of each character, whether it’s the patients or the doctors.

I thought the two main leads of Yang Mi and Bai Zhu did a serviceable job but unfortunately just don’t have much to work with. Yang Mi is this cool and calm motorcycle riding doctor that shows up to work but no one knows anything about her. Yang Mi plays the part well but the problem is that we really don’t get to see or learn anything else about Xiao Yan. Yes, she does find peace with regards to fiancé but her relationship with Bai Zhu was a big question mark to me.

Bai Yu I thought went a little overboard in the arrogant / haughty doctor vibe in the beginning. He does mellow out after the first couple episodes though, especially after we learn more about his personal life and relationship with his son.

 

The supporting cast of characters was…not great. There was like only 1.5 characters that I rooted for – the Head Nurse and the team lead Lu.

Which goes to my overall problem of this drama – it’s too sterile. It’s too clean. This is an EICU unit. It’s supposed to be intense; it’s supposed to be bloody and hectic. I don’t feel like I saw much of that. At the same time, it’s also way to sterile with the characters. No one is really fleshed out except for the Head Nurse and that was because we had to spend time with her and her husband.

I was particularly annoyed at 2 characters – Tang Hua and Chen Zhi.

Tang Hua is a young ICU doctor, who I literally never saw doing any work. All she did was just wander around with Xiao Yan and then loudly comment her disgust towards the actions and attitudes of the patients if they didn’t behave in the “righteous” manner such as paying for all operations or dropping everything to pay attention to a family member in the hospital. I thought it was very unprofessional. I was hoping for growth from this character, but no, she continues to loudly voice her opinions. Even though she apologizes when she realizes her prejudices were wrong, she nonetheless continues to make them.

The next character is Chen Zhi. He’s a MD / PhD who, I think is in residency with the team. He had zero confidence in anything that he was doing and was constantly looking around for approval. He thought he found it with Tang Hua and decided to pursue her. Tang Hua repeatedly tells him that they are not a good fit but he disregards all of her words and continues to barrel through and pursue her despite her protestations. He just came off as creepy the entire time. He always had a sad look on his face and always asking – how can I do better or how can I make her like me? I honestly wanted to punch him in the face towards the end. Dude – you’re a grown man. Own up professionally and take the hint from the girl. Once again, little to no character growth. Every chance he got was given to him by other people and he only stopped pursuing Tang Hua when she forcefully had to tell him.

I wish that the script was able to do service to the cast of doctors like they did with some of the patients. Otherwise, those scenes were a slog. 

As for the ending, it just left me scratching my head because I had no idea what happened.

Overall, it’s fine as a medical drama and something to put on in the background but there are better medical dramas out there.

Let me know what you think!

Cathy

 

Song of the Moon (2022) 月歌行 

Summary:  Wealthy maiden Liu Shao 柳梢 ft Xu Lu 徐璐 has her fate changed as a young girl by a mysterious man. Ten years later, she is targeted by a powerful demon on her 18th birthday but is saved by the handsome Lu Li 陆离 ft Zhang Bin Bin 张彬彬.  Little does Liu Shao know, her subsequent interactions with Lu Li were all preplanned in an effort to untangle mysteries of both Liu Shao and Lu Li’s past.

 

 

Total Episode Count: 40

Initial Airing Date: Dec 15, 2022

Platform: iQiyi

 

*Note – most English translations are my own and may not exactly match iQiYi’s official translations

 

Initial Score: 5.5/10 – A middling fantasy drama that falls into many familiar tropes for the genre. A good looking cast and impressive cgi does not make up for the drama’s lackluster writing especially for the main female lead.

Final Score: 5/10 – A meandering story with convoluted plot points, a female lead that kept getting the men who love her hurt and villains that refused to learn their lesson, this drama was one of wasted potential and frustration.

 

 

 

Main Characters

 

Liu Shao 柳梢 /Yao Ling 曜灵- Xu Lu 徐璐


Daughter of a wealthy family, the kind and naive Liu Shao’s life is upended on her 18th birthday as a powerful demon attacks her. She heads to Duke Wu Yang’s manor to learn skills to repel demons only to find that she has hidden powers within her. In her past life, she was the goddess Yao Ling. 

Lu Li 陆离 /Luo Ge洛歌  – Zhang Bin Bin 张彬彬


Mortal Lu Li studied under Lu Sheng and did his bidding to trick Liu Shao into entering the manor of Duke Wu Yang. There, he wished to use Liu Shao’s help in procuring the powerful Bao Yue Sword. However, he falls in love with Liu Shao and sacrifices himself to save her and the rest of his mortal friends. Little does he know, Lu Li’s true form is Luo Ge, the all powerful fairy leader and also the moon god Yue Guang.

He Na 诃那 – Wang You Shuo 王佑硕


King of the Aquatic Demon Clan 寄水族。 Kind hearted and serene, his life’s goal is to break the curse that prevents his people from leaving water. He falls in love with Liu Shao. 

Luo Ning 洛宁 – Zheng He Hui Zi 郑合惠子 


Younger sister of the fairy leader Luo Ge, a cheerful and loving young woman who dotes on her older brother. She makes friends and ultimately falls in love with A Fu Jun.

A Fu Jun 阿浮君 – Wang Yi Lun 王以纶


Younger brother of He Na, this prince hates that his demon clan and his brother have a humiliating existence and conspires with others to destroy the fairy clan. He falls in love with Luo Ning but that does not prevent him from wreaking havoc for his brother.

Bai Feng 白凤 – Ma Yue 马月


Bai Feng and Lu Li studied together with the same master during their youth and since then, Bai Feng has liked this younger brother. Initially a spy for their master as a student of Duke Wu Yang, she turns to the dark side when she discovers that Lu Li falls in love with Liu Shao instead.

Plot Overview

Liu Shao is bumbling, naive, kind but beautiful. She, despite being mortal, has the hidden powers of an all powerful sun goddess Yao Ling 曜灵 within her. Scheming but righteous Lu Li falls in love with Liu Shao even though he was instructed to use her by his teacher to get to the famous Bao Yue Sword owned by the demon Moon god. Liu Shao at first only sees Lu Li as a friend but in turn starts developing feelings for him as well.  Meanwhile, Aquatic Demon King He Na also falls in love with Liu Shao but his love is unrequited. He is upstanding about his feelings not being returned while Bai Feng, Lu Li’s older classmate becomes insanely jealous that Lu Li would ditch her for Liu Shao and decides to retaliate. 

Lu Li ends up sacrificing himself but is revealed to be Luo Ge of the Fairy Clan instead and is revived. Liu Shao becomes weepy that Luo Ge doesn’t remember her nor their love. Bai Feng. who betrays the mortals, also ends up with the fairy clan and continues to wreak havoc there for Luo Ge and Liu Shao. Elsewhere, A Fu Jun, He Na’s younger brother starts manipulating Luo Ge’s younger sister Luo Ning but they ultimately fall in love.  A Fu Jun and Liu Shao become He Na’s biggest headaches as he tries to suppress the former from causing too much trouble and save the latter from all the punishments she is subjected to.

Add into the mix revenge and hatred that has lasted generations between the Aquatic Demon and Fairy clan plus the Sun Goddess and Moon God that fell in love but are destined to not be together because they could then destroy the entire world, that’s the general idea for this drama. 

 

 

 

 

Overall Thoughts

Sadly, this was not by any means a good drama. Zhang Bin Bin and Xu Lu separately made a great cast and the money poured into making a beautiful drama on screen could not save it from poor writing and uninteresting villains. This I think was a pretty widespread consensus because this fantasy drama only breached 8000 in iQiYi’s popularity index, well below what a fantasy drama of this caliber should have expected.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay TOO much attention while watching this drama and had it on 2x speed because it was just a boring and also infuriating watch.  I’m just sad there was so much wasted potential. You will be in awe of the production because it is a feast for the eyes but the story was too boring to make me want to care. There were plenty of interesting magical items introduced to this drama but the items did not feel impactful, as with many other aspects of this drama.

Why did I not like this drama?

Female lead that had few redeeming qualities: I like Xu Lu even though I haven’t seen her in anything else yet outside of Empresses in the Palace. She is undeniably beautiful in this drama. But man, the character Liu Shao constantly had Lu Li, then Luo Ge, and He Na come save her because she would end up getting punished or walking into traps for the ENTIRE drama. I personally do not know how these men have any powers or health left because they were saving her non-stop. Her caring and kind personality did not make her interesting enough for me to care that much about it because often times it was her bleeding heart that led to her pain.

Villains that refused to be killed off: Bai Feng and A Fu Jun went round and round in the drama doing bad things, being captured and escaping, then doing bad things again. It just got boring after a while, or you just think, can we please make the main characters a little smarter? Bai Feng in particular was unimaginative. Her motivations stemmed largely from jealousy. A Fu Jun had some interesting reasoning for his behavior since he wanted to seek revenge for his clan and help his brother but then he turned straight up abusive to Luo Ning and we can’t condone that. Both He Na and Luo Ge infuriated me because they let these villains go too easily and caused worse problems afterwards. The more interesting villain, Ao Hen was killed off early and I wish she had stayed longer.

Poorly written relationships: Liu Shao cried and whined for many many episodes when Lu Li died and was revived as Luo Ge who forgot who she was. She couldn’t believe her lover was gone and kept pestering him about whether or not he remembered her. She got really annoying afterwards. However, her actions don’t compare to the abusive relationship A Fu Jun had with Luo Ning. He straight up said “I will not allow you to leave me” when she realized he had tricked him. Um. EXCUSE ME??? He then went and kidnapped her. Much of this drama was rather snooze worthy but A Fu Jun actively made me angry for how many bad things he did but then was either forgiven or not caught. 

Why should you watch this drama?

  • Impressive CGI
  • Beautiful costumes
  • Wonderful settings and production design
  • An all right original soundtrack
  • Handsome looking cast

 

This is a breathtaking drama to watch if you want to enjoy a beautiful sight on screen.

I feel bad for how much I’m bashing this drama but again, it had the makings of a good drama but the story was just so poor it made me angry. 

 

Did any of you like this drama?

 

Karen

 

The Long River (2022) 天下长河

Summary:  After experiencing torrential downpours that resulted in disastrous flooding, Emperor Kang Xi ft Luo Jin in the 15th year of his reign (roughly 1677) decides that controlling the Yellow River would be a paramount project during his rule. He enlists the aid of Jin Fu 靳辅 ft Huang Zhi Zhong and Chen Huang 陈潢 ft Yin Fang on this monumental task. 

 

 

Total Episode Count: 40

Initial Airing Date: Nov 11, 2022

Platform: Mango TV

 

Rating: 8/10

A departure from the palace dramas focused on romance and the imperial harem, The Long River is a strictly history and policy driven drama. It has done well from a viewership perspective and has gained an 8.2 rating on douban which speaks to the high quality production value of this drama and top notch acting by both seasoned and relatively unknown actors/actresses. It is evident from the get go that painstaking work was done to create a realistic drama.

 

While there are certainly creative licenses taken to drive the story along, this is a drama that will push most watchers down a wiki/baidu rabbit hole as most all characters in the drama are actual individuals in history.  Set during the reign of Emperor Kang Xi, we follow not only the men tasked by Kang Xi to 治河 or regulate the monstrous Yellow River, but we also follow the Emperor and his court ministers as they go through important periods of Kang Xi’s reign. The most notable events include quelling the revolt of the three feudatories, and regaining Taiwan.  There are court factions, foreign adversaries, corruption, and of course, treasury funds to contend with.

This drama is a welcome change from the perhaps saturated period romance dramas we’ve seen of late. It’s all work and very little romance here in The Long River. The most important woman in the drama is actually the Empress Dowager Xiao Zhuang or Kang Xi’s grandmother whom Kang Xi goes to often for advice. The primary focus of this drama is the work, passion and vision needed to get a monumental goal done but also the obstacles that can deter even the brightest and hardworking minds, namely power and greed. For me, this is not only an interesting drama from a historical perspective, but it also shows the fallibility of individual human beings. This drama highlights the theme that it can take just one or two individuals to create ever lasting change, but also that it takes one or two individuals to make it all come crashing down.  Oh and the benefits and detriments to having an authoritarian ruler.  A lot of economic and government policy lessons could be taken away from watching this drama. 

It’s also appreciated that we focused now more on Kang Xi’s court and his political deeds rather than the chaos of his sons which was the subject of several prior dramas. The latter is so 2011.

I can see where viewers may not be intrigued by this drama. The subject matter can be heavy (lots of death by flooding), the political jargon can make some of the content confusing/dry/dense, and there really isn’t a beautiful/handsome cast on screen. I, however, still found this to be a very powerful drama.

I don’t know if there will be english subtitles for this drama unfortunately. It is available on Youtube in the US and on Mango TV.

-Karen

 

 

Main Characters

 

Emperor Kang Xi 康熙 – Luo Jin 罗晋


The longest reigning monarch in Chinese history, the drama opens with 23 year old Kang Xi full of energy and ideas as he tries to grapple with establishing the Qing dynasty’s foothold in the mainland while also creating peace and prosperity across the land.

Chen Huang 陈潢 – Yin Fang 尹昉


Young failed imperial exam hopeful, Chen Huang has vast knowledge of weather patterns and is passionate about river regulation. After chance encounters with Jin Fu and the Emperor, he dedicates his life to helping establish long lasting regulation of the rivers in China.

Jin Fu 靳辅 – Huang Zhi Zhong 黄志忠


Han governor official that manages the river systems. He is passionate about river regulation and a kind and caring official to the people. Contrary to most other officials, he remained uncorrupt in his pursuit to affect actual change. With the backing of the Emperor, he roles up his sleeves with his friend Chen Huang to create a sustainable and well regulated river system.

Empress Dowager Xiao Zhuang 孝庄太皇太后 – Xi Mei Juan 奚美娟


The formidable grandmother to Kang Xi and subject to many dramas/books in her own right, Empress Dowager Xiao Zhuang guides the Emperor with a firm but kind grip.

Suo E Tu 索尔图 – Liang Guan Hua 梁冠华


A trusted minster to the Emperor, this gregarious fellow is well connected at court. He spends his time managing the Emperor and fighting against his rival, Ming Zhu.

Ming Zhu 明珠 – Gong Lei 公磊


Another powerful court minister, Ming Zhu is similarly well connected in Kang Xi’s court and was integral in supporting him in many of his political endeavors but, like many others, ran afoul of the Emperor later in life.

 

 

There have been many dramas and books about Kang Xi’s life and many dramas where the Emperor is bothered by flood waters but this is the only drama out there where river regulation is THE main character. The drama is slow to start but really picks up in the 6-7 episodes. 

Why you should watch the drama:

  • Historical focus: If you’re into Chinese history, I highly recommend watching this show. This drama is a fantastic portrayal of Kang Xi era history from the characters, the events, the clothes, all of it. I spent hours on Baidu as I was watching this show to try to read up on what was portrayed on screen and I’m glad I got to meet different individuals of Chinese history that are not as prominent as the Emperor and his court.  The in depth discussion on river regulation and the new technology and ideas Chen Huang and Jin Fu enacted show just how much care the drama put into understanding the subject matter. But not only that, the drama tied in many pursuits Kang Xi took during his reign that relied on a working river system so you do learn of his many accomplishments. My key takeaway here was that wow, Kang Xi was an extremely busy and capable man during his reign. He must have been a master of time management to have been able to do all of this during his lifetime. And something trivial is that I really appreciated the longer hair the men had after working out in the field. The rugged dirty look really showed that trying to tame the Yellow river is a monumental task!

  • Character depth: The large cast of characters on screen felt exceptionally alive and nuanced. The Emperor exhibits his boyish excitement, the pressure on his shoulders as ruler and his suspicion that almost leads to disaster. His court ministers Suo E Tu and Ming Zhu are both impactful but also greedy and often times hilarious. Jin Fu is exceedingly capable yet rigid and a workaholic that neglects his family.  Chen Huang is your passionate but untamed individual while his friend Gao Shi Qi 高士奇 has a wicked sense of political acumen. Meanwhile, the third of their trio, Xu Qian Xue 徐乾学 falls into the trappings of court life.
  • While the viewer may not agree with each person’s actions on screen, the drama is a character study on what it takes to create change but also the pitfalls that prevent great things from happening. At its core, these events happen because of individual human beings. You see how two people, Jin Fu and Chen Huang, led they way for river regulation but that had to be supported by the Emperor and several others. Subsequently then those great plans can come crashing down due to the Emperor withdrawing his trust as well. I walked away from this drama both impressed with how much these people accomplished while also lamenting what more could have been done if humans weren’t such flawed creatures.

 

 

  • Phenomenal acting from a great cast: Much of the character depth described above could not be achieved without the superb acting of the cast. Each actor or actress brought about their own understanding and nuance to the screen and it was highly enjoyable to watch. Luo Jin aka Kang Xi/the Emperor is perhaps the most handsome and well known of the cast but he holds his own as Kang Xi. He’s experienced some criticism since other portrayals of Kang Xi are more iconic but I thought he did a fine job.  Huang Zhi Zhong as Jin Fu is as powerful as ever on screen. He and Yin Fang aka Chen Huang did not hesitate to get dirty for the role which must have been challenging to film but the realistic result is much appreciated.  The rest of the cast were also all delights to watch. Plus, no voice dubs so each person used their own voice. That impressed me especially considering the long monologues of river regulation jargon that Jin Fu and Chen Huang had to recite, for example.  And while Empress Dowager Xiao Zhuang did not have too much time on screen, she was captivating in each scene she had. 

 

Some hesitations for this show:

  • Heavy and involved subject matter: Sometimes you’re just in the mood to watch something light and beautiful with perfect endings. This is not it.  While there are some laugh out loud moments, the Long River is not going to be the easiest watch. The emphasis on river regulation as well as the nuanced characters mean there’s lots of death, despair and anguish involved on screen. The show is not gruesome but can be triggering and infuriating at moments. 
  • Furthermore, because this drama is so history heavy it’s going to be challenging to get through a lot of the titles, names, locations etc.  While the focused manner of the show helps with keeping the constant flow of information tight, it can still be overwhelming even with subtitles. 

 

  • Little emphasis on romance: There is literally no female lead in this drama. If there is, it’s the Empress Dowager Xiao Zhuang. Instead, this drama is very clear that this is a male dominated show focused on it’s key storylines. It’s all work and little play for this drama so if you’re hoping to see a romantic storyline that will tug at your heartstrings, it’s best to look elsewhere. I honestly was slightly surprised by the tight focus of this show but it worked for me!

 

             

Let me know what you think of this drama!

 

Karen

 

Dr. Tang (2022) 关于唐医生的一切

Summary: Tang Jia Yu (唐佳瑜) is a very talented cardiothoracic surgeon who suddenly returns to China after spending years abroad. She is appointed as the director of Cardiology at the An He Hospital where she builds her own critical surgery team. She quickly wins over her team with her experience, skill, and grit. As she settles into her new role, she also begins building relationships with her fellow co-workers. However, a reminder from her past comes back to haunt her. She must find her way through professional and personal struggles as she must navigate the best paths for her patients and her heart.

 

 

Total Episode Count: 36

Initial Airing Date: June 25, 2022

Platform: CCTV8, iQiYi

 

Final Rating: 8/10

I decided to go down a Qin Lan (秦岚) rabbit hole since we’re covering The Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略) for our main podcast. I saw previews and some fan videos of this drama during the summer with Qin Lan 秦岚 and Gao Lu 高露 (of famous Mistress Lin 林小娘 from The Story of Ming Lan 知否知否应是绿肥红瘦) so I thought, hey why not check it out!

I personally really enjoyed it. It was a down to earth drama that I thought did a great job telling individual stories, fleshing out characters, and developing our titular character of Tang Jia Yu 唐佳瑜. The plot moves quickly as Tang Jia Yu and her team diagnose and resolve over 20 cases over the course of this drama. Most of the show was focused on Tang Jia Yu and her relationships with her team and patients. The subplots were neatly connected back to the overall storyline.

This drama doesn’t skirt from the ethical questions that doctors must face when having to choose between the life of their patient and what is medically available, and I thought that really hit home with one of Tang Jia Yu’s patients. The drama also presents a pretty feminist lens as it gives the viewers different choices that different women take. The men, surprisingly, actually reflect on their choices and their goals.
I think 秦岚 really shone here by portraying the hardships of being a doctor, the struggles in her own personal life, and the resentment she feels towards her own family. But in general, I thought the acting from the cast was very comfortable, relaxed, and authentic.

I don’t watch that many medical dramas, so I don’t have much to compare. I’m also not a doctor so I don’t know how accurate any of the cases or the medical procedures are, but nothing really took me out of the experience, so as the casual viewer, it hit its mark.

 

Tang Jia Yu 唐佳瑜 – Qin Lan秦岚


The director of Cardiology at An He Ji Sheng Hospital. She at first seems to be cold-hearted and arrogant, but she’s really a kind-hearted and caring doctor who oftentimes builds personal relationships with her patients. Her patients are her top priority, often to the detriment of her personal life. She escapes back to China to flee from her personal life, but the same troubles come to find her. She finally agrees to support the development of artificial hearts once she sees the future benefits that it could have for her patients.

Ye Yi Ming 叶弈明 – Wei Da Xun 魏大勋


An anesthesiologist at An He Ji Sheng Hospital, he is a very caring and considerate guy. Hailing from a family of doctors, he chose anesthesiology instead of following in his father’s footsteps in surgery. He partners with Tang Jia Yu in several of her operations, and to their surprise, find that they make a great team. The two become closer but Tang Jia Yu needs to fight through her own demons before accepting him.

Liu Feng 刘沣 – Huang Jue 黄觉


Deputy dean of An He Ji Sheng Hospital and a Pulmonology surgeon, he is gunning for the role of Dean and was the one who invited Tang Jia Yu to take up the director position. The two dated some years back and he has always admired her skill and talent. He continues to be one of Tang Jia Yu’s biggest supporters especially in the development of artificial hearts. However, he is experiencing his own marital troubles that has him reassess his own career goals.

Ou Yang Zhen Yu 欧阳真予– Gao Lu 高露


The Medical Director at An He Ji Sheng Hospital and organ transplant coordinator. She is direct, meticulous, and unflinching. Because of her personality, she doesn’t have many friends but is viewed as a great employee. When Tang Jia Yu first arrives at the hospital, Ou Yang Zhen Yu wasn’t very pleased with this new doctor. However, after getting to know each other, they become each other’s best friend as they navigate their journeys at the hospital

 

 

Plot Overview:

Tang Jia Yu (唐佳瑜) is a very talented cardiothoracic surgeon who suddenly returns to China after spending years abroad by invitation of Liu Feng, the current deputy dean of the An He Ji Sheng Hospital, to lead the cardiology department. She quickly forms her own critical illness team. Faced with swirling rumors between herself and Liu Feng because they used to date, she nonetheless wins over her team and the rest of the hospital with her experience, abilities, and perseverance.

As she settles into her new role, Tang Jia Yu (唐佳瑜) finds a great operating partner in the form Ye Yi Ming, a rising star in the anesthesiology department. Tang Jia Yu (唐佳瑜) moves into the unit next door to Ye Yi Ming due to its proximity to the hospital and the two begin to form a closer bond. Ye Yi Ming was warned by Liu Feng that dating Tang Jia Yu will have its own difficulties, but he nevertheless begins to fall for her.

As the new department lead, Tang Jia Yu (唐佳瑜) must also adhere to proper medical practices and procedures. These are overseen by the meticulous and distant Ou Yang Zhen Yu. The two women spar at first but they develop a begrudging respect for one another. The two quickly become friends after Ou Yang Zhen Yu comes to Yang Jia Yu for relationship advice.

 

The hospital believes that the R&D of artificial hearts will bring extra revenue to the hospital and hope that Tang Jia Yu will lead the research. However, she’s hesitant on this project as she believes she doesn’t have the time and energy to make it successful.

With each successful surgery, her team continues to learn from her, but individual team members each face their own personal pressures and must decide whether to continue a career in medicine.

The sudden return of Tang Jia Yu’s husband surprises everyone at the hospital, including Tang Jia Yu. He cheated on her with one of his students but wants to rekindle the relationship. She agrees to give him a chance. Ye Yi Ming is heartbroken at this news. However, Tang Jia Yu’s relationship woes are only compounded when her husband’s former fling also arrives to continue the affair. When the woman is diagnosed with a rare heart condition, Tang Jia Yu has no choice but to save her. After the surgery, Tang Jia Yu finally files for divorce from her husband.

Over the course of the drama, Tang Jia Yu is faced with constant challenges. Some difficult cases include what she must do when one of her friends falls into a coma while waiting for a new heart. Her stepsister has a rare heart condition, and she must decide whether to proceed with a surgery while pregnant.

Tang Jia Yu finally agrees to support the R&D for acritical hearts, but they collaborate with the engineer to agree on a proposal and obtain funding.

As Tang Jia Yu finds peace with her own career and family, she must finally choose the relationship that she wants to have with Ye Yi Ming.

 

Overall thoughts:

I binged watched this show in the summer and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it.

To me at least, it wasn’t really a drama that was really a romance drama cloaked under a medical drama, but the opposite. Tang Jia Yu’s team had to solve medical cases and we saw the aftermath of how those cases impacted each of the characters. The focus was on the patients and the cases. The subplots and romances grew organically out of those cases.

I particularly enjoyed the range in cases that Tang Ji Yu and the rest her team had to face. I won’t spoil too much of them here, but many also involved ethical and financial questions. For example, how should a patient decide whether to move forward with a surgery if it will cost $40K but they don’t have the money? What if the patient does have the means to pay but that $40K will only buy a few more days of survival in hopes of finding another donor? What is the risk a patient is willing to take for not fully vetted treatment?

These are questions and cases that the characters in the drama need to choose. I liked that many of the answers were intentionally gray because those are tough choices!

In general, the whole drama just feels alive. The show doesn’t hesitate to show how tough life is for a doctor. Tang Jia Yu is constantly exhausted. She doesn’t cook. She looks frazzled and when she does have days off, all she wants to do is sleep. Hey, you know what, I totally feel her! I’m not a doctor but when work is really tough, that’s all I want to do as well. But when she is at work, she’s at the top of her game. She’s a badass surgeon who is also a tough but fair boss. That’s so refreshing because oftentimes, we just see female characters in Chinese dramas wearing heels and a full face of makeup performing the most ridiculous tasks that don’t fit their occupation at all.

I literally breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that all of the female doctors were wearing sneakers, had minimal makeup, and just put their hair up in a ponytail when not in the operating room. Based on what I know from my doctor friends, no one has time to get dolled up.

Which brings me to my next point. In the drama, each person has her or his own life and we only get a glimpse of it outside of the hospital. Which is good, because otherwise, it would be a different type of show. People are ambitious and behave as you would expect in the workplace. There isn’t really a “bad” person in the drama. The one “bad” character just has his own agenda, but he doesn’t try to sabotage a patient for the sake of a promotion.

We also find out more about the different characters based on their interactions with patients and hospital staff. Ou Yang Zhen Yu is an avid romance reader. There’s an attendant who is struggling to pay the bills because well, they aren’t paid that much. Another doctor is mourning the death of his fiancée. The Deputy Dean of the Hospital, Liu Feng, is shocked to hear that his wife is depressed but tries to make amends. Each subplot moves forward without bickering and cattiness.

The only person who is a bit of a wet noodle is unfortunately our male lead Ye Yi Ming叶弈明. He’s a nice guy or in Chinese a 暖男 (Warm Guy) that’s there to support Tang Jia Yu  and that’s about it. He’s just nice. Even his sister in the show is more interesting than him. That being said, that’s basically Wei Da Xun’s 魏大勋 M.O. He’s just the nice guy so this character fits the bill.

In general, the acting from the cast was great. As I mentioned, it was comfortable. The interactions between the characters didn’t feel forced and I thought they all did admirably in the surgery scenes.

The cast is filled out with many familiar faces including the aforementioned Gao Lu. The actress for Ming Yu in The Story of Ming Lan also makes an appearance. There’s tons of cameos from other actors and actresses so please do try to see who you recognize in the drama.

I liked that at the end of each episode where this is a case, the drama added doctors or had the cast provide more details about the medical illness or condition that was being treated. Again, I’m not a doctor but it did feel like the drama did its homework with regards to the individual cases.

 

I’ll take some points off due to the prolonged will they / won’t they relationship between Tang Jia Yu and Ye Yi Ming. That whole plotline went for way to long at the end. I totally didn’t understand why Tang Jia Yu just left him hanging for so long.

I also think that maybe the drama was a little too rosy? As in each person was ultimately a nice person or had grand gestures. Perhaps because this is a medical drama and the show wanted to bring out the best in people so that’s why they did it, but there was basically no truly selfish person in the show. Yes, it’s supposed to be a lighthearted drama but I thought it went a little overboard at some points. For example, a patient says that she has no money and another character basically says, don’t worry about it. I’ll pay for your tens of thousands of dollars operation. Uh – I don’t think that’s how it work? If it is, who does that and where can I sign up?

All in all, this was a very comforting watch. It’s nowhere near as dramatic as Grey’s Anatomy but it does tug at your heartstrings at certain points. I was rooting for all of our characters by the end of the drama and I hope you do too.

Let me know what you think!

 

Cathy