Destined (2023) 长风渡
Summary: Liu Yu Ru ft Song Yi is the daughter of a merchant family in the fictional Kingdom of Rong. She was bullied her entire life by her father’s concubine. She encounters Gu Jiu Si ft Bai Jing Ting, an unruly young man who does not like studying and likes partying instead. Due to a misunderstanding, they are forced to marry. Despite their different temperaments, they slowly start to grow fond of each other. This is a story about mutual love and support.
Total Episode Count: 40
Initial Airing Date: June 18, 2023
*Note – English translations may not match official translations
Initial rating [after 10 episodes] 6.8/10: A perfectly adequate and well produced romantic comedy held together by the main couple of BaiJingTing and SongYi (who became a real life couple due to this drama). It’ll scratch the itch for those looking for some romance, laughs and healthy messaging despite not being entirely original.
Final Rating: 6/10: The drama became lost in overstuffed plotlines that led to many pacing issues and resulted in an oversaturated and shallow final product. Unsurprisingly, the drama fizzled into the ending, not able to live up its strong start.
gu jiu si 顾九思
bai jing ting 白敬亭
Son of the wealthy Gu family, he shirks his studies in favor of playing games. While unruly on the outside, he has a kind and loving heart
liu yu ru 柳玉茹
song yi 宋轶
The unloved daughter of the Liu family. Her challenging upbringing forced her to be an upstanding lady in Yang Zhou. She is forced to marry Gu Jiu Si
luo zi shang 洛子商
liu xue yi 刘学义
A mysterious young man with strong ties to court and comes with deep pockets. He is eager to see the Gu family destroyed.
ye shi an 叶世安
zhang hao wei 张昊唯
A handsome and accomplished scholar. He is the object of Liu Yu Ru’s affections before she was forced to marry Gu Jiu Si.
In the city of Yang Zhou, Liu Yu Ru ft Song Yi has always suffered in the Liu family despite being the daughter of the main wife, and the oldest child of her father. Her mother is frail and his father’s concubine is cruel which forced Liu Yu Ru to become the epitome of a lady in order to survive. She originally had hopes to marry into the Ye family but due to a little argument between her and Gu Jiu Si ft Bai Jing Ting, she ends up forced into marrying him.
Gu Jiu Si hails from the wealthiest family in the city of Yang Zhou. He hates studying, loves playing games with his friends and spends lavishly. He is forced to marry Liu Yu Ru because his parents are trying to save him from having to marry a Princess and keep him from becoming embroiled in court politics. His parents’ servants overheard him say he wanted to marry Liu Yu Ru so they quickly set it up. Except, this was a joke he was playing on her because she was rude to him earlier.
Without much recourse, Liu Yu Ru accepts the marriage. Fortunately, her in-laws are very kind and they give her the opportunity to shine and be independent by running businesses the Gu family manages. Additionally, she finds that her “fake” husband, Gu Jiu Si is not as uncouth as he first appears but rather an intelligent and kind hearted man. He stands up for Liu Yu Ru when she is being bullied, something that she is extremely grateful for.
The lavish life at the Gu family does not last as troubles at court force the Gu family to flee. Overnight, Gu Jiu Si’s entire life changed and he is forced to mature quickly. Together with his wife, Liu Yu Ru, the two work to create a better life for their family and those of the Rong Kingdom.
This drama reached 10,000 on iQiYi’s popularity index 41 hours after it started airing. Quite a feat for both main leads. Bai Jing Ting, the main male lead, has had a streak of successes with iQiyi considering last year’s New Life Begins and Reset that both did extremely well. This is another strong showing for him. This drama also is gaining eyeballs because it was revealed that Song Yi and Bai Jing Ting are now dating in real life because of this drama so fans are eager to see how their romance is on screen.
My initial thoughts are that this drama is…Fine? There are plenty of laugh out moments brought to us by Bai Jing Ting for those looking for some light hearted relief. The production quality is relatively high with the beautiful costumes, hairstyles and even the warm richness of hues on screen. That is to say, this drama doesn’t look too cheap. I also quite enjoy Song Yi and Bai Jing Ting separately and together so I’m chasing this drama primarily for them.
But this drama gives me a sense of being unoriginal. We have a main male lead and main female lead that are forced to marry despite not liking each other. Then after spending a lot of time together, they start to warm up to one another and I’m assuming they fall in love. The female lead also becomes interested in managing businesses. Plus she has an understanding “fake” husband that supports her goals. I’m reminded a lot of New Life Begins with this drama, just minus a bunch of female friends for the female lead. We’ll see how the main male lead’s growth arc fits into this drama over the next couple of episodes and maybe then it’ll be more divergent than prior dramas.
Something that irked me in New Life Begins and in this drama is that the relationship of the main couple seems forced and develops solely based on circumstance, not because the couple is truly compatible. My sense is that you could swap the main female lead with any other kind, considerate, capable woman and Bai Jing Ting’s character would still fall in love with the new person because guess what, both the main male lead and main female leads are nice people. I don’t get a sense of the couple being “special” where they have the same values and world view. In contrast to the couple we saw in The Youth Memories where it made complete sense why they fell in love. In this drama, Liu Yu Ru is literally the only woman Gu Jiu Si has spoken to for more than a few moments. As such, the romance is not as impactful despite there being a decent level of on screen chemistry between the two.
I’ll chase this drama passively.
Destined started strong then fizzled. The drama finished airing on July 14th and it basically wrapped up without a splash. Though the main leads have posted goodbyes on their social media, The Legend of An Le, Fireworks of My Heart and The Longest Promise have overshadowed Destined in terms of online buzz. There have been almost no trending posts on weibo and other social media platforms to welcome the finale.
This drama actually is also airing on CCTV which is an accomplishment for any online web series but ratings have been rather weak, a double whammy for this drama that many had high expectations for.
What went wrong (Mild Spoilers ahead)
- Too many tropes and cliches: The beginning 12-13 episodes were all about the romance between Liu Yu Ru and Gu Jiu Si and the drama would have been fine if it stayed that way. But then soon after, the drama moves onto incorporate court politics, business challenges and then the battle for the throne. Throw in there a case on corruption, fixing floodwaters and also a nasty concubine of the female lead’s father, the drama basically threw every historical drama trope you could into it. The issue is that the drama started out on a small scale with the trivial matters in the home and then expanded to focus on the longevity of the kingdom. This resulted in a rather disjointed show because the connections were not seamless, in part due to pacing problems.
- Pacing issues: The various tropes and plotlines led to significant pacing issues in the second half of the show. There were time jumps and location jumps that could leave viewers lost. Many of the big conflicts occurred rather quickly and mostly through one-on-one dialogue in order to recount what happened before moving onto the next conflict. However, some smaller and more comical conflicts were given more screentime in order to maintain that air of lightheartedness in the drama. Additionally, certain character connections didn’t stick as much as it should have. Qin Wan Zhi and Zhou Ye’s relationship and Sheng Ming and Ye Yun’s relationship both didn’t get fleshed out nearly as much as they should have but were stuffed into it I’m assuming for the drama to tie more closely to the book. Let’s not even talk about the whirlwind that was the ending.
- Weak villains: While Liu Xue Yi was extremely handsome as Luo Zi Shang, Luo Zi Shang suffered from having a poor script handed to him. He was absent for much of the drama, thus diluting his menacing presence. Instead, Gu Jiu Si and Liu Yu Ru were having a grand old time building their lives in You Zhou after escaping Yang Zhou. Therefore, when Luo Zi Shang returned, it felt very contrived. His obsession with Liu Yu Ru also felt like an after thought as well. The King of Liang’s coup and attack on You Zhou was similarly unimpactful. He was whispered about in the background for a few episodes, showed up to attack You Zhou for a grand military battle scene and that was it. Onto the next villains – the Empress Dowager, the princess, old members at court. All rather forgettable.
- Not entirely believable: This is a drama where you have to suspend belief and throw out all historical knowledge in order to get through it. I won’t spoil too much here since a lot of it happens in the second half of the show but they’re eye-roll inducing. You just have to go with the flow.
What were its strengths
- Many likeable characters:
- Zhou Ye – Zhang Rui! I’m sorry I dismissed you 15 years ago in the new Pearl Princess! His portrayal of the 5th prince was panned by many and I basically didn’t give much thought about him since. But, his portrayal as the just, capable but empathetic general Zhou Ye was quite impressive! I don’t understand why he wasn’t billed as the second male lead. He had more presence and impact on the entirety of the show than either Luo Zi Shang or Ye Shi An.
- Gu Jiu Si’s mother – Jiang Rou: We are finally getting a mother-in-law that is not awful to the daughter-in-law. We should all aspire to BE the understanding, accepting and mentoring Jiang Rou to those in our lives and recognize that if she exists in real life, is a relationship green flag!
- Gu Jiu Si and Liu Yu Ru’s strong romance: The drama made Gu Jiu Si and Liu Yu Ru almost the perfect couple. Both loved and supported each other through thick and thin. I didn’t like how Liu Yu Ru was treating Gu Jiu Si at the beginning of the drama when they first got married because a woman should not have to “manage” her husband like the way Liu Yu Ru was doing. But, after the two confirmed their feelings, the relationship moved onto a much healthier track. Leaps and bounds healthier than what we’re getting in Fireworks in My Heart.
- High production value: This drama is without a doubt a beautiful one to look at on screen. The rich hues, costumes and set pieces in general were high quality. I appreciate the costly military battles and abundance of side characters that made brief apperances. So while the story dragged on, I enjoyed what I was presented with on screen.
Let me know your thoughts!