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Faithful (2023) 九义人

Summary: After biding her time for seven years, Meng Wan(Ft Wu Qian), finally seizes her opportunity to set in motion a plan to avenge her best friend’s death and punish the evil owner of the weaving tower Wu Lian (ft Qiao Zhen Yu). She gathers a motley crew of nine, calling themselves 九义人 or Faithful to right past wrongs.

 

Total Episode Count: 25

Initial Airing Date: September 15, 2023

Platform: Tencent

 

Please note – English translations may not match official translations

*This review will contain mentions of sexual abuse

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Final Rating: 7/10: A compelling but also suffocating drama that is a period drama telling of the Harvey Weinstein story. The plot moves briskly in fleshing out the different characters and motivations. The drama shows the realistic barriers that women must confront in the face of a patriarchal society. The heavy subject matter might be a little intense for some viewers.

Meng Wan 孟宛

Wu Qian 吴倩

Best friend of Ling Ru Lan and also victim of Wu Lian. After biding her time for seven years, she enacts on her plan for revenge 

Ling Ru Lan 蔺如兰

Hu Yi Xuan 胡意旋

Best friend of Meng Wan and victim of Wu Lian. She decides to sue Wu Lian but is no match for his powerful influence

Wu Lian 吴廉

Qiao Zhen Yu 乔振宇

Owner of the Weaving Tower. He opens a school to teach young women how to sew but in reality is just a way for him to bed women

Liu Xin 刘薪

Li Jia Hang 李佳航

Former member of police who was thrown in jail for 7 years for helping Ling Ru Lan. 

liu san niang 柳三娘

tang jing mei 汤晶媚

A beautiful courtesan who once agreed to help Ling Ru Lan, is shocked to hear of her passing. She once again agrees to aid Meng Wan in obtaining justice 

li chun feng 李春风

bai shu 白澍

Young scholar and part time thief, he joins Meng Wan’s group. He hopes to find his betrothed who has disappeared for many years

shen mu 沈牧

zhang kang yue 张康乐

A powerful captain in the Capital city, he was once a lowly policeman who was powerless in helping Ling Ru Lan

huang jiao jiao 黄娇娇

hai lu 海陆

Owner of a competing embroidery store, she withheld information 7 years ago during Ling Ru Lan’s first suit and now vows to aid Meng Wan.

Plot Summary

The drama is told in two timelines. One in the present day and it is interspersed with flashbacks from 7 years ago. In the present day, Meng Wan (ft Wu Qian) is the new Lady of the house. With this status, she is now able to mingle with the upper class of society, gain influence, and assemble a group of people to find evidence to sue Wu Lian for the atrocities that he committed.

7 years ago, Ling Ru Lan (ft Hu Yi Xuan) and many other ladies taking lessons at the Weaving Tower run by Wu Lian were unwittingly seduced by Wu Lian. Out of all the ladies who were defiled by him, only Ling Ru Lan had the courage to gather evidence and sue Wu Lian. Unfortunately for her, he proved too powerful. Wu Lian bribed the court, bribed the lawyer, and deftly manipulated public opinion against Ling Ru Lan. Ling Ru Lan and her family were constantly harassed. Without any more recourse, Ling Ru Lan commits suicide on the day she was supposed to marry Wu Lian as a concubine.

 

Overall Thoughts

In simple terms, this is a Me Too drama where a sexual predator Wu Lian ft Qiao Zhen Yu, due to his standing in the community, actual embroidery skills, and patriarchal system is allowed to freely commit these atrocities. Even though, at the end of the day, the Wu Lian is finally apprehended, the journey in which the characters take to get there is grueling and suffocating. I binged watched the drama in a week because it is only 25 episodes but I felt like I was holding my breath the entire time I was watching. When the drama finally ended, I finally exhaled but also felt sadness with the resolution of this drama because there are still so many parallels with this drama to present day society.

I’m glad Chinese dramas are finally tackling this rather heavy issue but I can also understand why this drama didn’t perform too well in ratings. This drama isn’t your typical romance drama but a revenge drama for a dearly beloved friend. Hopefully this trend of covering these topics and addressing that this still happens today will continue.

What I liked

  • Focus on the Sisterhood: The driving force of this drama is the sisterhood between Meng Wan and Ling Ru Lan. 7 years ago, when Ling Ru Lan took up the mantle to take Wu Lian to court, Meng Wan wasn’t in a position to help, but despite their differences, the two knew that they had each other. 7 years later, Meng Wan’s sole focus is to avenge her friend’s death and seek justice against a predator. The drama isn’t bogged down with superfluous romances for the different characters. 
  • Group cast of the Faithful: The drama itself is called 九义人 or the Nine Faithful. Meng Wan gathers a motley crew of old acquaintances who willing accept the dangers of this mission to fight for justice and throw the corrupt Wu Lian into jail. The drama truly shines and breathes when the group plans activities together. Honestly, I think these side characters all outshone Meng Wan. I also liked the episodic nature of each of their introductions. As the drama progresses, the story really fleshes out with how each are able to contribute to the wider group. At the same time, we do learn more about their individual desires, regrets, and aspirations. 
  • Tackling of many topical issues: In the drama, whether it was Ling Ru Lan or Meng Wan, they all faced extraordinary obstacles against suing Wu Lian. I enjoyed how comprehensive it was and how bluntly these were all portrayed that women really got the short end of the stick. If a woman is no longer a virgin, then the woman and her entire family is shunned but nothing happens to the man. For almost every instance, I ticked off if these still happen in real life and unfortunately, the answer is yes.
  • Qiao Zhen Yu being deliciously evil: I don’t think this drama would have worked without a handsome guy such as Qiao Zhen Yu to portray the evil Wu Lian. Yes, Qiao Zhen Yu’s best years are behind him but it’s very believable that all of the young ladies and members of the community would trust him even if he was a predator. Qiao Zhen Yu portrayed the evil man so well that I had a hard time reverting back to some of his other dramas where he was the good guy.
  • No true happy ending: Even though Wu Lian is apprehended, no one truly had a happy ending. This made sense in the context of the drama in that all of the individual characters made sacrifices for what they thought was right. They all loved, fought, lost, and finally won, but in an organic way. Each character had regrets and these regrets didn’t come out of the left field. I think viewers are accustomed to having either a happy ending or else being completely up in arms for random sad endings (cough a Journey to Love). Too often characters die for the sake of a shock factor. After watching this drama, yes – I was saddened by the ending but I wasn’t upset about it.

What Could Have Been Better

  • Wu Qian’s Portrayal of Meng Wan – Wu Qian is fine as the lead but I don’t think she has the gravitas for the lead of Meng Wan. I wanted a little bit more “life” to her portrayal. This is especially noticeable in her 7 years later scenes. Yes, I know that Meng Wan’s basically dead inside and only plots for revenge, but that’s also the case for several other characters and they seem to be more “alive” than her. 
  • Reduce the focus on Wu Lian – Yes, I know that Qiao Zhen Yu, the actor for Wu Lian, is very handsome, but I could have done without his whole backstory of how he became this monster. We should have gotten a few mentions and then moved on rather than the full episodes on his backstory. Those episodes really dragged because there’s really not much to redeem about him.

Stray observations: It was so nice to see actors such as Li Jia Hang and Hai Lu back on the screen! I haven’t really seen them in dramas for the past 5 or so years so it was good to see them  

 

-Cathy

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