War of Faith (2024) 追风者

Summary: In 1930 Shanghai, Wei Ruo Lai ft Wang Yi Bo, joins the Central Bank as an employee under the employ of Shen Tu Nan ft Wang Yang. During his employ, he sees the corruption in the finance world. Lost, Shen Jin Zhen ft Li Qin, offers another path forward to serve people and country. 



Total Episode Count: 38

Initial Airing Date: March 21, 2024

Platform: CCTV 8, iQiYi

*Note – English translations may not match official translations


Final Rating: 7.7/10: A fast pace show that covers finance, spy craft and political idealogy. Strong acting from the main cast and fleshed out characters add significant depth to this drama.  Wang Yi Bo showed much improvement in his acting skills but Wang Yang and Li Qin truly shine in their roles. It is my favorite March drama and a worthy chase.


DISCLAIMER: This review will NOT discuss politics but keep in mind there is a heavy political bent to this drama. Additionally, this review does not reflect any affinity for one political party or another from the reviewers.  Throughout this review, the two main political parties will be identified as Party One and Party A. 

Wei Ruo Lai 魏若来

wang yi bo 王一博

Math genius that earns a job at the Central Bank under Shen Tu Nan

Shen Jin Zhen 沈近真

li qin 李沁

Sister of Shen Tu Nan, Shang Hai socialite but in reality an undercover agent of Party A

Shen Tu nan 沈图南

wang yang王阳 

Special director within the Central Bank. Member of Party One. Teacher to Wei Ruo Lai and brother to Shen Jin Zhen 

lin qiao song 林樵松

zhang tian yang 张天阳

Captain of a detective team, primarily focused on doing the bidding of Party One and eliminate members of Party A. 


Set in 1930s Shanghai, 23 year old Wei Ruo Lai is a math genius and applies for a job at the Chinese Central Bank, a bank that is affiliated with Party One. Shen Tu Nan, a special advisor for the Central Bank, sees significant potential in Wei Ruo Lai, and despite Wei Ruo Lai’s hometown means he could be affiliated with Party A, Shen Tu Nan takes Wei Ruo Lai under his wing as student and assistant. Wei Ruo Lai also meets Shen Tu Nan’s sister, Shen Jin Zhen, a beautiful young lady with an engineering background and skilled in piano. However, her true identity is an undercover member of Party A. 

Wei Ruo Lai works with Shen Tu Nan at the Central Bank to enact financial policies that would help the people of Shanghai but would undermine the profits of certain older businesses and individuals. He learns from Shen Tu Nan how to stand up for what’s right using the power of finance but is caught up in various schemes to maintain the status quo from Party One. His brother’s appearance as a member of Party A also adds complication to his role. 


Drama Market Performance

This drama could be considered a surprise hit. Yes, it headlines one of the biggest Chinese idols, Wang Yi Bo, marketing only picked up for this drama about 2 weeks before it started airing. Behind the scenes clips or sneak peaks were rather sparce so there wasn’t as much anticipation that could build. The name of the show also changed literally like 2 days before airing.  Contrast that to Joy of Life 2 where there is significant anticipation or even next door’s The Legend of Shen Li where people saw many still photos of the drama before it aired. The subject of a 1930s drama also generally does better with older audiences rather than younger ones.

This is a drama that built buzz and interest during its airing period due to better than expected acting (from Wang Yi Bo) and a fast paced, interesting plot. It is the first drama of 2024 to breach 10,000 on iQiYi’s popularity index, a milestone reached on the second to last day of airing. War of Faith started on a decent note, reaching 8500 in the first 48 hours of airing but subsequent increases were a slow climb.  

On CCTV, it breached 2%, a win for Wang Yi Bo, and peaked near 2.6% on the last 2 days of airing, . While this does not reflect the highest rating YTD, it does mean that audiences both broadly on TV and online are following this drama. The fact that the popularity index and TV viewership ratings reached a peak near the end of the drama speaks to the intensity that persisted from an overall plot perspective. 

In terms of March dramas, The Legend of Shen Li saw the biggest online buzz and attention while War of Faith was solidly second. It feels like the Legend of Shen Li expected this level of popularity, while War of Faith did not. 

The director did say he would film a War of Faith 2 if the drama breached 10,000 so we’ll see if that happens. He said he do his best to bring together the main cast.


What I enjoyed:

Understandable path on ideology: I really liked Wei Ruo Lai’s journey throughout this drama. Many similar themed dramas make the two sides extremely black and white such that it’s a given that the main character should join Party A. That’s not the case with War of Faith. Wei Ruo Lai was essentially a blank slate with no political affiliation when we meet him. The drama shows his journey in an understandable way that it makes sense why he would sway the way he does and it takes a LOT of time for him to come to his OWN conclusion. Yes, we know which side he will choose just based on who produced this drama, but I appreciated it wasn’t such an easy decision.  

Because at his core, Wei Ruo Lai is a good hearted young man.  In episode 1, he noticed that a complete stranger Shen Jin Zhen had blood on her leg, and instead of turning her in to the guards at the checkpoint, her helped her get passed them easily. He could probably guess she had something to do with why there were check points but he didn’t want to just turn in this complete stranger.

He wants to use his skills to serve his country and deeply admired Shen Tu Nan for the words that he stated when Wei Ruo Lai joined the Central Bank. They want to serve and help the people via finance. This drama is about Wei Ruo Lai seeing what is the right path from his own experiences.

Wang Yi Bo’s better than expected acting: There was so much “drama” around Wang Yi Bo as the male lead. Despite his breakout hit in The Untamed, his acting in other dramas and movies have been under scrutiny and many were planning on dismissing this role. He also suffers from having a “Wen Mang” moniker tied to him which essentially means he doesn’t know what role he’s playing and is unintelligent. However, for this drama, it’s clear he worked hard on his enunciation. I can fully hear the words he’s saying. He also managed to play the young, seemingly naive but intelligent young man quite well. Would he be able to play Shen Tu Nan? Probably not, but the character of Wei Ruo Lai wants to give off the vibe that he’s a little “out of it” in order to seem like less of a threat. Later on in the drama where there are moments of deep grief or anger, Wang Yi Bo does do a decent job of portraying those emotions. Better than I expected.

Shen Jin Zhen – A bright, shining star: One of my favorite female leads of the year. She is so multifaceted. In episode one we see her as a skilled sniper, spy and socialite. She is great at espionage, knowing how to change from a sniper to a beautiful young socialite to evade chasers in an instant. She’s held piano concerts in Berlin but also works in a weapons manufacturing plant as a engineer. She is Shen Tu Nan’s younger sister who dotes on her young niece and has a great relationship with her sister-in-law. But she is also a member of Party A and kills her targets without hesitation. 

She is detail oriented and thoughtful, using various personas and resources to help Wei Ruo Lai escape capture and danger from the likes of Lin Qiao Song. Her conversations with enemies show her resilience and unwavering bravery under pressure even when her true allegiance is under scrutiny. But what is most impressive about her, is her passion for doing what’s right. 

Despite being a socialite with money and opportunity, she decided to dedicate her life to her ideology and bring the country to a new era. She is the person to “show the light” to Wei Ruo Lai through her actions. She did not strong arm him but rather, he saw her actions and was drawn to her.  Lin Qiao Song repeatedly could no understand why a woman in a position of wealth and power such as Shen Jin Zhen would give all of that up to help peasants which speaks to his ignorance and her strength.

Li Qin is able to swap between the various personas of Shen Jin Zhen with ease. Her acting, especially in more tense moments, was superb and resulted in many tears. From comments online, I see I’m not the only one. She had a lot of backlash from even her own fans when she accepted this role because people thought she was throwing away her career to pair with Wang Yi Bo as female lead but of second billing. But she killed it with this role that is extremely impactful and memorable. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is nominated for acting awards in this role. War of Faith also reflects her 3rd drama to breach 2% as female lead (despite being second billing), a career milestone that none of the other 90 flowers have achieved yet.

Shen Tu Nan – The Best Brother One Could Have: Wang Yang probably is the most charismatic actor of the main trio. Cathy jokes with me that he should have been the main character. He brought Shen Tu Nan to life with his portrayal and we just want to root for him, even though he’s from Party One. He believes in the ideology of Party One and thinks that it will help bring China to new heights during this time of extreme turmoil. He gives Wei Ruo Lai, someone with no background, the opportunity to reach new heights in the Chinese Central bank and does everything in his power to protect Wei Ruo Lai even when Wei Ruo Lai was falsely imprisoned and accused of being part of Party A. It could have been easy for Shen Tu Nan to just let Wei Ruo Lai die of interrogation but he sees Wei Ruo Lai’s interrogation and tries to rescue him. 

He has a loving wife and daughter and shows unconditional love to his sister, Shen Jin Zhen. This character is complicated in that he ultimately wants to do good but perhaps is stuck in a spot that is outside of his control and prevents him from enacting his goals of helping the people. 

Side note: Wang Yang’s chemistry is off the charts with Wang Yi Bo. Most people online are focused on their CP or bromance which really is fantastic.  

Intelligent adversaries: This is another drama where the antagonists/bad guys are actual threats to the main characters. One of the main antagonists, Lin Qiao Song, used his judgement paired with his hunches that something might be amiss with different characters. These hunches were often well reasoned and generally led down the right path which made it much more nail biting for our main characters. Not only that, it meant that when the main characters did manage to get themselves out of a tight spot, the “wins” felt more deserved. This helped War of Faith flow from one episode to the next and why the tension was able to build all the way to the endgame. 


What Could Have Been Better:

There were side plots and stories that were a little convoluted and felt unnecessary, especially when focused on the antagonists and their plots. I was more eager for the main trio to be on screen. 

The last third of the drama also focused more on the political ideology piece which I understand why it was included just based on the subject matter and who sponsored this drama, but felt more “propaganda”-y. There’s propaganda throughout the drama but certainly more heavy handed later on. 




After watching this drama, I see the three male leads as three different archetypes. 

Wei Ruo Lai 魏若来 -> Holding on to your core beliefs and keeping a pure heart to do what is right

Wei Ruo Lai started out wanting to use his skills for good. He so admired his teacher 沈图南 when he told Wei Ruo Lai to never forget your initial heart. Wei Ruo Lai shortly saw the corruption of Party One and how the upper echelons that be did not care about twisting truths while killing innocent people in order to make more money and keep public perception. The friends and kind hearted strangers that died to help uncover different plots were painted as villains and left to either die or face the problems of Party One’s doing. Wei Ruo Lai stood up against what he felt was wrong. He saw his beliefs in the political party or ideology shatter and became disillusioned. He returned home with Shen Jin Zhen but took his time to see how there might be another path use his math and finance skills for good. He, as his teacher states, was able to give up that cushy job at the Central Bank in order to do what is right. 

Shen Tu Nan 沈图南 -> Believing what you’re doing is right, but recognizing there might be another path

The most complicated character of the group. He is a member of Party One but through his language and his initial actions, he ultimately also wants to help the country and do good. This character upended the simple black and white divide that just because you’re part of one party, you are automatically good or automatically bad. Shen Tu Nan was just as distraught as Wei Ruo Lai at not being able to do much in the face of many injustices his party committed. But he didn’t have much choice. He was already very deep in with the party. Giving in to demands once meant he was giving into demands multiple times. He said himself that he was on this ship and even if it is a sinking one, he will go down with it. Shen Tu Nan isn’t outright a “bad” person. Shen Tu Nan loves his family, Shen Jin Zhen especially, but is lost with how far his idealistic view of his party strayed vs what reality is showing him. He is one of the rarest individuals because later on in the drama, we see him slowly shifting his view. It takes a lot for someone to accept they are wrong, especially on something they fundamentally believed for a long time. Shen Tu Nan is one of those people.

Lin Qiao Song 林樵松 -> Believing your core belief is right and willing to stop at nothing to uphold those beliefs

Lin Qiao Song is such a fascinating character. He believes whole heartedly in the values that Party One espoused. He went to the famed Huang Pu Military academy where he thought he would use his skills for good. At the beginning of the drama, he DID think what he was doing was right. But he was abused and mistreated by his superiors yet he had no recourse because many of his subordinates/team/brothers would have no other career if he left. So he had to stay and take the blame for many mishaps to help those people. The more he was forced to do the dirty deeds of Party One and saw the darkness underneath, the less he could extrapolate himself from it. 

What is complicated about this person is that when he was imprisoned and heard that there were Japanese invaders, he stepped up to fight them. He volunteered to be a part of essentially a suicide squad to protect the people of Shanghai. He put aside differences against Wei Ruo Lai, even saving his life during this time because they had a common enemy. That tells audiences that he does want to protect the people and he does want to fight for what’s right. 

But he stayed the course on the wrong path and then became fanatical. His primary goal was to eliminate everyone from Party A and he will stop at nothing to get there. To me, it felt like he became more fanatical as the drama progressed when Party One started showing more signs of corruption. Perhaps he wanted to hold onto hope that by eliminating those from Party A, it could justify the terrible deeds of Party One. But he lost sight of what is important. He stopped at nothing and committed heinous acts that could kill many innocent civilians in his effort to destroy Party A. He saw everyone even in the region of Party A as the enemy and did not mind hurting them.

The actor for Lin Qiao Song, Zhang Tian Yang, posted on Weibo that Lin Qiao Song actually admired Wei Ruo Lai. From the beginning, Lin Qiao Song just wanted to serve his country. Wei Ruo Lai lived to be the person that Lin Qiao Song wanted to be.  



Let me know what you think! 

Again: I will not entertain discussion of politics. 



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