Love Like The Galaxy (2022) 星汉灿烂
Summary: Cheng Shao Shang (ft Zhao Lu Si 赵露思), daughter of brave generals, was left at home to be raised (neglected) by her grandmother and aunt while her parents fought on the battlefield. The result is that despite Shao Shang’s natural intelligence, she was not raised as a “proper” young girl – one who can read and write or knows proper etiquette. Ling Bu Yi ft Wu Lei 吴磊, is a hardened young general raised in the Imperial Family but bears a terrible burden. The two paths cross multiple times and a romance emerges. Based on a book of the same name and by the same author as The Story of Ming Lan
The drama is split into two parts. Part 1 is 星汉灿烂 Xing Han Can Lan (27 episodes) and Part 2 月升沧海 Yue Sheng Cang Hai (29 episodes).
Initial Airing Date: July 2022
This is a SPOILER FREE review
Initial Rating: 6.7/10
Initial thoughts [after 30 episodes]: The drama is… just fine. I binged the first 18 episodes over a weekend which tells me it’s at least palatable. The older cast is more enjoyable to watch than the younger ones particularly those outside of the main pair of Zhao Lu Si and Wu Lei. Perhaps my view is colored by the more muted tones and grayer skies of the production after enjoying the brighter hues in A Dream of Splendor. Zhao Lu Si is fine in her role as Cheng Shao Shang but it seems like she plays similar characters in other dramas. Wu Lei as the handsome general is far more intriguing though his screen time in the first half of the drama was rather limited. There are some genuinely funny moments in the drama yet also a number of unreasonable scenes which I did not know needed to be there. I do think part 2 of the drama is picking up to be more intriguing than part 1.
Overall thoughts [Full Drama]: Though the world building of this drama is top notch and you can tell the production value is high, I actually found that the drama was perhaps 10 episodes too long. I struggled to get through the end of the drama and lost my eagerness to “chase” it. The drama tries to stuff too many genres into the entire show and also force too many “sweet” moments between Shao Shang and Ling Bu Yi. Wu Lei’s Ling Bu Yi has the more interesting backstory and the older generation of actors (parent age and above) captivated me more than the younger ones. I am probably on the lower end of the spectrum here with my rating as Dou Ban currently gives the drama a 7.5.
Story: Set in a fictional world that is heavily influenced by the Han dynasty, the young Cheng Shao Shang meets her birth parents who are both generals in the army after being off to war for her entire life. Shao Shang, despite being naturally intelligent, was neglected by her grandmother and aunt in her education. This results in Shao Shang being rather “wild” and interested in crafting various contraptions. Upon the return of her mother and father as well as her two older brothers, she finally has a family again but her mother cannot accept that her daughter is not what she envisioned her daughter would be. Clashes arise between mother and daughter while Shao Shang is also bullied by ladies in the capital for not being a proper lady. Meanwhile, Shao Shang crosses paths with three men. 1) Ling Bu Yi, the young and accomplished general raised by the Emperor and Empress. 2) Lou Yao, the young son of an unfavored branch of the powerful Lou family. And 3) Yuan Shan Jian, the handsome and extremely intelligent scholar turned court minister. Shao Shang’s bravery and unwavering tenacity to stand up for herself attracts these men and help her become more than an educated woman of the Cheng family.
What I liked:
No Drama Between the Empress and the Consort
The relationship between the Empress and Consort Yue is one of the sweetest palace relationships I’ve ever seen. The relationship between these two women and the emperor, Wen Di, is based on the true story of Emperor Guang Wu of Han or Liu Xiu 刘秀 and his original wife, Yin Li Hua or 阴丽华 and the subsequent woman he married as his Empress, Empress Guo or 郭圣通. In the drama, Consort Yue was originally married to Wen Di but had to be demoted to role of Consort in order for Wen Di to marry Empress Xuan due to her family’s military backing. In any other palace drama, as well as the drama that depicts this relationship called Xiu Li Jiang Shan (秀丽江山), the Empress is overbearing and evil.
But in this drama, Empress Xuan is kind hearted, accepting, and unjealous. She treats Consort Yue with respect and understands that she’s the third party to Consort Yue’s relationship with Wen Di. Empress Xuan didn’t want to marry the Emperor but her uncle forced this marriage so she had to comply. Consort Yue also does not blame or disrespect Empress Xuan in any way. On the contrary, she views Empress Xuan as her older sister. The two women respect each other and knows each other’s place in the palace. While they don’t actively interact with each other, there is no animosity. That is honestly just so sweet and heartwarming. The Emperor, to his credit, does not mistreat the Empress despite loving Consort Yue. The respect and care expected between a husband and wife is afforded to Empress Xuan. The Emperor also does not have any other women in his palace, which again, is rare.
My favorite character in the entire drama has to be Wen Di or Emperor Wen. Played by Bao Jian Feng 保剑锋, I’ve watched him in dramas almost my entire life so I have a soft spot for him. He also just finished his turn as Emperor in A Dream of Splendor right before this drama aired. In this drama he is so hilarious in his double standard for his adoptive son Ling Bu Yi vs anyone else. Other youths causing havoc due to love interests? They have to be severely punished! Oh, Ling Bu Yi was out with a girl? Oooo that’s not a problem at all. Let me find out everything about her and help match them together! He is literally all of us watching the gossip or your favorite couples getting together. And then when he’s trying to share his thoughts with the Empress or Consort Yue, both of them push him out for being too annoying. Hahahaha. He is fair and kind, as I mentioned earlier, to the women in his life, and cares deeply for the loyal brothers that helped push him to the throne.
What I didn’t like:
Too many genres;
My primary gripe with the drama is that it tried to be too many things at once and stuff too many characters into the drama which led to a final result that falls flat I wish it stuck to one or two genres and did them well or else gave similar screen time to each genre. Part 1 is primarily about the family feuds for Shao Shang, particularly between her own mother, and also with other ladies in the capital after Shao Shang is brought out to society. After 20 episodes, then it shifts gears into a palace drama for a couple of episodes, and then almost a detective drama where Shao Shang has to help solve a number of plots, and then shifts into a political drama in the later 30+ episodes. It also turned from being a rather light hearted drama to one of immense pain and despair. Lots of tears were shed in the last 10 episodes of the drama. The pacing was just not there for me. It also made me struggle to care that much about the relationship building scenes between Shao Shang and Ling Bu Yi. Often times those scenes were placed to add “cuteness” to their relationship but hampered down the pace of the drama. In my view, those scenes were added just so people can see them as a cute couple. Yet it was often times very forced and not too natural.
Additionally, from what I described, the scale of the drama went from being very micro to then impacting the fate of the entire empire. I don’t think this would have been a problem if the pacing of the drama was better. The drama spent way too much time on Shao Shang’s struggles and growth period at home that made the challenges later on in the palace a little jarring. Though the drama tries to bring everything back at the end, I almost didn’t care. I really do think the drama should have only been 40 episodes long and cut out some of the fat.
Too many characters
Because the drama moves through so many different genres, there are also many characters introduced in it. This meant that some of the antagonists didn’t really have much impact. I can’t exactly put my finger on it since in other dramas we’ve had many characters survive for only a few episodes but they had more “oomph” to it. In this drama, Ling Bu Yi, the main male lead, had a number of women be infatuated with them and would make life difficult for Shao Shang to which I’m like, who are you again? Why are you back in this drama? Many times it’s just as a plot device to further along an interaction between Shao Shang and Ling Bu Yi and then once done, that character is discarded and only to resurface when needed/convenient for story purposes again. Often times that resurfacing doesn’t entirely make sense. (Looking at Madame Luo).
The end conflict is similar. It takes X many years for some people to resurface again. But for what? The motivations are flimsy and almost too easy or coincidental.
Other observations: Is it just me or did this entire drama film when it was raining. In so many scenes, the floors are sopping wet which results in many of the women’s dresses being coated in dark water or dirt. Not that THAT’s an issue but the overall color palette of the drama is so much darker than I prefer it to be. I guess that’s an intentional choice because of the darker themes later on in the drama. That’s just something I noticed.
Let me know what you think!