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Review: “The Confidant” (By Miriamfanz)

By on December 19, 2012

Review: “The Confidant” (By Miriamfanz) thumbnail

The Confidant <大太監>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2012

Producer: Marco Law
Genre: Historical Drama
Episodes: 33

Rating:

Cast

Wayne Lai as Li Lianying
Michelle Yim as Empress Dowager Cixi
Maggie Siu as Empress Dowager Ci’an
Oscar Leung/Pako Au as Tongzhi Emperor
KK Cheung as Prince Gong
Raymond Wong as Yiu Sheung-hei
Power Chan as Pang Sam Shun
Raymond Cho as An Dehai
Edwin Siu as Ling Tim Sau
Nancy Wu as Sing Yung
Aimee Chan as Princess Wo-shek

WARNING! Before proceeding, please check your history books at the door. Thank you. Love, TVB.

(There should really be some kind of disclaimer like that before airing any TVB “historical” dramas.)

Plot

Throw away your history books and join TVB on this wonderful behind-the-scenes adventure on how Empress Dowager Cixi and Li Lianying come to rule over China. As a bonus, we add in three(!) amazing love stories. Rest assured there will be no steamy sex scenes that will corrupt the minds of our innocent young children.

Review

First, the scenery was beautiful. Everything looks so authentic. The cast went to Hengdian to film in the replica Forbidden City, which is scores better than the TVB computer-graphic generated palace (see The Life and Times of a Sentinel). The only question: did they really hold meetings in such a small room? The court officials look so cramped in that tiny room. Some of them even had to stand outside.

In terms of plot, ignoring all historical facts, how is this drama as a fictional piece of work? The Confidant is different from other palace dramas because it focuses on the life of being a eunuch, rather than political struggles or concubines fighting for the emperor’s affections. The beginning offers a glimpse of how life was for a lowly, powerless eunuch. Some have higher aspirations, such as Edwin Siu, while others are content with getting through the day peacefully, like Wayne Lai.

The Confidant Raymond Wong aimee ChanThe series then turns its focus on the love stories of the eunuchs and that’s when it begins to get draggy. Especially Raymond Wong and Aimee’s love story, where there were endless scenes of them being love-sick. Remember in No Regrets when Fala Chen’s death was dragged on forever? Same thing here with Aimee.

Wayne and Nancy’s story was also tedious because he can’t make up his mind on being with her.

I find Raymond Cho’s love story was acceptable in terms of time spent on it and its importance in moving the story along. As for the ending, the final episodes were a failed attempt at drama. No one would realistically believe Wayne turned against Cixi. That Maggie Siu and Natalie Tong would believe him shows that either they are very stupid or very desperate. Basically, in the end, Wayne returns to the palace and disposes of the bad guys in an effortless manner.

Wayne Lai certainly deserves TV King for his performance. This time, his characterization was refreshing and different from his classic roles. In the beginning, he is a cowardly, small-time eunuch and he shows this with his facial expressions and voice, where he is more passive and unsure of himself.  As he rises to the top, you can see him maturing. He is more confident and composed. Although he has a sense of righteousness, he finally realizes sometimes sacrifices must be made to do what’s right.

Michelle Yim lacks a certain presence because of her small frame. You don’t sense authority and power streaming from her because she is not towering over people, even when those people are kneeling. However, her emotional scenes are excellent, showing how the heavy burden of carrying the dynasty has taken a toll on her. For example, the scene where she was stunned after the failed coup by Tsui Wing was well done. She also has a compassionate side, which is seen when she is engaging in friendly conversation with her servants.

Maggie Siu goes from nice to evil to nice to evil again. Each time she turned evil, I don’t really understand what triggered her. All of a sudden, she decides she has been unfairly denied of her prestige and power. But she is not an ambitious person to begin with, so I’m not sure what she wants to do with the power. Nonetheless, Maggie makes a very convincing delusional woman.

The Emperor truly desires to be a good ruler, but he is frustrated by Cixi and the ministers. Oscar Leung is supposed to a teenager in this role and he is able to reflect that, such as putting on his pouty face when he’s being scolded by Cixi. He also looks great in his dragon robes.

KK Cheung’s Prince Gong didn’t have a prominent role because of the lack of emphasis on the political affairs of the day. Which is a pity, because he could have been used to create more drama. What did he ever do with the secret imperial edict that could order Cixi to be executed? Nothing.

The confidant Nancy WuNancy Wu is a great supporting actress, but she doesn’t capture much attention in this drama. Her role serves as the turning point for many character changes, such as Wayne and Power Chan. I felt her death could have been made more dramatic instead of just being killed off by a rogue Edwin Siu. Remember when Wayne said if he had to choose between a brother’s life or Nancy’s life, he would rather let Nancy die? Why not let us see what he will do if he is actually faced with that choice in the end?

Aimee Chan was a pain to watch. She was okay in those cutesy scenes fooling around with Raymond Wong, but in the serious scenes, her face was set in stone. Her eyes are wide and unblinking, and her eyebrows don’t move at all. Even ignoring her accent, the way she says her lines doesn’t convey any emotions.

Natalie Tong doesn’t have much of a role until the final episodes. I thought there might have been a mini concubine struggle between her and Cilla Kung, but Cilla disappeared into thin air. Natalie is less annoying here than bulging-eye concubine in King Maker. Selena Li, as guest star in the first five episodes, surprised me. She was especially good at showing her emotions through her eyes, whether it was the sadness of being cast aside or the anger when trying to avenge her child’s death.

I’ve never been a fan of Raymond Wong. There is something about the way he speaks that irks me. Nor do I like his character being all love-sick with the princess. The way he turns evil at the end was weird. Yes, the princess died and I would understand his impulsive rage when he wanted to set the palace on fire. But afterwards, he got obsessed with getting revenge, which is uncharacteristic of him. I was annoyed that he seemed to have forgotten that he, himself, was also responsible for the death of An Dehai. Edwin Siu was entertaining as the silly little eunuch, but when he turned evil, he was trying too hard to look villainous. His glares are not terrifying at all. When he talks, he would roll his eyes big and lift his eyebrows. And when he screams in pain, he cries like a baby.

The Confidant Raymond ChoRaymond Cho, on the other hand, perfected the villainous glare. However, he has that look on even with his wife. He seems detached for her even though he is supposedly madly in love with her. Elliot Ngok’s acting was seriously OTT. I recall one scene where he was yelling at Power Chan and his arms were flailing all over the place. Ai-ya, and how can I forget about Power Chan, who has attracted the most attention. At first, he is a bully in the palace, but he slowly grasps the concept of friendship, and in the end, he is probably the most loyal out of that group. Power Chan portrays his character in a light-hearted way that provides comedic relief. Last comment on the eunuchs: I was disappointed that Lo Chun Shun is more or less like a kelefe here because he is the best eunuch ever.

Overall, this was a great series with (mostly) great actors. The major problem is the random character changes. It’s as if time has mysteriously passed by and we see abrupt changes to people’s attitudes and mentalities.

Conclusion: One of the best this year.

The review is written by Miriamfanz, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com. Visit Miriam’s blog!

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  • Readers' Comments (21)

    1. Tony says:

      Hm… Very nice review, but keep in mind a few points that made people not vote “The Confidant” as the best series;
      -The series was too draggy during the middle, especially with the bit of Emperor TongZhi and Cixi.
      -A lot of history inaccuracies; eg how they kept on saying Cixi when the name was given to her after her death, not when she was a live!
      -And apparently Cixi’s acting was considered as stern one-emotion…
      -Some of the plot in the series was not appealing to family viewers, especially about the issue of DeiHai drinking the Thousand Drunk Drink to become a real man…

      But nevertheless, I would of liked the series more if it was more fast paced and exciting.

    2. LyNN says:

      I love Power Chan & Raymond Cho in The Confidant! I felt that they’ve captured audience attention more than Wayne Lai in this series. However, I was very disappointed with the plot to kill-off An Dehai. A very smart eunuch turned into a big fool is so unbelievable. They should have made a bigger plot which caused his death inevitable. Huh! I find Nancy Wu’s death was well written as it was indeed unbearable to watch. However, I concur with Miriam that it would have been more interesting if her death was due to a choice made by Li Lianying over his buddies. That would have peaked the series and given Wayne more performance.

    3. LyNN says:

      And oh yes, I must add. All along I have been neutral twds Raymong Wong & slightly liking him in TOT but I just can’t bear with him in TC. Very boring & meaningless! Perhaps it was Aimee who has dragged down Raymond Wong’s performance, I don’t know but oh well, their scenes are just so unbearable!

    4. Funn Lim says:

      “The only question: did they really hold meetings in such a small room? ”

      Not officially. That meeting would have been in that room with the golden chair, which I believe you did see when Guangxu became emperor at the end. However with lesser ministers the emperor will be more informal and holds meeting in his residence which is Yeung Sam Din as we see in here. Some even holds meeting in an even smaller room, between really big officials and emperor, for defence discussions and such. So it is not strange.

      However much I hate Seung Hei I have to admit Raymond Wong is a very good actor.

      • Funn Lim says:

        ” I felt her death could have been made more dramatic instead of just being killed off by a rogue Edwin Siu. ”

        I disagree. Her death was senseless as it should be but it was darn dramatic. I was shocked. One minute she was talking, chatting, next she got hit on the head and then we see a frenzied killing. Imagine, that hairpin repeatedly stabbed, I can only assume he must have done so dozens of times and there should be more blood. But it was dramatic enough.

        • Funn Lim says:

          I would say this is a awful series with awful story but with some good characters populated by mostly great performances. The story itself is rubbish.

        • Djojs says:

          I must agree with this Funn woman on this occasion .

        • sandcherry says:

          I would say this is a awful series with awful story but with some good characters populated by mostly great performances. The story itself is rubbish.
          ————————————–
          Agree with the above post. The storyline was very dull and boring for its title “The Confidant”. Li Lianying did not seem to be that powerful and prominent in the whole series until maybe the last 2 episodes.

      • cloud9 says:

        Yes at various small room

        We were shown various Cixi discussion room by our tour guide when I visited Beijing Forbidden City year 2008

        In fact the Main King Hall is not big, quite similar sizes of Chinese Temple Hall

    5. sandcherry says:

      Personally I think the best artiste in “The Confidant” was Power Chan as Pang Sam Shun. Very sadly he did not win the “Best Supporting Actor” award.

    6. Yuyu says:

      Wow great review! Very concise and to the point. Do you work for a newspaper or journal? I would definitely recruit you!

    7. Magic says:

      Nice review! Agree with many of the points you brought up. It was nice to see you mention Selena as she was only a guest star.

      One thing I liked about TC was the ending where they said history is never 100% correct (or something like that) and how historians would write bad things about them rather than the good deeds that they performed. It was similar to ‘The Times and Life of a Sentinel’ where Steven told Kangxi to tell historians not to pretend nothing had happened. Found it a smart move made by TVB. (;

      • Magic says:

        Oops, I meant: “It was similar to ‘The Times and Life of a Sentinel’ where Steven told Kangxi to tell historians to pretend nothing had happened. Found it a smart move made by TVB. (;”

    8. Woot says:

      Yes, agree with Magic about that ending bit. We should always remember that historians back then cannot possible record every single thing that happened and it’s impossible to know the truth with so many schemes taking place behind the scenes. They are just recorders, and if the people in power ask them to not take note of certain incidents, then it’s all lost. Also, who are we to know the facts were fabricated anyway?

      Side note: I dislike this layout so much. No recent comments, no list of latest topics…and my comments are no longer showing whenever I post using my phone. Frustrating. Why change??

      • Jayne says:

        Woot,
        We made only minor tweaks to the layout to streamline options. It may just take a little getting used to the new layout, but overall the navigation is similar to the past.

        The “Recent Comments” can be found by clicking on the “COMMENTS” tab in our main menu header.

        When you post comments on your phone, make sure the fields for name/email are filled out properly, otherwise your comments will not post properly.

        • CC says:

          I agree that the new format is a bit hard to read. The recent news used to be a list so you could see at least 10-15 headlines, but now there is a giant photo with each headline so you can only see the first couple. And you have to click through the photo scrolling to see other news. The articles in the Hot Topics, Latest Headlines and the photo scrolling are all different so it will be easy to miss new stuff. Thought it was better before.

        • Jayne says:

          CC,
          Our new layout is designed for our daily users in mind, so features the latest news from the current and past day. The slideshow plays by itself, so you don’t need to click on the numbers unless you want to skip through it very quickly.

          In the past, the thumbnails and text headlines replicated the same items, which made it confusing to navigate. The old format is more cluttered. The new format is more picture friendly, so easier to use for mobile users.

          Our latest headlines (10 items) are all featured in the 3rd sidebar of every article page.

          Finally, if you don’t want to miss any of our published articles, subscribing to our free news subscription (or follow our Twitter) would be the best option. You get alerts to all of our published articles. Twitter alerts are instant and the news subscription would be a daily email alert.

    9. ebbie says:

      Great review!
      I really like Power Chan & Raymond Cho in the show.
      Wayne Lai’s Li Lianying is a let down,I really dont like a “nice” Li Lianying- it’s boring!!!

    Readers are no longer able to comment on this old article.

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