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Review: “The Life and Times of a Sentinel” (TVB 2011)

By on September 3, 2011

Review: “The Life and Times of a Sentinel” (TVB 2011) thumbnail

The Life and Times of a Sentinel <紫禁驚雷>
TVB 2011
Producer: Leung Choi Yuen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Number of episodes: 25

Rating:

Who’s In It?

Cast in no particular order:

Kenneth Ma as “Fu Tsuen” or “Prince Yu” or “Second Imperial Prince”
Steven Ma as “Nip Dor Po” or “Very Capable Bodyguard”
Power Chan as “Hong Hei” or “Emperor” or “Point-Man”
Selena Li as “Cheuk Chi Ying” or “Princess Duen Man”
Elaine Yiu as “Man Kwan” or “Imperial Noble Consort” or “Empress?”
Natalie Tong as “Kwai Lan” or “Second Princess Consort”
Ching Hor Wai as “Empress Dowager” or “Someone’s Grandmother”
And other miscellaneous characters not worthy of mention (the joke continues!)

What’s This About?

It’s the Qing Dynasty, Hong Hei is emperor and you know what that means, anti-Qing! Rest assured that’s only the mandatory side plot which turns into dust by historical compulsion. Much of the remaining story focuses on power-hungry Kenneth Ma whose supposed reign was obfuscated by Ching Hor Wai, who either had a seventh sense about evil children or was just playing favourites. Luckily for audiences, Kenneth learns about Ching’s treachery, and together with a half-baked Steven Ma, begin their (when I say their, I really mean Kenneth) plans to dethrone Power Chan and possibly give Ching her just deserts. Selena Li also shows up though I’m still wondering why…

Review Begins Here

Gone are the days where protagonists in wuxia-slash-ancient-costume series actually spend time learning their martial arts. Instead, in this fast-moving world of economics, entertainment and politics, they should now enter a drama series already well endowed, martially of course. This upsets me in a way. We’ve lost a closeness with these protagonists. They don’t seem reachable or knowable. I cannot bring myself to care for their plight anymore. Okay it’s probably artificial to expect Kenneth or Steven, both nearing the big four zero, to be schooled martially; but to me it just takes away from the fun of it all. The adventures and jokes to be had. Obviously I know this series has no use for such adventures and jokes because… actually it could have well used some of that.

Gone also are the days when you wouldn’t feel like throwing whatever you’re eating into the TV or monitor. What is with the horrible computer generated images of the Forbidden Palace? Can’t TVB just send some photographers there to take a bunch of stills for use in their series? All grandeur is lost by showing us such grotesque images. We never really feel the Imperial Palace is “Imperial” or a “Palace.” Sure we see nicely adorned rooms, but what of the long vacant corridors and the countless red pillars? And why does Power Chan keep pointing? What is he pointing at? Roaches? A speaker may point to be emphatic while trying to persuade. But when you’re King, you don’t need to persuade. You are law. Power is adequate as Emperor, but like the computer graphics, all grandeur is lost. Look and feel is something we don’t like to admit is important because it’s shallow. Sometimes though, it is mighty important.

Faces of TVB

Let’s not dwell on minor issues. Let us focus on larger problems. For instance how can Elaine Yiu hold any meaningful conversation with Natalie Tong when she’s making that “the-words-coming-out-of-my-mouth-are-all-lies” face. I know she’s trying to display jealousy and/or spite but in terms of the narrative, she’s a tad too obvious.

While we are talking obvious, we might as well talk Kenneth. He truly deserves an award for covering the most facial expressions in the least amount of scenes. So it might be an editing stuff-up but it doesn’t displace the fact he’s just too exaggerative. Being such a cold and calculating character, he really shouldn’t be wearing his emotions. There’s also a problem with his fury faces. He’s angry yes, but there lacks the fiery that installs terror.

I am also curious as why Selena, when acting as Princess trying to aid the anti-Qing bad guys, she puts on a very standoffish attitude towards Steven, who is just asking questions out of care. This should have set alarm bells in the usually “prudent” Steven that something uncanny stirs. Why is she acting all regal at one point in time, but then several scenes later she’s off in a cornering reminiscing the heart-breaking memories of being able to wander freely on the streets of wherever and chit-chatting with Steven like old buddies or pre-lovers? To top that off why are are scenes of torture all that I can remember at this point about the series? And why was Selena’s “maid,” who was anti-Qing, so young and seemingly fragile? Was it her cover or was it because TVB has no more armoury (also known as the “second-line female support staff”) to fill such shoes. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such roles would have been given to actresses of higher standing, acting standing that is. Someone seems to have just pluck a number and drew Lily Ho (何傲兒).

The Great Deception

Then there’s the narrative, which is absolutely derivative. In the finale, the scriptwriter(s) likely thought “here’s an ending no one would have guessed,” eyes sparkle, only to realize the boo boo made when Selena began asking questions of logic. That aside, much of the story is understandably driven by Kenneth and Ching. Steven curiously takes a back seat that is so far from the forefront that I’m forced to say his involvement is as petty as any “brotherhood” he supposedly had with Kenneth. Aggravating this dislocation is the fact Kenneth never really topples the Emperor in any true sense. He spends much of the series exploiting random opportunities that arise until Steven hands him the MacGuffin. He is no mastermind of his own destiny, just a mere charlatan. No deaths are caused by him of any great importance either. Events unravel with little trickle-on effects that dramatically change the tide of events. Sure Steven’s parents die, but he still returns as a bodyguard. Yes anti-Qing people lurk about inside the Forbidden Palace, but most doors are still left open. The series deceptively misleads us to believe so much happens, yet in reality little actually happens.

An allied deception is how the series always conveys an air of urgency. Steven always looks earnest while Kenneth looks like three million things plus vehemence. This great atmosphere is ruined by the end of each plot-device when you realize nothing is that unexpected. If you haven’t finished the series, then try this: keep a pen and paper handy; next time you spot a plot development, write down three ways you believe it will unfold. I’m going to bet you will, more than half the time, get it right. If you don’t, then you’re not trying hard enough! The point is, much of the series plays like a man needing to butter his bread. He grabs a knife and lunges at the butter. You might not know how he will make the incision, or which direction the butter will fall, but you know he will get his butter. What I prefer is being shown the hungry man driving a knife into the butter, only to find a walnut blocking his stride. He then resorts to using an iron, and instead of buttered bread, he eats mash potatoes or steak. The point is, I want something unfathomable. Something like Kenneth organizing the anti-Qing plot. The potential of historical fiction and ancient costume series are all lost.

If you were a little more inquisitive, or bored, you may realise a odd similarity between this series and one called, Relic of an Emissary <洪武三十二>. There’s a guy who believes he’s the rightful ruler in both. There’s also a royal bodyguard filling in as the middleman in both. Then there’s a king who is not convincing as king. A princess falls in love with the bodyguard in both. There’s even a Sentinel here, and a Emissary there. Sentinel. Emissary. Emissary. Sentinel. Do you see the similarity? If you do not, don’t worry, your talents may lie elsewhere, in more important endeavours. But for those that do, a list of other manual occupations with slick names may have crossed your mind as being the title of TVB’s next ancient series involving kings, bodyguards and princesses: Death and Turmoil of an Adjudicator? Relic of a Geomancer? How about Sentinels Versus Emissaries?

Special Mentions

A few things deserve special mention. The first is the narrator, who I believe is Chang Tse Sheng (鄭子誠). His got this hypnotising mellow voice, that borders on putting me to sleep. No, that is irrelevant. Why he deserves special mention is apart from sometimes providing nifty insight into the inner world of certain characters which we never comprehend, his narration gives the whole series an undeserved legitimacy. As if the events that have happened to far are of some critical mass. Similar to how narrators in historical documentaries make us feel feelings of pride, tears and strength. This is truly artful deception. Then there’s Lau Kong (劉江), the go-to monk for every TVB costume series. I’m willing to put down money that if the next series TVB costume series has a monk, he’s that monk. Conjectures aside, he’s a very convincing monk. His scenes with Steven provide a nice grounding for Steven’s character and interjects some nice pauses into the otherwise frantic pace of the series.

By the end of the series, you will have noticed many things have been lost. Kenneth loses his mind. Natalie loses her dignity. Elaine loses her movement. Power loses a lot of face I presume. Several babies have been lost (abortion-by-scent anyone?). Ching loses a lot of time messing around with her grandchildren. Selena loses… Some guy loses an arm. And Steven also loses his mind, as indicated by the circular gibberish he wants you to mistake as philosophy (or voodoo). This has been one of the most negative TVB endings I’ve watched in recent history. I’m surprised the sensitive public of Hong Kong did not file their usual unfounded complaints. Usually I stand by a writer’s vision, and I hate how TVB keeps changing endings, unless of course it’s some dude named Laughing Gor. For once I would have preferred they change the ending. Then again I would have preferred they change Kenneth’s character too. His sense of treachery was far too reactive for my taste. He needs to be more proactive. Kill some people that matter. As he did not, he paid the ultimate price: he’s stuck in the middle of nowhere with Natalie! 

Overall Appraisal

My mother thought the series was “Pretty good, not many boring scenes.” On reflection, I agree. I must have overlooked the sum of its parts. Apologies. It appears mother has better taste than me, who has unendingly broken down what was initially unbroken. Apologies again. I would change my review in light of this newfound perspective but that would be cheating or deception. In fact, mother should write my next review (if I get around to it), to prevent me from embarrassing myself.  No use crying over spilt milk. So if you’ve read up to here, then know this, you have gained absolutely nothing. Zero. This emptiness you now feel is exactly the same emptiness you felt at the end of The Life and Times of a Sentinel. Gotcha!

Verdict

If you’ve seen Relic of an Emissary, there’s only two and a half reasons for watching this: (i) you are Steven’s fan; (ii) you are Kenneth’s fan; or (iii) you, like me, have too much time on hand.

   

Obligatory Disclaimer: The above written content is not intended to delight, excite, pacify or be any way entertaining, and the reader acknowledges and agrees that should it be delighted, excited, pacified or feel any other emotion capable of being experienced by a reasonable reader, then the said reader shall tap his or her head twice, flip a coin nine times and switch the device they are using to read that content on and off six times.

This review was written by SDS, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com.

JayneStars Media LLC reserves all copyrights. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. By using the JayneStars website, you accept and agree to our Terms and Conditions of Use.

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  • Readers' Comments (67)

    1. exoidus says:

      I found this series to by boring most of the development was predictable until the finale . only watch it because of steven but even he couldn’t save the day.

      in the last kenneth have really starting to get his act together and im starting to like him a little, hehe

      in the end this plot could’ve alot of potential unfortunately tvb as always killed the story.

      • SDS says:

        I thought Kenneth’s expressions in the last episode as Steven started going against him in front of everyone to be priceless. Although I felt it was a bit out of place, he had the ‘I am soooooo pis*ed off right now I could rip two boars in half and eat them raw’ look.

        • lol says:

          @SDS I like Kenneth’s character more than Steven, and Kenneth is less OTT although both can make me giggle at their priceless ‘I’m a crazy villain’ and ‘I’m so righteous’ expressions lol :D

    2. mito says:

      Thanks for conforting about the ending, I really think Steven’s Very Capable Bodyguard has clearly lost his mind. By the way, I give it 3.5 stars out of 5 for the finale. Awesome wtf-ness.

    3. Jayne says:

      “The point is, much of the series plays like a man needing to butter his bread. He grabs a knife and lunges at the butter. You might not know how he will make the incision, or which direction the butter will fall, but you know he will get his butter. What I prefer is being shown the hungry man driving a knife into the butter, only to find a walnut blocking his stride. He then resorts to using an iron, and instead of buttered bread, he eats mash potatoes or steak. The point is, I want something unfathomable.”

      Haha you must have been eating breakfast at the time of writing this “buttering the bread” analogy! In terms of unfathomable plot development, perhaps “Relic of an Emissary” was slightly more sophisticated than “The Life and Times of a Sentinel?” Due to the similiarity between the two series, I did not watch the latter.

      • SDS says:

        Yea, case in point about the similarity.

        I watched this because I like Steven’s acting and I think Kenneth is capable too. i also generally like history-fiction. But this whole series was far too uninspired. And I hate how it always ‘builds up’ to nothing important. At least Relic entertained, even with its illogicality.

        • exoidus says:

          would be better if the real kangxi was killed by kenneth and steven took his place as emperor. to the outsiders steven was kangxi LOL

        • SDS says:

          It would be better if Steven was the ‘real’ Kangxi, but because his been so disillusioned he preferred Power, who was really the 4th Prince, to remain in power. And because Power did so many other terrible or regrettable things throughout the series, he takes it upon himself to be a good ruler in Steven’s place. Now there’s CONSEQUENCE I can FEEL. But no… we’re left with this minor adjunct to ‘history’.

        • Chriselle says:

          “And I hate how it always ‘builds up’ to nothing important.”

          Totally agree. It’s like they give us all this hope and “Oh, so this is the ending? Okay.”

        • exoidus says:

          LOL, i love the twist of disillusioned characters.

          like he had a split personality or something

        • lol says:

          No offense to fans, Steven and Kenneth are likeable people in person, but in this series I don’t see any notable performance from them. I feel like laughing at Kenneth’s villain expressions and Steven’s ‘I’m so righteous’ mode. I will laugh again if they made it into the fight for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor. They have better performances in other series before such as AFOS and Safe Guards. Safe Guards is my favourite Steven series and performance.

        • none says:

          “””””but in this series I don’t see any notable performance from them. I feel like laughing at Kenneth’s villain expressions and Steven’s ‘I’m so righteous’ mode. I will laugh again if they made it into the fight for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor”””””
          steven ma acting did not convIncE ANYONE
          PLAIN AND DULL, ACTUALLY I FELT THAT KENNETH MA did try hard

        • Funn Lim says:

          “steven ma acting did not convIncE ANYONE”

          1st episode convinced me. I wasn’t convinced with the rest. Steven is in a role which he is suited best.

        • lol says:

          “ACTUALLY I FELT THAT KENNETH MA did try hard”

          I felt that he did try hard, but too hard

      • sehseh says:

        Lol… I also had a good laugh reading abt the butter part. So apt for this series.

        I also watched this series because I had too much time on my hands… but personally I’d give it 1 1/2 stars only. Emissary was better than this.

        • SDS says:

          1.5 out of 5 is quite harsh :) That’s worse than ‘failing’ if 2.5 is considered the ‘pass’ mark. I’ll reserve those scores for a series that’s seriously taxing on the intellect and is to be avoided like the plague.

    4. Minami says:

      (SPOILER ALERT)

      This was quite a boring series to me but also probably because I am not a Steven or Kenneth fan. I found that Power’s acting was a little bit OTT though which I thought was surprising since he is usually a good actor. I thought that he was bringing the ‘nobility’ thing abit too far hmm just my thoughts.

      As for the ending..no words to describe! I was flabbergasted and if they thought this was a dramatic ending, I really almost wanted to hit my head against the wall when I found out Steven was apparently the heir tsk tsk tsk

      But, guess what, my mom thought it was quite an alright series though my brother always started laughing whenever Steven had one of his ‘I’m so righteous’ expressions hehe so overall…nope don’t like this series at all!

      • lol says:

        I don’t blame your brother for laughing at Steven’s ‘I’m so righteous’ expressions. In fact I’m feeling the same too because it’s the expressions that he’s been carrying through a lot of his series. He needs to get rid of this ‘Steven Ma is so righteous’ expressions because it’s getting boring.

        • Minami says:

          lol hahah yeah now in my family, we always make fun of Steven Ma’s ‘I’m so righteous’ expressions..we think he can be rather OTT…what a pity for Steven!

        • lol says:

          lol yes he can be rather OTT. Kenneth is OTT too but lesser than Steven and his character is more enjoyable. Steven’s best series to me is Safe Guards. What a pity Kevin won that year.

      • vivien says:

        what is OTT??? i always see that acronym but never know what it meant haha

    5. CY says:

      @ SDS

      I know that this is irrelevant but I just wanted to say it anyway, nice disclaimer, lol.

      I didn’t watch Relic so I have no idea if the two series are similar or not. In my POV, Sentinel was very slow and so damn predictable. The MV at the end with Steven sitting on the throne already hinted that he was some royal heir and was probably the one who should be Emperor. So no suprises there when lo behold, he is the fourth prince. The only part that caught me by suprise was Selena’s chac’s death. I didn’t really think that was necessary but then again, she might rather die than find out that they are actually half siblings.

      • SDS says:

        Yea, I probably should have added “revolted, disgusted, revered or annoyed” into the list of emotions. No idea what i was thinking…

        Personally I like Relic better, though I would have given both series the same or similar rating only because Relic has quite a few illogical points but it had a better overall story.

    6. christy says:

      I dont like the ending because i feel weird. If Steven Ma is the emperor’s son, why in the first place his grandfather(kei dou ting) ask his son(kei man ceong) to run with Steven Ma as a baby? Other than that when Kei Man Ceong met the grown up Steven Ma, he is so emotional..like a dad meets the real son..I dont feel it makes sense at all if he is the emperor’s son.

    7. Funn Lim says:

      Excuse me, “half-baked Steven Ma”?

      And all Qing stories is about dethroning the emperor since Qing is outsiders. Let’s wait until Qianlong, nothing more to say except how good he is. Kangxi was during a turbulent time. And of course such series is about someone wanting to dethrone the other thinking he has the right to do so. If not, what else to talk about? Oh yes, women vying for the emperor, or families so together they clap together and speak in rhymes and what nots. And even before I actually sat down for episode 1 I knew Kenneth would never succeed. We all know Kangxi was one of the greatest Emperor of China, so basically whatever that man’s gonna do will never ever succeed.

      Maybe there is similarity with Relic of an Emissary, or any series you can name about power struggle, but isn’t Relic of an Emissary more on the sadomasochistic guy who became king, whilst this series is the friendship between 2 but power came between them? That of a friend having to choose what is honourable which is what is right rather than pledging allegiance to a good friend? I like the angle, my only complain is all the ages are all off.

      Come on!

      And my god, all the spoilers… sigh… how to watch now? I don’t want to know!!

      • SDS says:

        Lol let me just say sorry about spoilers. There wasn’t a good way to write the way I write without any spoilers whatsoever. Its not like there were any great themes in the series I could talk about. I kept it mostly to conlcusions though, which like you say, in a series located in this period of time, isn’t overly devastating. No details are revealed though. Also the thing revealed are not entirely relevant, for me, to the central plot bar one. So the ability to enjoy the ‘schemes’ and flow of the series is not destroyed.

        When I said ‘half-baked’ i meant to Steven’s character, not him personally. I tend to name the actor/actress than the characters.

        The similaritiy with Relic is just in the themes, not the execution. I just wanted to draw peoples’ attention to that so they can compare for themselves. Also any ‘friendship’ felt between Steven-Power or Steven-Kenneth, I blieve, is more a figment of our imagination. The series in no way portrayed any great bond between the characters. At most you can say Steven was conflicted with his own duties to the Emperor and that of revenge.

        And I find it hard to believe you cannot watch the series any more. You are one of the more inquisitive and opinionated people on JayneStars. You should easily be able to ignore my tirade or would have predicted the conclusions yourself :)

    8. Eunice says:

      I just thought the series was consistently boring until the last few episodes, which was just a teeny bit better.

    9. Hanah says:

      I actually enjoyed this drama. I guess because I love costume imperial dramas.It got boring only towards the end but the last episode was good as.
      So sad :( I really wish kenneth was the king in the end as i really loved his character. So sad for Natalie I really wanted them together.
      I was very disspointe that steven and Selena were brothers and sisters and her death was unexpected!!

    10. Chriselle says:

      “And why was Selena’s “maid,” who was anti-Qing, so young and seemingly fragile? Was it her cover or was it because TVB has no more armoury (also known as the “second-line female support staff”) to fill such shoes. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such roles would have been given to actresses of higher standing, acting standing that is. Someone seems to have just pluck a number and drew Lily Ho (何傲兒).”

      I also wonder about Lily and Angel’s roles in the anti-Qing society. My first impression was that they are way too young to be part of such an organization unless you say their fathers are part of an organization and they are taking over their spots? I don’t think they ever even introduced Lily’s character and her only background is that she’s from an anti-Qing society. This completely baffles me. The actress is also not very suitable/ready for ancient dramas or at least not yet.

      • Kidd says:

        Yeah, I’m also baffled about Lily’s character. What is her ranking, what is her history? The way she give suggestion and order Selena to do this to that and blame Selena for letting Steven slip sound like she’s of higher standing than the rest. But then, Selena’s dad is the actual leader not her. So, why she’s acting so big?

        • Chriselle says:

          I don’t think Selena’s dad was the leader of the group, maybe the leader of the group that was in that particular city, if you get what I mean. Maybe Lily came from the society’s headquarters which is located elsewhere (forgot the place) and she has a higher position, which is still strange taking into account her age unless her father/uncle/or some relative is the anti-Qing society’s leader and people respect/listen to her because of that.

        • lol says:

          Lily is so young. How can she be at a higher ranking? This is ridiculous and laughable

        • Kidd says:

          @ Chriselle

          But, Selena’s dad didn’t address Lily as superior. Maybe they are same rank?

        • Kidd says:

          @ Chriselle

          Also, Lily called Selena’s dad ‘tor chu’.

        • Chriselle says:

          @Kidd,

          I believe ‘tor chu’ means a leader in that area and ‘chung tor chu’ means the actual leader of the Society? Anyhow, if the script was going to write in such an organization, the organization was a complete joke since it was mentioned minimally and it didn’t do much to threaten Kangxi. The execution of it was just dumb, IMO.

        • Lizzy says:

          And Chriselle is right. It was mentioned in the series. The anti-Qing group that Cheung KK was leader, is only a subgroup located in a certain area only. Guess the headquarters is located elsewhere. Only this subgroup is killed in the end (except for Angel Chiang).

          And I think KK wrote in his blog that Lily is a 烈士. Her husband got killed by Qing people, and her husband was from a higher rank than KK, I believe.

        • Kidd says:

          @ Chriselle and Lizzy

          I know KK is the leader of a branch/subdivision and not the ultimate leader. I know what ‘Tor Chu’ mean. I just mean to say that Lily calls him ‘Tor Chu’ instead of ‘Cheuk Tor Chu’ (surname + rank title). When she calls him like that, it feels to be like she’s directly under him. But, sometime she acts like she’s above him. But then, she follow all his instruction. She gave orders to Selena, but, I never see her order KK.

          烈士 is not a rank. All members of the anti-qing group are 烈士. 烈士 are those people fighting for a course and willing to die for the course. Some dictionary translate it as ‘martyr’

          But, thanks for the info on her backstory.

        • Funn Lim says:

          “烈士 are those people fighting for a course and willing to die for the course. Some dictionary translate it as ‘martyr’”

          Today we may term them as terrorist.

        • Funn Lim says:

          Oh kidd, do you mean fighting for a cause?

        • Kidd says:

          @ Funn

          Yeah. Sorry, use the wrong word. I mean to type ’cause’ instead of ‘course’. Thanks for the correction.

      • Lizzy says:

        I think there was originally some background story about Lily’s character, but that they cut it.

        I read somewhere that the original story was that her parents died and that she was adopted by Chris Lai/Felix Lok… Her husband is killed by Qing people or something. But from this whole story, the only thing left is that her surname is still Shum, the same as Felix Lok’s fake surname.

        • Kidd says:

          Thanks Lizzy for the info.

          They should have included this part. It’s might not be very important, but, it gives more sense to Lily’s character. She’s just annoying to be now.

    11. cF says:

      What irked me most in this series was the way Power portrayed his character. More often than not, he was crossing his legs while sitting down, and holding onto some post for support when standing up. Rarely do I see these habits in an ancient male character, least of all for a regal one! Left me wondering whether the plot would develop such that Kangxi was impostered by a eunuch.

      • lol says:

        Yes I agree with you. Power irked me too on how he potrays his character. He’s unconvincing as the emperor since he don’t make me feel that he’s the emperor. The crossing legs posture is just one of what irked me. He would suit better as a eunuch or palace guards.

      • Addy says:

        Maybe the real Kangxi liked crossing his legs? Power Chan only crossed his legs when he’s in study hall. When he’s out in the royal court, he sits like how those Qing dynasty emperors sit like in paintings. However, I still agree. Power’s a good actor, but not very convincing as an Emperor.

      • Vivien says:

        Agreed with all of you. Power is unconvincing as the king! Why pick him? No other actors?

    12. Addy says:

      Maybe I was expecting too much, because I’m a fan of historical dramas, but this drama has one of the poorest script writing in recent TVB history. Good plot backdrop, but the writers did poorly. Relic of an Emissary had better writing and a slightly better plot, but still not as good as TVB’s older historical dramas.

      I agree. Those who say they liked this drama must be either a fan of Steven’s or Kenneth’s. I got nothing and felt nothing out of this drama. If I wasn’t on break, I would literally have just skipped the whole show and just watch the ending (which was also terrible).

      • Addy says:

        historical fiction*

      • Addy says:

        Also, it’s time for Steven to be a villain. You can tell he’s getting bored at portraying good characters.

        And this drama probably would have been a lot better, at least character-wise, if Steven and Kenneth switched roles.

        • Vivien says:

          Agreed. Steven look bored and recycle the same acting. I think his scenes in this series can be combined with scenes in his other Qing series and can mistaken as one character ROFL. It’s time for him to get more spirit and get more charisma.

      • Yee says:

        Hehehehe I did the same thing! I just watched the ending to see why the he’ll this series got a 40pts finale.

    13. Larry 3 says:

      I stop watching on episode 6. Too boring, may pick it up later….

    14. Kidd says:

      Watch up to episode 21 now.

      I agree with Natalie being very obvious and she overacts again in dramatic part. So overdramatic.

      As for Steven Ma. I find his acting fine, although he’s a bit old for the role. I portrayed his role well. If he’s young, he would be perfect for the role. I especially love the part where he was in front of the Empress Dowager laughing and being all rude (it was after he was tortured by the guards to extract info on the crazy lady from him). I think Steven did that part extremely well. As for Steven’s ‘I’m so righteous’ expression. Well, Nip Duo Bo is a righteous man. He might want revenge, but, he still has righteousness in his heart. So, I see his expression as appropriate for the role.

      On the ‘brotherly’ relationship between Nip Duo Bo and Fook Chuen (Kenneth). Up till episode 21, I think the brotherly love is only one-sided. I don’t feel Fook Chuen has real brotherly love for Duo Bo. Even when he suspect the Empress room has bomb, his struggle was towards his real brother, Kangxi, not towards Duo Bo. So, if there’s supposed to be any brotherly love between Fook Chuen and Duo Bo, the series failed to show it.

      Relics show the relationship better.
      Chu Dai/Sam Bo – Master/Servant, Best Friend Forever, close confidantes
      Emperor/Siu Fung – Emperor/Guard, brotherly
      Chu Dai/Siu Fung – Master/Servant,
      Savior/Savee.

    15. Kidd says:

      I’m ok with Power’s acting. I have no problem with many of his mannerism except one, him pointing his fingers frequently. He did it too many times. It’s kinda distracting and not kingly.

      • Funn Lim says:

        I can see the problem with Power Chan as the emperor. He is a fantastic actor but very very few can play an emperor. He isn’t one of them.

    16. Kidd says:

      Lastly, it’s interesting that Lap Lan Sing Dak (Stephen Wong) in the series always sing the opposite tune from his father.

    17. lve88 says:

      I like power chan’s role in here I kind of like Elaine Yiu as “Man Kwan” or “Imperial Noble Consort” or “Empress but I kind of not like her because I kind of wish at the end she would have love the emperor but she did not

    18. siu says:

      I also liked Power Chan’s performance (a unique rendition of HongHei) the most and stephen’s second out of all performances; too bad the filming technique did not do these performances justice. overall, the series lacked emotion, it felt too formulaic, not only in the storytelling, but also in production.

    19. jess says:

      I felt that there is a huge room for development in the plot.. yet the production team did not managed to develop the plot to its fullest potential..

      i cant really pinpoint the missing factor but i really felt that there is something lacking.. for example, the punch would be there if steven and kenneth had more scenes to portray their friendship.. instead, it felt that kenneth was simply making use of steven since the day they met..

      just my 3 cents worth..

    20. Mary says:

      Kenneth Ma should wear a mustache more often and play manly roles like this one. He’s better at it.

    21. samantha says:

      Both of them cant act period!

    22. Jasmine says:

      i personally thought the show was good. you seem to be quite biased about the show :p the ending had some good points. like well, selena never had to know that the guy she likes is actually her brother, and that spared her her tears. she never liked the palace anyway so her life’s gna be pretty much ruined knowing the truth. natalie’s kinda punished for what she did by being treated as a “substitute”. and well, steven got the life he wanted best : a simple life, letting go, and following the footsteps of his mentor. i would have liked it if steven and selena got together tho. that would be a better ending to a good show. which historical fiction hk show would you strongly recommend then?

    23. vcn says:

      @ SDS:
      Your review is quite entertaining and humorous to read, but I feel that you have missed the point in this one. To continue your food analogy, one can’t simply watch this series the same way one eats a prix fixe meal at a restaurant. Even in a fixed menu, one cannot assume that the dishes will be served in the correct order; one simply cannot eat it as presented without question. So here too, one must look beyond the obvious and the expected. Is Kenneth Ma’s Fuquan really a villain? If you answer, no, to this question then the show becomes much more laudable and enjoyable to watch. Thus, the “reactive” behavior and the excess facial expressions by the actor are justified. However, if your answer is yes, as your review implies, the show becomes utterly worthless and a real waste of your time. (For a more thorough character analysis, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Life_and_Times_of_a_Sentinel .)

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