Did “Murder Diary’s” Unconventional Plot Backfire?

Boasting powerhouse acting, Murder Diary <刑偵日記> attempts to break new ground in the Hong Kong crime genre, but can be confusing for the casual viewer not used to watching dramas with hawk eyes. Despite the cast of Kara Hui (惠英紅), Vincent Wong (王浩信), Philip Keung (姜皓文), Benjamin Yuen (袁偉豪), and Mandy Wong (黃智雯), first week viewership ratings disappointed at 17.5 points.

Cast Delivers Top-notch Performances

Portraying a character with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Vincent plays a role that few actors can pull off. The two-time Best Actor brings both his personalities to life, with clearly differentiated speech patterns, habits, and aura.

Kara’s nuanced acting is always a joy to watch, and all her emotional scenes as a schizophrenic are layered and convincing. She even surpasses her own performance as a ruthless police official in The Defected <鐵探>.

Another surprise is Benjamin, who plays a psychiatrist and is able to bring the character to life through his tone and expressions. While Philip’s character did not make an entrance in the first five episodes yet, his normally explosive acting is expected to take the drama to new heights.

An Intricate Crime Setup

While the performances are top notch, Murder Diary seems to have lost some viewers by choosing to take a path less taken. If it were to follow a more straightforward plot similar to police dramas such as The Defected <鐵探> or Sinister Beings <逆天奇案> focusing on the whodunnit aspect in independent cases, Murder Diary would have likely received high viewership ratings.

However, Murder Diary features more intricate storytelling with interconnected cases. Although it already disclosed the identity of the Final Boss very early on in the third episode, chilling details are slowly exposed as the drama focuses on the crime setup which is the soul of every good mystery.

Unlike previous TVB dramas, where characters are usually introduced in a straightforward manner with many descriptors, Murder Diary takes its time to flesh out complex characters. Due to some characters suffering mental illnesses, their motives and actions add to the perplexity of the crime drama where traditional logic does not apply.

Murder Diary takes a bold step away from tropes found in classic TVB crime dramas, which may lose traditional viewer demographics, but it is a necessary change as the station attempts to gain more traction in international markets.   

Source: HK01

This article is written by Kiki for JayneStars.com.

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  1. I actually prefer this style of storytelling. The scriptwriters have to put in more work for this type of of storytelling as well. It’s not a puzzle; it’s a maze. Top performances thus far: Kara and Momo Ng. Momo Ng is the other young woman at the same psychiatric ward as Joey Thye. The only con: Kara’s background is very complex and misleads the viewer too much. Sinister Beings was unrealistic cases and solving a case within 2 episodes didn’t allow for character development. Perhaps that’s why the characters seem so contradictory–because we never understood them fully to begin with.

    1. Agree, I think this is the best script tvb had in a long time, especially for this genre. Momo Ng did not let Kara outshine her. Their scenes were so good together. Individually, the actors (except Ben), the dialogue, and set up is good, but the editting of the scenes is a little choppy. The romance in the drama is a drag, I hope they focus more on the family dynamics between Kara and her children and the development of the cases.

      1. Agree with both of you. I find it painful to watch Ben because his acting isn’t there for such a complex and interesting character. Again, I keep seeing Ruco for his character but they would never put Ruco and Vincent in the same series now. The romance between Vincent/Mandy has no chemistry so it’s unnecessary.

        I was critical of the plot 8 episodes in because I felt like so many details were missing so it was confusing but I’m on episode 12 now and I can see where they are trying to go with this, I find it very interesting and different from a typical TVB script. Also, Phillip FINALLY makes an appearance and so I am looking forward to seeing his performance and storyline progress. He was in there for like 5 mins at the end of episode 12 but already got me so excited.

        Yes, Kara is great. I also think Vincent is doing a good job with the multiple personalities, you can clearly know when he is which one. I feel like it’s easy to get them muddled if you don’t know what you’re doing but I expect more from him, hopefully the “best actor” in him shows up more in the latter half. I also like Venus in this as well. But Momo Ng — damn, she was so good. Definitely was able to keep up with Kara which is impressive.

      2. Oh apologies — I may have spoiled when Phillip makes an appearance but I didn’t mention anything plot wise. Sorry!

  2. I haven’t started but am really interested in this series. Was going to wait for a few more episodes to come out to binge.

  3. a drama worth binging. it’s quite dark in comparison to a typical tvb drama. i enjoy the intricacy of of the story , intertwine plots and character development, i would have never thought that tvb was capable of writing up story of this complexity. i hope that they focus on developing an international market as supposed to giving up on this type of store telling simply b/c of a few drops in viewership. the viewers need to be bought up to the 21th century

    1. @mo “Murder Diary” is a TVB and Youku collaboration, thus it has a bigger budget. The drama is well liked among Mainland Chinese viewers, as TVB still has an edge in the crime genre. For now, TVB will continue to prioritize the Mainland market as opposed to the international market, but this still forces it to improve on its scripts and production value.

  4. The better TVB series in 2021. Watched it for Kara excellent portrayal. As much as I don’t like Vincent in person, he does have the acting chops. Let’s hope the ending will not be typical TV ‘rotten tail’.

  5. this series is flopping only on the TV ratings because its not the typical see lai drama. Online and else where its raving among the younger gen! Great story telling and its almost like watching a korean drama!

  6. No doubt it’s a good series and the acting is great but it’s a challenging watch. I’ve found myself knocking off a few episodes at times but then the next day finding it tough to get back into it easily. You really have to get yourself in the mood. It’s not for those Hong Kong Come Home Love/Virtues of Harmony non thinking TV Viewers…

  7. Easily the best TVB drama of the year so far. Love the unconventional storytelling actually, refreshing from the usual TVB crime plots. Hope TVB continues to make dramas of this quality even if it’s not popular with HK seelais and family viewers. The biggest flaw is the romance parts, boring and unnecessary. Mandy is really useless here.

    1. Agree that Mandy is useless as usual. Always the same forgettable acting. When gets promoted by given an interesting role, she overacts 10 folds. It’s an amusing coincidence that Mandy is acting in a series with great actors/actresses playing characters also with multiple personality disorder or psychological problems. Maybe she should get some acting tips from them……

      1. i am seeing the same acting style she used in the excorcist meter, playing nice

      2. I agree with you. So sick of seeing Mandy in all the recent series that she’s in. This look exactly like her character in Line Walker 3.

        I had goosebumps watching Momo Ng! She’s good! But TVB definitely not giving her more attention coz she’s not the typical beauty queen look that the viewers like. But she brings her character to life.

        On and off at some scenes, I think Joey Thye did very well too. Not well rounded but for a fairly new kid to take on psychotic roles, she has done well. I am just imagining IF Mandy was playing Joey’s character, probably will fail tremendously 😀

  8. Watched 2 episodes. Call me bias but I really don’t agree with the article’s view of Vincent’s performance….should i continue before I conclude?

    1. The first 5 episodes are quite boring, nothing stellar. The next 5 is where things start picking up.

  9. Is it just me or what? I do like this drama but I find it a little weird cuz all the characters in this drama have some mental issue. Vince’s character, Kara and Ben.

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