Funn’s Thoughts: Michelle Yim is a Bland Empress Cixi

Funn’s Note: The following are not episode recaps but are ramblings and torrents of disbelief for The Confidant <大太監>. All merely personal opinion.

Watched until episode 12….

There is something not quite right with this series. Such as Raymond Wong’s reaction when he saw the princess hidden in a cart outside palace. He should have panicked more. But the main problem is not Michelle Yim but Cixi herself. I find her no personality. This series is taking great pains in portraying her as really nice, misunderstood but someone in that position can be misunderstood, but can’t be that nice. I know she trusts Li Lianying but I find her easygoing nature that is by blabbing everything of her problem to Lianying troubling. Maybe it keeps to the notion Cixi is not very smart because a smart tactician doesn’t tell everything to the person she likes or trusts. Her Cixi is just a bit dumb.

This series also took great pains to show Cian (Maggie Shiu) as simpleminded, dumb, driven by jealousy, anger when I find her more logical, more smarter even if she may sound a lot dumber. Maggie Shiu really brought out her character’s conflict. I love her performance but I do not like her character. It was just too easy to make her the bad guy and doing a bad job at it.

As for Cixi, again I feel Michelle is too restrained in her performance. She is a good actress but such a role demands more. I find her way too passive. I do not like the way she speaks. Too controlled, at times devoid of emotions or rather filled with those annoying high pitches when I want more in her speech. I find her Cixi bland, boring and beautiful like a vase.

I don’t like where this series is heading. It is a beautifully filmed series, some acting are just wonderful but the story is just like a family squabble. You don’t feel the urgency of the people, you don’t feel the dilemma. I feel absolutely detached. It is maybe not a good story or rather not a good reworked story. I can take the misunderstood Cixi but this is like black and white. And it is just boring.

The most interesting is Nancy Wu’s character and she is out of the palace. I am waiting for her to go back in because splitting the story into inside and outside palace for 2 unrelated events is making this series not only too diversified, but too distant. There must be some connection. And we have too many eunuchs who at this point has yet to diverge into a single point. It feels like I am watching a 4 story series when it should be 1 story, the rest should merge into 1. I am sure at some point it may merge but it is taking too long a time.

I like Aimee Chan but I find her character and her puppy love with Raymond Wong unbelievable and unsympathetic. I feel nothing for their burgeoning love because this series does not take time to develop it. In fact because of too many story arcs, none of the stories are ever properly developed.

It just feels half baked.

Plus point in episode 12; the Titanic scene between Aimee and Raymond is cheesy BUT the scenery is gorgeous. That’s the real thing. TVB wouldn’t use much budget to recreate the scene in a set or even pay for a decent green screen. Cheaper to just go there and put the actors’ life at risk after rainfall to stand near the edge of a woobly slippery looking wooden planks where Aimee’s only saving lifeline is Raymond behind him. I hope he knows how to swim.

This commentary is written by Funn Lim and was originally posted at

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  1. this type of story is way too ambitious for small screen no matter how good the cast or the screenwriter is..

  2. I don’t find a problem with her sharing her thoughts with Li Lianying. He is supposed to be her close confidant after all. I suppose Cixi can be more ambitous, but remember that it is still early in her reign, so she is less powerful compared to her later years. I think Cian will have more to do as the series moves on. I wonder too how/why Nancy will re-enter the palace. Still, I’m very much enjoy The Confidant.

    Profile of the Empress Dowagers:

  3. i found her character a bit too soft as well.But I guess the story line try to portray it is the beginning of cixi, being betrayed and not trusted by her husband made her ruthless and cruel in her later year?.

  4. I agree with the age issue. She came to the royal court when she was 16 and I think she had her son before 20. If her son is 8 years old, then current portrayal is Cixi as less than 30 year old.

    Cixi seems to trust Li Lian Ying with her private thoughts much more than An De Hai ever since the teaching to ride bicycle.

    She is portrayed more sentimental than I thought possible but then again she only reveals her feelings in front of only 2-3 people. Much colder after she finds out of Ci’an’s betrayal.

  5. Good rant and noticed. Haven’t been paying much attention to The Confidant, especially these kind of dramas -_-

  6. Funn:
    Agree with you about Express Dowager Cixi’s character. Though I like Michelle Yim very much, I am not impressed by her acting in “The Confidant”. She was too nice, too bland, and a bit boring. I did not see her as an empress with tons of authority. She talked too soft in the drama series. Also agree that as an empress, she should not confide all her thoughts to Li Lianying who was still a bit new as her eunuch.

    Michelle Yim is a great actress. She is very good in acting some nice, charming, sweet and cute characters. However, I don’t think Michelle Yim is quite suitable to act Empress Dowager Cixi. She is a too gentle and too soft-spoken person. She gave us the impression that EDC was an easy going and passive person. I think she needs to act more with her eyes in this powerful character.

    1. I think it’s more of the way the character is written. I really enjoy the different side to Cixi that is being portrayed here as opposed to 90% of other Cixi-related dramas.

      1. It could be, but that was not a real Empress Dowager Cixi as per history. It was too fake to me.

  7. Dislike Aimee’s scenes……totally redundant in this drama. TVB trying so hard to promote her that it is ridiculous. SHE TOTALLY CAN’T ACT?

    1. I think that is one of the reasons why TVB is going downhill. They neglect the veterans and people who can act and promote those that cannot act or are talentless… how sad…

      1. I disagree, I think she’s ok. But her plot line is totally useless. At best it’s filler material at worse it’s 3 seconds of my video buffering to skip her scenes.

  8. @Funn: As always, great summary and quite a few very valid points. Personally, I’m a bit disappointed in the series myself because I was actually quite looking forward to watching it, but unfortunately, it hasn’t been living up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely enjoying the acting from the cast and feel that majority of them are doing fantastic jobs (save for a few)…in fact, that’s one of the reasons why I was looking forward to this series – the strong cast and pretty much guaranteed high quality acting (again, with a few exceptions). However, the script / storyline definitely needs work….perhaps like you said, there are way too many story arcs in the series, so everything feels underdeveloped…I actually started getting a bit ‘bored’ with the series a few episode backs and already stopped paying as much attention as I would have otherwise (case in point – I missed a few episodes here and there but didn’t bother going back to re-watch what I missed….that’s usually not a good sign).

    With all that said, I’m not about to ‘give up’ completely on the series just yet, since, as I stated earlier, I’m enjoying the acting from certain cast members and since many of my favorite artists are in the series, I’ll ‘stick it out’ for their sake…but I doubt the series will make my overall ‘favorites’ list though…

    1. The storyline was very fake and did not reflect the actual history. Empress Dowager Cixi and Li Lianying were such well-known characters in Ching Dynasty, I think the characters could have been modified a bit to make them more entertaining, but the scriptwriters should not change the history and the characters completely.

      Without the good acting of the veterans, this drama series would be a disaster.

      1. “Without the good acting of the veterans, this drama series would be a disaster.”

        That kind of implies to most if not all tvb drama series lmao

      2. TVB is famous for changing history and making ridiculous changes to even wuxia novels, so why should any of us be surprised??

  9. Did anyone recall that some demand that Best Actress Award to be given to Michelle Yim for this role even before screening? HAHAHA

  10. the scenery was nice but the acting was bad-like epic fail bad. shame on all the money spent……

  11. Like the men more and really, this show focuses more on the male leads/supporting leads than the women.

    Having said that, so far, Michelle Yim hasn’t had any scenes where she can really deliver. She has had more of a supporting role so far in most of the scenes, that is to say the focus of the scene is not on her. Her character is used as a backdrop to show off other characters.

    I hope she gets some scenes where she can really deliver soon. The “all spotlights on her” scenes. 🙂

  12. Why shouldn’t Cixi trust Li Lianying? He is a loyal but righteous man as shown when he defied his master in order to save her life. Cixi herself knows this fact so telling him about trains, talking about each others families, the evils within the palace, etc. is quite natural. And although she isn’t the brightest tactician, she is not dumb at all.

    I find Michelle’s performance great. When Wayne was teaching her how to ride the bike, she showed hints of cuteness and childishness, similar to her role in the five flavours of life series, while being elegant at the same time. The control of her voice may be a bit much but contrary to what you think, I feel it is suitable for such a role. Cixi is supposed to be calm, collected and controlled. Her voice doesn’t devoid of emotions at all.

    You call Michelle’s Cixi ‘no personality’ yet you say she is shown as nice and misunderstood? I believe that the series isn’t trying to make her seem only nice. She’s quite strict, demanding and stubborn, especially when talking about politics, children or things that contradict with her beliefs and opinions. Aside from those traits, she tends to show a softer side towards her minions, revealing a range of personalities and emotions such as sadness, kindness, exhaustion, light-heartedness, etc.

    As for the blandness of her character, I agree with that. Her character is bland so far but is slowly developing into something interesting. She’ll probably go on to taking Maggie and KK down. Like ‘Jess’ said, the stories haven’t exactly revolved around her ie. Selena’s fate, the little Emperor getting disciplined and Maggie’s jealously and anger. However, I believe that as the series goes on, she will have the “all spotlights on her” scenes where she can finally deliver.

  13. I do find the Cixi character a bit dull in here, but I like Michelle’s performance and am glad she was given the part instead of Maggie. I think if they had written the role like Susan Tse’s grand empress dowager in ‘Beyond the realm of conscience’, it would be much more interesting.

  14. Yes, TVB is trying too hard to portray Cixi as a nice person and the same with LLY.

    Also weird how fast she start to trust him i.e revealing her feelings infront of him which don’t make sense even if she trust him.

  15. One problem with TVB series is that they need to cater to the “see lais” of HK…who are essentially their biggest audience so I’m not surprised that they tried to make Cixi and Lianying overly nice and honorable.

    Meanwhile, I do hope that Cian’s betrayal (and perhaps jealousy over her son loving Cian more than Cixi herself) will make Cixi more “evil.” Along with Lianying, hopefully all the bad and unfair stuff happening in the palace begins to harden him. When he accused Nancy’s husband of stealing his money, I was hoping it would be a turning point because he finally did something “wrong” (even though her husband deserved it).

    A good ending (assuming Edwin kills Nancy) would be of Wayne killing Edwin and getting away with it simply because no one dares to challenge his role as the Empress’ most trusted eunuch…but TVB and the “see lai” audience wouldn’t like that, no matter how much more realistic it might be.

    1. Hmm. I think the ‘see lai’ audience are tougher than many give them credit for. The old TVB series can be quite violent with lots of murders and betrayals, but, ‘see lai’ audience can still take it.

      1. That’s a good point. I believe ‘see lais’ have evolved throughout the years. I wonder if TVB realizes this?

  16. i don’t know anything about ancient history, but as if michelle’s character is that nice in real life. she was the freaking queen for god’s sake. if you wanna rise to the top, you’re bound to step on a few people.

  17. I think her character in “Moonlight Resonance” is more like Cixi than in this drama. She was so vicious in MR.

  18. I suspect TVB scriptwriters have gotten too used to writing dramas about family squabbles, that’s why when they are faced with a historical topic like Cixi, they are unable to adjust their writing style and the story ends up being framed like a family squabble.

  19. Just 1 question, if cixi didn’t confine in the eunuch, it will not be the confidant, it will be the story of cixi xD
    also the higher you are, the more lonely you become, if you dont even have 1 person that you see as a friend to rant about everything, you probably going crazy.
    your rant maybe correct, and I can’t say I like the storyline enough to see it, but there are sometimes reason for things, unless its turn out to be really stupid and the reason couldn’t be produced.

    1. The Confidant aka Big Eunuch is big eunuch because of Cixi. She is the main lady. I understand the lonely part but to your slave/servant? Blab away sort of relationship? Hard to believe. But then maybe it is to show how simpleminded Cixi is. And she is, and I just can’t quite understand why she keeps getting on the hate with prince gong.

  20. Finally Oscar appears, he looks very young! But I chuckled at the line about him nearing 20 and should be married soon when real Tongzhi died when he was 18 or so.

  21. Perhaps she’s just following the script. She’s not that bad since we all know how evil she can get if she wants to, so I think script contributed to it.

  22. Funn

    Is Cixi suppose to be main villain during the end of Qing dynasty ,is she support white lotus society ,war against little knife society,anti Han and know as old buddha in real history?

    is Li Lianying suppose to be bad guy too in real history too ?

    1. It is not the end of Qing yet. Many factors but yes she is Old Buddha. And yes Linying is the right hand man.

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