“Master of Play” Ending Draws Extreme Criticism and Praise

Dubbed TVB’s “most gruesome” drama of all time, Master of Play’s <心戰> finale aired on June 29th in Hong Kong. The drama was flooded with suicides and murders of multiple major characters, with an open ending that sparked a whole gamut of inferences from its audience. Audience’s remarks ranged from emotional to philosophical and highly positive to utterly critical!

Open Ending (Contains Spoilers)

The characters in Master of Play frequently switched between reality and their imaginary world. A wide variety of unsettling murders were also seen  – melting the body in blazing temperatures, feeding the dogs with body pieces, and even dismantling the human bones and hammering them into bits! In the end, even the chief male and female characters were not exempt from violent ends.

In the finale, Adam Cheng’s (郑少秋) character, Kan Siu Nam (靳兆楠) stabbed Moses Chan’s (陳豪) Cheung Sai Yin (章世言) to death. Unable to face the truth that his daughter has been murdered, Adam went out of his mind and wrongly believed that he was Cheung Sai Yin. In an attempt to prove to Cheng Sai Yin’s sister Natalie, played by Aimee Chan (陳茵媺), that he was Cheung Sai Yin in a magic show, Adam ended up being burnt to death.

Shortly, the screen shows the empty dressing room of Kan Siu Nam’s troupe. William Shakespeare’s The Tempest was airing nearby. Finally, the scene switched to a sand painting showing an angel walking towards the sun.

Audience Criticize Poor Ending

After the open ending of Master of Play was released, an avalanche of remarks exploded on the Internet. It was remarked, “Although Cheung Sai Yin has been killed, spiritually he still lives within Kan Siu Nam. I guess the message is whether alive or dead, people do not truly acquire freedom until they are [emotionally and mentally] freed.”

Another netizen complained bitterly, “The ending is so ridiculous! The entire last episode was devoted to describing nothing but a mental state. The scripwriter was fooling the audience by being so-called “deep.” It is bound to be this year’s worst TVB show!”

Another critical netizen remarked, “Why does the show not use simple methods if it were to explore human nature? A plot close to everyday life is more effective than such an outlandish and gruesome one involving multiple deaths!”

Despite the critical wave of comments, Master of Play’s scriptwriter, Chow Yuk Ming (周旭明), said he would not answer questions as the story itself has already unravelled them.

Philosophical and Logical Responses

Open endings lead to highly personalized endings; the audience can believe what they choose to. A group of audiences was quick to deduce the implicit parts of the ending. Philosophical and logical viewers looked deep within Master of Play for its message and characters’ conflict resolution.

The philosophical viewers explained that the entire story describes human nature, with the catalogue of killings as simply figurative. They commented that Kan Siu Nam eventually freed himself of his psychological shackles and obtained spiritual freedom, as the heroine, Ariel, had done so in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Netizens latched on to additional clues that were found in Master of Play. They concluded that Kan Siu Nam eventually freed his psychological shackles and led a life of bliss and hope. In one scene, there was a cup that gave off smoke on Kan Siu Nam’s desk in the dressing room. Despite the dressing room being empty, Kan Siu Nam’s voice can still be heard. Finally, there was the image of the angel walking towards the sun in the sand painting, which lent a message of hope that Kan Siu Nam had freed the devil within himself.

Source: 21CN

This article is written by Barnet for JayneStars.com.

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  1. ““Master of Play” Ending Draws Extreme Criticism and Praise”

    So… it was really THAT great and it was also really THAT bad? Sounds confusing, like how the series was.

    All thee philosophy? Rubbish.

    1. “Despite the critical wave of comments, Master of Play’s scriptwriter, Chow Yuk Ming (周旭明), said he would not answer questions as the story itself has already unravelled the answers.”

      Translation : I seriously wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I was writing this. Sorry.

  2. This has to be the worst TVB series for the past year! Waste of good actors and actresses. I did not enjoy the series eventhough I tried to follow them as interested in psychological theme series and movies but this is OTT!!

    1. I stopped watching after a few episodes, so boring, I hate shows that has no follow thru – jumping from one to another, a waste of time. The dialogues was so slow it seems the actors were trying to remember their lines.

      1. The dialogues was so slow it seems the actors were trying to remember their lines.

        I feel this too. It’s a bit strange

  3. it is just a bad story. Didnt even bother to keep this series entirely on my hard drive.

    1. LOOL. I watched the first episode and gave up.

  4. Reading about it is even more exciting than watching the actual thing lol

    1. yes, totally. i think the story makes a better novel than tvb drama

      1. i think the story makes a better novel than tvb drama

        you raised a good point 😀

      2. I think even as a novel I will skip some parts if not most. I do think perhaps the problem with MOP is the main character (anyone actually likes any of them?) and the way the story is told (draggy, stylistic, etc). It is it told in a straightforward way it could make a good thriller but as a psychological drama there is just too much psychology but not much reasonable psychology.

  5. I gave up watching this series during episode 15 I think. Both Adam and Moses are good actors, but being in this series feels kind of wasting their time and effort. After watching When Heaven Burns and 4 in Love, I really hoped that TVB would cast Moses into better series, because he’s worth it. But no 🙁

    1. I gave up reading ur comment by the 15th word that’s probably why I dunno what it’s about

    2. I KNOW RIGHT ?! They both are THE actors that HAVE talent, yet they are both shown through the wrong series. What is going on with TVB ?

    3. you know what, Adam overshined Moses. I feel like Moses is a supporting actor beside Adam. Veteran power ROFL

  6. After watching the ending, I didn’t think that Kan Siu Nam died. So is he dead or that is the open-end interpretation?

    1. Most people seem to say he’s dead, but you can still make the argument that he didn’t die if you wanted.

    2. It seem someone here mention he went to heaven.

  7. I’m just happy the series’ over. I’m sure better tvb dramas will replace it! 🙂

    1. After Master ends, Witness will air but the story is old fashioned. 3 Kingdom RPG will start next week and bring us joy. It’s time for a more exciting series! 😀

      1. Much better yet when Ghetto Justice 2 wilk be airing in Aug and I predict that High and Low after that

  8. Remember when he was eating that raw meat? He was like me at KFC. He was like dang son this chicken sure is crispy except it was raw meat.

  9. In glad the series is over. It was certainly boring at times but I have to give credit where credit is due. I do find the show quite philosophical and to be an interesting adaptation of human nature. That being said, I find the show boring but certainly not a bad series.

  10. what a ridic. series.

    wasted slot for another series to watch!

  11. If there wasn’t any bad series, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good series! We should be thankful that this series will help us enjoy the good series even more!

    1. Correction: it makes the other bad dramas TVB produce these days seem *not so bad*.

      Sorry to sound like a snob, but for those who are praising the series, I’m sure you’re just giving the writers more credit than they deserve; there is no deeper meaning, you’re just over-analysing.

  12. Lol! Honestly I really enjoy this drama very much n I chase each episodes. To me, for those whom lost someone they love dearly n m not able to let go, will know how each characters felt! Dat deep undescribeable pain n regret. This is surely a great drama if u guys just b abit open minded n have bit patience to watch each episodes! I love Maggie Shu the most n I cried :(:( the episodes she commit suicide

    1. Agree with you Yen. I like Aimee alot too. I follow the series because I wanna know the truth of her identity. she portrayed her character very well.

  13. It’s a ridiculous series and too pretentious! WHB was good and more sincere but MOP is dead boring and tried too hard to be deep LOL

    1. i agree
      trying too hard
      it just does not make sense

  14. What exactly happened in the end? Moses died, Maggie died, Adam died.. What about Aimee’s character?

    1. If I remember correctly, it ended wehen she screams at the people that he’s going to die. IMO, She should have died when the container box hol;ding Adam inside dropped on Aimeee…. EPIC crapsheep ending.

  15. In the last episode when the characters swap and swap.. I went: what is going on? and my Mum given up: Oh well, I rather go to bed! then towards the very end, when I heard the voice of Chang siu chow.. I went: ah hah.. then I start to like it! LOL!

  16. Why can’t TVB make a series that is simple but enjoyable like K dramas instead of trying too hard to be phylosiphical? LOL

    1. ok forget that TVB artists are old. Who wants to see aunties still madly in love for first time LOL

      1. Yes TVB lacks young actresses. Not that TVB doesn’t have but because TVB keep using the same faces such as Tavia and linda as their female leads and don’t let other capable artistes such as Nancy up

      2. TVB has young actress, but experience wise is still lackluster.

      3. Mandy Wong is a capable young actress. She’s the best among her generation of Sire Ma, Cilla Kung

      4. Well, Mandy Wong is ‘becoming’ like Linda back in the day…TVB keep0 promoting her up almost month to month when a new series comes out…it maybe tiring.

      5. Yes but Mandy isn’t a main lead in all these series

    1. It’s an open ending…. To me, the series die in a landfill.

    2. Adam went to heaven at the end i think,so he will meet tansy on heaven .

    3. But his character was filming for a live tv show right, wouldn’t the crew/producers have arranged for fire brigade/ambulances etc in advance to extinguish the fire & save Adam’s character in case the magic trick/stunt went awry? Why would they just foolishly take his word with no rehearsal whatsoever for such a dangerous stunt. What a huge risk! Thus I believe his character did not die in the end.

    4. But his character was filming for a live tv show right, wouldn’t the crew/producers have arranged for fire brigade/ambulances etc in advance to extinguish the fire & save Adam’s character in case the magic trick/stunt went awry? Why would they just foolishly take his word with no rehearsal whatsoever for such a dangerous stunt? What a huge risk! Thus I believe his character did not die in the end.

  17. I gave up on master of play. Great premise but too draggy

  18. I think TVB shall air Tiger Cubs 飛虎 in this time slot and this stupid drama master of play shall show on weekend ,why waste the space for this stupid drama?anyone agree with me?

    1. I disagree. MOP is 30 episodes and the length is made for those daily airing slot. Tiger Cubs is more than 1 hour long and only has 13 episodes. It’s made for weekend or weekly airing. If MOP is aired during weekends only, it will take 4 months to end.

      So, because you don’t like this drama, it should be pushed to people who usually watch weekend dramas? Also, you don’t like it doesn’t mean no one else does. It’s not waste of time to air this drama, just like I don’t think it’s waste of time to air dramas I don’t like. I just don’t watch it.

      Heck, it’s not even the golden anniversary timeslots. If it’s anniversary timeslot, maybe you have better cause to whine about.

    2. Tiger Cubs is a fantastic series and has great filming and sdu scenes and great list of roles. I also LOVE Tiger much more than Master but yes, Tiger is a longer per episode series which is filmed like a movie.

    3. but Master done over now. Anticipating better series such as 3 Kingdom and Ghetto Justice next

    4. If MOP is broadcast on weekends I imagine the ratings will be nil because already daily is so slow, imagine only on weekends. MOP will be better as a mini series a concept I hope TVB may develop in future.

  19. Never even watched this series and according to the comments, it seems like I made the right choice. Just glad that there’s finally a new series to watch.

  20. i watched 2 episodes and gave up as well..

    i will watch the finale for conclusion,

    but Jonathan Chik’s series have all been crap recently..glad he not with TVB anymore..

    His only decent series is War & Beauty 1

  21. I stop @ eps 5 because i was bored of it already.

  22. i notice this serial is against Christian as a religion ,this drama was garbage of 2012 ,i stopped watched this garbage in espisode 20 ,it more about 2 crazy person in battle .

    1. How is it specifically against Christian as a religion??

  23. I actually quite enjoyed it. You really have to watch the whole series to understand the plot. I initially thought the 4 people were real until esp 15? then I realised Mose had multiple personality disorder.
    Adam’s character where he assisted the police to solve crimes was also an interesting take. To think like a criminal to catch a criminal is realistic/believable.
    If the series was ‘darker’, it would even be more captivating. I give it a 8/10.

  24. Only those who enjoyed watching WHB will understand the hidden depths and messages in MOP. While most ppl prefer the silly or comedy dramas with simple plot, plz understand that different drama caters to diff level of audience. Both dramas are realistic reflection of today’s society.

    Instead of having actors exaggerating their acting skills, MOP displayed stable and serious acting that elevates TVB’s production standard. Unfortunately, most ppl will disagree with my opinion as the plot takes time to develop that requires audiences’ patience to think beyond the plot, analyse the creativity and capture the message conveyed to audience.
    Judging from the ratings, I doubt TVB will produce similar dramas in the future. What a pity!

    Dramas that deserved 8/10: WHB, MOP, DIF trilogies, Last Man standing, War & Beauty, and the old series in 80s.

    1. “Only those who enjoyed watching WHB will understand the hidden depths and messages in MOP. While most ppl prefer the silly or comedy dramas with simple plot, plz understand that different drama caters to diff level of audience. Both dramas are realistic reflection of today’s society. ”

      Yaknah you’re treading on dangerous grounds because the way I understand what you mean it is as if to say if I don’t like or understand MOP it is because I am stupid. I agree with the criticisms of MOP; the plot is slow, and at times too stylistic in a very very pretentious manner that if it is a realistic reflection of today’s society, well, no one is poor in MOP. That is not a reflection of today’s society. It reflects the indulgence of a producer who has lost touch with his viewers. The story need not be so stylistic to the point it pushes audiences away. In comparison I understand WHB better but doesn’t make any of these 2 series in touch with reality. There are no different level of audience. There is one level of entertainment. Either you’re entertained or not entertained. No need to be all high and mighty about it.

      1. Dear Funn Lim,

        I think you have misunderstood my statement. Plz read between the lines and think from various audiences’ perspective before you start accusing me of being ‘high and mighty’. What I meant was MOP might appeal more to those who enjoyed watching WHB.

        When I said diff level of audience, it is actually a reference to those diff levels of audience who prefer either comedy, drama, thriller, suspense, etc. Again, I am not trying to poke or make fun of those who find MOP boring or slow. You do not have to be so sensitive with the statement. It is merely a personal opinion. You can always disagree with my statement but plz respect my opinion. I am not trying to ask everyone to agree with my statement. The definition of entertaining is very subjective to every individual.

      2. Nevertheless, the message interpreted by receiver may differ from what the sender is trying to convey. We are all entitled to our own opinion. I do not want to create ill feelings in this page as I love to read jaynestars. This is merely a platform to share our thoughts. Therefore, I appreciate feedback to my comment. Thank you for chipping in your two cents of thoughts.

    2. The keyword here (just as Funn Lim pointed out) is pretentiousness. It’s like a poor man’s imitation. Whilst I love the premise and I can understand what the drama is aiming for, the execution is nothing to rave about.

      However, *even if* the drama did happen to be a critical success, I doubt it would be a ratings winner, because yes, it does cater to a niche audience.

  25. I actually quite enjoyed this series. The acting by Adam and Moses was done well and I was kind of anticipating what happened next. I cannot really say much about the story, since I did not put the effort into trying to understand it.

    Also, I really liked the ending of each episode. People have to admit those drawings were cool. 😀

    And I learned how to dispose of a body, incinerate it, which makes sense since there are people who are cremated. But how realistic is it to easily access an incinerator

  26. What surprises me is that this series is not so avantgarde as say Western series like Dexter or Breaking Bad but gets the blunt of so much scrutiny just because some people can’t deal with a bit of depth and gore. How does a screenplay that make you watch every episode to understand the plot or make you read between the proverbial line make it a “crap series”? I’m saddened that while at times this series is a bit draggy, it is not so different from any law series of the past 90s and yet these same viewers who loved the old 90s dramas are unable to even muster up the ability to think through this series. They much prefer series give a play-by-play replay of EVERYTHING SINGLE THING that happens in flashbacks upon flashbacks. What’s the point of coming up with original stories when all people want are the same repetitive corny spoonfeeding lovey dovey crap that TVB has been producing in the last 5 years?

    1. Because it is pretentious depth and not much gore. And it isn’t original and in its own way corny. It has its own sets of problems in the story, acting, etc. To pretend this is original series of depth is to me misleading.

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