Review: “King Maker” (By Funn)
King Maker < 造王者>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2012
Producer: Leung Cho Yuen
Genre: Historical Fiction
“He (Kent Cheng) has my vote for TV King. And I like how he speaks. There is clearness, conviction and that he believes every word. The mark of a truly good actor”
SPOILERS … SPOILERS … SPOILERS
造王者 aka The One Makes An Emperor (I think)
Kent Cheng – Tung Chiu (Right Chancellor)
Wayne Lai – Yu Jing (future Left Chancellor)
Pierre Ngo Ka-nin (Chiu Kwai Sing (1st prince)
Chris Lai Lok-yi – Chiu Kwai Wo (2nd prince)
Kristal Tin – Yim Sam Leung
Natalie Tong – Yu Ching/Fan Hung Ying
Elaine Yiu – Tung Yuk Kiu
Kingdom Yuen – Empress Gung-shuk
Florence Kwok – Consort Wai
Patrick Tang – Yu Tsing/Sheung Hei
KK Cheung – Yu Bok-man (Former Right Chancellor)
Eric Li – Tung Ming Hin
Joseph Lee Kwok Lun – Yeung Chi-san (current Left Chancellor)
Kwok Fung – Emperor of Southern Song
Sammy Sum – Yeung Kuk
Jack Wu – Yeung Chun
Rachel Kan – 3rd Prince’s mother
Vivien Yeo – Concubine Tak, wife of Kwai Sing
Janet Chow – wife of Kwai Wo
Shek Sau – Pang Kwok Chu/Fan Chiu Lun
Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Maker_%28TV_series%29
Wayne Lai portrays Yu Jing, the Right Chancellor of Southern Song. He is the eldest son of Chancellor Yu Bok-man (KK Cheung), who was exiled from the kingdom after infuriating Emperor Ning-chung (Kwok Fung). In their exile, Jing and his two younger siblings, sister Yu Ching (Natalie Tong) and brother Yu Tsing (Patrick Tang) got separated. Ching was adopted by triad leader Fan Chiu-lun (Shek Sau) and lived under the name, Fan Hung-ying. Tsing was deceived into becoming a eunuch, and was given the name Sheung Hei.
Kent Cheng portrays Tung Chiu, the Left Chancellor. He was one of Yu Bok-man’s brightest students, and is the father of Tung Ming-hin (Eric Li), the youngest, and Tung Yuk-kiu (Elaine Yiu), Jing’s fiancé. Jing and Chiu eventually become opponents – Chiu works on supporting second prince, Chiu Kwai-wo (Lai Lok-yi) to the throne, while Jing supports elder prince, Chiu Kwai-sing (Ngo Ka-nin). Kwai-sing’s mother is Empress Gung-shuk (Kingdom Yuen), who originally wanted Chiu to become Kwai-sing’s teacher. To completely eliminate her son’s competitor, Kwai-wo’s mother, Consort Wai (Florence Kwok) and her brother, Chancellor Yeung Chi-san (Joseph Lee), colludes with Jurchen Prince Ngan-fu (King Kong) to take Kwai-sing captive.
MY BLOG COMMENTS
I posted some comments as I watched each episode which you can find here at http://www.point2e.com/2012/08/the-king-maker-tvb2012o.html (if this link doesn’t work, it means I moved the contents to Review Database where you can find the link to that Database at main blog at http://www.point2e.com, and look for the title and next to it [E].
ABOUT THE STORY
I was very excited about this series, as it stars one of my most favourite TVB actor that is Wayne Lai and my increasingly favourite veteran actor, Kent Cheng. I have watched a little of Greatness Of A Hero and the potential of sparks flying between these 2 so I knew acting wise, no worries. From episode 1 until the last, the pace is exceedingly fast, so much so I would say it is bullet train fast. They all talk so fast, even the normally slow talking Chris Lai Lok Yi also talks faster than a normal underground train. And when you talk fast, you know you bound to make some mistakes pronunciation wise but surprisingly, everyone here speaks clearly even if some with between mild to heavy accented Cantonese, no doubt effort was being made to actually speak proper Cantonese in terms of pronouncing certain words. So kudos to the actors.
However after a few episodes, you sorta feel this series may be fast paced, but runs around in circles, like a train on a fixed route for the same hour, hour after hour. It will always be one dilemma presented, one wicked plan, one honourable speech and the bad guy wins for the day until his comeuppance at the very end and even then some may complain there is no justice. For a series about politics, it is really about the same group of perhaps 7 or 8 people and no more. And of these 7 or 8 people, you get representations from every sort of usual “quarreling” group such as ministers vs ministers (Tung Chiu vs Yu Jing), women vs women (1st prince’s wife and Hung Ying), mother vs mother (empress vs concubine Wai), prince vs prince (Kwai Sing Vs Kwai Wo) and revenge seeking guy vs the emperor (Pang Kwok Chu and the emperor). Stuck in between are the eunuchs who don’t quarrel but secretly aiding one side in favour of another side, doesn’t matter which side, they’re the ultimate double crossers and double crossers of the double crosses.
Seems like a huge plot right? Not necessarily. King Maker is the simplified version of many palace intrigue series that I have seen. Not the worst, it is actually very enjoyable but seems limited and very small scale. But the problem is in the main subject itself.
The title in Cantonese is “Jou Wong Jeh” aka King Maker or the one who makes the Emperor, simply speaking. It may be about palace, in this series it is almost at the end of Song Dynasty, but in the end it is about the ministers who support a particular prince in a bid for the throne. These ministers may or may not be the chancellors, but they’re almost always at first the teacher to these princes. In this series, on the face of it, Yu Jing is on the side of 1st prince, Kwai Sing and Tung Chiu is on the side of 2nd prince, Kwai Wo. There is a 3rd prince but he is too young for any importance just yet. The emperor is healthy, not dying but there is still the position of prince regent, the emperor to be. The entire series is not about who will be emperor. Both men wanted Kwai Sing to be emperor. The whole series is about who will be the ultimate teacher aka ultimate chancellor aka ultimate King Maker, the one who will ultimately advise the emperor and set the policies that the emperor will adopt. The one who will guide the emperor and run the empire based on the advises of the ultimate king maker. A lot of ultimates isn’t it? Because this is a series about that ultimate man.
And this is where I feel the series is way too simplified. The story tries to tell us the emperor is essentially stupid. He can be swayed. The emperor in this series played by Kwok Fung is in fact the most easily swayed emperor ever, without any opinion of his own and depends entirely on either Tung Chiu or Yeung Chi San and when Yeung Chi Shan is disposed, on Yu Jing. The advisor is so powerful that he can even dictate policies to the emperor or the empress, in this case represented by Tung Chiu. So for me to see such a weak minded emperor replaced by another weak minded emperor shows to me why Song Dynasty had to go; an emperor without a mind of his own can’t withstand many things. Of course the emperor must listen to the advisor but in the end the decision should be his alone. I am not impressed on the story of the emperor who seems more like puppet than a human being fit to rule. In fact this series tells us all the decisions made by the emperor, including killing a minister’s entire family so as to destroy competition is advised by the advisor, as if the emperor had no choice, no say in it. The emperor can so easily blame it on the adviser and I feel this sort of storyline just simplifies things way too much, so much so I feel this is where the story fails. Too much importance is being given to the adviser, and that is TVB’s own perspective. and again I stress TVB looks at things too simplified. For a political series, this is sorta smart but really just a dumbed down version of a smarter version which I feel some TVB scriptwriter is eager to write, but can’t.
This series ends with an interesting juxtaposition which I feel does answer the question posed by the series; that being the ultimate King Maker. In the end Yu Jing is the ultimate king maker but the difference between him and Tung Chiu and Yeung Chi San is Yeung Chi San is driven by greed and Yu Jing is not a greedy man. Tung Chiu is driven almost mad by power and Yu Jing doesn’t want power. He holds probably the most powerful position in the country below the emperor, but the real thing is that his power is above the emperor, because he makes the policies, he gives the solutions, he directs and advises the emperor who listens to him all the time. He steers the emperor. Why isn’t he considered dangerous? Because he isn’t corrupt. He holds the position so as to steer the emperor towards the right route. He has the people’s interest at heart. He is to me the Zhuge Liang of his generation and in a way it is a noble position for a noble man such as Yu Jing. And Yu Jing is noble. He refuses to engage in any dirty tactics and those dirty tactics he used (where he did used his sister once) was really to dispose off the bigger crook, that is Tung Chiu. Along the way many died because of and for him but he still refuses to go evil so to speak. It can be frustrating to watch but in a way I feel the series never really betrayed Yu Jing’s sincere intention for the emperor to be and the empire the emperor will run.
As opposed to Tung Chiu, he may have been an honest noble man but 10 years working as a double crosser seriously damaged his noble heart. He used his daughter, once with regret, the second time without any regret at all. He was loyal to the empress, the empress trusted him but Yu Jing couldn’t trust a man who uses dirty tactics and Tung Chiu does use really dirty tactics. Sometimes the viewers may feel Tung Chiu is justified, but again that small voice in your heart will question whether such tactic is necessary? Within us there is always a Tung Chiu vs Yu Jing. It is a matter of perspective (for Tung Chiu) and principle (for Yu Jing). What makes a sincere noble king maker is between these 2 qualities, as this series will explain in minute details.
If you’re not into minute details, this series isn’t for you. Some scenes are just too “coincidental” that some scenes are just too silly. However the usual trend is there is a lot of dialogue, a lot of arguments, a lot of emotional scenes and definitely some scenes that will make you feel like blood pressure boiling. This series engages you, enrages you and of course makes you ask within yourself; who do you agree with? In today’s context, I will say Yu Jing. In the past, I will say I can’t argue Tung Chiu was ever that wrong. But one thing is clear; one thing Tung Chiu forgotten along the way is that he is and always will be the servant of one master. When he forgot about that, he became too ambitious and so that was the moment of his comeuppance, his fall from grace. A pity really because as I was watching this series, I kept feeling Tung Chiu is a better strategist, a better tactician. He is that sort you need when vying to be emperor. Yu Jing is the sort you need when you’re an emperor vying to win the hearts of the people. They can work side by side, unfortunately for Tung Chiu, he wanted to be emperor himself, as for Yu Jing, he can’t stand that someone without any claim to the throne getting his hands on the seat of power. But even Yu Jing in the end bend the rules a little and that is because he sincerely believes Kwai Sing will make a good emperor.
And here comes my question; why? I thought Kwai Sing has an innate failure of the bigger element; that of character and integrity. I thought 3rd prince though young displayed some qualities of a noble heart or even Kwai Wo who changed for the better. I never knew why Kwai Sing. And in the end when Kwai Sing tried to assassinate Yu Jing and stopped by Yu Jing who by then had the trust, respect and command of the palace guards obviously put a stop to Kwai Sing’s intention. In one of my most favourite scene, Yu Jing said in a very tired tone to Kwai Sing “A master who wants his subject to die, how can his subject refuse? But have you ever thought there are still supporters of Tung Chiu ready to pounce on you? You still need me” .. which is true. In the end they forged a reluctant partnership. One of the last scene was Tung Chiu laughing at Yu Jing, saying “I wonder who is the happiest now? Me for having a carefree life or you, having bound yourself to your duty to ensure this illegitimate bastard (Kwai Sing) will rule wisely?”. The answer is simple; neither is the winner.
And that is why I like this series. There is a sense of valid point made throughout even if I had to sit through the repetitions and the constant scenes of Tung Chiu trampling on poor Yu Jing who doesn’t fight back, at first. And even when he fought back with his “I am noble” speech, it doesn’t seem like the ultimate punch. But Tung Chiu has his ending, even if you think he doesn’t deserve that sort of ending. He deserves worst. But he is a man stripped of everything, even his children and even if he laughs happily, I suppose there is always that regret. In his own way Tung Chiu really believes in his cause, the same way Yu Jing does, except both men don’t see eye to eye as to what the cause is.
If the story doesn’t entice you, perhaps the performances will.
ABOUT THE PERFORMANCES
Kent Cheng is fast becoming my most favourite veteran actor. He speaks fast but you can hear his every word. He hardly moves and yet you can see the flicker of all sort of emotions on his face by him hardly twitching a muscle. His smile can be friendly or in this series, sinister. His Tung Chiu is a complicated man with a complicated mission; he wants to be the ultimate king maker, to control the puppet emperor so that he is the de facto ruler. Huge ambitions and he almost made it. The problem with Tung Chiu is he believes too much in his own cause. The brilliance of Kent’s performance is showing all that emotion. Yes, he can look weird with his puppy dog expressions but that is because he was mocking the other character. He may speak suddenly in such a high pitched tone, but he was making a point and you have a sense that Tung Chiu is a man boiling inside, that temper about to burst and that question he wanted to scream out; “WHY WON’T YOU STAND BY MY SIDE WHEN I AM RIGHT AND YOU KNOW IT?!”. The thing is not everyone thinks he is right. The empress saw through him, Concubine Wai saw through him, took Yu Jing sometime to see through him, Kwai Sing ultimately saw through him, so did Kwai Wo. I know of some criticisms towards his performance but seriously, no one would have interpreted Tung Chiu the way he did. When he neither moved nor twitch but raised his voice in frustration towards a disbelieving Empress, you will have a sense that there is danger to the Empress, that this man is capable of anything. Not many actor can portray that tinge of danger coupled by the sense that he feels he is unjustly accused of being a danger all in one moment, in one scene and for that, I applaud Kent Cheng. Those who doesn’t appreciate his performance, well I will. He has my vote for TV King. And I like how he speaks. There is clearness, conviction and that he believes every word. The mark of a truly good actor.
Wayne Lai has a difficult character as well. It is a character so steadfast in his principles, and that is perhaps an even harder character to portray since he is unchanging, he is always bullied, he is always trampled on and yet he has to stay dignified throughout it all. Wayne is an excellent actor and no doubt this sort of character is for him to play although I feel on the dignified part, perhaps Steven Ma trumps him on that. Because to me Yu Jing sounds like Steven Ma’s signature role and Steven Ma can be so steadfast in his principle that you just accept it without question. Wayne however, makes me question several times as to the unchanging quality of his character. Officially 3 people died for him and I felt undeservedly so. At times I dislike Yu Jing. If he had not latched onto Tung Chiu and just retire and go away, maybe those 3 people won’t die at all. Screw the Song Dynasty, if you know what I mean. But he portrays his character as best as he could because Yu Jing isn’t really very multi faceted. I am also bothered by the fact that he has one constant expression; at first super eagerness, later a sense of anger and in the end tiredness. I suppose that is Yu Jing at a nutshell. 10 years of hard labour does change a person’s view of life although his principle hardly changes. After all the deaths and battle, when he told Kwai Sing after the failed assassination that Kwai Sing needs him, it was with a matter of fact, with a tone so tired that he feels like a man who is sick of it all but his principle dictates he has to ensure the man he puts on the throne must be fit to rule not for that year but for as long as he (Yu Jing) shall live. And that scene makes me love Wayne again even when I feel his constant worried trouble expression was beginning to irritate me. This is not Wayne’s best performance, it is not even one of his better performances but for a whole lot of other performances I have seen this year, Wayne Lai is still the better actor than most of them.
Pierre Ngo as the first prince, Kwai Sing is a strange character. He seems smart and all noble but towards the end, Yu Jing calls him a simple minded ruler. So which is which? Is he that stupid? Anyway kudos to Pierre Ngo who gave a credible performance of a young prince who was so traumatised and then slowly healed to be a healthier man but somewhere along the way lost his intelligence and principle. I thought it was so funny when Yu Jing foiled his plans and he looks seriously dumbfounded. I have no complaints about Pierre Ngo. He did give an elegant performance of a brilliant ruler, Sun Quan in Three Kingdoms RPG so the weak prince you see in here is seriously what is written on paper.
Chris Lai surprises me. He has improved in his performance a lot, he speaks his line clearly but still with that accent, so he doesn’t sound like he is convinced by what he said.
Joseph Lee as Yeung Chi San is to be same old same old performance. Same actor, same look, except for a sneer and a more dramatic eyebrow than in Three Kingdoms RPG and voila! The villain! No complaints except I am bored with his performance. He is always acting so jumpy and a bit caricature as a villain.
Kingdom Yuen as the empress and mother of Kwai Sing is an interesting choice. She is a good actress but to me she is wrongly cast. She doesn’t seem like an empress, she doesn’t walk like an empress (she walks as of her outer layer clothing is on the danger of falling down all the time) and she doesn’t speak like a noble woman. In fact she looks like she is in shock the whole time. Not a bad performance but just not the empress I have in mind, so to me she is a total miscast. But she does do very well in her confrontation scenes with Kent Cheng’s scary Tung Chiu.
Florence Kwok as Concubine Wai is again an interesting choice because she doesn’t look much older than Chris Lai and yet she is the mother. She hardly raises her voice, so there is a tinge of threat to her benign behaviour. You know this is a woman you do not cross with. She is also the brains in the family and Florence displays the intelligence and grace for this performance, however I just feel it could have been much more. She is almost always apart from the empress. I wish for more confrontation scenes, just to be more dramatic in that sense.
Vivien Yeo is a major surprise. Yes the accent is still there but I think I will stop bashing her from now on. She is making an effort and clearly it shows that she has made the effort and made the effort well. Her Cantonese is much better. Although she is not young nor pretty in my book, her performance in some scenes were very well done, like her hurt, her surprise, her anger, her jealousy. A pity her character, that is the wife of 1st prince was written so badly. When Yu Jing said “And some stupid person planned this plot…” and obviously it fits her character. I do pity her character though. It is in the end Kwai Sing’s fault. If he had been more sensitive towards her needs, and without Hung Ying skipping along and always saying “I AM PREGNANT. I WILL BE EMPRESS” in such a bratty voice, she might have been a much happier and more dignified woman. In the end I blame the scriptwriter for ruining this character. Why can’t she have a dignified end?
Natalie Tong is another major surprise, in a bad way. I already disliked her OTT performance in A Fistful Of Stances and sorta liked her in The Other Truth but here, oh how I hate her and her Hung Ying. I know I am supposed to be on her side, pitying her, after all to be insulted by the first wife and then the empress and then everybody else who thinks she is never good enough for Kwai Sing, oh how I should weep for this poor innocent soul destroyed by her stay in the palace! NOT! First of all, Natalie Tong SHOUTS her every line. Not even a sense of grace in any of the scene or line spoken. Sure she is after all the daughter of a gangster so to speak but must she shout? And then she speaks in such a fast way but in such a modern way that I feel I can hardly understand her. Not good at all. But it is really how her role is written; with her constant need to up the first wife, saying words like “I am pregnant. I will be empress” the way she did in such a bratty manner, I can’t even begin to feel sorry for her, more so like her. Yes she is angry with the wife for playing a trick on her but then this poor wife waited for poor husband for 10 years only to be told right in front of her he is in love with a girl he met barely months ago and made her pregnant out of wedlock too! The worst ending was Hung Ying becoming empress. I almost choked on my syrup with lime cold drink. Yes I was drinking that when I was watching the ending. I am not sure if I am the only one who feels that way but I hated the ending for this character. I wanted her to die! DIE!!! But seriously, Natalie Tong has a long way to go to be lead of anything. She is just too in your face in the way she acts. She neds to tone it down a whole lot more.
Elaine Yiu as Yuk Kiu is again another surprise on a smaller scale. Elaine Yiu was a terrible actress who became an ok actress and now she is still an ok actress. She is pretty but she doesn’t give me the sense of an ancient woman feel, probably because she has the most ridiculous hair. What is it with the horns and tails and such on the head? Where is the hair designer? Sleeping or just borrowed one from Beyond The Realm Of Conscience (I still call it Beyond The Realm Of Conscious!!) and trim away one or two buns on the top? Anyway her performance was ok until she sorta became crazy and it was bad bad bad and then it became sorta better when she was about to die. I was shocked by her ending though. I expected her to go crazy but in the end her character actually begged Yu Jing to save her father’s life and he is bound by her request when she died for him, unnecessarily. A sad character that I thought will go evil but no time to do that in the series. I don’t know who is worst; Natalie Tong or Elaine Yiu but on a scale of consistency in terms of irritating the hell out of me, Natalie Tong wins.
Eric Li as Tung Ming Hin is a strange character but a good performance. I love the contrast between Tung Chiu and his son with Tung Chiu calling him “Chuk sang” which can mean “Animal” or “useless son” and I suppose Tung Chiu meant the latter and Ming Hin eager responding to his father! A strange abusive sort of relationship that works. His ending was sad though. With a father like that, he can’t save himself even if he wanted to. You know who I want to see in this character? Jacky Heung. He will probably be a worse actor than Eric Li but I am sure he will be magnetic, somehow. I long to see his dying scene like what Eric did and how long a time he will used to finish his line “Father… all I ever dream of is to achieve great ambitions…” and dead and with Kent Cheng saying (which he did) “You have made me proud my son.”
One of my most favourite character is Yeung Kuk because I thought with a father like Yeung Chi San surely this guy is a crook but he turns out to be the most noble of them all. And my surprise is he is played by Sammy Shum which frankly looking at his usual pictures, he never struck me as a noble sort of guy. It wasn’t a great performance, but it works. I love the scene where Yeung Chi San was sorta emotionally tortured by a rightfully vindictive Yuk Kiu and Yeung Chi San laughs and said “At least my son is real to me. He cares about me, unlike you and your father!!” which is true. He never used his son, unlike Tung Chiu who uses his daughter, at least twice.
Jack Wu is another surprise, giving a less serious sort of character, Yeung Chun (he is not related to Yeung Chi San by the way). I always thought he is a serious sort of actor, and he is but Yeung Chun relaxes him a bit. Not of much use to the plot though. Yeung Chun doesn’t do much.
Shek Sau as Fan Chiu Lun/Pang Kwok Chu is to me the worst acting by a veteran in this series. What the hell is wrong with Shek Sau? Why is his acting becoming more and more worse? No expression, voice is toneless, sometimes even talking with his teeths clenched tightly, like he can’t relax. He used to be such a good actor, what happened? And this Pang Kwok Chu is single minded but I would say for revenge story, he has the best ending. I mean his son did get to be emperor.
Someone told me Kristal Tin is not pretty. I thought she has beautiful skin and she isn’t ugly, just a matter of the right shade of lipstick and hairstyle. She does look boyish but she can act. I never liked her much, but these days I do like her. I am surprised to read criticisms of her performance in here, namely how she speaks her lines as if she is reciting her script. I thought she has always been that way, and to me she is not only reciting her script, but she is also teaching a class of foreigners how to pronounce a certain word in perfect Cantonese. She does speak her line clearly, one word at a time in such a “teacher” sort of tone. Hence her performance seems like acting to me. But she isn’t THAT bad. One scene was very memorable which was her last scene as she looked at Wayne’s Yu Jing and vomited blood. A very sad scene because her character is very likable. I just hate how she never got to marry Yu Jing. I would have wished she married him and run off to travel with him when Kwai Sing proved himself to be a capable ruler. But since in TVB’s eyes the emperors are stupid and their penchant for cruel ends for good people, I suppose the ending was not a surprise.
I already predicted from almost the beginning that Patrick Tang’s Sheung Hei will die and indeed he died but more dramatically than I expected and I was more affected by his death than everybody else. Patrick Tang has never been on my radar as an actor, and I haven’t seen him for such a long time. He has become rather effeminate these days and so he suits the character of Sheung Hei the eunuch. I was however very surprised at how graceful his performance was. Natalie Tong can learn a thing or 2 about controlled performance from him, Wayne can also learn to relax by watching Patrick Tang as well. I like Sheung Hei, more so with Yu Jing always insulting him each and every time they meet before he revealed he was his long lost younger brother. I like how Sheung Hei deals between all fractions and never betraying his principle. I feel he is a much better politician than Yu Jing. He was subtle and yet principled, always in the background but never forgotten. His torture scene and his suicide was to me one of the highlights and his body hanging on the public wall was dramatic, and very disturbing until Natalie Tong turned up and ruined the entire scene with her shouting, crying and overacting of the OTT kind. Patrick Tang is the one to watch out for here, and I would hope to see him getting some recognition for this graceful performance of a very graceful possibly fan favourite character.
There are some performances here worth noting, that of Rachel Kan as the 3rd prince’s mother who did her role justice by being more graceful than she should have been in Three Kingdoms RPG (which proves actors are sometimes foiled by a badly written character), Janet Chow as the wife of Kwai Wo was ok, she can’t ruin the series since she had little scenes and moreover Natalie Tong already ruined more than half of it, KK Cheung as Yu Bok Man who is Yu Jing’s father is much too young as a father to Wayne Lai but again he was ok, the little children playing Yu Tsing and Yu Ching respectively were cute, especially that little girl whom I remember from L’escargot who is a fine actress especially in crying scenes, whilst the rest of the women as wives of Yeung Chi San is mostly forgettable, and thankfully very little scene because their acting was not just bad but insignificant.
Overall, for me at least, this is an interesting series. It pretends to be intelligent and amongst many TVB series, it is, but in the end it seems like it is not baked enough. It has all the right ingredients, put into oven but temperature not high enough, time used not long enough and so it is half baked and soggy. It could have been a great pastry but in the end it is just mediocre thanks to the need to rush and to dance around the same sort of story every single episode. For a political thriller or palace intrigue, usually 28 episodes is not enough but for this series itself, 28 episodes was an episode or two too long. In fact when it reached the last episode, the viewer sitting next to me said “Thank god it is ending. Any longer it would have been draggy” and not because 28 was perfect length, but because by 28 it has ended when it was already draggy. What saves this series is to me some very great confrontation scenes with some of the best acting, the ending’s juxtaposition and of course the performances; first and foremost fans of Kent Cheng must not miss this. You will also enjoy several surprising performances. This is not Wayne Lai’s series who to me paled in comparison to Kent Cheng. They’re both great actors but this series seems to be made for Kent Cheng to shine. And shine he did.
Highly recommended to those who likes this sort of story.
I don’t like the poster. Too crowded. I don’t like the theme song by Leo Ku. Too old fashioned and singing very mild sounding.
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com and originally posted at www.point2e.com.