I think it’s time to admit that this show really isn’t working for me, you guys.
I tried with this one; I really did.
You might remember that I was in two minds about whether to keep going with this one, when I wrote my 2019 year-in-review. In all honesty, I’d been quite ready to drop it, just 6 episodes in, coz I’d wandered off and hadn’t felt the urge to go back. But then, AvenueX mentioned that even though this drama didn’t bring anything really new to the table, that it was one of her favorites of 2019 because of how real and believable the OTP chemistry and interactions were.
..which reeled me right back in, coz I did like this OTP. But now, many more episodes later, I finally realize that even though AvenueX and my own sister and maybe lots of other folks love this show, I just won’t end up loving this one. Everr.
WHAT I LIKED: The OTP
I concur with AvenueX; the OTP is very good together.
I came to enjoy our leads individually, quite quickly into my watch. Chang Chen is quite charismatic as Jiu Chen, and he possesses enough screen presence and gravitas for me to believe that he is the God of War, without him having to say very much at all. Ni Ni has a classic sort of beauty, and I can believe she is a beautiful immortal. The cute vibe she sometimes has to channel doesn’t distract me either. In fact, I find Ni Ni very likable and endearing. The cuteness of Ling Xi is just nice, for my taste. She’s not overly cutesy or clumsy; she comes across as very natural and winsome in my eyes.
Importantly, Chang Chen and Ni Ni share a chemistry that I found very sparky, and when the script allowed for it, their interactions and growing closeness felt very believable and natural. I really liked that, and I was eager to see more of this OTP getting to know each other, and growing closer.
Happily, Show does give me that, at least for a while. Here are some of my personal OTP highlights, during my watch. To be clear, I didn’t love everything about how this OTP relationship is treated, but I’ll talk about that later.
E5. Jiu Chen is definitely softening towards Ling Xi. The way he thanks her gently after they get back to Fuyun Hall, and the way he lets her prattle on as she sits in his presence. But most of all, the way he leaks a smile, when he overhears her exasperated interactions with the naughty puppy. Kya!
E8. Jiu Chen’s soul taking petty revenge on the Thunder God’s (Hei Zi) soldiers for bullying Ling Xi is pretty great though. And Ling Xi’s clearly trying to make medicine to help him.
E10. Ling Xi is definitely putting her heart into action, literally defending the evidence with her life, for Jiu Chen’s sake. And when Jiu Chen sees that she’s badly injured, I feel like I can see his concern, to the point where I feel like his heart aches to see her in such a state.
E11. Jiu Chen personally nursing Ling Xi is definitely a sign that he’s softened towards her. Also, the way he speaks to her is more personable and casual in manner, even if not in speech patterns. I’m also surprised that besides punishing Yuan Tong (Hai Ling) by removing 50,000 years of her cultivation and instructing her to start again as a normal soldier, he takes the extra step of meting out compensation for Ling Xi, just as Ling Xi had pouted to him about. Hee. He is taking her feelings seriously, and I like that.
E12. Lol. Jiu Chen waking up feeling poisoned, thanks to Ling Xi not understanding that he could die of carbon monoxide poisoning without his powers, is quite amusing. More so because he doesn’t even rebuke Ling Xi for it. I feel like he’s indulging her more and more now, and it’s clearly because he’s grown a huge soft spot for her. This pleases me.
E17. Well, finally. Jiu Chen looks at Ling Xi with softness in his expression, smiles slightly, and agrees not to make her leave again. All while patting her on the shoulder, as she drapes herself over his knee. It’s not much, but it’s significant. He seems to be acknowledging his fondness for her. Especially in the way he asks her if she’d like to return to the Peach Forest, or stay with him. It’s subtle, but his feelings are finally showing, and I’m here for it.
E18. I must say, it’s nice to see Jiu Chen and Ling Xi acting kinda lovey-dovey. He even held her hand, when they headed back to the Heavenly Palace for Ling Xi to be questioned. That’s comforting and sweet.
E18. Jiu Chen is absolutely treating Ling Xi with tenderness now, and sometimes when he fixes his gaze on her, I melt a little. Chang Chen can definitely do a swoony gaze well.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Heh. This poster basically says it all: I didn’t care for the very complicated world that exists around our OTP. Let me attempt to give you an idea of what I mean, without delving too deep into it and being too much of a downer.
1. I wasn’t super interested in Show’s fantasy world
I basically didn’t care about the machinations of this fantasy world. I didn’t care about the Heavenly Tribe, and all the white plasticky armor made everyone look so similar that I mostly couldn’t tell characters apart, especially if they weren’t primary characters. I also didn’t care about the Lieyi Tribe, the Shan Ling Tribe or the Demon Tribe; the stories around all these characters were long-drawn out and, to my eyes, overly complex. I tried to pay attention to these details at first, but it wasn’t long before I found myself actually forgetting why characters were doing the things they were doing.
2. I lost interest in supporting arcs that I’d initially rather liked
I was mildly interested in several supporting characters – Shi San (Na Guang Zi) and her longtime crush on Si Ming (Zhang Hai Yu) was quite amusing, as was Yun Feng (Li Jia Ming) and his crush on Qing Yao (Zhang Zhi Xi) – but because Show is so long, and things meander and cycle in place for long periods of time, I found myself eventually losing interest in these side arcs as well.
3. I had issues with the OTP relationship
There’s a big power imbalance built into our OTP relationship, with Jiu Chen being the God of War, and Ling Xi being a minor immortal who is basically a servant in his courtyard. Maybe Show fixes this later in its run, but from what I could tell (I got 41 episodes in, sort of, which I’ll tell you more about, in a bit), the power imbalance doesn’t actually get evened out, and that niggles at me.
Plus, in the early-ish episodes at least, Ling Xi has an almost unreasonable degree of trust in Jiu Chen, which I felt was a bit disturbing.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 15, Jiu Chen locks her up and has her almost freeze to death, and her trust in him does not waver in the slightest. I didn’t get what he was testing her about, really, and it bothered me that Ling Xi trusts Jiu Chen so implicitly that she doesn’t even doubt him when she almost freezes to death. I mean, trust is good, but you gotta be more shrewd about things. If the man you love almost kills you, you really should doubt him, I think.
Plus, there’s also that thing where, in episode 23, thanks to Plot Developments, Ling Xi is executed, believing that Jiu Chen was the one who sent her to her death. [END SPOILER]
4. Stuff gets really angsty
By episode 23, there’s angst everywhere, and I felt like I was putting up with quite a lot of uninteresting filler to get to the moments that actually grabbed me.
[SPOILER] For example, in episode 24, I was really uninterested in the first half of this episode, with Shan Ling Tribe’s State Preceptor (Li Dong Xue) being accused of wrongdoing etc. I wasn’t even that interested in Jiu Chen exhausting himself in dragon form, trying to gather Ling Xi’s spirit. But, that moment when he’s about to let Ling Xi go to the mortal realm, was quite arresting. His reluctance to part with her, the vicarious pain he feels, in sending her to a trial that will not be easy, and the anticipation of the separation, is all written in the look of sadness on his face, and the tortured tear that escapes his eye. I felt that. [END SPOILER]
SAYING GOODBYE [SPOILERS]
By episode 25, I felt distinctly bored with my watch. So from episode 26 onwards, I decided I’d try to fast-forward through all the stuff I wasn’t interested in, and only watch the bits that drew me in.
Ha. Guess what? I often ended up fast-forwarding through almost entire episodes; there was that much stuff that I didn’t care to watch. On the plus side, I felt like I was saving time, and I felt freed from subjecting myself to multiple scenes that I had no interest in. Suddenly, the story felt tighter, because I was ignoring such large chunks of – what were to me – filler.
At around the episode 29 mark, Jiu Chen allows human Ling Xi, now named Ah Mo, to believe that he’s her fiance Lord Song, and.. I had a problem with that. I felt that this deception was unfair to her, with him impersonating someone else in order to get close to her, but Show only concentrates on how happy Jiu Chen is to be near her, and doesn’t seem to even consider that this is going to have a negative impact on her in any way.
And then, Show serves up a petty rivalry for Ah Mo’s affections between Jiu Chen and State Preceptor Jing Xiu, which I initially found mildly entertaining despite its stupidity, but which I quickly lost interest in. I felt that both men (ok, immortals) were being a nuisance, especially when they broke the table and promptly ruined all the food that she’d cooked.
At the episode 39 mark, Ah Mo tells both men to leave, but neither does. I get that Jiu Chen likes her, but him telling her not to ever ask him to leave again, is quite.. instructional, and it’s far from romantic. I struggle with the power imbalance enough, without him resorting to things like this.
Essentially, while I still like the chemistry between our leads, I struggle with how Ah Mo states that she’s not interested in a romantic connection with Jiu Chen, but he doesn’t respect the boundary she’s drawn, and continues scheming to find ways to make her pay him attention and take care of him.
This bugged me. Considering that I was hanging on
mainly purely for the OTP connection, this was not a good thing. Now, I didn’t even have the silver lining of enjoying the OTP moments that I did watch. Boo. And then there’s the thing where by this point, I’d fast-forwarded through so much stuff, that I literally didn’t have a clue as to what was actually going on in this story anymore. Whoops.
After half-heartedly fast-forwarding my way through most of episode 41, I decided that it was time to stop torturing myself and just call it quits. I know some of you guys might love this one, which is cool. Please love Show extra for me, ok? Coz I don’t think I ever will, unfortunately. >.<