Flash Review: The Rise Of Phoenixes [China]

They say that sometimes, the journey is more important than the destination. I’d say that this is true, of this show.

The Rise of Phoenixes is (apparently) quite well-known for its less than ideal ending. That’s why I was reluctant to start this one, too. I mean, who in their right minds would watch a 70-episode show, knowing that it’s unlikely to end well, right?

But bittt assured me that I would fall in love with Chen Kun after watching this show, and that made me quite curious. I’m always ready to be a swooned-out fangirl, eh? Ha. So I dipped my toes into episode 1, became intrigued quite quickly, and then I got properly sucked in. By the time I hit narrative rough spots, I was attached enough to Show’s positives, to keep on going.

In this review, I’m going to attempt to lay it all out for you, so that you can decide whether this one would be worthwhile for you, too.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Ning Yi (Chen Kun) is the 6th prince of the Tiansheng empire, and has spent years being imprisoned in Zongzheng Temple for a crime he did not commit. Upon his release, he’s viewed with suspicion by his royal brothers, as potential competition for the throne. The emperor (Ni Dahong) grants Ning Yi a betrothal to the daughter (Xu Ge) of Colonel Qiu (Lu Yong), but the family does not consider this a favorable match, and tries to secretly switch the bride to Feng Zhiwei (Ni Ni), who is Colonel Qiu’s niece.

OST INSTRUMENTALS: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

I really like this instrumental track from the OST, and I found this video that basically plays it on loop. I thought it’d make a nice accompaniment to this review, so here it is, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.

STUFF I LIKED

1. Show is polished and pretty to look at.

Show is expensively produced, and it shows. From the costumes, to the sets, to the lighting and the music, everything feels luxurious and lush. There’s a sense of spaciousness about everything, and our characters feel like they’re living in an actual world with real buildings, rather than on a drama set.

Given the fact that a good number of our characters are royalty, this lavish, well-appointed feel is very much in line with our story.

In particular, I wanted to give this loom in the screenshot below a shout-out; it’s so large, and it actually appears to be authentic and functioning.

2. Our story reminds me a little bit of Nirvana in Fire

..but with potential romance in the mix.

With Ning Yi seeking justice for a brother wrongfully accused of treason, while assisted by a strategist, this does give me some nice Nirvana in Fire vibes. And you guys know how much I loved NIF (hint: A Lot). At the same time, our story has strong lashings of romance, and I can’t deny that this romantic arc was a big hook for me. I do enjoy a good romance, after all.

With these two main arcs combined, this show kinda feels like a more melodramatic cousin of NIF, with lots of high emotion replacing the restraint of NIF. This is a combination I liked a lot.

3. The acting is generally very solid, with some stand-outs.

I found Chen Kun and Ni Ni especially outstanding, which I’ll talk more about later.

4. When Show delivers spots of raw emotion, it is excellent at it.

I kinda wish we’d had more of these emotional scenes, but I think part of what makes these emotional scenes land so well, is the context of continuous restraint that the earlier episodes create. That continuous tamped down emotion, masked by even-keeled decorum, elevates the emotional scenes with the contrast, and the release, much like a bow, long held taut finally being loosed, creates that emotional explosiveness and heft that Show does so well.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Spotlight on Episode 43

The scene in the prison, where Zhiwei asks to be held by her mother (Liu Mintao), unable to hold the tears back, is so heart-wrenching. How awful, to be faced with certain, impending death, knowing that these are the last moments you’ll spend with your mother, with whom you’ve been estranged for so long.

Ni Ni is fantastic; she looks so genuinely devastated, while appearing so fragile and vulnerable, even as she forces a smile amid the tears. I am so impressed with her delivery.

Chen Kun is great as well. The way Ning Yi is putting up a calm and unruffled front, only to be stirred to fiery glares that look like they could burn a hole through Ning Cheng (He Lei), for speaking flippantly about Zhiwei’s impending death.

And the way Ning Yi rides up to deliver the edict, he looks like he’s literally about to burst from the effort of holding himself together, is so affecting.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

1. The cast is sprawling, which is confusing, especially at first.

I found it the sprawling cast a bit bewildering, because there are so many characters in our drama world that it’s hard to remember who’s who and related to whom and how, but revisiting the beginning, and looking up the characters, helped a lot to keep our many characters straight in my head, and to therefore have a general idea of what was going on in our story.

2. The story is more meandering than I would like.

At 70 episodes, our story tends to wander and ramble, and this made me feel the length of this drama quite acutely. I felt like certain arcs could have been shaved down or cut out completely, to make for a tighter story.

[SPOILER ALERT]

For example, in episodes 12 and 13, I thought the way Zhiwei ended up in Qingming Academy could have been handled more simply.

If she hadn’t run away and gotten herself into trouble and just listened to Ning Yi, it would’ve taken 2 seconds for her to be placed in Qingming Academy, and without her having to use her favor from Ziyan (Zhao Lixin). Instead, there’s all this drama with Ning Yan (Tong Shao) trying to kill her, and then all the princes gathering in the middle of nowhere with their horses and men, basically jostling for the upper hand, with Ning Yan trying to kill Zhiwei, Ning Yi trying to save her, and Ning Sheng (Shi An) trying to get Ning Yan back to the Crown Prince (Hai Yitian). This felt a little tiresome and unnecessary.

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

1. The political intrigue feels a bit one-note, after some time.

[MACRO SPOILER] Essentially, everyone takes turns aiming for the throne, and after a cycle or two, of various princes stepping up to the plate to be our story’s Big Bad, I started to find this a little repetitive. [END SPOILER]

2. Character development can be inconsistent and disjointed in spots.

[MINOR SPOILER] For example, Ning Yi is portrayed as quite weak and sickly in general, but sometimes, we see him spring into action, either by leading a war, or engaging in sword fights. While it’s nice to see him be strong rather than sickly, this did strike me as rather inconsistent.

Show does a similar thing with several characters, and this made the writing feel inconsistent, I felt. [END SPOILER]

3. Pacing is uneven, which makes the overall narrative feel a bit disjointed in spots.

Sometimes this show feels really slow, and then sometimes, a lot happens in one episode. When Show is interesting, I want to slurp up episodes back-to-back. But when it’s slow, I can’t muster up the interest to watch more than a single episode at a time.

[SPOILER] For example, in episode 21, suddenly the Crown Prince goes from being investigated, to incriminated, to being sentenced to life in confinement at the temple – only to then prepare a coup. All that, in the space of one episode, when the episodes that had come before, had moved like molasses. 😛 [END SPOILER]

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF MY WATCH

Chen Kun as Ning Yi

I really enjoyed Chen Kun’s outing as Ning Yi.

Did I love everything about his interpretation of Ning Yi? Well, no. There were certain scenes where his interpretation didn’t really work for me, to be honest. By and large, though, I found Chen Kun’s delivery of Ning Yi faceted and quite arresting.

Some people might find Chen Kun’s delivery of Ning Yi too theatrical, but I thought the theatrical quality, combined with Chen Kun’s very detailed delivery, made Ning Yi interesting, causing him to really stand out.

Given Ning Yi’s characterization in multiple shades of gray, he’s not a character that can be easily categorized as good or bad. He’s.. complicated. Sometimes, I feel drawn to him; sometimes, I feel sorry for him; and sometimes, I find him fascinating and almost repulsive.

[SPOILER] For example, in episodes 2 and 3, the way Ning Yi carries himself is so deliberate and languid, but it dances between being graceful, and being oily. When he’s talking strategy and philosophy with Ziyan, he appears righteous and shrewd, and then when he’s in the thick of executing his strategy, he comes across as slippery and duplicitous. [END SPOILER]

Because Ning Yi is characterized as someone who’s ambiguous and morally gray, but at the same time, places a great deal of emphasis on personal relationships, I often found myself uncertain of how much to trust his displays of emotion. Which tears were real, and which tears were crocodile tears, shed only as part of his strategy? It’s unsettling as it is fascinating, and I couldn’t look away.

In particular, Ning Yi’s facial expressions were a highlight of my watch, because his expressions keep changing. One moment he’s wincing in pain, the next, he’s leaking a pleased smirk, and then at the drop of a hat, he’s blazingly, startlingly regal. And it all shifts within mere seconds, consistently. I feel like I’m watching a kaleidoscope, and trying to figure out the pictures it’s portraying.

I find him such a fascinating, compelling mix, and I feel that Chen Kun’s intricate interpretation of Ning Yi, seasoned liberally with touches of the theatrical, makes him really pop onscreen.

On the shallow side of things, I think Chen Kun looks great as Ning Yi. I love the piercing gaze and chiseled features. I think the styling really works, on him. I love the top knot on him. I also love the long hair flowing loose on him; I think it makes him look interesting. Sometimes, when the story itself wasn’t grabbing me so much, I found myself just studying his features, and that made everything better, ha. 😅

Ni Ni as Zhiwei

I enjoyed Ni Ni’s delivery of Zhiwei a great deal, and she was definitely a big highlight of my watch as well.

I’d only ever seen Ni Ni before this, in Love and Destiny, and I must say, I much prefer her outing here. Not only is Zhiwei a more layered character, Ni Ni also gets a lot more room to showcase her acting range. I think she does a wonderful job of making Zhiwei really pop, as a character.

I love that Zhiwei is written to be so intelligent that she easily outsmarts most people, whether they are men or women. And I love that she’s kind, good-hearted, and loyal, too. She’s strong inside and out; she bears her burdens (mostly) without complaint, but she also won’t stand being bullied. She’s quick-thinking, and able to hold her own, whether she’s crossdressing as a man, or donning womanly robes. I found her versatile, capable and altogether lovely, and I could totally understand why various men in our story would be so taken with her.

I’d actually expected Zhiwei to be very ladylike all the time, because Ni Ni is so delicately beautiful, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that when Zhiwei crossdresses as a man, she really comes across like a poised young man. Her speech patterns and entire manner in which she carries herself changes to something more masculine, while managing to remain natural.

And yet, when Zhiwei puts away the manly disguise, she becomes a graceful, elegant lady with a regal bearing about her. I found it quite remarkable and very impressive.

I found Ni Ni extremely versatile in her interpretation of Zhiwei, and I found her delivery spot-on, whether Zhiwei was being playful and cheeky, perplexed and impassioned, or deeply grieved and distressed. I was especially impressed with all of Zhiwei’s crying scenes. Every one of those scenes felt raw and real, and Ni Ni made those tears feel like they’d spilled over from the depths of Zhiwei’s soul.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Episode 51 is when Zhiwei learns the truth of her birth, and this is also when her mother and Feng Hao (Chang Long) die before her very eyes.

Ni Ni’s delivery of Zhiwei’s reaction to everything, is so full of heartbreak, denial, desperation and grief. It’s so good, and feels so raw and true. It doesn’t feel like a performance; she just is Zhiwei, full of palpable emotion, and I feel completely sucked into her pain.

It’s heartrending, agonizing torment, and Ni Ni delivers it all so beautifully and so elegantly. Amazing.

[END SPOILER]

Ning Yi and Zhiwei together

From the very first episode, I had an inkling that Ning Yi and Zhiwei would make a great pair, because they are equally matched in wit and sharpness – and I was absolutely right. They do make a great pair. Their mutual attraction is what makes the early stretch of this drama as engaging as it is; they are each both very quickly intrigued by the other, and the way our story has them dance on each other’s boundaries, vacillating between showing a dumb front because they both have secrets to hide, and revealing lashings of their true selves, is very cracky stuff.

Chen Kun and Ni Ni share excellent chemistry that mostly simmers under the surface of decorum, but when allowed free rein, that chemistry unfolds as something wonderfully rich and deep, and sometimes quite intoxicating too, because of how electric it is.

I was completely absorbed by how Ning Yi and Zhiwei become more and more drawn to each other, and how they care more and more deeply for each other, despite the things that might hold them back on the surface.

In the grand scheme of things, Ning Yi and Zhiwei don’t actually spend a great deal of screen time together, but when they do, it’s so gratifying that it compels me to keep watching, if only to see them share the screen again.

Here’s a hand-dandy collection of some of this couple’s scenes.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E25. “Aren’t you tired? I’m very tired.”

Admittedly, I’d thought that Shaoning’s (Xu Hao) plan to kill Ning Yi in episode 24 is pretty annoying, but that scene where Ning Yi and Zhiwei instinctively work together, is pretty great. They are so in sync, and there is complete trust between them, even though Zhiwei is pushed at Ning Yi with a dagger. That was pretty cool, and we get a lot of sparky tension too, in the moment.

Right afterwards, the scene when Ning Yi and Zhiwei are in close proximity on the floor, after Shaoning’s attack, is rawr-inducingly sexy. The way he trails his nose, maybe-touching her skin; the way he looks at her with meaning; the way his lip curls in pleasure and amusement. Augh. It’s incredibly sensual.

When he asks, “Aren’t you tired? I’m very tired,” I take it to mean that he’s asking if she isn’t tired from the effort of fighting her feelings for him and staying away from him, as he is, in regard to her. It’s all very heady and intoxicating, and I can see why Ning Yi would look so entranced and captivated still, the next day.

E26. Burgeoning hyperawareness

As the hyperawareness between Ning Yi and Zhiwei becomes more obvious, we get a fair number of moments where we see each feeling acutely conscious of the other’s presence and proximity. This scene in episode 26 is a great example.

The way Zhiwei looks in Ning Yi’s direction, when Nanyi (Bai Jingting) is dressing her wound behind the screen, and the way he hovers nearby, his ears clearly trained in her direction, tell us so clearly that she’s concerned for him, and he, for her.

E36. “You are so ugly.”

I found Zhiwei’s ploy of making herself look ugly for her visit to the palace in women’s clothing, audacious, effective and nicely entertaining.

The reason I wanted to highlight this scene, is because I love Ning Yi’s look of amused delight, when he sees her all uglified. I mean. He’s delighted. By her ugliness. That’s so endearing to me. 😍

E41. “You should leave. The farther, the better.”

We don’t get many scenes overtly acknowledging feelings between Ning Yi and Zhiwei, but when we do get them, they’re so good.

The quiet, restrained, tearful intensity between them in this scene, as Zhiwei asks his permission to leave, and he grants that permission, is so full of pent-up emotion. There’s something very sensual about the way these two relate to each other, when they’re in close proximity, and decisions that will affect their relationship are laid on the table. I feel like I could cut the longing between them with a knife; it’s that palpable.

Also, the mutual biting is so off-the-wall and so unique to them. She’d bitten him in fury before, saying things weren’t over between them, and at this agreement on her departure, he bites her back, claiming that he wants to leave a memento, since she’s leaving, but I think there’s an additional layer of meaning, where he’s echoing her words, “Things aren’t over between us.”

E42. “I would rather die.”

After Zhiwei comes clean about her disguise and is thrown into prison to await sentencing, Ning Yi goes to see her, and I found the scene between them so restrained and so moving.

Each of them is willing to sacrifice themselves in order to save the other. Ning Yi’s willing to throw himself under the bus for her, either by naming himself as the father of her (fictitious) unborn baby or the instigator who’d instructed her to go to Qingming Academy in disguise, but she is not willing to let him do either, and would rather die. Oof. Her tears are so raw and so pure.

And although Ning Yi keeps a mostly even sort of composure, it’s clear that he’s very concerned for her. The way he clasps her hands in his, and tells her that as his little raccoon, she must have nine lives, is a poignant callback to his pet name for her, while also being such a plaintive statement of hope.

E43. The marketplace date

Zhiwei trying to tease an admission of sorts from Ning Yi, to explain why he keeps saving her, is more evidence that her feelings for him have grown. Before, she’d been content to pretend to ignore everything, but now, she seems peeved when Ning Yi doesn’t reveal any personal intent, in answer to her question.

Her request, which leads to the date in the marketplace, is such a nice glimpse of ordinary happiness. This is pretty much the most “ordinary happiness” that this not-a-couple experiences in our story, which is why I wanted to give it a spotlight, despite how short the scene is. They look so blissful together, in this small snippet of freedom.

E47. A love confession

It makes complete sense to me that an epidemic, with its life and death stakes, would force our OTP feelings to the surface. Up to this point, they’ve been more overtly caring and flirtatious with each other. But it’s only now, when Ning Yi’s life is in actual danger, that both of them come to acknowledge and embrace their feelings for each other.

Zhiwei’s deep worry for him, at the expense of her own safety; Ning Yi’s huge effort to appear healthy in front of the doctor, so as not to worry her; her letters to him with multiple hints to keep himself well, and his immediate understanding; it all speaks volumes.

They understand each other so well, and care about each other so deeply. And then, when Zhiwei is allowed to nurse him back to health, the stolen glances and the leaked smiles say a lot about how pleased they are, to see each other.

The part where she insists on feeding him his medicine is so full of nervous awkward body language, it perfectly communicates the hyperawareness that Ning Yi is feeling, and the intent way he looks at her, is completely intoxicating.

Most of all, though, the confession scene gets me by the heart.

The nervous body language, and the humming and hawing, makes Ning Yi feel so perfectly awkward and nervous, but when Zhiwei basically threatens to walk away, his confession comes out in a string of strongly spoken words combined with a sweetly plaintive gaze, that when he was hanging between life and death, he realized that he likes her and only her.

His voice trails off as he talks about why he’d hesitated to say it out loud, but Zhiwei leans in, grabs him by his sleeves, and makes ready to give her response – until they are interrupted by the announcement of a visitor.

But Ning Yi leans in to hear her answer, his cheek on her cheek, his nose brushing her skin, while she quickly whispers, “Me too,” before shooing him to see his visitor. Ning Yi’s dazed, happy, relieved smile is cute, and Zhiwei’s happy tearful smile is heartfelt. Eee! ❤️

E53. “Let’s never meet again.”

The goodbye scene on the bridge is short, and neither Ning Yi nor Zhiwei say very much, but there’s a lot of pathos around Ning Yi and Zhiwei separating. The scene is so full of wistful finality.

Ning Yi’s face, mostly impassive, belying a deep sadness in his gaze; Ning Yi grabbing Zhiwei’s face, dislodging the tears; Zhiwei tearing herself away, saying that they should never meet again. Ack. It’s all feels so deeply emotional and heartbreaking. 💔

E54. “It’s all your fault.”

In episode 54, Zhiwei rushes to see Ning Yi in his carriage when she hears that he’s hurt himself in a fall. The entire scene, where they both bemoan the fact that he’s a prince, is full of raw emotion. There’s a lot of wistfulness expressed between them, and it’s laced with a distinct sense of resignation.

He looks at her with such affection and longing, and even in the midst of her tears, there’s a little bit of coquettishness about her which indicates that she likes him. There’s something so heartbreaking about the fact that Ning Yi leans into the moment to tell her that she’s even prettier when she cries, when they both know that there is no future for them as lovers.

Still, I love the fact that he reaches to hold her hand. There’s something very wistful, yet also hopeful and assuring, in that silent gesture.

E58. “Moving forward and giving up are two different things.”

The scene where Ning Yi and Zhiwei say goodbye before he leaves for Tiansheng, leaving her in Jinshi, is so full of feeling, that’s tamped down by decorum, but still leaks out in sheening tears.

Even though he declines to say much else, Ning Yi’s words to Zhiwei, that going forward and giving up are two different things, combined with his wistful gaze, is quite potent. It literally haunts Zhiwei, to the extent that she nearly loses it on her wedding day. 💔

[END SPOILER]

Special shout-outs:

I realize that aside from our leads, my biggest soft spots are for the key right hand men in our story. Here’s the quick spotlight on each of them.

Bai Jingting as Nanyi

Nanyi really grew on me as a character, because of his selfless, enduring loyalty to Zhiwei. The way that he’s literally willing to dedicate his whole life to protecting her, is very moving stuff. And his key phrase, “Where you are, there I am,” is such a succinct summary of his entire life’s focus. It moves me, that he does all of this so matter-of-factly, never expecting anything in return. ❤️

He Lei as Ning Cheng

I grew to really enjoy Ning Cheng for his unwavering loyalty towards Ning Yi. He’d stayed with Ning Yi in Zongzheng Temple, and then served Ning Yi with indefatigable devotion, regardless of Ning Yi’s station or ambition. To Ning Cheng, it was never about whether Ning Yi would ever take the throne; he just wanted to be true to Ning Yi himself, to the extent that he would literally die for Ning Yi, and I found that very moving indeed.

Hou Yansong as Zhao Yuan

What I really liked about Zhao Yuan, is how sincerely he cares for the emperor and his sons. He’s consistently an affirming presence, and he often speaks up for the various princes in front of the disgruntled, irate emperor, and it’s clear that he does it out of genuine fatherly concern, rather than an actual invested interest in the politics of the fight for the crown. He’s a good egg.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I’ll be honest; it’s not just Show’s ending that I didn’t like so much – I didn’t care for the whole last 10 episodes.

In the final 10 episodes, everything starts to get really messy and rushed, and quite a bit of stuff doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Most importantly, the dramatic tension in this last stretch feels distinctly manufactured instead of organic. More suspension of disbelief is required than ever, and even with my analytical lens set to its blurriest setting, I still couldn’t quite get into this final stretch.

The whole Dayue arc involving the Prince of An (Yuan Hong) feels hurried and all over the place, kinda like Show had been taking its own sweet time swanning around, and then realized too late, that it had a deadline to meet in serving up a finale, and had started scrambling to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the blender – and then served up the results. 🙄

The narrative itself is choppy, and the transition between scenes and mini-arcs feel abrupt. It almost feels like Show’s writers had to take a bunch of sick days at the end, and a bunch of interns were roped in to cobble together the finale.

For the record, here are some of the things that didn’t make a lot of sense to me, during my watch of the last 10 episodes:

1. Why would Lingying suddenly tell Ning Yi that his mother’s alive, when she’d been so afraid to breathe a word to him before?

2. It’s a stretch that Nanyi would be able to talk so much, and so smoothly in his doctor disguise, especially since he’s naturally very reticent and non-verbal.

3. Ning Yi wiping Zhiwei’s memory with acupuncture (who among them has the expertise?), and Prince of An telling her that she’s his wife. And then the whole bomb+flood thing, with water levels rising so fast that people are swimming instead of walking, in a flash. This Titanic scene was really quite unbelievable. And then right away, in the next episode, we’re on dry land again, and everything that happened at Pucheng seems to be behind us. It’s more than a little whiplashy.

4. The sudden appearance of Dacheng’s fourth prince Zhangsun Hong feels like it came out left field, especially since Show’s been emphasizing for a long time, that Zhiwei is the only remnant of Dacheng royalty. Did nobody else know that he existed, or did people like Zong Chen (Xiu Qing) actually know, but lied to Zhiwei that she was the only remnant left? Either way, it’s hard to believe.

And now, Zhangsun Hong is stirring up trouble where there was none. Ning Yi was perfectly happy being a commoner, and Ning Qi (Qu Gaowei) – whose delivery unfortunately deteriorates into shouty petulance, the further into our finale stretch we get – was perfectly happy to let Ning Yi be a commoner, but Zhangsun Hong is set on turning these brothers against each other.

This feels very manufactured, because it’s introduced so late. Zhangsun Hong’s meddling all lands like a not very refined last-resort plot twist, written in to introduce sudden tragedy to our characters, who were otherwise on the road to something akin to a happy-ish ending. The opposite of deus ex machina, if you will.

Plus, Zhangsun Hong doesn’t even seem to have much of a plan, other than turning the princes against each other, and Zhiwei against Ning Yi. This seems small-scale, petty and kinda lame, on the scale of political revolution? 🙄

5. It strikes me as odd that people in this drama world are willing to die, just to point our key characters in the wrong direction. I’d think that people would value their lives more that that. But Zhangsun Hong dies in a set-up, created to make Zhiwei doubt Ning Yi. And Helian Zheng (Zhang Xiaochen) does the same. I find this hard to swallow, and frustrating to watch. Ning Yi and Zhiwei definitely feel like the victims of circumstance, and it’s perplexing to see a smart character like Zhiwei, who’s supposed to know Ning Yi so well, fall for the lies.

6. The emperor comes back from the supposed dead, after Ning Yi ascends the throne, looking not much the worse for wear. This is a definite stretch, especially since he was stabbed deep in the chest with a sword.

So why did I keep watching, even though I felt so dissatisfied by the way our story developed in Show’s last stretch?

Well, I stayed for the emotional beats, plus, I was curious to know how Show would tie up the story, especially for Ning Yi and Zhiwei.

In terms of positives, I did like the scene where Ning Yi comes out from Consort Qing’s (Zhu Rui) quarters where the emperor’s just been assassinated. He carries himself so regally.

When the doors open again and he walks out, his face is wan and there is a hollowness in his eyes, but significantly, he will not deign to answer to the accusations being thrown at him by Ning Qi and Ziyan. It’s like it’s beneath him to incline his ear to the noise.

And when he bellows that he will investigate to find the perpetrator behind the late emperor’s death, he’s absolutely commanding. I feel like he himself is the evidence that the people needed – ie, looking at him and feeling his personal power was enough, that they didn’t need further evidence – to acknowledge him as their new emperor.

The misunderstandings between Ning Yi and Zhiwei are finally cleared, Zhiwei agrees to Ning Yi’s request to be his Empress, and asks for three days to prepare.

However, as Ning Yi sets out to bring her to the palace, we see Zhiwei throw herself off a cliff, saying in voiceover, “Liulang. Forgive me for lying to you. You and I have caused the loss of too many lives. I cannot live with that. If we meet again in our next lifetime, let’s be ordinary people.”

Ning Yi seems to instinctively feel her presence leave the world, and he responds sadly in voiceover,

“Feng Zhiwei. I’m sure you’ve already arrived in the land beyond, where you’ll finally be free. Yet I, even though I’ll live the rest of my life in pain, I can’t end it with a stroke of a sword and follow you there. That’s because you and I still have unfulfilled wishes here on earth. I, Ning Yi, have witnessed too much destruction caused by the perpetual fight for power. Therefore, I will spend the rest of my life making sure that tyranny does not rear its ugly head. There will be no corruption, bribery or negligence. No innocents will be wronged. Only then will I be able to go meet you, Feng Zhiwei.”

Tear. Such a sad end, for a pair of lovers who, if not for the darkness of politics, would have been perfect for each other. 💔

I’ve heard that in the source novel, Zhiwei fakes her death and Ning Yi forsakes the throne in order to be with her, and I’ve also seen some theories hypothesizing that Zhiwei doesn’t die in this story, because Nanyi is shown waiting for her.

As much as I’d like to believe that’s true, I honestly don’t think that’s what Show was going for.

For a series that aired on TV in China, I do believe Show would choose to present the more socially conscious version of events, with Zhiwei being unable to live with her conscience, and Ning Yi putting nation before self, instead of following her in death. A very tragic end for our lovers, to be sure.

However, there is a silver lining in Ning Yi’s words, which suggest that he will reunite with Zhiwei, after he’s accomplished all that he needs to do, to uphold justice and rid the country of corruption. Additionally, there’s also what he’d said earlier, in episode 69, that he doesn’t just want to be with Zhiwei in this lifetime, but in every lifetime, for all of eternity.

And so, if we think of their love as something that is so deep and profound that it could – and would – transcend lifetimes, we can imagine them reuniting once again, sometime in the future, not as embattled royals, but simply, as an ordinary tailor and his little raccoon. ❤️

THE FINAL VERDICT:

An uneven ride that’s made significantly better by some truly excellent performances.

FINAL GRADE: B

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beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – Is Prince Hellraiser (and his actions) a man to my liking? Hell YES!!!! 😂😂😂😂😂

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris @ elaine phua @ele nash – I’m mid episode 66 and Show has me wrung out emotionally! Prince Chu’s mom over the cliff. Explaining something to Nan Yi is harder than explaining to Fei Liu on NIF. I’m sorry he’s hurt and grieving but how can he blame Prince Chu’s bodyguard when Master Zong was in Prince Chu’s house so obviously a part of the kidnapping. And then Fei Zhwei shows up at the Cliff of Prisoner Exchange and holds Prince of Chu back when he possibly could’ve saved his mom by helping Zan yi hold onto the rope. *face palm* No wonder he wants her out of his sight, especially when she had no answer for how she knew that’s where Za yi had taken Prince Chu’s mom. I wanna know too! And if it’s more sloppy writing that the writers just wanted her there “just because”… then I’ll be badmouthing this show for years to come!

But right now Show is trying my fortitude with Slave Market Undercover Spy “comforting” the Emperor and taking the role of “undercover” literally. 🤢 Didn’t one of you ladies mention in NIF, Consort Jing massaging the Emperor’s thigh? This is thousand times worse! 🤢🤢🤢

I admit the OTP is intense though. That’s my only caveat.

Oh! @eda I almost forgot Prince Hellraiser, has done nothing but be kind and loving to Fei Shwei. If this is “manipulating” – manipulate me, baby!

I admit I swooned that Prince of Chu showed up to rescue Fei Zhwei (and I did think it was stupid for Prince/King Hellraiser to let her go of to war).(duh!) I know she’s hard-headed but I don’t think Prince Chu would’ve let her go even if he’d have to lock her in a room uner guard.

But besides swooning over Prince Chu coming to her rescue, I swooned even harder when King Hellraiser was right there in the flooded waters fighting for her! *swoon*

King Hellraiser, so far anyway, has even put aside his pride to send someone to Prince of Chu to ask for help in rescuing the Little Racoon (which she truly is cause in the first 20 or so episodes, I was yelling for her to “just be still”. She’s like those raccoons that you see on YouTube breaking into houses and causing chaos!)

So King Hellraiser’s only outburst was when Fei Shwei is leaving to see what’s going on with Master Zong’s death in Prince Chu’s house and Kingy is upset because he realizes her feelings for Prince Chu are as strong as ever and he will never win her over. Any man in love in his situation would react the same… or worse!

Anyway, Show has me so wound up and caught up in their emotions, I needed this break to rant and I guess that’s a good thing.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

if you are involved emotionally, that means the show is doing it’s job.
but i kind of feel that you are judging the drama’s events from the 21st century person perspective, while you still have to take in consideration the sensitivities, traditions, psychology and mind set of these ancient times. kind of try to look at this through the lens of their emotional , spiritual and/or cultural make up. what is screaming “logic breach” to you right now, might have been different for these characters then. also, it is a drama, and we already established that we have no choice but to give up looking for consistency or logic in these dramas. that is the nature of the beast. it is still exiting and “heart grabbing” as you experience now. for that reason it is worth watching those dramas, so enjoy.
but still, a little bit of how i see the problems that you point out. so gu nanyi is in a state of emotional turmoil, a shock of the highest degree, he lost the person that picked him up as a baby when he was thrown out by his own father due to autism, and raised him as his own son. that is the only family, the only person in his entire world that he feels that his life belongs to that “father and mentor”. in such a state, loosing that only connection to that human soul is a trauma that is very difficult to deal with, whether it would be then or nowadays. in such a state, most likely the mind, the logic becomes useless. therefore, he is not even able to listen to any explanation- the only thing he can face is the death and his incredible loss. in addition, the sense of avenging somebodies death is very prevalent in this society at that time, he almost feels that it is his duty to avenge the death of his master and father-figure, no matter how and why it happened.
the other concern you have, is that feng zhiwei hold up prince chu, and may be prince chu could help. now remember, it was not because gu nanyi could not hold on to the rope, but the rope broke, so nin yi could not have helped in this situation. also, add to this that prince chu himself is in the state of shock himself and can not think straight. the whole situation is a mess, but that is again a drama, and it’s part of excitement for the viewer (whether positive or negative???)
now your darling hellraiser! i will tell you one thing, prince chu truly loves his woman, the hell raiser is rather obsessed, infatuated with feng zhiwei, but i would hardly classify it as love. prince chu is ready to do anything for her sake, for her safety, for her future happiness, even if it means to give up the chance of having her by his side. prince chu risks his own life to protect feng zhiwei’s life. for prince chu feng zhiwei’s life has the highest price possible, but not for hellraiser, who is driven by his ego, macho pride and desire to own feng zhiwei. nin yi gives feng zhiwei the possibility to make her own choice, he does not put pressure on her to stay with him. not the case with hellraiser, first he says he just wants her to stay with him regardless if she loves him, but when it comes to reality, he wants to sleep with her from the very first night they married, but that was not the arrangement, now was it? he also throws a tantrum and the divorce papers when she asks for just a month to clarify things in the capital and her newfound brother (where is hellraiser’s compasion?)
as you rightfully pointed out, he sends her to war instead of himself, and then does not do anything to save her, in a difficult situation like this he is brain-dead, i am sorry to point this out. the only solutions that he comes up with is to beg another man to save his wife, his supposedly love. is this a man to your liking?

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – I’m mid ep 52 and I must say ML really, really impressed me with his acting in Ep 51 where he pleads with the Emperor (and threatens to move the army under his control AND threatens to kill the Emperor by killing himself) for Feng Zhi’s life. His passion really shown through. His speech was almost guttural (yet clear) as he struggled to control his emotions. 👏

As to Prince Hellraiser – YASS! BARBARIAN! YAAAAASSSSS! I’m totally loving it! He may look a tad bid scruffy, maybe a good layer of dust on him too. But that’s okay, I’d be happy to order up one of those medieval tubs of hot water and scrub his back for him. Or as we said in NIF, I’d “massage his thigh” for him. 😉😉 😉

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

🤣😅😂😆

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – as to your #2 answer – Thanks. That makes sense.

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – Well, then, I have to say that NIF wins out for me as far as story writing/plot goes. Too often in TROP, what’s supposed to be an intricate plan sounds like nonsense.

Although of course, TROP wins in the OTP department because NIF basically barely gave us any OTP togetherness. I think I read in KFG’s review that the romance was made up and squeezed in the show because it wasn’t in the book at all. (I could be wrong. I hope I’m not misquoting her.)

I do like the OTP in TROP, it just feels like it took such a very long time for them to have much screen time together. I find the Prince totally weird which keeps me on the fence about them. Even though I’m not liking the way the actor portrayed the Prince, his quirkiness is the whole reason that I didn’t drop the show. I keep trying to figure him out. I had probably watched over 20 episodes before I decided he really is a good guy/potential ruler. I think it was when he pardoned a pirate stating that he knew the person was only following orders because the bad guy must’ve been holding something over him. That’s when I decided that his nefarious demeanor covered a good heart.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

i must agree, the story is way smoother in NIF. both dramas have their strong points and weak ones. i find TROP more enjoyable to watch on many levels. (don’t get me wrong, i do enjoy NIF also). in regards to prince ning yi character – it is very complex, which makes him truly human. i love his very polished intellect, his sophistication, his compassion for his empire and the desire to root out evil by all means, his love for people (i am not talking love for the power hungry cruel evil palace creatures) and even his no-end love for his woman, he’s ready to go to any distance for her and her safety and happiness, even if it means giving up his own love for her sake. on another hand, i am very impressed the way chen kun is portraying ning hi, he’s one of the best actors today (i mean from what i have seen. the second one is the korean actor ji sung, at least in my book). in regards to hellraiser – he always looks to me unkept and dirty, especially his hair. and he is from a barbaric uncultured tribe even that he’s a prince there. even his clothes somehow remind me of the mongolian barbaric tribal clothes. his character – i can discuss it later, when you finish the drama. meantime enjoy his “machoism”.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – you are correct ma’am, as the MCS/Nihuang OTP was written into the script for the viewers as it was never in the novel. I cannot say more until we are done with the group watch.

I thought the TROP OTP was one of the best.

beez
1 month ago

@eda @ele @AnybodyWhoKnows – Why would a loving mother cast a poisonous spell on her husband [no brainer there] but include her son?

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@beez Yeah, the spell did seem a bit daft but I think it was the only way she felt she could keep Ning Yi alive, otherwise the Emperor may well have bumped him off. He can’t kill him if it means he’d die himself (though, inevitably, the spell would have shortened Ning Yi’s life even if the Emperor lived to old old age) 🤔

I watched TROP on Netflix and the subtitles were good. But mine did translate Zhi Wei’s nickname as raccoon too. I found all that adorable, mind you 😍 I did try to watch lovely Hyukkie in Empire of Lust once on some less reputable source and the subs literally made zero sense. At one point, a dentist is mentioned… 🙃 Bad subtitles can literally kill a show. But maybe you’re only ogling Helian?! You don’t need to know the content of what he’s saying to do that! And he is very, very handsome, I agree 😉

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez
  1. she could not care less about her husband – he forced her into marrying him, and she had no choice although she was in love with another man with whom she grew up and he was from her tribe.
  2. to connect ning yi and the father emperor was her way of providing insurance that her son will not be killed that easily. ning yi was only a young child when she performed it, she probably had no idea that she’ll be discarded shortly after that. i think she probably thought she could lift this spell herself at a later time, after ning yi grows up and gains strength.
beez
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

@eda harris -So here it is, 13 days later. I’ve finished the series. And I have the answer to the question that I’d asked almost two weeks ago – the Emperor is totally schizoid! I now see why Prince Chu’s mother would link her son to the Emperor to try to keep him alive. The Emperor would change his mind mid-conversation from “you’re a good son” to “kill him” and back and forth over and over again.

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – Not at all! Because this is my fantasy were talking about here. 😂😂😂

beez
1 month ago

@eda – I’m midway through Ep46. I’m watching on Netflix.

I have a question – What was Prince NingYi’s nickname for Wei Zhi?
Throughout all these episodes, the subtitles have called her “his little raccoon”. So the second son of Minhai just gifted NingYi a racoon but lo and behold when Wei Zhi lifted it out of the basket, it is a cat! So I’m wondering if “racoon” is another translation error?

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

netflix is pretty good. that is where i watched it. the nickname is “raccoon”. i find it very cute. it happened if i remember correct, that somebody was visiting ning yi and fengzhiwey made a sound while hiding behind the screen, so he explained it to his visitor that it was his pet raccoon. also, when he was drinking with the crown prince in a restaurant, ning chang came in and informed him that his raccoon ran away, and the prince commented that it is good that ning yi is a carefree prince and even has a pet raccoon. it was convenient not to disclose her identity, but also very endearing. they both fell for each other from the very beginning, even that they did not want to admit it even to themselves. it is the most tender, pure but full of aching power love.
the second son of minhai gifted the kitten because it was just easier to get a cat rather than a raccoon, and it was simply a symbol or a good gesture on his part, to make ning yi to feel more relaxed and at home. that is my interpretation.

beez
1 month ago

@eda – Oh, eda! Make no mistake, I’m purely shallow and focusing on the outside! 😉 In fact, I’d be totally swooning if he steals her away from Prince Vamp.

Now the only problem would be those 10 concubines waiting to have their feet massaged. I’ll just reach for my rose-colored glasses and pretend they were never mentioned. 😆

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

well, but she does not LOVE HIM. does this count?

beez
1 month ago

@Eda – well, I have the freshness of viewing it just a few days ago and he definitely wanted to kill the Princess but Wei Zhi stopped him. But now in these later eps, he seems to have softened toward her somewhat.

beez
1 month ago

@eda – I find the Koreans altogether too forgiving! 😆 And I should appreciate that as a Christian but when I’m watching stories that are not about Christians, I don’t expect them to behave in such a benevolent manner. (That also goes for if they’re Buddists or whatever they may be.) I want to see the evil doer get his comeuppance and if it’s a historical drama, if said comeuppance is violent… I admit, I’m eager for it. 😆

beez
1 month ago

@Ele -I’m having no problem comparing the two because I finished NIF (for the second time a few weeks ago). I’ve only discussed (compared) the visuals of the two shows because I’m cutting TROP a lot, a LOT, of slack because I’m sure that where I’m watching it has very poor subtitles because the plots and the dialogue are completely nonsensical.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

where are you and where are you watching it, if i may ask? may be you can watch it on another site?

beez
1 month ago

@eda – I’m not questioning Wei Zhi’s motivation for saving the Princess. I believe she would’ve done so whether ordered or not. I’m saying that Prince Ning had no problem killing the Princess as he viewed her as his enemy. And after she survived the arrows because of Wei Zhi, he still intended to kill the Princess if Wei Zhi had not begged him to spare her.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

you are right, wei zhi probably would protect the devil if it looked like human, no matter how evil. so naturally she would protect the princess, even that this princess almost blew up ning yi and her together. but i disagree that ning yi would have killed the princess, even that she was a thorn in his you know what.
for him she did not reach this level of enemy.

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – Right now, I’m in a puddle. Prince Hellraiser just dismounted his horse, goes over to Feng Zhi and says “Seeing you alive makes me feel alive too.”

I’m flailing and melting and doing it all over again when he follows that up with “I’ll go wherever you go from now on”.

There. Just. Are. No. Emojees.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

so you are charmed by Hellraiser. enjoy for now. but wait… not everything and not every person is as it looks to be.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

😁😃😆

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – Yes, I see the poor production values of NIF. It makes me hate these new-fangled tv’s. lol Especially when MCS’s glue is dried out, caked up and the hairline is hanging off the side of his face. 😆

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

you are right, and i saw it also. but… i would like to tell you one more thing from my experience. i watched NIF right after TROP, because somebody said that it is better than TROP. i could not imagine anything being better, except of course the royally screwed up very end. it was not better and i found a gazzilion flaws in NIF production as a whole, except for the story itself. but one of the reasons for my critical eye, is that i was still craving and missing the splendid epic production in it’s entirety of TROP. i was comparing, and it is not fare. although they are similar, they are really different “animals”. i am now rewatching NIF, and i must say i enjoy it much better now (after rewatching TROP about 5 or 6 times (i lost count, and finally talked my husband to watch it and watched it with him, LOL). anyway, such dramas should not be watched at the same time or even right after, you will be shortchanging yourself.

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

Hellooo, there, @Eda and @beez, just catching up with your thoughts on TROP v NIF. I watched TROP (twice) last year and am on the group watch for NIF now and I hafta say they are entirely different shows. I think it’s that TROP is all luscious – clothes, chemistry, colour – and NIF is all subtlety – plot, palace, people. I am going for the alliteration 😁 but I hope you get my point. I LOVED The Rise of Phoenixes for all the squee for the OTP, for the intricate details of how it looked. I’m enjoying Nirvana in Fire for all the squee for Mei Changsu, for the intricate details in plot. I miss the romance in Nirvana in Fire but if I’d watched NIF first, I think I’d miss the plotting craft in The Rise of Phoenixes. As a romance slave, I feel TROP will end up having the edge for me – but that may change as I sense NIF will land its ending well.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

hellooo back at you! just one thing, the chinese have a tendency to kill at the end no matter how, where, what, why?? the korean’s, so not so elaborate, colorful, exotic etc, at least they know how to end their dramas, so it is not so brutal. the Chinese can learn from them. anyway, without saying much more, i did hope for a different ending in NIF also.

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

Oh no, really? I’m worried now! 😬 No ending can be quite so disastrous as TROP’s, though… Surely?!

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

that’s right – TROP is on the top in this department. is this a consolation? i did not want to spoil anything for you, it was just a generalization. the only chinese drama that ends semi-ok (from what i watched) is the comedy/drama “the perfect couple” with wallace huo and tiffany tang (i watched it because of these two actors). but even in this one they had to throw in a stupid nonsensical episode before they finally decided to end it in a satisfactory manner. it’s like they can’t function without something idiotic at the very end.

beez
1 month ago

@eda harris – Prince Hellraiser is one magnificent specimen! And I love how he’s never angry with Zan yi (cutie patootie) for kicking his butt and yet he never cringes away from those butt whuppings or cows away room Zan yi. He evokes a maidenly sigh from this 62 year old. Plus all that manliness and yet he knows how to laugh. My only worry is that I think he’s gone back to wherever kingdom he came from and I probably won’t see him again for the rest of the series. 😥 (I’m at episode 41 now)

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

do not worry, you’ll see a lot of him. and you might even change your mind about him, he’s incredibly manipulative, but i do not want to spoil it for you. so i stop here.

beez
1 month ago

@Eda harris – FL did say that ML shot her in the leg to save her but that seemed like her own interpretation to me. And as for his sister, the princess, FL ran over and knocked her to the ground or she wouldn’t been shot. (Not that she didn’t deserve it, imo.) Also, afterwards, FL had to beg ML to spare his sister’s life.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

because the emperor ordered her to guard and save his favorite and only daughter, so that was a directive from the emperor himself, wei zhi had to obey. in addition, you can figure it out, that she/he was a what we call today a pacifist. keep on watching.

beez
1 month ago

@Eda – added LOST IN 1949 to my list. Thanks for that.

And I didn’t say ML’s teeth were yellow, I said they were brown! lol They seem better as the episodes go on but in the early episodes, his teeth are the same color as his skin!

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

sometimes it happens due to lighting during the shooting or make up sloppily gets on the teeth. i do not want to speculate on this, since i did not notice it.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

let me know after you watch lost in 1949. i hope you’ll enjoy, it’s another chen kun’s masterpiece.

beez
1 month ago

@Eda – While I didn’t read Kfangurl’s full review yet, I did see that she said there’s a controversial ending. I think I’m prepared 🤞

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

nothing can prepare you for this most idiotic nonsensical ending, but it’s only the last few minutes. regard it as the writer’s brain went for a walk and forgot to come back. for many people it was such a spoiler that they could not get over it and appreciate the whole. i hope you’ll avoid it.

beez
1 month ago

@Eda So I’m in the middle of episode 36 and Prince Heilian (Prince Hellraiser) knows that Wei Zhi is Feng Zhi. My question is when exactly did he find out?

I’ve paused watching to go back starting from when he met her on the street and Nan yi kicked his tail from in front of their carriage to clear across the street! 😆 I then fast forward to all of their moments together, starting with Prince Hellraiser approaching Prince Ning Ji while he was talking to Wei Zhi. Prince H did turn back to look at Wei Zhi but I’m not sure he recognized her because she kept her face averted and downcast. (Although I’m wondering if he did with all that talk of how he’ll make Feng Zhi massage his feet and serve his other concubines). 😆 Then he goes to her Uncle’s home and sees her there and faces another buttkicking resulting in losing the salt challenge. After that he’s doing everything he can to get admitted as a student to the academy (so did he know by then?) The next thing I know, he’s in Wei Zhi’s room with Zan yi giving him another wholloping and Prince H is threatening to tell that Wei Zhi is Feng Zhi unless she agrees to go to the Emperor’s birthday bash with him. I don’t think I missed anything but you never know.

So my question is – was there a scene that shows him having a lightbulb 💡 moment or a scene of him discussing her dual identity with his cronies?

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@beez – it has been a long time since I watched this – I cannot remember. Sorry! I love your nickname for him. Remember to not get too upset at the last 10 episodes.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

i don’t think there was a scene where Prince hell raiser (best nickname ever) where he openly discussed his discovery of double identity. i watched it some time ago, so i do not remember exactly when, but it’s clear that he is smart, he put together one and one, and figured it out – using it to his advantage. but you could see his suspicion in the episode with ning yi and wei zhi, when he brags about taking her as his concubine to wash the feet of his other 10 wives.

beez
1 month ago

– So I must admit, I do enjoy the OTP when they’re on my screen at the same time (such feels like far and few between). But you could’ve guaranteed my attention had you posted a pick of Prince Hellraiser! He’s giving General Meng bean a run for my money!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – yes ma’am, he is very fine…the more hair he has on his face and head the better he looks.

beez
1 month ago

– I see that ML has two movies on Netflix. I watched the trailers to see if he has had the teeth taken care of but he’s not smiling in the trailers. I can see where he is sort of mysterious and intriguing. And I do remember my ultimate bias, Song Seung Heon having yellow teeth in his earlier dramas but he certainly rectified that, didn’t he? 😆 So there’s hope for ML.
I’m still watching Phoenixes for now because I want to see what grabbed all of you. I figure it must be coming. But it seems we’ve come a long way without much advancement in their relationship or even really having them in proximity of one another. There was one hug where ML was glad she was alive but, as I said, he then didn’t seem to care about her life in ep. 22 (I think it was).

beez
1 month ago

-not at all! I keep debating if I’ll drop Show. I’m at the part where ML ordered arrows shot to kill Crown Prince while FL was standing in front of CP with a knife to her throat! True she was only shot in the leg but ML did not specify to his archers to aim to miss her. I can’t figure him out (I get that he’s out to avenge his brother, etc.) but he’s still just weird even when he’s not performing under the view of the court et al.); and I’m finding the entire FL dressed as a man trope (which I usually slurp up) so stupid! She’s supposedly this brilliant scholar yet she continues to call her uncle “Uncle”. Even I knew that could bring about exposing her identity and all the problems that come with that of her holding an official position and deceiving the emperor. sheesh
And I’ve been trying not to say it but ML’s teeth are brown! It’s such a turn off to go along with his weird mannerisms.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – I never noticed his teeth LOL! I find the actor Chen Kun projects a mysterious, almost dangerous vibe. A lot of his roles are set up like that, although in truth I am nowhere near close to seeing all of his work. Most of his works I have seen are wuxia and I am sure he has some great pieces set in modern time I have yet to see.

I personally find him fascinating to watch. This does not mean everyone else does so, if you are at E23 and it is still not doing it for you, then maybe you should drop or pause until NIF is done. One thing I will say – his character is the opposite of Meng Zhi so I can understand if you are not feeling it. Watching Mengie in action makes it hard for other characters to stand up to his level of goodness. Plus watching NIF alongside this may be too much Palace intrigue for anyone to handle.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

i totally agree, nobody should watch NIF and TROP at the same time. your head and heart are conflicting. anyway, i never noticed yellow teeth on chen kun, and after seeing him in TROP, I made my project to see as many of his work as possible to get. and i did, and i was not disappointed. i even watched his interviews and his concert (he is a good singer). but if you are interested in chen kun i would strongly recommend LOST IN 1949, where his acting is in full swing, amazing. he plays twin brother, with very different personalities, and it is fascinating to see him in these two roles simultaneously.
back to the yellow teeth. i am very detail oriented, and pay attention to everything . as a matter of fact, in NIF for example i noticed that mei changsu’s eyebrows are ridiculously painted, you can just see that it is not hair, but paint, and one eyebrow is darker than the other, in addition, most men in this production have make up that its worth than some girls here trying to look tan and put a ton of make up on their faces. just saying.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

ning yi shot fengzuiwei in the thigh to eliminate her from the target area, basically to save her and his sister the princess, so they would not get hit. in regards to getting dressed as a man, she had no choice, the crown prince was after her to kill her. the academy was her hiding place, chosen for her and arranged by ning yi, trying to save her. he cares about her deeply and sincerely.

beez
1 month ago

– Rise of the Vampire Pheonixes – I knew I could count on you to get to my fangirl instincts and fan the flames by reminding me of what’s really important. 😆 I’m midway thru ep23

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – you make me laugh! I wonder if your TV screen is sparking yet from all the crack in this OTP….

beez
1 month ago

Thanks, Eda

beez
1 month ago

I’m on episode 9 and the flawed logic is annoying. Or either I’ve got a version with bad subtitles.

And just who is Headmaster Xin? I first saw him right after Ning Yi is released and he asked the Emperor to release a fellow prisoner. I don’t know if Headmaster Xin was that prisoner but the next scene we cut to is Ning Yi is helping Headmaster Xin to dress as if Xin were higher ranked than Yi. Although perhaps that’s a nod to Yi really enjoying tailoring?

In any event, Xin is now being accused by Crown Prince of colluding with Prince of Zhao (I think that’s his name) and Xin casually sits down and turns his back on the Crown Prince and says “whatever”. And then Crown Prince comes and sits next to him on the small step instead of being offended.

So just who is this Headmaster Xin? And I’m not sure but I think he was also counseling Mingying (Consort Jing from NIF).

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

i don’t blame you – there are a lot of characters and of course a lot of names (chinese and korean names are very difficult to remember if you are not part of their language or culture). first of all, i would suggest google the rise of phoenixes wikipedia, they have a very detailed description of all characters and their place in the drama.
so headmaster xin:

Headmaster of Qingming Academy (this is their version of princeton or yale. best higher education at that time, and xin is the head of it. this academy is open to anybody, rich or poor, who has brains and talent. quite a progressive way.)
he is an advisor in the Crown Prince’s faction (or so it appears), yet is actually a trusted mentor and good friend of Ning Yi. He was close to the late Prince Ning Qiao, ning yi’s older brother and the one who was closest to him, when ning yi’s mother disappeared from his life at age 8. (he was framed by the other brothers and killed unjustly) xin is also close to the emperor, and is one of his closets advisors. he is a very important and powerful person in all of this. it’s complicated as all politics are, no matter when or where. just try to read all subtitles, and go back if needed. i did it a lot. it helps. the more you understand, the more you’ll enjoy it, promise. i must confess, i rewatched it several times, and every time i discovered new details, and actually enjoyed it as the first time , or even more, because i understood it better.
hope this clarifies some of your questions. please feel free to ask whatever you need.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

one more thing: the flawed logic. this seems to be part of EVERY asian drama. so many times i myself wonder, where did this come from? how could it be? what is the reason? where is the logic? how could a person change the outfit in a second? where did something disappear? or how did it appear suddenly out of thin air? and so on. you just have to accept it as part of what is called a chinese or korean drama. imagine it being part of it’s charm. (joking).

beez
2 months ago

@Eda Hartis @ phl1rxd @ kfg @Anybody – So I’m a third of the way through episode 3. I haven’t read past the first intro of Kfangurl’s review.

Is there a significance to Prince of Chu’s hair being worn unbound?

I realize Prince of Chu is putting on an act for his brothers but he is freaking me out! He gives me weird, creepy, Tom Cruise Interview with a Vampire vibes (but creepier). Even in his encounters with WFL (Wonderful Female Lead). I think the creeps are from the white make up and that that is done for effect because he’s been locked up for so long. At least I hope so because that would mean eventually they’ll change to a more natural looking make up.

eda harris
eda harris
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

“Is there a significance to Prince of Chu’s hair being worn unbound”
number one – it makes him look stunning (i think).
but in relation to the story – from the beginning it puts him apart from the other royals and court officials and he is not afraid to be different. even in the choice of his hobby – to design silk materials, patterns and clothes, which is meant for women, he’s not embarrassed in the least regardless of what others think of him. this is a sign of self confidence. here is a certain freedom in his spirit, even to a degree of being a rebel, which will later proof true. this is how i interpret his long lush hair.
and yes, the make up will be ok, not to worry. continue, his acting will be worth your time. promise.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
1 month ago
Reply to  beez

Just saw this Beez – bear with it Miz. B – it is so worth it. If I remember correctly he is being like that to appear a certain non-threatening way. Also, I am a sucker for a man with long black shiny hair so personally I love it.

nougat
nougat
2 months ago

I thought the writing was great until the characters left the capitol for Minhai (zzz patricide and no due process of daddy Chang being sent to pay for his crimes, particularly from the banquet) and the script got lazy and started describing plot events that happened off-screen. and it just starts rolling downhill from there, full on plot holes and characters going ooc (the verbiage coming out of Gu Nanyi pretending to be a doctor?). new factions added in with characters making no logical sense in their thinking (Si family, Huofeng Bang). deus machina (and too much “plot twist” retcon) many times with Nanyi’s aunty and mother. deus machina basically everything that happens in Puyuan (Jin siyu having so much power over them and the weirdness of his brainwashing Feng Zhiwei into believing she is his wife). Shaoning princess disappears from plot relevance only to come back to die, and the plot drops so much of Ning Qi’s crimes unlike the thorough investigations for Ning Chuan and Ning Sheng. I could keep going on but, even with the production and the acting keeping everything afloat, man what a trainwreck of a script.

beez
2 months ago

– you got it. Besides I think I’m ready to drop the show I’ve been watching (a bit of ridiculousness called The Fatal Mission). Dropping it will make room in my drama watching schedule.

beez
2 months ago

@eda harris – I’m on it – salute! Although, you may be right as I won’t be able to take notes while on my treadmill. I’ve found when there are a lot of characters it helps to take notes on the first few episodes.

eda harris
eda harris
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

bingo! wait to be charmed by the most tender and most sensual episodes of ni ni and chen kun – (without the explosive scenes of western perception of love) powerful in it’s purity. real and gripping.

beez
2 months ago

– “smoking hawt” you say? 🤔 I’ll consider it my solemn duty to undertake this task of utmost importance to see this mission through of watching all episodes despite what may come. salute

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – your TV screen may send out bursts of crackling electricity from time to time so be warned. This may be the best OTP in drama land to date. I did end up taking notes on this Beez – a lot of rewind to catch all the translations. Chen Kun is on a whole ‘nother level here. He will take your breath away. Holler at me when you get a chance to see this. I am curious to see your reaction.

beez
2 months ago

@eda harris – all very good points but I still wouldn’t change the aesthetic for NIF. I will watch these phoenixes but after I get my son to move my treadmill to my other room. It’ll be my exercise drama. 👍

eda harris
eda harris
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

i think this drama requires a lot of attention, if you want to follow each character and actions. i am not sure that combining exercise and watching this drama would be a good idea, but you can try. also, i wouldn’t worry about throwing rotten tomatoes on the tv screen. this drama is the best drama of all that i have seen, and i have been around. also, chen kun is probably the most incredible actor of all times, at least in this production. so, look at this as a whole, not just an idiotic ending (which it is). enjoy, without prejudice.

beez
2 months ago

@eda harris – I haven’t watched this drama yet (but I plan to) but I must say I couldn’t disagree more about the costumes in NIF. I love the blue-gray of MCS’ robe with the matching collar, and the mango undersheaths worn by Prince Yu and the Emperor. I felt the muted tones that could appear gray but sometimes blue represented MCS’ character perfectly. (I admit that’s nothing really vibrant is going on there but the entire drama wasn’t vibrant but more of slow hidden white coals waiting to burn without ever busting into full on flames.)

eda harris
eda harris
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

i totally get where you are coming from, yes, i get it. but.. there is a but.
monochrome can be useful and even interesting in creating a special mood in certain instances, situations. but to color a 54 episodes drama with the same brush is a bit overkill, even if you love that concept. just like there is sun, there is also rain. just like there is ice and snow, there are blossoms in the spring. just like there is love, there is also hate. and so on. that is nature. and what is a visual piece of art if not imitation of life itself? this drama definitely lacks color. the script is very intriguing and multifaceted, but unfortunately it could have been supported by other forms, making it much more special, which it failed to do. after all it is NOT just a piece of literature, many other things are required, like set designs, costumes, scenery, photography, music…etc. i feel that the emphasis here is on the story, but forgetting those other important issues. this is not to take away from your pleasures, you totally deserve it, but do watch trop. and i would like to hear your opinions after that.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
2 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – the OTP is smoking hot, imho it may be one of the best OTPs in drama land. The writing on the other hand dies a terrible death at E10 just so I warn you or else you may either throw something at the TV or yell so loud your son may think you have gone off the deep end. 🤣😅😂 Even with this, it is worth the watch for Chen Kun who is really something else.

Wolli
Wolli
2 months ago

There is a shorter version of this drama aired in China. It was only 56 episodes with a happy ending. It was cut short due to the low viewership. May be the shorter version is better since the last 10 episodes and the ending is not satisfactory.

eda harris
eda harris
2 months ago
Reply to  Wolli

i already posted a comment 2 months ago, but personally, i would not give up a minute of chen kun’s acting, and i am not talking about the writer/s, screenplay or story in general. that part really sucked, as many people here noticed. but a movie, drama, theater, etc. is not just about the story. the entire production is pretty incredible, and in comparison with nirvana in fire (i watched it because it was suggested here that it is better than the rise of phoenixes). well, i did enjoy it, but what is better there? i could not agree with this assessment – the music in trop is way more organic, completely supporting
the main script and each action and actor, as in nirvana it was just a background. the costumes in trop are vibrant, interesting and adding to the whole atmosphere, in addition being incredibly esthetic. the costumes in nirvana are kind of grey and almost boring. example, the emperor looks like he’s always dressed in yellow rugs, that looks like he slept in them for weeks, mei changsu looks like he just walked out in a bathroom robe from hilton, and princess mu is always in white – why, do we need to be explained that she is a virgin??? there are a lot of other issues that makes trop so much much more interesting and enjoyable to watch, but even the acting… apart from chen kun who is difficult to beat in acting anywhere any time, the acting in nirvana is mostly one dimensional. the crown prince sounds like a spoiled puppy, whining all the time. when feng zhiwey is crying, i totally feel her pain – it is so real and raw, but when princess mu cries, even her tears seem fake. the acting of the emperor in hirvana is also very flat, as opposed to the great job that the emperor in torp presented. but i am going to stop here. all i wanted to say, that the acting of almost everybody in torp is beyond and above other dramas. and of course, chen kun is a phenomena by itself. after this drama, i dug up other work of this actor, and even when he was a young chen kun, – the eyes, his smile, even his smirk, are already there, captivating, drawing you in,- he uses his entire body to express an emotion, a thought, an action… i even enjoy watching the movement of his hands, fingers… every detail is an accomplishment.. THAT IS CHEN KUN.
so, you would be missing to give up in the middle, or not to watch it because something happened to the screenwriter’s brain towards the end. the journey is more than worth it.

Wolli
Wolli
2 months ago

Great review!

circulate9oo
circulate9oo
4 months ago

Thank you for this very detailed review of The Rise of Phoenixes. I’ve actually been going back and forth to your review while watching this drama, bracing myself for the horrible ending but at the same trying to avoid serious spoilers.

By the end of the drama I’m just angry at almost everyone except Ning Yi.

I already heard about the unfortunate ending from every comment I’ve come across about this drama, but I was so absorbed by Ning Yi’s character that I just couldn’t let go. I really enjoyed his chemistry with Feng Zhiwei.

I would have found the ending acceptable if the events leading up to it weren’t as shoehorned and if they actually had been well established. The thing is, the drama showed us Feng Zhiwei to be very smart and had a sharp eye when people were being manipulative. But in the final arc, her character had been downgraded to someone easily deceived and manipulated. She was so much better than that. She still had the same integrity that I’d always admired from her, but her brain decided to turn into a mush towards the end. Her prince brother sprung out of nowhere, and his story was just very forced. The way they made Feng Zhiwei hate Ning Yi was almost laughable.

I hated Helian Zheng so much because of how much he never understood that no means no. He’s an extremely selfish character who was rather obsessed than in love with Feng Zhiwei. He kept saying he’d let her go, only to turn back on his word each and every single time. Feng Zhiwei had always made it clear that it was Ning Yi she loved and Helian Zheng for a minute was going to act like he was fine with it so long as Feng Zhiwei would stay with her, and then the next time he would guilt-trip the heck out of her. He was very manipulative until his death. He said he would be gentle with Feng Zhiwei and he would never force her and yet immediately right after the wedding he was so eager for them to consummate their marriage that very night.
I found him to be a hypocrite for denying Meiduo’s advances because he never liked her so she should just give up and yet the irony is that he never did that for Feng Zhiwei. And the sad thing is the drama never called him out on it. To Feng Zhiwei he died a loving person instead of a manipulative dickbag.

Meanwhile it was Ning Yi who always gave Feng Zhiwei the space to make her decisions. If Feng Zhiwei said no, he understood and respected her decision.

I dislike how Shaoning’s death was conveniently forgotten when she was supposed to be the apple of the Emperor’s eyes. Ning Qi never really faced consequences for it, I mean in the sense that the Emperor actually had the realization that it was Ning Qi behind it.

It is also very fucked up how every character pushed the leads into a corner, killing everyone around Ning Yi and Feng Zhiwei and then BLAME them for it and NOT RECEIVE consequences for it either. The drama made it really seem like the tragic lovestory of Ning Yi and Feng Zhiwei just could never be because people around them said so. It annoyed me how Xin Ziyan kept insisting for Ning Yi to be the Emperor even if just didn’t want to anymore, and when it finally happened, he also gave him shit for it. Granted they also implied it’s because Xin Ziyan murdered Lady Wang, but dude, you didn’t have to make Ning Yi feel awful for it.

TL;DR, I just wanted to rant about this drama because it had sooo much potential gone to waste because of extremely messed up writing. Chen Kun and Ni Ni’s chemistry was so good I’m gutted at how much they wasted such promising characters.

Naija
Naija
2 months ago
Reply to  circulate9oo

I died reading dickbag but you’re spot on about Helian Zhang even though I had a soft spot for him, only cos he was cute to behold. Def a hypocrite. Was happy to see Shaoning out of the picture cos she was annoying but nothing about her absence from the plot prior, to her immediate demise when she did resurface, to the lack of accountability or punishment by the emperor made sense. It was one of the many things that begged belief, like make it make sense. Aside from EVERYTHING Fangurl pointed out (straight facts and super accurate review), the casting, performance, restraint and drama, costume, set, scenery and score were phenomenal. Had to watch it twice to make sure I’d not skipped an episode by accident and Fangurl is correct, the writers must’ve called in sick towards the end cos balls were dropped

Paulina
Paulina
4 months ago

The first thing that was wrong was the Emperor’s decision, when he found out that Wei Zhi is the remanent of Dacheng. He had two politically tenable options: 1. kill her, so that the Dacheng dynasty supporters have nobody to support 2. marry her to one of his sons, so that Dacheng dynasty returns to the throne and its supporters have no choice but to start supporting Zhiwei’s father-in-law and husband as well. Marrying her off to a neighbouring kingdom was like begging for a foreign intervention into Tiansheng’s affairs. Fighting for the spouse’s inheritance sounds like a nice casus belli, am I right? The Emperor was generally smart and a bit paranoid – he would never do that, especially after Zhiwei came up with that idea herself. As for the last 10 episodes – yeah, a total mess. What a pity!

Rei
Rei
5 months ago

Ughh! Hard agree with every single word posted here kfangurl! Started watching for the political intrigue, stayed for the romance (minimal but effective) and that otp?? God please help everytime they interact i turn into a puddle!!!

The ending was so bad and ridiculous it gladly didn’t leave much of an imprint on me, compared to the delicious first fifty something episodes. This is such a nice reviews, lays out everything perfectly and people still on the fence should be able to effectively make a choice. I will never recommend TROP because I don’t want anyone cussing me out but its still one of the best shows I have ever seen whew!!!

eda harris
eda harris
5 months ago

I never thought or imagined that something like this can happen to me, but for the first time in my long life, this movie sucked me in like the bermuda triangle – i lost myself in it, i got drugged and addicted, it invaded my whole being, i got paralyzed – did not want to eat, work, clean or even watch or read anything else. i just had to watch it, non-stop. it was an obsession, and that part really bothered me. i watched a second time, (i never do this ) and enjoyed it even more, because now i knew more or less the names of the characters, and understood better the stories and how everything happened. it was just more clarity, but not less intoxicating at all. i finished the second time, and felt empty without it, like i am without a home, or my lover left me… bizarre to say the least.
it was kind of the chinese version of lev tolstoy’s “war and peace”, the chinese version of shakespeare’s “romeo and juliet” and more.
for me, this was an example of real objective art, in almost every part of it: screen set, photography, costumes (and i am not chinese and not very familiar of how authentic it was), intricacy, sophistication, wisdom, poetry, pure esthetics… i can go on and on – to no end. AND ACTING. my gosh, ACTING! it was a rare treat.
but… there is a but. like many others, the ending did not make any sense. the whole movie ning yi and zhiwey covered for each other, supported each other, saved each other – just to keep alive. finally, they can be together for ever, ning yi is the emperor. what does zhiwey does??? she walks away. now that she can have him finally, now that all obstacles are gone, now that he offers to give her whatever she wants, she says, kind of : o, never mind. i’ll go back to my fake husband to my fake life , and wait. then when a war breaks out or another calamity explodes, then ning yi, now the emperor himself can risk his life and come to save her AGAIN. wouldn’t that be more exiting than having happiness with the man she loved to heavens and hell. really? just doesn’t make sense.
then her fake husband (who seems to be truly in love with her), king of some uncivilized tribe, is killed and so she has no way to go back to his kingdom. so now she’s with the love of her life, no more threats, the old father emperor has no power any longer… and even the bloody pagoda members have a solution and go to minhai with her best friend.
no matter how i look at this, i do not believe that the blood of all the dead people (blood was spilled before, and yet it did not stop her from loving ning yi), made her give up her life. after all, the central line of this movie was TO STAY ALIVE. and the words of the old emperor, that it will supposedly destroy ning yi’s “career” as an emperor… what? she knew the emperor very well, he was manipulative to no end, i do not believe again that the brilliant zhiwey just heard what the old emperor was saying and decided: o well, i can not screw up my beloved’s life, i’d better go, forever.
so the ending was totally not thought out by the writers. too bad.
but bottom line- it’s as good as it gets. it’s brilliant. it made me a chinese fan forever. i even got into the chinese language, i love listening to it, it speaks to me and i would love to understand what was said in chinese. i loved their traditions, culture, their minds. their roots are deep and wide and one can sense it.
and may be i was one of them in the chinese ancient world, in my previous reincarnation (except i am not sure that reincarnation exist). but it sure feels very real to me.

riza
riza
5 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

The ending made struck with much pain to think that Ning Yi had to return alone to the palace without Zhiwei, that is a terrible ending for a 70 episode. While other things may not be perfect, at least the love story should have allowed them being together in this world, not necessarily in a celebration way, but could have been a calm serene ending but together, and together they will make the world better and in honor of those that had passed away. The ending is traumatic, we watch these series and spent time on it, we deserve a better ending when the two strong characters here Ning Yi and Zhiwei were so brave and strong, why couldn’t she she forgive and believe in herself, and took her life? When you build a character so strong like that, at the end, she jumps off a cliff because of indirect guilt, when clearly it had nothing really to do with her, just because of her linage, sends off a wrong signal to fans, that at the end she is really weak and had no wisdom at all. Their marriage could have help strengthen the empire, not weaken it. How sad, 70 episodes, the ending was illogical and not realistic given her strong personality, wisdom and love for life.
I hope their is a Season Two to correct this ending in season One, where Zhiwei was saved before she fell to the ground. She has to live, and be with Ning YI in this life time, not in the next.
Love them both so much! Awesome movie, but correct the ending in next season 2.
Thanks.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
8 months ago

Thank you for pulling the words straight out of my head (or heart). I’ve been struggling to figure out what it is I love and what it is that prevents me from continuing with The Rise of the Phoenixes (I stopped somewhere in episode 20).

The trailer is so, so compelling! Everything looks beautiful and dynamic, I was under the impression that there’s plenty of action. And when I watched it, the production details blew me away–from the lavish set to the fabrics used. I cannot remember the characters repeating any of their luxurious clothing. My beloved Nirvana in Fire visually feels anemic if I watch it side by side with TROP. Every sageuk I’ve watched pales in comparison to the set and costumes used by TROP.

The acting is superb from everyone, especially Ning Yi’s. Zhiwei could have easily been annoying (as a role) but she wasn’t. My eyes followed her everywhere. And our two leads together, even in the earliest episodes, were phenomenal. The way they look and smile and care for each other, if someone could splice and compile all their moments together, I’d watch it!

And so the culprit must be the script and the languid pace. It feels like the book was adapted into drama page by excruciating page. I didn’t care for their politics and our OTP’s moments are so few, I ended up watching it for the fabrics (I kid you not). Even now, I am seriously contemplating continuing with it for the visual feast that it is.

phl1rxd
8 months ago

Dearest Fangurl,

Whew, where do I start with this drama?

First, let me say how very much I appreciate you adding the looped instrumental OST piece. I came back to this review after I finished watching it this morning and listened to it while taking my time to dig deep into your review. That embedded OST is perfection in this post.

I cannot tell you how many times I have passed this drama over in the last few years. It may be that I remember there being a lot of brouhaha over it and that a lot of viewers were disappointed. Thankfully, I did not remember the details of their disappointment. In the end it was your initial NIF reference that made me commit to this drama (after which I stopped reading your review to avoid spoilers) and immediately dug in.

I think you posted this on the 16th so it took me a week to finish this (which I watched exclusively). I could have finished this much faster but I took all subs as important and, due to the fast dialogue, I had to rewind and stop the frame many, many times to capture the verbiage. I also took notes on all the characters so I would not get confused. In my opinion it was worth doing this.

The reference to NIF – while I recognized references in certain scenes in the beginning of this drama, these faded as the drama progresses. It really is its own story.

The first thing that struck me was the absolute, sheer perfection of the OTP. So perfect that I hung in there despite the constant cringing during the last 10 episodes. The OTP scenes quite literally crackled as sparks flew off my TV. It was the exquisite chemistry of two soul mates which our two leads brought to life. The second thing is the level of acting, not only by the OTP, but by much of the supporting cast. Zhao Li Xin (sigh, sigh and sigh) and Ni Da Hong are so very good in this. The costumes – did anyone else take note of the fact that the embroidery stitches on the Emperor’s jacket (please excuse my lack of its correct term) front flaps were evenly matched when closed? I found that a fascinating detail.

I now understand the uproar over the ending of this drama. Suffice it to say that I had to go find an ending synopsis review to ease my poor heart.

Highlights: The biggest highlight for me was when Ning Yi let his hair down. I rewound all of these scenes multiple times just to gaze at my screen. Zhao Li Xin (sigh, sigh and sigh) completely grabbed my attention and the drama was far better for him being there. Let me not forget the sheer visual beauty of Edward Zhang Xiaochen. I was also fascinated by the loom. I was impressed with the high production level. Funny, in researching this I discovered that this production team had the same etiquette consultant as NIF.

Lowlights: The collapse of the writing in the last ten episodes was pretty darn sad. It was a shame for the actors and the crew. As for the ending; again, I had to go find the book to ease my aching heart. So many plot holes made me think I had missed an episode and I had to go back a few times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Dear, oh dear!

Would I re-watch? No, as I would constantly be thinking ahead to the final episodes. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely yes. I never would have seen this without this review Fangurl! Would I read the book? Yes, just to read that ending several times. Was this as good as NIF? I do think there will ever be a drama as good as NIF. Am I glad I follow The Fangurl Verdict? Yes! Thanks for the review!

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
8 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I agree, the costume details were exquisite. I loved this show’s gorgeous visuals and having not yet watched Nirvana in Fire, TROP for me is still the most beautiful TV drama (I include western too) I have ever seen. I loved the locations and again the attention to detail.
Yes, acting by all is outstanding, such commitment to every role. There’s no weak link for me – besides the crashing, crushing last ten episodes – which in a 70 episode drama is slight but still breath-taking in its flaw. For me, the biggest struggle I had with the ending is the characters not behaving as they had up to that point. Urgh.
But I have watched this show twice even so. And for 60 episodes I was smiling again. The OTP is just perfectly played. 😍

phl1rxd
8 months ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Hi Ele – per Wikipedia: ‘The series (TROP) is the first television drama to be filmed in Tang City Film Studios in Xiangyang.’ NIF interiors were filmed at Hengdian World Studios. A lot of dramas and movies were filmed at Hengdian. I am always looking at set designs and I noticed that TROP’s sets were nicer than NIF’s. Yes, gorgeous visuals.

Ele – you may want to consider watching the masterpiece known as Nirvana in Fire. Note – it goes very fast in the first three episodes and can be a little confusing. I had to re-watch E1-E3 my first time around because I did not take notes like I did for TROP. NIF is a drama that gets better as it progresses. Romance plays second fiddle to the political intrigue and the emphasis on friendship. All the characters stay true to form throughout. The drama is very similar (only a few exceptions) to the original book which was also very good. I have seen it multiple times and I always pick up something new. There are two versions on Viki – one which is dubbed in English (avoid at all costs) and the subbed version (US viewing restrictions were recently lifted thank goodness!). NIF2 is very good as well.

I really am glad I watched TROP even with the flawed last 10 episodes. I agree that the OTP was perfectly played. As Fangurl so aptly noted, it will be hard to forget this drama due to the performances of the leads.

Prashil Prakash
Prashil Prakash
8 months ago

70+episodes?
Super intimidating!

C drama?
Uncharted territory!

And to top it off, the Setting is similar to Saguks.

Since everything already screams ‘Not me’.
Your B rating doesn’t help it’s case either.

But if I ever do dip my toes into some Cdrama Saguks, it’ll surely be ”Nirvana in fire”. I trust your recommendation on that!

Oh by the way have you checked out the exact opposite of this show.

It’s called “Be positive”.

It’s 6 episodes, 10 minutes each and has DO as the main cast (He was Great in Swing kids)

To Top it off, it’s by the same writer/Director who made ‘Be Melodramatic’

I hope you do give it a watch!

Cheers!

Naomi
Naomi
8 months ago

When I saw that you were currently reviewing TROP I literally squealed out loud (I was at work and yes it was totally embarrassing). This. This show and all of its 70 episodes is the show that got me into Cdramas… then eventually Kdramas… I know this show is… difficult for so many different reasons (and I completely agree about the last 10 eps… like the more I’ve rewatched those episodes I find myself wondering, what were writers/directors thinking???).

I just want to say —I have never read a more complete nor succinct explanation of the most electric screen chemistry I’ve ever seen in a K/Cdrama since this show aired (uhh and yes, my fan girl heart crushed hard on Chen Kun for months after watching TROP —Ni Ni is also amazing). This is SUPER high praise from me, as I used to search the internet for people that had seen TROP and were willing to post their thoughts on it. Did I mention this show literally broke me… and yet I love it. Ahhhh. I can still go on about it for days… ^^

I mean, two years later and whole ton of other dramas under my belt —NY & FZ are still one of my top three K/Cdrama couples.

Ele Nash
Ele Nash
8 months ago
Reply to  Naomi

Same here, Naomi! TROP is where it began for me too and I’m so happy my favourite reviewer has reviewed it! I’m in lockdown here so I could beam and smile away while reading 😁

Perhaps because it was my first toe dipped into the lush waters of Asian drama, I have such a soft spot for it and am a bit gutted with its B. I’d give it an A- for the acting and visuals alone – oh, and for the leads’ chemistry 😍

Despite the grade, I agree totally with all your comments, Kfangurl. I adored Ni Ni in this as well as Chen Kun, who does indeed suit a topknot. I loved Nanyi’s character too. I mean, I pretty much liked all the characters. It was, as you say, repetitious in places and those final nonsensical episodes almost kill it. I am firmly in the camp that in this drama version Zhiwei isn’t dead. If she were, Nanyi wouldn’t be waiting, he’d have followed her over the cliff edge. That’s my view, I’m sticking to it 😊

In case anyone is desperate for an alternate ending, the novel TROP is based on is very different. Can I say, Kfangirl, there’s a site by someone translating parts of the book if people want to check it out? It was something like therapy for me when I found it!! Xx

Shriya Mandepudi
Shriya Mandepudi
9 months ago

I have to admit, I came into this show expecting Nirvana in Fire vibes (which is literally my favorite international television show OF ALL TIME), and I think that mindset is what made this drama not work for me. At first, I was excited, because it felt very much like NIF with a romance (which I am a sucker for), but as you mentioned above, all the characters and logical and development inconsistencies and what seems like excess politics… it didn’t do well for me. Granted, had this been another drama, I would’ve kept going, and I would’ve loved it. However, all the comparisons to NIF and all the promoting that made is seem as such… I was disappointed (and I fell into a loom of how NIF literally ruined all sageuks for me 😅). I also think the episode count was what really sealed the deal, and I dropped this show early. Maybe I’ll try it again in the future? In the meantime, I’m off to rewatch NIF again. 😎

Shriya Mandepudi
Shriya Mandepudi
8 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Hmm… now I’m convinced to watch it again, with this new lens. 🙂 Thanks kfangurl!

eda harris
eda harris
5 months ago

where can you see NIF? it’s not on Netflix. can you please advise. and yes, i will leave a review on the ROP.

phl1rxd
5 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

Hi Eda –

You can find NIF1 on Viki.com. You can also watch it with Eng Subs on You Tube at China Zone. Both are at 1080p which is a necessity as we need Hu Ge in HD.

You can also find it if you go to the dark side and if you do I would recommend you use Dramaco_l. I cannot type it all out but it is drama and the opposite of warm. 😏 It is on other sites like the one with kiss in its name but beware of using these sites due to the popups that are less than appropriate. DC still has annoying popups but they kind of stop after shutting them down about 30 times. I use this when I cannot find an intended drama anywhere else.

Note – You do not have to be a subscriber to watch this at Viki. Viki carried it for several years but dropped it for about a year and some and had a terrible, and I do mean terrible, English dubbed version only. Avoid that version like the plague. They brought back the Mandarin version with subs about 6 months ago – thank the Maker!

If you are in a country that is restricted you can find Fangurl’s post on Where to Watch. She has it on her side bar and it is the most helpful post ever in the history of drama posts.

I sincerely hope that you get a much enjoyment out of watching this as I have!!

eda harris
eda harris
5 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

hello ??? (i don’t know your name and do not know whether you live in usa or somewhere else),
but i am grateful to you for your suggestion. i first tried to watch it on youtube, but the dubbing was the WORST i ever seen, truly horrible. but thanks to you i did find viki.com and am watching the nif right now. thanks again.
since you were so kind, i am going to ask you for another suggestion, if you allow it.
so you see, i was never interested in anything chinese… except i always liked the chinese movies, the few that i had a chance to see. until not long ago i stumbled on “the princess li weyoung” and although 54 episodes seemed like impossible to follow through, i almost instantaneously got infatuated with everything… it started with the costumes, the jewelry, the colors, the beautiful scenes… and slowly, i got into the great acting, the characters, the story itself. but more than that, i watched with intense interest the culture, the traditions, the spirituality of these ancient chinese people, and on and on. but the most interesting, something in the language itself pulled me inside it, i craved to understand it, i started to pick up words, trying to connect to particular chinese words to the translations (which i believe are not very accurate). i speak 6 languages, but none asian. there was a component in this connection to the chinese language that i could not explain, till today. when i finished the 54 episodes, i missed listening to chinese. i watched it 3 times, and then finally decided to move in to another chinese experiment, and that i how i got into “the rise of the phoenixes”. apart from completely falling head over heels for chen kun’s and ni-ni’s acting,

eda harris
eda harris
5 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

i literally drowned even deeper in the desire to be somehow part of the chinese culture, traditions, and especially language! so here is my question, can you suggest how can i get in touch with a chinese-english speaking person, where i could tell him the words that i pick up, and it can be translated into english.
sorry for such a lengthy explanation, but i simply do not know how to go about it.
i thanks you in advance, even for reading it.
eda

phl1rxd
5 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

Hi Eda –

I understand your fascination with the culture and language. I do not speak Mandarin but I love to hear it spoken. As for finding someone to help you with translation, you might have some luck with online classes.

Google Online Mandarin classes. The great part about the internet is that you can learn from people all over the world. Who knows? They may want to learn one of the six languages you speak and you may even be able to barter lessons.

The best of luck to you in your quest!

beez
5 months ago
Reply to  eda harris

@eda harris – I use hinative.com There are people from all over the world who exchange questions about each others’ languages.

phl1rxd
5 months ago
Reply to  beez

@Beez – that link is a great source! I am def gonna use it.

Happy Mother’s Day to you Miz B!!!

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