Dropped: Unchained Love [China]

You know how I always talk about managing expectations and adjusting your viewing lens, in order to best enjoy your watch of any show?

Well, I tried with this one, you guys. I really did.

But, as you can tell from the title of this post, that didn’t work out at all the way I’d hoped. 😅

And so it is, that I’m tapping out of Unchained Love after just 10 episodes.

I’ll still tell you ALLL about it, though, so that you can decide whether you’d still like to give this one a try, even though it didn’t work for me.


Basically, I loved – was completely smitten by! 🤩 – Dylan Wang in Love Between Fairy And Devil (review here!), and so, when I saw that he would be playing in a similar badass, intense, fierce sort of space in Unchained Love, I was beyond excited.

I mean, just look at him in this trailer! (Just be sure to enable cc. for English subs!)

Hey now. Isn’t that quite the badass, stylish trailer?? 🤩

I was sooo looking forward to the intensity, that I conveniently chose to ignore the comic tone that shows up riiiight at the end of the trailer, in like, the last couple of seconds.

Ha. Joke’s on me, folks, because that comic sort of tone that peeks through in the final seconds of the trailer? THAT is the tone we see in the show, more than the badass intensity that I was looking forward to. Oops.

I did attempt to adjust my viewing lens (because I was just so into the idea of Dylan Wang as a badass, powerful eunuch, that I really, really wanted to make this work), so I’ll talk about that next.


I actually sailed through episodes 1 & 2 without too much trouble, because there was a good amount of badass intensity coming from Dylan Wang, so much so that I was able to basically willfully ignore the stuff that didn’t work for me so well.

Such was my strong desire to enjoy Dylan Wang as a badass eunuch, heh.

However, by episodes 3 & 4, I found myself forced to reckon with my viewing lens.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in that, I generally go into a show without a fixed lens, and wait for Show to demonstrate to me what kind of creature it is, before I figure out a lens to best appreciate Show for what it wants to be.

In this case, however, I felt slightly wistful, because Show’s first trailer had been so stylishly badass, that I had hoped that that would be Show’s general vibe as well.

1. Show is more irreverent than I’d originally expected

Judging from this set of episodes, however, it’s starting to look like Show is more irreverent than I would have first guessed.

I wouldn’t exactly call this a black comedy, coz I think that’s a stretch, but Show does have a tendency to make light of serious things.


First, it was the hanging of the tribute ladies in episodes 1 & 2, and then, in episodes 3 & 4, it’s the sudden accidental death of young Prince Rong (Zhang Zi Han).


I think that’s just a thing, with this show, where it just is irreverent wherever and whenever it wants to be, and it’s on us as viewers, to be flexible and just roll with it.

Certainly, the musical cues are very informative, in terms of indicating when Show is not taking things too seriously, and I feel like, depending on what kind of viewer you are, or perhaps depending on your mood, you might find this helpful – or annoying. 😅

2. There’s a colloquial flavor going on

The other thing that strikes me about Show’s tone, that it’s got rather casual, almost colloquial feels, sometimes, in terms of how a character speaks.

For example, Xiao Duo (Dylan Wang) almost always speaks in measured, formal tones that I would expect of a palace setting sort of show.

But Yinlou (Yukee Chen), our female lead, almost always speaks in a more casual sort of manner. To quote Elaine, it almost sounds like she’s a “market auntie” sometimes.

I think it’s important to expect it, otherwise, you might find this jarring.

In Singapore we have Colloquial Singapore English, casually referred to as Singlish, which we speak casually to friends and family, but generally not in formal settings.

In a manner of speaking, this show reminds of that kind of irreverent version of Shakespeare, like Romeo and Juliet in Singlish. 😅

Our cast is decked out in rich costumes and our setting is grand and our cinematography is polished and beautiful, but y’know, our characters just have a habit of delivering their lines in Singlish.

It’s meant for entertainment and irony, so it’s on purpose, rather than an inability of the cast to speak proper English.

I decided to take a similar approach to the more colloquial way in which our characters – Yinlou in particular – often speak, and it helped – to a point.

3. There are lashings of dork around Dylan Wang’s character

Additionally, I also had to dial back my expectations for Xiao Duo’s badassery, because while he is given ample opportunity to display his intensity, there are also lashings of dork coming out from time to time.

I just.. hadn’t been expecting that.

Dylan Wang has proven in Love Between Fairy and Devil (review here!) that he’s perfectly capable of toggling both vibes in a single character, so he’s doing fine. I just needed to adjust my expectations around that little bit, is all.

4. Show’s been heavily edited

Last but not least, in terms of expectations management, I came across some viewer chatter, that Show had to be heavily edited, before it was given the go-ahead to air.

This means that there are likely big pieces of narrative that have ended up on the editing room floor, for various reasons.

Therefore, if Xiao Duo suddenly starts falling for Yinlou, for example, and we feel like we haven’t been given enough context for it, it’s more than likely that some of that context had existed, but had been cut out of the final version, for reasons that we’re not privy to.

I’m rather bummed by this, because in almost every instance, I would prefer to have the full story, rather than part of the story.

However, I’d rather know than not know, because, in my mind, if Show did display any weird lack of continuity in its storytelling, like in the last section of Love Like The Galaxy (review here!), I would at least know to give Show the benefit of the doubt.

Clearly, all these lens adjustments didn’t end up working all that well, for me, since I did end up dropping the show, but I’ll talk more about that later.


Dylan Wang, Dylan Wang, Dylan Wang

You’ve probably already guessed this by now (like I haven’t made it obvious enough 😂), but my main draw, with this show, was seeing Dylan Wang be a badass eunuch.

What can I say? I just really, really like badass, powerful Dylan Wang. 🤩😁

Does Show deliver on this point? Well, yes and no.

Like, YES, he gets to be badass and powerful, but NO, that’s not Show’s Main Event, and so there’s basically not enough badass and powerful Dylan Wang in this show, for my taste.

When he gets to play in that intense, glowery space, though, he’s fabulous. 😍

It blows my mind how WELL Dylan Wang wears badassery, since he’s so much more earnest and dorky in real life.

I love that even though he was also badass in Love Between Fairy and Devil, there’s a distinct difference between his badassery there, and his badassery here.

This way, it feels like I’m getting to see him explore his range, while still getting to enjoy him channel intensity and smolder, which, honestly, is how I like him best, on my screen. 🤩

If I had to narrow it down, I’d say that there’s a distinct layer of fabulosity in the way he plays Xiao Duo.

Perhaps it’s because Xiao Duo’s supposed to be a eunuch (key word being “supposed,” since we learn quite quickly, that he’s faking it); there’s a certain amount of coiffed flair that is part of Xiao Duo’s intensity, which I really dig.

He’s immaculately turned out, from top to toe; his eyebrows are on fleek, as they say (or do they still say that? 😅); his robes are beautiful, rich and intricate.

And above all, there’s a languid, sardonic sort of air about him, and the vibe that comes through, at least to me, is that he has a lot of power, and is simply choosing not to use it against you – for the time being.

Someone says of him, in episode 1-2, that he’s even more like a master than a master, and I have to agree with that, right off the bat.

He’s got an air about him like he owns the entire palace, even though he uses self-deprecating palace language, which dictates that he refer to himself as “slave” or “servant.”

And, to add to that master of masters sort of air, it seems like Xiao Duo is very well apprised of what goes on in the palace, and is watching and managing it all, from a chess master sort of perspective.

I kinda love that irony, because on the one hand, he’s saying that he’s a slave or servant, but everything else about him screams power and intensity. 🤩

Zeng Li as the Empress

I was pretty pleased to have Zeng Li play the Empress, coz she’s got a nice amount of screen presence and charisma, plus, I liked her a lot, when she played Shaoshang’s mom in Love Like The Galaxy. 🤩

And, because there’s a nice amount of chemistry between her and Dylan Wang, I had no problems with the fact that the Empress seems to be very drawn to Xiao Duo.

I mean, Xiao Duo’s so magnetic and attractive, that I wouldn’t be able to help myself either, in her shoes. 😁😅

I know that some viewers found it off-putting and quite gross, that the Empress seemed to have a thing for Xiao Duo, but I felt like I could understand her, because why wouldn’t she be, y’know? 😅

Honestly, I felt more potential chemistry between Xiao Duo and the Empress, than between him and Yinlou, our female lead. 🙈

I actually enjoyed the tension between the fact that the Empress wants to try to control Xiao Duo as part of her political power play, and the fact that she’s genuinely attracted to him, and wants his attention.

It’s like she likes him, but she also hates him.

That’s definitely rather interesting and complex, and I wouldn’t have minded at all, if we’d had more scenes between the Empress and Xiao Duo.

Guan Chang as Princess Hede

Princess Hede is a smaller supporting character (so far, anyway), but I do find myself much more interested in what’s going on, on my screen, when Princess Hede shows up.

Like during the football scene in episode 7-8. I was kind of zoning out, until Princess Hede came onto the scene, and decided to join the football challenge.

There’s just something about Guan Chang, the actress who plays her, that translates as sparky and dynamic, on my screen.

Looking at her popping so well on my screen, my fangirl heart couldn’t help but ask, why couldn’t we have had someone like her play our female lead? 😅

..Which I’ll talk about next.


Yukee Chen as Yinlou

To put it bluntly, I didn’t care so much, for Yukee Chen as our female lead – BUT, she is not the reason I’m dropping this show, so there’s that?

I came into this without a lot of expectations of the female lead, because I’ve seen so many comments floating around the interwebs, about how most people don’t find Yukee Chen a very good actress.

And I think managing my expectations have helped, in the sense that I might not love Yinlou and how she’s being played, but I don’t hate her.

Basically, Yinlou appears to carry the more comedic tone of our story, and her general behavior is meant to lean unconventional and surprising. I get the idea, but the execution just doesn’t work for me.


Like how, when all the other concubines are crying that they don’t want to be tribute ladies, Yinlou only muses that she’s hungry, and should have paid the royal kitchen to give her more pickled cucumbers.

The line itself isn’t that out of place in a drama, I suppose, but I do think that Yukee Chen’s delivery of the line just lacks a little something; it’s just not popping for me. It’s not funny, and it’s not coming alive for me either.

Likewise, the way she reads people and situations, specifically Xiao Duo and his rescue of her, from being a tribute lady, is supposed to be offbeat and therefore amusing and entertaining, I think.

It just doesn’t work for me, unfortunately.


On the plus side of things, I do find myself warming to Yinlou more, when she’s allowed to be smart &/or serious. Which, from what I’ve seen, anyway, isn’t quite nearly often enough.

The OTP loveline

Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I had heard that Show went through some heavy editing before it was finalized to air, and so, I’d braced myself for the fact that there might not be much context to support the development of the OTP loveline.

Despite my adjusting my expectations, one of my main struggles during my watch, is the way Show is amping up the loveline between Xiao Duo and Yinlou.

I still flinched at the amping up of Xiao Duo’s attraction to Yinlou, in episodes 5-6.

I guess context really is very important to me, after all. 😅

Also, I have a confession to make.


You know the scene in episodes 5-6, where Yinlou seeks out Xiao Duo, and ends up body slamming that tree, in order to create showers of blossoms for him, and he looks at her with that soft gaze?

I think that’s supposed to help us understand Xiao Duo being so drawn to her, because she’s hurting herself, just to make him happy.

But, in this moment, all I can think of, is my reaction to Ji Chang Wook‘s character in The K2 (Dropped post here!), where he looked at Yoona’s character with a similar soft gaze, while she did that infamous ramyun dance around the kitchen.

Then, my reaction had been in the vein of, “What the heck, dude? Do you not have EYES??? How could you even conceive of this as remotely charming when it’s so darn cringey???”

Yes, I was mad at his character, for having such poor taste. 😅

I didn’t feel as mad at Xiao Duo here, but suffice to say, that I felt lashings of a very similar emotion. 😁

Like, dude, what’s wrong with you? Are you actually charmed by this..? 🙈

Sorry. Definitely not the effect Show was going for, I’m sure. 😅


My struggle to get on board with this loveline did turn out to be a major factor, in my decision to drop this show – which I’ll elaborate on, later.

The so-called comic relief

Someone decided that it would be a good idea to make Yinlou’s maid and Xiao Duo’s godson (He Nan and Wang Li Xin) a regular source of comic relief, both separately and together, and I just wanted to say, this did not work for me.

I cringed more than I laughed, because I just didn’t find them funny, sorry. 🤷🏻‍♀️


In my head, this is me considering whether to give Show the Big Chop. 😁

The more I watched this show, the more I wondered whether to drop it, honestly. I didn’t just drop this on a whim, is what I’m trying to say. 😅

But, as I got less and less badass Dylan on my screen, and as my feelings of perplexity increased around the loveline, I couldn’t help but finger the possibility of dropping this so that I could spend the drama hours on another, better show.

My eventual decision was powered by 2 main factors.

1, YouTube suggested AvenueX’s 24-episode impressions of the show to me.

Watching it, I realized that I would not be happy with the direction that Show was taking with the story.


As far as AvenueX had watched, anyway, it seemed that Xiao Duo was giving up his revenge for love.


In principle, I don’t have an issue with this narrative decision, but the problem here, was, I wasn’t really into the OTP loveline, for the reasons I mentioned above.

And so, to have the drama minimize or even do away with the intense, dramatic side of the story that grabbed my interest more, in favor of the loveline I didn’t care for very much, was not helpful.

2, I came across deleted OTP scenes from this show (like this one), and realized that Show had cut out A LOT of OTP skinship scenes.

Say, what?

So.. You make a show about a vengeful fake eunuch, and then decide that he will be more interested in love than revenge. BUT THEN, you cut away huge chunks of the OTP scenes?

The irony of it all, eh? What are we left with, then, right?

Like, I could watch an entire drama of just Xiao Duo manipulating and swishing his way around the palace, honestly, but that’s not what Show is serving up. 😅

And, despite my best efforts, the ramping up of the OTP loveline just looks forced and rushed, to my eyes. Plus, if I can’t squee at this OTP even with the bare-bones context in-show, then how could I squee over the deleted scenes, that don’t have any context?

Putting this all together, it became clear to me that there’s just not enough in this show, for me to keep watching.

Sorry to Dylan, as well as to his magnificent eyebrows. Next time, hopefully! 😅


The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Unchained Love, is Meet Yourself [China]. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m pleased to say that I’m enjoying it very well, so far! 😊 My E1-2, E3-4 notes on Meet Yourself can be found here.

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)

Early Access (US$5): Recipe For Farewell [Korea]

Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House [Japan]

VIP (US$15): +Meet Yourself [China]

VVIP (US$20): +New Life Begins [China]

Ultimate (US$25): +Crash Course in Romance [Korea]

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 months ago

Have you tried Lighter and Princess? It’s the most recent Cdrama that has caught my eyes and it’s worth it just because of the OTP chemistry. It’s off-charts!

10 months ago

I can’t help but make a loud snicker when you mentioned The K2’s infamous ramyun dance. It’s been a while since I saw it but I cringe until now at the memory. What were the directors thinking!

@KFG, have you ever tried doing a fastforward-galore watch til the end? Tee-hee, I’ve done it in some shows previously whenever certain character arcs are captivating enough (and everyone else aren’t). I call it my C-level drama watch experience. I think I’ll try doing it for this show to see Dylan’s badassery as everyone is saying.

Last edited 10 months ago by Jiyuu
10 months ago

I am currently at episode 20, where we got an important reveal (like, really important!) through a flashback that never happened, I guess the original scene was cut but they still kept a 2 seconds worth of flashback?
So yes, editing is a major problem with the show. And, as you say, I too wish they had gone the vengeful fake eunuch way rather than the butchered and thus weird OTP.
But I will go on a little bit, I guess, just to see if it gets any better. That is, if the revenge plot comes back front stage, because I am afraid the OTP is beyond repair.
Also, if I may add one more thing: it feels that the whole costuming budget went into Xiao Duo’s wardrobe. I mean, he’s robes are magnificent, it’s a joy just looking at them, but the rest of the cast are kind of shabbily dressed, even the Emperor, which is also kind of weird, right?

10 months ago

I am sticking with this so far. It is partly due to Dylan Wang and his eyebrows. And eye liner. Also, the Emperor is so chilling and twisted that he’s fascinating in his own way. Yinlou doesn’t bother me that much; I think she improves as the drama goes on. I don’t speak Mandarin so the colloquialisms sailed right over my head. I never would have known without your explanation, so thank you. I agree that there have been odd and head-scratching moments along the way, though not enough for me to abandon all hope.

But I wonder whether something is wrong with my CDrama lens because it seems like my reaction to the”Unchained Love” versus “Love Between Fairy and Devil,” debate is different from almost everybody else’s in the drama universe. I tried 3 times to get through “Love Between Fairy and Devil” and I ended up dropping it three times, despite generous use of the fast forward button. Dylan Wang’s eyebrows and scowls were just not enough to keep me going.

10 months ago
Reply to  Alaskan

The eyeliner! it is really genius.

10 months ago

Well, I did see it through to the end and am glad I did. The pace picked up again from ep. 30, there was more badass fighting and it felt, to me at least, it kind of tied up the adventure story I would have liked to watch. It’s true the loooong middle part meanders and censorship botched a lot in addition. The non-eunuch reveal is rendered plain ridiculous by editing.

In some kind of defense it can be said that every Dylan Wang/female partner couple will have a hard time measuring up to Love between Fairy and Devil’s OTP. (Same goes for Lighter and Princess and The Red Sleeve OTPs. That degree of chemistry just spoils you.) But Yuki Chen is really no match and not plausible as the object of desire/love interest of two cunning, powerful men.

Peter Ho, on the other hand, puts in a performance of Shakespearean proportions as the king who’s slipping ever deeper into delusion for his possessive love. Applause.

Princess Hede is also a breath of fresh air and does well as she matures from a spunky but spoilt young royal into a courageous ruler-in-training. Applause.

Wang Hedi does what he can with the material. He’s good to watch, but not always capable of rising above it.

There are some visual themes present that are not really treated in a coherent way narratively. There are phallic symbols: the tower in the title sequence that burns in the end, the men carrying swords, staffs, crutches, arrows shot, the needle with which Xiao Duo pierces the dowager empress’ coiffure. It’s clearly a man’s world. And there’s an interesting reversal where Xiao Duo gives Bu Yinlou a ring, whereas she gives him a staff-formed little talisman. The women all have speeches about their being objects who can’t exercise their free will in this men’s world and they all find their ways to deal with it, more or less successfully. Much more could have been made of this if the story was told in a tighter way with a better understanding of the source material. It is a story about underdogs and power. At least the ending made sense to me, as it is not necessarily a “happily ever after”.

End spoiler
In the end, Xiao Duo throws his sword away, the tower where all the concubines died, is burning and the OTP running to flee from the palace grounds (but still inside), knowing they can’t overturn the system. The king has just broken down, he’s not dead. They can only try to get away.

Ele Nash
10 months ago
Reply to  ngobee

Happy to have shared our watch in a small way, ngobee! I agree, it’s kind of wrapping up OK. I keep wishing it had been played this seriously from the start.

Minor plot spoiler
It makes more sense for Yinlou (and us) to fear the Emperor – not a bit but a lot. It was all so casual before then. I didn’t believe for one minute Yinlou was actually in love with Xiao Duo, let alone willing to give up her life just to be with him.

The writers, and the way the actress played it, seemed so cavalier. I hate flippancy in drama! Humour is one thing, superficial silliness is another.

10 months ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Likewise! That exchange on Patreon was fun.

I agree there was a darker vibe that wasn’t served well. Such a kind of mixing of dramatic levels, if at all, has to be done very well. I think it works in Shakespeare or Mozart because the comedy is assigned to certain social strata, the high drama to the “betters”. Here I think the gap to be straddled is just too wide.

Ele Nash
10 months ago

Oh-oh-oh-woe 😭 I’m so sad for our beautiful Dylan Wang 😭 He deserves to have a show where he can really monopolise on those wonderfully en flique eyebrows and searing scowl and general ‘own-the-place’ vibe he absolutely excels at. You sum it up so well kfangurl “Like, I could watch an entire drama of just Xiao Duo manipulating and swishing his way around the palace, honestly, but that’s not what Show is serving up. 😅”

I have survived to episode 33 and am determined to see it out to the end. I can confirm, it did not improve in many ways, most essentially and crucially the OTP which seems sliced and diced and is therefore… quite dead. What is that about?! Not even a proper smooch…

But, you know, I will say I have enjoyed all of Dylan Wang’s Xiao Duo. He could have been perfection, given the right story – essentially the story in the trailer! THAT Xiao Duo is the story worth telling. Still, he gives it his all. Over on Patreon, someone said the show was as absorbing as watching a train wreck. The carriages definitely left the track to fall into the abyss. But Dylan Wang as Xiao Duo is the engine that continues in vain to keep puffing along. Bless him. And OH, the costumes!!!!!! He looks outstandingly dashing. I LOVE his clothes and the way he wears them 😍😍😍

Meh to Yinlou. I mean, how can we root for a girl whose main ambition in life is to be lazy? I literally don’t understand who thought making her so ridiculous, thoughtless, goofy was a good idea? She’s Ok when she’s serious, but even then, I find her so unlikably self-centred 🧐

And the plotting – gah!

Tiny plot spoiler
Our clever Empress Wrong-un apparently works out Xiao Duo’s past in like an afternoon having not thought to check before – even though she’s an obsessed control-freak. Stupid. As someone said on Patreon, the stupid in this show is very stupid.

Anyway, I’m mortified on Dylan Wang’s behalf that you and so many have dropped it. If anyone’s considering whether to watch it or not, my advice would be: admire the awesomeness of Dylan Wang by blocking everything else out and just look, those eyebrows! That outfit! The ring! The sword-thing! The occasional fight! The screen-presence! Did I mention the scowl? The scowl!! Ah, if you can enjoy this one thing, Xiao Duo will not disappoint 😜 even if the rest is scrappy nonsense…

10 months ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Hey Ele, I was the one saying that this is like watching a train wreck, and as I am currently in ep. 20, I am glad to see that you thing the engine is still on track, that is motivating! I sincerely hope Xiao Duo will remember he has a revenge to take!

10 months ago

I dropped this after the 2nd epi as I realised I just did’t care for the story or the characers at all. Sorry, all Dylan fans but I’m totally immune to his charms. 😄

10 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Ha, I’m pretty much immune to all charms these days, once I’ve lost interest in a show. Which happens all too frequently now, sigh.

10 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I checked out Three-Body but I knew already from 1st ep that it probably wouldn’t be my thing. Way too “intellectual”. 😄 I watched up to ep 5 but gave up when I almost fell asleep half way through, ha. When it comes to scifi I tend to prefer space operas, adventure and even fantasy mixes.^^

Ele Nash
10 months ago
Reply to  Timescout

I literally am shocked anyone can be immune to those eyebrows, Timescout 😲😅

10 months ago

I so agree with you @KFG. I dropped it too, at round the same episode and for the same reasons. I was so disappointed that this was not a good outing for Dylan.

Meet Yourself is definitely better. Once again I did also check out Avenue X and her assurances of her enjoyment of this other show made me start it too. A lovely, relaxing watch, I trust!

Oh and Happy Lunar New Year to you and all who celebrate it!! 🙂

Last edited 10 months ago by kfangurl
10 months ago

@KFG – I watched Avenue X’s video and when she started commenting/complaining about the voice dubbing, I thought no way will I be able to manage it then if she is pointing it out 🙂

@Leslie – 😂😂😂😂I had the same thought, ” I must watch the beginning episodes” 😂😂😂

10 months ago

Probably not your intention, KFG, but now I feel I must watch at least ep. 1&2 to see Dylan Wang’s badassery, sartorial splendor and eyebrows! 😆 And, I’m with you, scenes unseen. Empress: be attracted to whom you want to be attracted! 😘