Just when I thought The Maverick was the worst of the ’80s classics, I was wrong. This sort of took the trophy from the other one. Why was it the worst? I swear, it started out interesting enough with a team of women kicking asses and carrying out righteous acts. Yet it deteriorated after the initial scenes, making them victims and eventually devaluing their cause. I’ll go into more detail later.
- Angie Chiu (趙雅芝) as Mu Lan Hua (木蘭花). This was possibly my second favorite role of Angie–if only it didn’t deteriorate. It wasn’t her fault. She tried her best, but the plot sort of went against her, letting her become a pathetic victim later, not allowing her to soar higher than that. I thought she was awesome and was smart in concealing her identity. Yet the scriptwriters just had to make her lesser than some other people in here–just because they were trying to create the illusion that the villain was worse. I know, duh, villains were supposed to be bad. But honestly, if they didn’t knock the major characters’ IQ down several pegs, they couldn’t make it look like the villains were smart. The final trap proved her capabilities and intelligence once again, but I wished the plot didn’t knock her down and dragged it through the mud before restoring her character. It was seriously frustrating.
- Sharon Yeung (楊盼盼) as Mu Xiu Zhen (木秀珍) aka Mu Mian Hua (木棉花). I thought I was going to really like this character of Sharon. In fact, I did at the beginning. She was a bit hot-headed/impulsive at the beginning, which I thought was kinda cute since she was still young after all–and it made the whole bickering with their nanny funnier. Yet that also passed and I realized the scriptwriters were just trying to knock her down–like how they made Angie weak later. With her, it was her impulsive behaviors and then her IQ wasn’t improving at all, but it had gone down to the point of frustrating. I liked that Sharon got to be the kicking ass superwoman since I’d often seen her in roles where she was always suffering through tragedies so she cried a lot in those (even if she did have fighting scenes or tried to prove herself)–with the exception of her martial arts movies. I thought I was going to enjoy seeing her being awesome, but was totally disappointed by how her character turned out.
- Kenneth Tsang (曾江) as Cheng Wu Hui (程無悔). Despite the flaw in the plot, I thought Kenneth delivered–like how Angie and Sharon had tried with theirs. He was my favorite character from the start since his identity was a mystery and how he was being hunted by the assassins. Yes, we knew he was a friend of the family of the Mu’s, but that was it. He didn’t have any other identity. The details unfolding was nice enough, allowing us to see more into his world and his personalities. He wasn’t afraid to cut corners, considering how the world was back then. What disturbed me greatly was his infatuation toward Lan Hua. Okay, it wasn’t impossible and I had rooted for older man and younger woman relationships before, but this was different. He was indeed a friend of the family and sort of like her uncle (in a sense of comparing him to her father). Aside from that, it sort of knocked down his character for me a bit, considering how I thought he was a good guidance for both sisters in such chaotic time. Did the scriptwriters had to go there to be so controversial?
- Melvin Wong (黃錦燊) as Gao Xiang (高翔) aka Di Qiu (地球). I liked him, but I felt they had him appeared to knock the Mu sisters down thus rendering their roles useless. I swear. It wasn’t like I needed the sisters to be perfect, but I felt they (the scriptwriters) had to knock the sisters down, not allowing them to excel so we could see Gao Xiang’s awesomeness or something. He was mysterious and funny in his own way. Yet can’t they just have him and the other two going against each other (as relevant one point of the story) with their talents matching or something instead of making it like the other two needed his rescue all the time? Although there were times Lan Hua helped him too, I felt his character was untouchable (well, until later, lol) to the point that the other two just looked pathetic, waiting to be rescued.
- Cheung Kwok Keung (張國強) as Yun Cheng Feng (雲乘風). This was probably one of his major roles back then? It was either that or I didn’t watch the right dramas back then. But I was surprised that he got a major role in here. I thought he would become a side character since he wasn’t around much at the beginning and was fading into the back. Yet he got pulled forward because the focus on his family became more apparent. He delivered with whatever he had to work with and I felt he was one of the true victims of the story, considering how he was stuck in the conflicts and all.
- Susanna Kwan (關菊英) as Yun Zhao Yi (雲昭儀). She sure was ambitious in her plans. It was somewhat hilarious that she thought she was going to win in the battle of power with her father. She thought he was weak yet she had no idea. But what got me irked was how I was reminded each time a woman was displaying ambitious nature, they were immediately labeled as the bad woman. It was like they (the scriptwriters) needed to tell us that women should be victims/weak/obedient to be good or something. Sure, I understand Zhao Yi’s lust for power and wanting to overthrow her father and it wasn’t impossible that she was so scheming, not caring about family and all. Yet it was a typical pattern of TVB to make ambitious women out to be the bad ones in the end so I couldn’t just let it go.
- Peter Yang (楊群) as Yun Tian Peng (雲天鵬) aka the real Tai Yang (太陽). I knew he wasn’t just in to play some pathetic old man. Didn’t mean for it to come out that way, but the plot paved it that way for him, with his daughter conspiring against him and all. Then there was the whole sickness and hospital scenes. It was an elaborate trap all right. I didn’t doubt his cruelty since he represented a part of a major crime organization. What he underestimated was Lan Hua’s recovery and how she was able to put aside her feelings and create a final trap for him.
- Kwan Hoi San (關海山) as Tai Yang (太陽). He was fierce and calculating enough to be the leader. Yet that was also a front for others to underestimate Yun Tian Peng. He also became a pawn for Yun’s final scheme after all. Great performance from him like always, even if short-lived.
- Paul Chun (秦沛) as Huo Xing (火星). I thought he was going to be around until the end yet it wasn’t so. He also became another chess piece along the way. I was disappointed that he wasn’t that smart. I thought he knew better. It was sort of anti-climatic to have him gone so soon. But perhaps that created the mystery of what was next?
- Cheung Ying Choi ( 張英才) as Mu Yi Long (木一龍). He was in here for a short time. He was another true victim of all the chaos. But what I thought was really fake of how the scene was laid out after his death. It wasn’t convincing and I thought it might be something else with how he was already saved and was just at some other place. Then I was reminded of that TVB probably didn’t want to get too graphic with the whole explosion scenes and the aftermaths.
- Lam Tin (藍天) as Long Kun (龍坤). He was probably the most despicable in here, even comparing to Yun Tian Peng. He betrayed everyone around him and was really only out for himself. Even though he was exposed and punished later, but I felt it wasn’t enough. He’d done so much damage throughout.
- Chun Wong (秦煌) as Cao Te Hua (曹特華). He was funny for me at the beginning and annoying in the later parts yet somehow managed to compensate himself for the ending. It wasn’t much of a role but I guessed he had to be there since he was relevant for the ending parts.
- Lee Kwok Lun (李國麟) as Cop. He only appeared from time to time or more like most of the first few episodes. It was just fun to see a familiar face in here. Not much.
Questions/ Discussions/ Frustrations:
- TVB seriously DO NOT know how to write strong female characters. I think I watched enough TVB series to get this out there. YES, I do know the time period that was in the story and it made sense that women didn’t get to make much of an impact during those times. But this was after all a story focusing on the strong female characters so why can’t they just stretch it a bit and make them awesome all the way instead of devaluing them like that? Like I said in the other part, I didn’t mind that Xiu Zhen was impulsive since it was kind of funny at first–and I initially thought she was just impatient and more for actions than talks. Yet the story just made her character worse and worse by enhancing her impulsiveness tenfold. In fact, it had stepped into the stupidity territory, which caused deaths or other consequences along the way. Okay, with some other series, the main lead might or might not have caused some deaths or consequences at the beginning too, but they somehow grow later. What has Xiu Zhen grown into? A total bitch? I don’t usually use that kind of language. But I couldn’t take it anymore with how her character turned out. Not to mention how strong personality type of character DO NOT mean that they were always loud and brainless. Did TVB have anyone to consult with regarding people’s personalities? I got it that she could be lively and smart too, not too boring. But seriously, Xiu Zhen was a complete idiot by the end of the story. Or should I rephrase and ask if TVB know that people could be lively and intelligent too, not a loud-mouth without a brain? Then there was Lan Hua, the smarter and sensible of the two. However, she was knocked down (like said before) when Gao Xiang appeared. Sure, they did have some battles of wit along the way yet it seemed like Gao Xiang was always one step ahead. (Okay, I don’t want to make it petty by turning it into a “men vs. women” kind of thing, but the plot laid it out that way with their competitions at the beginning.) I would like it better that they match wit-per-wit or something. It seemed that way on the surface at times, but it was obvious Gao Xiang was the stronger one. It made sense because he was more experienced than them and was actually one of the members in that mysterious organization that they were trying to investigate, but again, please stick to the theme of the series. Not only did they knock Lan Hua down, but also made her a complete victim halfway through and then somehow restoring her character at the end for the final battle. I totally understand her breakdowns during the times when she thought Gao Xiang was dead and when he was really dead, but I didn’t like it that she was soooo trusting of Yun Tian Peng. I had a feeling she wasn’t just the type to just plain lean into others just because they were there. She proved her capabilities and how she managed to keep her distance and had outright told Cheng Wu Hui about her feelings (or lack of) toward him. Once again, I got it that Yun Tian Peng was scheming and manipulative, so careful and all and so easy to trust, but seriously?
- The disturbing matches? I don’t know what to call it really but it was the whole idea of it was all right that somehow Lan Hua ended up with Yun Tian Peng. Hello, there was an actual wedding with others attending so happily. Seriously? I don’t know how that was even acceptable. Like Xiu Zhen was with Cheng Feng already so Yun Tian Peng was her father-in-law. Yet it was all right that her sister married her father-in-law? What? Even before Lan Hua learned of Yun Tian Peng’s true identity as Tai Yang, she was seriously all right with it too. I swear it was sooo messed up. It wasn’t about her forgoing with the revenge plot either. She was fine with it. Like I thought she would only apologize for misunderstanding him that one time Cheng Wu Hui brought to her attention about some suspicious details that he might be involved with Gao Xiang’s death YET she had to go one more step to give him the sweater she knitted. (That time, Yun Tian Peng used trickery to get out of it and eventually dissolved the misunderstanding just like that.) What? That was a grand gesture and indicated something else. Tell me I’m not the only one wanting to puke if it were to go through otherwise.
Recommended? If you don’t want to think but just watch, go ahead. If you’re fine with these types of dramas, go ahead.
This was one of the better series of the ’80s. I seriously think it might have been better than some of the productions that the five tigers were in. Although there were more deaths than I would prefer, I guess it had to be that way, considering the theme.
- Gallen Lo as Shen Zhi (沈智). One of Gallen’s best roles actually. It surprised me since I didn’t watch him until his series in the ’90s and even if it was awesome and that the majority loved his characters yet I felt it was too over-hype for some reason. Yet this one made me appreciate him as an actor even more since he shone like way before that. He delivered quite well, showing all ranges of emotions–from the smart leader to the somewhat mischievous person that he was at times alongside Margie’s Princess Yi Lan to being a filial son to his fathers (his real father and the adopted one). As a righteous hero, he wasn’t perfect, but his determination made him noble.
- Margie Tsang as Princess Yi Lan (伊蘭公主). Margie didn’t disappoint with her character. She was witty and charming, which helped with her character heaps. As Princess Yi Lan, she was intelligent and cunning hence her father trusted her to give her such a huge responsibility. I was glad to see Margie shine in this role and although she did suffer so much for the main guy yet didn’t have to die like some other series that got me frustrated. I was so glad she had a happy ending this time in a serious series.
- Eddie Cheung as Zhu Qi Yu (朱祈钰 ). Eddie delivered effortlessly. At first, he indeed gave the impression that he was a genuine person, just looking for someone to help him with overthrowing his brothers and somehow restore peace so that the citizens could live happily again. Yet it wasn’t so. Many said that he changed yet I think he said at one point (which we could all trust) that he never changed, it was just that he had to resort to anything to ascend the throne. He was just good at pretending and manipulating everyone around him. He was also patient. Even if somehow he was good at one point, his lust for power (aka becoming king) had overwhelmed all the reasoning that was left in him.
- Eugina Lau as Fang Guan Hua (方冠華). When I first saw her, I thought it was another boring role since I had stumbled across quite a few of those from her. Yet this one was a tad different. Although she did fall for the wrong person or someone she thought she could trust and marry, she didn’t tolerate his evil side or tried to convince others to forgive him just because he said he loved her. She still loved him (like she said at the end when they were both trapped in the cave) yet she wasn’t going to let him hurt others, especially all the innocent lives that were forced to participate in a war that no one wanted in the first place. I had to admire her for that. What got me a tad disappointed was that she became inactive for the majority of the series later on. I wasn’t referring to screen time but her role as an overall, like how we saw her teaming up with Shen Zhi in defeating this one evil monk with their swords technique yet she was dismissed of her talents later on and it seemed they totally forgot or cared for that special swords technique for the rest of the drama or something. But I guess it was forgivable since they (the scriptwriters) were trying to bring the focus back on the battles among the different powers in here that were trying to rise to the top. Oh yeah, I was seriously confused about whether she died or not at the end. The way it seemed was that she did, but I wasn’t too sure.
- Nathan Chan as Shen Hong (沈鸿). I swear I thought he would be the bad one among the three guys. Yet I was wrong, and in a way I was glad. Because I swear, I liked his character, although a tad hot-headed but was really loyal to his sect and cared for his siblings dearly. He was also quite righteous. What got me really pissed off though was how he was killed off when the series was almost over. Seriously? I guessed they had to emphasize the consequences of being involved in some nasty battle between different parties. But it didn’t make it any less frustrating.
- Josephine Lam as Zhang Xin Xin (張欣欣). I didn’t realize Josephine was around for that long, lol. I probably didn’t watch the right series to know. Anyway, loved her character in here. Although she was misled when she first appeared yet her character was quite lovable as the series progressed. It was also quite sad to discover that her father had lied to her and had anticipated to fulfill some big plan for his own gain. It was also quite sad that became her downfall later on as she realized her father wasn’t going to repent for his past misdeeds and had caused the death of Shen Hong hence her wanting to end her own life as well.
- Bobby Au Yeung as Zhu Qi Zhen (朱祈镇). I didn’t know whether to feel pity for him or think of him as weak at other times. I don’t mean that he was sick the majority of the time either. But I mean how wishy-washy he was later on. I guess it was understandable that since he was weak since little, he didn’t get to learn or experience with daily life stuff. However, sometimes I got impatient with seeing when he would mature. Yet after all that happened, I had a sinking feeling he would turn out exactly like his other siblings. I meant okay, it was good that he was determined on some matters, not wanting to let some parties get away with their past misdeeds yet his determination to go after those parties, like getting rid of them all made it chilling to some degree. Bobby’s acting was really good, seeing the transition between the confused, kindhearted person that he was at the beginning and turning into a possibly scary person at the end. I think that was also why Shen Zhi decided to fake his death and leave with Princess Yi Lan since he had seen enough and had been through enough of those conflicts. (Not to mention how Shen Zhi had lost more than enough in his life. When he felt like he wasn’t able to convince Zhu Qi Zhen into toning down his aggression, he thought it was better to leave. Who could blame Shen Zhi, right?) Maybe that little skit also somewhat convince Zhu Qi Zhen to let go somewhat and thought of what Shen Zhi said before it all went down. Because looking at Shen Zhi’s supposed body at the end, we were able to see how Zhu Qi Zhen gaining some past glint of his kindness in his eyes.
- Cary Choi as Qu Ying Zhi (曲盈枝). Her character was mysterious and intelligent when she first appeared. Her charm and beauty just came along with that. It was subtle and didn’t overshadow her intelligence and grace. What I meant was she had this natural but not elegance beauty like some others in here yet that didn’t dim her character. She had a somewhat of a cold-face image about her yet she was probably one of the kindest persons. It was like one of those images we often saw in the ancient beauty, where they seemed cold-faced yet wasn’t so if we got to know them sort of thing. Even more so, it created this mystic aura around her. Perhaps, she was too kindhearted that it became her downfall. Cary didn’t fail to convince me and she was probably my favorite female character in here-although I liked the other characters too. That was also why her death made me even more pissed off and making me want to reach into the screen and slap Zhu Qi Zhen for not believing her. (Can’t blame him since the scheme was indeed elaborate yet it made her trust and love for him a joke.)
- Cheung Ying Choi (張英才) as the late king. He was portraying his typical role as the weak-minded king who might or might not be swayed by some schemes like in this case some voodoo stuff. When he realized what was going on, it was too late. Not only with his other two sons but also with his supposedly “good” son.
- Chu Tit Wo (朱鐵和) as Shen Hong’s father and Shen Zhi’s adopted father. He was one of my favorite veteran actors in the old days. Not sure what’s going on with him now or if he’s still active. But although brief appearance, he made his role worthwhile to watch. One of his tragic roles.
- Kitty Lau as Shen Chu Ba (沈初八). Shen Hong’s older sister. Having only watched her portraying wealthy roles for some of the series that I managed to catch of her in the ’90s, I was surprised to see her in this type of role, associating with jianghu conflicts and all. What made me confused at one point was whether she was dead or not, but I was guessing yes since she didn’t appear in the later parts. What got me confused was how they didn’t mourn her enough like some characters in here. She was after all the main leads’ sister.
- Sin Ho Ying as Leng Feng (冷峰). For the majority of the series, I was scared that he would die yet he didn’t. He had a close call at the beginning of the series when he was captured along with Shen Hong.
- (???) as Taoist Qing Feng (清風道長). He was probably one of the smartest persons in the Bai Lian Sect. He was level-headed for the majority of the time and was able to plan his moves carefully. He was probably one of the most important persons around Shen Hong when Shen Zhi was MIA, considering how Shen Hong could be so hot-headed at times.
- Cutie Mui as Ying Er (颖儿). She appeared briefly as Guan Hua’s maid and contributed to the somewhat hilarious atmosphere at the beginning of the drama. Yet she died tragically along with most of the Fang household members.
- Gallen / Shen Zhi and Margie / Princess Yi Lan. I was really, really surprised by their chemistry. Perhaps it was because I never thought of them pairing up. But it was strangely natural. I swear that they were Zhang Wu Ji and Zhao Min on some level, lol. Of course, the exception was there were no third parties involved, except for that one time she misunderstood there was something going on between him and his adopted sister. I actually enjoyed their story for the majority of the time. Sometimes, I pondered if they were going to work out or if it was the tragic route–like how it was with some of Margie’s past roles with her dying. I also liked it that they didn’t make her perfect or more likable (like too good to be true for the main girl in nowadays dramas). Yes, she did eventually change her mind after having been around the Ming people for a long time, realizing that citizens there weren’t any different than her citizens, also wanting peace. But she didn’t dial down her liveliness. She was still intelligent and cunning, but she directed her efforts elsewhere. I also liked it that he didn’t change completely either after meeting her or after being with her. That sort of defeated the purpose of liking the persons they were in the first place–at least to me. They both kept on being themselves, but the only change–which made sense–was thinking for one another as a couple.
- Eddie / Zhu Qi Yu and Eugina / Fang Guan Hua. Seriously, their relationship sure fazed out fast. Possibly because his lust for power was way stronger than his compassionate side for others. Their relationship started as a bickering relationship and actually had a foundation at first. Probably that was why it hurt so badly with his betrayal later on and eventually tossing her out like some disposables. It was seriously cold. What I liked about their relationship at the beginning was their love for swordsmanship and how they practiced together and/or compete. It was also somewhat nice to see that he had created a sword for her and all. It would have been nice to see him die by the sword he made for her. But I guess TVB needed a battle between the main guys to end it all.
- Nathan / Shen Hong and Josephine / Zhang Xin Xin. Their relationship started out as a bickering couple yet ended tragically. I swear TVB just had to go and kill them like the last minute of the series. It was seriously messed up and one of the reasons I was sore about. But I had a gut feeling that his ending had to do with her father’s doing although I had anticipated it differently. Still, it didn’t ease my anger a tad when the scene of him lying dead rolled around. I hoped for a miracle that the scene in the main theme only meant she found him lying around (because of the angle of the scene) and would bring him back so the others could save him. But it wasn’t so. I actually did cry during that scene (like how I did when Ying Zhi died).
- Bobby / Zhu Qi Zhen and Cary / Qu Ying Zhi. Tragic. I think I felt tenfold more sorry for him during their ending. I felt what hurt the most was that he didn’t believe her. It was the last scene they were together, the part where he visited in her cell and asked her if she’d betrayed him. She was, of course, heartbroken–completely, saying that it didn’t matter if the others didn’t believe her yet what matter was that he believed her. In the end, he had questioned her motive so what was left for her? I was intrigued by their meeting from the start, wondering how it would work out and wonder if he would die. I had a higher bet that he would be killed off by his so-called “brothers” than surviving till the end. Yet it was she who died tragically because of how his so-called “brother” tried to frame her and eliminate her from his twisted plot.
Recommended? Worth it? I thought it was actually a good series on its own, not compared to others. It might not be much to some people since they weren’t considered star-dubbed like there was no member of the five tigers involved or their other famous co-stars. (Margie was considered famous back then since she did star in quite a few major productions with the five tigers, but I felt like she wasn’t cherished by TVB hence her not getting enough exposure like some others I didn’t care about.) Yet this one had a good plot, even if it had turned out frustrating at times. It was a series about the battles to gain the throne so of course, there were bloody deaths or sacrifices so it wasn’t like uncalled for. But it didn’t feel over-hype. The pace was just right, not too slow and not too fast that it was confusing. So you didn’t feel the drag of the plot. Not to mention the focus wasn’t just on a few characters and that was it, they were more engaging with the side characters as well. Yes, there were goofs or unknown areas, but I felt it was good enough as an overall. All in all, this was a 4 out of 5 for me, because of some factors I mentioned that I was sore about.