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.