Where The Legend Begins

I must say that I have never read Three Kingdoms properly so I do not know how accurate it was. But it was not that hard to tell that Cao Cao was supposed to be the villain. That was interesting to see that they showed him as an honorable person to his sons at the beginning. It also presented a different perspective on the story of the Three Kingdoms.

This focused around the Cao household and what roughly happened during the wars among Cao Cao, Sun Quan, and Liu Bei. They briefly mentioned some historical context to move the story forward but Sun Quan and Liu Bei never appeared, which was understandable since if the others were to appear, it would’ve stolen the spotlight from Cao Cao and therefore defeating the purpose of revolving the story around Cao Cao in the first place. But they managed to put in the famous ‘Battle of Red Cliff’ (Chi Bi) and how badly Cao Cao was defeated, causing his downfall (or at least made him lose the will to fight any longer).

This story began with Yan Fuk’s dream of Lok Sun being punished for causing the rift between her husband and this other god. It was all a misunderstanding but Lok Sun still got punished and the other two gods were spared of the punishment. (Because the female population was always responsible for the male population’s actions, right? Sarcasm and insert major eye roll here.) Yan Fuk was actually the reincarnation of Lok Sun.

Yan Fuk suffered the same fate as Lok Sun because she was stuck between two men–who were brothers (and incidentally Cao Cao’s sons). Yan Fuk’s only fault was that of her beauty. If that was even supposed to be a fault at all. Even Cao Cao himself had fallen for Yan Fuk at one time though Yan Fuk skillfully persuaded him that he was her respectable elder since he was her father’s friend. He finally thought it through and decided to resolve the conflicts that his two sons were going through to win Yan Fuk’s heart. Yan Fuk, of course, favored Cho Chi Kin (portrayed by Steven Ma) from the start because of their shared love for poetry and the likes. They had this tacit understanding and complemented each other very well. Chi Kin’s older brother, Cho Chi Woon, claimed from the beginning that women were trouble and those beauties only destroy men (and the country in general). He even wanted to kill Yan Fuk at first but when he finally met face to face with her, he immediately fell in love with her. That led to the conflicts between him and his brother.

At first, Cao Cao wanted Chi Kin to succeed him as the leader of the Cao/Cho household, but he later reconsidered and changed his mind, letting Chi Woon be the leader. He never knew that Chi Woon was not using his own talents to win over Chi Kin for the power. Others failed in vain in convincing him that there was some stronger power behind Chi Woon helping him. They were right and that was the pretentious Si Ma Yi. Chi Kin did not want to fight with his brother but he was driven to the wall with his brother’s despicable/underhanded method of winning that he was pulled into the conflict in gaining power as well. (Not to mention how he knew that only he could help the citizens live a better life after gaining power. Chi Woon was not a good choice where citizens were concerned because he would do anything to gain power. Chi Woon was like their father in that way.) Cao Cao also knew that Chi Woon was not the best choice so he wanted to marry Yan Fuk to Chi Woon so she could be his adviser and guide him in the right direction. However, he never realized there were other parties and forces involved so his plan was crumbling apart. Aside from Si Ma Yi’s constant schemes to get rid of Chi Kin’s allies, there was also Yan Fuk’s supposedly good sister Kwok Huen stirring things up to sabotage Yan Fuk due to jealousy.

There were too many things going on at the same time that it was hard to explain. You just have to watch it to know what really happened and understand the conflicts better. Who was the big winner in the end? Si Ma Yi, of course, since Cao Cao failed to listen to the others and gave too much power to Chi Woon that when he finally found out about Chi Woon’s beyond cure state, it was too late.

Aside from all those political conflicts and side romance stories, I found several scenes memorable–touching even, which were:

  • The part where Lau Sik Sik died. I actually cried at that part because of her tragic ending. She was an orphan who was brought into the brothel to be trained as a singer and later was recruited by Cao Cao’s first wife to fight against Yan Fuk. Yet, she was not a petty person. She knew and understood that Yan Fuk was a talented person and someone whom she could befriend since they shared some common interests. I felt that she was more on par with Yan Fuk and could be considered as the good sister than that of Kwok Huen. (Since although Kwok Huen used to be from a rich family and her beauty was stressed at various times but she could not be compared to Sik Sik’s elegance or grace.) The conflicts between Cao Cao’s wives had caused Sik Sik’s death. Not to mention how Kwok Huen had sided with Cao Cao’s second wife to try and replace Sik Sik by copying Sik Sik’s singing style. Sik Sik, like Yan Fuk, only wanted to live a simple life–but it was impossible with the circumstances surrounding them. Priscilla was a good choice for the role and her voice matched one of those ancient singers.
  • The part where Yeung So died. Yes, death was an unavoidable thing around the Cao household since Cao Cao was a very suspicious person, always thinking that others were plotting against him if they did anything out of the ordinary–according to him. Yeung So’s death was caused by his stubbornness and unwilling to let go and some traces of arrogance that had made others feel threatened by his talents thus wanting to get rid of him. Perhaps he should’ve listened to his master before taking actions or at least be more cautious toward what was going on. However, he should not be blamed in totality since he was desperate to help his good friend, Chi Kin. In fact, he was a loyal friend. He had never shown jealousy toward Chi Kin or Yan Fuk considering how others had compared them to him with their ability to solve various problems. His death scene was really tragic considering how they showed Chi Kin and Yan Fuk remembering back to the past about their group of friends going to the inn to drink and talk about various matters. Also, the poem he uttered out before his death and the song version came on accompanying the whole scene was very well done. A very touching moment. (Not to mention the letter that Yeung So left behind for Chi Kin.) Though lack of screen time (or what it seemed like), Gilbert did very well in portraying his character with his brilliant side and the somewhat stubborn side as well.
  • The part where Chui Fau died. Though ironic since she was an annoying character throughout with her petty antics in trying to get rid of Yan Fuk yet she turned out all right in the end. Her only fault was her stupidity since she did not understand Cao Cao’s plans yet only wanted to support her husband throughout. It was really pathetic and beyond frustrating that when Chi Kin was telling Cao Cao how he did not like Chui Fau but Cao Cao did not listen. He brushed it off and proceeded with their marriage anyway. However, when he discovered why it was a big mistake in letting Chui Fau marry Chi Kin, he immediately sought to eliminate the obstacle (or so he thought) for Chi Kin. I felt that it was very ironic since Chi Kin finally learned to accept her and she finally learned how to become a good wife (minus the whole high dreams of wanting to be a queen one day). What was even more tragic was leaving behind their son without a mother. I felt that scene was equally memorable with the other two death scenes since it highlighted the conflicts and enhanced the rift between Chi Kin and his father. She did not deserve to die however stupid she was.
  • The part where Yan Fuk died. It was sad yet frustrating at the same time though I knew from the beginning that she would die. It was probably her fate and if tying in with her Lok Sun identity, it could be explained that her time in the human world was done and she had served out her sentence after learning all the things about the human world. Yet it was giving Kwok Huen and Si Ma Yi the satisfaction of her death since they eliminated the biggest obstacle of their lives.

What I found the most frustrating and pathetic was Chi Woon knew from the start that Chi Kin and Yan Fuk was the real couple yet he kept wanting to win over Chi Kin and marry Yan Fuk. Yet afterward, he would blame Yan Fuk for being unfaithful when she had tried her best to make it work–because of what she could not change with the forced marriage. It was probably Cao Cao’s fault also for thinking that he could just plan anything and it would go accordingly. However, I just felt it was really dumb to blame everything on Chi Kin and Yan Fuk when Chi Woon was the one being unreasonable and unfaithful throughout. Chi Woon never loved Yan Fuk to begin with, he was only obsessed with her beauty and how badly he wanted to win over Chi Kin. (If not, why would he fall for Kwok Huen’s schemes?) But in a way, it emphasized Cao Cao’s downfall and how his family would never gain power for a long time so that was their deserved fate. But I felt Chi Kin and Yan Fuk were the victims of time, considering how they only wanted to have a simple life yet were forced into such conflicts.

What I found the most admirable was the friendship among Chi Kin, Yan Fuk, Shik Shik, and Yeung So. They knew each other’s talents and capabilities and shared interests thus becoming good friends yet they seemed to live in the wrong time (as mentioned above). They were so comfortable with one another and was really happy at that one inn where they would meet and talk about various topics, composing poems, or drink to their friendship. Their bond was what made Shik Shik and Yeung So’s deaths even more tragic and touching. No one was able to stop it from happening, especially in Yeung So’s case. Shik Shik was unexpected. But Yeung So’s was predictable considering how he was taking such actions but he chose it anyway, knowing it would bring him trouble. The others did not have any power to prevent it from happening and could only witness it in frustration or sadness. The scene with Yan Fuk reminiscing about the past and Chi Kin practicing his swords skills while Yeung So was being transported to the appointed site for the beheading process reflected their state of emotions well. Each time, it was like the ones who were left behind would hurt more with continuing to carry on no matter how hard it was. It was like until the end that Chi Kin finally died as well that their bond finally broke. Though their story would probably remain behind with those who knew them.

What was a bit interesting and amusing all at once was the relationship between masters and servants in here for several cases. What I meant was Yan Fuk and Yau Seen versus Kwok Huen and Song Yau. Both servants were loyal to their masters but one out of gratitude and respect contrary to the other with blind trust/beliefs. It was interesting how Kwok Huen was able to brainwash Song Yau into helping her throughout with the various plots. It was ironic that Song Yau said Kwok Huen saved her so she would do anything to protect Kwok Huen yet if it wasn’t for Yan Fuk saving Kwok Huen in the first place, none of that would’ve happened. But Song Yau got what she deserved in the end for being so blind with helping Kwok Huen. I also felt that June was better in portraying her role so her character was more convincing and May Kwong was not as good so it was hard to understand how her character was becoming that way.

Acting? Honestly, Steven and Ada were the ones that I was really impressed with among the four main cast. Moses was all right but I thought he could not make me sympathize with him even when he was being underestimated by his father. I guess it was mostly due to the fact of his ironic character, stating that women were trouble but he just dived right into it and could not resist temptation and just turned around blaming them in the end. It was pathetic. And for some reason, I could not feel the bond between him and Steven as brothers but could feel more with Steven and Evergreen Mak’s. Maybe it was because how Chi Woon had always been so calculative (aka keeping scores) and had been silently jealous of Chi Kin that made it hard to see their brotherly bond. Yes, there were traces of their bonding with how they played that one game at the beginning of the series, but I felt it was always Chi Kin/Steven pulling the weight or effort to mend things with Chi Woon/Moses. Evergreen’s acting seemed stronger than Moses’ though he was not placed into one of the lead roles. He still delivered his part and made his loyalty toward Chi Kin/ Steven convincing and admirable. He was an honest person but he knew the importance of family–unlike Chi Woon who was blinded by jealousy. Perhaps, putting Moses alongside Steven was a bad idea since Steven would shine without trying. Ada probably looked more compatible with Moses than Steven (or what I thought of at the beginning) but Steven and Ada’s acting made up for it with their chemistry and interactions throughout. What about Sonija? Let’s just say that she did better in her recent roles. Because honestly, Sonija was what made it hard to see what was the fuss about her beauty. Maybe it was only Chi Woon who was blinded by Kwok Huen’s words and seduction method but there wasn’t anything important about her. Possibly that was why Kwok Huen was so jealous of Yan Fuk and wanted to get rid of her. Even Irene Wong did WAY better than Sonija in portraying her role. Although it was a different type of character considering their characters’ personalities, Sonija failed to capture the essence of the character thus making it unconvincing or show any signs of significance.

However frustrating that was, I still find it one of the better TVB series since it managed to capture an interesting side of the story. It was another perspective to consider since we were always told from the point of view of the other two famous figures, Sun Quan and Liu Bei. What I wanted to complain about was the makeup for the cast. The guys were all right but the girls were more noticeable. Except for Priscilla’s makeup, the rest of the female population seemed too pale or too old somehow. I’m not saying that they’re old, I’m just saying that the makeup made them look that way. All the female cast chosen were not ugly at all yet the makeup failed to bring out their beauty. Even though Ada looked stunning in her costumes but she still looked like she was too tired or something.

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A Great Way to Care

If you ignore the corny English title, this was actually very good. The funniest thing was if you watched this and The Threshold of a Persona at the same time, you would realize the majority of the supporting cast were the same. It might cause confusion also but it was still interesting to see how each portray their roles for both series.

Anyway, first off, what was TVB thinking in warehousing this series? I understand that they aired The Threshold of a Persona because of Roger’s popularity. But warehousing this one was a big mistake. (Or perhaps it was the reason that I mentioned above about the similarity with the supporting cast.) This was quite fast pace and interesting because of the different psychological issues addressed throughout this series. It was surprisingly good because of all the cases involved and it was not draggy since it managed to stay on topic for the majority of the time. There were side stories and romances too but it did not dwell long. It let the cases integrate with their daily life problems too so it was just right.

The Like(s):

  • Alex Fong as Dr. Ko Lap Yan. I was actually doubtful about watching this since I’m not much of an Alex fan or think much about his acting. However, I admit he does have it to pull through, making us love him at times as the brilliant doctor but hates him sometimes for using sharp words. Dr. Ko is actually very kind and really cares for his patients. But he’s harsh toward his interns because he wants them to succeed and be good at what they do. (If he’s not harsh and they rely on him too much or would not work hard enough, what would happen when they become real doctors and get careless, which could result in the worst?)
  • Ram Tseung as Dr. Lien Chi Sum. Having like Ram for his performances in several series, I really like the role given to him in here. He is such a funny character yet there is this apparent morality within him that one must respect. He seems to be really laid-back and could almost be dubbed as being lazy but his sense of sincerity and care given to his patients are really admirable. He takes his job seriously with proper responsibilities of each patient. Although he has his moments of immaturity, it is only within friends and off-work that shows another side of his character. And although he seems weak or easily persuaded with his behaviors, he is very firm on his belief and would not use any other means to gain status over other colleagues. It seems like he does not really care for what is being done at home either or seems careless but he really does care and support his wife in the time of need, not taking one side or another. The conversations they have various times show that he does support her and not just ignore it or dismiss it altogether. He does treat it in seriousness, considering all angles, not like other husbands who only take one side or the other. He tries hard to sort everything out and make it work for his family accordingly.
  • Raymond Wong as Lee Ying Chun. I’m not really a fan of Raymond Wong–mostly because of how he portrays his characters in other series. He is not the worst but I just don’t like his style. However, I must admit I really like his character and portrayal in here. I like the character of Chun because he’s very caring toward patients and would not mind the nature of his job but really love it for what it is. It does not matter that others might misunderstand or look down on him, but he feels happy that he could help others. It is also very nice to see the balance in his character that he would not get stepped on easily. I like the part where he found out his girlfriend cheated on him and insulted him of his weakness. At first, he was all quiet and I was getting disappointed that he might be all talks and would be weakened by all the words. But then it showed that he was only thinking and he actually took the action to sever the ties right away, i.e. destroying all the furniture in the room. (It sounds violent but shows that he could stand up for himself, not being someone’s doormat.) I must give TVB credit for giving him the right image in here. It’s like he doesn’t seem to shine much, just the typical nice guy character but there’s this sense of mystery within him, making him more complex.
  • Vivien Yeo as Suen Ka Bik. For the first time, I feel that Vivien isn’t robbed of a role. It’s about time too. Her character as Ka Bik is really strange at first if you do not understand her. But we, as the audience,’ are lead into her story and what actually happened that led to her self-destructive mode and depression. Although her character is an obese person, I really like it that it acknowledges and associates it with her internal and external conflicts, tying in with the main theme. Vivien was really cute in here (when she actually appears as her thin self again). Not that she wasn’t cute at the beginning but it was hard to tell through the prop. Her character was really bubbly and childish in a way but it was really funny and surprisingly cute how innocent she was.
  • Ben Wong as Chung Kwok Ban. I know he seemed really, really mean at the beginning but I start to like his character in the later episodes. In a way, he just felt that newbies usually have this great enthusiasm but no talents so he worried for Mandy’s safety if she were to jump in and do it without thinking of the consequences (which was true that almost cost her life several times). However, he was still capable of seeing through that she did have what it took to be a cop. He also was not an unreasonable person who didn’t have a brain but only wanted to be bossy about everything. He actually could think up of different solutions and connect the dots pretty well. He cared for others but just didn’t know how to express it properly. Since I was watching like this and Threshold and at the same time, I must say that I was impressed with Ben’s portrayal for both roles. It contained humor and kindness for the other one versus the whole intense character in here with a mixture of brilliant elements. (Must give TVB credit also for giving the right image for both characters, seeing him as a simple cop in the other one yet in this one, it gave more confidence with the suit, plus the hairdo. He looked really handsome in here–if I have to admit it, lol.) Anyway, another interesting character and I think Ben has gone a long way since his very first series that made me cringed when I was watching it and never finished. Although it took a while to actually be impressed with his performances, I think he does work really hard and knows his weaknesses or takes it into a note to improve and get to this point.
  • The friendship between Ko Lap Yan (Alex Fong), Lien Chi Sum (Ram Tseung), and  Lee Ying Chun (Raymond Wong). Although the other two were doctors and Ying Chun was a nurse, the three men got along really well, sharing jokes and seeking advice from each other when in need. The fact that Ying Chun lived with Dr. Ko was funnier. They got into these weird fights about who should have the power to speak or decide at times but it showed how close they were to not be afraid to speak up about matters. Although they talked nonsense the majority of the time and only were serious some of the time, it did show the bond of their friendship and the ability to make one another forget their stress for the time being.
  • The relationship between Dr. Ko (Alex Fong), Dr. Leung (Chung King Fai), and Mandy (Kate Tsui). I think it was a bit funny how Dr. Leung knew them both–because one was his student and the other was his god-daughter, but they did not know it–at first.
  • The interns. I especially liked the relationship between the interns and the doctors in here, except for some doctor who was taking advantage of the situation–that was. I also liked how Nelson (Timmy Hung), Leo (Ruco Chan), and Brian (Ellesmere Choi) got along and discussed cases together, sharing experiences. I did not like Martha (Yoyo Chen) as much although I understand where she was coming from. There were side stories with them too and the randomness between the interns and it got funny at times but not too much as into the whole ‘corny’ zone. Their interactions showed some bonding among the interns with how they were all going through it together. Of course, there were conflicts at times but it did not lose its elements with making it too dramatic either.
  • The guest stars. The guest stars in each case made it interesting and you got to see how each actor/ actress would portray their role in here as well as their characters contributing to the overall story.
  • The ensemble. Yes, I got tired of listing every single character or actor/actress so just put in this one since I really liked it that they were not making someone shine on purpose. But everyone was in it together to make everything work out well. You could feel the realness of it, just normal people trying to work and get on with their daily life. (There was the whole deal with the excitement of the cases but it was there for the purpose of the series’ theme.) I didn’t have the feeling of anyone hogging the camera on purpose, except for one person, which I will discuss in the next section. Other than that, this group worked really well together. (Kudos to the production team for making everything possible.)
  • Not too cheesy. I liked it that there was actually some acknowledgment that it should not be too gift-wrapped. Yes, there were closure and some kind of ending for everyone but they did not put in pairings for every single character. Like how we were misled into believing that Ko Sau Yee (Elliot Yue) would end up with his old fiancee or at least have a great friendship throughout the story with her giving up gambling and all. However, things happen and what she passed onto her son caught up with her. It goes into the whole thing with wanting something to happen versus its actual outcome. There was also the part where Ko Sau Yee lost one leg due to the accident (that was not so accidental) and the internal conflicts afterward. Everything was not perfect but it worked out as long as they learned to accept and look on the bright side.

The Dislike(s):

  • Suet Nei as Ram’s mother. Seriously, I’m getting sick of seeing her in series. Can’t they find someone else? I mean I’m all right if she’s around sometimes but like most of the time? I guess I do not watch the right series to avoid her but her pattern is quite repetitive. Although she tries to shine through her portrayal, it gets super fake and annoying more than attract the appropriate attention. Lucky she’s only around for a while or if it focuses on her too much, I would’ve gone mad.

Favorite Couples:

  • Raymond Wong and Vivien Yeo as Lee Ying Chun and Suen Ka Bik. They had a really cute story together and I really liked the development of it. It was kind of different from other dramas that it actually showed that he didn’t care for appearances and learned to love the real her, not just with words but his actual actions. It showed that because they made it that Ka Bik was really fat at the beginning and he was still willing to help her overcome the worst and gain confidence again. (Other series, it was all about talks about not minding but we never got to see the test. It sounded too much like nonsense sweet words used to reassure one party or the other. But this one just went right into addressing it about minding it or not.)
  • Alex Fong and Kate Tsui as Dr. Ko and Mandy. Their relationship was interesting in a sense because I would’ve never liked it when I first heard of the collaboration–considering TVB’s recent casting with older men with younger women, but I must give them credit for making it work this time around. Actually setting his age at the about right level made it more realistic since making him portray a younger character than his actual age would be too fake. They even addressed and stressed the age difference throughout the series so it was not too fake or seemed like they were trying to hide something. It could’ve been worse if they put in some corny lines like, “Age doesn’t matter as long as there are feelings.” I liked it there was the talk between Dr. Ko and Mandy about all the possible issues although he had feelings for her, which she took it as a joke that he was such a worry-wart at first, actually reassured him with the seriousness of the situation and how she understood, etc.
  • Ram Tseung and Astrid Chan as Dr. Lien and Sau Wai. I like how their team of husband and wife worked together. It was funny how it seemed that he was really scared of her and would leave everything up to her. But they really supported each other when trouble came along. He had his silly moments and she would complement it with her reasoning. It was just too funny with their interactions at times. She seemed to be the naggy-slash-controlling wife but that was just the harsh words she used sometimes to keep him in line about his craziness, like trying to buy a car just to show off to one of the rival doctors.
  • Ellesmere Choi and Iris Wong as Brian and Daisy. They were just too funny at times. They worked at the same clinic yet there was only constant interaction related to their work. However, they got to know each other better through a religious group. It was just funny to see how he sort of turned her down and she was sort of embarrassed but managed to dive out of it safely. I was a bit disappointed that nothing more happened but was happy to see that they ended up together after all. Perhaps, he lacked confidence and didn’t feel it was the right time? Or he didn’t know and he was too busy trying to pass the exams that he couldn’t focus on relationships? Still a cute couple.

Posted (on Xanga): August 7, 2009

Re-posted: Saturday, March 27th, 2010