I actually tried to watch one episode at first but wasn’t that into it. It seemed too trying to me for some reason. Then to motivate myself, I actually went to watch The Untamed first, lol. It was weird, but since they were compared by various groups, I thought I might as well start there. So, fans of this drama can thank the other one for motivating me to watch this. The second time around, I tried to be more patient and it took several episodes before I was actually into it. I also ended up creating a thread on Twitter and tweeted while watching as well. It helped motivate me to move forward. (Also, no one mention it, please. Because I got brain fog and ended up using the wrong character for “ling” so the hashtag was all wrong for that. So yeah, I know already. This is why Twitter needs an edit button, but they thought they knew better so whatever.)
First off, it was a really bad idea to change the name of the series to Word of Honor (山河令) instead of keeping it as Faraway Wanderers (天涯客). Because by the current official title, Ye Bai Yi would be the main lead. Yes, he was the person who held the piece in episode 13. I was madly confused about where the title came from when it had nothing to do with the two main leads at all. Then it took like that many episodes later for it to reveal. I was like, “Really?” Whoever thought of doing that did it on purpose. Sure, people remember it better in this current state, but it also got attached to The Untamed as well. Good or bad, you tell me. But seriously, not worth it at all. Because this series was decent in its own right. It didn’t need to be attached to some other work like that. Granted, The Untamed team also changed their title. However, it made much more sense, because it was still aimed at the main characters of the series. Chen Qing Ling (陳情令) aimed at Wei Wu Xian’s flute and its power. Word of Honor (山河令) sounded catchy but missed the mark. Unless they wanted to say it was meant to cover the overall plot and its conflict then okay, fine. And I didn’t mean to start the fans war up again OR pick on this team on purpose. I appreciated their effort and what they had to work with. But whoever the decision-makers were, sunk them by doing so.
Anyway, moving on, right? LOL!
- Zhang Zhe Han (张哲瀚) as Zhou Zi Shu (周子舒) aka Ah Xu (阿絮). It was hard to get into his character or relate to him. I meant, there was enough mystery and all and his expressions were morbid enough for me to get the seriousness of the series. What made him unrelatable for me was his saint-like, too forgiving nature as an overall. Yeah, I got it that he suffered a lot, made some poor decisions when he was young so he felt guilty and was trying to repent. But he shouldn’t try to influence others when it wasn’t exactly his call. Disregarding the others’ POV and forcing his principles on them wasn’t helping either. It wasn’t that he was terrible, it was that he was too perfect that made it hard to relate to for me. (Yeah, I know, sounded too ironic with what we learned he did YET I described him as perfect. But he had pushed that forgiving thing too far for me that made it unrealistic.) He was fun to watch at times and I liked his burns toward several parties in here too. But that was about it. First time watching ZZH and I don’t know what to make of it, except he was indeed convincing. At first, not as much, but I thought the best part of his was probably when Ah Xu thought Lao Wen was dead. Then the aftermath of realizing he made a mistake and pulled out the nails too soon. It was devastating. His expression said it all. That was his defining scene of the whole series for me. I don’t mean to disregard his effort or whatever since this was my first time watching and I had nothing to go by. Perhaps, it was just the type of character that drawn me in or not.
- Simon Gong Jun (龔俊) as Wen Ke Xing (溫客行) aka Lao Wen (老溫). Gong Jun was surprising addicting to watch. I don’t know if it was how the character was written, but his charm helped a lot with carrying the character throughout. Lao Wen’s thick-skinned nature knew no bound and Gong Jun’s taunting expression at times made it so humorous for those scenes. The majority of my laughter came from his up to no good schemes. He seriously could drive people up the wall with his acts. His trolling game was top-notch though. And omg, his burns toward others. However, I thought the majority of that was just to cover his tragic past. I guess, overall, it was the contrast of his character that pulled me in even more. Gong Jun sure delivered with making it lively and cheerful at the right time and also delivered quite well with his serious scenes as well. It give off the feeling like you’re in front and center with him, witnessing those scenes. I heard that some of his past performances were flops. So, I guess whatever guidance and experiences he had over time had allowed him to improve. His hard work indeed paid off for this series. Because he was indeed quite convincing.
- Zhou Ye (周也) as Gu Xiang (顧湘). I actualy didn’t like her at first. I know, jaws drop, right? But it was the truth. She was too loud and annoying for my taste. It took me a while to get into her character. Then I realized she was just straightforward. At least, she got the skills to back up her talk, unlike some people. I found her funny as hell later too. Her burns were possibly influenced by her master somewhat. But she was on point regarding some matters. Who possessed the author to kill her off? I felt like choking when that scene rolled around–although I got spoiled somewhere along the way and knew it was coming.
- Sun Xi Lun (孫浠倫) and Zhao Xiao Kun (赵晓坤) as Zhang Cheng Ling (張成嶺). Omg, was the kid unlucky or what? Also, felt really bad for him with his family tragedies and all, but he sure needed a lot of rescuing. Lao Wen was on target when he asked Ah Xu why Ah Xu didn’t take the poor kid to see a fortune-teller, lol.
- Ma Wen Yuan (馬聞遠) as Cao Wei Ning (曹蔚寧). At first, I was afraid that he was one of those flaky characters as well. Can’t blame me because of how pretentious half of the population of those sects and clans were. We learned he was heavily influenced by his shi shu, not his master. So that was good. But really sad since he was also killed by that hypocrite. It was indeed very tragic. He was so kindhearted and optimistic about life. If only he survived through it all.
- Chen Zi Han (陳紫函) as Tragicomic Ghost (喜喪鬼) aka Luo Fu Meng (羅浮夢). I haven’t watched her in ages. So it was interesting to see her in here.
- Ke Nai Yu (柯乃予) as Beauty Ghost (艷鬼) aka Liu Qian Qiao (柳千巧). I actually liked her. She had such a tragic past. Yet she was also so soft-hearted, even letting that one scumbag go just because of his sweet words. Well, she drank the potion later and ended up killing him, so…not all lost? It seemed overkilled at that point, but whatever.
- Hei Zi (黑子) as Gao Chong (高崇). I saw him posting some clips of his character in the series, lol. So, that piqued my curiosity a bit more. Believe it or not, he was one of the few reasons I wanted to check it out. As for his character, he totally trusted the wrong person. He died in vain after all the good intention he had. It was a mile coming because they were going to kill him one way or another anyway. The majority of those sects or clans just wanted the key. They didn’t care for reasons or whatever. So yeah, he was sacrificed because of their greed and Zhao Jing’s schemes.
- Wang Ruo Lin (王若麟) as Zhao Jing (趙敬). The mastermind of all the schemes since ages ago leading up to the current situation. He sure was manipulative all right. He kept up a good front and all. I knew I couldn’t trust him from the start. Mostly because of his name. Yes, he sure had it going for him. What was wrong with his name? Zhao Jing reminded me of Zhao Zhi Jing (趙志敬) from The Return of the Condor Heroes. So yeah, hated that guy in there, such a hypocrite and despicable, the whole mile with being the bad guy yet no one was able to expose him until way later. So yeah, I just transferred it to this one. Also, those really righteous dudes in here looked fake as well. His good deeds via charity causes done around town was already a trademark to be super suspicious of him since that was how it often was with those stories. Always the super nice and kindhearted dudes making waves and retaining the good reputation in front of others. It wasn’t hard to detect there was something wrong with him. Yet I just didn’t realize how big of an impact he made to the overall story, that was all. I thought he got his deserved fate, considering how much he toyed with people’s lives throughout, trying to ascend and gain power. So, how did he like it when he became the person on the receiving end of some sort of scheme too? His downfall was lying to the Scorpion King once too many times.
- Guo Jia Hao (郭家豪) as Shen Shen (沈慎). He was stubborn and rash at times, but somehow managed to see through the light. Can’t blame him too much. He was just too simple-minded. At least, he was loyal to his sworn brother and tried his best to find his niece. He didn’t care for the power grab stuff going on. Although he was seriously annoying at first and made me suspicious of him–or if he was involved with Zhao Jing’s schemes, he proved to be harmless later.
- Rebecca Jin (金乐) as Gao Xiao Lian (高小憐). Gao Chong’s daughter.
- Yang Wan Li (杨万里) as Deng Kuan (鄧寬). Gao Chong’s disciple, the one that was drugged and manipulated into giving false statements about his master.
- Li Dai Kun (李岱昆) as Scorpion King (蠍王) aka Xie Er (蠍兒). So the majority learned that he was approached for the role of Wen Ke Xing first and turned it down. It was mentioned that he was afraid he couldn’t carry the role hence turning it down. Yet it made me wonder. Because his acting wasn’t bad. He carried his character really well, showing all the emotions toward his adopted father–whether it was feeling proud of himself to be praised, or the disappointment and resentment feelings of later. It was quite powerful. He was also quite ruthless toward his enemies and was capable of all sorts of schemes. However, he was still able to sympathize with Beauty Ghost and was shocked to learn of her death later on. Indeed a complex character overall.
- Candice Zhao (赵茜) as Evil Bodhisattva (毒菩萨). Scorpion Sect assassin.
- Yu Nai Jia (于乃佳) as Pretty Arhat (俏罗汉). Scorpion Sect assassin.
- Liu Yue Tao (刘月涛) as Qin Song (秦松). Scorpion Sect assassin.
- Pan Jian (潘健) as Jiang Lao Guai (蒋老怪). Scorpion Sect assassin.
- Huang You Ming (黃宥明) as Ye Bai Yi (葉白衣). Sword Immortal. He was sure was crazy and could be so childish too. Talking about his random bickering and fighting with Lao Wen at the various points here. It was hilarious to watch in a way. He was stubborn in some things YET at least, he redeemed himself later. He wasn’t too, too unreasonable, I guess. Just hard to get past some things. Then he thought it over and managed to see past some things hence letting go and helping them instead of holding onto old principles. Well, he was already ancient. So, how could he change so fast? It made sense. He was also stuck in the snowy mountains for a very long time.
- Kou Zhen Hai (寇振海) as Huang He (黃鶴). Beggar clan’s elder. Despicable. Even more despicable than Tao Hong and her husband. Because he wanted to sell off the poor girl to a brothel to get some money if he wasn’t able to use her for anything anymore. Disgusting old scumbag.
- Bryan Leung as Old Guard (老守衛). It was funny seeing him in here with such a small role. But he delivered with humor. It reminded me of some old comedies he starred in ages back.
- Normal Chui as Bi Chang Feng (畢長風). Ouch! He rather accepted the nails than stick around. That was how awful the place was. I felt bad for him. I seriously did.
- Wang Rong (汪融) as Han Ying (韓英).
- Miles Wei (魏哲鸣) as Jing Bei Yuan (景北淵) aka Seventh Lord (七爺).
- Fan Jin Wei (范津玮) as Wu Xi (烏溪) aka Da Wu (大巫).
- Wo Bo Qing (王铂清) as Mo Huai Yang (莫懷陽). Gentle Wind Swords Sect leader. Hated him. He killed my favorite couple.
Relationships – family, friends, romances, etc.:
- Zhang Zhe Han and Gong Jun as Ah Xu and Lao Wen. In the words of Ah Xiang, Lao Wen seemed more human when he was with Ah Xu. Well, she knew her master best, so who am I to argue, right? LOL! Seriously, I think ZZH’s best scenes were with Gong Jun. Because most of their interactions sent me laughing for no apparent reason. Well, unless it was those super serious, intense debates. But I thought those scenes were essential to bring out ZZH’s character more. This wasn’t meant to be a dunk on ZZH, but it was because I couldn’t relate to his overly forgiving nature as much–like said before. They had a lot of hilarious exchanges throughout. Yet I felt their relationship only carried to a certain point. Another petty move on my part but if thought of in a serious manner, regardless of how much they disagreed on their principles, I felt Lao Wen was always ready to jump into action to defend and help Ah Xu. It couldn’t be said the same for Ah Xu, except for two times. Examples? The part where the Five Lakes Alliances tried to have a meeting, it didn’t go as planned, various parties wanted to snatch Cheng Ling, Lao Wen jumped in to help Ah Xu save Cheng Ling and get the kid out of there immediately. On the other hand, the scene where Gao Chong was framed and eventually led to his downfall? Both of them were arguing halfway through and Ah Xu totally abandoned Lao Wen, saying if they were so different, then they should part ways, etc. Then Lao Wen was left there to figure things out on his own. So much for friends. The two times I mentioned Ah Xu actually doing something to prove that he was Lao Wen’s friend? The time Ye Bai Yi almost killed Lao Wen. That speech was awesome from Ah Xu, saying how everyone could condemn or go after Lao Wen but not Ye Bai Yi. The other time? It was the part mentioned in his character discussion where he thought Lao Wen was dead and then went to the extreme of pulling out his nails. He finally stood up for Lao Wen and realized how naive his previous thoughts were. The irony? The majority were in on it, even Cheng Ling. It sucked to be the only one not knowing. But if people thought Lao Wen didn’t take him seriously, it was far from the truth. He thought a lot hence willing to change his views, etc. for Ah Xu. And who could forget how Lao Wen was willing to sacrifice for Ah Xu during the ending part? It was heartbreaking. So, their relationship to me was only fun to watch in times of random moments but didn’t really stick as something deeper than that if analyzed further. Yeah, I know, people are frustrated with my view. But I’m the odd one out who picked on the most ridiculous parts. But hey, we can’t all be the same.
- Gong Jun/ Wen Ke Xing and Zhou Ye/ Gu Xiang as master and servant to siblings relationship. Seriously, I cracked up at their interactions time after time. They were hilarious together or apart. Because they talked behind each other’s backs, lol. He told her that he considered her as his sister. And they indeed looked like a pair of bickering siblings. Their burns toward one another at times. She was sure brave with her words, etc., not fearing backlash at all, considering his status. Yet there were equally touching moments between them. Like how he gave his blessing to her in regard to her upcoming marriage to Gao Wei Ning. She was indeed the princess of the Ghost Valley. They all dothed on her and prepared well. It was such a tragedy how things turned out. Her ending? It was so sad and heartbreaking. He went insane, which no one could blame him for, after realizing what was happening and tried to avenge her death. It was too much. That was also the part where I swore off on Priest’s future works. So good luck on me reading the novels now, lol. I know adaptations could be so different, but they managed to keep fans happy about the majority, right? So yeah.
- Zhou Ye/ Gu Xiang and Ma Wen Yuan/ Cao Wei Ning. Omg, they cracked me up so much too. They reminded me of Huang Rong and Guo Jing, lol. Serious. He was such an honest guy and so clueless regarding some matters that it was lovable. She was so smart and fierce at times, but her heart was so soft when it came to some situations as well. They were the highlight of the show when it came to fans wanting to find a couple to ship for. Yet that all went to hell when the ending rolled around. Seriously, it didn’t matter if they got a happy ending in a side story. It wasn’t the same, come on. Do it right the first time around instead of that for the purpose of cranking up the drama. Yeah, I missed the point again and super unromantic right now. But seriously, I hated their ending. So tragic. How could anyone have the heart to kill them like that? Well, the author did, so…yeah. On the upside, Zhou Ye and Ma Wen Yuan got to work on an AD together, so…not all lost? They should star in some modern romance together. That would make up for this one. I know it wouldn’t be the same. But come on, we need some compensation as fans.
- The overwhelming product placement in the name of Woolong nuts. Granted, it was their sponsor after all, so they had to stick it in there to fulfill their duties. But seriously, it broke the flow of the story at the most random point. They sort of covered it up in a somewhat crafty way, but you know it was meant for the sponsors.
- The costumes and hairstyles. It was indeed very nice and well thought out. I was impressed. Despite them being on budget, etc., it was nice seeing how so many characters had several outfit changes throughout. Except for the Tao Hao couple who shared an outrageous set of outfits, lol. That was horrendous–even if I didn’t understand too much about fashion. It stuck out like insane. It was too loud. But seriously though, I saw some reused outfits from other dramas in here. But once again, considering they were on a budget, it was already an awesome job.
- The music. I think fans would be love the efforts of the production team for composing such a soundtrack for the drama. It was suitable for the story, etc. No doubt about it. It highlighted their bonds, etc.
- Location. They’re on a budget I know. It was noticeable with some of the reused sets. Yet, it wasn’t too, too bad. I especially liked the peach blossoms scenes though. It was quite a portrait all right.
- The ending. Anyone who read the novel (NOT me, obviously) or watched the bonus scene knew what happened. But let’s talk about how messy the wrap up was. Considering how I admitted that I didn’t read the novel, I wouldn’t know if it was changed or not. However, the wrap up was really messy. They sure wanted to kill the majority of the characters to send a message or something. Or did the writers give up? Because they killed about 95% of the important characters in here. Yeah, I got it, it was a brutal battle, an ambush, etc. But come on, really?
Remember how I went on this outrageous rant about The Untamed being like Xiao Ao Jiang Hu? Yeah, I’m going to do the same with this one. Word of Honor was actually a combination of Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber and Handsome Siblings. Okay, you can throw a dash of The Return of the Condor Heroes because of the ending scene too. The reason why I say it was like HSDS was because of how Cheng Ling kept getting captured and chased by all the sects or various parties claiming to be friends and wanting information from him or the piece of the key as well. It was a similar theme to Wu Ji–with him being asked about his godfather and the whereabouts of the dragon saber. The fact that they shared the same family name caused me to see the link faster. The reason why I say Handsome Siblings was the ghost valley aspect and the complicated background Wen Ke Xing had. And the ending scene reminded me madly of the part where Yang Guo and Xiao Long Nv practiced their martial arts, lol. (I soon found out after making that comment that someone actually made an MV of it comparing one of the adaptations to this series, so don’t say I’m the only one making the connection, lol.)
Recommended? I think that fans of the main cast would love it. It was at a bearable length. The humor kept the series going for me. But if you loved the author’s work, I thought it would be fun to watch and see what happened with the adaptation.