Year 2016 in Recap

year_review
Year 3 in doing this. I really want to keep doing this, but I felt that 2016 had been a complete letdown on my part. Granted, it was a terrible year on many levels. It had affected me so much, draining me emotionally that I didn’t feel like keeping some kind of streak anymore. I only did some posts when I felt like it. Then I also tried to pick myself up by the end of the year by trying to release songs translations back-to-back at times, not even saving them for later so cushion posts could do the honor. I just didn’t feel like updating a lot of things. At first, I had prepared a post about a particular pairing, but I felt like I’m better than that. Not to mention how I wouldn’t want to cause even more misunderstandings between fans. At times, it’s very hard to restrain. But in the end, real life got in the way. I took the actions that wonderful couple took, instead of arguing with senseless people who are full of evil thoughts for them. Yet I will say that can’t be epic like them so maybe one day I will break out of my silence to go at it in one post to unleash all the bottled up frustrations. Because I know one of those days I will just blow up.

Total Posts in 2016: 77 (6.5% of all time).
January: 18 (23% of the year)
February: 3 (4%)
March: 1 (1%)
April: 3 (4%)
May: 9 (12%)
June: 7 (9%)
July: 14 (18%)
August: 3 (4%)
September: 3 (4%)
October: 6 (8%)
November: 2 (3%)
December: 8 (10%)

Notice that I took the poll out for the stars. Partially, it was due to what happened earlier this year. The other part was because I felt kind of wrong with teasing readers about possible updates if they voted more or whatever. I’m grateful to those who participated and continue to follow my blog–even in silence. I appreciate the constant likes and all as well. I really do. It’s just that I don’t want to be leaving you hanging on that. Sure, I will continue to update for my favorites from time to time, but that will depend on how long before I take care of some real life matters.

Books Reviews:

Movies + TV Series Reviews/Episode Summaries:

Fan Fiction: I think the year reached a new low for fan fiction updates because of my distractions of other stuffs. I can’t promise it’ll get any better this coming year. I’m sorry that I made those of you who are reading those story wait for too long. But I can promise you that I will finish regardless of obstacles since I don’t usually scrap stories away when it’s well on its way. I’ll try to do a separate fan fiction update later this year to clarify some matters.

  • Payback – Chapters 4-5

Songs Translations: Using Rebirth to start the year didn’t help at all. Despite the fact that I was having high hopes at that time. The year continued to dive with a lot of forced positiveness. But what else could I do, right? Hopefully the coming year will be better.

So, what now? I don’t think there is any other choice except to move forward. I want to keep being positive, ignoring trolls in general and just focus on my own matters. I want to get back on writing posts about Jun Ya and Xiao Xiao Yu. I have been active on Xiao Xiao Yu for the first part of the year and then somehow faded. But I did update more on Qiao Qiao in the later parts of the year. I just have to continue on that track. Not to mention getting back into fan fics, because I seriously miss them. Focusing on just real life stuffs really suck all the energy right out of me. I’ll try to work on a balance. Somehow. Because I seriously miss this blog. What I did do though was letting this blog becoming somewhat official with its own domain. Yes, that was a mini-Christmas present for myself since I managed to find a deal. Oh yeah, how could I forget Janine? Although I did update on her this year but I was somewhat neglecting her and only updating randomly. I also want to get back to Penny. More importantly, I want to actually watch and finish reviewing some dramas I’ve been holding back on.

This might possibly be the last year I do this type of update since I don’t find the fun in it anymore. Maybe resorting back to the typical data from WordPress next year. Not sure. But we’ll see.

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Between Love & Desire

Let’s say that this series was decent. Considering how I haven’t been back to watch TVB series for a while. I wanted to dive in because of the three main cast. There were mixed feelings since the beginning, especially how they decided to craft a certain character.

Main Cast:

  • Moses Chan as Hugo. This role was somewhere in the middle and I’m talking about the level of intensity comparing to his past roles. Yet I felt Moses did well. He didn’t disappoint. He was stubborn at the beginning and somewhat arrogant (because of his reputation in the field). I half-expected him to be the villain and Ben would be the actual hero. However, it flipped around and proved that things weren’t what it appeared. The background story helped his character heaps and made sense as to why he had become that way. Yet he had gone too far. In a way, he was still the same guy inside, but he was just using the professional front as an excuse for some of the sticky cases he was involved in. He managed to find a balance at the end, which wasn’t unbelievable.
  • Maggie Siu as Rebecca. I read some comments about how some people felt like Maggie’s character was too boring or had no entertainment value. I will say, yes, if you were looking for an overly dramatic performance or plot. To me, it was just right. Sure, there was intensity after her mother died and how she had to continue on, but the majority of her thoughts afterward were going back to stability or not that “exciting” like some people would put. However, I think it was suitable for her character, because she wasn’t a young girl anymore, unlike Roxanne’s character–who was still full of energy and innocence. Not to compare both women but I felt it was necessary in this case–since they were indeed at different points of their lives. Rebecca’s personality and reactions to matters (even if she was upset) was different from how Haley would react and let’s face it, it fitted with their age. I was glad the writer(s) and director(s) didn’t let Maggie go all jumpy like some young girl, because that would be too much. (I must say I wasn’t too thrilled with some of Maggie’s past trying to be cheerful ones like in When Heaven Burns at one point.) Flashbacks didn’t count in here since I know TVB was seriously cheap, trying to not cast an additional actress for a younger Rebecca (or even a younger version of Hugo).
  • Ben Wong as Patrick. Whose bright idea was it to make Patrick so hateful for the majority of the series and then turned it into a goofy character? I don’t know. It was hard not to hate him because of how he tagged Rebecca throughout and tried to jump in when she was the most vulnerable. (It was like perfect timing for him or something, but I was so glad Rebecca never caved in, regardless of how it turned out with her and Hugo.) I would prefer that the writers focused on developing his character along with Haley’s storyline more than just trying to pave him as a possibly third-party and then switched gear during the second half of the series, making him into a comedic character. It was indeed different that his and Haley’s link was explained later (aside from being his assistant) but it didn’t help for his cause to make him out to be the bad guy (in someone’s marriage) and then tried to flip it around later. Luckily, Ben’s acting was so charming and great that I forgave him after the comedic scenes rolled around.
  • Roxanne Tong as Haley. Patrick’s assistant and sister-in-law. She wasn’t on the poster but I felt she deserved the main cast spot as much as the other three. Anyway, this was my third time watching Roxanne and I felt she have great potential. I first watched her in Come Home Love, then still waiting to see her character development in Come Home Love: Dinner At 8, and now this one. Her character this time was vibrant and really stood out. She was cute and cunning in her own way. Although I felt that it was an exaggeration with the way she ate at times with how she dragged out the “ummm, good” parts in the middle of tasting the foods that arrived. But that was just me. Overall though, she was quite charming with her comedic acts, which is rare nowadays since people tend to exaggerate too much and cause it to have the opposite effect.

Others:

  • Joseph Yeung as Martin. Another boss role for him. Although he seemed to be busy embroiling in the whole office battle from the start, but when he finally left, we realized he wasn’t just holding on to Hugo for the sake of the money. It was his words to Hugo that we realized he did recognize Hugo’s talent and would love to hire Hugo again one day when he made his comeback.
  • Rachel Kan as Rowena. Hugo’s arch-enemy. There were quite a few comments that I had read stating that Rowena should have gotten more screen time to enhance her witty side and to intensify her battle with Hugo, but I felt it was enough. Just because she wasn’t in the limelight for the majority of the show didn’t mean that she wasn’t smart or cunning. She was plenty of that. I think people need to be able to detect all the cues without it being outright dramatic all the time like some other cat-fight dramas or power-driven series. Although the plot had directed the attention away from Rowena and the law firm half of the time, but that didn’t mean Rowena wasn’t fighting, wasn’t scheming, wasn’t trying her best to climb to the top. We got to see her intimidating side when she was face-to-face with Hugo yet we got to see her harsh yet effective stances explained when she was talking to her assistant, Cindy.
  • Patrick Dunn as Scott. I honestly think he was the wisest in here. Although Hugo was known as the best but Hugo was still busy feeling the high of his fame to realize the situation around him. Rowena, on the other hand, was also quite confident and bordering on the arrogant side to see clearly at times although I do admit she did know how to play her games. Scott was the wisest because although he seemed to be MIA from the main battlefield, but he often saw more than he cared to say at times. He was able to analyze the situation and even advised Hugo at times when Hugo was stuck–or when Damon was running around trying to fend for himself while his bosses were fighting.
  • Mandy Lam as Carmen. One of the lawyers at Martin’s law firm. She jumped into Hugo’s car at one time, asking for their help in looking for her daughter. However when Hugo needed the backup at the law firm, she was indifferent. I totally understand why with the office politics and all yet I felt it was sooooo cold.
  • Joey Law as Damon. Hugo’s disciple. Loyal to Hugo yet quite raw in office politics hence kept getting the push around by others. I think Joey would go far. He sure got the looks and need more experiences to hone his skills.
  • Candy Chang as Cindy. Rowena’s disciple. I didn’t like her at first, mostly because of my bias, thinking she was in cahoot with Rowena, trying to mess with Damon for information. Hey, it was possible with the rivalry between the other two. Yet later when she told Damon of her past and how she wanted to work hard to get back on her feet, I dialed back with my bias. Not to mention she proved to be really strong and righteous in her own way when she attempted to “show” Damon of the proof Hugo needed to get off the assault charge.
  • William Chu as Justin. Cindy’s ex-husband. It was a bit of a shocker that he and Cindy were exes. But Cindy’s explanation made sense with how they wanted to keep it under-wrap as much as possible, not wanting to affect their careers. He didn’t appear much but seemed to get along well with others and even fended better than Damon. Once again, it made sense because he and Cindy wanted to work hard and start over with their careers, making up for lost time.
  • Lily Li as Rebecca’s mother. I had a little bit of a flashback since they’d been master and disciple in a past series. In fact, it was my first series of Maggie so that left an impression. Anyway, although she appeared just a little and then eventually only in flashbacks, but she really left an impression in here, especially how it paved for the way how Hugo and Rebecca’s relationship crumbled–considering how it was a major trauma in Rebecca’s life.
  • Brian Chu as Fred. Hugo’s brother. I thought that his acting wasn’t as terrible as some people paved it out to be. At least not to me. I could totally feel it after Rebecca’s mother died and he grieved her in his own way–with how he kept his promise to get a new phone for her. Then when he was struggling to deal with his own weaknesses and how he got stage fright and ran away. He was somewhat spoiled because of how protective his brother was of him and wanted what was best for him, aside from pushing him a tad too hard with the whole becoming a lawyer thing. Yet he was indeed quite filial to Rebecca’s mother–like said before, considering how she practically raised him. He also respected Rebecca and others around him. It was just that he was lost in life, not sure of what his aspirations were or what road he wanted to head for.
  • Momo Wu as Edith. Fred’s friend and crush. I wasn’t sure to like or not to like her at first. NOT because of her appearance but I was somewhat turned off with how she stole her master’s shop name to go in to business. Yet when her story unfolded more and how she was a very strong character–despite going through so much hardship, she gained my respect. She snapped right back at Hugo when they first met, but proved to be consistent with her character when she insisted on paying Fred back, not wanting Hugo to misunderstand her for clinging onto Fred for his money. I ended up enjoying their banter from time to time whenever their lives were crossed, mostly because they had to look after Fred–with their own method.
  • Eileen Yeow as Ah Fong. Rebecca’s best friend. I really liked her for her spunky personality and her humorous reactions to matters. However, she lost points for me when she tried to push Rebecca toward Patrick at one point. Luckily, she didn’t keep to it until the end.
  • Ricky Wong Chun Tong as Cheng Wu aka Uncle Wu. A friend of the family to Hugo and Rebecca. I initially thought he was related to them somehow yet later realized it wasn’t so. Yet it proved that he was more reliable and supportive of them when they were enduring such hardships, unlike the so-called “family” they supposedly had after their father tragically died.

Relationships: I initially didn’t want to do this section like I typically would because I felt it was unnecessary since I’ve been piling up on the “Discussions” section, but after debating with myself a bit, I thought I might as well put it in. Or more like move the topics to this one.

  • Moses/Hugo and Maggie/Rebecca. Like many TVB pairings, their collaboration seemed over-killed by now. Yet for me, I think this one was sort of long overdue. Or possibly I haven’t caught all the ones they were in together or paired up. But I felt this one topped it all, even if their other characters were more complicated. I just felt that they deserved a happy ending after When Heaven Burns and Master of Play.
  • Ben/Patrick and Roxanne/Haley. It was in a way “icky” for me, considering how he married her sister previously. Yet for Ben and Roxanne as a pairing, I felt it wasn’t too bad–despite their age gap. For some weird reason, I felt he suited with her more than some of his past co-stars, even if they were closer in age to him. I enjoyed their comedic moments. One of my favorite parts (and possibly for Hugo and Rebecca too) was the part where both men thought both women might have died from the gas inhalation so Patrick totally unleashed on Haley about how worried he was and how rash it was for her to do such thing without waiting for them, etc. It was hilarious how Haley laughed (which was typical her) but it was hilarious with both men saying almost, exact same thing. (I wonder how long they had to rehearse that together, lol.)
  • Joey/Damon and Candy/Cindy. It was sort of open ending, which was all right with me, but I felt they would eventually end up together.
  • Brian/Fred and Momo/Edith. Was I the only one not sore that they didn’t end up together? Not because of her somewhat shady past (according to some people) or his immature nature throughout. But it was more like it would be too gift-wrapped. I think that they were both still young and like Edith said, they still have a lot to work for with their life goals and/or dreams to strive for. Perhaps, one day when they meet up again, they might see a possibility to take their relationship to another level. But right at that point, I felt it was enough with their special friendship.

Discussions:

  • Was the ending rushed or not? Usually, I will argue that TVB endings are rushed, but in this case, I felt it was laid out fine. I didn’t want to be spoiled but my mom made me nervous so I had to go check on some reviews to get the idea if we should proceed after several episodes or not. Some mentioned how it was rushed or how certain characters changed overnight more or less. However, I think it wasn’t rushed for the majority of the characters. Hugo and Rebecca didn’t change overnight regarding how they decided to return to each other’s side. They had always have feelings for one another but they were both too stubborn in their beliefs that they didn’t want to cave in. Although Rebecca had said at one point or another that she didn’t know if it was love that she still stuck by his side after so many years or it was just gratitude for what he’d done for her, but I felt that she still cared for him. It was just that so many years of waiting had worn her down and not to mention her mother passed away so recent. Her world was falling apart and she didn’t know where to start with continuing on with her life. It wasn’t just about Hugo’s lack of attention either. Then there was Hugo, we learned from flashback that he was quite kindhearted, hard-working, and considerate. It wasn’t like some viewers had said that he changed for the better overnight. It wasn’t so. He had lost his way along the way while trying to become rich and successful. He often struggled with his feelings and what he thought was more realistic throughout–even after the separation from Rebecca. He needed a push from Uncle Wu and then later from Scott’s kid to realize what his path should be or to make up his mind at long last. So when he was willing to let go of the competition and the battles within the law firm, he and Rebecca just fell back into being a team once again. Because even Rebecca realized at the end that she didn’t have to wait for him all the time, she could just step forward and walk along his side, facing difficulties together. What I felt was rush–YES, I will admit–was Patrick’s change of heart. But possibly it made sense. I meant Patrick was really disappointed and probably upset that Rebecca was willing to believe Hugo one more time after the incident where she was assaulted. Yet I think what convinced Patrick to let go somewhat was learning how much Hugo loved Rebecca, i.e. the part where Hugo lost his head and was willing to risk getting caught when he beat the uncle-in-law up for assaulting Rebecca previously. He wasn’t letting go completely but he realized Hugo wasn’t a monster like he paved Hugo out to be from the start, seeing how much Hugo hurt Rebecca–mostly from his point of view. He was able to see a different side of Hugo, even if violence wasn’t the best approach, but like Patrick himself said that it proved how much someone meant to you if you had lost your head over a situation. So later when he saw them (Hugo and Rebecca) at the hospital together and how they’d gotten along again, he was more convinced that they were going to get back together eventually. He looked hopeless, like his chance was totally slipping, no doubt about it. So it wasn’t like it was overnight. Perhaps, it was also because he didn’t realize he had somehow liked Haley hence the over-protectiveness, not just because he had promised her sister to take good care of her. It was somewhat a plot mess with that one, but it wasn’t too unconvincing. Moving on to Rowena, did she just plain win the office battle overnight? No, I think I answered this somewhat in the Character section, but to tie it in, Rowena was proven both intelligent and brutal. The time it took for her to take over completely wasn’t unreasonable, she had plans and schemes going on. Sure, it seemed she won because Hugo got distracted with his family issues or when Hugo let go, but it didn’t mean he totally gave it to her. She was fully capable of her own tricks. Again, like how she told Cindy at various points with her tactics, it wasn’t too unconvincing that she won in the end. Besides, you don’t win a battle by kicking and screaming for blood. Patience is the key because you need to be able to stay calm and wait for the right opportunity to strike. Sure, Rowena miscalculated several times and took several steps back, but she didn’t give up so easily. Her determination puled her through at the end.
  • Should the series had focused more on the law side (aka cases over romances)? Although the background surrounding several major characters were at law firms and had to do with the law industry in general, however, the title still indicated that it wasn’t exactly about the law, but about several characters so I didn’t feel like it needed to focus on the law too much. I swear TVB had already done quite few series regarding the law so I didn’t think it was lacking in that matter. They didn’t promise in the title so I wasn’t sore. This was about the conflict between Moses and Maggie’s characters more than a law focused drama.

Recommended? Up to you. I’m on my own wavelength like always. I felt it was a midway lighthearted series for me, because Maggie didn’t die in here–since she usually died (or would encounter some major tragedy).

Master of Play

This was on my ‘to-watch’ list anyway so no surprise that I followed through. OMG, I read some spoilers coming into the series. BUT lucky I didn’t care for it since I had read some comments on how people who like happy, fluffy stuff might not like it. (AND that some people might not get it.) SO I was patient and followed throughout–without fast-forwarding. YES, I do admit that some parts were slow, but it was essential to the overall story. Because it revolved around psychological conflicts, I tried to be patient since I do enjoy those types of theme, and the mystery it often involved. I must say that I was quite impressed and have to say that it was cleverly done throughout. Honestly, the same creators who made When Heaven Burns and somewhat of a similar cast here and there, but it was worth it. I was really fascinated with the plot layout and the order the story was told in–in an attempt to focus on the emotional and psychological turmoils within more than just some lame plot about “OMG, it’s a psycho, we need to bring him in” type of thing. YES, the cops were there and they tried to bring the “psycho” in too. YET it wasn’t so. Since the cops were just part of the background story. The major and minor characters in here were much more complicated than that. Again, like When Heaven Burns, it focused on how life wasn’t just full of black and white–though the discussions often bounced back and forth–here and there. Exploring the gray areas of life with how people react to certain situations and what they would go through to protect those around them was more realistic than just focusing on convincing ‘who was right’ or ‘who was actually wrong’ all along. Sure, there were the obvious sides of the ones who were supposedly good and the bad, but only the layout was that way because society liked to separate. However, the way it was made with what was going on, the creators of the show let us decide that on our own.

Main Cast:

  • Adam Cheng as Kan Siu Nam (靳兆楠). Finally, a totally different role for Adam without the whole ‘heroic’ title attached. Though I found it a tad weird at the beginning and needed some getting used to, I soon focused on his character more to see what was going on. In a way, I found it cool to use that type of technique to solve cases at first. YET later, I found it stupid. Seriously, trying to attach yourself to the killer’s personality to get to him/her? It was crazy all right. It was too risky, to say the least. I realized more and more later on that he was such a busybody. It was like saying he didn’t have to involve himself within the cases yet he did. He wasn’t a cop anyway, so why was he meddling? I swore his fate was deserved because he kept digging and digging and all the stuff that he got into made situations worse–to say the least. Though I understood his character’s conflicts at times, especially regarding his daughter–and the way he was getting himself involved so he could avoid the unavoidable with what happened to his daughter ages ago. (That was my guess.) YET he didn’t know when to stop. That was his downfall. He seriously messed with the wrong party and even if he had killed Ivan, he was going down. I’m not hinting at the psychological breakdown either but more like the whole getting burned to death at the end. Aside from all those things, I thought he was convincing in this role. Regardless of how he was too into his conflict with accepting his daughter’s death OR when he was losing it with becoming Ivan, he sort of created those worlds convincingly.
  • Maggie Siu as Esther Lee Chor Kiu (李楚蕎). Typical poor rich girl role. YET the later parts made her character different. Maggie’s short hair in here reminded me of her younger days when the short hairstyle was her trademark. But I really miss her longer hair, like how it was at the beginning of the series. Anyway, I felt so bad for her not because she got sacrificed (or more like sacrificed herself to save Ivan). But her family had a lot to do with her downfall. To have her own mother not supporting throughout, always pretending to care for her (and scolding Ivan) YET all the mother cared about was status and reputation. (Not to mention how her mother loved sons over daughters, AND I wonder what the hell she is? Is she not a woman herself?) Only Ivan was the one who was there for Esther when she went through such tragic situations. Ivan made her feel whole and important.
  • Moses Chan as  Ivan Cheung Sai Yin (章世言). This must be one of Moses’ most challenging roles. Not only did he have to act as Ivan in conflict with himself, but he had to switch to the other personalities also. By the time the story shifted to Esther finding out about Moses’ multiple personality problem, that scene was so brilliant. Moses was able to distinguish the differences among each personality. When he acted as all those personalities, it really reflected how the others were playing out their roles as his personalities. It was like looking into a mirror of personalities. (Great team.) I felt one couldn’t really hate Ivan because though he could be considered a killer, but he didn’t just kill recklessly and as he liked. Either he was forced to kill or he didn’t have a choice. (Saying “we always have a choice” IS LAME and unrealistic.) The choices he made caused the irreversible in the end, but from the beginning, he was tormented with his own guilt and whatever voice of the conscience was left.
  • Aimee Chan as Natalie Cheung Sai Ting (章世婷). We were misled into thinking she was Kan Siu Nam and Angela’s missing daughter for the majority of the series. At least most of the clues pointed to her, until she later revealed it herself at the police station. (Actually, her conversation with Ivan before she left their house said it all with her telling him to clean up his act since there won’t be anyone around to do that for him anymore, and that because of him she had to lie to two very pitiful persons.) I was impressed with her performance throughout. She made me feel the liveliness of Natalie’s innocence side at the beginning, and the more complicated side later on as the story unfolded and she found out much more of her brother’s world that had caused her shift in attitude and/or reaction about life. (AND this was a comparison among all her other roles that I had watched, NOT hinting that she was superior to others. YET I don’t think I need to prove my taste–or capability–at all. People could think whatever they want. Honestly.)

Others:

  • Ram Tseung as John. The director at the local theater and also Kan Siu Nam’s best friend. He was often the voice of reason to stop Kan Siu Nam from doing anything rash or getting into sticky situations. I must indeed agree he was the wisest in here though he didn’t judge. BUT I disagreed with Kan Siu Nam that he would get killed for his own intelligence because Kan should be referring to himself regarding the whole getting hurt for being intelligent. (Since Kan kept meddling into others’ matters, which were not his.) I so agreed with John when he told Kan that it wasn’t Kan’s job to put the balance back in the universe with his actions (i.e. what to do with Ivan’s case).
  • Rebecca Chan as Angela Mok Lai Hing (莫麗馨). I liked her character in here, really liked it. She was not only wise but didn’t care if she became the ‘bad’ person or got misunderstood when she tried to stop Kan from his craziness. It wasn’t like she didn’t care for her daughter YET she knew how to stick with reality and moving on didn’t mean not loving her daughter anymore. It just meant she wanted to cherish her life and not let the others in her life down.
  • Lily Ho as Tansy Kan Chi Ying (靳芷縈). The older version of Tansy. NOT the real Tansy but more like the imagined version of Tansy to which Kan Siu Nam was drawing up as part of his fantasy (aka not accepting that Tansy was already dead). I don’t know. I didn’t have any feelings toward her except knowing she was what Kan imagined his daughter would be like, a cute, lovable girl, etc.
  • Yu Yang as Steve Chan Yat Kei (陳一奇). A very funny character. I know several dentists (OF COURSE with the necessity of having one BUT also personally), and his personality in here was too funny to relate to. Yet I guess all is possible since there are many dentists in this world and outside work, they’re normal human beings living their own lives after all. I really liked his character because he was really down to earth and could always turn negative moments into positive ones. Though what I found kind of unrealistic was him not getting suspicious or minding about Kan still being friends and hanging with them at mealtimes, etc. (NOT saying it’s impossible, it’s just awkward in so many ways–even if many years have passed already.) OMG, his death was so unexpected. I blame it on Kan for being the “unlucky star” and invited him over. (I wonder why he didn’t turn on the light BUT I guess he had a habit of listening music in the dark like that or just wanted to enjoy the music without turning the light on.)
  • Dickson Wong as Will Chan Cheuk Kwan (陳卓鈞). I felt like he was trying too hard at times or seemed like he was trying to remember the script. I swear, he looked that way. But regarding his character, I guess he was a supportive son at times.
  • Matt Yeung as Jasper/ Kong Sir (江Sir). I thought he was more suitable on the pyscho-killer route than being a cop. Seriously, he was just using his dead girlfriend as an excuse in every way he could to supposedly work hard and clean up the streets. He’s the one who should be cleared away. NOT only was he trying to “clean the street” BUT he was really ungrateful toward his colleagues and others around him. Sure, Kan was quite a busybody and had a hand in fueling Jasper’s craziness even more, BUT his attitude was already terrible before. He treated his fellow cops as “dogs” (his words at one point) and always exude the arrogant aura. I thought Matt did a good job portraying this character, convincing us Kong Sir was very well on his way to the psychopath route–without any help from anyone either.
  • Kenny Wong as Eric. Ivan’s evil persona. Creepy all right. Kenny’s rather challenging role instead of some other typical boring ones? I don’t know. I finally was convinced of his acting in this one. And I actually thought that he was capable of some other roles instead of the typical ones he’d been portraying for a while. It wasn’t like he was new, but he had been passive for a while so I felt it was refreshing he’d taken on this role.
  • Rachel Kan as Michelle. Ivan’s lust and envy persona. Convincing. She made me despise her so bad at first when I didn’t realize she was just Ivan’s personality.
  • Steven Ho as Martin. Ivan’s wrath and violence persona. He seriously was perfect with the rest of the crazy team.
  • Glen Lee as Edwin. Ivan’s pride and cunning persona. YUP, ever so convincing. With the additional makeup, it really aided his cause. And also how his eyes were always wandering that made me think he was always up to something. Cunning indeed.
  • Dia Yiu Ming as Henry. Ivan’s conscience. The voice that got snubbed out throughout the story and eventually disappeared since Ivan was already way past reasoning. (And I so don’t blame Ivan.) I guess Henry was one of the reasons why Ivan still kept it under wraps at times with his persuasion–even if his voice was practically blocked out by the other personalities.
  • Tsui Wing as the psycho-killer who chopped off people’s hands at the beginning. Seriously, he was crazy all right. But TW was convincing in that area.

Couples:

  • Adam and Rebecca. Though I got it, somehow I didn’t buy it.
  • Yu Yang and Rebecca. I felt like she–along with their son–were one happy family all right. They complemented each other quite well with him being the comedic one to calm her down while she was the serious one.
  • Moses and Maggie. A touching story. Cheating aside (though trust me, I don’t like those situations), I loved them together. It was so sad and tragic that no word could describe it completely. Yet their goodbye scene before she turned herself in said it all. Regardless of the things he went and did behind her back, he was firm on not letting her go, i.e. not allowing his other personalities to drop her (even after he got famous).
  • Adam and Maggie. ODD TO DEATH. I understand the purpose of the plot, but I just didn’t buy it. Even from Kan’s side, I couldn’t feel that he cared for her. Sure, he was sad and frustrated when she died, but I felt that wasn’t love. Maybe it was more like he blamed himself for her death. (And he probably did but it wasn’t love.)

Themes/Elements:

  • Multiple personality disorder aka dissociative identity disorder. The Jekyll Bar was the obvious sign of Ivan having a multi-personality problem (.i.e. hinting at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). This is one of the most popular themes used in any type of movies/TV series. TVB also love to use this one because it’s the most intriguing one. However, they often have like two sides fighting with one another, etc. This time, however, the creators of the show went all out with letting Moses’ character, Ivan, have five other personalities inside him. It was actually more realistic, considering what types of traumas Ivan went through since his childhood. I also liked it that they focused on the physiological side rather than just “capturing the bad guy.” They went to the core of the problems and acknowledged his internal conflicts more, what he was struggling through. AND that they looked beyond the whole “killer monster” thing. It didn’t matter if some viewers might not get it. I was glad they went ahead and kept things consistent throughout.
  • Stage Plays. I might not remember all the literary materials I read in school, but I felt it was clever to incorporate that into the whole plot. It somehow did the talking for the incidents happening around their lives. Like it was correlating itself with the current situations they had to deal with. (It reminded me how the whole radio segments were the narratives for the incidents in When Heaven Burns versus stage plays for this one.)
  • Sand Paintings. I might not like all the quotes in here, but I found it fascinating with the art. I liked the symbolism that was incorporated into the paintings. And it was a refreshing theme in a sense. At least something that hasn’t been overdone just yet.

Controversies/Rants/Whatever:

  • The name “Ivan” and some comparison going on on Weibo (and possibly other websites). I saw some really arrogant comments regarding this AND couldn’t let it pass. Really people? Picking on someone’s name? Or saying that you only remember so and so? Okay, so I get it that people could only remember so much after watching so many series, etc. But to imply you only remember that particular one AND not care for others, go ahead and say it out. Stop hiding behind phrases and trying to dodge when the time comes to clarify stuff. So you thought a certain character was more memorable than others OR something. (I’m guessing since I’m not going to get all arrogant to say I’m right.) YET to play that little ‘game’ regarding names is funny. (There are a lot of common names in this world, do you want to go there? Implying that only a certain person matter? Just because someone was named–or had chosen–that particular name too made them less significant?)
  • Too dark/morbid. Hello? If you didn’t want to be spoiled by the plot summary or whatever, at least watch the theme video first OR see the poster or something. It’s going to be morbid.
  • Too complicated for housewives to understand. Even if TVB had aimed to zoom in on housewives as the majority of the audience, the rest of us out there might want to watch too. AND that’s plain generalizing. Just because they’re now housewives DO NOT mean they could be stomped on and insulted like that. Sure, some might not get the complexity of the artistic view OR some other elements incorporated into the drama itself, but some of the situations occurred in there, they might have more contact with than those so-called ‘educated’ one. (I’m talking about people dealing with emotional conflicts and how losing a loved one OR having to protect someone might land them into such sticky situations.)

The ending? Did Kan Siu Nam die? Don’t you love open endings? (YUP, we’ve all been there, hate it. Yet I didn’t mind this time.) It left lots of rooms for questions. So here’s my interpretation. I think he did die. Because there was only 10 more seconds when Natalie stepped out of the tent and yelled for the others to stop the crank and let him go, etc. YET her voice was muffled by the crowd. Then it zoomed to Angela waking up and trying to look for him. The next part was him in his dream place playing with his daughter for the last time YET they didn’t complete the game. By the time it got to the dream he must have lost consciousness already hence being able to enter the dream realm. After he hugged his daughter, we saw that she was finally gone yet he was the one holding the seeds in his hands. He was finally released from his own illusion of his daughter. I don’t think he could ever let go of his daughter unless he ends up dying. Like it was the final release. Because even when he had become Ivan completely (or so he thought), he kept repeating the fact like he wasn’t Kan Siu Nam because Kan Siu Nam was so pitiful and that Ivan was the one having a sister, etc. SO he rather lied to himself and lived that lie than face the truth after that one last blow of thinking he found his daughter and losing her all over again. His psychological state was already going into the irreversible stage with him taking on Ivan’s role so convincingly hence when he finally found out the whole ‘daughter’ thing was just a lie, his emotional state collapsed at the same time. The whole going back and forth to reassure himself was already ‘screaming’ so loudly that he knew deep down he wasn’t Ivan YET he rather lived with still some hope of having a sister and his life starting anew rather than nothing at all. And what about the ending scene where they showed backstage around his work area where the scripts were pinned here and there and scattered everywhere? The voices reading the dialogues? That sort of was a memorial scene for a once-famous stage performer. Or it seemed so to me.

Recommended? If you like literature, morbid stuff, psychological stuff, AND are super patient, go for it. BUT if you rather go for a comedy and don’t want to think too much after a long day at school or work, DON’T BOTHER. It’s that complicated. I don’t want to insult anyone, but it’s a lot because of how it was crafted–like I mentioned earlier with the pieces of puzzles and all. It would drain you down with so much conflicts going on throughout after layers and layers of deception and confusion were tossed into place.

NOTE: I’m shutting down comments for this particular post because I had it with some of the hate rants regarding some cast members. AND possibly the plot. I get that this might not be everyone’s taste, but purposely dragging it down because of some aspects not related to the series itself IS LAME. I don’t have the energy to argue with anyone or try to prove my point anymore. AND I think I rather focus on bringing the positive side of this blog back to where it belonged–like how I first started it.

When Heaven Burns

I watched this one because my mom was looking for something serious to watch after all those sitcoms we were watching–among other comedies. First off, the title. I must admit that I was in objection of it when the title got changed from Heaven and Earth to When Heaven Burns but after having watched it, I could say that it suited the series quite well. Seriously, it was so intense and nerve-racking at various points so, in a way, it wasn’t too lame with changing the title. After all, the Chinese title was still Heaven and Earth, right? So how was it? Honestly, people who skipped it just missed a really good series. YES, that coming from me who has been ranting about recent series (and even got scolded for it on this blog). For once, I didn’t mind the repetitive team and/or group who contributed to this series. I meant not that I didn’t like the cast (okay, maybe for one or two persons), but I just got tired seeing them together all the time. I was curious so I tuned in along with my mom anyway. Yet I found it more enjoyable than I expected. People who thought that this series was dragging shouldn’t even give it another go because you already set an opinion, so don’t let me convince you and later come back to scold me. Because seriously, if you think this was dragging, I’m not sure what ‘dragging’ mean anyway. Sure, it was slow and passive at times, BUT it did not mean dragging. There were this underlying heaviness and intensity building up episode after episode until the breaking point that led to the mind buzzing mind games in the later half of the series. Don’t believe me? It’s okay. You don’t have to. And perhaps I don’t like over-hyped stuff so I enjoyed this series even more. Though the cast seemed to be promoted heavily of recent, the series did not aim to ‘shove it into your face’, or I didn’t get that feeling like they were trying to sell something. Maybe that was why it worked.

Moving on, like my usual reviews, I will place in the whole ‘cast/characters’ discussions–among other things. But will also include the ‘theme’ part this time around as well since I feel it’s essential and actually feel like discussing it more specifically for this series. However, I won’t include ‘couples/pairings’ this time around because I feel that wasn’t the point of the drama. YES, there was love spread into the drama at times, making things even more complicated with relationships. But that was just part of the small piece and I don’t want to get distracted with it for this one series.

Main Cast/Characters:

  • Charmaine Sheh as Hazel Yip Chi Yan (葉梓恩). A character worth watching after so many of her recent ‘goody two shoes’ ones. I mean I like to see her in those ‘nice and kind’ ones too. YET I felt she was getting rusty or would get there soon if she doesn’t take on any challenging role soon. Sure, the majority of the characters in here had to be quite serious as well. But I felt this one was a role that she won me over again with her portrayal. It wasn’t too much or too little. It was just right with her passiveness at times or her cold composure. She managed to capture those moments when Yan was hurting so much that she didn’t know where to turn to (aka all lost and confused). Then there was the whole not caring for the world attitude. There were so many complications in her life that she couldn’t handle, even turning to different means as an outlet–like senseless one-night stands or alcohol. I was really disturbed at first with how her character appeared to be cheating and all but somehow sympathized with her later with how her family was so broken and her being stuck in the past for so long that she was hurting herself and others around her. The worst part was not being able to pull out until later. But what I really liked about her character throughout was her stubbornness. Once she made a decision, she didn’t waver anymore. There was another thing that they (the scriptwriters) added to her character that I quite like, which was the whole deep thoughts and stories in her radio segments. I liked those narrations and it sort of set the tone for what was going on around them and how the guys–or other characters–would think it over as they listened to her segment. It was somewhat a narration or reflective moment at times when the scenes were happening around them but there was only her words to convey the message of those scenes–and the impact of what just happened.
    • Angel Chiang as the young Yan. Though she didn’t resemble Charmaine to be a younger version of Yan but she had the spunk and grace for the character. I really enjoyed her chemistry with the rest of the guys throughout as a band. Her bravery to fight against the guys at times was quite admirable as well. Maybe that was just her rebellious nature.
  • Moses Chan as Angus Sung Yee Long (宋以朗). After all those so-called ‘comedies’, he finally returned to the more serious roles as well. Mixed feelings at times actually. Maybe it was his intimidating image that had made the others believe he might have been the cause of their role in the Ka Ming conspiracy, BUT it wasn’t so. Perhaps Joe was right with his whole ‘drummer versus guitarist/lead singer’ theory/concept because that was what made Angus more suspicious out of the three of them. What was admirable of him–even IF that seemed like an excuse to like his character–was whoever he hurt, he didn’t hurt the people within his group of friends (aka among the four of them, i.e. Joe, Ronnie, and Yan). It was like he was compensating for what he’d done in the past hence leading a distorted life yet didn’t want to hurt the other three more than he already did. (Possibly that was the difference between him and Joe.) What made me not being able to forgive him, in the end, was sacrificing Jessica in order to get back at Ben (and eventually Joe). Did he have to do that? He probably thought so but that little act condemned him even more with his already life sentence (even if it wasn’t served in prison). SO Jessica had agreed to help him after confronting him BUT he should have considered it more, considering how Jessica had been so loyal to him throughout. (Or was he too blind with hatred and/or wanting to take revenge that he didn’t care? Not to mention how he was so close to winning.)
    • Yeung Chiu Hoi as the young Angus. Consistent enough. He looked less intimidating than his current self, of course, but for obvious reasons. However, there were always traces of the lack of confidence in him and the reluctance that was still present.
  • Bowie Lam as Joe Lau Chun Hung (劉俊雄). Was I the only one who got fooled by his character? Okay, so I was trying to put my biases past Bowie since I found his expressions were always so intimidating regardless of the roles he portrayed and thought I was being mean for picking on him. So I tried to focus on his character instead and what was going on around his character. YET I was wrong to think he was some poor guy who was trying to repent–with his wife not understanding him and even cheated on him. Sadly no. He was the most dangerous one out of the three. He was so charming in character and so manipulative in his words that made everyone felt they were in the wrong more than him. Often taking the blame and sounding like he was protecting the others yet he was just protecting himself by letting others think he was the victim. The part where he was telling Angus the reason why he picked up playing the drum really summed up his character. He told Angus that he used to think it was so cool being a guitarist and sing at the same time, having all the attention. However, he later realized that the drummer actually held the key to it all because the band had to follow the drummer’s rhythm or they would be all off (aka the drummer controlled all with forcing everyone to play fast or slow). Seriously, it really boiled down to him being able to control everything in front of him with his careful planning and patience throughout–and most of all his persuasive abilities.
    • Ronald Law as the young Joe. He managed to look as intimidating? LOL! I had no idea but I guess he was convincing as the younger version of Joe since there were signs present that showed how the current Joe hadn’t changed–with some flashbacks here and there.
    • Signs that Joe wasn’t all bad. AND NO, I’m not talking about the whole ‘facade’ he put up at times to deceive them–regardless of when he was younger or at times when he was older. I’m talking about when it was finally revealed that he was actually the most manipulative among the three guys. There were parts like him lying or trying to get through some sticky situations yet during his time alone, he would reconsider. Another time and more obvious was after Cloris’ death and him crying out in his office finally–while he was deleting her text messages to him.
  • Kenny Wong as Ronnie Cheng Chun Hin (鄭振軒). He started out as losing his memory and then recovering it slowly. We all hate the ‘memory loss’ card, right? But it made sense this time since he and the other two went through a near-death experience after all. Not to mention how he was traumatized along with the others during the whole incident. He struck first and planted the seed of evil. (YES, he was the one who stabbed Ka Ming first when Ka Ming was lying inside the tent resting.) But repented greatly later, wanting to pay for his sin. But wasn’t given the chance in that way. Instead, he paid for it with his eyes, and some more.
    • Kelvin Leung as the young Ronnie. Another good choice because he merged in quite well with Kenny’s portrayal because Ronnie seemed to me as always the passive one OR possibly the invisible one out of the three guys (aside from Ka Ming).

The reason why I only listed 4 as the main cast AND not like the other lists had indicated was because I felt the story revolved around those characters for the majority of the time and it took them to resolve all the conflicts as well.

Supporting Cast/Characters:

  • Ben Wong as Bowman. The reason why I put him first was sort of by order of appearance and somewhat because I’m biased (LOL). Anyway, he was actually somewhat my favorite character throughout despite his limited screen time. (Though acceptable since I felt he contributed to the story with tying in different characters and moving the story forward but didn’t need to be ‘in your face’ to get the point across.) I felt so bad for him at the beginning since he was just part of the whole charade that Yan was putting up for herself, wanting to find replacements for her past (and more specifically for Ka Ming). But then I had somewhat forgiven Yan for deceiving him. Though that didn’t mean I like him less because I found him very genuine, not tainted by all the things around them. Ben had made that happened with his portrayal–regardless of the amount of screen time he had. In a way, I was glad he got a new start later–after Yan finally sorted out her mind (for good). (Side-note: My mom actually wanted to see Ben portray Kenny’s character instead YET I had convinced her it wasn’t a good idea because that would mean he was part of the ‘cannibalism’ conspiracy. LOL! NOT that anyone was being sacrificed in the events of shooting the drama but those types of characters were disturbing still, LOL!)
  • Maggie Siu as Emma. One of Maggie’s couldn’t care less roles? I don’t know. It seemed like it didn’t fit her. I had a hard time imagining Emma so dumb, mostly due to Maggie. NOT that I doubt her acting in the past, but this time it seemed weird. I don’t know what happened. But it was like she was uncomfortable with the role? I enjoyed her chemistry with Moses when they were shown as a somewhat cute couple at first. Yet it all crumbled in the later events (mostly due to the story), but I also had a hard time with her character being that naive. But I guess her character wasn’t too unbelievable since she was so sheltered by her sister and how she sort of depended heavily on her sister to look after the family business so she didn’t have to worry about other stuff.
  • Astrid Chan as Gina. I had mixed feelings for her throughout the series but I let go of certain judgments later on because I felt she was another victim in this whole web of lies and other deception games. So she chose to stick around and continue with her role but I felt she was so given a bad image or seemed to reflect so in front of the others at the beginning because her husband was so good at acting that she had been pushed to become the ‘bad person’. Astrid didn’t fail to deliver her emotions throughout, projecting her image–or what we were led into believing–and the actual tormenting turmoils she went through later on.
    • Joey Mak as the young Gina. Good casting actually since she somewhat resembled Astrid. OR did they do the make up that way and somewhat of the hairstyle too? Not sure but she did manage to show consistency in the character.
  • Felix Lok as Dr. Ivan Wong. At first, I found him too despicable because of the affair he was involved in. But I sort of pity him later. Just slightly. Or perhaps I wasn’t so judging of him anymore. A minimal role for Felix but he played a key role in the end. Somewhat, but it wasn’t like he needed to prove himself.
  • Angela Tong as Shirley. Ronnie’s wife. I was arguing with my mom whether her character accepted Ronnie regardless if her husband had once eaten someone OR if she was too traumatized and didn’t want to believe. YET I had to wonder in the later parts of the plot after things cooled down. YES, she relied on her husband the majority of the time. But let that slide as well? Do people just accept things just like that? (I meant cannibalism isn’t like shop-lifting. Sure, both could be repeated BUT shop-lifting dealt with the store’s possession versus a human being.) Regardless of the ambiguous of her character, I thought Angela did quite well with conveying all the torn feelings she’d gone through. AND no, I’m not saying it’s unrealistic with her character, just felt that it was worth some thinking with her point of views–and how it was a different sort of reaction from the other female population in here. AND yet it made one really think about human nature–and whether one chooses to accept or to dodge.
  • Queenie Chu as Jessica. I think she was the most pitiful in here. Some could argue that she got what she deserved because she aided Angus in deceiving Emma–and possibly others. YET I felt she had always been loyal to Angus and only loved him hence it was too cruel to see her being sacrificed as his final pawn. The scene with her and Angus at the music store was quite touching. She didn’t ask for anything extraordinary–and had never asked for more, except for him to play a song for her one last time. Indeed, she was right that Angus was the most truthful or real when he was playing his music. The other thing about her that made it even sadder was how she was a replacement for Yan at first (could be seen through various points of when Angus was playing the guitar at the shop and saw Yan sitting there instead of the actual Jessica) and gradually earning a place in Angus’ heart with how he finally took the hint to be more attentive to her (mostly through Ben’s urging BUT Angus began to open his eyes to see Jessica for herself, not as a Yan who he could never be with), like how he was giving her the birthday gift (aka his necklace) to symbolize her importance in his heart. Yet it was just too late for them when he pulled the final card (i.e. sacrificing her as well) and perhaps that little scene with him playing the guitar for Emma (and actually picturing both Yan and Jessica) made it somewhat forgivable for him? NOT like completely forgivable but like how she finally earned a spot in his heart. Anyway, another different role for Queenie and I think she nailed it.
  • Cheung Kwok Keung as Ben. He got robbed. NOT the character, but CKK. Personal opinions here since seeing him in these types of roles just make me want to cry because I imagine him all so powerful in some of his previous roles. (One of the most memorable was in No. 8 Bus.) Anyway, he didn’t fail to deliver with convincing us he was this despicable character who betrayed his boss again and again. Yet I felt it was kind of lame that they had him playing the harmonica and trying to seek sympathy from Jessica in the end. I swear it was a bit over-killed with linking everyone to music–one way or another, but I will let it slide. (Like I could do anything anyway.)
  • Lau Dan as Uncle Chuen. Had some major scenes at the beginning but still didn’t lack in importance later on. It was his mission to help Joe repent from his past wrongdoings, and he made it his responsibility to bring Joe back to the correct path near the end as well. Yet it was too late. Or was it? AND do I need to say anything else about his acting? Convincing as always.
  • Cindy Lee as Cloris. Also a pawn in here and this had to do with Joe. Yet I can’t feel any pity for her though I was shocked by her death. I meant, okay her final moments were really worrisome and tragic, and I know I’m heartless to not pity her. But she had it coming. She criticized and chastised Gina at the beginning for cheating on Joe YET she ended up helping Joe cheat on Gina? Love’s blind YET she had it coming. The reason I was shocked, of course, was I didn’t expect her to die. I would expect the usual seeking out Gina later to confront Gina or would just go crazy, not death. Though her ending indeed made an impact on Joe when he broke down while deleting her messages. (As mentioned earlier.)
  • Elaine Jin as Brenda. She was an interesting character at first because of her mysterious nature with possibly being the only one to overthrow Angus. YET I lost interest in her character after she fell into Joe’s trap as well. WHAT? I don’t care if they were having an affair either since I was used to Joe’s manipulation already. But what I was disappointed at was seeing how she fall into his trap so easily. Or was she just letting go and using him to enjoy her remaining days? Another way to look at it though was emphasizing Joe’s ability to manipulate–even the most cunning person in here (at least from the female side).
  • Chan Hung Lit as George. His second last role and he got this? How memorable. NOT. But anyway, to be honest, he did quite well (OF COURSE) and I think it got cut off because of the inevitable? NOT SURE. But it wasn’t too lame in covering the tracks because he might as well just disappear though he was sent on a mission to uncover Angus’ secrets elsewhere. (Though I shouldn’t even blame anyone or be mean about it since no one knew this one was his second-last role, right?)
  • Tsui Wing as Arthur. I really, really hated him at first (equally as Yan so don’t worry about me picking on just the guy) but later, I was like whatever. And TW showed us another side of him in here with this role.
  • Andy Dai as Sam. The minute I heard ‘Sam’, it reminded me of his role in this old series called Exchanging Couples (OR something like that), because he was also named Sam in there (and the fact that his wife/later ex-wife in there worked at a radio station as well made it even more familiar). He was quite funny in here. So he was trying to be serious and at times appearing quite arrogant–as most bosses were allowed to. But it made it even funnier that he thought they were supposed to worship him yet they were just conning him at times.
  • Joe Junior as Dr. Dylan. The person driving the whole ‘rock and roll’ theme forward in here. Though the rest of them were there with their goth look and all, I thought it wouldn’t be the same without his recounts of past events and his passionate talks about ‘rock and roll’ from time to time. They definitely needed a respected elder to point them in the right direction or telling them to go with the music, etc. His talk about life wasn’t cheesy either but it made sense, incorporating into the overall theme itself.
  • Rachel Kan as Daisy. Sort of a double-faced person, but I don’t blame her since she was quite witty with her comments (even if it was mostly through sarcasm). And the other reason for being bitter was having to cover for Emma just because Sam wanted to score points with Emma.
  • Catherine Chau as Mabel. Almost didn’t recognize her. Maybe it was because of the image. It was all right I guess, fitting in with her character and making her sort of wild along with the other two. It was kind of random that she got together with Arthur at one point (since Arthur claimed to really love Yan, so much for it).
  • Stanley Cheung as Hui Ka Ming (許家明). The unfortunate guy that got eaten by Angus, Joe, and Ronnie. I put him last on purpose (AND YES to make a point). Was this what they called the weakest link? He was really kind-hearted and down to earth from those flashbacks.

Themes:

  • Cannibalism. YES, I placed this first because that was the ‘advertised’ theme at the beginning–even before the actual filming took place. It was just a small part of the story but had a really big impact. Because they only showed a bit of it at the beginning and a more graphic (IF could be called ‘graphic’ at all) scene later on when the truth finally unfolded. But they didn’t dwell on it. They moved on to the ‘forgiving’ part and the whole ‘repenting’ part. Or what could be called an attempt to heal–if at all.
  • Friendship. It was all over the place in here. Yet it was real. Besides, what’s the right way to be friends anyway, right? What I mean is those random times between Hazel and her co-workers versus what she would do with the other three guys.
  • Black/White. The morality in here was also quite scattered but understandable. Yet it had made its point that life was more about the grayness of it all more than establishing boundaries. Sure, people could put up boundaries all they want YET the outcome when those things happened was different. In short, you don’t know what you would do until the actual moment. ‘What ifs’ could not measure the real impact anyway.
  • Rock and Roll. The reason for the whole goth look throughout the series with the majority. And at first, I felt it would be too wannabe with seeing them trying to fit in and act like they were caring about ‘rock and roll’. BUT it wasn’t so. I was so glad that they made it so natural with different characters talking about ‘rock and roll’ but tied it in with the whole story. They weren’t trying too hard either (for once).

Favorites: Basically, I like the whole series–regardless of how random it got at times but it made sense and let us explore the characters even more. But there are other things I want to focus on as well.

  • Dark. I guess what made the whole thing worked was its goth nature and how it didn’t manage to crank the hype up by throwing in some other things. It appeared boring (to some people) and passive, but it was like they were waiting for that dark curtain to lift and free them all. The darkness of it all (NOT literally but could be) allowed for a wider range of exploration–whether through the mind or other types of interactions.
  • Consistent. I’m talking about both the consistency in personalities for the characters who had a younger version of themselves in here, and of the storyline itself as an overall. It was a bonus of a so-called ‘slow’ series because it covered most of the tracks with its flow. It was never too fast or too slow but drove the point loud and clear in the end.
  • Filming Technique. I was surprised and somewhat blew away by how it was filmed with merging the two worlds into the story–back and forth–throughout the whole story. I will admit that it was a bit confusing at first but I got used to it later and really liked how they used the past as bits and pieces of the puzzles–until they reached the end. Awesome indeed.
  • Karma’s Kick. Chills literally ran down my back when the mother of that kid call out his name, telling him to apologize to Gina in the hospital. I must admit I was soooo scared that the ending would be corny and cheesy with everyone getting together singing a ‘Barney song’. (SORRY, inside joke if you know what I mean.) But it wasn’t so. NOT that I’m the type that wants to see deaths left and right. In fact, I’m more peace-loving than I let on at times. But what I felt throughout the series was the intensity that reeked so strongly as each episode went by, so how could they mend things just like that? Yet when Joe died, I only felt okay so one of the bad guys died, and indeed it was because of his own doing. Not to mention it was too late to return. But it wasn’t so. It was until the kid’s mother called his name (also Ka Ming like their friend Ka Ming), it totally went over my head and really made it more complicated in a way. In fact, it was really the writer’s intention because Gina had literally stopped in shock and finally realized it was really karma getting her husband, NOT just because he died saving a kid. YES, there was something inside him (something still good in there though he had claimed it was too late) that insisted that he wasn’t all bad. He even made an effort to buy his wife a gift for their upcoming anniversary, and then the obvious with him wanting to save the kid the instant he saw the kid wandering out in the street. But it was like the time to pay his debt had arrived. What about the other guys? Ronnie lost his vision and had to face the authorities regarding the case involving Joe. The final question that the investigating detective had asked Angus upon his departure was if Angus had felt lucky that he had gotten away for what all three of them had done. But Angus had replied, “How would you know I’m not facing my own punishment?” Indeed, Angus’ punishment was never seeing Yan again because she had claimed that she would leave and would never come back. That was on the surface though because I seriously think that Angus had already paid somewhat for his betrayal to Ka Ming. Why? Yan had stabbed him that one time at the apartment where they used to gather and practice their music after learning the truth version as to what really happened to Ka Ming–and Yan. Then she came back–as if having forgiven him already. (Yeah, call me superstitious but I sort of want to elaborate on that little possibility as some of the details were relevant to the story.) That was why Angus received the lightest punishment physically. (And personally, I think the reason why Angus got the lightest punishment was because he never intended or really agreed to their actions at first with Joe trying to convince him, pulling him out of the tent to talk about it since Joe was saying Ka Ming would die anyway. Then before they knew it, Ronnie had already stabbed Ka Ming–and they just went ahead with the plan. Perhaps Angus’ reluctance at first and his deep regret later made it more pitiful? Sure, he participated in different schemes later on and wasn’t so ‘good’ anyway, but before Ronnie recovered his memory, between the two of them, Angus had shown more regrets among them all, knowing he was already marked to pay a debt.) Emotionally, all three would always be scarred with what they did–regardless. Though I think Joe had finally got his release from it all, because usually, the ones staying behind are the ones who have to face with the cruel truth–no matter how they try to repent themselves.
  • Full circle. I almost forgot about this but it was the scene where Yan saw a group of five going into the apartment building where they once practiced at and found Angus renting the apartment out to the five teenagers. Life was full of both the expected and unexpected. Yet it seemed familiar with how they once started out.
  • Alternate Ending. Most of us probably hate alternate endings, but I thought this one was well planned and well-executed. Maybe because of the ‘what if’ concept and not the actual thing with TVB playing us, saying it didn’t happen, they were doing the ‘what if’ at the beginning. (LOL, that would suck big time because they did put us through so much since the beginning.) And the most unexpected thing (but made sense) was it was Yan who held the key to it all if their lives had been different. Why? It was revealed when Yan was walking to the bus stop at the end that “if she had turned around, Ka Ming wouldn’t leave with the guys to the mountains” thus their lives leading toward a normality–with everyone not suffering from endless guilt ’til the end. Then there was also the possibilities of the other people’s lives like how Emma would’ve gotten married to that one lawyer guy, Angus might have started something with Jessica, etc. And one day, just like the scene showed with them reuniting to sing and enjoy their music once in a while. But to get back to Yan and her decision, maybe that was why she tortured herself, indulging in guilt all these years? She was blaming herself more than anyone because if she had turned around, then Ka Ming wouldn’t leave. But it was too much to take so she had chosen to blame it on the others and severed her ties from them rather than confronting her own demons. SURE, the others were at fault for making that decision, but it was from her own take that she could’ve made a difference if she didn’t leave. Interesting take indeed.
  • The sub-theme song. At first, I was like ‘whatever’ since I didn’t like the three guys’ singing too much. How wrong I was. Because I actually liked it a lot more when the last two episodes came around. Because at that point, it made sense. Though some earlier episode showed them composing it together that one night. But I still thought it would be one of those moments and then they were back to scheming again. That was it. Yet the song finally came into importance when they finally reunited on stage and performed together with their counterparts. (And just for clarification, for the relevancy of the story, the characters wrote it BUT in real life, some of the talented musicians/lyricists had made it happen. Go here for the translations from llwy12.) Oh yeah, for some weird reason, when they sang onstage like that, it seemed to be the live version? (Like it wasn’t obvious with the stage setup but at times nowadays, we wouldn’t know if they just sync in the studio version.) Or was it? I wasn’t sure but it sounded different from how it was in the sub-theme.

On a concluding note, I must give this series a ‘one of the best of 2011’ label. This actually deserved to be on a mantel for once. This really put the ‘quality’ part back into some of the recent TVB productions. YET if people are just looking for some ‘excitement’, better skip it. Because this wasn’t another ‘hype-up’ series trying to draw in viewers just for the sake of it. But about a journey all of us must go through in life, accepting things, reflecting on things, forgiving or not forgiving, etc. In short, it was the explorations of the mind and heart.

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.