Being a sucker for the majority of the cast, I finally gave in and watched–although I have already watched like two versions of this. I must admit I was having an internal struggle at first whether to watch–mostly because it was because of the incurable habit of comparing between different versions. Despite the fact that Wong Jing was the producer (which was the reason why I hesitated to watch it in the first place), it was actually pretty good. Well, I have to say that he usually has good ideas, just that it often goes downhill OR was not properly handled so it often ended up being a failure. (I never forgave him for the ruins of Eight Heroes and World’s Finest so that said something.) This did not guarantee the ‘drag free’ formula though since the beginning was considered fast pace then it became so dragging by the time Hu Fei met all the girls. It was driving viewers’ patience or something. But it was an interesting take at various times with some twists and turns. There was predictability within the unpredictability. Not that bad, but unforgivable with some parts.
- Alex Fong Chung Sun as Miao Ren Feng. I was surprised. I always have mixed feelings about Alex and would jump back and forth between pondering about his acting and this time was no different when I read the cast list. But his performance actually changed my mind right from the beginning. It was a good choice actually since with the ancient costume, he could pass as the righteous guy and how the plot was, I was convinced. With the help of the plot, his character unfolded in the later parts of the series, which made it even more admirable. I also liked that they explained why he was wearing such simple outfits than letting us assume further about the production itself. But it was because Miao’s family practiced hardworking attitude and believed in living a simple life hence his simple attires and not caring about his appearance.
- Patrick Tam as Tian Rui Nong. No one in their right mind would like the character BUT I have to give Patrick the proper credit for portraying it so well. He made the character ten times even more shocking than imagined. The way the plot was written, sometimes I couldn’t blame him for being evil but more like others for being too honest and trusting. At first, when I realized Patrick was portraying such a despicable character, I didn’t like the idea and thought it would be better to see Alex Fong in the role (since I’ve seen Alex portraying evil roles before), but I was wrong. Patrick was perfect for it. His cunning expressions and his darting eyes were deceiving everyone without them knowing. He could pass as a loyal person to his other sworn brothers but there was much more to him than met the eyes. I remembered Kenneth Tsang being awesome in the role, but Eddie Cheung was all right (possibly because of the jumbled-up script so can’t blame him). Patrick brought out a different side of the character and maybe because of the script, but he brought forth a chilling effect to his character. The fact that I found it addicting to watch him throughout was even more messed up. But I was just too fascinated to see what else his character would do, waiting for him to push it to the max. It was a change to say that this was a TVB-free formula so I was excited for once while watching. (Though the overall storyline was from Jin Yong, adaptations vary and interpretations were always different. TVB would always curve back on things so I thought this was a change.) What was even funnier and what I enjoyed even more while watching him was that he even deceived the Qing emperor without the emperor knowing of it. The emperor thought he could control Tian but the emperor was wrong major time. Tian was seen as a coward and/or obedient person in front of him, but Tian was not a fool. He played the part well and the emperor was just too arrogant with his power that he failed to see through Tian’s actions and/or motives. One of the most memorable scenes must be where he gave the letter that Nan Lan wrote to Ruo Lan to the young Ruo Lan. It showed in a way that he really cared for Nan Lan and wanted to fulfill her wish by giving that letter to her daughter. It made one wonder really what kind of person he was. Yes, he was greedy. He was despicable but there was something else within that cruel exterior too.
- Alex, Anthony, and Patrick as the ancestors. I felt that Anthony fitted better portraying the ancestor than Hu Yi Dao and the other guys fitted in with him well. Maybe it was because they were at war that everyone looked so serious so it did not matter if Anthony was looking fierce.
- The fact that the Miao’s sword and Hu’s saber were pinned on the inn’s name board. It made sense that they just kept it like that after that interesting round to go celebrate and talked rather than saying that their weapons weren’t by their sides but somewhere else hence creating the opportunity for the medic to place poison on the weapons.
- Ping A Si was not totally at fault. Okay, so I never liked the character at all because of how he did not let Hu Fei know of the things he found out, like the medic poisoning the weapons, etc. But I must say that he was not at fault this time for just snatching the kid up and running. This time, it was Hu’s wife entrusting the kid to him so A Si did not have time to say anything else except obey. Hu’s wife was not to be blamed either since they were surrounded by the Qing soldiers and did not have any other alternative hence the quick decision to let A Si protect her son. Miao was nowhere to be found either so it was reasonable that A Si raised the kid. I actually liked this little change more since it made the plot less frustrating to some extent. Though it was still frustrating with the misunderstanding, I think I could forgive A Si a little more since he thought Miao was pretending to be honest but let Tian and the others secretly do other things to kill Hu and his wife. He did not fully understand but it was acceptable. Not to mention he overheard what Tao told the medic about how Miao was in the whole scheme with Tian–if not, how would the plan be as successful. That was believable enough since Miao and Tian were known to be on the same side at first though Miao did dismiss Tian and the others. Tao mentioned that they were just putting up a front and were moving according to plan so that Miao could gain Hu’s trust. So A Si was not at fault to provide the wrong information. Also, what I liked about A Si of this version was that he was careful at all times and was never arrogant, especially during the time when he and young Hu Fei were still in hiding, hence he was more likable in that sense.
- Hu’s wife did not commit suicide to follow her husband. Okay, another change BUT I loved this version more for this also. Just a little change but it made all the difference. Since she died in a more righteous manner than just wanting to follow her husband. That reason did not go well with me because it felt too much like she was shrugging off the responsibility of being a mother. Yes, it showed her love for her husband but it did not show that she cared for her son’s future at all. The fact that she was killed by Tian in this version made Tian even scarier.
- The fact that some of the male characters were wearing braids and others did not. I was not sure if it was done on purpose or not. But I found it interesting because it represented what they believed in. Like Hu did not wear braids because he did not follow the Qing dynasty and resided in the mountains. Miao was traveling under the territory of the Qing dynasty too yet he was not wearing braids, which would be a major offense, but it showed that he was not worshiping and/or following the Qing dynasty either–and was staying true to his own dynasty. On the other hand, Tian was seen wearing braids because he was secretly working for the Qing emperor to get rid of all the threats. It showed that he was not just following the rules to be safe, but had ulterior motives.
- The father and daughter bond between Miao Ren Feng and Miao Ruo Lan. Though Ruo Lan loved her mother dearly, she became understanding of her father later on, staying by his side. (Though it was mostly because she had no choice but to at first but she became a considerate person later on, knowing how much her father loved her and sticking through thick and thin with him.) I think I felt the father and daughter bond even stronger in here by showing Little Ruo Lan being abandoned along with her father and how they coped later on. (It caused me a few tears even upon seeing the sight.) Then how they were together from that day on when Ruo Lan finally realized that her mother did not want her anymore or more like not wanting to return to their home to live together as one family. It was just too late yet the girl did not understand. But what was interesting was the little girl kept her promise to her father. Though she ran away that one time with the intention of finding her mother, I thought that was just a way to show her longing for her mother and a hopeful thought of having acceptance from her mother–if it was just another small hopeful glint. Just like how she wanted so badly to open and read the letter–the one she suspected was from her mother (which was true to some extent). Her persistence in staying with her father when he was poisoned and lost his eyesight was quite touching also. Her caring gestures toward her father when she was younger were really something. Yet somehow I liked how funny it was that when Ruo Lan had grown up since her playful side was quite cute. (At least at first.)
- Nan Lan’s death scene. Other versions often portrayed how Nan Lan died in Miao Ren Feng’s arms or how their family of three were finally reunited with Nan Lan being forgiven by both her husband and daughter thus seeking closure. But this one, she committed suicide by hanging herself and died instantly with Tian Rui Nong by her side, crying and begging her to wake up, apologizing for his wrong in yelling at her. The only similar thing was that Nan Lan realized how the sweet moments between her and Rui Nong were all fake, an illusion created to lure her in. She finally realized that Ren Feng was the one who really loved her and always found ways to please her. It was a big puzzle whether Rui Nong really loved her or was just using her to get back at Ren Feng but seeing the scene where Rui Nong cried and reacted after her death was really tragic. Patrick did a great job in this scene, causing one not to be able to help but sympathize with him.
- Feng Tian Nan’s death scene. Though he was a despicable character who resorted to any type of tactics to secure his position and connection with Fu Kang An, tricking his daughter, his death scene was something to think about. It was not just an open and close case like past versions but showed a greater depth by allowing Zi Yi to forgive him for the last time–as he had asked her before he died. It was like closure for them both with the complexity of things.
- Ling Su and her shi jie (senior of her sect) reconciling. There were misunderstandings between the two parties and of course some conflicts with how things were supposed to be done. But somehow, it was really touching how they reconciled and finally resolved their misunderstanding. More like it did not matter anymore. The interesting thing was they both died at the same time so it was like closure for both. It was the last chance for them to reconcile and end it there. It was interesting how the senior finally restored her beauty and then saw Wen Tai Lai and her son by her side and then disappeared. It was like her illusion was gone and she finally became in touch with reality, at last, facing her own demons before her death.
- Ling Su’s death scene. I was utterly annoyed again with her selfish thinking when she thought of not giving Zi Yi the pill. But then I think Zi Yi’s words touched her or moved her to the point where she was not able to forgive herself if she let Zi Yi die. The struggle between the two extremes forced her to decide and not to mention how Zi Yi was prompt for time. When she walked to the corner of the room and realized how it was better that she died since Hu Fei did not love her made it a bit tragic. I could almost forgive her for what happened. I think Gillian did very well in that scene since everything was happening so fast and how devastated she looked after having decided what to do. Then when she crashed down, the moment was even more obvious and came into focus for Hu Fei and Zi Yi. Ling Su’s words were very true because Hu Fei did not pay attention enough to realize Ling Su was struck with the poison as well. But it was not in a nagging tone but more of a fact or an attempt to joke as a reminder of how he would never like her anyway so it did not matter. The scene was worth a few tears really. I was still thinking at the same time if Ling Su was going to tell them about how Zi Yi had to drink the second pill to be safe but she did so I thought I could forgive her at last because she did not hold back information. Then there was also Hu Fei’s silent confession at Ling Su’s grave about understanding her feelings and what she went through. (Perhaps he was not so dumb after all or clueless BUT his attempt to hide and ignore the situation made it even worse for her, leading her to do many foolish things.) Although his confession was a way to answer her even if she was not able to hear it, I felt there was no point anymore since what good did it do? She was already dead. (Like I said, I do not blame him for loving Zi Yi, but he should’ve severe the tie between him and Ling Su faster than that if he knew rather than pretending not to know, causing more trouble.)
- Fu Kang An’s reaction upon hearing about Zi Yi’s death. Although Zi Yi didn’t technically die, the way the soldier was coming back and reporting to Fu Kang An, it was said as if Zi Yi was already dead. It was interesting to see how Fu Kang An reacted since there was actually a tear forming in his eye and dripping down. It made one wonder if he really loved Zi Yi or was just wanting to possess her because she was someone who was hard to conquer. It was still something to think about.
- Tian Rui Nong’s reaction upon seeing the grown-up Ruo Lan. A flashback image of Nan Lan was seen when a disguised Ruo Lan revealed herself to the others when they were inside the mansion up in the mountain. It was interesting to see that Tian–a person who couldn’t care less about keeping his words–would obey Ruo Lan’s order of returning the pills to Zi Yi like that. It seemed like he was experiencing a moment of the past because of how Ruo Lan resembled her mother. Not to mention how we were able to see and question that he really loved Nan Lan, not just using her like he first thought of doing.
- Tian Rui Nong was the one who found the treasures and many other things. Though Hu Fei found it first, Tian was the one who got to explore more of the cave and many other objects inside it. It was an interesting take since it was oftentimes that the main guy stumbled upon those situations and not as much as the villain. Not to mention how someone did not bother doing research on the types of martial arts mentioned that Tian had acquired since it was mentioned in The Return of the Condor Heroes that people who think too complex or are deceptive could not learn those types of martial arts. That was why Huang Rong–a very intelligent person could not learn it BUT Guo Jing was able to learn it. So, therefore, Tian being able to learn it was NOT relevant at all. But still funny that they made it possible in this one. Possibly to build up for the last battle. (And I was right since that was what it was all about.)
- Balance between fighting and talking. What I hate most about wuxia/ancient series was having more talks than the actual fighting scenes so I was glad there was a balance. There were lots of fascinating scenes, especially how they showed various parts where Young Hu Fei learned the saber methods and other skills as well. The remaining of the series became a bit lagging because of Hu Fei’s conflicts with the three girls but there were some fighting scenes in between to make up for it so it was not as bad or unbearable. The most exaggerated parts were the ending since Tian Rui Nong had acquired quite a skill and was the most powerful so Hu Fei had to work harder to win. It was too pathetic but still funny in a sense because you get to laugh at the people who didn’t do research properly.
- Costumes. At first, I was thinking, “What in the world were these people thinking?” But I realized that it was more realistic that way. Unless they were from a wealthy household, would they wear those really elegant ones? It seemed less pleasing to the eyes at times yet it was suitable in such circumstances.
- Effects. Thank you for not using CGI. Phew! (Okay, it was sort of there BUT not so sloppily done that it was noticeable or overwhelmingly ridiculous.) It could be used properly IF know how, but I have the impression that it was not used properly in the past since other creators loved to throw it in just to show that they could do it. OR they are just plain crazy and do not want to use the old techniques or other types of techniques to reach the same result. But this one was a nice one, especially the fighting scenes between Hu Yi Dao and Miao Ren Feng at the beginning.
- The reunion for Alex and Patrick since Split Second. Honestly, thanks to my mom for this one since she reminded me about it. Considering how their roles were in the other one, it was major payback time for Patrick since he got to make Alex’s life miserable in here, tricking and trapping him at every turn and twist. One of the most memorable scenes was in the middle of episode 25 when Tian Rui Nong asked Miao Ren Feng for Miao’s forgiveness and how Tian reminded Miao that they were sworn brothers. Miao thought for a moment before turning Tian down, saying that they were no longer brothers and that the next time they meet, he would not let Tian off as easily. It was a turning point for them with how Miao would be taking the action the next time, it was a time where Miao would finally draw the line between them both, declaring the ultimatum. It could be seen that Tian was very despicable and was able to resort to any tactic to escape from Miao’s grasp, knowing Miao was very capable of killing him.
- Anthony Wong as Hu Yi Dao. It was miscast. It had to be. The only role that I was ever impressed with his was from TVB’s War of the Dragons and that was it. For this one, I don’t know. I feel like he didn’t fit the role. It didn’t matter if they had the outfits or build the plot around his characters, introducing him as the cool dude. The character was that way, so it didn’t matter or helped–at least to me. I didn’t care if he was not good looking or whatever, but I felt he did not have the proper ”da xia” (大侠)/”ying xiong” (英雄) aka “hero” look. Ray Lui was awesome as Hu Yi Dao, Felix was not far behind either. But Anthony Wong? I don’t know. It was just like he was too arrogant. I have a feeling Hu Yi Dao was more humble? No idea. The only good thing about it was that he was only around the first part of the series. That sounded mean since I remember liking Hu Yi Dao the last two times, but this time? I don’t know. If it was someone else, I would’ve enjoyed it more. What was even worse was seeing him with a beautiful young actress by his side–again. I remember Hu Yi Dao and his wife were around the same age or at least NOT that far off? But this was just plain odd. So before I get into any more details, I’ll stop here.
- The supposedly good friendship/bonding between Hu Yi Dao and Miao Ren Feng. Though they fought and there were misunderstandings but their friendship and recognition of one another’s talent was the highlight of the story. Yet I did not feel it while watching them interact in here. Usually, I would blame Alex for it not working but it was not the case sadly. Because this time, I felt Alex delivered very well and managed to pull his character through and collaborate to make it work. Yet, it was Anthony that I felt wasn’t pulling the weight OR at least was not giving off the right vibe toward the friendship. Again, I felt he was too arrogant. He swapped with Miao Ren Feng. Sometimes, I have a feeling that Miao Ren Feng was too cold and quiet yet he was a righteous person. Was Anthony forgetting he was supposed to be the humble Hu and not the passive Miao? I did not get the feeling of the whole ‘knowing the hero, respecting the hero’ concept that was often mentioned in those ancient times. Something else that made their bond less convincing was how Hu was so grateful of Miao for helping him with fending off Tian and his men the night Hu’s wife was giving birth YET Hu brushed off Miao’s attempt to explain so easily before the next battle that it was uncalled for. Though it was due to the misunderstanding that Miao did not care for Hu’s letter through the medic’s words BUT Hu should not be so rash like that. Hu was a straightforward person but he was not dumb nor rash about matters, especially toward an honorable person like Miao. So he should’ve at least tried harder to hear Miao out before fighting. It was a different interpretation of the storyline yet Anthony’s arrogant expression did not help the situation. I totally pitied Miao at that time with how Alex looked. Though Hu changed his attitude toward Miao again after Miao had received the underhanded attack from Tian’s weapon but it did not convince me to side with Hu. (Again, Anthony was still looking arrogant.) I was very sure that the script didn’t change regarding swapping their personalities since Miao actually admitted after the second round of duels that he was usually arrogant and indicated that Hu was the humble and straightforward one. It was supposedly through Hu that Miao loosened up and became less distant and cold, but I had a feeling someone wasn’t humble, lol. So it was Miao loosening up on his own–or something. I remember liking their bond because of how Ray Lui and Patrick Tse had portrayed it. But I was not able to accept this bonding through Alex and Anthony–though mostly because of Anthony’s portrayal. And I barely remembered liking Felix Wong and Vincent Wan’s portrayal too of their friendship. (I just realized it was a reunion between Felix and Vincent since Racing Peak? LOL!) The dialogues were mostly the same, which conveyed their friendship throughout but I always felt something was missing.
- Nan Lan aka Miao Ren Feng’s wife. It didn’t matter which version it was, she was meant to be hated regardless of the reason. It didn’t matter if she came from a rich family. The fact that she agreed to marry Miao Ren Feng meant that she had accepted his background. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, her father was dead and he was a lifesaver so it was her only choice. A spoiled brat and probably more real than some versions often portrayed her since it made out like it was Miao’s fault for neglecting her for his martial arts. YET I think that this was more siding with Miao that he really tried hard to provide for her and took great care of her but she did not appreciate those, always wanting more and more and more. Yes, she was from a rich family after all and was not able to adapt to it, but since she had no one else and after all the times that she spent there, wouldn’t she be more cooperative and negotiate with others? But I guess she never matured to go past those materialistic stuff hence falling prey to Tian’s sweet talks and his many bribes. Yes, she did try to redeem herself after realizing that she had gone overboard, but she didn’t love him enough nor was strong-willed to resist temptations. Maybe it was a mistake from the beginning with their relationship since it seemed like he was treating her like a child and trying to give in to her demands more than with the relationship of husband and wife. What was more, he was becoming strained and worn out with how he had to work so hard to make her happy while the finances were getting low. He was not just responsible for her life but for the whole household. I did not blame him for feeling restless but I kind of felt that it was his fault in driving Tian toward her since he told Tian to go talk to her, thinking that Tian was a more suitable candidate for conversations. What a big mistake! A cliche mistake that often happened in stories but it had to be something to drive forth the consequences, right? It just meant that they wouldn’t work out in the end. So perhaps, I shouldn’t blame Nan Lan for all of it either since Miao was sooo dumb in presenting Tian with an opportunity to move in. Yes, Miao was honest and straightforward aka not deceptive or cunning, only thinking of letting his wife have a friend or whatever. BUT wrong tactic. He accidentally unleashed some problems. And probably this was a test of Miao and Nan Lan’s relationship too since they were not able to pass the test. Despite the fact that Nan Lan finally gave in to Tian and followed him, I think I have to give her credit for being able to stop herself from the enthusiastic talks or realizing some inappropriate conversation going on AND managed to pull away like several times.
- Ma Chun Hua. I never really liked her in any of the versions. But this one was probably the worst one since she was quite despicable in trying to plot against Hu Fei as well. Though it was supposed to be for a good reason, why didn’t she stick to the original plan of having Hu Fei save her kid? It was easier that way since Hu Fei was more than capable. The part where she was apologizing silently and saying that she was doing it for her kid was really fake. She just wanted to become Fu Kang An’s official wife, NOT just caring for her kid like she claimed. There was no doubt she loved her kid but there was much more. Sure, she saved Hu Fei twice but did that mean she could take his life away from him like that? Trying to redeem herself afterward did not help since she already caused trouble.
- Young Miao Ruo Lan. I don’t know. Some of her actions made me feel extremely annoyed with her at times. Yes, she was a kid and she had her smart-aleck moments and how she was such a spoiled brat BUT I was just so scared she would turn out to be some annoying person when she grew up as well. Perhaps it showed some character instead of the dull side or one-dimensional personality. She was smart in her own way but she was also so stubborn. But probably it showed some arrogant side of her father and the spoiled gist of her mother. NOT sure but that made me think that she inherited it from both parents. Zhang Ji Ying had this arrogant aura on her that made me think of it as that way. Like she was a spoiled, stubborn kid. I wouldn’t expect her to understand that much since she was a kid but it was still a bit disturbing to see. And I couldn’t forgive her for stealing from Ling Su and causing trouble later on (aka increasing the intensity of the situation between Ling Su and her shi jie.) It was an accident but another disturbing thing that she was stealing from others and it especially reminded me of how she was stealing from all those shopowners when she ran away from home that one time. The bigger picture and the more serious matter was that Ruo Lan actually caused someone’s death when she was so young. She did something and was afraid others would find out, especially Hu Fei, so she rather ignored it and the consequences than tried to redeem herself. I could no longer forgive her for being a kid anymore. Miao Ren Feng probably felt guilty for causing her not to have a mother so he spoiled her rotten but I felt that it had turned her into some unreasonable and irresponsible person. It also reminded me of how her rash nature had always caused trouble. IF she had not been persistent with opening the letter from her mother, her father would not have been poisoned. YES, it would come sooner or later but she really wanted to open it so her father had to try to see if it was poisoned or not. (She reminded me so much of her mother that she would always get what she wanted or else.) And by the time they reached the scene of the river where Ruo Lan disposed of Ling Su’s shoes in the water, I could not even stand it anymore. Up to the point where she vouched to take revenge on Ling Su one day made me feel more than outraged–to the point that I did not care IF she was a kid, but had to call her ‘witch’ and doubt IF the scriptwriters were playing us, pushing our patience with her character. Regardless of how she turned out later, the little things she did when she was a kid would always stay. Like I said, her ‘being a kid’ excuse had run low by then in my definition. I no longer cared for her anymore and decided to just watch on after the scene in the abandoned house that night when she snapped at Ling Su. That was my last straw for her. It did not matter what she saw was really that BUT it was her attitude that had turned me off completely.
- The fact that Hu Fei and Cheng Ling Su weren’t traveling together like I would’ve thought. I don’t know. I feel like the young Miao Ruo Lan was way too annoying and it was not essential to have her around while the other two were traveling together. I was looking forward to seeing this part and I would’ve appreciated it more IF there was no third wheel around. If Ruo Lan was more obedient and more cooperative as a sweet girl, I wouldn’t mind as much. I know they were showing some character in Ruo Lan but honestly, that was too much, making it harder to like her and accept her when she was older. I meant, after all, she was the same character so it was hard to erase everything she had done when she was younger. I thought that Hu Fei would depart from Miao Ren Feng and the others after Ling Su restored Miao Ren Feng’s eyesight but that was not the case. I kept waiting and waiting but it continued on with them bumping into Zi Yi AND then more Young Ruo Lan annoying scene that I became super impatient and felt like Ling Su had been robbed of time spent with Hu Fei. Yes, I was glad that they finally left after Hu Fei confirmed with Miao Ren Feng regarding his father’s death and declared that he would return one day to seek revenge. BUT still…I was on my last nerves by then. Not to mention throwing in the fact that she saved him from the poison made it even more disappointing. He would be taking responsibility instead of real love. I rather Ling Su leave right there and then–regardless of whether Zi Yi left or not.
- The fact that they made Ruo Lan the one responsible for Zi Yi’s death. I meant come on now. It was crazy. The scriptwriters were out to get every one of the girls. Not to mention making it tragic on purpose of how Zi Yi died. And the fact that everything was even faker since Zi Yi had seven years with Hu Fei yet she DID NOT cherish those times OR kept her promise with Ling Su. She wasted all those times AND Hu Fei also wasted those times. What guilt? What not being able to live with Hu Fei because they would always remember Ling Su was the one who died for them? It was a total joke. It could be explained that they really matured and thought it through all these years BUT what was the point? IF they had valued the limited time they had with each other more, they would not have been facing such a scene of separation. I am NOT trying to defend or justify Ruo Lan’s actions here since I wrote in the other part that Ruo Lan was responsible too regardless of the reason behind it, BUT I thought it was a big joke with how Hu Fei and Zi Yi did not take advantage of the time more. Ling Su died, giving them more time to spend together YET they were being too fake and pretentious that they DID NOT make good use of that time AND now that it failed, it was too late. The best way to repay Ling Su was to live every moment the best they could, NOT acting guilty–like Ling Su said. So why react so strongly knowing that the moment would come? (They still had to consider the possible happenings just like some outer force sabotaging them.)
- The fact that Ruo Lan got raped by Fu Kang An. I swear this seemed like TVB’s 1999 version too much. It was like every girl got taken advantage of by Fu Kang An, except for Zi Yi. I thought they would prevent it from happening. Regardless of what Ruo Lan did and all her stubbornness but she did not deserve this. Especially since she lost her memory and was already lured into Fu Kang An’s trap. I thought Hu Fei would arrive in time, BUT NO. The first time, they made her stab him AND the second time, he was too late. Stupid script. The worst thing that could happen and they let it happen. Were they copying The Return of the Condor Heroes with what happened to the main girl?
- The fact that Tian Rui Nong wanted to claim Ruo Lan as his too. I know that he was testing her at times and pondering IF she really lost her memory. BUT that was really gross that he wanted to replace her mother with her. The scriptwriters really had sick minds all right. We all knew how despicable Tian Rui Nong was. NO need to drag it out and beat it to death regarding the matter. We got the message with all his previous actions already.
- The fact that they used Patrick and Gillian’s song for this one. This was because the song was probably the Mandarin version of the song that was used for TVB’s Legend of Love. But the other version was sung by Gillian and Kenny Kwan.
- Nie Yuan as Hu Fei. To be honest, I was excited that it was Nie Yuan at first but then later when I saw the trailer, I was a bit hesitant. But glad that he pulled through after seeing him appearing as the grown-up Hu Fei. He was really witty and charming in his acts and was very clever. What changed me regarding his character was the whole triangle with him, Zi Yi, and Ling Su. It was only fair to include him in this list and not be too harsh on the girls. He was so wishy-washy that caused even more conflicts between the girls. He was really clueless–which could not be blamed, but he decided to take responsibility but could not let go of anyone. I was all right IF he had chosen Zi Yi since she was the one he loved YET he insisted on taking responsibility with Ling Su but failed to deliver. What was the point? Perhaps he was a man of his word and considering those ancient times with the importance of a girl’s life so he was taking responsibility for Ling Su, trying to do what was right. YET I rather he did not since it encouraged Ling Su’s many scheming tactics and caused Zi Yi to sever the tie between them both. His decision had caused Zi Yi to become the one taking action since he was not strong enough to do it.
- Athena Chu as Yuan Zi Yi. Surprise of all surprises, I didn’t really like how the character in here and how Athena portrayed it. I don’t know. It felt wrong though I knew her acting wasn’t the problem. (Or maybe I was never used to her style in the first place, except for in this one movie and that was it.) It just had the wrong feeling. I did not find her charming, witty, or clever like I expected though she did try to exude that aura. It made me even more annoyed than actually being impressed or amazed by her actions. Not to mention that though I felt weird with some of the cast’s costumes in here, I managed to get used to it and found some good side to it or if it actually suited the person’s style yet the outfit for Zi Yi was poorly designed, making it unbearable to watch each time she tried to show off her skills, especially the very first outfit that she wore. And moving on, the hair made it even sadder since combined with the outfit, it made her look like she came out of a nuthouse. (I do know it was not Athena’s fault for having such outfits or hairdo, but I was just pointing out the image for her character was a major failure.) Throwing in the tragic story was still typical but I still can’t find myself liking her for some reason. I somehow pitied her after finding out that she and Hu Fei were not meant to be because of this one incident BUT it was because the scriptwriters ruined the great foundation they established for Ling Su that her character finally rose above other characters. I ended up having mixed feelings because of other factors. Not because I liked her. And I think the whole idea with this was that I hated the fact that people often want to use the excuse of cutting off from the outside world, etc by becoming a nun or a monk. If they were willing, it was all right, but it was because they wanted to hide or because they could not solve the problems. I hated that the most so I could not pity Zi Yi as much as I thought I would with such characters. Her master was right that she was not ready but she was still forcing herself into it. The funniest thing was she looked prettier seven years later when she was supposed to be appearing sickly (because of the poison still in her) than when she first appeared at the beginning. Very interesting. Perhaps the makeup team finally paid attention or they weren’t paying attention that much because of the long filming process?
- Gillian Chung as Cheng Ling Su. Interestingly how I was influenced by the previous version that I watched so I did not like her as much. However, in this version, I really liked her character. Gillian brought some sweetness and grace into this role. Her character was not boring or pestering as it seemed to be in the other version but there was a mystery to her character with a mix of intelligence and complexity. She did things without reasons or explanations at times yet she had her own way of doing it. She did not mind that others were misunderstanding who she was since she did not care how they judged her but only wanted to reach her purpose, such as the time that she tried to get Young Ruo Lan to do the chores to get rid of the poison. Perhaps she did not have contact with the outside world as much so sometimes her actions or lack of actions caused troubles or misunderstandings yet somehow I did not hate her for it. I don’t know. Maybe it was a bias with how much I liked her character at the beginning when she was introduced. Or perhaps I somehow pitied her. Though my hope kept falling and falling as the story developed further, I still somehow liked her or perhaps pitied her like I said before. It was like because she was so afraid of being lonely after having found someone she could’ve depended on. I did not know why the scriptwriters kept making her character sink lower and lower in tactics since she was seen as wanting to separate Hu Fei and Zi Yi too many times for me to forgive. I kept telling myself it was okay that she wasn’t perfect but I was so disturbed because Hu Fei did not like her yet was stuck with her. She was too selfish for my taste as the series progressed. It was like she knew what she was doing yet she kept doing it. Some part of me did not blame her, considering how she had been lonely for the majority of her life, especially after her master’s death. Yet the other part of me knew that Hu Fei did not like her (as said before), so it was hard to endure. I kept wishing that she would get it and leave regardless of how he was stuck with her because of responsibilities. She finally learned to let go afterward and only wanted him to be happy yet I think it was too late since the damage had already been done. I did pity her a lot but it still wasn’t enough to make me like her again. It was like she knew all along she could not get what she wanted YET she still wanted to get it. I didn’t like that. The excuse with ‘any girl would do that’ DID NOT go through for me since why didn’t Zi Yi do that? (Though I did not like Zi Yi any better.) Why did Ling Su have to be so selfish knowing that she would hurt Hu Fei by making Zi Yi go and separating the two? The constant drop of the jade butterfly was a HUGE reminder of how Hu Fei was not able to forget Zi Yi YET she still DID NOT get the hint or cared to acknowledge that fact made it even more frustrating. The fact that she said how Hu Fei was pitying her and was just doing some charity when he was caring for her like that was ironic. Since she was the one who clung to him throughout. IF she had any dignity in the first place, she would not resort to such means to get rid of Zi Yi. When she finally realized to let go of Hu Fei and told him to chase after Zi Yi, I didn’t feel she was being a bigger person for it, but I felt more like she should’ve done that ages ago. It was already overdue. Somehow though, Gillian did look pitiful enough that I was having mixed feelings YET I still could not forgive Ling Su for such actions.
- Ady An as Miao Ruo Lan. Interestingly, Ady appeared on episode 27–probably around the time she should be appearing since the story was almost ending since they had only one last thing to take care of aka the battle between Miao Ren Feng and Hu Fei. For some very, very strange reason, I liked Ruo Lan a lot more upon seeing Ady. I don’t know. Maybe because of Ady’s smile. Despite her playful nature and somewhat stubborn personality, she seemed to have matured. Possibly because of her promise to her father with being more obedient in the future (that night when she found out about her father’s conflict with Hu Fei). Perhaps IF they had cast a different girl to play Ruo Lan’s younger version, I would’ve liked and accepted her action more. There were traces of her older self being quite unreasonable too. I guess they could not just make her character turn 180 degrees just because she was older now or supposedly more mature. They had to maintain some consistency with the character. Yet I wished she wasn’t so spoiled at times. I have to clarify that I’m not trying to be harsh on the kid who portrayed the Young Ruo Lan BUT I think that the script had been badly manipulated that it was hard to tell between Ruo Lan–though there was still subtle consistency (as mentioned before). It was like they did not do as a nice job for it. The possible reason could be Ruo Lan had grown up and was able to think of the consequences more than before hence her actions were not as annoying or rash but there was something missing between the link of her character. Ruo Lan’s attempt to chase away all the possible candidates as her future husband was quite funny–though kind of mean. I really don’t mind Ruo Lan being stronger and more independent than the typical weakling character, just that I was not able to get over the fact that she was a little brat in the earlier episodes. Just when I thought it was safe to keep her name in the ‘Likes’ section, I had to move it to the ‘In Between’ since I could not forgive her for acting on her own and killing the flower that Hu Fei had worked so hard to grow it these past seven years. Just because she said she did not know or did not do it on purpose she should not be forgiven so easily, considering how important it was. Yes, Hu Fei should have told her a lot more OR told her NOT to touch it OR tell her exactly what was going on. BUT she should have known better that he had taken care of it all along SO it was not like he didn’t know how. IF she did not understand something, ASK, NOT DO and then regret OR apologize. This reminded me of how she caused the death of Ling Su’s shi jie’s son’s death when she was younger though unintentional. She was seen as clever upon learning the fact that Fu Kang An knew Tian Rui Nong and showed her brilliant side by diverting out of the sticky situation. But somehow, I could not forgive her for the other thing (though knowing it was the script’s fault for twisting the whole thing). I wish I could like her character more than that BUT I did not want to make an exception because it involved the importance of someone’s life. The most disappointing factor wasn’t about how Ruo Lan was so stubborn and spoiled BUT the fact that she got raped later by Fu Kang An (like some other girls in here) AND then was reduced to a complete weakling that made the plot even weaker. I did not mind IF they butchered it so that her character learned martial arts later BUT what was more frustrating was letting her suffer so much through the trials, especially being raped. Since she’d gone through the hardships, she learned how much her stubbornness had caused so much trouble, BUT not to that extreme.
Interestingly Funny YET could be equally annoying:
- Cheng Ling Su vs. Young Miao Ruo Lan. It was so funny that they were doing a little face-off when Hu Fei was trying to bury the other three men who accompanied them to that one place to find the cure for Miao Ren Feng’s eyes. I actually enjoyed Ling Su’s playful nature and how she tried to piss Ruo Lan off on purpose. Ruo Lan was such a spoiled brat that I did not even feel sorry for. Maybe it was the girl who was cast as Ruo Lan and partially because of the script. But it was funny all right. Ling Su did not want to fight with the little girl but the little girl brought it on herself. Ruo Lan was only a kid but she was so possessive already–though she might or might not know or understand love yet but I was thinking on a different level of how she would think ‘whatever is hers, she won’t back down’, etc–it was as if Hu Fei was her toy. I know it wasn’t that extreme but it was still a tad disturbing to see her having liked Hu Fei at such an age. NOT to mention Ruo Lan’s ongoing childish tactics against Ling Su made me even more annoyed with her. Ling Su was not calculating with her nor treating her in an ill-mannered way yet she kept causing trouble.
- Yuan Zi Yi vs. Cheng Ling Su. vs. Young Miao Ruo Lan. I found it unbearable that Ruo Lan sided with Zi Yi just to piss Ling Su off. Although Ling Su sort of tried to get rid of Zi Yi at their first encounter, somehow I didn’t hate her or found her annoying. Somehow, I wanted to side with her more though I knew that Hu Fei really liked Zi Yi. It was just that Ling Su’s character was better written that made me feel for her and how Gillian had portrayed it. Unlike the other two. Though I somehow found Hu Fei’s collaboration with Zi Yi a bond that others could not replace (like the scene where they fought off all Tian’s men and the Qing soldiers), I would’ve liked it more OR liked it better IF the young Ruo Lan wasn’t around to be so annoying. The young Ruo Lan was just a deceptive little witch. The fact that she kept taunting and rubbing the matter in front of Ling Su’s face made me want to slap her so much. She was a little witch all right. Just when I was going to clap on Ling Su’s decision to leave after curing Miao Ren Feng, the scriptwriter had to go and ruin her character by making her do such a despicable thing. It was an accident at first because Hu Fei dropped the jade butterfly BUT I wished she had given him back the item regardless of whoever else stepped in to find him. It was like they needed to ruin her character too since after they jumped to ruin Ruo Lan’s character. That night, Ling Su actually returned the jade butterfly to Hu Fei and told him what happened. But I couldn’t help but wonder if she did it on purpose or if she was just answering to Zi Yi’s question unknowingly. I wanted to trust her but it was hard to predict her actions at times. Perhaps, she did not do it on purpose or meant to but she was lacking communication skills since she had been trapped in some isolated place for so long with her master hence not knowing how to handle certain situations. But still…I wish it hadn’t happened. And I knew it was leading to much more since after Hu Fei was traveling around with Ling Su, she continued to cause the rip between Hu Fei and Zi Yi. I did not like it even if it was natural for her to react in that way yet it was petty and childish, almost reducing her to the childish Ruo Lan. I felt like the scriptwriters needed to ruin Ling Su’s character too to make matters worse or something. I just did not like it. I kept wishing that Ling Su would stop yet it kept getting worse. I hated how her character was ruined just like that and just like the others.
Conclusion? Not really a must-watch but it was another perspective. Considering that I did not read the novel properly, I won’t comment on its accuracy though I could guess that they distorted it quite badly, almost as badly as TVB’s 1999 version, considering how they included the fact that Fu Kang An was involved with almost all the girls in here–whether the girls cared to acknowledge his existence or not. After seeing another butchered version of Wong Jing’s production, I finally vouch not to watch another one regardless of how good the cast would be. (Maybe that was why he needed a good cast to pull the production through.) And then I wonder silently why Jin Yong let Wong Jing do this adaptation since it was as bad as TVB’s 1999 version.