I also watched this ages back but just didn’t review it yet. How was it? It actually started really strong and then died down like somewhere along the way–as often was with TVB series. Not saying it was terrible, but I thought they sort of ran out of ideas after a while and wanted to let Selena portray double roles so that was added to crank out more episodes. I like Selena, okay? I thought her portrayals were impressive, but I found the twins’ storyline unnecessary. So the point? It should have been like 20-25 episodes. Then it would have been perfect because it was actually one of the decent ancient series TVB produced for a while now.
- Kenneth Ma as Chu Cheung Sing (朱長勝). Mixed feelings. I meant I like Kenneth and all and appreciated his effort put into the role. But I felt it was an easy win for him. Like there wasn’t anything special that he hasn’t done before in the past. His performance was consistent throughout and he led the audience through the story and convinced us he was that character. However, like I said, it wasn’t particularly challenging. He did as was expected of the role, nothing more. The character was all right. It was a typical smart-aleck character that later turned really dark because of the events of the plot. And oh yeah, he was already on thin lines with me yet what drove it further into insanity was how he criticized Kwan Chiu and didn’t trust her because of her past record YET asked to be forgiven for what he’d done? Well, it wasn’t his fault with the trap, but seriously, the others sure let him off easily for stuff.
- Rosina Lin (林夏薇) as Yeung Lau (楊柳). I was surprised to like her character in here since I watched her in another series and felt annoyed with her. Looking back, it was possibly the general series itself and how it wasn’t well-written anyway, so the majority of the characters automatically became annoying, lol. But she did a nice job in here, portraying her feisty and witty character. She was very convincing in regard to her strong personality as well as her softhearted side–as the plot led us into at one point. She was my favorite female character in here because she represented the strong, intelligent female lead well. It actually did a character justice for once with strong characters and not steer toward some unnecessary element and ended up becoming disappointing. So, yes, I was glad that her character didn’t get ruin because of the twist of the later events of the overall story. Regarding the side romance story in the 1/3 way into the story, I forgave her. Because the other guy was too cunning. Who could blame her for being tricked? He was indeed a pro.
- Pierre Ngo as Ngau Dai Lik (牛大力). It was interesting that Pierre got to be one of the main leads once again. It seemed like ages ago that he was. Just saying, lol. His character was so simple-minded. However, it was just that he was too hot-headed at times. Although he appeared rough or tried to be, he was really soft-hearted. Sure, he could be so impatient at times, but he wasn’t a coward at that. He just needed to settle down and be more patient when it came to figuring out the cases itself. He actually had some experiences doing his robber days, lol. So that wasn’t all for nothing. He was just too impatient and wanted to take actions more than sit around and think too much, that was all. I didn’t think that he was too dumb comparing to the rest of the group. However, it made his character different from the rest of them.
- Power Chan as Ma Chuen Kung (馬川芎). The reason why I started to watch this in the first place was because Power’s character in another series mentioned it, lol. I knew about the series but didn’t want to watch it at that that time it came out, but yeah. Power’s AD got to me, lol. I do like Power, so of course, I checked it out for him. How was his character in here? Unlike his usual hot-headed roles, he was actually calm and somewhat composed in here. Well, he had this arrogance about him that was hard to endure for some characters in here. Yet it made sense because he came from generations of famous medics. It made sense he was proud of his ancestry and his achievements thus far. He did work super hard to get there. So why shouldn’t he, right? Somehow along the way, he managed to get along with everyone and they ended up forming this unbreakable bond, which was touching in a sense. What made me quite upset with him was how he decided to dictate his sister’s life just because he was the older brother. He kept forcing her to get married and all, not allowing her to choose her own path. Sure, he felt guilty and was trying to make up for not being there for her since ages ago. Yet, that wasn’t a good excuse. She almost married that one so-called “model” citizen and got herself killed if she didn’t pull those tricks. So, I guess, what I was trying to say was his overly traditional ways just rubbed me wrong. It gave off major controlling vibe and made him so unreasonable. Not to mention how I could just say he was just trying to get rid of her by marrying her off to some dude. I know it wasn’t, but the way he kept pushing was super annoying. And when I thought I was done with tearing his character apart, I found more. Yes, you would think I was done. But the part where the guys found out how Cheung Sing got Yan Mei Neong pregnant, he lectured Cheung Sing, which he had the right to because he cared. However, what he said along the way made me wanted to scream. He said it was all right that Cheung Sing “went out to play yet can’t invest real emotions into it” aka he approved cheating. Such a traditional type of thinking that made it infuriating. Yeah, you’re all like it fitted with the era because of their old views. But it was a never-changing element in series–regardless of ancient or modern backdrop–that made it ridiculous. He picked and chose what he wanted to follow, just like those scholars back then did. I’m not saying he was a terrible person, considering how he was a product of his time. Yet it was just something I can’t let it slide just because.
- Raymond Cho as Hung Sup Kau (熊十九). OMG, it was hilarious that he acted all brave and tough and then ran when they tried to ask him some questions. He was also quite scared of blood. Everyone had their weaknesses, but he took it to another level with his fear. It was probably created for dramatic effect and/or humor. It was somewhat of a funny character for Ray. Not to mention a major role as well. Half of the stuff he did and said got me cracking up so hard at times. He was possibly responsible for a third of the humorous scenes in the series. Well, that was until his storyline got really serious and sad–like some of them–in here. This was actually one of the worth-watching roles for Ray. Because they allowed him to perform a more complex character than just some lines here and there and then be on his way again. He could be the comedic element to the plot as an overall yet also had his own storyline as well. He was sometimes too hot-headed, but also had this righteous streak in him that was hard to just ignore. I sort of forgave him for half of the stuff he did because of his background more versus how those so-called goody two shoes scholars who were supposed to be good yet crossed lines like no tomorrow and justified it at every turn.
- Selena Li as Tou Fa (桃花) and Yan Mei Neong (殷媚娘). Like I said, her performances for both characters were impressive with showing us the differences between the sisters, etc. But it was not that necessary for her second role. Although it did carry some mysterious vibe, they didn’t have to dramatize everything and then killed off her first role just to have Kenneth’s character ended up with the second role. What is with people and their fantasy of being with twins? Yes, I said it. I’ve seen enough of those stories over the years that I’m sick and tired of the approach. They could have been twins and then have the same storyline with her being involved with the grand scheme at the end, but they could have edited out how she was also romantically involved with the same guy as her sister. Seriously? It reminded me of Into Thin Air, which they wasted time on the twins storyline as well, which ruined that series and dragged it out at the end. Although Tou Fa talked like she valued money, but she wasn’t the greedy type who took advantage of others. She knew what was hers and didn’t things without considerations. She was loud and stubborn yet her heart was just so soft at times, causing her to be taking advantage of. She was also forced into maintaining those stupid traditional values just because and it ended up reducing her role to a doormat. That was why it was even more frustrating to see her character die just like that. Yan Mei Neong somehow repented later yet I felt she sure was let off so easily. She harmed so many people and caused so much conflict yet did like one or two things before she was forgiven. Amnesia also aided greatly for her to have a start over. It also made the ending scene ten times more pathetic. And oh yeah, as I looked back for this review, I realized something. Her character could be an intense version of both Cau Yuet and Dong Yee. Why did I say that? Come on, that case was really small, but Dong Yee disregarded her good sisters’ warning and wanted to sold the info to the highest bidder. She was an immature compared to Yan Mei Neong , so obviously, she was brought down too easily. But the concept was still the same with wanting to sell information to get rich. The Cau Yuet element was, of course, the part that was romantically linked to Cheung Sing. However, Cau Yuet had more right to be around and making ruptures in Chueng Sing’s life than Yan Mei Neong. Because she was part of his past, come on. She was dubbed as a third-party because he was married already at that point YET the complexity of the past chapter made more sense if she were to show up and demand answers. Yet somehow, Mei Neong was forgiven and gotten a fresh start over? Well, we never did know what became the life of Cau Yuet except she left (and was fortunate enough to be a life and have afresh start), but I would rather they develop more to that story than tried to recrate that element in here and drag it out.
- Lau Kong as Fun Nam Tin (鳳南天). Their all fierce leader, but could be quite soft-hearted at times too–when it came to their little group. However, it was revealed later that he had a hidden agenda. It sure threw me off all right. He was a secret agent for a rival country. So, that was a real kick all right. It made sense since Lau Kong wouldn’t portray such a tamed role in such an intense series. Of course, he had to take part in the final episodes to crank up the hype and also the force they needed to end the series on a high note.
- Eric Li as Seh Bak Nin (佘百年). Trapped in a forever villain cycle, of course, he had to take on the villainous role once again, lol. Poor Eric. But I guess someone had to do it. However, that didn’t mean he slacked off on his acting. Although he was petty in many ways and was jealous of Cheung Sing, Eric brought out the character quite well, allowing the audience to see what type of struggles he was going through. The part where he thought he was doing his best to prove himself, but found out he was just a replacement for someone else was quite heartbreaking. He turned down many opportunities to stay behind, showing his loyalty to them yet couldn’t be compared to someone else who wasn’t around. It sure hurt. In a way, he wasn’t a typical villain as his usual role was with loving to torture others or a spoiled young master. It showed he had a life goal and somehow it showed his journey to going down a less than favorable path later on. Somewhata halfway complex villain since it showed his struggles at first yet totally sent him on a downward spiral that led to becoming a typical villain, getting rid of everyone who was in his path.
- Candy Cheung as Ma Wan Ling (馬雲苓) / Kwan Chiu (關超). She rubbed me the wrong way from the start. I got it, she had a tough childhood and it made sense she became that way. But I didn’t have to like her. It somewhat improved later just because other elements in the story annoyed me more, lol, so she was let off.
- Aurora Li as Mo (舞). At first, I thought it was kind of cool sto see another female agent among the group. I was all right with her competitive streak at times and her pride in her capabilities. After all, she did work hard for it. So, that wasn’t a turn off. However, she lost points with me after she made fun of Yeung Lau for being conned by the other dude. Because that was personal attack and pettiness that didn’t sit well with being a special agent. It made her gossipy and ridiculous. The irony? She also got conned by a man, and the worst part? She lost her life. To clarify, I wasn’t celebrating her death, just thought how funny in the most twisted way that her ending was even worse than she criticized others for.
- Ram Chiang as Emperor Chiu Juk Hei (皇上趙旭熹). Goofy emperor role. I would say he was born in the wrong time. Because he was too simple-minded for such circumstances. Well, his heart was in the right place. But he just didn’t have what it took to rule over so many complex parties and their different agendas. If he had a great group of advisors, it could work. However, those were my initial optimistic point of view. Because this emperor sure deserved all the things done to him. Seriously, he was easily swayed and easily conned. He always fell into others’ traps yet never learned anything. He lacked critical thinking skills severely yet thought he was talented. He often listened to whoever he thought made sense, not thinking for himself. Sure, some traps were so elaborate and complex. Yet, I thought he would at least learn after some stuff he went through. Yet no, he just kept getting worse and worse. It took Yan Mei Neong’s secret message for him to turn around. Seriously. Even if he ended up faking his death to live a simple life at the end, I still couldn’t forgive him completely. But I guess it was about time he stepped down. He really wasn’t suitable to be a king regardless. It was better for him to have that little escape plan via Chuen Kung’s conspiracy.
- Mary Hon as Empress Dowager Gung Shun Bik (太后公孫璧). I knew she was up to no good. Mary delivered flawlessly, of course. Was there ever doubt? She got it down. Whether it was the arrogance, the cunning nature, the royal air, she nailed it. She brought the character alive through her performance. Not to mention the turn around later that made it convincing. I guess in a way, she was just arrogant and wanted to rely on her family background to maintain her lavishing lifestyle. Because she didn’t approve of the fourth prince’s attempt to overthrow the useless king either. At least, not at first when she found out. Later, she showed legit concern for him, even if she didn’t have to.
- Cheung Kwok Keung as Fourth Prince Chiu Chun Dhun (四王爺趙存端). No surprise he had to be the evil character again, lol. It just felt a bit repetitive. But he did well. At first, I was rolling my eyes at his list of excuses to snatch the crown for himself. Yet by the time the ending conflicts rolled around, I realized how right he was. The other dude wasn’t suitable to be king at all, only knew how to play and stuff, not taking things seriously. So, of course, I didn’t blame him when he said he didn’t want to help. Why should he? The real reason was, he was already carrying out secret missions via his extensive network. He was just messing around with Chuen Kung when Chuen Kung sought him out for help. It was hilarious really. Come on, no one got hurt, right? It was also strange how they were all uniting to fight outside forces near the end. And somehow, he got his wish with becoming the king at long last. Yet it seemed like he also learned a cold, hard lesson after having at the temple for a while. It gave him a lot of time to reflect while he was away from all that power.
- Law Lok Lam as Hung Fung (熊峰). Hung Sup Kau’s father. I felt bad for him. His son kept blocking his path whenever he scored some big deal or was going to engage in some side business, lol. He was one of my favorite characters in here because he wasn’t fake. He might be rouge, hot-headed, slick with his moves to stay under the radar, whatever. But at least, he didn’t act all goody-two shoes either. Half of his businesses around town showed his power and his influence. Yet he actually showed up when it mattered.
- Yoyo Chen as Cau Yuet (秋月). Chu Cheung Sing’s ex-lover. I do feel bad for her. Seriously, how many times did she have to get conned? If one looked at the current situation, one would say she was despicable to try to get together with a married man. However, that was her history, her past with him. She thought she had a second chance–after her tragedies–to reunite with the one she loved. However, she was used as a pawn to solve a case. I thought that she was brushed aside so easily and the scriptwriters downplayed the situation major time just to excuse the main guy’s behaviors. If anyone wanted to have some type of love triangle in here, her character was it. Possibly put in the struggle of seeing a past lover again and his love for his wife, NOT conjuring up the twins sisters fantasy with that triangle at the end. However, the writers just decided it was a good idea to use Cau Yuet and acted like she was the problem. Yoyo isn’t on my top list of a favorite actress, but seriously, the writers did her character an injustice that I couldn’t let go hence affecting my opinions of other characters as well, namely the main couple.
- Charmaine Li as Dong Yee (冬兒). He killed her supposed “good sister” because she wanted to sell the country’s secret for money instead of handing it over to the proper channels thus helping the country. It was indeed scary. Well, we all need money to live, but she sure took it to another level. Even if she didn’t care for the country or whatever, she could have considered her good sister and all they’ve been through together. Instead, she chose to betray them for a little money.
- Jess Sum as Chun Mui (春梅).
- Kibby Lau as Ha Lin (夏蓮).
- Iva Law as Lee Gwai Lan (李桂蘭).
- Matthew Ko as Chu Yuk Lau (朱玉樓). I thought it was all downward for him at this point. It was like there was a time when had more favorable roles. Yet now he was back to portraying despicable smaller characters. Acting wise, I thought he had already made some sort of progress, not so wooden like he once did with his old vicious roles, so I guess it wasn’t really a miss. His character? I already suspected him when he browsed the brothels. Yeah, judging him. But if he was indeed a poor scholar trying to make a name for himself, why was he visiting brothels? He had to focus on his studies and much more. That detail stuck out like a sore thumb. When I watched it for the first time, I thought perhaps, they were trying to mimic another element of those classic stories about scholars meeting an artisan or something. Yet it was soon revealed that he was just some despicable person who thrived on his cons. It actually fitted with pointing out those fake individuals who were good at disguising themselves.
- Raymond Chiu as Dai Ho Yan (戴浩仁). One of the suitors that Chuen Kung set up for Kwan Chiu. I thought he just had a very small role since they were just playing tricks on him to get him to back off, etc. However, he became a key character in a case later on. He sure was creepy all right. I just thought that he was one of those typical spoiled, arrogant kid. However, he was so cruel, ruthless even, willing to go to the extreme for his greed and selfishness. Appearing in such a brief case, he performed well, carrying through that character with the right touch.
- Sam Tsang as Chan Gut (陳吉) and Chan Lei (陳利). Another pair of twins for the story. Chen Gut was a conman who posed as a Taoist and was in conspiracy with the empress dowager and the fourth prince in order to dethrone the king by making it look like the king was superstitious and unreasonable, etc. I haven’t watched Sam in an ancient series for a while now and at first, I felt it was such a shame he had to portray such a role. But once again, I guessed someone had to do it, so yeah. It was obvious he ran a cult-like religious group and attempted to influence the citizens through cheap tricks and deception. His unrealistic principles and commandments made it so obvious that he was up to no good. Chuen Kung was right that only the weak-minded were susceptible to his schemes. Then as the plot moved forward and how Sam got an opportunity to portray double roles as well, that cranked my interest up a bit. Chen Lei, unlike his twin brother, was just a normal person who lived a simplistic life by working hard. It was revealed that he knew of his brother’s deeds but did not interfere. He was later tracked down and forced to help them with exposing his brother.
- Aaryn Cheung as Hak Ci (客似).
- Johnathan Cheung as Prince of Jurchen Kingdom (金國太子).
- Jimmy Au as General Fu Man (撫蠻將軍). He was in charge of the cannon ammunition. He only appeared in the last part of the series but played a major role in turning the events around to their advantage.
Relationships – family, friends, romances, etc.:
- Kenneth/ Chu Cheung Sing and Selena/ Tou Fa. I only acknowledge this couple–even though both characters were portrayed by Selena. Because like I said above, I don’t care for writers’ attempt to fulfill twins’ fantasy once again. That means, in my mind, I edited out that part when thinking of this series if I ever go back to watch it again. Anyway, Kenneth and Selena proved their chemistry as they portrayed husband and wife this time. Both were hilarious in their roles and matched very well. They weren’t just a typical silly couple. That was just the surface. They supported each other through different trials. Yet still learned to maintain a positive attitude each time. That was until the writers went crazy and decided to introduce other formulas into it to tear them apart (aka killing her). She seemed silly on the surface, but understood him very well and actually supported him in returning to become an agent for the special agency. She knew he loved doing that, so encouraged him on. It was obvious that he loved her dearly and would do anything to protect her.
- Pierre/Ngau Dai Lik and Rosina/ Yeung Lau. They were surprisingly an interesting pairing. I enjoyed watching their scenes together. I guessed they represented the bickering couple in here. Because at first, they didn’t really get along, clashing at almost every circumstance. The only reason why they hadn’t killed each other yet was because they needed to cooperate in order to complete their missions. It wasn’t like they always fought. Because when it came to the most important matters, they had the same mentality. So that helped them with achieving their goals. Or like that one time when they all kept the secret with the others in regard to that one couple eloping.
- Kenneth, Rosina, Piere, and Power as a team. I really liked seeing them work together. First, they clashed and all. Yet they learned that each and every one of them had a righteous streak in them, so they took that as a good sign and worked more smoothly together. They all learned and grew throughout the events of the stories and cases and eventually becoming almost like family. Their bonds were convincing as the story unfolded with different events happening throughout.
- Law Lok Lam/Hung Fung and Raymond Cho/ Hung Sup Kau as father and son. It was hilarious to watch to them. They couldn’t be more different. Sup Kau was sooo naive regarding the different deals his father had been carrying on. He thought it was so simple, but that was far from the truth. He had a righteous heart yet seemed to be born on the wrong side hence kept sabotaging his father’s efforts by accident. I sort of felt bad for the father, lol. All in all though, I enjoyed their strange father and son relationship. Both were equally stubborn, so I guess they had that as a similar trait yet it wasn’t a good one to both have, considering how extreme it could get with their arguments.
- Cases. The variety of cases were interesting enough to keep the series going and allowed us to understand the characters more and more through their interactions with others or how they approached the events throughout.
- Humor. The light jokes here and there cushioned some of the seriousness of the events. However, I thought only the side jokes from some characters made it bearable while others could be too much at times. If only they kept it somewhat consistent with some characters instead of trying to put everything in the mix. It felt somewhat bloated at times. So yeah.
- Twins sisters’ love triangle element. Yes, I had to placed it in here as well and continue my petty rants, lol. Again, like I said above, I was fine with Yan Mei Neong being there and her involvement in the major plot later on. I just didn’t like the repetitive formula of having them being involved with the same guy–like many past series had approached it. Just stop it already. It had already been done to death. If I didn’t know better, I would say one of the writers had an eye for his sister-in-law hence using this opportunity to write such a twist in here to fulfill his fantasy. Yes, they (the writers) placed the formula in here, so don’t blame me for thinking that.
- The importance of having children. Seriously, typical plot formula with forcing couples to have kids just because some bloodline stuff. Although it was more realistic with placing in this bit, considering how it was in the ancient times after all. However, it made for a major turn off for me. I rather they had kids because the wanted kids and NOT because of some duty or obligation they had to fulfill. It would have been even better if for once, they didn’t want kids and were fine with it than forcing the whole concept through. It was just a typical formula that continued to define marriage as an overall and women’s roles in general. (Despite Kwan Chiu’s hidden agenda, she was right when she questioned her so-called “brother” about a woman’s role and what they could and could not do. Granted, it was the ancient times YET she broke past the barriers with her questions.) Well, it was just pure entertainment so I shouldn’t be so bitter about it. But it was a shame that no matter, TVB could never break out of the mold. Also, this was the other reason why I hated that the twins having a link to one guy. Because it seemed like it was compensating for the main guy by giving him a kid later on, just like he wanted thus reducing the second twin role to nothing more than an incubator. Yes, I said it. I’m so done. I just didn’t see the point. Why can’t the writers just leave the story at that after Cheung Sing proved that he didn’t care for the baby thing and somehow they just found their way back to one another? Or just plain scrap that storyline altogether since they couldn’t commit with addressing the no baby situation.
- Ripped off of Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber formula. I’m talking about how Yan Mei Neong made Chu Cheung Sing promised to do three things for her. Seriously, it wasn’t like Jin Yong invented it with the whole making promises thing. But he made it famous through his works. It continued to repeat through various series already. But because of how overused it had become, it made me even more annoyed hence it gave me even more ammo to attack the plot in general.
- Assassins turned special agency theme. I read somewhere regarding how it was supposed to be a group of assassins instead of special guards. They actually filmed the promo clip as such. However, it was changed into a similar format as the four great detective guards that Wen Rui An created. Although the current story was considered decent, it was a shame that they couldn’t go with the original theme. Because the four detective guards type of plotline had already been portrayed numerous times already. It would have been interesting to see a group of assassins being the highlight of the series. Talking about the inspiration of the four detective guards, I found it funny that the four main characters were crippled by circumstances near the end yet it took Hung Fung to take some actions within his group. The point? Law Lok Lam portrayed Leng Xue in the ATV version of the four great detective guards, lol. In fact, he was my favorite Leng Xue till this day. No one else had lived up to it, only close second, but that was about it. Well, Hung Fung wasn’t the mastermind behind it, but at least, they needed his group to help as far as resources were needed.
- The irony of getting rid of the fourth prince and then needing to seek him out later. Anyone seen that one coming? Well, the first time around I watched, of course I didn’t. But I had to laugh at it when watching the second time around, realizing what was going on. The impact of the later events made it seemed like so tamed with the fourth prince’s schemes.
- The ending. Halfway satisfied actually. Regarding the royal conflicts and various power grabs, it wrapped up fine. The dissatisfaction was obviously coming the fact that the writers killed Tao Fa and turned the romance part regarding Cheung Sing into a joke. So, by that time, I only cared about Yeung Lau and Dai Lik.
Recommended? Once again, I think if you like the main cast, you would love it. And of course, no one is as stingy as like me to notice some stuff, so I think it was a success overall. Hey, I actually watched it a second time to do this review. So, that said something.