Ghost Dragon of Cold Mountain

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.

Main Cast:

  • 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.

Supporting:

  • 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).

Others:

  • 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.

Likes:

  • 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.

Dislikes:

  • 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.

Discussions:

  • 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.

Rear Mirror

I only wanted to catch this because of Wayne Lai. And no, it wasn’t because of the talk about how he might be getting TV King again. OR something. But it was more like I haven’t watched anything TVB-related for a while so I thought I pick two series up–just for kicks. (The other one, which I started out first, was Black Heart, White Soul.) How was it? It started out fine, I guess. But I think it eventually went downhill. Or it was me being picky again.

Main Cast:

  • Wayne Lai as Sunday Kei Yat Sing (祈逸昇). Okay, I liked his character. But I think it wasn’t a breakthrough role for him or anything. Yet I liked it that he was not stupid in here, especially the part where he already knew Ah Mong wasn’t his kid. He just wanted to protect the kid after the initial shock and anger, knowing the kid was innocent. I felt it would be too dumb if he didn’t know since all the blood tests, etc, after all these years and the constant hospital trips. I also liked that he was capable of defending himself–both physically and intellectually. However, I felt his character was somehow like it was in Off Peddar, minus having the kid.
  • Louisa So as Anson Yiu Ngai Yan (饒毅昕). She finally returned to the main lead status? Or something? Yeah, I missed some gaps so not sure. But she was all right. She was able to convince me when she was fierce or finally relaxed near the end with learning to take it easy and able to put down her worries, etc. I guess the reason why they didn’t throw her under the bus for being an ambitious person was saying how she didn’t want to be in the situation, it was just that she had to take over the company for her father’s sake. And she was the main lead, can’t pick on her too much, except throwing in some constant obstacles here and there to move the plot along. So they chose to throw Bevis under the bus for making him unreasonable and clingy. (I hated that Bevis threw the ultimatum at her too but it was just part of the plot, didn’t make sense.)
  • Tony Hung as Ivan Yiu Chi Hau (饒至孝). I don’t remember if I’ve seen him before. Must have but because I haven’t watched anything TVB-related recently so I forgot. But I guess he was all right. I actually liked his character as a standalone, NOT with Natalie. Sounds harsh, but I thought he was fine as a character within the Yiu clan and finally earning acceptance from his father. That was nice. I didn’t think they need to add romance to everything.
  • Natalie Tong as Mui Man Kwan (梅敏君) aka MK. I swear if the next person who tells me how underrated Natalie is will get it in the face. I’ve been seeing lots and lots of her second lead roles so it’s not like she’s underrated OR anything. At least it seemed second lead to me. Managed to almost always win the second lead guy. I got it that she was better than her sister for not pulling some despicable card and I got it that they need to make her character different, feisty but could be quite considerate. I got all those. Just that it was like the majority of her roles of recent. Always snappy on the surface yet could be quite nice. I’m just plain bored. Are we done with those yet? I didn’t feel anything for her character although they made it interesting enough. It was just me.

Supporting Cast:

  • Yiu Family
    • Chung King Fai as Yiu Siu Bong (饒兆邦). He was indeed cunning. Yet it made sense after all these years in the industry. The ending twist proved it all. However, I guess he couldn’t win over aging. Or perhaps it was better for him now? Living a carefree life? Sort of.
    • Lau Kong as Yiu Siu Wing (饒兆榮). I swear he was supposed to be the main villain. The twist made his previous actions a lot more forgiving. And made the rest of us realize things weren’t always how they looked.
    • Susan Tse as Gu Suk Yin (顧淑賢). She’s really getting typecast nowadays. But I will have to accept it anyway. Yet I swear her being forgiven so easily made me feel like Qiong Yao had somehow taken over the production and turned it into some soapy message about “forgiveness and letting go of revenge.” Sure, she did take care of Anson all these years, and seeing her cry made it okay to forgive her and justify her actions? Killing your mom (robbing your mom the chance to see you grow up) and then raising you would still qualify as earning points? WOW! Really? Well, the whole forgiveness thing made it easier for them to get along as one happy family. But seriously lacked in the reality department. Anson was seriously a goddess for being able to let go like that. (Yeah, that was sarcasm. I’m not saying it’s impossible to forgive someone. BUT I swear it seemed too unconvincing.)
    • Mary Hon as Elaine Fong Yi Ling (方綺鈴). She was sure petty but realized later on how Anson wasn’t the scheming type and really treated them like family.
    • Benjamin Yuen as Jason Yiu Ngai Chung (饒毅忠). The more capable one of the two mishaps in the family. His credibility sure ranked higher than his brother, and his intelligence was on a higher scale as well. Yet his mother’s words and his jealousy got the better of him. Until he realized how fair Anson was with letting him oversee some projects because of his experiences and capabilities.
    • Stanley Cheung as Ryan Yiu Ngai Suan (饒毅信). The player of the family. He sure was annoying. Always causing trouble. It wasn’t until near the end that he realized his wrong ways.
  • Kei Family
    • Lily Leung as Pauline Tse Hau Lin (謝巧蓮). She sure was easy. I meant like how she didn’t mind that MK was staying with them. If it was any other traditional women, they would react differently. I guess that broke the norm. She didn’t mind that Ah Mong wasn’t her real great-grandson either. Perhaps it was after all these years of living together and bonding. Yet it wasn’t like she wasn’t heartbroken with realizing how despicable the kid’s mother was.
    • Elaine Yiu as Mui Man Yee (梅敏儀). The question I have here is: How long is TVB going to throw her under the bus? I swear, when her acting was just so-so, they let her star in stuff. Then dragged her down to play villain/semi-villain roles or annoying roles when she finally could be considered as a good actress. Not everyone could be a good person in the plot. YET I swear I’m getting tired of seeing how she kept getting annoying roles just because the character was ambitious. It was like against the law or something to be ambitious. Like each of her roles now consisted of ambitious and then added in with the formula of cunning, despicable, and then you have it, it was her fault all along. I meant I got it that her character was despicable. YET I swear I didn’t blame her when she wanted to go out and help Sunday with work and stuff. So he was going the typical traditional route with wanting her to stay home and take care of the kid and him being the bread-earner. YET it wasn’t helping her cause with feeling helpless at home. Yeah, I got it that they turned the plot into her being a scheming woman after all the failed attempts of meeting other men in her life hence saying her choice was wrong all along. But because I’ve been through suffocating moments of being trapped at home for an extended time before, I understand the helplessness. It wasn’t like she wanted it to be that way. It just happened. YET this time, the plot wasn’t in her favor. They made her the monster for wanting to go against the norm and offering ‘help’. It turned for the worst because she left, etc. And what puzzled me the most was the inconsistency throughout. Perhaps I’m biased because Elaine portrayed the role YET I wasn’t quite convinced as to why she turned out that way. Again, it’s always hard to predict human reactions to situations and how just because we believe someone is or isn’t capable of something doesn’t mean they couldn’t. BUT I swear some things were missing for me to get that she was despicable. Although the plot had told me so, I was still rolling my eyes and realizing some of the things just didn’t stick.
    • Yiub Cheng as Kei Mong (祈望). Cute kid.
  • Hung Family
    • Amy Fan as Hung Lai Sa (洪麗莎). Funny character. She was actually my favorite female character in here. Okay, Louisa’s Anson was cool (CEO and all, go get ’em, right?), but I liked Lai Sa the most because she was just hilarious and lovable in one package. She was soooo silly at times too.
    • Ronald Law as Hung Tze Long (洪子朗). I felt like he got robbed. I’m sooo serious. I really liked his character in here and felt it had potential for some development yet he was used as a tool to get MK and Ivan together. That was it. Because we learned that he was Lai Sa’s young brother–with a great sense of humor–and he was a cop. A funny character. Somewhat bordering on annoying (according to his sister, lol, since he kept sabotaging her). Yet he was also a kind and nice person. He wasn’t a doormat though since he had his own limits. He was also quite intelligent and was quite observant (obviously) from various signs he saw at times with others, and especially MK later on. He didn’t get to do anything else with his ‘police’ status and was only brushed aside to appear from time to time to cheer MK up–or talk randomly with the others. It wasn’t like everyone had to have an important role in here, but I felt if anyone’s character was to be developed further, it should be his.
  • Yiu Gong Building Materials Corp.
    • Ram Tseung as Yue Dai Chi (余大智). Mr. Yiu Siu Bong’s trusty assistant. Used to be the old man’s driver but got promoted. He was seriously cunning at times yet had to take the second seat to Sunday after Sunday joined the company. It was somewhat hilarious to see him trying to up Sunday. Yet he had to admit defeat later. It was somewhat annoying seeing how he was picking on Sunday at times. But that passed when he finally realized Sunday wasn’t the bad guy like he dubbed Sunday out to be.
    • Li Shing Cheong as Po Yung Jun (蒲勇進). Sunday’s friend. He was really funny! A loudmouth and busybody. I got annoyed at him sometimes for being so nosy too. But in a sense, he was loyal to Sunday. What was funny was that he portrayed Wayne’s master in Rage and Passion years back but now was his buddy and seemed to be under the latter’s command, lol.
    • Cheung Kwok Keung as Ben Shum Bok Man (沈博文). The main villain of the story–though it wasn’t revealed until like near the end. Well, sure, he was a businessman. We learned that throughout he could be fierce and ruthless, etc. Yet he was in the middle, for the most part, he needed convincing at times. It turned out he was the one everyone should be watching out for. However, I felt his demise was so fast. It was two seconds later and then he was off again. It wasn’t like I wanted to see the dragged-out plot. Because leaving his motive in the dark until the end sort of helped with the shock factor. Yet it went from “OMG, he’s actually the cunning one, shouldn’t have overlooked him (aside from the whole scheme with wanting to steal his son back)” to “Loser, idiot, your two seconds in the sun wasn’t worth it.” Yeah, that was how I felt. If they cut out some other stuff, they could’ve developed some more side stories like a little more battle between the two sides. Like he wasn’t going to go down after one hit. His brief triumph made us realize how cunning Mr. Yiu was, but it made things worse by making him look too silly. So Mr. Yiu had more experience and was able to win with his patience and careful planning, but so what? That didn’t mean he had to go down in such a pitiful way. Then I was wondering how he could let go of his son sooo fast. I meant okay, I got that he was feeling hopeless about how the kid was clinging onto Sunday so he didn’t have a chance AND it seemed like a better choice to trade the kid for his chance to control the Yiu’s company. However, it felt loose with how he had lost a son in the past and wanted someone to take over his empire later when he was gone. Sure, he told Anson that she was stupid for believing his stories YET I swear at least some of it had to be true.
    • Man Yeung as Fei (輝).
    • Jennifer Shum as Cindy.
    • Kibby Lau as Jojo.
    • Paco Ali Lee as Yuen Ka Bo ( 阮嘉寶). Psycho. I seriously felt like she had no purpose to be around, except to pull Ivan and MK together (aka realizing their feelings for one another, etc)–and yeah, just like how Ronald’s character was, just there to help move MK and Ivan together. ‘Cause they didn’t really explain why she became such a psycho. OR not even a side story into her background. Providing the reason with how she liked spicy stuff and loved scary things wasn’t that convincing or helpful. People who liked scary movies or like going to scary fun houses DO NOT EQUAL PSYCHO. And sure, there could never be a reason to actually explain people’s behaviors. Yet I felt like they just made her up and then tossed her down along with the other female cast in here just so some people could come out much nicer.
    • Brian Chu as Andy.
    • Kyle Tse as Derek.
    • Leo Lee as CK.
    • Dolby Kwan as Leo.
    • Eddie Ho as George.
    • Calvin Chan as France.
    • Burmie Wong as Joyce.
    • Ip Ting Chi as Dora.
    • Albert Lo as Lawyer Yip (葉律師).

Others:

  • Geoffrey Wong as Bevis Fong Tin Hang (方天恒). OMG, they threw him under the bus YET again. I don’t know. Maybe I’m not watching the right series, but the ones I saw of him since TVB days have been SAD. NOT in the sense of his character, but he kept getting those repeated roles and eventually will have to step aside. The only exception was Come Home Love. Minus that, his character made me want to hit him over the head with something at times. Seriously? It made it unbelievable that they knew and dated each other all these years YET he couldn’t see what was going on? It was like leaving her in a time of need and it proved they couldn’t pass the test. Sure, I got it that there could be soooo many times he could wait and keep delaying to meet with her schedule, and he had to face his family too. Yet he seemed oblivious to what was going on in the family OR something. ‘Cause how could she go? Perhaps they were just wrong for each other because they couldn’t see eye to eye on things, I could accept that. But it seemed ridiculous that he justified his recent engagement by explaining to her everything, etc. Seriously? It made it worse and less convincing.
  • Steve Lee Ka Ding as Ha San Fu (夏山虎). It’s another gangster role for him. Yet I felt like it was soooo anti-climatic. Sure, everyone can’t be in the important scenes and all. But I swear I thought he would play a bigger role in the feud later on. Like how triads could be involved within all those business messes and all.
  • Bing Man Tam as Bing Suk (炳叔). Um, no surprise of his role. I’ve seen him in villainous roles in the past and also those despicable ones so I wasn’t surprised. His sole purpose was to make people’s lives miserable in here–to aid his cause. It wasn’t like he was all good now that Anson saved his life. He just wanted to revenge against the other lady for causing his ‘near-death’ incident.
  • Andy Sui as Wai (維).
  • Nicole Wan as Bertha.
  • So Lai Ming as Ada.
  • Louis Szeto as Lun (倫).
  • Kevin Lee as Fei Ying (飛鷹). A bully. Well, he was a triad member under Ha San Fu’s command. But it was indeed funny to see him trying to apologize to Ah Mong later on.
  • Raymond Tsang as Brother Leong (良哥).
  • Kedar Wong as Kwok Ga Hei (郭家禧).
  • Hinson Chou as Ah Dong (阿東). His sole purpose was to introduce MK into the story. Then there was also the whole picking on Taiwanese again. Seriously.

Relationships – Romances, friendships, etc

  • Wayne Lai and Louisa So as a couple. They’re okay I guess. Their characters matched, of course, as the plot favored. Yet I didn’t feel as much chemistry versus his other strangely odd pairings, lol. Strange but yeah. I meant I felt sort of a bond when their “family of three” went out on a date with flying the kite and all. Yet I wasn’t sold on their pairing in general regarding Wayne and Louisa. Interesting, when I read that it was their collaboration after 10+ years, but when I remembered their scenes in “Journey to the West”, it was indeed funny how things turned out.
  • Wayne Lai and Yiub Cheng as father and son. I so felt their bond. It was touching in many ways. It was one of those cases that illustrated how it wasn’t just about “blood thicker than water” OR whatever they always shoved in our faces. It was about the love and care they have for one another, and the time spent together. Not just some ‘bribes’ from some people then the kid was gone. (Then they packaged it as “blood thicker than water.”)
  • Wayne Lai and Elaine Yiu as a couple. Not in the millions of years would I thought of them together. But they were actually convincing for me in the flashbacks. I actually liked their story in King Maker and felt it was a shame how things turned out. (YES, against her favor again–although that one made more sense why she turned psycho later on). The flashbacks were the reasons why I wasn’t convinced as to how she could change like that. Sure, people change, and they couldn’t stay innocent and/or naive like that forever. But I was a sucker for their story. I believed her when she said she was suffering from depression after giving birth, but the rest of the plot just went downhill with killing her character because she chose to flee. (I was upset too after realizing she left through some recounts. Yet the flashbacks didn’t help. They used a real medical situation and twisted it to make her character wrong so I didn’t like that. It was like they were trying to say all those symptoms were made-up. What made the plot weak was how it made her seek out other men later and realize only Sunday was a decent man and she was wrong. She needed a break from all the madness of being trapped in the house, by adding the whole she ran off and met other men along the way was just to kill her character even more.) I’m not saying people don’t make up stuff like they’re sick or crazy to get away with stuff, BUT by adding in real symptoms at first and then just plain tossed that aside and deciding to make her a monster for running away and ignore those stuff just made it become disorganized and unconvincing.
  • Wayne and Amy? I can’t say that they’re a couple because she never had a chance. But I swear I could see some sparks between them more than Wayne and Louisa. Or maybe it was just me. Character-wise, they probably clashed too much–as seen already. Or perhaps it was because the main female lead had to win so that was how it was. Because if the circumstance was different, it could be opposites attract. She did try to cheer him up at times, etc. But whatever. I could dream.
  • Wayne and Ronald as friends. I really liked their friendship although brief exchanges at times. Yet I was more convinced than some dragged-out relationships in here. I wish it could develop more than just that. But perhaps because it was short so it was memorable and bearable? Or perhaps because they were true friends so they didn’t need to say much? But they were there whenever that was needed?
  • Li Shing Cheong and Amy Fan. They were funny all right. I said at the beginning–after witnessing their constant bickering: It would be funny if they ended up together. And they did. Which was funny in a sense. Because they were really going after one another’s throats at the beginning and all. I loved watching them more than the other pairings in here combined. NOT kidding.
  • Tony Hung and Natalie Tong as a couple. I guess they do work. However, I swear I stopped caring for them in the later parts of the series. I meant I wasn’t even interested at all because it had started out as one-night stand (accidentally–YET AGAIN like a typical formula), and later they cleared it up, then somehow along the way realized they were meant for each other after some stuff happen. That was it. I was bored. Sure, people are saying I’m heartless or sooo unromantic or stuffs like that. But I didn’t even care about their pairing at all.
  • Tony Hung – Natalie Tong – Ronald Law – Paco Ali Lee. I swear Tze Long was a lot luckier than Ka Bo. Because he got to let go and play the “bigger” person or “do the right thing” as most plots would say. ‘Cause she seemed really petty and all later on. I swear again, it seemed so unconvincing. Or perhaps if they show more of her story or past, I would be more convinced. Yet it was like Tze Long needed to let go, Ka Bo needed to storm off angry so Ivan and MK could finally be together. That was about it. I felt so sorry for Tze Long and Ka Bo, especially how the other two were still soooo freaking close during that one hotpot get-together (that they bumped into one another that one time). ‘Cause it was too obvious. I swear Ka Bo being pissed off was justified. One minute he claimed he loved you and confessed to you YET his actions contradicted everything. Um, sure, he was confused, but the whole thing with being so close to MK and totally tuning Ka Bo out at times make me feel like Ka Bo wasn’t paranoid with thinking something else was going on between the two. So why pave Ka Bo out to be the monster when she was as led on? Tze Long’s case, of course, was different–and because he wanted to stay friends or good brothers (as he stated during their breakup)–so they have to develop a little more to his story. Yet both cases were sad. I don’t know what to make of it with all this confusion except episode fillers. I swear! SO yeah, I got it that Ivan and MK were part of the main cast so it made sense to focus on them, BUT I’ve never seen a more boring story. It was tossed together to have another type of romance just because they were one of the main couples. I know that feelings couldn’t be forced, so it was all right with MK not liking Tze Long. But what I do mind was seeing how MK used Tze Long as a lifesaver. Sure, she might be touched that he cared for her all these years, but it could be the alcohol doing the thinking for her at the moment SO why was she doing that to him? Because it was like she lost her chance with Ivan hence just grabbing onto to Tze Long. She was his friend/good brother after all, why do that to him?
  • Louisa – Tony – Benjamin – Stanley/ Anson – Ivan – Jason – Ryan. I felt their bond near the end when they were gathered in the kitchen and cooked together, reminiscing about old times. So it seemed like they weren’t that bad after all. At least for the other two. Then it implied that their bond wasn’t that terrible. It was just that growing up had caused a lot of complications, and how their mothers had influenced some of their scheming nature as well.

Discussions:

  • The Ending. Seriously, I have never seen any final battles soooo anti-climatic in my life. Sure, it provided a twist in the end, allowing us to see how cunning Mr. Yiu Siu Bong was–with setting the trap for Ben. However, I felt like it was sooooooooo boring. It was like, “Whoa!” and then it went down to the gutter seconds later. (Yeah, like how I said in the character discussion.)
  • Was I sore with how MK didn’t end up with Tze Long hence throwing Natalie/MK under the bus? NO. Seriously, like I said, I was sick and tired of Natalie’s repetitive roles. Yet what I was more annoyed with was how they focused so much on developing the romance between Ivan and MK that the other elements of the plot had suffered. The ending becoming so anti-climatic was also due to the fact that they spent too much time on Ivan and MK. So the business battles became a side conflict. For a story starting out with business rivalry and family conflicts, it sure finished weak in regard to those matters. And just to state the romance side, I actually didn’t care for the pairings (like said before), I was okay with Tze Long not ending up with MK. Since I didn’t like her with any of the guys anyway. I actually liked Tze Long and wanted to see more of him, rather than the ongoing soap with MK and Ivan.
  • The case regarding Ah Mong. I understood that the “Social Services” people were deceived into believing Ben was the more suitable candidate for taking care of Ah Mong. However, it also made them quite stupid. I meant Sunday had been taking care of the kid for all these years, so how could he be so unprepared? Have they looked into history at all? They should’ve talked to the doctors and nurses and all those people having direct contact with the family all these years instead of just looking at that one circumstance. It seemed too ridiculous. (But seriously, there were cases in real life that had hinted at Social Services’ incapabilities so I’m not surprised on that part.)
  • No. 8 Bus? I know this is unfair to make such an association between the two dramas. Yet some of the similarities made it hard to ignore. Not to mention how the bus being part of the main theme, etc. Yet No. 8 Bus made more sense to me. I’m serious. Although it was long and seemed dragged out at times with the ongoing conflicts, at least it had a purpose. Sure, there were random moments too, but it made sense. Characters were better developed, not just tossed aside or used as plot devices and then that was it. Not everyone had to be romantically involved or hooked up to link them together.

So after all of that rant, I managed to narrow down to the main reason why it was unappealing to me. It was so unfocused. Like they were all over the place with some stuff. AND most of all, they tried to squeeze everything into the last episode to create tension and solve it within that episode. Seriously? It goes back to my previous point.

Recommended? Up to you. Perhaps, I thought too much so I didn’t enjoy it. But I will admit they have a lot of good ideas, just that they needed to pick and choose between combinations, not all over the place. I understood why Jason and Ryan didn’t get their own other stories because the focus was their frustration at the company–and at home. So I was all right with that. But I felt some characters hogged the screen too much just because. Again, it might be just me. Or it’s definitely me.

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 to 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 of 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’ means 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 latter 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 recently, 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 were 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, 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 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 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 feel 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 singing 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 by 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 by 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 happen 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 about 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 shoplifting. Sure, both could be repeated BUT shop-lifting dealt with the store’s possession versus a human being.) Regardless of the ambiguity 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 view–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 by 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 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 tell them to go with the music, etc. His talk about life wasn’t cheesy either but it made sense, incorporated 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 by 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 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 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 reunite 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 episodes 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.