(image credit: as marked)
I actually finished this like weeks ago, but haven’t gotten time to do the review. Or more like I was still digesting it. The ending was indeed choking but not too surprising, considering the era it was in. I will admit that it was actually one of the better TV series of recent, even if there were so many flaws.
- Janine Chang as Wu Xiao Qi (吳小七) aka Dong Fang Jing Qi (东方靖琪). I don’t know if Jing Qi’s too forgiving nature was her weakness or her strong sense of responsibility. I started liking her regardless of how she seemed reckless at times. Her beyond brave attitude or stubbornness–whatever you want to call it–drawn me in, because I’ve been quite turned off by characters that seemed like a doormat to other people’s attacks. As the story went on, indeed, Jing Qi at times seemed to succumb to circumstances around her yet she still seemed to shine at the right moments, not making her another weakling like others, accepting fate. Her sense of responsibilities toward the Du family–just because of what her father did and then what she later did (because of the misunderstanding)–really crammed her decisions later on. She was focused on repaying Du Yuan Shan back–for his kindness and patience with her all along, giving her a second chance, etc. That was one of the reasons why she even kept some of the secrets back and didn’t make a fuss about Ming Hai’s fake fiancee. Yet I was really mad at her for that. (Yes, I understood the stuff about saving face for the Du family but they were conned. At least Ming Hai deserved to know. Even if he was really rash and stupid at times. Or was that a better choice to conceal it since bringing Xiao Ruo Yun’s brother into the whole mess would cause more drama for the family? Even if Jing Qi didn’t know it was Xiao Jin Shui’s scheme all along, Xiao Ruo Yun was his sister so touching his sister wasn’t a good idea. Yeah, I also remember that one of the reasons for Jing Qi to reconsider the whole situation was because the fake fiancee was doing that because of her sick mother needing money and medical aid.) Anyway, Jing Qi’s character wasn’t flawless (obviously), but like I said, she rose above the obstacle when it mattered the most. She was kindhearted but wasn’t a “goody-two-shoes”, because some of the moves she made would make others whine about her being heartless or whatever. What made her admirable was how she managed to bring the Du family and others together in the end. Sure, she initially started the investigation and was accused of causing trouble for the Du family. Yet she was just thinking of the long run for the finances within the household. If some parties kept skimming the profits and lying about it, who knew what they would be eating or be able to eat if they didn’t stop those actions? So after that was figured out and all, she managed to work on getting the businesses back up and running again, and even solve some issues within the household. Even if she fell several times and even thought of leaving (because of her personal situation and was totally understandable), she still stayed and took care of matters.
- Liu Huan (刘欢) as Du Ming Hai (杜明海). The second young master of the Du family. He seriously made so many reckless moves since the beginning of the story that I once called him “The Dumbest Main Guy Ever” yet he redeemed himself later. I know no one was perfect, but I was disappointed with his moves throughout. Sure, I was touched by his protective nature of his mother and later on of Jing Qi. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t mad at him for many of his actions throughout, which were also his downfall in many ways. Perhaps, that was why his character balanced off nicely with the others? He and Ruo Yun were the hot-headed ones and Jing Qi and Zhi Yuan were the more level-headed ones. Anyway, he vouched to listen to Jing Qi yet didn’t on situations that were crucial, which had caused him to go on the road of no return. Yes, he was desperate, he wanted to save Jing Qi yet that was so frustrating with getting himself arrested too and then eventually needing Jing Qi to rescue him by sacrificing herself. Then it was all right again, but the next time Jing Qi was arrested, he went and did something reckless again. That was the time he ended up seeking help from the robbers and had to assume the leadership of the whole place. That had brought on more complications, forcing Jing Qi to use herself as a shield so he could get away and finally his downfall. What got me amazed with the script was how they managed to turn everything around and redeemed his character, showing that he had matured yet also still retained a certain humorous side of himself. He was no longer reckless, he was more calm and cautious of his actions. I was shocked that they killed him off the first time and had to get over it, knowing the plot was going in a different direction. However, I think what got me floored was killing him the second time. Sure, things didn’t look too good with them being so outnumbered. But I thought he would at least survive, even Zhi Yuan too, considering how they were the main guys. Yet the script went all out and eliminated them both.
- Duanmu Chonghui (端木崇慧) as Xiao Ruo Yun (肖若云 ). Not going to lie, I hated her so much at the beginning of the drama. It wasn’t because of her love for Ming Hai either, because I initially thought she was funny. But I found her spoiled nature intolerable. I then switched to pitying her because she was betrayed by her brother–who schemed with Du Ming Jiang to lure her into such a trap. But what shocked me into hating her totally was how she created the trap for Ming Hai and sabotaged Jing Qi completely. Sure, it was tragic that she was conned and I was waiting to see if she was able to get out of it or eventually side with her “husband” as well–whichever direction the plot was going. However, those who schemed against her wasn’t Ming Hai nor Jing Qi. She didn’t want to see Ming Hai and Jing Qi married, but she decided to betray Ming Hai’s trust like that? She became unforgivable to me at that point. Then the plot just had to go and redeem her character near the end. That was interesting and also quite convincing. I must give the writers for that since I thought I was done with her. I also thought she was going to make it to the end, despite all the rough patches along the way.
- Guo Dong Dong (郭冬冬) as Ma Zhi Yuan (马致远). The only son of the Ma family. I was initially wrong about him. Yes, he was the “Mr. Nice Guy” of the show, but he wasn’t acting entitled like some of the guys in the other dramas. He was just being himself. He did end up being the hero of many situations yet didn’t brag about it. That made him more likable. He didn’t use those times when he helped Jing Qi or others to bargain for some “advantages.” Not to mention how he didn’t guilt-trip Jing Qi or force her to accept him or marry him because of him helping her or saving her several times. Yes, he did get frustrate and point out to Jing Qi about Ming Hai’s situations when Ming Hai was finally considered part of the robbers, but I believed he genuinely worried for her. I hate to admit it but I didn’t blame him for using Jing Qi’s trip to the mountains to attack Ming Hai’s force, because he was in a really hard place, considering how the locals were calling for Ming Hai’s head and he had to be fair about it.
- Xie Yuan (谢园) as Du Yuan Shan (杜远山). The master of the Du family aka Du Ming Hai’s father. It was a misunderstanding that he was a villain at first. Yet despite all those nice things he did for others along the way, I didn’t think it was forgivable with him not interfering into the situation regarding Chun Er. Yes, he said it was in respect of He Da Lian’s duties that he left it all up to her to take care of stuffs inside the household, but it was seriously suspicious. The many tortures that the servants went through whenever He Da Lian was unhappy previously and he turned a blind eye to that? I couldn’t agree with him on that. Even if she was the one taking course of those actions, it didn’t help that he was knowingly letting it slide by.
- Tse Kwan Ho (謝君豪) as Wang Fu Gui (王富贵). The previous butler of the Du family. I hated him initially but I think it lessened a tad when I realized some of the stuffs he was doing was trying to provide a better life and support for his son, Cong Ming.
- Wang Quan You ( 王全有) as Ma Wan Nian (马万年). Ma Zhi Yuan’s father. I enjoyed watching him up until his inevitable ending. I was rather amused during his many banters with his son and even Du Yuan Shan. He made a great comedic relief for the show. That was until things got intense and he had to take the extreme measure to save his son. I will not lie, I shed tears for his tragic death.
- Jing Gang Shan (景岗山) as Wu Xiao Tian (吴啸天). Jing Qi’s adopted father. He mistakenly assumed that Du Yuan Shan was in the wrong and caused Jing Qi to go on a revenge route that almost become irreversible. Yet he didn’t do it on purpose and it was forgivable, considering how he didn’t realize Jing Qi’s father was the one betraying them all and trying to steal Du Yuan Shan’s medic manual.
- Rong Rong (荣蓉) as He Da Lian (何大莲). Du Yuan Shan’s first wife. Mixed feelings throughout. I hated her not because she was a typical stuck-up rich person, but because of her scheming against Sun Miao Han initially and wanting to kick Ming Hai out of the house for good so Ming Jiang could acquire the business. I get it that it was a scary thing with an unknown future, but those actions only prove she didn’t understand her husband. He wouldn’t let them all rot, considering how he had kept up with taking care of the household all these years. I hated also that she got away with being responsible for Chun Er’s death and tragedy. Sure, Chun Er was scheming in her own way, but that didn’t make He Da Lian any better or justify her behaviors with going to the extreme of forcing Chun Er to drink the medicine and all. She could kick her out of the resident, sure. But going to such extremes? I understood her love for Ming Jiang, but didn’t approve of her actions. But that was probably why it became an excuse for Ming Jiang regarding everything? Like it was never his fault, just others? Even if she let off on Jing Qi later, she was an in-between character for me all along. I was just glad she was no longer causing trouble–more than necessary.
- Zhou Tie (周铁) as Du Ming Jiang (杜明江) aka Dong Fang Jing Ming (东方靖鸣). The first young master of the Du family, but was later revealed as Jing Qi’s brother. He was seriously beyond help. With the comment above, of course, He Da Lian was only partially responsible for his spoiled nature. He was seriously selfish and greedy. He didn’t even consider how Du Yuan Shan had taken care of him all these years, trusted him with many functions of the family business, and even entrusted half of the fortune to him in the future. (Yes, I had to put it in since it was like a super big deal if the other oldies of the Du clan knew he wasn’t actually a “Du”, they wouldn’t approve of him.) Yet what did he do? He just thought negatively of Du Yuan Shan. He didn’t think how good he had it comparing to other kids growing up or the point he was at when he was finally all grown up. He only focused on the negative, thinking that Du Yuan Shan was a monster for punishing him. Why was he celebrating when Ming Hai was kicked out? It was only unfair when it happened to him, right? (Just for the record, I actually felt it was justified that Ming Hai was kicked out since he was causing too much trouble and had way too many mishaps. He needed to learn.)
- Zhang Rui Han (张瑞涵) as Xiao Jin Shui (肖金水). Xiao Ruo Yun’s brother. He was seriously despicable and hateful on many levels. I was waiting forever for him to receive his own karma, whatever that was going to be. It was like he never let off. He was responsible for killing some of the major characters in here. He was greedy and ruthless yet acted like it was his right.
- Liu Wei Bo (刘韦伯) as He Jia Bao (何家宝). He Da Lian’s nephew. I think I hated him more than Du Ming Jiang or Xiao Jin Shui–if that was possible. I saw no point in his character surviving for so long, except probably just to annoy? Because I understood the purpose of the other two characters. I even sympathized with the other two at one point or another yet couldn’t find it in me to understand him. He had it all with Du Yuan Shan letting him in on the family business or other matters, and he was leeching off them without needing to lift a finger just because he was He Da Lian’s nephew. So what was his excuse? Well, at least, he didn’t get away with it all.
- He Jia Yi (何佳怡) as Sun Miao Han (孙妙菡). The second wife of Du Yuan Shan, also Ming Hai and Ming Xi’s mother. I liked her initially, then she just lost my respect after asking Jing Qi to back down regarding how Ming Hai’s fiancee came back. Sure, she was siding with Jing Qi at first and wanting Ming Hai to get married since they couldn’t wait for the other family forever. That made sense. However, I think He Da Lian was right when she said, “Don’t make me clean up the mess when the other family shows up.” He Da Lian was bossy and snappy in many sense, but she was right in that Sun Miao Han was too weak at times. Yes, it was not good to break the promise of the past if the other girl was who she was and how she had turned poor already. What frustrated me was how Sun Miao Han thought she was helping yet she was too weak, forcing Jing Qi to be the one walking away–and also trying to be even stronger by staying in the end to fulfill her duties and promise to Du Yuan Shan (of taking care of the family). So when Sun Miao Han said that she treated Jing Qi like a daughter and how Jing Qi should keep the jade piece, I had a hard time believing her.
- Xie Wen Xuan (謝聞軒) as Du Ming Xi (杜明溪). Du Ming Hai’s younger sister. Unlike some of the major characters, she appeared somewhat in the middle of the story but ended up having such a great impact on the story–both good and bad. She was immature at first and hated Jing Qi because Zhi Yuan liked Jing Qi. However, her mistake was taking Ruo Yun’s joke seriously thus causing the worst for Ma Da Yuan. Sure, she didn’t know it was going to turn out that way and she didn’t do it on purpose. But I seriously didn’t think it took a genius to figure out you don’t mess with the authorities, regardless of situations. So if you want to joke around, don’t drag the local authorities in. I believed it was a plot hole because Ming Xi had studied overseas already so she already understood how to survive on her own, how could she make such a drastic mistake? Sure, sometimes people who study a lot lack a sense of reality on issues, but I thought it was too much of common sense to not touch authorities (as stated above). So yes, that was really strange that was her one mistake before she learned and grow, leading to her joining and becoming one of the members to fight against the Japanese invasion and defend her country. Aside from that, I thought the actress was cute and likable. (I just went to check since I couldn’t place her face although I knew I watched her somewhere before and indeed, she was in Gentle Mercy as He Si Si.)
- Qiu Shi Jian (邱士鉴 ) as Li Wai Bo (李歪脖). Ming Hai’s loyal assistant. I don’t want to call him “servant” because I thought he was more like Ming Hai’s good brother when Ming Hai was working at the harbor and then later following Ming Hai regardless of the situation. He was indeed loyal and had Ming Hai’s back throughout the years, even if he knew at times Ming Hai wasn’t acting on the best of ideas.
- Huang Kai Xiang (黄垲翔) as Zhou Shan Kou (周山口). I didn’t even like him from the start. Even if Ming Hai was really rude and mean to him during their first meeting. I didn’t hold it over him that Ming Hai saved him and how he liked Jing Qi. That was just him, another character that they encountered and somehow helped with their business later. But there was something really off about him that I didn’t care for, so unlike how I had changed my initial feelings for Ma Zhi Yuan. So it was just a happy coincidence–or perhaps the way he had acted that was meant to later reveal his true identity–that he was on the opposite side. Well, it wasn’t like he wanted to be since other characters in other TV dramas had been on opposing sides and chose differently. That was his country, he couldn’t change it, but what made him despicable was killing others who trusted him throughout. Other characters in other stories had been forced to be in some conspiracy before so I understand it wasn’t anything new, but I felt other characters (even weaker ones–or so it seemed) were braver than him and tried to stay out of it or tip people off. But he didn’t, he was all right with those senseless killings and betrayed his friends’ trust.
- Huang Di (黄迪) as Chun Er (春儿). He Da Lian’s maid. It wasn’t a big surprise that she wasn’t a likable character and had set out to make Jing Qi’s life miserable at one point. I didn’t like her for that or her scheming nature. At times, I didn’t blame her for wanting to secure her spot in the Du family because it was indeed scary to be married off to an old man or some other random family out there since it was a time that women didn’t have a lot of say and all, especially since she was a maid. However, I hated that she was aiding in spying on Jing Qi and causing many troubles for her. She was scared of her boss, but she could have made up some other excuses about not finding any evidence or whatever. What I actually felt sorry for her was being forced to get rid of her baby and then eventually leading to her death. Sure, she was manipulative and I knew Du Ming Jiang will never like her, but she wanted to keep her baby. She did apologize to Jing Qi in the end and even took her own life, and since Jing Qi forgave her, I didn’t hold it against her either (too late anyway).
- Tan Xue Liang (谭学亮) as Feng Xie Tou (冯铁头). Ma Zhi Yuan’s good brother from the police force. Some of the inconsistencies of his character initially made it hard to like him, but I guess when I ignored some of the stuff, it didn’t matter anymore. I guessed that he was at times torn, because he had to listen to Xiao Jin Shui to survive and retain his job hence the cruel carrying out of sentences with several parties. He was only known to be loyal to Ma Zhi Yuan and would risk his life for him. He did die bravely near the end though.
- Ou Yang Pei Long (欧阳培龙) as Chang Shou (长寿). The Du family’s loyal servant. His name was probably an irony to the character itself. Seriously, his chance of living for me was higher than some people in here yet he was killed off later. I was upset because of the person executing him, but to the story, it made sense so I wasn’t too sore. But he was probably one of my favorite characters among the major characters since he was shown to be loyal to Du Yuan Shan from the start, not betraying the household regardless. He was probably worth mentioning and worth praising more than some of the so-called hotshots in here.
- Bai Jin Cheng (白锦程) as Old Master Ma (马老太爷). Ma Wan Nian’s father and Ma Zhi Yuan’s grandfather. His death added more conflict between the Du family and the Ma family. His appearance was brief and also introduced an opportunity for Jing Qi to enter their lives at the beginning.
- Li Jun Xian (李俊贤) as Akita / Qiu Tian (秋田). Zhou Shan Kou’s uncle. He was on the opposing side and was ruthless in his techniques. He was set out to do what he was told.
- Janine/Jing Qi and Liu Huan/Ming Hai. They were cute and tragic to me. There were many funny scenes between them, even at the beginning when Jing Qi had to focus on revenge for her family. They had their arguments and all. The turnaround for Ming Hai was when she saved him from getting his hand completely chopped. He wasn’t all nice and innocent from that point on, but he had curved back on his attitude and quit his gambling. Their funny moments didn’t end there since they had other adventures too. He was often protective of her. She was touched at times, but others had to stop him when he was getting way over. That was just before the imprisonments. I didn’t think their ending was going to be that tragic. What broke my heart was when the script steered toward how he was set up with the fake fiancee. It was a very cliche plot device because many other TV series had used it before, like the whole drunk and gotten someone pregnant bit. He had never been a player and was loyal to Jing Qi YET was brought down by that scheme. It was his own fault for getting drunk–regardless if he was upset or trusted Xiao Ruo Yun too much, but did he need that lesson to learn and grow? I felt like the scriptwriters were slapping the audience at that point. The most devastating part was when Jing Qi was forced to convince Ming Hai to accept the marriage arrangement, i.e. the bicycle ride and then how she talked to him about it, knowing that she would hate herself for forcing him like that but also using herself to threaten him with, “Do you believe that I’ll leave and never come back? That means you won’t see me anymore.” She wasn’t able to take it anymore and ran off after that. He turned and yelled after her, “Why are you forcing me?” It was really heartbreaking, especially with how the ending theme song was playing in the background too. When Ming Hai appeared again years later, I thought it was finally their chance because it was never the right time for them–or so it seemed. But I was wrong. He was a lot calmer than his past rash self. I guess it was unfair to say he was stupid, but it was more like he used to be so reckless and impatient that it had caused him troubles. He was calmer later hence being able to think of better solutions or at least reconsider all matters before acting. He did die an honorable death yet that didn’t make it any less frustrating and heartbreaking for both him and Jing Qi. It seemed subtle that Jing Qi didn’t react enough when she returned to the battleground and found out that he’d died along with the others. But I think up to that point, she was already numbed from the pain. Yes, she was devastated (through her eyes it was obvious), but she was once again forced to be strong for the kids. I think her mourning of him was already captured the first time around when everyone thought he was dead. So they didn’t need to justify more on how much Jing Qi loved him. It wasn’t about the amount of crying, but what she was doing in honor of his death–just like how she told Xiao Ruo Yun that one time.
- Janine/Jing Qi and Guo Dong Dong/Ma Zhi Yuan. Their friendship was complicated from the start. They kept switching sides that it was hard to predict where it was going. Well, more like they were on different sides at times but tried to maintain a good type of relationship throughout. Their biggest fight was probably when Ming Hai died (the first time) and not his father’s death. Sure, he was upset, devastated, blood-thirsty after his father’s death, and wanted revenge only. After he calmed down, he understood why she had to stop him from getting himself killed, but needed more time to accept what had happened. He eventually found a new way to avenge his father’s death and also seek justice for others who had been wronged by Xiao Jin Shui. Anyway, getting back to their big fight. Ming Hai’s death was a strong blow for Jing Qi (obviously) and she hated that Zhi Yuan used her as an opportunity to get to Ming Hai. He was really in a hard spot and had to use all means to seek justice for innocent victims who died during the riot Ming Hai and the other robbers caused. Yet at that point, Jing Qi was too devastated and upset to care about those, and because she trusted him not to use her so that hurt. Yeah, I keep stating the obvious again, but I thought that would be their ultimate ending, like they were no longer friends or have any type of peaceful link with one another. Jing Qi did kick him out of the Du resident when he came to offer his explanation or whatever. I was wrong. The time shift showed that they were back on the same side, because of the war moving toward them and how they had to unite to make sure the locals were safe. Not only were they uniting for that cause, but they were getting along quite well again. Perhaps, it was after Jing Qi had cooled down and understood Zhi Yuan’s situation so she had forgiven him. Like I said below (yeah, I wrote that before I jumped back to discuss these two, lol), I wouldn’t mind if they had ended up together-if things were different. Like somehow they survived it all. It was like I said in his character analysis, he wasn’t a show-off like some others. He was humorous at times and did confess to her several times, wanting to take care of her, but he wasn’t outright playing the victim or getting others to hate her because she didn’t accept him. He respected her for who she was, even if there were disagreements at times.
- Janine/Jing Qi and Huang Kai Xiang/Zhou Shan Kou. They were never romantically involved and it was a one-sided thing from Zhou Shan Kou. What they had was respect and the mutual interest for medicine. However, because of his persistence in gaining her affection and whatnot with other agendas, he lost her in the end. Sure, it was frustrating to him that she didn’t like him, etc. But he had to just hurt people around her that had driven her to take the extreme move in the end. (Personally, I was glad Jing Qi didn’t fall for him. If she really had to be with someone in the end, I rather it was Zhi Yuan.)
- Janine/Jing Qi and Duanmu Chonghui/Xiao Ruo Yun. Because Ming Hai’s love for Jing Qi, they were rivals from the start. However, their story development was worth reflecting on after all that was said and done. I found it interesting that they ended up being more than just merely friends but possibly good sisters. Ruo Yun hated Jing Qi because of Ming Hai and even justified her behaviors on many accounts for whatever reasons she could muster up. It was even stranger to see how Jing Qi tried to comfort Ruo Yun during Xiao Jin Shui’s execution, considering how she almost got killed by him. That was one of the reasons why Jing Qi was different than the others, being able to separate Ruo Yun’s actions from her brother’s. Ruo Yun scolded Jing Qi for being a hypocrite and more at the scene when she shoved Jing Qi out. That was probably a frustrating scene and I seriously wanted Jing Qi to just ignore that crazy girl. Yet I guessed because of Jing Qi’s patience after so long, Ruo Yun was able to understand Jing Qi. They were able to form an alliance, in the end, not letting others witness any more catfights between them. The turnaround moment for Ruo Yun was definitely the talk between the two when Jing Qi was trying to wake Ruo Yun up from her drunken state and her destructive behaviors after Ming Hai’s supposed death. Jing Qi had confessed to Ruo Yun of how she was fascinated by Ming Hai’s aura after he was released from prison (their first meeting) and how he was untouched by all of that negativity. He was still able to reflect a sense of energy and radiance that was full of life. Anyway, Ruo Yun’s death was also the final straw that led Jing Qi to fight back against her brother fully. Previously, she was just ignoring him and turning down his offer of joining him and living in luxuries. Although that seemed cold to people, she was still holding back a little just because he was her brother. But after Ruo Yun’s death, she was done with him–or gave up on any small piece of hope that he might turn back.
- Janine/Jing Qi and Xie Wen Xuan/Du Ming Xi. They started out not getting along yet later became good sisters (like how it was with Ruo Yun). In her case, Ming Xi misunderstood Jing Qi’s intention because she was too focused on Zhi Yuan. After accidentally causing Ma Wan Nian’s death, she sought Jing Qi’s help to convince Zhi Yuan to forgive her. Although Jing Qi turned her down and told her to leave so Zhi Yuan could calm down, but Ming Xi didn’t blame that on Jing Qi or made things even worse. Her main goal was to seek Zhi Yuan’s forgiveness hence going after him and trying to make up for what she’d done. When she returned again, she had matured and ended up contributing greatly to her country. Not only that, but she’d ended up recruiting Jing Qi to help her cause. Jing Qi indeed helped her several times–with providing medications and plotting for her escape from the dangerous territory. They were the last two survivors of the final battle and probably need to carry on and be stronger for others.
- Janine/Jing Qi and Zhou Tie/Du Ming Jiang. They were siblings yet their relationship was intense at first–because of the obvious reason that Ming Jiang wanted to eliminate Jing Qi and take over at the Du resident. However, it didn’t seem to improve after he found out Jing Qi was his sister. Sure, it was shocking to realize the person he schemed against was his sister all along. Yet what totally was nonredeemable for him was how he tried to use Jing Qi and Zhi Yuan’s connection to get out of prison and/or his death sentence. He only acknowledged her because he had another agenda. Was Jing Qi too cold toward him after learning of their real connection? Was she too cruel to brush off his attempts to mend the situation after he’d already sided with the Japanese army? I tried to answer those questions along the way since other TV dramas would be all over that with the whole mushy dramas and trying to get him to turn back and somehow make it a happy ending. In the end, I was glad it played out the way it was and I didn’t blame Jing Qi. He was beyond help. He always made excuses regardless of situations. She did try to talk to Zhi Yuan and tried to bond with him during the time he was imprisoned yet he wasn’t listening to her unless she would toss herself at Zhi Yuan to save him. It was so despicable that I didn’t care that she’d brushed him off after he returned (from the dead-supposedly). He was always about himself.
- Liu Huan/Du Ming Hai and Guo Dong Dong/Ma Zhi Yuan. Their families were business rivals and then it escalated on a personal level later on after Zhi Yuan’s grandfather’s death. They didn’t get along much because of how rouge Ming Hai was at times and how Zhi Yuan was a cop at first. Their rivalry increased even more when they both liked Jing Qi. However, it was somewhat senseless fighting, and it wasn’t to the point where they would use despicable means to eliminate one another. They managed to work together several times, i.e. hostage situations. They were even there for one another when conflicts arose. What drove them apart completely as in drawing a definite line was how Ming Hai had become the leader of the robbers and Zhi Yuan the head of the police force. It was hard to keep their peace. It was their duty to their own people. Then at the end, it was like kind of amusing that Ming Hai ended up being the person with a higher rank than Zhi Yaun yet they were able to overcome that little bit and fight alongside one another at the final battle, allowing Jing Qi, Ming Xi, and the kids a safe passage onward.
- Liu Huan/Du Ming Hai and Xie Wen Xuan/Du Ming Xi. Their sibling relationship was subtle at first when she just appeared. Well, it did show they got along and cared for one another but there wasn’t much since they were focused on their significant others. However, it became more obvious later on near the end when they were both working to fight against the Japanese army. He specifically didn’t want her to be part of it and had listed a legit reason as to why it was more important for her to go with Jing Qi and the others. But it was obvious he didn’t want her in danger. I was glad they had a personal talk near the end, not just with the others, but as siblings.
- Liu Huan/Du Ming Hai and Duanmu Chonghui/Xiao Ruo Yun. They were childhood friends so it was hard for Ruo Yun to accept that Ming Hai wasn’t into her. However, it was really frustrating to see how she betrayed him like that regarding the trap and the fake fiancee schemes. Sure, it was his own damn fault for getting drunk in the first place and giving other advantages in harming him yet he trusted her, so it was really frustrating to see. She rather see him in some other woman’s arms than Jing Qi’s? Nice going, she got her wish. She did want to back out when she saw how much Ming Hai was hurting with needing to fulfill other wishes’ and also take responsibilities for what he’d done–even if it was all a trap, but it wasn’t enough for her to speak up since she didn’t want Ming Hai to hate her if he’d found out. Their friendship was strange throughout, but I thought that was seriously messed up. Although I was glad that they got to meet again one last time before her tragic ending.
- Guo Dong Dong/Ma Zhi Yuan and Wang Quan You/Ma Wan Nian. Like I said previously, I loved seeing their father and son banters at times. It somewhat helped with the intensity going on with the other parts of the plot. I especially liked those scenes when they were kneeling in front of the ancestors’ shrines and offering incenses. Ma Wan Nian kept guilt-tripping his son yet in a hilarious monotone to his father and other ancestors that his son wasn’t helping the cause, etc. It was an attempt to get Zhi Yuan to quit being a cop and return home to help with the family business. Their story turned tragic later and it was really heart-wrenching to see Zhi Yuan not being able to do anything. Not until later, that was. The scene at the funeral was worth tons of tears.
- Guo Dong Dong/Ma Zhi Yuan and Xie Wen Xuan/Du Ming Xi. It was a one-sided thing with Ming Xi liking Zhi Yuan initially. I thought it was at a point of no return when she accidentally and unintentionally caused his father’s death. However, by the time the ending rolled around, there was a possibility with them. Considering how they had matured over the years and seen beyond things. It was the part where she was teaching others a song and he was on his round of surveillance and saw them by the river hence earning a tease from Xie Tou. Perhaps, if he had survived, it was a possible route?
- Guo Dong Dong/Ma Zhi Yuan and Duanmu Chonghui/Xiao Ruo Yun. They weren’t romantically involved–or the least bit interested in one another in that way. I just wanted to put them in to have a little discussion. What I found fascinating and somehow amusing was how they started out on the opposite side yet ended up on the same side. Yes, what her brother did, she shouldn’t be held accountable for, but she usually either turned a blind eye (she can’t do anything anyway) or didn’t care (like how many wives he had) or truly didn’t know. She even cursed Zhi Yuan for causing the death of her brother and how he used his position to seek revenge, etc. They obviously weren’t on the same side, considering how the conflicts of both families had escalated, especially with the death of his father and later her brother. Fast forward, years later, she fought alongside him and even bragged about how she used to live among the robbers, showing him that she was able to take care of herself and was capable of handling a gun or two.
- Duanmu Chonghui/Xiao Ruo Yun and Zhang Rui Han/Xiao Jin Shui. I actually felt that they were loyal and true to one another–well, as best as they knew how. I hated Xiao Jin Shui for everything that he stood for, but somehow I unexpectedly cried at the part where he knelt to ask for his sister’s forgiveness. That was quite a touching scene between the two. He had his struggles when Du Ming Jiang offered a solution to the whole marriage mishaps. I thought it might be a redeeming quality to his character that he would go against it to the end, but he caved in so he was unforgivable in that matter. However, like I said, I cried during the exchange between the siblings. It was indeed tragic to see how he had betrayed her trust. The scene where he was executed and how he tried to get her to stay away was worth noting. Yet it was unforgivable that his love for his sister wasn’t enough for him to cease his actions. He didn’t even think of other people’s sisters or families when he’d inflicted pain and tragedies onto others. Same for Ruo Yun when she sprung the trap on Ming Hai when he wasn’t the one responsible for the marriage trap. So that was why I was mad at her for bestowing pain onto others when they weren’t at fault for it. She was just taking it out on others. Somehow, she got her chance to turn back, because she finally understood Jing Qi and what Ming Hai actually stood for.
- The pace. Yes, definitely the pace although it was 43 episodes. But I think that would be considered as short for recent dramas. Anyway, for a rare TV series of recent, it was plot-driven, not character-driven. Sure, they showed major developments of different characters throughout. But the series was definitely plot-driven since they were moving forward regardless. I will admit some parts were somewhat draggy, but it wasn’t too bad. The fact that the sequence of the revenge plot was fast helped as well. It was after all a misunderstanding so dragging it out to the point that Jing Qi couldn’t undo the damage would be too cruel and frustrating. After that, they moved on to other stories and that helped with developing other characters as well so it was just right with the flow. Sure, like I complained throughout, there were some stories that could do without, but the plot did move forward eventually.
- The bonding between various female characters in here. I expected major catfights and those typical women population against each other, etc. It was already obvious with different love rivals and the scheming with He Da Lian. However, I was glad that they maneuvered past that eventually and somehow turned the plot around, making it so that He Da Lian had ended up trusting Jing Qi as well, not picking on her anymore. Not to mention how they resolved the subtle jealousy Ming Xi had for Jing Qi initially. (Even though it was because of another tragedy unfolding.) Then the fact that Jing Qi finally woke Ruo Yun up from her drunken phase. They somehow gotten along and even managed to join forces to aid their country in their own way, contributing to a larger picture.
- Not overly romancing everything. Okay, people are probably laughing right now since the plot had a lot of romance and all. I think what I’m trying to say here is that they didn’t force the happiness throughout and how they didn’t make the ending completely happy and shining on purpose either. Considering the time they lived in, it was harder to believe that everything was all shining once again. There would be a time in the future, but the point where they were at, it was too much of a stretch to just make everything gift-wrapped.
- The ending theme “The Years Like Song” by Xu He Bin. It was a very touching song and aided greatly with some of the Ming Hai and Jing Qi scenes.
- Lack of exposure/clarifying/outing some of the major conspiracies in here. Sure, we–as the audience–learned many things throughout and Jing Qi ended up learning those too. Yet some parties and characters were never exposed completely. I guess it would be overkill to repeat of Ming Jiang’s crime during the part where Du Yuan Shan revealed of Ming Jiang’s true identity (answering Jing Qi’s question). But what about the fake fiancee schemes? Jing Qi was taking the high road and wanting to save face for the Du family, but that was really an easy way out for them both. Sure, getting Xiao Jin Shui into the whole situation was going to be troublesome too (like stated in some sections above), but didn’t Ming Hai and some of the others deserve to know that the person Ming Hai married was actually fake? What was even more frustrating was adding in the part where the fake fiancee was pregnant as well so it was harder to even say anything. Then there was the whole why didn’t Sun Miao Han say anything if she was suspicious of the matter instead of waiting until it was too late aka the scheme was over with, the wedding was done with? Really? She didn’t think to bring it up during the time when they were pondering if the girl was really the fiancee? Like the whole questioning process? (That was before Ming Hai got drunk and the inevitable happened.)
- The one lackey who was spying on this one higher authority dude for Xiao Jin Shui got away. Okay, some of the major villains got their karma eventually, but what about that guy? I don’t want gift-wrapped, but I felt it was frustrating to see him getting away with it. At least let some other characters know about him, not just the audience, and leave it there like that. This probably fitted with the one above with not exposing stuff, but since only the audience know, I thought it was best to leave it here.
- Jing Qi and Ming Jiang’s ages. I didn’t get it. I swear it was weird. She was supposedly really young when her parents died yet in the scene where she was calculating the numbers, it showed a flashback of her father teaching her a special calculation technique. I know she was a smart person, but seriously that was really stretching it. Then it didn’t help that the younger versions of them looked much older. I was guessing Ming Jiang was 10-12 at that point and Jing Qi was 8-10 at that point. I don’t know.
- Jing Qi appeared scared of Ming Jiang’s authority and even didn’t seem to suspect him when she returned to the Du resident to help out with the business. It was after they suspected that Ming Jiang had something to do with Du Yuan Shan’s illness and then moved him to the orphanage. It was super weird that Jing Qi was scared of him when he disciplined her regarding some matters. Seriously, he needed their help from the start hence pretending to be nice, heading to the orphanage with some goodies to lure them in. How could Jing Qi be scared of him? Then she seemed to forget that she was supposed to be suspicious of him? I understand that she wanted to return to save the Du family business from collapsing because it was Du Yuan Shan’s hard work and all. But why had she stopped suspecting Ming Jiang? Or so it seemed. That was super odd.
- The kids aren’t growing? I’m talking about Wang Cong Ming and some other kids before, not Ming Hai’s kid and his godson. The years passed and we saw how Jing Qi was still taking care of the kids throughout the years so why weren’t they growing? I thought that was odd. They did somewhat later, but I thought from the beginning of the story until the first time jump of the “3 years later”, they should at least grow a bit more.
Recommended? I think if you’re a fan of Janine, it’s a must-watch. However, not happy ending, considering how the era was. Not totally a failure, but it wasn’t a total win.
Catch it on iQiyi if you’re interested to check it out for yourself.