First off, I had to scratch my initial comments since I felt I was still too lenient with the criticisms. Having watched most of Felix’s series already, I think I have the right to have a say in this. Like his other series, it usually starts with an interesting idea and it seems promising. Yet sooner or later, it would go downhill–minus all the Jin Yong adaptations and a few rare series. This was supposedly the Golden 80s so I expected A LOT. I just have to agree that they have good acting (for the majority) and nice costumes for ancient series. Those were the highlights. Plot-wise? NOT so much. It’s just that series nowadays at times lacks in the acting department so the plot sticks out like a sore thumb if it sucks. The good acting and the good costumes often masquerade some of the plot flaws back then. What was the whole deal about the plot that got me so disappointed? For the first ten episodes (aside from the first or so episode of the somewhat fast pace of introducing some key characters), the pace went from slow to a halt. Sometimes, there were somewhat of a happening that could be considered mystery because of the suspicious mute guy trying to assassinate Lei Hak Yung (or it looked like it), which I thought was the true hightlight of the show–since I expected the side dramas among the other adopted sons (with their competitions and all). Yet they waited until the almost last episode to reveal more about him and wrap up the series loosely. Seriously? Of the things that happened in the first ten episodes, about five (exaggerating but not too far from it) of them were focused on disagreements or side bickers between Felix and Idy’s characters. Then there was the obvious conflict between Lei Hak Yung and Jyu Wan–whether regarding the woman they supposedly “love” or for power. It was bouncing back and forth about how both paved the other out to be the monster yet I felt it was on the dot when On Ging Si’s adopted father said that both weren’t any better with their senseless fights. Oh yeah, did I mention it was never revealed what was the purpose of all these whole conflicts until near the end? It was revealed by the mute guy that Lei Hak Yung wanted to eliminate threats and major powers before overthrowing the current king to become the king himself. Sure, most of his recruitment of various talented characters in here showed that he was in for some big plan YET it wasn’t focused on to see where the plot was going. I didn’t mean that the plot was confusing, I just meant the writers didn’t know what they wanted so they just tossed in some random stuffs until the end to wrap it up. It was just a mess, like so unorganized that by the time it was wrapping up, you didn’t learn much or care anymore. I’m saving other rants for later.
- Felix Wong as On Ging Si. It wasn’t like he was dumb, not totally, but his character like some in here lacked consistency. Sometimes he was bright–or seemed that way. Yet another time, he was just plain clueless. I’m not talking about love stuffs either. I’m talking about the whole knowing Hong Kwan Lei was a devious character and not knowing how to draw up a good plan for it.
- Idy Chan as Princess Wan Lo. Mixed feelings throughout. Like others in here, the writers didn’t know how to develop her character either. At times, we could see she was righteous and care for others (the part where she helped with that one case of the missing women). At other times, she was the typical spoiled brat (which was the recurring theme throughout). Yet it wasn’t all that either. I got it that she was complicated and have the right to be just like any one of us. But I felt either the writers were trying to get us to hate her or was just unclear of what they wanted for her. The constant arguments with On Ging Si at first had fused a lot of frustrating moments to say the least. Although I was glad they didn’t make Idy boring BUT I didn’t think it was a good idea to make her character so inconsistent either. I didn’t mean she had to act one way or another at times, but some of the things she said in one scene conflicted itself in another scene. One could argue she had matured since some previous episodes, but it just didn’t make sense or allow for character developments to convince.
- Kent Tong as Hong Kwan Lei aka Ching Lung. He was beyond despicable and possibly even scarier than Lei Hak Yung. Yet too bad they decided to not use his character well in the last few episodes. It was like building his character up and ready for the final battle yet the final battle was SOOOOO anti-climatic.
- Stephen Tung as Sik Seut. The comedian in the series. Yes, every series had one of those yet he delivered nicely and was probably my second favorite character in here. He was much, much smarter and it helped a lot more since he was cunning. It was a good one to have when trying to go against Hong Kwan Lei. I was scared he was going to die at one point since every other characters were dropping dead left and right. Sure, I know the consequences when they were all stuck in the mess, but that didn’t help with hoping that at least he survived. Ironically, I got my wish and the other characters’ ending were tragic.
- Austin Wai as Si Ging Si. He was actually my favorite in here yet he just had to face with another tragic ending. Yes, his character was my favorite and he used to be one of my favorite actors. He was both smart and talented in his martial arts. He was just hot-headed sometimes thus leading to some of the major problems later. I was impressed with him when he managed to help his “siblings” avoided the falling down the spikes trap in one of the episodes.
- Paul Chun as Lei Hak Yung. It was obvious he was up to something from the start, but the execution of the plot just made him less powerful. I know, they had to focus on developing other characters and subplots in here too, not just focus on him all the time YET like I said, it felt unorganized when the writers didn’t focus on the right stuffs regarding him–as well. His character was menacing, but when it mattered, the writers didn’t go forward with it. They just showed some cunning and scheming here and then moved on to another story-arch and then kept downplaying his techniques so he became somewhat of a background character for Hong Kwan Lei’s traps (and interestingly HKL also got tossed aside like I said earlier to make way for some other story-arch to wrap up the series).
- Lau Siu Ming as Jyu Wan. At times, it wasn’t really clear if he was any better than Lei Hak Yung but I think he had loyalty on his side since the majority of his “brothers” were always there for him versus the whole betrayal thing on the other side.
- Maggie Li as Sam Mung Sin. She was part of the reasons the men fight but I thought that was just a lame excuse to fight so I didn’t blame her on that front. What I did blame her for was not keeping her words with Lei Hak Yung. Yeah, it would be insane to say that I side with Lei Hak Yung for anything. But I felt it was despicable of her to trick him into saving her husband that one time and then saying that Lei Hak Yung was despicable. You can’t criticize him or think the worst of him when you’re using him in the same way for your means. Seriously?
- Elaine Chow as Ling Lung. I never got over how she got killed off just like that. I knew it was inevitable since they needed to move on and sacrifice her so he could enter the Lei resident and also somehow fall in love with Wan Lo. But seriously? I felt like Ling Lung ended up being a plot device to enhance Ging Si’s character with how loyal he was, still keeping her old gifts, etc.
- Bak Man Biao as On Gaai Fu. On Ging Si’s adoptive father. I think he was the most right about both Lei and Jyu when he told Ging Si about about the fighting with both sides. Yet I guess that was why he had to be killed off to further other people’s means.
- Isabella Wong as Siu Fung. She wasn’t really my favorite for some series I watched of hers, but I felt this one was more than meets the eyes. Yet they also made it somewhat inconsistent like Idy’s or trying to go into a loop with the plot at times regarding her situation. But what was outright obvious at the end was her bravery. I knew something was up when she was looking at the structures. Like I knew she was forming a plan in her mind yet didn’t realize she went that far.
- Lau Mei Man as Ah Taan. Wan Lo’s maid. I thought she was cute at the beginning. Didn’t realize she became a major character later, which was cool. Interestingly, she made it to the end. Not that I didn’t like that but like once the plot finally moved forward, I thought she would get trapped in the ongoing battles–which she did–and somehow lose her life too (which didn’t happen).
- Lau Kwok Shing as Lei Chyun Gong aka the 3rd general. Got killed off by Ching Lung in one of the earlier episodes. He was used as a tool to fuse the others’ hatred for Jyu Wan. Although Ching Lung did the killing but Lei Hak Yung was tenfold more despicable on that front.
- Cheng Ka Sang as Lei Chyun Lung aka the 4th general. He was seriously in for good as well, thinking he was on the right side by the time the plot was wrapping up. Yet too bad.
- Tse Ming Chong as On Yau Yau. A servant. He was overlooked by others (and even viewers) from the start. Then near the end played a major part, which was a nice twist yet wasn’t properly developed.
- Stephen Yip as Mou Yin Hung. Jyu Wan’s general. One of the loyal people by Jyu Wan.
- Felix and Idy. The fact that their somewhat of a romance started right after Lung Ling died didn’t help their case for me, especially with Mister I’ll-Never-Love-Anyone-Else-For-The-Rest-Of-My-Life. Yes, I had to put that in since there was one point he was talking to Sik Seut and Sik Seut asking him if he wanted to consider Wan Lo. Yet later on, I just had to get used to it. It could work, but Lung Ling left an impression on me so I wasn’t really sold on this couple. The other reason was that I kept thinking the whole time while watching was Felix/Barbara and Andy/Idy. YES, although this one was before the other two series, but I watched those first and it had left an impression on me (as well as others who had watched it ages ago). Their chemistry wasn’t too bad but I felt it was somewhat lacking comparing to their other co-stars. Although I must say she was a better match with Tony (although I didn’t like her in The Grand Canal at all.)
- Felix and Elaine. It wasn’t like their chemistry was amazing or anything, but their simple story at first stuck with me. Many might say she was boring, typical “good” girls of back then–and usually I hate those gentle ones too (just because they were usually fake with how the plot loved to develop it or tried so hard) yet Elaine’s acting had pulled me in with her character. Although she just appeared for like two episodes but she made an impression for me throughout. I seriously like her with Tony more, of course, but plot-wise for in here, I really liked her.
- Austin and Isabella. The tragic couple. I had a gut feeling they wouldn’t make it. I meant the happy ending theme, considering how his past stories went in other dramas I watched–although this was before. I think they were considered an actual couple in here that no one had doubts about, most series has one. They were it and somehow with their story, it managed to move the plot forward. Whoever called it, it worked. Yet I wished they had made better decision for the main plot.
- Lau Siu Ming and Maggie Li. Creepy. Okay, that was mean, but I’m not used to watching older people getting all mushy and cuddly, lol. I guess they weren’t bad together but I was just more interested in the main plot. I thought they along with Lei Hak Yung would drive forward the plot but it kept bouncing back and forth between who was right or wrong or whatever.
- Inconsistency. A LOT of it like I said throughout this review. If it wasn’t character inconsistency (minus people trying to keep secrets–of course–or if there was a reason for them to change their minds, I got that those parts were essential), it was plot gaps. So they managed it with some of the mystery, but the whole conflicting details at times made it frustrating. Not to mention mind boggling since I wonder if they had anyone to check the whole product before they released it. The problems didn’t start with recent series, BUT it had been way back.
- Obvious GOOFs. One of the scenes it happened was when Hong Kwan Lei tried to poison Jyu Wan at the bath/spa room/whatever the world they called it back then that I forgot (lol) and he ran out after having somewhat recover. The battle continued up until the confrontation with On Ging Si and Si Ging Si at the arranged meeting location for some battle, which On Ging Si had convinced Si Ging Si not to kill Jyu Wan when he had been injured like that (i.e. not using despicable means or take advantage of the situation). All that made sense, but I’m talking about the episode jump. Like the beginning of the next episode, Jyu Wan was still running YET he was now fully clothed. He was wearing the white robe earlier SO how in the world did he manage to stop for clothes in the mist of running? They had an invisible rest stop I wasn’t aware of? Seriously? What were they trying to pull? Again, does anyone ever watch it again to check? (This had happened in LOTCH too and that was a major production so don’t start throwing excuses around.) Anyway, there were other goofs but this one stuck out the most with me.
- WORST FINALE EVER. NOT because the majority of the cast died, including the leading lady. First, they killed Hong Kwan Lei with just two people–who were defeated by him previously. Okay, that one could be explained that over time On Ging Si’s skills had improved and even Sik Seut’s skills improved after the last attacks. However, On Ging Si said that he was afraid he might not win since Hong Kwan Lei’s skills had reached another level. SO what was that? Him lying to Wan Lo so they have more cuddle time? Or was that just his pessimistic nature? Then there were the other two who helped Hong Kwan Lei during the battle. I got it that Hong Kwan Lei could have won in the past because of his underhanded techniques and tricks. I got that throughout. Interestingly, Hong Kwan Lei was the only formula that never changed in the whole plot. He was consistent throughout–with his skills and personality. Yet I felt the final battle was so anti-climatic and ended in just seconds. Then what did the writers do for the rest of the time? Finally revealing that On Yau Yau was the actual son of Lei Hak Yung, which was a major surprise–and a good move. YET it went downhill from there (like it could get any worse but it did). Because they soon let him become Hong Kwan Lei #2–well in the making since he didn’t have the cunning that was Hong Kwan Lei. But it was just a mess after trying to rush forward with convincing us that the focus was on him, which wasn’t really. He lacked the trickery of his father as well so it wasn’t like we could see him as a threat for anyone. The mute guy was finally revealed in like the second last episode (or so) and a rush of explanation of his role in this. It made sense to keep the suspense going for a while with his identity BUT I felt it should have been revealed a little earlier so the final focus would be them trying to go against Lei Hak Yung. They let Hong Kwan Lei ruled the scenes for the majority of the time and then killed him off in seconds, then decide that they should now focus on bringing Lei Hak Yung down? Seriously? Not to mention the scenes leading up to how things became the way they did, which led to my next point.
- WORST HOSTAGE SITUATION EVER. I felt that was really insulting the viewers. I think it’s safe to say that not all of us have been in hostage situations, but we at least get the idea what it’s about. How in the world did the writers make our hero that dumb? On Ging Si had a good plan–supposedly to save Wan Lo. He won Lei Hak Yung by element of surprise and captured him. He eventually used Lei Hak Yung as a hostage to save Wan Lo. Then he had to blow it! What possessed him to go in the house AND not request that On Yau Yau bring Wan Lo out as an exchange? Didn’t he see all those guards surrounding the house? Another thing he could have done was tell them to bring out the horses (which it was a request later BUT after they were trapped in a cage already). Seriously? Yes, I said that a lot already but I couldn’t believe it got dumber and dumber by the second. Then talking about On Yau Yau’s side, I swore they all knew Lei Hak Yung was in On Ging Si’s hands YET they still shot a bunch of arrows up there? What were they expecting? That the arrows bounced right back? Seriously! I initially thought On Yau Yau wanted to use the chance to off his father as well so he could take over sooner. YET it didn’t seem like the case and it was an accident with the incident. All of it was dumb and unnecessary. Yet the only explanation was to let Sik Seut show off his skills in fending the enemy and helped with the getaway.
Recommended? Ignore the freaking damn plot (or lack of it) and you might enjoy it for the cast. Just look at the beautiful people and forget about logic and reasoning or what the world the purpose is supposed to be. Yeah, that was it for me.