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Blind (2022) Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty (2022) Mr Bad (2022)
Blind Episodes 1-7
The more of this police procedural I watch, the more frustrated and the less impressed I am with the script despite the somewhat intriguing premise. With every new plot development the script feels lightweight despite the serial killer theme which bears more than a passing resemblance to last year’s Awaken in terms of its scope and material. Like a lot of K dramas including Little Women this one relies heavily on deploying characters as plot devices either to add to the confusion or to put the breaks on revealing anything of real importance for the longest possible time. It also assumes that the audience are willing to go along with a rather elaborate conspiracy setup and suspend all manner of disbelief. Unfortunately the experience so far isn’t sufficiently immersive that one can do that with ease.
In reality jury tampering on this scale is near impossible to achieve. If you thought Murder on the Orient Express was a tax on the imagination, this would be as bad or worse. It’s one thing to try and influence jury members using extortion after they’ve been assembled like Runaway Jury, it’s another thing entirely to under take the mammoth task of putting together not only a jury comprised solely of a group of individuals who are connected directly or indirectly with a sordid tale of child exploitation 20 years earlier but also managing to lure an assortment of cops and bureaucrats into the dragnet. From the dissemination of jury service letters to the responses and then the interview process, it isn’t something achievable by a single human being. If at all. There are too many cogs in the machinery that could go wrong. The judge at the centre of this incredible scenario, Ryu Sung-hoon (Han Suk-jin) may be a key figure in the conspiracy and the show seems to be fingering him as a possible suspect in recent days.
However, to a degree I am willing to go along with the far-fetched premise because 1) the show might make some attempt to explain all the moving parts somewhere along this journey (although I have my doubts) and 2) the show is still entertaining enough to keep watching.
Progressively the problem with the approach taken here are the characters. I don’t feel connected to any and none are particularly likeable or relatable. Some are here one day and dead the next. The show presents itself as a shiny puzzle box and so the characters serve as moving parts like a Rubik’s cube that need to be positioned correctly with a bit of fiddling. With a revenge plot one expects to elicit some sympathy for the perpetrators but here I certainly can’t see the justification for the brutal killings of women even taking into account the abuses that went on in the child welfare centre. I’m sure it will attributed to trauma induced insanity which seems to be the rationale for everything these days. Part of the frustration too comes from the fact that the lens through which the mystery unfolds is via the movements of Taecyeon’s Ryu Sung-joon. Officially he’s still a fugitive so his judge brother feels obligated to do a bit of detective work of his own on the side. Sung-joon’s desperation to clear his name, so we’re told, sees him lurching from crime scene to crime scene recklessly when the sensible thing would be to stay put and not incriminate himself any further.
While it’s worth a look, I don’t think the hype is warranted. Although the storytelling is better than Awaken, it’s nowhere nearly as good as Chimera to my mind.
Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty Episodes 1-10
As the title so helpfully indicates, this X-Files, Scooby-Doo style detective show is most probably set some time during Emperor Ruizong’s reign featuring a rivalry between Princess Taiping and the crown prince Li Longji. Weird and horrible things are happening in Chang’an and Great Tang in general. At the helm of this motley crew of investigators is Su Wuming, a pupil of the great statesman Di Renjie who is no longer in the picture. While coming to grips with the mysterious deaths of new virgin brides and the sale of contraband tea, Su Wuming (Yang Zhigang) clashes with the stodgy and fiery-tempered young general Lu Lingfeng (Yang Xufen from Legend of the Condor Heroes 2017 version) who is somewhat resentful that Su Wuming was picked to be Di Renjie’s apprentice and not him. All that aside, he’s not a bad lad really — rough around the edges but can be an overbearing martinet. There’s a girl he likes, Pei Xijun, although he pretends not to most likely because their first meeting involved him perpetrating some deception for her benefit. When he is “banished” from Chang’an, she follows soon after with her manservant, much to his dismay. Her presence in this situation could be a recipe for disaster but so far (rather surprisingly I might add) it hasn’t been. Part of the crime solving entourage is Fei Jishi who belying the unkempt, dishevelled appearance is a quick witted know-it-all with serious medical skills.
Su Wuming is a hilarious mix of Columbo, Miss Marple and Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor. He doesn’t look it at first but he is quirky chip off the shifu block. He is a brilliant sleuth as advertised and deadly cunning despite the ingratiating manner. The show is definitely setting him up to be Lu Lingfeng’s mentor while they work together on cases. Goodness only knows that Lu Lingfeng could do with one because he has potential to be much more than Su Wuming’s bodyguard or sidekick.
So far so good. At least compared to some of the K dramas I’ve been watching lately, it’s at least trying to do something a little different with tried and true detective tropes.
Mr Bad Episodes 1-10
Came for Chen Zheyuan who is one of my favourite twenty-something actors and stayed for cute moments between the leads. Of which there are plenty once they get over the initial obligatory hurdles. It’s a low budget web rom com that deals with a fairly popular storyline about a writer falling in love with her own creation. In this case, he’s the villain not the hero of her story. Xiao Wudi (Chen Zheyuan) is no wuxia supervillain really but he is rude and a tad outrage that he’s trapped in a time and place that’s not his own. What’s worse is that budding author Nan Xing (Shen Yue) can summon his presence when she’s in dire need of being rescued. Thankfully he’s got brains to navigate the 21st century even if his creator is prone to being silly. Shen Yue who is best known for her role in A Love So Beautiful doesn’t have to do a whole lot but be sprightly, cute and occasionally upset. All of which she does well enough. Her character Nan Xing is a recent graduate from sports university but wants to be a writer so applies for a job at her idol’s publishing company. Nobody seems to mind wasting their time interviewing a candidate who has no quals, no experience in the industry. Absurdly enough she gets the job because her idol goes through PAs like some people go through socks. Furthermore her idol and his business manager are the second leads in this. After a rocky start at the company, Nan Xing finds her groove and secures her place in the organization.
I don’t mind that Xiao Wudi is not the personification of evil here because most antagonists in a story are often just normal people who make bad choices. Besides it’s billed as a rom com and Nan Xing isn’t exactly a deep thinker to come up with a sophisticated male baddie. For storytelling purposes the male lead can’t be so nasty that his conversion experience becomes a hard sell. Apparently I like Chen Zheyuan in rom coms and won’t mind seeing him in more. He proved in Handsome Siblings that he has enough comic timing and swagger to pull off boyish comedic moments with some flair.
No doubt the show is too long for what it wants to do. I’m not sure how I feel about the second leads at this point because they feel mostly like filler. But all in all it’s a harmless rom com that has me grinning at the leads’ antics. One can’t have too many expectations beyond the bare essentials.