Miss Truth (2020) General Drama Review

This is an expanded review of the one that I posted at MyDramaList.com

This was the drama I didn't know I needed or was waiting for but I was hooked from the moment the FL jumped into the bath with the ML. None of us would ever be the same again. :D

There is so much in this drama that ticks all the right boxes for me. Old school, Golden Age style crime cases intertwined with classic wuxia elements. Check. Meticulous detective work and an engaging Bad Guy plotline. Check. Check. The show somehow even manages to throw in romance for good measure. Check.

At the heart of this crime solving drama is the love story between two larger than life personalities. It begins with an unexpected intrusion, then an almighty clash of wills. All that belies a meeting of minds and a passion for getting to the bottom of inexplicable occurrences that come their way. The two bicker their way to the autopsy table and there they become a formidable pair of ancient sleuths trying to uncover criminal activities and make sense of their growing feelings for each other while navigating a thorny love triangle that includes a former betrothed who has secrets of his own. The show also manages to thrust them into one of my favourite tropes -- the contract marriage -- in entertaining fashion. I admit to cringing at the thought of the leads nicknaming each other but once these names became second nature banter, they signified a unique, shared, intimate space from which no one (not even the highest in the land) could ever dislodge them.

The format of the drama sees our leads stumbling or being led into cases which may or may not have immediate relevance to the overarching Bad Guy plot. The pair with their combined abilities resolve them quickly but their exploits and romance soon come to the attention of larger unfriendly forces at work. What was unusual and fascinating was how these individual cases had immediate relevance for our pair as they grope around trying to find answers to the perplexing questions of the heart. In that regard perhaps we are led to believe that there are universal truths that persistently dog humanity about the complexities of love, evil and destiny.

The star of the show in my book is Xiao Song, a veritable Sherlock Holmes styled character whose knack for deductions earns him the appellation of being the country's premiere investigator ("The Sorrow of Chang'an's Ghosts"), a highly valued official of the Tang emperor's court. He soon falls for the sassy and skilled Ran Yan who is inevitably Dr Watson to his Holmes. Xiao Song is not one to do things by half. He lives large and loves large but desperate times bringeth forth the man, showing his true mettle. He is played by the wonderful and delightful Toby Lee whose versatility gives flesh to the character beyond the super sleuth template. At times he is the lofty official that throws his weight around barking commands, the next he is a mischievous suitor to his reluctant coroner pushing her buttons to get her to bend to his will. There is however, also a tender almost boyish side to him, glimpsed when showing genuine concern for the people he really cares about. Overall he is really the best written (arguably the best acted) character whose passion for the truth and for the woman he loves makes him someone you can't help rooting for.

I had not heard of Toby Lee previously and have been wondering about his casting from the start. In the early days of the drama his striking facial features evoked reminders of Sidney Piaget's Sherlock Holmes Strand magazine illustrations. Even now he reminds me of Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and to a lesser degree Benedict Cumberbatch.

Newcomer Pinky Zhou plays the lovely, smart and strong-willed titular character who accompanies Xiao Song on his fishing expeditions ;) albeit reluctantly at first. It doesn't take long before she gets bitten by the bug and becomes an adept detective in her own right. Zhou gives an uneven although generally adequate portrayal. This is one of those occasions in which the script provides the necessary padding that makes up for the shortcomings of the performance. Admittedly I found Ran Yan a difficult character to warm up to early on. There's no denying her courage and strong sense of justice but the character carries a naive rigidity in her perception of the world... a judgemental disposition which undergoes serious refining through many trials. Mixing maverick men, malevolence and murder results in marvellously muddlesome mayhem.

Our main duo are ably supported by their motley crew made up of the doggedly loyal Bai Yi, Wan Lu (Ran Yan's maid), the cowardly but multi-talented scholar extraordinaire Sang Chen and Uncle Wu, Ran Yan's teacher and mentor. Occasionally when their interests intersect, the former fiance, Su Fu finds himself on the same side as his bitterest rival.

Su Fu played by Tim Pei is a curious character. Although he has been unkindly labelled "second male lead", he is in effect a foil for the leads. One of a gallery of antagonists. A dangerous weapon and tool for his masters. While he does fall in love with Ran Yan, his trajectory is in general opposition to hers which becomes more obvious as the story progresses. In saner moments, he too acknowledges the truth of that. Sadly he seems destined to operate under a different moral compass and his activities shrouded in deception. Still in some, I imagine, he is likely to evoke some measure of sympathy.

The scholar and sometimes comic relief, Sang Chen is also infatuated with our female coroner. The irony is that he a timid fellow and faints at the sight of corpses so it's clear that he's a non-contender in the bid to win her affections but he becomes a good friend and fellow traveller in the cause of justice.

As a long-time fan of the genre, I really enjoyed riding on the whodunnit and whydunnit bandwagon following the mystery of the week while the couple bickered and completed each other's thoughts. But the single most important highlight was discovering the unerringly wonderful Toby Lee who was born to take on this role.

This drama is available with English subs at productiveprocrastination.site