What I've Been Watching 13 July 2022
Extraordinary Attorney Woo: My only real complaint about this delightful heartwarming new drama is the paucity of Kang Tae-oh. It could be that I’m just plain greedy. If I’d known he was the male lead I would have jumped on board a lot sooner. Park Eun-bin of course is a joy to watch as the titular character but her dynamic with Kang Tae-oh is just dripping with honey and hearts. What a breath of fresh air for a male lead to have such lovely manners and be so open with his feelings so early. There’s a wonderful scene in the second episode where he’s completely mesmerized with the way she presents herself in a very fancy dress. The expression on his face then is to die for. Even the dress fitter remarks that he looks like he’s in love.
(Edited: Apologies about calling Kang Tae-oh Kim Tae-oh)
Normally I watch legal show for the courtroom drama but for this show I can’t wait to see where the show goes with this particular pairing. Don’t let me down, showrunners. *haunted by memories of Law School*
A Dream of Splendor: It is highly regrettable that I didn’t like this more but methinks it’s time to give it up especially now that I’ve got Love Like the Galaxy to look forward to each week. For me this one never really lived up to the hype and it was too much like watching an anachronistic piece of fanfiction unfold in fairly predictable fashion. The storytelling was not consistently immersive and the pacing sluggish. On top of that, I never felt invested in any of the characters. I had a lot of issues with the way the vast majority of male characters were written in service of the “female empowerment” angle. Don’t even get me started on Ouyang Xu. Overall it certainly isn’t a historical rigorous exploration of the plight of women with pariah status but more a semi-political fairy tale about underdogs triumphing over their circumstances. I’m fond of underdog stories as a rule but this one just didn’t hook me in.
Lost Love in Times 醉玲珑 (2017): This recent watch was really a revisit for me as I had followed it religiously while it was first broadcast 5 years ago. I ‘ve been down with a bout of cold and was on a bit of a Gong Jun phase when I decided as a bit of a diversion from Splendor to take a look at this one again. I remember thinking at the time that this one of the better ones although it’s not without flaws. The final act does drag on needlessly and finale is a bit of a rush job as it seems to be the habit of many C dramas. It’s still immensely watchable with great characters and it’s my second favourite thing with Liu Shishi in it. Her chemistry with both male leads William Chan and Xu Haiqiao (who also played Ouyang Xu in A Dream of Splendor) was pretty good. I don’t usually go for things with magic in it but this one had about as much magic in it as Lord of the Rings.
Liu Shishi is in top form here as Qing Cheng a sorceress who resets her timeline to prevent a game of thrones bloodbath. Of course there’s a price to pay for doing this. There always is but she does it anyway because it involves the man she loves, the fourth prince, Yuan Ling (William Chan) and the possibility of him ascending the throne. The first five episodes are really the set-up for the reset so it moves at breakneck speed but as soon as Qing Cheng activates the magic time travel spell, almost everything changes so things become more unpredictable. No one recognizes her in the new timeline but she manages to ingratiate herself into all kinds of situations in the hope that Yuan Ling can take the throne without much bloodshed even if he’s not directly in line to do so. Gong Jun plays the 11th prince, Yuan Che and Xu Haiqiao plays the 7th prince, Yuan Zhan.
It was an addictive watch then and it’s an addictive watch now. It sounds like Scarlet Heart and Moon Lovers but it isn’t quite like them. Be warned: It is a 56 episode drama but it doesn’t entirely feel like it until the big war arc where there’s a lot of waiting around. I don’t recommend watching it just for the romance although it is a big part of the story. It is palace politics as usual and Liu Yijun (who is in almost everything) is the scheming emperor who uses his sons as checks and balances in his game of wei qi 围棋 chess.
Dream Garden (2021): Gong Jun takes on the role of a clinical psychologist, Lin Shen, with a specialization in hypnotherapy in this… what would you call it… psychological thriller… perhaps. It’s an interesting enough showcase of various types of mental health issues that plays out like a detective show. He gets roped into investigating missing people and odd occurrences by Qiao Xin’s Xiao Xiao a relationship counsellor who later becomes his apprentice. Although Lin Shen falls for her quickly, it is a while before he makes his move and then things escalate from that point. It’s not a bad as far as workplace romances go but it is odd that everyone from the clinic starts dating someone that is a friend of Xiao Xiao’s. To be fair, it’s better done than many other detective C dramas and the chemistry between Gong Jun and Qiao Xin is not bad but things get rather unprofessional in the office… if you get my drift. Although I like him a lot and he does a reasonable job here, in some ways Gong Jun feels too young to be playing this role. Frankly I don’t think his boyish earnestness serves him that well in certain aspects of the storyline.
As if things aren’t crowded enough, there’s also a revenge plot in horizon… there’s always a revenge plot these days… Depending on how you like your C dramas this could be a plus or minus. If you ask me, it’s too elaborate and the justification feels far-fetched. It seems like convoluted hard work tying psychology with revenge and it shows. Trying to integrate investigative elements with non-professional sleuths working in parallel with the official law enforcement is where also the weaknesses in the writing show up. Moreover, Lin Shen also has a trauma from his childhood. What male lead doesn’t these days? It’s all par for the course, and the primary justification for the romance also. If the physician can’t heal himself maybe having a good woman beside will. Anyway, it’s only 16 episodes all up and a nice diversion for a sick or rainy day. My biggest beef is that there’s not enough Gong Jun in the first half of the drama.