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PeachBlossomGoddess

Hong Kong

PeachBlossomGoddess

Hong Kong
Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty chinese drama review
Completados
Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty
64 pessoas acharam esta resenha útil
by PeachBlossomGoddess
Out 14, 2022
36 of 36 episódios vistos
Completados 27
No geral 9.0
História 9.0
Atuação/Elenco 9.0
Musical 8.0
Voltar a ver 9.0

The Making of a Di-tective

Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty is 2022's surprise hit and a must watch for mystery wuxia buffs. Inspired by zhiguai xiaoshuo 志怪小说, this is a collection of slightly supernatural mysteries set in Tang dynasty. This form of folk literature was very popular during that period and is not limited to ghost stories but also strange or anomalous phenomena. Fifteen centuries later, these fantastical tales continues to set imaginations afire and is a well explored genre in contemporary media. Well before Tsui Hark's wildly entertaining and successful movies from 2010 onwards, Detective Dee was already by far the most ubiquitous protagonist of this genre.

The Tang Code is one of Tang dynasty's great accomplishments and was the model for all future dynasty's legal codes in China and East Asia. Di Renjie was a Tang judge renown for numerous fair and impartial judgements and one of the heroes of ancient China. He twice ascended to rank of chancellor during Wu Tzetian's reign. The popularity of zhiguai xiaoshuo and this rich historical backdrop makes this period rich fodder for fantastical Di Renjie inspired ancient detective stories like this. This is set during Wu Tzetian's son Ruizong's second reign. Ruizong was a pretty useless emperor and his sister Princess Taiping was the real power behind the throne. Harboring ambitions to be another Wu Tzetian, Princess Taiping was engaged in a power struggle with crown prince Li Longji (Xuanzong). In terms of recent Tang dramas, this takes place after Luoyang and before Longest Day in Changan and The Imperial Coroner. This drama is well researched, largely respects history and is true to the societal, institutional and legal norms of the day.

The county sheriff of Chang'an, the capital city is found dead under spooky circumstances. Su Wuming, a disciple of the revered Di Renjie is summoned hastily to Changan to assume this position. His path keeps crossing with that of Lu Lingfeng, a proud and ambitious young general of the jinyiwei or imperial guards. Their relationship starts off as adversarial as Lu Lingfeng clearly resents that Di Renjie once rejected him as a disciple While not his match in rank, resources or martial arts, the crafty Su Wuming runs circles around Lu Lingfeng and manipulates him (and his resources) into aiding in his investigation. As they race to unravel their entangled cases they encounter sorcery, shape shifters and battle adversaries with unworldly powers. Inevitably a grudging mutual respect and comradeship forms between the men. While Su Wuming is clearly the master detective, Lu Lingfeng is also smart and has great instincts but is foiled by his quick rush to conclusion and lack of experience. This is not another cliched and static brains vs brawn investigative combo where the brains (Holmes, Poirot) is elevated by how dumb and naïve their sidekicks are (Watson, Hastings). This is just as much Lu Lingfeng's story as it is Su Wuming's. Under Su Wuming's discreet tutelage and hilarious machinations that fall barely short of hazing, we see the makings of a Di-tective out of Lu Lingfeng.

Lu Lingfeng''s overweening pride and arrogance would come off as off-putting if it were less charismatically portrayed by Yang Xuwen with the subtlest sense of self-awareness and irony. Although the Tang rulers made imperial exams a mandatory prerequisite, scions of noble families such as Lu Lingfeng's were able to secure coveted positions and advance on the fast track as a result of patronage. This explains why at such a young age he was a fourth rank general in the elite imperial guard. I think most don't appreciate how ignominious it is for Lu Lingfeng to accept a subordinate position to a county level official such as Su Wuming. He rolls with the punches and learns from his mistakes to discover a greater sense of accomplishment by earning his way back to the top. After a long hiatus, it is good to see Yang Xuwen come back with such a multi-faceted, well interpreted character that is arrogant and quick tempered on the outside but pragmatic and even mushy on the inside. He has amazing rapport with veteran actor Yang Zhigang who delivers a flawless depiction of the astute, seasoned detective with keen survival instincts and a slightly diabolical sense of humor.

While Su Wuming is the maestro that pulls all the threads together, the cases are tackled by a motley team of talented and engaging characters they pick up along the way. Master Fei Ji is the extraordinary doctor who sells his soul for a chicken a day, Pei Xijun is insightful beyond her invaluable photographic eye for detail while Xue Huan and Ying Tao round out the formidable martial arts team. They are all lost souls who become found family and find meaning in their work together. It is rare to see such excellent character development in this genre, which tends to be more plot heavy. The team dynamics and witty repartee is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this story. There are two romances that don't take center stage but are quite charming although the second one in particular is not necessary. This is a wonderful ensemble cast that put a lot of heart into their performances. While some of the acting lacks finesse, it is yards better than all the boring posing by overpaid and entitled idol actors that the industry keeps cramming down our throats. It is clear from the production values, the well choreographed action scenes and the CGI that the budget was spent on all the right things.

This intriguing and engaging collection of strange cases from the Tang dynasty hooked me from the start. In a year where too many high profile Chinese dramas have started strong only to fall down on plot, this drama delivers into the final mystery. There are eight cases that wander down an intriguing path of murder, mayhem and all kinds of odd happenings that pay homage to real records of such occurrences from that period. The cases are well written and littered with clues that will allow the attentive viewer to participate in the solution. The supernatural elements end up mostly but not entirely debunked, leaving a nice eerie aftertaste. To me the most frightening case is the one involving the scholar Dugu Xia (shout out to the most underrated actor Han Chengyu), where true evil is not some supernatural phenomenon but resides within man's nature. The drama finishes strongly with an excellent cold case, one that evaded Su Wuming's mentor Di Renjie. If I have one complaint, I would have liked to see the whole team crack the final case together. Instead they traded in two favorite characters for two that are introduce late in the game. I also didn't like that Su Wuming and Lu Lingfeng pursued separate leads for most of the final case although I understand that is to show Lu Lingfeng has come into his own.

I expected this low profile drama to be one of a long string of forgettable Detective Dee wanna-be dramas that is just good to pass some time. I am still rather befuddled at how enjoyable it is. It is on par with, if not slightly better than Ancient Detective, 2020's sleeper mystery wuxia hit, which I also rated 9.0. This has toppled many higher profile dramas to rank #2 on my watch list for 2022.

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