Plot: Jiu Chen the god of war, has been meditating-slash-frozen solid in the holy ice sea for 50,000 years, ever since the great battle with the demon king ended with a victory but also the entire 100,000-strong army of Heaven dead. Flashbacks seem to imply that it was at least partly Jiu Chen’s doing, but the truth is of paramount interest to multiple parties. Anyhow, he’s woken up from his slumber by our heroine, Ling Xi, a young fairy healer from a very sheltered–but ultimately rather mysterious–background. She also, which seems to be plot-relevant, steals the knotted charm he’s holding down in the cave. The god of war is welcomed back by many, but not all, as the god of lightning was set to take his place and is quite ready to scheme and cause trouble.
On the subject of scheming, there is also a bald guy with tattoos who wears black and goes by “Counselor”. He’s the effective power behind the throne in Phoenix Kingdom, which is ruled by a Queen to whom he personally is loyal, but who herself has little interest in rulership. A quick flashback reveals that this Queen had lost her baby, with whom she left a knotted charm. Another flashback reveals that the Counselor wants revenge on somebody for doing something to his family in the past. Anyhow, the Counselor gets together with the lightning god and some stuff happens, but the context was kind of boring and I skipped it. The end result of both the Counselor and the lightning god’s actions are that Jiu Chen is under suspicion, out of favor, and confined to his house. Also, some other guy got sucked into a demon portal. Nevertheless, his friends are loyal–and so are Shi San and Ling Xi.
Episode 5 features the heroine saving a mortal puppy from being fed to the celestial animals and adopting it. Unfortunately, ’tis an unenlightened puppy and pees on the god of war’s boots….
Pros: There are numerous interesting, amusing characters that I like: Shi San, the hero’s steward/ess, who apparently swapped genders and subsequently weirds him out when he meets her/him again (“Sir, many women wear rouge and flower decorations!” “Many women didn’t used to have a beard and carry a 40-pound spear!”) Even more so is Shi San’s reluctant love interest…
There’s the heroine’s father, who at first appearance seems to be a drunken, ineffectual moron but turns out to be far from that: excitable and irrascible, sure, but also quick-witted, quick-tongued, and fiercely protective of his daughter….to a counterproductive degree. (“He’s a young, virile man who has been practicing celibacy for 50,000 years! Who knows what’s going to happen!”) There’s the heroine’s honorary elder sister, a healer of the sort who people find scarier than an actual war god–but who heals, breaks bones, intimidates, and chats with her loved ones always in the same gentle, ladylike attire and tones. Mind you, I’d be a lot more secure in my own skin if I could break people’s bones with my bare hands.
Chang Chen (he was in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), playing the hero, has one of those completely stone-faced, stoic, and silent roles, where emotion is conveyed by glances, eyebrow raises, and pregnant pauses before he walks away (and the walks can be stoic strides, or hurried sweeping, or thoughtful meandering)–he’s pretty good. He’s playing a noble hero with many secrets that he keeps for many people’s benefit–as well as his own.
Ni Ni, playing our heroine, is also pretty good; however, thus far her character has had little to do overall, she’s charismatic enough that she’s consistently enjoyable to watch. She is indeed decently clever (as she triumphantly points out) and shows good spirit, but so far she is also quite passive and has had no real impact on the plot. I have to say that I don’t really buy the romance, because it’s just such a lopsided match–god of war versus junior grade fairy? But time will tell, and I do like the series enough to keep going.
Cons: I’m going to say that the lavish production and fantasy set design is actually a negative for me. Here’s why: it’s a distraction, and it’s unnecessary. If you have a solid script and powerhouse actors, then they should be mesmerizing if you put them in a blank room with the camera at a flat angle. I tend to associate too-fancy sets and filmography with low quality, dumb scripts, so it just sets me on edge.
Also, I really hate with the court intrigues. Give me sworn brothers pursuing vengeance, or some sort of quest, and I’ll be totally happy then instead. But we’ve got fifty-five more episodes to do something with, so…
– Ling Xi covering for Jiu Chen’s injuries by pretending she’s frightened, and grabbing on to his arm–hiding that she’s actually healing him–and then Jiu Chen returning the favor by taking her hand as they leave the celestial banquet hall. That was a set of nice moments.
– Ling Xi’s father is hilarious whenever he’s on screen.
– Jiu Chen discovering the puppy the first time.
– Jiu Chen smirking as Ling Xi chases the puppy around.
Rated: sixty episodes is a long haul, but hopefully it’ll be worth it.