Summary: I wonder if I can go the distance and finish this, or should I jump ship when I still have the chance? Oh yeah, don’t watch if you’re afraid of snakes.
(I put this summary right at the start just to give you an idea how frustrated I feel with this drama right now. Although by the time I finish this post, I’m up to episode 25 right now and I’ve been enjoying the past few episodes a lot more, because they’re finally focusing on solving the mystery…)
Let’s talk about Detectives and Doctors (陸小鳳與花滿樓), a Chinese drama which started filming in early 2013 but only released in January this year. Its selling point? THE WORLD’s FIRST 3D WUXIA! Whoa. I put this in caps because it was such a huge drawcard right from the beginning and there was a lot of hype around it. Problem is most of us probably don’t have 3D TVs. So you know, a nice to have but is it really necessary? REALLY? I’ll leave this to you to answer. I would argue the production team should spend the money on better writing rather than flashy gimmicks.
Name: Detectives and Doctors (陸小鳳與花滿樓)
Country of Origin: China
Length: 43 episodes (45 mins each)
Original broadcast period: 10 January 2015 to 31 January 2015
Themesongs: Interlinked Hearts 心有灵犀 by Raymond Lam (Opening), Think Alike 一點通 by Cai Jun Tao (Ending)
Raymond Lam Fung as Lu Xiao Feng
Zhang Xiao Long as Hua Man Lou
Zhang Meng as Ah Xin
Lan Xi as Shang Guan Dan Feng
Very brief storyline from AncientChinese.net
The series follows the plot from the first novel, “The Golden Bird Dynasty” (大金鵬王), as Lu Xiao Feng (Raymond Lam) investigates the Emperor’s mysterious illness and meets with a lost princess Shang Guan Dan Feng (Lan Xi) who tells him that he has to find three officials of her old kingdom to find the answer. In his quest, Lu befriends a blind doctor Hua Man Lou (Zhang Xiao Long) and a swordsman Xi Men Chui Xue (Shaun Tam), and they then work together to unveil the mystery.
Just in case you didn’t know, I’ve been a Raymond Lam fangirl for a while. Ah yes, I think I said that in my last post. So you know, I’m not knowledgeable in the original material Detectives and Doctors was based on. (Gu Long’s The Legend of Lu Xiao Feng 陸小鳳傳奇) which was the 1st instalment in the Lu Xiao Feng series) Also, I’m not a huge watcher of Wuxia / ancient dramas – they’re not really my ‘thing’ and it wasn’t until TVB broadcasted their Cantonese dubbed version did I seriously consider watching it. Dubbing is like a necessary evil of C-Dramas so if it’s going to be dubbed anyway, I might as well watch something I can actually understand? It’ll also save me some energy by not having to concentrate reading subs at the same time.
All those disclaimers aside, after a little more research into the Lu Xiao Feng series, I realised Gu Long’s novels are more focused on the investigative/detective side rather than the wuxia side. This is great news right because I normally love crime shows – whether it’s the various versions of Sherlock Holmes or even Law and Order… it makes things easier to digest if I just treat this as a detective series set in the ancient era? However, the novel this drama was based on was only around 240 or 360 pages(depending on which version in print), so even at the maximum, that’s like 10 pages per episode? Yes I know they added extra storylines to beef up the story (ie. Ah Xin is a new character) but I’m concerned already.
I normally like to start my posts on a positive note. Originally, I thought hard about what those can be but I guess I am being generous here.
Of course I’m going to say the opening theme! OK, so it’s not the best Raymond Lam theme song out there, but I’ve been desperate for his new songs so I’ll take this. Plus, I like how the opening song is called 心有灵犀 (Interlinked hearts) and the ending song is called 一点通 (Think alike) which comes from the same poem. I won’t go into the details about the song meanings, but I’ve linked the translations on OneHallyu. I’ve also included the videos at the end of this post. 🙂
The story itself is interesting. I enjoyed the first episode because it sets up a mystery where the Emperor is struck with an illness where his eyes turned red and started randomly killing people. Then we discover the leader of the Emei Sect is struck with the same illness. Who did this? Why? How is this linked to the lost Golden Bird / Jin Peng dynasty? I want to know!
Since this drama is called Detectives and Doctors, you’d expect two interlinking stories about the Detective (Lu Xiao Feng) and the Doctor (Hua Man Lou). Despite my bias, I’m enjoying the Doctor’s story more. Although Hua Man Lou is blind (I think since he was a child but I don’t recall it was mentioned specifically), he is a very talented doctor, kind-hearted, has some serious fighting skills and generally, a real positive influence. I guess that’s why I like his character. His eyes might not be able to see but he can use his sense of taste, smell, hearing and feel to understand his surroundings and the people he meets.
Hua Man Lou also comes from a rich family. He could’ve just lived his life frivolously but he chose to rely on himself and help others. When the Emperor is struck with a mysterious illness, the Empress Dowager enlists his help. However, this also placed his life in danger. He develops a relationship with one of the assassins sent to kill him Fei Yan (Chen Ya Ting) which I’m guessing has to go down the tragic route but I just can’t help but like this couple. Hua Man Lou tries so hard to pull her away from a life of killing but that was how she was raised. Even if she steps out now, she already made too many enemies and have to run forever. They’re quite restrained in their interactions but I do feel some chemistry between them. (As opposed to Lu Xiao Feng and Dan Feng, which I’ll talk about later.) I didn’t realise this is the first acting role for Chen Ya Ting. As a model turned actress she’s beautiful and is doing a decent job.
However, so many episodes to fill, the writers need to come up with something to keep the audience’s interest. And here is where our issues begin…
THE NOT SO GOOD
Too many subplots. You know what. I’m hoping at the end of all this the drama will prove me wrong. That all those subplots which I find doesn’t add to the story actually meant to contribute in unravelling the whole mystery. Reading the synopsis, the swordsman Xi Men Chui Xue is meant to be an important character and friend of Lu Xiao Feng. However, all he has done so far is get himself caught up in a romance with the soon-to-be leader of the Emei Sect Sun Xiu Qing (Mao Lin Lin). They embark on this Romeo & Juliet type romance which took up several episodes and not only was there no proper resolution, I fail to see its relevance to the overall mystery. Now it’s been about 7 episodes since their last appearance and I’m left wondering – What was that about?
Speaking of irrelevant subplots, I’m also finding the original character Ah Xin doesn’t fit into the story. She has the ability to see the past and future and her first scene was rather hilarious because she tells Lu Xiao Feng he’s the father of her child. However, I also think her existence undermines Lu Xiao Feng’s ability to investigate because he relies on her too much for clues. To be honest, apart from his fighting ability, I don’t find Lu Xiao Feng such a mysterious enigma as other people make him out to be.
Character development & chemistry are lacking. On Lu Xiao Feng, as the main character of this drama, because of all the subplots I just don’t feel like I’m getting to know him as a character. In some episodes he tends to appear for a short scene and then disappear. Plus, he comes into the story already ‘established’. It’s like I missed the first part of a story where it’s supposed to explain his background. I suppose my expectation needs to be adjusted after knowing this is a detective story and not like a Jin Yong story. He’s meant to be a drifter with great fighting skills and a playboy leaving a trail of broken hearts. But he hardly had the chance to flirt before seriously falling for Dan Feng. Since there is such a huge focus on romance in this drama, I don’t understand why he fell in love so early on. I must’ve missed the ‘lightbulb’ moment. Doesn’t help that I’m not seeing much chemistry them either.
Well, I have to mention the superficial level also. Not feeling this styling on Raymond Lam at all. Whilst I don’t think he looks too bad with the moustache (Lu Xiao Feng is famous for his ‘four eyebrows’ afterall) everything about him just screams PIMP! The rings! The hair! The pervy moustache! Oh dear.
The fighting scenes & CGI. I’ll say this outright that it was a mistake marketing this as wuxia drama. To the noob like me who knows nothing about the original novel, I expected this to be about the different fighting styles, different sects etc. So as I’ve said, this drama is not about that. Think of it as a mystery / thriller. But since their major selling point is the 3D WHOA BANG FLYING SWORDS OR WHATEVER you need to give the audience some decent fighting scenes right? RIGHT? Well, there is nothing spectacular here. I am not a fan of CGI in general because I’m finding people are using it instead of proper choreography and sound effects. If I’m watching a sword fight, I want to see two swords actually touching each other you know?! Not some red and blue light effect touching each other and the actors are hardly near each other? I wouldn’t say the fighting scenes are bad, it’s nothing to get excited about. Also, the CGI – the white and black snakes and Hua Man Lou’s talking bird, not seeing much advancement in the technology department here.
Is the bad guy revealed too early? If we look back at the story outline, the mystery involves finding the 3 officials of the lost Golden Bird or Jin Peng dynasty. These 3 people betrayed the King and stole the keys to this massive treasure. Princess Dan Feng’s goal is to find these 3 officials, get the keys back and find the treasure where the cure for the Emperor’s illness lies. So even before the half way mark, 2 of those officials are dead and we know the identity of the third. He is the main antagonist of this drama. Again, maybe there’s some even bigger mystery and more villains to this drama, but there isn’t much suspense if we know who is the big, bad evil one. Also, since a half face mask doesn’t really hide anything, we know Dan Feng either has a evil twin or a split personality, because this mysterious figure has appeared a couple of times but we know very little about her.
Is the ending going to be depressing? I can see it already. The ladies of this story have been through a lot so far. One was forced to sleep with a bad guy to save her man and the other was under mind control so she ended up sleeping with another guy as well. Oh dear. I hope they keep the death count low. It is difficult to watch a long drama only to find it leaves a depressing feeling at the end.
I’m half way through this drama already but I’m finding it on the slow and draggy side. Maybe those irrelevant subplots might mean something later but it sure doesn’t feel that way. Also, despite its title it doesn’t feel like I got to know Lu Xiao Feng or Hua Man Lou. I want to see more of them! Their friendship has a lot of potential. Bromance? Please?
If you’re thinking of watching it for the fighting scenes then just forget it. It isn’t that kind of drama. I’m also wary other Raymond fans said they’ve abandoned this drama because it’s too draggy. If the fangirls are saying that, then I’m really wondering whether it’s just going to get worse.
Opening Theme – Interlinked Hearts by Raymond Lam
Closing Theme – Think Alike by Cai Jun Tao