The series trails the Crown Prince Xiao Ding Quan’s perilous journey – being a pawn between the Emperor and the Gu family who is controlling the military. The series is a mixture of love story, family relationship, palace intrigue, political pawns. Xiao Ding Quan is generous, righteous & kind, longing for family love. Being the Crown Prince, his journey is surprisingly difficult as the Emperor has never doted on him and is almost always biased against him.
In subsequent arc, Crown Prince keeps losing every individual dear to him. Starting with his exalted tutor Lu Shiyu, whom he treats like his father. He grows up with teachings from Lu Shiyu, who is strict with moral righteousness and instils in Crown Prince to be always righteous. Lu Shiyu died protecting the Crown Prince.
Lu Shiyu sends his student, Lu Ying to return to the capital in order to assist the Crown Prince. When Crown Prince gets to know Lu Wenxi, Lu Ying’s daughter, they fall in love although they have not seen each other directly. When Lu Ying is implicated in a case of treason, the whole family is imprisoned. Wenxi manages to escape with her youngest brother Wenjin, but Wenxi returns as a palace attendant (Attendant Gu AhBao) in order to find a way to assist her family. Just when the Crown Prince manages to rid the premier Li Bai Zhou, who is assisting Xiao Ding Tang Prince Qi (the rival eldest prince), he is intentionally deceived by the selfish & jealous Zhang Luzheng to execute Lu Ying’s family. Lu Ying and his eldest son, Lu Wenpu perished resulting in great resentment in Wenxi/ Attendant Gu.
Subsequently, the Crown Prince also loses his main wife, Zhang Nianzhi, who is poisoned while attending a banquet. By then, his behaviour is erratic and suffers depression due to all the deaths.
The plots thicken when the Emperor is still reluctant to trust his son, after all the tests and actions the Crown Prince have taken to win his love & acceptance. The main challenge is his uncle Gu Si Lin who controls the military. The Crown Prince has an extremely close relationship with his uncle and his cousin brother Gu Feng En. When his uncle dies at the battleground…
Spoiler Ahead : The series states that there is 60 episodes. When I completed watching episode 60, my mind went blank. And the feelings subsequently were weird – blank, confused. What? Why? Who? Then anger, disbelief. And I searched and found another 12 episodes labelled as sequel (what does that even mean?!) Upon watching episode 60, the show suddenly seems to have ended with a happy note, but there were so many untied loose end and unexplained situations. I could not understand the ending. The next 12 episodes will provide the answers. Key to the explanations will be the role of Xu Chang Ping, the 5th Prince Xiao Ding Kai and Gu Feng En.
Xu Chang Ping first appears as a cheating scholar betraying the Crown Prince. Eventually, he becomes the scribe for the Emperor, and the Emperor sent him to be Crown Prince’s assistant. His character has always been enigmatic and mysterious. His identity is key. And Wang Yu’s portrayal of Xu Chang Ping is great when he shows how the personality & righteousness of the Crown Prince has touched his heart to sway him over in assisting him. The character has been victimised but never let resentment takes over, forever grateful & chasing the righteousness for the people. My favourite character in this show.
In the first 60 episodes, Xiao Ding Kai as the 5th Prince comes across as timid & the forgotten son. He is not scholastic and not favoured by his own mother, who loves the eldest son more. He falls in love with Lu Wenxi, and tries to help her in anyway he can. You would have thought he is the kind prince who deserves a good ending. The next 12 episodes prove that the surface can be extremely deceiving. Behind the scene, Xiao Ding Kai is a scheming prince who takes advantage of the misfortunes of his brothers to develop his chances to fight for the throne. The turn in event was so shocking, that I didn’t see it coming at all until I watched the sequel.
Gu Feng En is the Crown Prince’s cousin and best friend since young, and the two of them shares a strong brotherhood bond. Both are protective of each other. When Gu Feng En leaves for the border upon news of his eldest brother’s passing, both understood that they may not be able to share the close bond anymore as Feng En now has to shoulder the responsibility of a military army. His own experiences in the battlefield may have hardened him, but the final straw must have been his father’s death. Originally thought to be a misfortune en-route back from battlefield, the truth is Gu Si Lin is assassinated by Xiao Ding Kai’s men, and probably with the consent of the Emperor. The anger of being betrayed by the Emperor of whom they served compelled Feng En’s rebellion.
The rebellion puts Crown Prince in a difficult decision as he does not believe in rebellion, and his own principles disallow him to condone such action. His confrontation with Feng En on the city’s wall resulted in Feng En’s suicide. Subsequently, it was very hard to watch the ending. I could not understand why is it as such, and why did the Crown Prince take such action. It baffles me, and made the show so tragic. ☹
Character-wise, Crown Prince is basically a kind-hearted soul, sensitive & always longing for his father’s acceptance & love. Under pressured circumstances & always cornered, he strives to be a righteous leader, maintaining his principles of fairness and withstanding blows upon blows of schemes from various parties. Luo Jin portrays Crown Prince Xiao Ding Quan, and surprisingly Luo Jin can cry very well. However, the Crown Prince’s constant need for acceptance especially from his father is quite annoying. The idealistic prince seems to move from being able to withstand all the schemes, and then falling into the abyss. The cycle seems to repeat itself. After a while, the character actually annoys me. And his own ending – I just do not understand, why? It just does not make sense to me.
The Emperor – not sure whether to pity him, or to just label him as the real villain of the series. He takes the throne from his own brother forcefully with the help of Gu Si Lin, and has been living on tenterhook ever since. Always trying to balance power amongst his officials and his sons. Strict & detached, scheming & cruel. Strictly authoritarian rule, with the main objective of maintaining balanced power & paving a peaceful rule for his future generation. Love the character, Huang ZhiZhong the actor is really great in this character. The character is first and foremost, an emperor. An emperor who is a father, a husband, and a human being after all, with biases & often errors in judgements.
Lu Wenxi’s character is strong, persistent & tenacious. In her attempt to save her family, she takes great risk. Her love for the Crown Prince starts off as a naïve puppy love, turning into disappointment, further a mix of resentment & admiration upon the many turn of events. The Crown Prince is somehow an idiot, who could not even identify his own love. And his suspicious nature resulting in many situations in which Wenxi is tortured. What exactly Wenxi sees in the Crown Prince, I think only she will be able to tell.
The series left me bewildered & really baffled. Frankly, at 60 + 12 episodes, a total of 72, is really a long investment of time. There are scenes whereby the pace is slow. The shocking turns of events usually keeps you on the toes, always wanting more.
However, the actions of the main characters, really baffles me. I was bewildered at the end of episode 60, and after watching the expose in the last 12 episodes – firstly sad, then angry, and finally totally bewildered. Why oh why?
Is it a happy ending or a sad ending? I will leave it to you to judge. My own view – it is a new beginning. Happy for the villain, sad for the main leads, hopefully a better future for the new generation. Although I was a little sad for the main leads, I was also angry at them as the final tragedy is a choice that the Crown Prince took, which does not make sense to me. It was so unnecessary.
All said and done, it is not a bad series. I like it, pace could be faster, some near shots of the actors & actresses could have been better. Acting were good, suspenseful & thrilling. The series shocks you to the core.
My favourite tune is the opening theme Desolate, fully instrumental.
Sharing the simple piano arrangement, and the ensemble of the opening theme Desolate.
Please note the music sheet is personally arranged & shared for educational & personal entertainment purposes. Please use these personal shared items responsibly and not to use these commercially.