The Long Night is a short 12-episode series released as part of iQiyi’s Light-On Series in 2020, focusing on the decade-long journey of the quest for justice. The series move forward & backward through time as each scene in a particular chronology of event is explored in more details.
The series started out with a suspicious lawyer Zhang Chao lugging a heavy luggage crossing the public train transport, only to alarm the authority to a potential bomb scare. Upon successfully disarming Zhang Chao, the bomb-detonation team finds the body of Jiang Yang in the luggage. The local police team is joined by Yan Liang to investigate the deemed murder of Jiang Yang. As Yan Liang contemplates the various clues & evidences, the case does not seem straight forward.
A decade ago, Jiang Yang was a bright & passionate prosecutor in small town Miao Gao. He has the whole life to look forward to – a bright future as civil servant prosecutor and a great relationship with girlfriend Wu Ai Ke. Until he is sought out by his university mate Li Jing who requests to re-open the case of Hou Gui Ping’s death, a fellow university mate who died in Miao Gao area.
The story shifts to Hou Gui Ping, another aspiring young graduate who takes up a teaching role in one of the remote villages in Miao Gao. While he pours in his effort to improve the education for the young children in the village, the sudden suicide of a young girl under his charge shocks him greatly. Subsequently, he chances upon more sinister incidents of sexual exploitations of young girls in the village. When he mysteriously dies, amidst accusation of molest by a local villager, everything went cold.
As Jiang Yang commences his own investigations, he faces various stumbling blocks at each and every clue that he finds. As he gets further invested in the investigations, he forms a close bond & friendship with coroner Chen Ming Zhang and fellow police officer Zhu Wei. All the evidences point towards extensive link to a few VVIPs who are invested to protect their reputation, businesses & money-making channels.
However, the deep & embedded corruption with the authority including the police extinguish the ember of fires. First sending Zhu Wei into re-training as part of his reprimand and then, stripping Jiang Yang of his job and sending him to a prison stint upon conviction of a “planted” bribery case.
As the story return to the present day, more layers of evidences are peeled as each piece of puzzle forming a broader picture is sent anonymously to an award-winning journalist Wang Xiao Qian of a local newspaper. First with the location, then a club, and persons in the picture.
The last 2 episodes are critical in unlocking all the question marks scattered throughout the earlier episodes. And what shocking incidents these are:
- Hou Gui Ping is accidentally murdered by the local village bullies on the pretext of framing him for molesting a local villager
- Village girls are kidnapped to be sexually exploited by a rich & up-coming maniac young businessman Zheng Xiao Dong for years without any repercussions
- Chief Police Li Jian Guo has been protecting the trio of Sun Chuan Fu, Hu Yi Lang and Zheng Xiao Dong, who have prospered over the years with more benefits
- Jiang Yang’s death is an act of committing suicide, with the sole intention to bring attention of the authority to investigate all the relevant clues to expose these VVIPs
- Zhu Wei & Chen Ming Zhang are both invested to assist Jiang Yang (in their respective way) to provide the necessary clues & evidences to Yan Liang
- Wang Xiao Qian remains the only witness available to provide evidences against the sexual exploitations
Watching this series is not for the faint-hearted. After completing this series, I have mixed feeling. Is it a “dark” series? Partly. Definitely not as dark as The Bad Kid (also another critically acclaimed Light-On Series) but it doesn’t give you a feel-good feeling.
The 2 aspiring and young protagonists – Hou Gui Ping and Jiang Yang have the whole world at their feet, and yet both ends up dead. The phrase “curiosity kills the cat” keeps flashing out in both their cases. When Hou Gui Ping single-mindedly chases after the clues to Mei Xiang’s suicide. When Jiang Yang traces the shadow of Hou Gui Ping, following his exact wistful footsteps.
Their deaths are not in vain after all, as the main expose at the end provides some justice to all the other victims. However, the quest for justice is an extremely arduous & long journey, with significant sacrifices of life (literally on their own lives – Hou Gui Ping and then Jiang Yang as well). Jiang Yang sacrifices even more
- his blooming relationship with girlfriend Ai Ke when prodded by Ai Ke’s father who is also a Chief Prosecutor
- the time spent with his wife and son, even endangering his son’s life at one point with the outright kidnapping by Hu Yi Lang
- his whole career as a prosecutor with the wrongful conviction of bribery
The positives that I see in their lives
- The fire, passion and blind faith when they chase to find the truth. The perseverance in seeking justice, seeing it to the end
- Hou Gui Ping has an angel in girlfriend Li Jing, who doggedly pursued the truth even in practicality, she has to move on in life
- Jiang Yang has cumulated many good friends, who are willing to be his accomplices in order to participate in the expose
The scene when Ai Ke’s father (who is retiring as the Chief Prosecutor) provides the evidences on Hou Gui Ping’s death to Jiang Yang is very sad. His guilt is evidence but his statement is so raw and true – “I do not have your guts nor courage to investigate”. It is even sadder as Ai Ke’s father nudges Jiang Yang away from his daughter as he wants a “normal” and happy life for his own daughter.
Facing such difficulties, many people choose to look the other way. In a way, such behaviour emboldens the crooks. Hence, it takes a lot of courage to go against the norm. It is shocking with the kind of audacity the crooks had at the end. In their desperation, they got assassins to hunt and kill the only witness Zhang Xiao Qian, who is under police protection.
The series has a great story as its background, and shines even more with a glowing cast of actors & actresses. I am somehow more invested in the trio of brotherhood – Jiang Yang, Zhu Wei and Chen Ming Zhang. Their chemistry is spot on, and their raw emotions are easy to grasp. I love the fact that each of the characters are as different as day and night, but they gelled in their belief & pursuit of justice. Even Chen Ming Zhang, who has always been a little gray in his own involvement as he tends to look the other way if it suits him. Actor Tian Xiao Jie who portrays Chen Ming Zhang is also Grandpa Wei of Sword, Snow, Stride!
Surprise surprise – Bai Yu portrays Jiang Yang extremely well. He is really a great actor, the same one who is suave & naïve as Zhao Yun Lan in Guardian. I love his interpretation of Jiang Yang – all through his journey of a decade – the excitable & young man in love, the distressed prosecutor in his shattered dream of pursuing justice, the fiery ember of passion that refuses to die in his pursuit of the truth, the frustration & defeatist at death’s door, with the flicker of belief to take a chance for a shocking expose in an unconventional way. I would say he is the soul of this series.
I have less connection with Yan Liang and his team. Their co-operation did not come across as genuine, and frankly I hated Liao Fan’s interpretation of Yan Liang. Somehow, Liao Fan’s smirks come across as annoyingly knowing instead of pensive. I just could not appreciate his interpretation of this character.
The series did not really capture the serving of justice to the crooks (especially the 4 head honchos), but I guess the focus is on the journey of the justice seekers. I really don’t have much issue with this. However, the end tries to be “positive” but ends up a little inappropriate with the 4 police members given awards, while all Jiang Yang’s accomplices are given various forms of penalties in prison time. I hated this part, but well – it is what it is.
More and more, as I watch these shorter series especially iQiyi’s Light-On Series, these are really great gems. Go for it, but watch it when you are less likely to feel negatively. The series can be a little depressing.
Light On Series
The Bad Kid (2020)
The Long Night (2020)