Road Home (2023) 归路: C-Drama Series Review

Age of Innocence


At 30-episode, Road Home is a modern series taking a look at first love & 2nd chance romance between two unlikely leads – Lu Chen who has a complicated (and difficult) family and Gui Xiao a sweet girl-next-door. Jing Bo Ran and Tan Song Yun portray Lu Chen and Gui Xiao respectively. The series alternate between current period (circa 2020) and the past going back to a decade ago while they were still in high school/ university. The first few episodes are actually quite intense showing a very sad-looking Gui Xiao pining away for her first love but undecided whether to actively initiate communication.

When Gui Xiao is in border town Qi Ning (where Lu Chen is stationed as a special task force officer for the past decade) during winter, her friend’s car is stolen. Gui Xiao calls Lu Chen for assistance and he immediately comes to help, although he hardly says much during the whole ordeal. As their interaction increases due to the car theft, it is apparent that both of them have yet to let go of their past romances.

Cold winter in Qi Ning border town

It is then revealed that the couple started their relationship during high school. When Lu Chen is admitted to the Police Academy, they continue with their long-distance relationship. During a difficult period in Gui Xiao’s life as she started her university life, the long-distance relationship hits turbulence patches. Gui Xiao’s emotions fluctuate due to her parents’ failing marriage. While she is pining away for the attention & listening ears of Lu Chen, unfortunately he is unable to spend much time even on the phone with her as the academy’s physical requirements are extremely disciplined with little time left for the young lovers to spend together.

In a fit of anger after months of to-and-fro arguments, Gui Xiao initiated break-up and refuses to take any calls from Lu Chen. In the months that follow, Lu Chen tries to re-connect as much as possible but hits difficulty in even establishing contacts. As time goes by, the two individuals live on separately and does not maintain contacts.

Subsequent to the initial connect in Qi Ning town, Lu Chen is transferred back to a smaller suburb near Beijing. Adding to the complication, a son of Lu Chen’s good friend is brought back to Beijing for schooling, requiring assistance from Gui Xiao to arrange. This provides the opportunity for both to re-connect and re-examine their feelings for each other. Starting awkwardly, both slowly finds their bearing in their own feelings – getting confident that they are still in love with each other.

The big bomb dropped when Lu Chen’s parents are adamant that he marries the Zheng family’s daughter, who has assisted Lu Chen’s father financially in business. Determined to cut-off the unconventional marriage proposal, Lu Chen borrows monies to clear the debt. Upon the successful brokering of the breakup of the marriage proposal with the assistance of good friends Meng Xiao Shan and husband Qin Feng, Lu Chen takes a road trip to Qi Ning with Gui Xiao. Love reignited, the two decides on a whim to get married.

Looking great in uniform…

How can the love-smitten couple be let off so easily but to endure a few more challenges as they manouevre through the mundane life.

  • Objections from Gui Xiao’s father who felt that Lu Chen’s complicated family background is not deserving of his daughter. He finally gets ticked off with a good scolding from his daughter who is adamant that she will stay with Lu Chen.
  • Difficult & often unreasonable behaviour of Lu Chen’s parents who are demanding. Lu Chen draws a clear line of distinction in his own family and his expected piety towards his parents.
  • The responsibilities (and main danger of a special task officer) especially as an expert in bomb detonation, exposing Lu Chen to tasks that almost endanger his life. Gui Xiao even in her near-end pregnancy term has to deal with a comatose Lu Chen, crying her heart out while managing the impending birth of their first offspring.

The series end with a sweet wedding for the couple, reminiscing more lovey-dovey scenes of their younger times and the couple looking forward towards a lifetime together with their daughter.

Wedding bells…

Muses & Thoughts

Upon completion of the series, the thoughts of rating the series confuses me slightly. I have a good feel & vibes about the series, but stepping back objectively, the series has a lot of flaws in them.

Firstly, going into the good vibes about the series:

  • Jing Bo Ran! He is such a handsome special task officer in both uniform and casually. He looks even dapper in tux!
  • The chemistry that Lu Chen and Gui Xiao has are great, both oozes love for each other. Lots of kissing scenes, it goes nowhere on scene although it obviously did otherwise where does the surprise pregnancy comes from. 😀  
  • The scenery and backdrop of the series – wow! The winterland up north in Qi Ning is beautiful to behold. The attractions of the beautiful Grand Canyon of China, the bridge, sunset, grassland prairie in both winter (fully white) and summer (green green grass). Gets me antsy to plan for my next holiday, just watching these sceneries.  
Sick and still working!

Other than the above, there are a lot of drawbacks to the series:

  • Super slow storyline with a lot of flashback, and sometimes a little incoherent as well.
  • The focus on the main first-love story can be a little boring after a while. I had difficulty understanding the real reason for their breakup over such a small misunderstanding. Bearing in mind that it was Gui Xiao who requested the breakup, it is so unlike her character not to relent after a while considering that she is so in love with Lu Chen. But I guess the situations could have been realistic given how irrational a person can be when they are still young and immature.
  • Cheesy kissing scenes after the couple have gotten back together, and it kind of drags on after a while. I like their kissing scenes, but too much of a good thing can really spoil the whole show.
  • The unrealistic expectations on the family and partner of special task officers, whereby it is implied the sacrifices the family & partner undertakes for the profession of guarding the country’s peace.
  • The way the story is being put in with flashback. It really drags on too much. I have a feeling that the series may have been much better if they could easily cut down more than half of the episodes. Succinct & to the point.

As the series focuses the lense on the two leads, the other supporting characters are not given much scene time. I do like Meng Xiao Shan, who is such a great best friend to Gui Xiao, always there for her. Her husband Qin Feng – rich, understanding & always the go-to guy to negotiate in times of family problems. Add on Meng Xiao Shan’s first love (and spurned lover) Hai Dong – who seems to be the perennial great buddy but probably bad influence due to his immaturity.

The series also provides an unlikely romance for Captain Qin Ming Yu, a divorcee with a son and Duan Rou, a colleague of Gui Xiao. It is quite disturbing to see how the poor son is being tossed around in order to live and study in a school in capital city Beijing. Lucky boy, he has an angel in Duan Rou who takes a liking to caring for children. Very unlikely romance, and cheesier still in terms of their interaction when they were vacationing around Qi Ning.

Qin Ming Yu & Duan Rou @ the desert

The Highlight!

Now, the series can’t be that bad if I could complete them and still thinking of it. For me, the highlight of the series is two-fold – Jing Bo Ran and the beautiful sceneries.

Jing Bo Ran is really a great actor. He has been given such a plump role – a guy who is a man of action. Less words more actions. He cooks, he fixes the cars, he tinkers with all mechanical stuffs (and fixes them along the way), he is attentive to the love of his life, he is filial and respectful, he is patriotic & willing serves the country, he takes care of his team well, a great captain & good friend. To top it off, he is a bomb detonation expert. A little unrealistic in my view, but heck it. This is a romance series. Why not? Jing Bo Ran fits into the bill very easily, looking good in uniform, casual or formal.

Inner Mongolia’s views

The original novel is apparently based on the border town of Erenhot, which is a northern small town bordering Mongolia, within the district of Xilin Gol of Inner Mongolia. The town of Qi Ning is not in existence in real life – I googled them, and found nothing. The winter scenes are really too beautiful, capturing the essence of the purity in the cold white winter of the mountainous areas. Contrasting the white winter with the spring/ summer colours. Too beautiful for me to describe. There are a few scenes worthy of mention.

The resort of Mongolian-style yurt whereby Lu Chen brings Gui Xiao enroute to Qi Ning during winter time. Reminiscent of Mongol style living. Yurt is a little bigger than expected, hence not so sure how would they be able to keep warm as my own experience shows that even in early spring the temperature could be cruelly cold at night. The yurt is a little too fanciful too with small lights adorning the outside, quite different from my own experience as after 8 pm no electricity is to be supplied! In the middle of the yurt, there is heaters mainly using logs to fire up the heat until the next morning.

I am also quite amazed that Lu Chen wears so little when he is outside in the cold snowing winter. Although Gui Xiao wears a little more, she still wears significantly less than me during autumn night in the prairie/ dessert.

A beautiful resort used in the series is Hemu Village – all with its resplendent log-style cabins and beautiful colours. Apparently a number of the sceneries are shot in Xinjiang, crossing over Altay region and Lake Kanas. This is slightly confusing as these places are a lot more to the north-west side from Beijing. In real life, geographically Erenhot is nearer to Beijing.

Another slightly confusing scenes (with real life) is the suspension transparent bridge showcased in the series. The bridge is apparently Duku Glass Bridge @ Dushanzhi Grand Canyon. The series does highlight the beautifully shot grand canyon during sunset, but geographically the location is so far away from Erenhot or any border town for that matter.

Duku Glass Bridge
Beautiful rainbow to entice you across

Conclusion (7/10)

The series come for a 7 purely because of the chemistry of the leads and the beautiful scenery. Otherwise, the storyline and slow-dragging episodes will not make it that far. Watch this with lots of forgiving in place for the series. Then you will probably enjoy the show much more. There is a light-hearted interview of Jing Bo Ran and Tan Song Yun on their takes of their characters, which provides snippets of how they have interpreted the characters of Lu Chen and Gui Xiao. I have to say their interpretation & insights are very well-thought of.

Jing Bo Ran comes across as quite a mischievous actor, while Tan Song Yun (her nickname is Song Song, so cute!) is a little more shy, but such a girl-next-door look.

Watching the series really motivates me to read up more on Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. Listing these in my to-travel places, marking some of these beautiful places not to be missed in my itinery too. Just look at these beautiful shots of the country sides. Too beautiful for words to describe.

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