Once a while there comes along a series in which you cannot quite put your finger on. It’s similar to those occasions when you have an itch but attempt to convince yourself that from sheer will-power you can withstand not scratching that itch, only to think, seconds later how silly it would be to place your will on the line over an itch, and proceed to scratch. It’s one of those iffy moments where your mind flickers between do or don’t. Normally after 5 to 10 episodes, you form an impression of the series and it builds as the series continues. For this series, any impression you may come to may be premature. Why? Let’s investigate, shall we?
The plot at first glance isn’t new. Stories about in-fighting between imperial consorts have been featured in most TVB series that revolve around the palace in some form. So that’s already minus one point for creativity (although in TVB’s defense, somewhat, this deduction is more a formality since I’d probably deduct it for most TVB series anyway, so peace). Now I would gladly minus another point because I personally don’t think the title of the series is accurate. Whether in English or Chinese, the title seems to suggest a lot of in-fighting between a lot of consorts. Truth? No. The harem is largely confined to a few who seem to claim a stake, and that is only two and a half consorts (minus Empress Dowager cause I don’t really think she’s part of the harem; I hope not). I would have liked to see a bit more variety in what motivates the consorts–maybe because they run some secret sect after the potion of immortality or operate an underground printing business out to overthrow the Qing Dynasty–but as in-fighting goes, this series treads the same old motivations. Minus another point.
Now, I said there were two and a half consorts in on the fighting, but you say three. One is Myolie Wu, whose character is motivated by obtuse motivations. If she wants to do Jessica in because she’s afraid of her power being usurped, she should realize that being Empress Consort already means her power is fairly secured. Besides it’s not as if the Emperor doesn’t hold her in his favour; he just has a case of one too many hearts (aka emperor-sickness). If she’s doing it because she dislikes his favouritism towards Yee Lan, then I could accept this. Funny thing is I doubt this is the case because the intimacy between Myolie and Sunny is so superficial that it would require another dose of “reading into” the story to make this case believable. Myolie’s character comes off childish who just wants her toys. Second there’s Jessica Hsuan, who for most the series was on the receiving end of the court, playing defensive. Which is, as you imagine and as all white roles demand, suitably boring. Her motivations are clear though: to survive (besides that she tries to kill herself 2 episodes in). Later this shifts to protecting the Emperor and her child. By the end of the series, it warps to one of revenge and power consolidation. Finally, there’s Nancy Wu. A major flaw in her character lies in that the reason behind her entry into the “harem” is a bit forced. The Emperor is basically forced to induct her into his harem, which is slightly unbelievable given that no one really wants her to be in the harem anyway. Nancy’s character is the devious one here. She’s not wicked though. Wicked is probably Jessica towards the end of the series (and we really needed more of that wickedness). Nancy’s just devious; whereas Myolie is bossy?
Jessica Hsuan as “Yee Lan”
Myolie Wu as “Yuen Yuen”
Nancy Wu as “Choi Lam”
Sunny Chan as “Emperor Do Kwong”
Joel Chan as “Min Yan”
Gigi Wong as “Empress Dowager”
Cheung Kwok Keung as “Wai Fuk On”