A drama that built potential initially due to its source material and hired cast, only to end with a bitter taste of disappointment in the mouth. With its sloppy editing, unprofessional production choices and dragged story, General and I will leave you screaming and sighing in agony, especially if you’re aware of how the original story went.
As many has discovered with this drama, so much hype surrounded this one, simply because of its original novel, and the popularity our two main leads have in the C-drama industry. However, of course with most highly anticipated dramas, there is such high expectations, too high to the point where the fall downwards is just painful to watch unfold. With General and I being the most anticipated starting C-drama for 2017, there was much to love but sadly, resulted in much to cringe and despise.
Let’s close this once and for all, shall we?
Name: General and I / A Lonesome Fragrance Waiting to Be Appreciated (孤芳不自赏)
Broadcast Date: January 2nd 2017 – February 10th 2017
Number of Episodes: 62
Note: Started following the drama a week into its broadcast, and then continued to follow it religiously on an almost daily basis
Synopsis (borrowed from Drama Panda):
The four nations Jin, Yan, Liang and Qin are in a state of relentless war. Chu Bei Jie (Wallace Chung), cousin to the King of Jin, is a courageous general who leads his country into a position of power against the remaining kingdoms.
During a fight between Jin and Yan, Jing An Wang and his family fall to a conspiracy leaving He Xia (Sean Sun) and Bai Pin Ting (Angelababy) to fend for themselves. Chu Bei Jie rescues Bai Ping Ting by chance igniting the beginning of a complicated romance, where both are torn between loyalty to their kingdoms and their love for each other.
I’ve already shared my first impressions on this drama about a month back. Overall, I believed that the drama indeed had potential and agreed to continue with it. If you’d like to read about it in more detail, check it out.
Opinions about the drama:
Looking at the drama overall, there is much to be said about it. Whether that is mostly positive though, is a different story. Initially, I did want to give this drama a good chance simply because our characters are quite intriguing, and that the drama is in its own way quite a unique one. However despite this, it didn’t help the drama redeem itself when a lot of things started to go downhill.
It was hard to buy the relationship between Ping Ting and Bei Jie at first. Bei Jie’s affections seemed too forceful, and Ping Ting at most times seemed quite reluctant and confused about the development of this relationship. Wallace sold it well enough, but Angelababy couldn’t which was one huge letdown. The love story seemed hurried and at times, borderline absurd. By the halfway point, I was trying to become more interested in the political side of the drama, more than the romance because simply, the romance side of it was quite a mess.
The political and war-involved side of the drama was at most times quite interesting, and really allowed us to see both Ping Ting and Bei Jie in their elements. Those were indeed the moments where they both shined, and kept me intrigued as to how they could both strategise and predict each other’s moves; two equals on the battlefield. Other aspects such as inner conflicts within kingdoms were also interesting to watch, but also at times frustrating. As per usual, you have several annoying villains who just don’t know when to give up and admit defeat. It was most certainly frustrating to say the least, which was also why I hated them dealing with the palace matters (so sick of seeing it all *sigh*)
Overall, this drama had so many components that could have made the drama greater than it was, but sadly when placed together along with a clumsy plot and mediocre characters, it is hard to make this fantastic story a great drama adaptation. If they had kept a lot of the aspects of the novel in the drama such as characterisation and story development, perhaps this drama would have been a lot more popular. To say that this drama was overhyped would be an understatement.
There still are aspects which I had discovered initially in the drama that remains to be my most appreciated components of General and I. Below are just the list of positives I found through this drama.
1. How Bei Jie and Ping Ting are just the perfect counterparts for each other
One main aspect that really stood out from this drama which makes it more unique than most Chinese dramas out there is how these two characters have been characterised. In these sorts of dramas, we see either a strong male lead with an accompanying female lead, or a strong female lead with a supporting male lead. For General and I, we instead see two intellectual main leads who are of equal standard of each other, in intelligence, loyalty and beauty. Not only that, they both compliment each other in so many ways. Why this is rarely seen in most dramas, I have no clue. But, just from this aspect alone it has made this series a rare one. It was nice to see that even if Ping Ting is not able to defend herself physically against a gang of bandits, never did it allow her to appear weak in any way. Instead, she would rely on her intelligence to create traps and weapons to defend herself. Even if Bei Jie is also well-versed with different strategies on the battlefield, he never refuses to listen to Ping Ting’s suggestions, and trusts her completely. This mutual trust between them really made me envious, for how well they matched each other.
One of my favourite scenes of this series was hands-up the human chess scene between Bei Jie and Ping Ting. That entire sequence was epic. Not only did it exhibit their amazing strategising abilities, but also made it visually amazing with the real-life 3D version of the board. That was just so cool, and I kinda wished that normal chess was played like that too. That scene alone proved that these two are equals, and when together they can indeed do some damage.
2. The costuming and OST
Another great thing to appreciate about this drama was the costumes and OST. Just looking at any shots taken from the drama alone should give you all a very good indication as to how much time and effort had been taken to create them. Everything from Ping Ting’s dresses, to the armours worn on the battlefield look great. The only thing I need to question though is Bei Jie’s mask…why does he wear one? If it were to hide his beauty (like Lan Ling Wang) then so be it; at least that drama explained that. But in this one, there’s no need to them to give him a mask. At most times, it becomes redundant since the enemy tends to get rid of it quickly, so it doesn’t protect his face that well…hmmmmmm something to think about…
Anyway, moving on. The OST is quite good as well. My favourite would have to be the duet between William Wei and Claire Kuo singing “Once Familiar with The Scenery (风景旧曾谙)”. I’ve been addicted to that for a while now. At times, it sounds like Claire is overpowered by William but it’s still a good song nonetheless. Henry Luo’s “A Lonesome Fragrance Waiting to Be Appreciated (孤芳不自赏)” is quite good too; it’s a really suitable opening song for the drama.
3. Wallace’s acting
Ahhh last but not least, Wallace. He was certainly the hero of the drama. Even though Angelababy was a little disappointing, Wallace really did do his bit as Chu Bei Jie. He really made Bei Jie come alive and took upon himself to create this visually stunning character that many could have only imagined in the novel. His action scenes were certainly one of the best things to have seen in the drama. His movements are so swift and smooth, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that he was doing so many moves with a wire. The choreography of those fight scenes were also great in general. But the main thing that wins the cake was his expressions. Regardless of whether he was happy or sad, the feelings that he evokes is so mesmerising. I’ve been a fan of his for a while now, and definitely his acting never fails to amaze me.
1. Angelababy’s acting
On top of everyone’s list for passing on this drama was indeed hearing that this young lady was taking the main lead role alongside Wallace. If you know her enough, you can all agree that her acting is not great. See most of her works and I’m sure you all can agree that she isn’t exactly the most versatile actress out there. She improves as the drama proceeds however it still isn’t anything too amazing. I personally feel like she suits modern-setting dramas more than these historical ones, but is still quite mediocre to most actresses out there.
If it were any other female lead, perhaps this drama would have been a lot more enjoyable. Sadly, they’re wasn’t.
2. Green screen overload and production choices
This particular point pissed me off so much towards the end of the drama. By the last 10 episodes or so, it felt as if Wallace and Angelababy were just never there when everyone else was filming. The use of green screens to place the two main characters into numerous scenes were so frequent, it became an eyesore to see them pop up on the screen again. I could never understand why they needed to do that, unless for some reason they had to refilm so many scenes once again, and yet couldn’t afford to redo the entire shot with everyone as well as the scenery. Yes, I was aware that Angelababy was pregnant at the time, but I’m certain it wasn’t that obvious during filming to the point that both leads needed to refilm certain scenes?
The other thing to note which wasn’t about the green screen, but more about the doubles they used for certain scenes. What the hell was happening on set that either one of the leads couldn’t be in the same shot as each other? I swear in some certain scenes, it felt like a man was putting on a long-haired wig to act out Ping Ting when it was both her and Bei Jie’s scene. Where was everyone??? Was it really hard to gather everyone together to film these critical scenes?
What I also need to discuss with you all in regards to the drama, is the choice of the dubber for Bei Jie…who thought that dubber was a good idea? Anyone could tell that it was a Canto-native actor speaking in Mandarin but the main question is…why? Bei Jie came from a Kingdom that has everyone speaking with regular Northern-Chinese accents, yet they decide to give the main lead a Southern one? Who thought that that was a good idea? If they were trying to retain the fact that Wallace is Hongkie, then allow Wallace to dub his own character. The whole point of dubbing over such characters is to make the character sound more like how they had been characterised. Some indeed do try to find dubbers that sound like the original actor/actress, but that choice is certainly because their original voices do suit their characters. Hearing that certain voice throughout the drama was just such a weird choice. Even though I eventually got used to it, for the character Chu Bei Jie, this was certainly a silly choice to have made. Producers, what the hell were you all thinking?!
Spoiler alert for the ending of the drama. Please skip if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Finally, this is in relevance to the choice of ending for the drama. I won’t go into detail about the original novel’s ending; just know that that is 10x better than this. I mean seriously, that is the ending? No reunion with their child, or closure for the other characters of the drama? You just have them epically walk into the palace (which I will admit is cool) and just show flashbacks in the meantime? I should have known the moment I saw the flashbacks that this wasn’t going to close properly; I should have known! I also noticed that with that very last close up of Bei Jie and Ping Ting, there were some grey streaks in Ping Ting’s hair on the side, which would imply that they both have been on the throne for a while then? If so, why did they choose to end it like that, and not continue the scene with them ruling over the kingdom together? What were you aiming at achieving with that? I don’t even comprehend…
END OF SPOILERS!!!
3. The changes they decided to make between the novel and the drama
Truly, the biggest blow about this drama was how much they chose to change comparing it to its original script. Although I acknowledge the fact that this is a drama adaptation, an adaptation should only try to make the original better, not worse. A simple example that I can think of is the whole insta-love aspect of it. In the novel, there is no ‘childhood’ business that brings our leads together.
Spoiler alert for the novel. It’s in the first couple of chapters or so, however if you are about to start the novel yourself, then proceed with this section.
In the novel, Ping Ting is captured by slave traders when she escapes from the Yan king’s attempt at assassinating the He family, and is sold to the Hua family in Jin where she becomes an attendant to the young mistress. It was there that through her amazing playing of the guqin that she caught the attention of Chu Bei Jie. Bei Jie mistakens her to be Miss Hua, both of them fall in love and the real Miss Hua uses this opportunity to cancel her previous arranged engagement in order to elope with her true lover. Eventually, Ping Ting’s identity as a servant is discovered, and she ends up staying at Bei Jie’s manor. Even though they love each other, they grow to become very wary of each other, as Ping Ting wants to discover about He Xia’s current whereabouts, while Bei Jie is aware that Ping Ting isn‘t who she claims she is (she uses a fake name). After scheming occurs from both sides, they both separate and go their own ways.
In the drama, they push the clichéd ‘childhood lovers’ plot device, which is so disappointing. Not only that, because of this plot device, the next parts of the drama become really confusing. Recognising this girl 20 years later and later forcing her to marry him into his home isn’t exactly romantic. The worst part of it is the fact that these forced emotions makes her gradually love him back without much explanation. Fine if they immediately attract, but clearly on Ping Ting’s part, she wasn’t…so then where did these emotions appear from?
END OF SPOILERS!!!
So, this drama was a definite adventure that left me so drained both mentally and emotionally, as there was potentially so much to love about this drama. However, I ended up hating on it more than I perhaps should of. This was a rough one to get through. It didn’t leave me raging specifically, but I was quite displeased with it for a lot of reasons. This drama is certainly not going to suit everyone’s taste, so only proceed checking this one out if you really have quite a bit of time on your hands.
Borrowing the rating system from the lovely goddesses of Kdrama reviews themselves Javabeans and Girlfriday, I would rate General and I as:
How much I liked it: 7/10
How good was it objectively: 6/10
Apologies for the long review (not that that is ever a surprise on this blog). Hope you all enjoyed it! My next post I expect to post soon should be my review for Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms which I had just finished today! That one is going to be a better one than this one I assume, so stay tuned for that!
Love you all, and thank you for sticking around with this review; it really means a lot to me! Take care and I wish you all a lovely day/night!
❤ Hyunnie ^^~