"The basic of it is good, but the execution is bad. The ending made it all worthwhile but for that alone, I can't sincerely recommend this series because to be really really honest with you, I really loved to like this series, praise it, recommend it but it's just not that good."
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
No. of Episode
Period costume drama
Deric Wan - Lai Chi Kok
Eddie Kwan - Lok Fu
Tavia Yeung - Wan
Lok Ying Kwan - Emperor
Hui Siu Hung
The rest are not important. Really.
I can't remember the names of certain character, so for convenience sake I will use the actors' names instead.
Deric was a dedicated marshall with a promising career and a fiancee, Tavia who admires him until one day, he saved a rich but corrupted businessman (Hui Siu Hung) who inadvertantly gave him his new career as a magistrate in his town. The story was Deric's uncle accidentally killed somebody and Deric destroyed the evidence and asked the businessman, Hui to help bribe the magistrate which he did. Thinking that he had himself a puppet, Hui bought Deric his position, and zoom a few years later, Deric became a fat and lazy magistrate who is afraid to go against Hui's words for fear his uncle and himself may be implicated in that murder. Meanwhile Hui's son, Kenneth terrorises the town and Deric basically did nothing. He lost the respect of the townfolks who throw veges at him everytime they see him and Tavia ultimately gave up hope on him and refused to marry him until he becomes a good judge. Even Sammul, a young idealistic Mou Dong student disliked him and often said things disrespecting him.
Meanwhile Deric's father is his marshall who is also as disappointed in him as everybody else, he has a grandmother who sleeps more than anything else and he is assisted by his childhood friend, Eddie who became crippled and lost his kung fu when he was accidentally stabbed instead of Deric when Deric was saving Hui who was being attacked many years ago. But Eddie never complained, and he dutifully did his work as Deric's assistant. Tavia meanwhile is a successful medical doctor who over the years became very impatient and bad tempered with Deric as she was too disappointed in him. The appearance of an 18 year old Ngoh Mei future leader played by Mandy Chiang complicated the relationship between Tavia and Deric as suddenly Tavia had a competition as this girl, who when she was a little girl was saved by Deric and Deric out of sheer kindness like a big brother to a little girl promised he will marry her and so the girl was here to claim her husband, so to speak. Jealousy became something more serious when Tavia realised she didn't like who she became and decided to call off the relationship and Deric out of anger agreed.
At the meantime, as Hui and his son continued to terrorise the town, Deric became very depressed that he was not brave enough to stop them, until he transformed himself into "Yat Chi Mui" (some kind of flower I think), the vigilante hero in the mask at night to right the wrongs he did. He managed to help people and put things right, but he was no match for the eunuch who wanted to marry a male opera singer (Fiona Yuen) who was actually a female disguised as a male. Deric thought Tavia was in love with this opera singer and their relationship worsened as Tavia became very much in awe with the masked hero, thinking at first he was Deric but later convinced he wasn't. Deric didn't want anybody to know as that would mean instant death for him. That in the end culminated in the death of Kenneth and Fiona was accused as the murderer. Even as the masked superhero, Deric could do nothing to set things right.
Eddie at this point became very disillusioned with his poor fortune and blamed it all on God and Deric as he discovered he had an incurable illness and he was dying soon. Because of this he decided he will fight, cheat, lie and deceive to get Tavia and to get powerful. By doing so he revealed the masked superhero's true identity (he knew earlier on) as Deric and set a trap to capture Deric by impersonating as Fiona at the execution site and before that murdered Fiona. Deric didn't believe he was deceived by Eddie and still treated him as a friend. Then Tavia realised she really loved Deric and she had wronged him all these while.
Meanwhile Deric's uncle was somewhere else with a young girl who turned out to be the emperor's long lost illegitimate daughter, but the Emperor thought he had a son. So the girl asked the uncle to pretend to be the son and in doing so convinced the eunuch who knew the uncle wasn't the real son of the emperor to let go of Deric and family. He wanted to but the eunuch was deceived by the now manic Eddie and murdered as well. I think somewhere also the uncle and the girl escaped as well.
But at the meantime Deric successfully escaped prison but Eddie was hot on his trail. At this point Deric realised Eddie wanted him dead and in the fight, Deric's father died saving them and they successfully ran away. Meanwhile Tavia overheard Eddie's devious plans and confronted him. Eddie begged Tavia to listen to him but Tavia fell and knocked her head and was in deep coma.
Deric then went into hiding, wishing to run away as far as possible whilst his grandmother became senile. Along his travel he actually met the Emperor on his way to see his "son" and was ambushed by some bandits and saved by Deric. He promised Deric he will give him justice and they travelled back to town and reached there. Eddie didn't recognise the Emperor and was very rude to him and the Emperor could not convince anyone he was the Emperor until Eddie received news the Emperor was on his way to town to see his "son". Deric meanwhile went in search of Tavia and was heart broken to find out she couldn't recognise him as himself or even as the masked hero. In fact she didn't remember him at all and had tried to stab him. He realised Tavia lost her memory and was during those times filled with lies by Eddie. In the end she married Eddie thinking she was meant to be with him and everybody else didn't say anything, thinking Eddie was a good man.
When the Emperor was welcomed by Eddie, he wanted to punish Eddie and Hui, but Eddie instead captured the Emperor and threatened the Emperor to name him as the Prince Regent. The Emperor refused and was imprisoned. It was now up to Deric and gang to save the Emperor.
Meanwhile, Tavia still couldn't remember Deric and refused to believe Eddie was the evil one.
How will it end?
The Ending Revealed
Might as well just tell you the ending.
Deric saved the Emperor, and chased after Eddie. When Eddie told him why he did all he did and that he had an illness, Deric let him go and begged the Emperor to let Eddie run free as they were friends. Meanwhile Hui was punished to be a beggar for life. His wife, Eileen Yeow left him. So he became insane. Sammul impregnated Mandy and they're an item. The uncle married the princess.
Tavia was being told by everyone Eddie was a liar and Deric was her one true love. But she confessed to Deric that might be true, but now he heart belonged to Eddie. This is more so when Eddie asked Deric to meet at some secluded spot, said to Deric he was a hypocrite though Deric tried to explain why he let him go and suddenly Tavia appeared and Eddie told Tavia to remember Deric's face as her husband's murdere and he jumped to his death. Tavia was severely traumatised and woke up hating Deric. She ran away. Deric waited for her but she never returned so he went to work for the Emperor and became a good official but decided that life was not for him. So he returned to his old town and continued to become his masked hero. Then he got news that Tavia returned, who previously was pushed and she knocked her head again. When she saw the masked hero flying by with awe in her eyes, Deric thought she remembered him when in actual fact she had forgotten everything, even Eddie and her past and Deric realised he had to woo her all over again.
The series ended with him asking the question whether he minded Tavia was once married to Eddie and his answer was yes but he realised it is better to gain back the woman he loved and forget about the past. So he promised himself he will woo her again as the masked hero and protect the town.
I read in some reviews and in some forums that this series was a failure in every sense. I can see why. It boasts 2 very famous actors who can act very well but somehow it failed to capture the heart of the audience, and I guess it may be because the hero in this series, the masked hero was not that likeable as a person. I disliked Lai Chi Kok, finding him a coward in every sense even when faced with injustice. He is not a character you can like, but someone you may be able to identify with. His transformation into the vigilante in the mask is interesting. Because this is one judge, faced with such injustice and given the power is afraid to exercise that power in person and yet when hidden behind a mask, he did those things he never dared to do. He felt liberated and kinda redeemed himself in a way. When this series moved towards that direction, it became watchable but the plot was still seriously lacking.
For one, Eddie as the villain. Understandable he became evil because he was angry. But most of his actions like forcing the Emperor to make him the prince regent, imprisoning the Emperor, they were all illogical actions that will yield no results. The Emperor logically can retract his statement later on and just execute him. His actions made him look like a mad man driven by his anger, his fear, his illness. For someone having so little time and yet wanting it all, this character was clearly selfish and evil, very evil. His moment of evil was when he was in the cave crying and drinking to drown his sorrow, when a young girl saved him when he tried to kill himself. Instead of thanking her, in a moment of anger and madness he strangled her to death. That was when he realised he was on a road of no return; he vowed to get what he wants by any means whatsoever. And that meant betraying everybody, but to what end? There is no sense of purpose for this character, like he started something but there wouldn't be an ending for him. Maybe this is the writer's way of showing how selfish this man could be.
Contrast this to Deric's character. Useless as a judge, braver as a masked vigilante, he at last found his inner conscience and battled injustice but of course at times he was only human; he has fear, he has worries but he pushed them all aside and tried to do the right thing for no reward whatsoever. And yet most of his actions as the masked hero was not voluntary; he didn't go all out to save a person because he wanted to but because he had to, there was no one else to do what he will be doing. He liked being the masked hero, and yet he was very afraid that people might find out and he will be executed as a result. An anti-hero is you ask me and that is why this character is both interesting and yet frustrating to watch.
There must be a contrast between these two extremes of characters, but I can't see it right now because they are both very poorly written and the plot very weak. The entire series except for Eddie the madman, only Hui with Kenneth were the other villains but yet not quite. They were just greedy and mean but not like Eddie who could not be stopped, except for his love for Tavia. 20 episodes and we will see Hui from episode 1 till the last, and it was boring. The series then tried to put in other characters, like the eunuch, Fiona with her pitiful ending but these 2 characters were not interesting to watch at all. In fact it gives me the sense that so many injustice, so many wrongs and oh so boring when it ended with Fiona's death and she was then forgotten.
So the series added some comic relief in the form of the young Mou Dong (Sammul Chan) and Ngoh Mei (Mandy Chiang)students, they were interesting because they were cute, their bickerings and the young girl's fascination with Deric but after a while their characters serve no purpose, just to hang around there and basically just fill up the vacant roles. And their ending with one girl being pregnant before marriage in those times is all wrong. I would expect a Mou Dong student to be more prudent, more careful, more gentlemanly if you get what I mean. I didn't find their ending cute at all.
To tell you the truth, this series has very little plot. It survives on basically on 2 mean characters, one mad villain and some characters that I really don't care. For example, the princess. Sorry to say, she bores me and her story and her love affair with the Uncle was boring to the core. Whenever their story appeared, I felt like it was a waste of time. It didn't help that neither actors had any chemistry with one another.
The only time this series ever surprised me was in 2 occasions;
One the death of the father of Deric. That was very sad. But man, wrong casting decision. The director should have given this role to a better actor and an actor with a more upright and heroic face, because the father is supposed to be such a man. This actor whose name I do not know but a veteran was all wrong.
The other occasion was when the character played by Tavia lost her memory. That was very unexpected as to how her story was going to end. I was thinking perhaps she will remember everything at last, so it was very refreshing and interesting that this series ended with I shall say a cliff hanger. But we all know, Lai Chi Kok will woo and will be successful in gaining her love again, it was just a matter of time. The only set back to this character is Tavia Yeung herself. She is a capable actress, sometimes quite pretty in her own unique way. I can see her effort in making this character different, by giving her a quaint accent when she was speaking her lines. But all these didn't quite make this character and performance as memorable as it should be. I understand her character's frustration but when you have a character that just gets annoyed and bickering with the man she loves all the time, it tends to get very tiring to watch. I don't expect Hindi style singing or smiling happily all the time, but I don't like to see a character being either silly, stupid or plain angry all the time. Tavia's character is basically angry, frustrated, disappointed and unhappy, all the time. The memorable part was the shock value of it, that the idea she married the wrong man, convinced he was the right man, and then forgetting everything and having to start all over again. A very sad character but in the end better for her to forget her awful past and the lies Eddie fed into her brain. I find her ending very good but the performance lacking in the memorable factor. I am not saying she is a bad actress; on the contrary I find her a good actress but I didn't find her exciting as a lead actress. I believe this is her first real lead role where she was in almost every frame and there was a time I simply didn't notice her. She lacked charisma and screen presence. For all that she lacked, I applaud her for trying to make this character her own character by giving her own interpretation. But to me it was pretty ordinary and I wouldn't jump if I missed her performance. I just didn't find her exciting to watch and I realised Maggie Cheung might do better in this role.
That is not to say the performance of the actors were horrible though the plot was lacking.
For one, Deric Wan rules. No question about it, he showed the conflict of his character, his relief, his anxiety, his bravery in a very forced sense. His character is really not a hero, there is nothing to admire about his Lai Chi Kok or even as the masked vigilante. But he did give his character some integrity at last by wanting to do the right thing when it comes to Fiona's character and in a way redeemed himself. I believe this is not Deric's best performance but considering he could still convince me of his conflicting emotions and eventhough his character is not one I would like to say I love to watch, I thought his performance was top notch and pretty classy for such a classless character. Oh yes, Lai Chi Kok is not one character that I can call classy at all. There are so many things to hate about him, petty and everything else but not as bad as Lok Fu of course.
Eddie Kwan aged quite a lot but this man looks better as he grows older. His performance as Lok Fu is something that must be complimented. His character started out as someone who seems to be so happy go lucky, but in actual fact he has a lot of hatred in him that was exposed by his murdering of a young innocent girl. From thereon he became a madman, uncontrollable and very unreasonable. I thought he gave a very manic performance if you know what I mean and I enjoyed his performance very much, although sometimes he kinda overdid his frowning and his pained expressions. But then Lok Fu is one extreme character, so I guess it was justifiable. Glad to see this actor again.
At this point I just want to point out these 2 actors are both so much older than Tavia and yet they looked so good!
Sammul Chan shocked me quite a bit. For one he looked so very charming and good looking in costume drama. I believe I have never seen him in a costume drama before so I didn't know he could look so scholarly and convincing as a kung fu fighter as well. He reminds me of Benny Chan who looks like a "ben-ben" (dumb-dumb) guy in modern dramas but when in costume drama, he can play a scholar, a gentleman. I hope to see him in more costume drama because he was really very good looking. Acting wise, he has improved quite a lot and I am beginning to see what's the fuss about him. I liked it best when he was kinda flirting with Mandy Chiang's character with his wide eyed look and I can see why girls are crazy about him now, not that I am. He's a tad too thin, which is why costume drama suits him, because of the layers of clothes. His character had very little to do. In fact his character had and served no purpose at all except to just appear and gives some contradiction to the useless Lai Chi Kok as the Magistrate but still not very developed as a personality and as a character. I was surprised by his secondary character since he was so heavily promoted by TVB but good to know he did better in secondary character than in lead character or as one of the leads. When you're not so noticeable, if you have it, you tend to stand out. To me this is one of Sammul Chan's better performance and better looking performance as well.
Mandy Chiang looked like a little girl. I do not know who she is but the way she pouts, she reminded me so much of a younger Anne Heung. She really suit Sammul Chan, and that makes Sammul Chan looked young because I have seen him paired with actresses that looked too mature for him. I can't say she is a good actress or even a passable actress. Her performance is totally lacking in everything but like Bernice Liu, I liked her because she was cute. And she has quite a good chemistry with Deric as well, which is good to watch but in the end, however much I like her for being cute, one can't keep being cute for 20 episodes and not act. Acting wise she is stiff and she was stiff from beginning till the end, with very little facial expressions and her speech was rather frustratingly one word at a time and very slow. To tell you the truth, if she wasn't this cute, I would not have been so kind in describing her.
Hui Siu Hung was passable. A veteran actor whose only problem with his performance is the limitations of his character; mean, mean and in the end mean. One track mind and it was boring.
Fiona Yuen gave a very bad performance as the Fa-Dan or opera singer. Everybody kept saying she was such a good opera singer and all and all the time there she was singing, dancing, fighting and she looked totally out of league of the demands of her character. Very bad performance. But pitiful character.
Lok Ying Kwan as usual great. Nothing more to say about this chameleon like actor.
Kenneth Ma was perhaps the worse of the lot. I never liked him, and in this series I really didn't like him. Not just as a character which is despicable, despicable and in the end despicable (one track character-died after being pushed on the floor and fell on some broken porcelein when Hui found him almost raping his own mother, Eileen when he was really drunk) but as an actor, he was absolutely horrible. His performance has zero depth, his smirk was laughable and his body language all out of tune. The way he delivered his lines was passionless and he didn't look too eager in his role. In fact he looked rather frozen most of the time. The worst performance in this series and one actor I never liked in all his performances.
Frankly, I was very excited about this series when I heard Deric's name. I am a fan of his, in a way but I never really watched every of his series. This was one with a very interesting plot; a judge who dare not give justice but gave out justice as a masked hero, the irony of it all. But the plot with its lack of colourful characters, single tracked mind characters, unconvincing villains borderline of being silly and some really bad casting and some really horrible performance just didn't make this series worth my time. The only good point is the different and interesting ending, but you will have to endure 19 and a half episodes to get to there and the plot is mostly snail paced. You must have patience, or rather you must be the no. 1 fan of any of the actors in here to finish this series and appreciate its rather intriguing but badly written storyline. The basic of it is good, but the execution is bad. The ending made it all worthwhile but for that alone, I can't sincerely recommend this series because to be really really honest with you, I really loved to like this series, praise it, recommend it but it's just not that good.
Give it a miss.