I don't usually rush over to blog about a show I just watched. I'm just too lazy. But a show that gave me sleepless nights, made me cry tears of joy and anguish, and listened to the OST day and night? Oh yeah, you betcha.
Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is that kinda show. And to imagine that I was initially supremely reluctant to watch the 58-episode Chinese drama. For one, there's the 58-episode thing (I barely focus long enough to complete a 16-episode Korean drama). I'm also wary of modern China dramas of late because they seem to feature pretty boys and girls with nil acting skills. And then there was the awful, awful use of CGI in most of the wuxia dramas. Lordie.
What changed my mind? Well, I stumbled on a fan-made video telling the story, complete with the show's moving OST, and cried. I hardly ever cry when watching a show. Ever.
Anything that could move me that way must be worth checking out. I watched, was hooked, and lost days of sleep!
What is it about?
It's going to be a challenge to summarise the show's story, but here we go. Once upon a time, in the heavenly realms, lived a Fox spirit named Bai Qian. When she ended up as a mortal, she meets the Crown Prince of the Heavens, Ye Hua, and their love story begins. Things happen, but their love is fated by the gods, and they will go through many, many tests before finding each other again.
I make it blander than it seems, but it's a romance that literally stretches thousands of years, so our poor couple goes through a lot. Thanks to the acting ability of Mark Chao who plays Ye Hua, their suffering is mesmerising. As I joked to a friend, this show has everything: evil concubines, traitorous ex-boyfriends, amnesia, reincarnation, secret identities and plots you name it, they have it.
Flash episode reviews
Eps 1-10 are the draggiest episodes of the series. Frankly, if I hadn't known in advance what Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is about (or experienced the deliciousness of Ye Hua in fan-made vids), I'd have given up on the show. Yet, these episodes do provide important grounding for the story and introduces most of the players. Be patient with this bit - the good stuff will come soon.
Eps 11-28. These are the angstiest episodes, and my favourite segment! (What can I say? Ye Hua suffers so well.) We get to see our stoic, aloof, dutiful Crown Prince of the Heavens fall deeply, passionately in love. We also see the depths of our couple's suffering. It's a hugely tragic arc; Mark Chao acted his socks off in this segment and you'd be moved by his amazing performance.
Eps 29-58. From great despair to hope, to despair to hope to ... you get what I mean. Our couple goes through the wringer in this arc, but mixed with the sadness are some of the sexiest, most passionate, smouldering love scenes I've seen in a Chinese drama.
What I loved
1. Ye Hua the character, Mark Chao the actor
There's absolutely no doubt that Mark's amazing acting was No.1 reason why Ye Hua is so amazing. Mark has the ability to convey a myriad of emotions with his eyes, and there's one scene in episode 48 (all fans will know what I'm talking about) where he expressed a series of emotions - lust, frustration, anxiety, fear, love and gratitude - without saying a single word! (It's also impressive that he also plays another character, Mo Yuan, and does it so well that I sometimes forget he's played by Mark.)
Some may describe Ye Hua as the indescribably perfect man, but Mark portrays Ye Hua as a man with serious flaws; he may be perfect on the outside - good looks, supremely capable warrior and leader, but because he loves so passionately and loyally he makes serious mistakes.
Why do I love Ye Hua? Besides the fact that he has gorgeous hair that is, lol.
He's a man that seems like a stiff-necked, arrogant bore in the beginning. After all, duty and loyalty has been drilled into him before he could even sit upright. And his cold upbringing and the fierce expectations of his grandfather, the emperor, has caused him to be stoic and guarded at all times. But his love for our leading lady reveals that beneath that icy exterior is a burning core of passion. Ye Hua is a man who loves very, very deeply. It's both his weakness and his strength. Whenever the quiet and taciturn Ye Hua smiles, the world melts, because those smiles are so gosh darn rare.
This love, may I mention, is not just reserved for his lady love. He is [WARNING, SPOILER] a devoted and dutiful dad. I mean, he could've thrown his son to a troop of nannies and forget about him being a crown prince and all, but Ye Hua is both "father and mother" to A-Li. He's very hands-on; he actually tucks his son in bed, plays with him and gives him the warm childhood that he never had. (Ovaries melt.) [END SPOILER]
2. The gorgeous soundtrack
Bai Qian is no wilting flower. She's mischievous, yet capable. Strong, yet feminine. She's sassy, smart and yet possess a selfish and stubborn streak that makes her very, well, human. One of the best written female characters I've seen, and the actress, Yang Mi portrays her various incarnations deftly - the mischievous disciple, the naive and helpless human, and the strong and capable goddess.
4. They allow the characters to be passionate and lusty
Oy. When did China's dramas become so open and real? I love this development! Ye Hua doesn't hold back when he loves, and you can feel the heat from the TV screen. The kisses are passionate, loving and lusty (no open-eyed frozen kisses, y'all), yet not over-the-top (sorry, no HBO stuff, but I prefer it that way). It enhances the romance rather than distract from it.
What I didn't love
1. The CGI ... is not awesome to say the least. I disliked the CGI backgrounds, the CGI monsters, the CGI flowers - you get the point. But the other production values and the great acting more than make up for it.
2. Side characters whose stories go nowhere. Bai Feng Jiu and Dong Hua, I'm looking at you. The couple is all kinds of pretty, but Feng Jiu's whiny pining grates on my nerves. I fast forwarded through most of their scenes. Still, I'm curious to check out their apparently happily-ever-after romance in the book, The Pillow Book.
Thoughts about the ending [SPOILERY]
Frankly, it was very convenient and takes away from the tragedy of episode 56, but you know what, I don't effing care because our couple has their happily ever after. I would've loved to see their lavish wedding as detailed in The Pillow Book, but apparently the copyright of that book has been bought by another company. For now, I'll savour their kiss beneath the peach blossoms. (And leave the rest for fanfic, haha!)
Final verdict: 4.5/5 stars! (Minus 0.5 for the not-so-great CGI). Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is a very rare drama where almost everything was done right. The romance between our OTP is incredibly intense and very satisfying.