Han Yun Xi (Ju Jing Yi) enters an arranged marriage with the king’s brother Long Fei Ye (Zhang Zhe Han). Although they start out as distant strangers, they grow to respect and love one another as Han Yun Xi uses her skills as a poison expert to help her husband navigate the machinations of the court.
Let it be said that I adore the enemies/strangers to lovers tropes. I do. When it’s well done. But you see this quote up there? Yeah? Yeah.
A Good Start
There was a lot of potential in Legend of Yun Xi. The arranged marriage cliché can be exceedingly charming when done well, and the lighthearted atmosphere of the show could have worked really well. Alas, the script persisted in going for the bad rather than the good, and by the time I got to midpoint of Legend of Yun Xi, I was cringing more often than not. Let me explain.
While the first few episodes started out rather well with a determined heroine who, instead of going to her arranged marriage like a lamb to slaughter, has her own agenda and a male protagonist the very definition of stoic badass, Legend of Yun Xi quickly ended up resorting to eternal clichés and abusive relationships. How? Simple.
Down We Go
Let’s start with the main romance. While the male lead does show on occasion that he cares for his wife, the numerous occurrences of him just expecting her to serve him like some glorified slave, saying that she belongs to him, locking her up in her rooms, and so on just made me cringe so hard it was horrifying. His noble idiot moment, which we’re supposed to believe happens because he wants to protect her, is rendered moot by the fact that she has literally nowhere to go, which he’s aware of.
Which brings me to the second unhealthy aspect of this supposed “romance”: Han Yun Xi’s life revolves around Long Fei Ye. Every single thing she does is related to him in some way or other. When he’s not there, she’s thinking of him. When they’re fighting, she’s staring longingly at the door, waiting. When she’s hanging out with her “friends”, she’s only ever doing it so she can get something for him. She’s got nothing and nobody that’s her own, and nowhere to go should he one day get tired of her. She’s completely dependent on his good will.
Ever Heard About Communication?
Also, I just kept having the feeling that he whistled her to heel whenever he needed her medical skills, then sent her back to her courtyard like some sort of glorified dog. Basically, he was using her. And whenever they had an argument, she was always the one to apologize, even if the only reason she’d made a mistake was because he kept not telling her things.
So many times things could have worked out so much better if he’d only just talked to her instead of just retreating into his palace of machismo to plan with his men.
Romance Who? Don’t Know Her.
You know what else bothered me? It’s that they never fought for each other. Every time he distanced himself from her, she demurely stepped back, and every time she had an issue with him, he turned himself into a wall of ice until the storm was gone. They never talked their issues out, only allowed them to pass and then carried on as if nothing had happened. In the end, I could never believe in that love because they just… never held on to each other. Although it’s true that Yun Xi’s entire life quickly started to revolve around Long Fei Ye, which… not healthy.
As for the secondary relationship. Oh wow. I’ve rarely seen anything so blatantly abusive. The girl has been bullying the guy ever since they were children. So of course, he doesn’t want to marry her. Cue her stalking him 24/7, going so far as to drugging him and tying him to his bed so she can sleep with him (not in the sex sense but still) and, wait for it… tricking him into marrying her. Excuse me while I go combust somewhere. And the worst part of it all is that literally everybody around them thinks it’s normal. Not one of those people steps in, instead laughing at this poor man for being “bossed around” by a girl.
A Word to Young People Everywhere
Of course, he falls for her anyway. Let it be known to young men everywhere that if a girl stalks and hits and drugs you, she’s definitely the one for you.
Now that I think about it, also let it be known to young women everywhere that if a man tells you you belong to him, calls you only when he needs you to do something for him, and never apologizes, then he’s the one for you, too.
Plot-wise, well. I fast-forwarded on all of the politics, the royal harem inner wars, and prince battles—though I did take the time to feel sorry for the crown prince. That wasn’t why I was there. There were one part that I definitely would have loved to see more of, namely the white-haired supersoldiers: there was one scene there that was really powerful at the beginning of the show, but the effect of which Legend of Yun Xi tragically failed to ever reproduce over the course of the next 45 episodes. It was certainly an interesting concept, but poorly developed. It was all just so… predictable.
Finally, the acting was nothing to fawn over. While Zhang Zhe Han is certainly very handsome, his expression range seems limited to widening his eyes in a threatening way. In fact, his face is so stiff that it feels unnatural to see him smile (when it does happen, which isn’t very often, let me tell you). Ju Jing Yi was fine, but her part wasn’t a very emotional one, and her character wasn’t that deep, so there wasn’t that much for her to demonstrate either.
In fact, I think Yalkun Merxat was the one who stood out the most, probably because his boyish excitement at seeing his crush and overall playful demeanor was infinitely more endearing and sympathy-inducing than Zhang Zhe Han’s expressionlessness. (I mean, I like tall, dark and broody as much as anyone else but there’s such a thing as too much, you know.)
Why the Love Triangle, Why?
Speaking of Yalkun Merxat, I made myself silently suffer through 48 episodes of love triangle but.. I don’t get why he’s in love with her? In fact, I don’t get why Long Fei Ye is in love with her either. I mean, she’s bright and cheerful and puts up with a lot of crap but… she keeps being led around by the nose by literally everyone and their mother, remains horribly submissive to her ungrateful husband, falls into traps left and right, has to be rescued all the time… Even her medical skills aren’t her own, but came from a magical bracelet that has literally no use but to impart her with instant knowledge. Because studying is for losers, obviously.
In the end, the production quality might have made up for some of this, but it really didn’t, because it was terrible. I like to think I’m nice enough as an audience, and I don’t have the sharpest eye when it comes to CGI so I’m pretty tolerant, but even I could tell right from episode 1 that the special effects were just bad. It felt like watching those old computer games from the 90s where stuff would go through walls and characters would have the weirdest movements. This was the exact same thing.
The sound mixing was absolutely horrible as well. There were two episodes in the first ten where I could hardly hear the (awkward and repetitive) dialogue since the music was so loud, and it just feels like there wasn’t a single moment of silence after that. The music was mostly dissonant, never matching the scenes, which just killed the atmosphere for pretty much the entire show.
All in All…
…You might have noticed, but Legend of Yun Xi made me a teeny tiny bit angry. I was going to give it two stars because it still had a weird charm and a few cute scenes that helped me suffer through its entirety, but I’ll take one off because it was just so painful to force myself through the second half.
Title: Legend of Yun Xi
Starring: Ju Jing Yi, Zhang Zhe Han, Yalkun Merxat
Aired: 06/25/2018 to 08/15/2018
Number of Episodes: 48
My grade: ★☆☆☆☆