Chu Xuan Ji (Yuan Bing Yan) was born without her six senses. During a cultivation tournament, she meets Yu Si Feng (Cheng Yi), a disciple from another sect who was cursed never to fall in love. As the two grow closer, their future becomes more uncertain as sect politics and the heavens themselves start to interfere in their lives.
When Love and Redemption first came out, twitter was aflame with compliments and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it took some time to get to legal platforms, so I had to be very careful when navigating social media so as not to get spoiled. So when Viki finally got it, I couldn’t wait to start it, especially since it stars Cheng Yi, whom I absolutely loved in The Lost Tomb 2.
In the end, I came out of this drama with very mixed feelings. It was a complicated watch, with some very good parts, and some which made me want to scream and rip out my hair in sheer exasperation.
I won’t lie, one of this drama’s main factors of attraction was Cheng Yi, and he absolutely didn’t disappoint. He was excellent from beginning to end, and his partner Yuan Bing Yan was equally good. But I was also quite impressed by most of the other actors, especially Zhang Yu Xi and Bai Shu.
The former I knew from romantic comedies such as Intense Love or Dear Prince. I was a bit skeptical when I saw her among the cast, since this was such a drastic change in genre for her, but she turned out to be more than up to the task, especially since her character went through some very intense scenes that couldn’t have been easy to pull off.
As for the latter, Bai Shu plays the Flying Snake Teng She, and was the highlight of the show. Every single one of his scenes was hilarious, he just brought so much fun to the screen even when the show was going down the drain. He also managed to convey a ton of snake-like traits, which were both fun and very believable at the same time, if that makes any sense.
Above Average Production
I was also very impressed by Love and Redemption‘s production values. Other than the CGI, which is some of the best I’ve seen, the fight scenes were beautifully choreographed. As for the music, there were two tracks which were absolutely epic, one of which they didn’t even bother to put in the album (a waste).
But I think it says something about it that every time it started to swell in the last 25 episodes, I kept expecting that epic swell from the Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms soundtrack (more precisely, 三生情愫 (“Three Lives’ True Love”)). I will never watch this drama because of the unapologetic plagiarism and because I could never get into it anyway after three tries before I was ever aware of the authors’ thieving tendencies, but I will never deny that its soundtrack is a work of art. In fact, it had a theme of its own, which Love and Redemption‘s dearly lacked.
I also have to confess that I’m not very fond of the repeated close-ups on the characters’ eyes, which, on top of making me very uncomfortable, really aren’t flattering at all.
It became apparent to me pretty quickly that the writing of this series was abysmal at best. Why? Because I had many questions that had no logical explanation. How did this one person not recognize this other person he’d live alongside for 10 thousand years? Why did this other person suddenly manifest powers they never showed before? How come this person died instead of using the powers they consistently used before? Why did so many characters keep trudging through a stupid misunderstanding about something they knew to be impossible in the first place?
Because the misunderstandings, people. So many misunderstandings, all of them stupid, pointless and nonsensical. I wanted to tear my hair out because a single well-phrased question and some rational thinking could absolutely have dispelled the entire thing every time. Why is communication so hard?
In the end, while I adored our main couple’s scenes together, the bad writing, repeating misunderstandings and constant suffering on Si Feng’s part led to me not caring at all. By episode 40, I just wanted it to be over.
On top of that, the villains’ endings were all just very unsatisfying, but none more so than the main bad guy’s. It made me legitimately angry.
Badly Done Feminism
In the end, it occurred to me that a lot of Love and Redemption’s writing issues might stem from a serious case of misplaced (and very badly executed) feminism. People are asking for strong female protagonists, are they not? Let’s make this entire 59-episode drama all about the female lead, and forget about the male lead! Si Feng was arguably the best character of the show, insofar as he was gentle, kind, loving, loyal to a fault, and very powerful. And yet, for some reason, he kept getting beat up, more so than any other character, even though he’s one of the most powerful cultivators around.
I spent a lot of time waiting for him to kick butt, only to get him spitting blood the entire time. When I finally got a plot twist about him, it was only for it to remain unexplored and unexplained. It would have been normal and expected for him to get his fifteen minutes of glory, but he never did. His suffering broke my heart at first, but got old after a while, because at this point I just wanted him to drop all these ungrateful people and go off into the sunset to be with his people in peace.
This was extremely unsatisfying. I do love a strong female protagonist, and I did like that Xuan Ji, for the most part, was unafraid of standing up for herself and her friends. It was great to see her saying no to her elders if they tried to order her around. (Although that came to a staggering stop with misunderstanding number 516843, when she started to allow herself to be manipulated by everyone and their mother.) But that doesn’t mean you have to sideline the male lead completely. Feminism is about women being equal to men, not superior.
In this case, Xuan Ji didn’t do half enough to repay Si Feng for everything he did and gave up for her. The poor man went through so much torment for her sake (for reasons that are yet to be disclosed, actually), and while she did stand up for and protect him, it never measured up. And by the time the 59th episode ends, we know pretty much nothing about Si Feng, except for his parentage, that he’s the best person you’ll ever meet, and that he’s very much in love with Xuan Ji.
So, strong female protagonists? Yes. At the cost of the male lead? No.
How (Not to) Write Your Female Characters
Paradoxically enough, the treatment of female characters was quite terrible as well. Case in point: that incredible scene in which a group of six (three men and three women) are trying to force a barrier open. The men start trying to break through it while the girls, all of them powerful cultivators in their own right, just stand there and watch. When the three men fail, they decide the barrier’s too strong, and that they have to find another solution. Because it’s not like there’s three more people who could help right there, right?
On top of that, I have a lot of problems with Ling Long’s character. While I loved her as Xuan Ji’s sister, she’s portrayed as having a fiery temper (if by that you mean angrily stomping out of the room every time she’s unhappy with something) and being a powerful cultivator, except for some reason she can never best any man she comes across. Case in point, her main antagonist for the series, who consistently bests her exactly the same way, every single time they cross blades.
There’s also a huge problem with the God of War, which I unfortunately can’t explain here because huge spoilers, but I think you’ll see what I mean if you get to that point.
All in All…
Is this a good drama? Kind of. Was the hype warranted? No. There was a lot of potential there, with an extremely interesting premise, good acting, and above average production values.
But it’s not for everyone. If you hate misunderstandings, can’t stand to fast forward, and swear by good writing, then steer clear of this one.
As I said before, this was a complicated watch for me. There were episodes I enjoyed very, very much, and others I positively hated and skipped through. Sadly, there were more of the latter than of the former. The entire thing could have been fantastic if it had been better written, but as it is, poor execution dragged it down and crippled it.
Title: Love and Redemption
Aired: 08/06/2020 to 09/10/2020
Starring: Cheng Yi, Yuan Bing Yan, Liu Xue Yi, Zhang Yu Xi
Number of episodes: 59
Genres: Costume, Fantasy, Romance, Martial Arts, Adventure
My Grade: ★★★☆☆