Dongbo Xue Ying (Xu Kai), heir to a remote fiefdom, trains day in, day out in the hopes of becoming a powerful enough cultivator to avenge his father’s murder and free his mother from captivity. But when he meets beautiful Yu Jing Qiu (Guli Nazha), he becomes embroiled in the fight against the forces of Evil.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure how I managed to finish Snow Eagle Lord. The first episode is never a good way to gauge the quality of a drama, but in this case, the entire series lived up to its pilot. Unfortunately.
A Spoonful of Sugar
Let’s start with the positives, though, because there are, in fact, some. Xu Kai, for one, clearly put a lot of work into his spear-wielding techniques, even if the moves remain the same from the beginning to the end of the series. Guli Nazha, for her part, also does a very good job when it comes to her spells, and the fight scenes are generally well done.
I also liked the calm, mature nature of their characters, although it would have been interesting to see them lose their cool from time to time.
And that’s it on the positive side of things.
Yes, because apart from the hollow, repetitive dialogue, Snow Eagle Lord‘s main problem is the lack of consistency of its characters. Dongbo Xue Ying may be charming and mature, but his inability to get angry makes him practically inhuman (he actually reminds me a little of the protagonist in Noble Aspirations in that respect). As for Yu Jing Qiu, who starts out as a talented cultivator, she ends up spending two-thirds of the drama fighting for five minutes before fainting or freezing in the middle of the battlefield, forcing one or the other of her companions to come to her rescue. This becomes downright ridiculous in the final stretch of the drama, where she swoons two or even three times per episode.
The characters’ relationships are cut from the same cloth: whether it’s the main or secondary couple, or even the various teacher/student duos, they share no emotional moments, no secrets, no values. They barely know each other, hardly ever appear together, yet their “big moments” are treated as if entire episodes had been spent developing their relationship. Except there was nothing of the sort, so of course the only emotion those scenes elicited from me was not-so-polite indifference.
On top of that, the first few episodes which take place at Changfeng Academy (the magic school), are a bit ridiculous: as soon as they arrive, these young people, who are supposed to be the most promising of their generation, who aspire to no less than immortality, reveal that their real passion in life is finding their better half. In other words, instead of a group of powerhouses in the making, what we get is a bevy of boys making eyes at the only two girls of the group, who, of course, only care about the man himself, Dongbo Xue Ying. And the entire thing is based entirely on looks, nothing so silly as personality, obviously.
I was also struck by the general weakness of Snow Eagle Lord‘s characters. For people who have spent their lives cultivating their martial arts and are revered as demigods, the elders of the council are incapable of doing anything individually: it was hilarious to see them do everything as a group, moving around as a horde, as if they had nothing better to do.
Their rather lax attitude didn’t help matters: while I’m no fan of the hierarchical straitjacket in which characters are often trapped in costume dramas, here, the reverse was just as annoying. Xue Ying, a young peasant straight from his remote fiefdom, can wander into the council chamber at will and get an audience right off the bat (again, don’t these so-called cult leaders have anything better to do with their days?), and the amount of privileges he’s granted makes absolutely no sense.
I must also mention the weak-mindedness of quite a few characters, whether it’s the one who gives in to blackmail to protect a relative stranger, the one who hears vital information and, instead of reporting it right away, reveals his presence before turning his back on the traitors, or the one who spends his time whining that nobody loves him so he’ll become the strongest cultivator ever and show them! (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.)
From all this comes, of course, a whole bunch of artificial, far-fetched, and frankly infuriating conflicts, the sole purpose of which is clearly to drag the story out to the desired number of episodes (too bad they then had to butcher the entire thing to follow the new rules).
Finally, Snow Eagle Lord’s time management is abysmal. The story doesn’t offer any reference points, which gives the impression that everything falls into Xue Ying’s lap: his every success seems to happen overnight. Basically, he eats breakfast, overcomes supposedly very difficult barriers before lunch, surpasses cultivators who’ve been training for years at snack time, and inscribes his name in the pantheon of demigods before the week is out. This is an exaggeration, of course, but not all that far off the mark either.
The problem is that Xue Ying’s progress and exploits become increasingly difficult to swallow as the drama progresses, and the credibility of the story, which was already not flying high, takes a hit every time he has a breakthrough other people take decades to have. And I’m all for the protagonist’s halo, really, but too much is too much.
In the end, it reminded me a little of Solo Leveling: the protagonist goes through hell at first, but once he gets a foot in the door, he becomes unstoppable, and characters who’ve been presented for ages as powerhouses find themselves eating dust in his wake without even having had a chance to prove themselves or even be developed. And when we do get to see them fight, they struggle just as much as basic infantrymen before resorting to their fists and dropping like flies. In other words, it’s very disappointing and a real waste of potential, all the more so as, unlike Solo Leveling, you don’t even notice the difference in power from one stage to the next.
Production? Don’t Know Her.
Yes, let’s talk about the production. For a show with such big names attached to it, Snow Eagle Lord has to be one of the worst-looking dramas I’ve seen in a while. From the
white sand snow which makes the early action scenes completely illegible, the plastic in Guli Nazha’s costumes, and the awful green backgrounds, to the huge technique names splashed all over the screen, the illustrated inserts that come out of nowhere and the cardboard “rocks”… No wonder the company that produced this little gem is on the verge of bankruptcy!
All in All…
A story that makes no sense whatsoever, awful production values and insipid characters… The funny thing is, Snow Eagle Lord had a lot of potential, but they ruined the entire thing by stretching it out as much as possible, only to be forced to edit a massive amount of content out to account for the new rules. Run for your lives, seriously. Or if you really want to watch it, prepare copious amounts of alcohol and make it a drinking game for when Guli Nazha faints, that way you’ll at least have some fun.
Title: Snow Eagle Lord
Starring: Xu Kai, Guli Nazha, Bai Shu
Aired: 06/21/2023 to 07/14/2023
Number of episodes: 40
Genres: Xianxia, Action and Adventure, Martial Arts, Romance
My rating: ★☆☆☆☆