Following the events of The Lost Tomb, Wu Xie (Hou Ming Hao), Pang Zi (Zhang Bo Yu) and Zhang Qiling (Cheng Yi) embark on a whole new quest with Ah Ning (Lin Man) to solve the disappearance of an archeological team in an underwater tomb, 30 years ago.
Before I start, I feel like it should be said that I enjoyed this show, I enjoyed it a lot. Otherwise I wouldn’t have made my site header with the two leads. I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted so much about a drama, and my unfortunate followers must have been very glad when I finally finished it.
But it was just so uneven in quality that it can’t be said to be good. Which is a bit frustrating, because there was some really good stuff in here! Paradoxically enough, when I think back on it, I can’t dredge up any negative feelings; instead, I find myself smiling, that’s how much I enjoyed this instalment.)
The Best Iron Triangle
The challenge, for any fan of The Lost Tomb starting a new season, is to see if they can adhere to the new cast.
Well, this Iron Triangle is my favorite. Wu Xie and Pang Zi get on like a house on fire and it’s very refreshing to see them be so playful with each other. I adored their dynamics and constant banter, and I loved how confidently playful Wu Xie had grown since The Lost Tomb. Pang Zi, on the other hand, was a drama queen in the very best way, I laughed so much at his antics! Plus, I loved the scenes in which you can see Xiao Ge smiling to himself at the general silliness going on at the front.
And speaking of Xiao Ge… I’ll freely admit that I was a bit worried about this Xiao Ge. I’d never heard of Cheng Yi before, and I was still a bit hung up on Huang Jun Jie’s Zhang Qi Ling. But you know what? Cheng Yi turned out to be my biggest surprise in The Lost Tomb 2. His Xiao Ge says everything with his eyes, and his chemistry with Hou Ming Hao’s Wu Xie is nothing short of sizzling.
Seriously, I had so much fun with all the soulful staring (so much soulful staring), Xiao Ge rescuing damsel-in-distress Wu Xie, and overall badly concealed romantic tension between the two. (Yes, I know they’re not canon, except they totally are. Let me fangirl, please.)
But while Xiao Ge’s role isn’t an easy one, it’s during the handful of episodes in which he got to play a different role, one in which he has to display a wide array of emotions, that I completely fell for Cheng Yi. This man is an incredible actor, something I’ve been able to confirm recently while watching the much-hyped Love and Redemption.
My problem, towards the end, is that this all edged a little too close to queerbaiting. Why? Because I understand deep friendship in media. I’ve seen it before. But this? The way they shot Wu Xie and Xiao Ge’s scenes, as well as Zhang Buxun’s, with both Dou Cheng and Zhang Gaoyuan? It wasn’t friendship. These relationships they portrayed were clearly romance, to the point that the latter is called “a love story” by Pang Zi, and one of the three says “I gave my heart to the wrong man”. Not much to misunderstand there, really.
And while I’m at peace with this sort of thing in adaptations from BL source material, this is…not. I don’t like to be baited. Zhang Buxun’s story, which deserves to be a drama on its own because this man made me fall in love with him with the first five minutes of the three episodes he was in, made me question whether these relationships were written like this in the books as well, or not. Because it’s one thing if it’s intended by the author but not explicitely written because he’s worried about censorship or whatever. But it’s another thing entirely if the screenwriter added it just to mess with his viewership.
Plot, What Plot?
The golden rule of the Lost Tomb series so far is such: do not under any circumstances try to understand the plot, or find logic in it. Because you will fail, miserably so. Instead, relax, have a drink, and just laugh at the utter nonsense unfolding under your nose, because it’s glorious second degree.
On top of a bunch of terribly draggy scenes (I was so bored from episodes 8 to 16, you have no idea), The Lost Tomb 2 suffers from a ton of logic issues and chronic plot convenience. Like caverns the entrance of which is mysteriously hidden by a smooth wall years after people have explored them—I’m sorry to say, but rock doesn’t move and scar over. It’s rock. Or items which mysteriously reappear in their owner’s possession after they were stolen. Characters who all conveniently appear where the action is. People on foot who can more or less keep up with cars… in a blizzard. In the dark.
What do you Mean, “Manage Your Budget?”
First of all, I’d like to point out that I enjoyed the opening credits very much, and never skipped them. The music was upbeat and exciting, and was very well-synchronized with the visuals. On top of that, it all held an air of mystery that really works for a Lost Tomb instalment.
Unfortunately, the rest of the production values pretty much follow the same route as the plot and pacing. That’s to say that they’re so uneven in quality it’ll make you dizzy. Sometimes, everything’s excellent, and it all sucks big time. You’ve got underwater scenes which are clearly shot in the ocean with trained divers, and the next scene over, everybody’s in pool water. You’ve got very realistic-looking scenes where the characters are underground and the only thing piercing the pitch black is their flashlights, as it should be. And the next tomb over, also underground, there’s suddenly the same sort of mysterious natural light that there was in The Lost Tomb.
On top of that, there are also issues with the sound design: basically, stuff that should make noise (like, let’s say, a guy getting crushed by a spiked gate) doesn’t, and it takes you out of it a little.
What it comes down to is that I’ve never seen budget so badly handled on a show. Usually, you’d know whether they have big or small means right from the start. Here, you can tell it’s a case of the former, yet they waste a ton of money on location shots and super draggy but ultimately pointless scenes (trudging through snow, swimming underwater, driving around) when that money would have been much, much better employed on CGI or music or basically anything else. Like a better screenwriter, maybe.
All in All…
Going over this review, I realize that I’ve got a lot to say about stuff that could have been done better, but the truth is that I enjoyed myself tremendously while watching The Lost Tomb 2. I fast-forwarded through a bunch of episodes (if I had to point out only one flaw in this one, it would be its terrible pacing), but I still had a fantastic time, laughed a lot, and generally swooned over the Pingxie dynamics and Cheng Yi.
Tldr; do I recommend it? Yes, absolutely!
Some Xiao Ge appreciation screenshots, because I can’t help myself.
Title: The Lost Tomb 2
Starring: Hou Ming Hao, Cheng Yi, Liu Xue Yi, Li Man
Aired: 06/06/2019 to 07/12/2019
Number of episodes: 40
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Horror, Bromance
My Grade: ★★★★☆