First Impression: The Legend of Mi Yue Impresses with Political BiopicJanuary 2, 2016
The year of 2015 was a big year for China with the release of several high-profile period dramas: The Empress of China (well, this one started in late 2014), Nirvana in Fire and The Legend of Mi Yue. While Nirvana in Fire is primarily a male-centric story, The Legend of Mi Yue makes up for it with its many concubines. After watching several rom-coms in a row and with little interest in the political war that is Nirvana in Fire, I decided to watch Mi Yue which is a refreshing change for me. Here’s a short synopsis.
The drama details the legendary life of Mi Ba Zi, a young girl who lived in Chu during the Warring States period. She was sent to Qin as a concubine and part of her sister Mi Shu’s dowry, separating her from first love Huang Xie. Ying Si passes away while his sons are still battling for the throne, and ultimately, Ying Dang comes out as the successor. Mi Yue is banished to Yan with her son. However, Ying Dang suddenly dies, leaving Qin in a state of chaos. Mi Yue enlists the help of Yi Qu of Xiongnu’s army, successfully returning to Qin, suppressing political revolts and instates her son Ying Ji on the throne. Thus, Mi Yue became the first Empress Dowager in China’s history.
So far, I have watched the first two episodes but also skimmed all the way through episode 60. The drama is a whopping 81 episodes long and the plot moves at a snail’s pace. The story begins before Mi Yue is even born and by episode three, the focus is still on her mother and how Mi Yue’s birth came to be. If you have seen a lot of palace scheming dramas, the plot is pretty predictable so far. A baby born to lower-ranked Consort Xiang is deemed as a future tyrant in a premonition and Empress Wei of Chu did all she could to prevent this baby from being born in order to keep her status from being threatened but alas, fate allowed the baby to live. She grew up to be a brave girl with an honest heart that overcame many obstacles either through sheer will or with the help from others. Of course, this is how many enemies were made. That sums up the first half of the series whereas the latter half starts becoming more political as she gets married to Qin and inches closer to the throne.
Mi Yue Cast Dazzles
It being the Warring States period with many different states within China, each with its own Emperor and concubines, it tends to get a bit confusing to keep track of who’s who and where from. But despite that, it’s been enjoyable watching it so far. Some cast and staff from the renowned Empresses in the Palace are back in this production along with many new talents. Betty Sun plays the strongheaded heroine, Mi Yue. If you thought she was already good in Empresses in the Palace, her acting has taken a step up in Mi Yue. Sparks fly between her and Tamia Liu who plays half sister and (eventual) rival, Mi Shu. I heard that it’s her first time playing a villain and from the trailers, her evil facial expressions were spine-chilling. I also recognize Alex Fong, a veteran Hong Kong actor, who plays Ying Si, the Emperor of Qin.
Although I am a bit disappointed that Rulu Jiang is limited to so little screen time in this series after her spectacular performance as the villain, Consort Hua, in Empresses in the Palace. She plays Concubine Ju in the beginning of this drama.
The music and cinematography is stunning. You can really tell this is a big-budget production. One aspect that I really must praise is their use of make-up and costumes to make certain characters look younger or older. Since this is a biopic, it spans many years detailing Mi Yue’s life so naturally, characters will age. The make-up and costumes are really well done because it creates that young/old effect without looking fake. I also noticed bolder and darker colors are used to beef up evil characters.
The Legend of Mi Yue is based on the novel of the same name written by Jiang Sheng Nan. It is a biopic of a historical figure, but like all dramas, many parts are romanticized and made more interesting for the audience, thus most likely not true to history. From what I’ve seen so far, The Legend of Mi Yue started off on the right foot. While it may be slow and oftentimes predictable if you have watched a lot of palace scheming dramas, the latter events of the series will lead you in a fresh, new direction which I’m eagerly waiting for. If you have plenty of time and don’t mind watching an 80-episode period drama, I’d recommend this. If you prefer heavy action or a fast-paced story, this is not for you. Currently, it is not available in English but with its popularity, it will most likely be licensed and available on Viki soon… I hope.