I didn't intend to watch The Rise of Phoenixes (TROP). The 70 episode length was daunting and despite the stunning cinematography, cast and novel material, I was just too burned out to invest the time. All I could think about was last year's disappointment with Tribes and Empires...what could of been exceptional, ended up as a drawn out mess.
I was still going on my dreary way, trying to get over The Legend of Yunxi (LOY). None of the new C-drama releases piqued my interest and I was getting desperate, even to the point of editing subtitles and timing for LOY because I was so bored. Of course all that rewind activity didn't go without notice; my Youtube recommendation feed became flooded with C-drama videos. On the mobile app, the videos start playing automatically without sound. One night I randomly stopped on an interview of Chen Kun regarding his role as Ning Yi. Even without sound, I was intrigued by him. I ended up watching the interview in full and decided that I'd give the drama a try.
Chen Kun and his portrayal of Ning Yi did not disappoint. He truly anchored the drama and was the most consistent character, despite some gratuitous plot lines. I liked Nini's portrayal of Feng Zhiwei, but I did not like what they did to the character of Feng Zhiwei. I hated all the tropes that they forced on her...the everybody loves me syndrome, the damsel in distress, the unknowing pawn, the noble idiocy, and so on....As early as the 20 episode mark I was already at my wits end. Seriously, how could someone be so smart and calculating but always fall into other people's traps? When she wasn't interacting with Ning Yi, I had to start fast forwarding or else I would have had to quit the drama all together.
The supporting characters were also a mixed bag. The Emperor, Headmaster Xin Ziyan, Head Eunuch Zhao Yuan, and the deposed Crown Prince Ning Chuan were the more memorable of the bunch. The exceptional abilities of each actor to portray multifaceted, complex individuals is commendable. As for the rest, I felt that they were merely check boxes for dramaland requirements...the run of the mill mastermind, some bad guys, some good guys, the lackeys, the second lead, everyone that hates the main leads, every that loves the main leads, etc. Although they fulfilled their purposes, none really gave a believable performance that I could connect with.
It's not unexpected that TROP falls in with the usual 90% of C-Dramas where the last act goes off the rails and the ending is a hodgepodge of how to richard simmons viewers off to no end. However, I still can't believe how disappointed I feel. Personally, I don't mind sad endings, but only if the journey is worth it. In my mind, it was absolutely not worth it for poor Feng Zhiwei. It was a disgusting waste of her character, to have her be tortured with such loss and not have any real closure in the end. The last arch of the drama was an absolute misstep. If I ever re-watch this drama, I'll stop at episode 50 and consider that the Ning Yi and Feng Zhiwei eventually fulfilled their promise to marry and be together for the rest of their days. Forget the rest of the crap that came afterwards...LOL