Available on: Netflix
Total episode #: 44
Dumpling-rating scale: 4/5
The Handsome/Proud Siblings 绝代双骄 — based on the popular novel by Gu Long 古龙 — gets its 2020 reboot starring Hu Yi Tian 胡一天 and Chen Zhe Yuan 陈哲远 as Hua Wu Que and Jiang Xiao Yu, respectively. It’s a lot less serious than your typical Wuxia drama, however with a clear, moral based narrative, it was a great way to start 2020.
Centred around themes of revenge, destiny and family (the usual suspects), this drama begins with the murder of Jiang Feng (also portrayed by Hu Yi Tian) and his baby mama, Hua Yue Nu. Although they are killed by Yao Yue, the powerful mistress of the Yihua Palace, there are many parties involved with their murder — all of which is slowly revealed as the drama continues.
Yao Yue motives for killing Jiang Feng are disclosed in episode 1 — she saved Jiang Feng’s life, fell in love with him and expected him to marry her (weird to expect, but okay). Instead of reciprocating Yao Yue’s affection, Jiang Feng fell in love with her servant, Hua Yue Nu. In order to start a life together, Jiang Feng and his heavily pregnant Hua Yue Nu decide to run away from Yi Hua Palace. However, they are caught/tortured by the villainous Twelve Zodiac but are ultimately killed by Yao Yue.
Lian Xing — Yao Yue’s younger sister, who also fell in love with Jiang Feng — stops Yao Yue from killing Jiang Feng’s twin sons by proposing a revenge plot. The plot is to separate the twins and convince them that they are mortal enemies and get them to kill each other (pretty twisted). Those twins are none other than Hua Wu Que (raised by Yi Hua Palace) and Jiang Xiao Yu (raised by the Ten Great Villians).
Although Hu Yi Tian has received the most praise for his portrayal of Hua Wu Que/Jiang Feng — I thought the drama overdid his makeup (that foundation and eyebrow pencil!), his character felt a little one dimensional and very similar to the roles he portrayed in Go Go Squid! and A Love So Beautiful. In contrast, Chen Zhe Yuan brought a vibrancy and dynamism to the drama but also was a vehicle for some really important life mottos/learnings.
In terms of love stories — don’t go into this drama expecting an Eternal Love-styled epic, because you will be disappointed. At its core, this is a story of two brothers — who not only learn from each other but also learn to love each and understand the true meaning of family.
While watching this drama, I was eagerly/impatiently waiting from the brother-showdown foreshadowed from episode 1. Now for ‼️spoilers ‼️ and episode guide — that showdown doesn’t come until the very last episode, so don’t hold your breath! That being said, this drama has a lot to offer, with a large cast (which may explain the low costume/production value) and multiple storylines, to assist with navigating this drama, I have set out an episode guide below:
- Arc 1 | Episodes 1 – 9 | Journey to Ei Mei Shan
- Arc 2 | Episodes 10 – 16 | Brothers meet and separate
- Arc 3 | Episodes 17 – 27 | The true villain
- Arc 4 | Episode 28 – 44 | The meaning of family
Arc 1 | Episode 1 – 9 | Journey to Ei Mei Mountain
Picking up from the intro above, Yan Nan Tian — the greatest swordsman in the martial world and Jiang Feng’s older martial brother — after being mislead by Jiang Feng’s servant/lowly scholar (Jiang Qin), arrives to the scene of the crime to find a murdered Jiang Feng and baby Yu-er. Mislead once again, Yan Nan Tian is tricked into a coma by the Ten Great Villains (and the Twelve Zodiacs). The Ten Great Villains take shine to baby Yu-er, raise him as their own and he only leaves in pursuit to find his father’s murderer (and after being asked to leave by the Ten Great Villains from being too villainous).
Meanwhile, Hua Yu Que is raised by Yi Hua Palace — he grows up to be a talented martial artist and a spitting image of his father, Jiang Feng. Yao Yue intent on following through with the revenge plan, asks him to leave after news that Xiao Yu-er has reappeared in the martial world. It is revealed that younger sister, Lian Xing is in fact kindhearted and came up with the twisted plan to save the brothers and buy them some time (18 years) and to give them a chance at life.
Out in the real world, Hua Wu Que discovers and is repulsed by people’s greed, obsession with money and ego. His parent’s story is repeated when he stops and stays with the Tianhong Clan — the only daughter of the evil Tianhong Clan (Feng Bai Yu) falls in love with the only son of the Righteous Clan (Qin Zi Ling). The Righteous Clan unwilling to accept the match ends up killing them both in episode 7…
Meanwhile Xiao Yu-er meets the goodnatured Tie Xin Lan in disguise — Tie Xin Lan carries with her a much desired map to Ei Mei Shan (where Yan Nan Tian’s martial arts manual is hidden). Tie Xin Lan becomes fast friends with Xiao Yu-er and gives him the treasure map (in episode 6) after being pursued by the fierce Zhang Jing.
After seeking refuge at Murong Mansion — in the care of Murong Jiu and Gu Ren Yu — upon finding out that Murong Jiu has been practicing dark martial arts, Yu-er burns her manuals and consumes all her ‘medicine’ which causes him to become hot and hide in Murong Jiu’s ice room.
While Xiao Yu-er is trapped in the ice room by Murong Jiu, Gu Ren Yu helps Tie Xin Lan escape and she meets Hua Wu Que (in episode 9). Hua Wu Que then helps and accompanies Tie Xin Lan to Ei Mei Shan
Arc 2 | Episode 10 – 16 | Brothers meet and separate
Xiao Yu-er is saved from the ice room by Goat and Cow from the Twelve Zodiac, who are also looking for the map to Ei Mei Mountain. Going with them to a town near Ei Mei Mountain — Xiao Yu-er meets Hua Wu Que (yep, for the first time in episode 10) while looking for Tie Xin Lan.
At Ei Mei Mountain, Xiao Yu-er and then Hua Wu Que reveal to the congregation of treasure hunters that the map might be a conspiracy to get all the great martial artists to fight and kill each other — they however only listen to Hua Wu Que, much to Xiao Yu-er’s chagrin especially when he realises that Tie Xin Lan has also fallen for Hua Wu Que (which also causes him to realise that he has fallen from Tie Xin Lan).
In episode 11 — Xiao Yu-er gets his revenge on Murong Jiu by pretending to be a ghost, which causes her to pass-out and suffer from amnesia. Hua Wu Que also discovers the Jian Xiao Yu-er is looking for… Hua Wu Que doesn’t end up killing Xiao Yu-er but Tie Xin Lan thinks he does, and tries to kill herself.
Xiao Yu-er escapes but ends up being captured by Xiao Mi Mi (one of the Ten Great Villains) along with the conniving Jiang Yu Lang (who has been stuck there for a year and is the son of a great hero). Together, Yu Lang and Yu-er work together, find the Five Ultimate Skills Manual and escape (even though Yulung is constantly trying to backstab Yu-er). In the end, Jiang Bie He (the apparent great hero) saves his son, Jiang Yu Lang.
Meanwhile, Tie Xin Lan and Hua Wu Que go down the cliff to find Xiao Yu-er. Instead they find Monkey (from the 12 Zodiacs) and Shen Qing Hong (the assigned escort for the hidden treasure) — they have been stuck in the cave for 18 years because of the hidden treasure (which confuses Hu Wu Que). Hua Wu Que and Qing Hong defeat Monkey — Tie Xin Lan is saved and Shen Qing returns with the treasure.
Tie Xin Lan’s backstory is revealed in episode 14: her father (Mad Lion, Tie Zhan) seeking to be the best martial artist left her and never came back. Tie Xin Lan believed her father was at the Wicked Canyon but Yu-er tells her that he never came and believes him dead. Hua Wu Que promises her that he will find her father by following the last lead, Jiang Bai He — this gives her the motivation to live without finding Yu-er.
In episode 16 — Yu-er find out that Jiang Bie He is behind the false map and Tie Xin Lan saves Yu-er from Hua Wu Que by hugging him barely clothed.
Arc 3 | Episode 17 – 27 | The true villain
In this arc — Jiang Be He is revealed to be the true villain, he forged the map so that he would be the greatest hero in the marital world, imprisoned Tie Zhan to be his lackey and when he was almost exposed by Yu-er, Xin Lan and Wu Que in episode 27, he frames Yu Lang (by cutting off his arm).
Rewinding back to episode 18 though — Yu-er joins a circus (after running away from Wu Que) and is so annoyed that Tie Xin Lan had to disgrace herself to save him that he begins to relentlessly practice the Five Ultimate Skills (as does Yu Lang).
Yu-er tries to bring Jiang Bie He down but fails in episode 22-23 by getting the Murong family involved through Murong Jiu — Murong Jiu, who has completely lost her memory, was captured by the powerful Wei family to be an escort but is saved by Black Spider and Yu-er. A weird love triangle forms, where Black Spider is hopelessly in love with Murong Jiu who is in love with Yu-er.
Yu-er is saved by his Ten Great Villain family (from the Murong family after he fails to bring Jiang Bie He down) only to be abandoned and left for dead by them in episode 25. In episode 26, Yu-er and Wu Que enter into a truce where they promise not to kill each other until Bie He is proved to be a villain (rather than hero he wished to be). While Wu Que and Yu-er come close, they still fail as Bei He blames Yu Lang. Together — Wu Que and Yu-er have to come up with a new plan.
As for Tie Xin Lan, she is reunited with her father in episode 22 and leaves with him in episode 27 — that is, after Yan Nan Tian finally comes back to life and forces them initially to get married, until he realises Wu Que is from Yi Hua Palace, tries to kill Wu Que but is stopped by Yu-er.
Arc 4 | Episode 28 – 44 | The meaning of family
Hua Wu Que and Yu-er begin to become very good friends and word gets back to Yi Hua Palace. Yao Yue (disguised as a Mr Tong) decides to pay the brothers a visit in order to remind them of their “destiny” and detains Yu-er. In response, Yan Nan Tian detains Hua Wu Que in order to save Yu-er.
At Yi Hua Palace, Yu-er becomes very suspicious of his “destiny” and makes it his new mission to find out why Hua Wu Que has to kill him… Yu-er is able to escape Yao Yue/Mr Tong’s clutches with the help of Tie Ping Gu (who decides to escape with Yu-er after Yao Yue/Mr Tong viciously kills her only friend).
Meanwhile, Yu Lang is very much alive but angry, very angry — in episode 29, he meets with the powerful Wei family who give him a mechanical arm on the condition he retrieves Murong Jiu. Yu Lang finds Murong Jiu but Yu-er and Hua Wu Que save Murong Jiu (again) in episode 30. Yu Lang survives again! and seduces /rapes Tie Ping Gu in episode 31… who then falls in love with him.
The Ten Great Villains have internal conflict — in episode 31, Ouyang brothers (part of the original Ten Great Villains) tell the five villains that raised Yu-er that the treasure which originally belong to Yu-er’s father is lost and hidden in Mount Gui. Turns out the Ouyang brother fooled the villains and sent them to Mount Gui where Wei Wu Ya (the King of the Rats, originally the leader of the 12 Zodiacs) reigns supreme and would take revenge for them…
In order to save the villains that raised him, Yu-er heads to Mount Gui, while Wu Que goes to Yi Hua Palace to ask his aunties why he has to kill Yu-er ( episode 32). Fast-forwarding (and more of a side story) — in the very end, the Ten Great Villains end up killing each other because of their greed for the Jiang Feng’s treasure. Before Li Da Zui dies, it is revealed that he is Ping Guo’s father and that he did not eat his wife and daughter, but was caught in a cycle of greed.
Also in episode 31, Lu Zhong Yan (pretending Yan Nan Tian) saves Yu Lang — Yu lang fools Lu Zhong Yan by taking him to see Murong Jiu and killing him (with the help of Ping Gu) after Lu Zhong Yan uses his life essence to save her. Lu Zhong Yan meets Yu-er and Wu Que and they promise to avenge him. Jiang Bei He and Yu Lang reunite in episode 32, discover that they didn’t kill Yan Nan Tian and plan to get rid of Yi Hua Palace’s mistresses using Wei Wu Ya.
The huge reveal is — Jiang Bie He is the Jiang Feng’s male servant who sold him out to the 12 Zodiacs and stole his treasure. Jiang Bie He manipulates Wei Wu Ya and launches an attack on Yi Hua Palace. Hua Wu Que defends Yi Hua Palace (while the aunts are in seclusion) — and saves Tie Xin Lan again, who had also come to Yi Hua Palace to ask the mistresses to spare Wu Que and Yu-er. Together, Tie Xin Lan and Wu Que head to Gui Mountain to find Yu-er… but instead are captured by Jiang Yu Lang and Wei Wu Ya (through a series of underhanded tricks which leaves Wu Que weak).
Yu-er is defeated by Wei Wu Ya but saved and captured Su Ying. With Su Ying’s help, Yu-er attempts to save Wu Que, who then gets involved with Yu Lang and needs saving himself… its a bit of a he save/she save cycle for about 3 episodes. In episode 37, the Yi Hua Aunties appear at Gui Mountain, Jiang Yu Lang betrays Ping Gu (again!) and it is revealed that the “treasure” (that everyone has been looking for) is not gold but is the Wedding Robe Divine Skill Manual that Yan Nan Tian gifted to Jiang Feng.
Jiang Bie He seeks to master the Wedding Robe Divine Skill Manual in order to reunite the Marital World and become the “Great Hero”. Bie He’s backstory is — he was once part of an illustrious family but because of their corruption they were removed from power. Jiang Feng saved Bie He but Bie He was jealous of him, betrayed him and had him killed instead. Ultimately, Ping Gu kills Yu Lang in episode 40 and Bie He is spared by Yu-er and has his marital arts taken away by Yan Nan Tian in episode 43.
In episode 39, the aunties, Yu-er and Si Ying become trapped in Wei Wu Ya’s Palace and another backstory is revealed! Wei Wu Ya was in love with Yao Yue (oldest aunty) and sought to be marry her (which is why he helped find/kill Jiang Feng) — Yao Yue refused to marry him and killing her became his ultimate motive. Wei Wu Ya kills himself in order to destroy the mistresses and they are rescued in episode 42.
Yu-er and Wu Que finally have their duel in episode 44 — Yu-er again using trickery, fakes his death in order to get Yao Yue to reveal her motives (that Yu-er and Wu Que are brothers and getting them to kill each other was the revenge plot against Jiang Feng for rejecting her). Yao Yue kills herself (that is, after killing her own sister for trying to stop the duel) after revealing the truth to Hu Wu Que, Yu-er, Yan Nan Tian and everyone else…
It is mostly happy endings — Murong Jiu and Black Spider get married, Gu Xiao Mei confesses to Xiao Xian Nu, Yu-er stays with Si Ying and Tie Xin Lan doesn’t end up killing herself and finally confesses to Hua Wu Que. Yan Nan Tian having mastered the Wedding Robe Divine Skill (by firstly giving up everything) has to back into seclusion.
I was satisfied with the overall story/ending even though I was hoping for a more fulsome ending (particularly for Wu Que and Xin Lan!). My take-away learning was that revenge and greed will only bring you sorrow — a timeless message.
What was your take-away learning from the Handsome Sibling?