Drama review: 步步驚心

《步步驚心》 caught my eye because it stars 劉詩詩, who I really liked in 《怪俠一枝梅》. I was surprised to see 吳奇隆 (Nicky Wu) in the drama. My last memory of 吳奇隆 was when he was a member of 小虎隊, a really popular Taiwanese boy band in the 1990s. Overall, I liked the drama. It was a departure from the usual historical dramas since it involves a time-travel element. A modern woman finds herself as 馬爾泰·若曦, the sister of a wife of 八阿哥 in the time of 康熙 (清 dynasty). 劉詩詩 portrays 若曦, while 吳奇隆 portrays 四阿哥. The plot is based on the novel of the same name by 桐華. I have not read the novel, so I cannot compare the drama to the novel.

There are some major themes in the drama. One of the major elements of the drama is that love in the midst of palace politics is difficult. This becomes true for 若曦 because she has modern thoughts but is living in ancient times. Marriage in the palace is determined by the emperor and can be fraught with politics. The wife’s role is that of a constant support of the princes’ political aspirations. A more philosophical theme is that sometimes there is no right or wrong, there are just different points of view. This is especially true when it comes to politics and understanding history.

I think the actors were chosen very well, especially the actors that portray the princes. The personalities of each prince match the actors’ physical attributes. 若曦 falls in love with 八阿哥 first. 八阿哥 looks strong, but his background is the weakest and has to try the hardest to be a contender for the throne. There is a strength and frailty to him.

若曦 then falls in love with 四阿哥 and is finally able to be with him when he becomes emperor. The succession of 雍正 (as 四阿哥 is called as emperor) to the throne has been long questioned; some historians believe the throne was meant for 十四阿哥. 四阿哥 lives in the shadow of his brother, 十四阿哥 (literally and figuratively; 林更新, the actor who portrays 十四阿哥, towers over 吳奇隆). 四阿哥 is quiet and reserved, but with an underlying feeling of evil. He does everything to gain the throne. Once he becomes emperor, he punishes the princes who were against him. Unfortunately, the paring of 若曦 and 四阿哥 is a tragic one.

十四阿哥 is a counterbalance to 若曦. He challenges her and questions her motives and thoughts. He supports her and allows 若曦 leave the palace and live her life in peace. Unfortunately, the love of 十四阿哥 for 若曦 remains unrequited, but 十四阿哥 becomes the hero. My favorite of all the brothers is 十四阿哥 because he seemed to have the most tempered personality. He cares about his brothers and wants to good for all, not just for the throne.

I really enjoyed watching 《步步驚心》. I did not really pay much attention to the time-traveling aspect, and it is not constantly mentioned in the drama. I look at it as a story of palace life during the 清 dynasty. The 清 dynasty is really quite interesting and I’m glad I had the chance to review some basic history through the drama. I hope to watch some more dramas in the future with the same mix of historical background and attractiveness. I’m not sure if I’ll be as enthusiastic about the second season of 《步步驚心》, which is rumored to be a modern drama with some of the same actors.

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