Review: Detectives and Doctors (China, 2015)

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Detectives and Doctors (陆小凤与花满楼)

Genre: Wuxia/Historical Fiction
Length: 43 episodes
Languages Available: Mandarin (original); Cantonese (dubbed)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The Cast

Raymond Lam as Lu Xiaofeng
Zhang Xiaolong as Hua Manlou
Zhang Meng as A Xin
Lan Xi as Shangguan Danhong/Shangguan Dantu
Chen Ya Ting as Shangguan Feiyan
Leanne Liu as Empress Dowager
Kent Cheng as Fu Yao/Shangguan Mu
Zong Feng Yan as Prince Wei
Nikita Mao as Sun Xiuqing

The Review

Regardless of how fancy Detectives and Doctors may sound on the surface and with it’s tagline of being the first 3D TV series based on Lu Xiaofeng, the series is one of the most unnecessarily longest plots I’ve watched in a long time. Mainland China series tends to have this problem with it’s 80+ episodes of historical fiction that you’d expect to be be long, but that’s only because history isn’t built in a day. My expectation for wuxia is slightly different as it’s based on a novel and while most wuxia adaptations aren’t loyal (and that’s fine, I’m okay with producers adding their own creativity to it as long as it makes sense), they are usually well… wuxia dominated and not political-dominated.

My biggest pet peeve of this adaptation is that it stretches one story arc based on the Golden Phoenix Kingdom into 43 episodes of drama. I haven’t seen TVB’s 1978 adaptation with Damian Lau, but I heard the story arc takes place in a matter of 10 episodes. TVB’s 1985 version with Alex Man didn’t use the Golden Phoenix Kingdom story arc, but extracted and fooled around with 3-4 other story arcs from the novel in a matter of 40 episodes. Julian Cheung’s mainland China version took only two episodes to solve the crime; though it was short, the understanding is that his version was more of a mini movie than an extended drama.

Now you see what I mean? Instead, the series kicked off being promising and fast-paced with Lan Xi seeking Raymond’s help to find the three traitors of the Golden Phoenix Kingdom. Lan Xi’s princess getup was absolutely stunning in her debut scene that’ll leave you wondering why her character went down such a tragic path and she never seemed to carry that determination, wit, and strength in her character anymore halfway through the show, particularly when she was medically manipulated by Kent. Her relationship with Raymond was also promising though you’ll know that a free-spirit like Lu Xiaofeng will probably never settle down. The point is Danfeng is independent herself too.

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What was suppose to be uncovering the three traitors of the previous Golden Phoenix Kingdom became a political struggle of Prince Wei’s hunger to usurp the throne through the slow and gradual process of eliminating his royal brothers. You get it, the typical political struggle in a royal family. Perhaps what made me laugh even more was how engaged a careless Lu Xiaofeng was in solving this crime and allowing himself to be immersed in the politics of Leanne who played the Empress Dowager and Kent, whose motivation I can’t even seem to understand. He said he was doing it for fame or profit, I forget and don’t care much.

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My love for wuxia dramas partially stems from a desire for a virtual escape into action, adventure, mystery, suave heroes and carefree spirits. Somehow the mysteries in Lu Xiaofeng never captivated me, but I love everything else about it including his bromance with Hua Manlou. This virtual escape was greeted with too many politics and drama in a world that was too familiar in everyday life and outside of wuxia and jiang hu — and the worst part is that Lu Xiaofeng and Hua Manlou becomes part of this world. Um no, this isn’t who they really are.

It’s okay if the plot twists are different from adaptation to adaptation, but it seemed like the producer was merely capitalizing on the popularity of Lu Xiaofeng to sell us another Chinese drama. For 43 episodes, I also feel like it’s a rather small cast. Ximen Chuixue and Sun Xiuqing had so few scenes that made me wonder what was even the point of introducing them. They appeared in the first ten episodes or so and you don’t get to see them again until the last few episodes (and they only appear once and gone forever). Ximen appears again in the last scene where he and Lu Xiaofeng engages in a duel, but that’s when the credits started rolling. *face palm

That said, they made some alterations that I’m completely okay with. Danfeng and Feiyan were played by the same actress in Julian’s version, but here, they are two completely different characters. Since the length of Raymond’s version is much longer, this is a good decision. I suppose they saw this and also saw an opportunity to throw in a twin sister for Danfeng, named Dantu. Same girl, but opposite personalities. One is kind, loved and respected, while the other one is a cold-blooded assassin.

My favorite scenes were those where Raymond was simply hanging out with his friends, especially Zhu Ting and his wife. What kind of husband allows his wife to spend so much time with her ex? Lol!

Lastly, of course, it was Raymond who sang the opening theme, which was (painfully) beautiful.

Characterization and Performance

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Raymond Lam. Besides the name Lu Xiaofeng, the name Raymond Lam was perhaps the other biggest selling point of the drama. Besides Raymond and Kent, I’m not familiar with the rest of the cast.

That said, Raymond made a decent Lu Xiaofeng, but my favorite is still Julian Cheung. It’s the little expressions that Julian emotes that makes him better. Raymond also seems to use the same recycled acting to play this role. It worked I suppose, but it’s not amazing. I still believe that Raymond’s most memorable works were before 2007, but he looked great in his black costume here.

Zhang Xiaolong. It didn’t take more than two episodes to know that Zhang can’t beat Wong Wan Choi in the role of Hua Manlou. And I didn’t see his performance improve during the 43 episodes either. For someone who is the co-lead, Zhang was rather stiff and didn’t have chemistry with Raymond. The character’s kindness made him likable, but again, not memorable.

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Zhang Meng. I thought her character was odd in the beginning. She has the powerful ability to see the future, but seriously, who tells someone that you [Lu Xiaofeng] will be the future father of my child when you first meet someone, lol. I like her honesty, righteous, and spontaneity though I believe she isn’t character from the novel. Her character was consistent and didn’t deviate from who she should be.

The subplot where she loves and marries Tian Chong was out of place though. One moment she says Lu Xiaofeng will be the father of her child, then she marries another man. Talk about being spontaneous. But oh wells, there aren’t a lot to love about the series.

Lan Xi. Danfeng started out with potential, but that quickly dwindled when she was captured by Kent. While it’s not her fault that she was medically controlled by Kent, by the time she came to her senses again, I was quite done with her. Afterwards, she also didn’t do anything to propel the plot, especially after her twin appeared. By the time she decided to suicide in the Golden Phoenix Kingdom’s treasure cave, I just shrugged it off. Even Raymond didn’t really mourn for her following her death.

Chen Ya Ting. She starts off as an assassin under Dantu, but falls in love with Hua Manlou. You get the drill. I don’t care for this type of cliched storyline at all, but you gotta give it to Hua for his kindness and what he sees in people. No wonder she even risked her life to get Hua all the pieces to unlock the Golden Phoenix treasure.

I much prefer her consistent relationship with Hua though the actress’s expressions made me feel very uncomfortable throughout. She appeared too confused. Detectives and Doctors is the only drama under her filmography, so perhaps she’s a newbie and this is her first series?

Leanne Liu. She was strong as the Empress Dowager who tried to hold it together after the Emperor falls ill. Nothing noteworthy, but very solid.

Nikita Mao. She was the sweetest girl after A Xin, both the actress and the character. Why did she have so few scenes?!

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Overall Evaluation

It’s less about Lu Xiaofeng and Hua Manlou, but more about the political struggle of another typical prince usurping the throne. Anything regarding the Golden Phoenix Kingdom could’ve been resolved within the first ten episodes. I had my fingers crossed that they will bring another mystery or two after that. In retrospect, the wuxia mystery piece is quite forcefully implemented. The grand storyline is poorly focused. For an adventure hero like Lu Xiaofeng, he walks in out of the palace more than roaming jiang hu.

The Verdict

I don’t recommend this type of pretentiousness with a lack of real substance.

For more photos of the cast, click here.

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