My thoughts on ‘The Confidant’


The last of the two anniversary dramas of TVB this year, ‘The Confidant’ finally ended airing yesterday (Sunday’s night) with two final episodes. It is also the last drama of the year, and the last one included into the nomination list for this year’s awards presentation which will be held tonight. And I’m so glad that Malaysians would be able to watch the show live from Hong Kong later on through Astro Wah Lai Toi. Back to ‘The Confidant’, it’s one of my most highly anticipated series of the year. In the end, it turns up quite satisfying but then still lacks a number of things that still put it a level below those great masterpiece produced earlier by TVB like Moonlight Resonance, Rosy Business, etc.

the confidant (TVB)

The drama depicts how a group of eunuchs survive in the weakening Qing empire, and closely traces Li Lianying (Wayne Lai)’s early life from the first day he entered the imperial palace to becoming one of the most powerful political figures in the latter years of the Qing Dynasty. The drama also follows Li’s relationship with Empress Dowager Cixi (Michelle Yim), and how he eventually becomes her closest confidant. There are few very notable aspects from this drama that I found, which is good and also bad to the series itself respectively:

1. The story goes in an interesting direction, but there isn’t any intense ‘drama’ going on.

Whenever a drama focuses on story within palace, there is nothing else to tell besides than scheming or evil plotting between concubines as obvious in TVB’s history. ‘The Confidant’ jumps out of that and explores many other interesting themes like friendship (there came the five great eunuchs in the series and how their friendship is on test going through several life-changing events in the palace), love (romance from impossible pair like between eunuch and princess), betrayal, and also on how good people has to do bad things to survive in palace while having a heavy heart on doing so. Of course, many would still love to see some great ‘evil’ plots behind to bring Cixi down as suggested from Cian and her alliance in the drama, but it turns out too simple and nothing exciting. Even until the ending, there isn’t any serious threat posed from the villain. That’s disappointing. And I seriously find Aimee’s role in this drama is annoying and wasting time.

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2. Solid and outstanding performance by the huge ensemble of casts.

This heavy production drama stars of course heavyweight casts; former two-time TV King, Wayne Lai, former TV Queen, Michelle Yim, Maggie Shiu, Raymond Cho, Raymond Wong, Edwin Siu, Power Chan, Oscar Leung, Elliot Ngok, Nancy Wu, Aimee Chan, Natalie Tong, and many other supporting artists. Many of them are very experienced in acting, and so there isn’t any problem on their acting. Extra credit is given to Maggie Shiu (her expression is strong and good as the main villain in the drama, but it’s very weird that she isn’t included in nomination for supporting actress), Power Chan (his style in this drama is distinctive and entertaining, looking forward to him winning best supporting actor), and Michelle Yim (in this drama, she as a royal figure couldn’t express everything out like normal person but still we can see how she feels at time through her eyes and stunning facial expression). Michelle looks very beautiful, young and outstanding as Cixi in this drama (she is now 57 years old if I’m not mistaken, unbelievable). Also not to forget; Selena Li making a guest star appearance in the first 5 episodes is also well received.

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3. The story goes away from historical context in certain parts.

The series received several complaints that the story diverges away from the historical truth. But for me, that’s a good effort to show to the audiences the ‘other’ side of the story than seeing what we have already known from history books. Well, based on most historians, Cixi is portrayed as a ruthless and villainous empress dowager who ruled China for almost 50 years. But in this series, Cixi is portrayed in gentler side, showing that she stepped in to prevent disorder and tend to be heartless in certain situation as that is essential for survival in ‘dark’ palace. It’s something new offered to the audiences.

4. The ending is a conclusion with no ‘serious’ drama yet still delivers impact.

I started to realize that this drama isn’t focusing on delivering intense scenes that would be exciting and attracting attention. I hardly remember any really ‘serious’ or climatic moments from this series, but then there is a certain substance that contributes impact to the audiences too. There isn’t any crazy drama going on even in the ending, but then the ending has certain big-scale formality (the scene when new emperor is proclaimed is great) and fascinating finishing part to all the characters, particularly Li Lianying and Cixi. The ending wrapped nicely. But then in the end, I still feels that climatic scenes are needed for series like this to make it memorable and thrilling but this drama provides almost none. Too bad…however, there is some very powerful scenes like the one in end of episode 14 when Michelle realized that she is so lost and lonely and walks out of the hall silently with that little yet wonderful acting.

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5. Impressive backdrop as the filming took place at Hengdian World Studio.

Finally, we don’t get to see filming backdrop in same old locations we have always seen in typical TVB dramas set in dynasty period. The audiences of this drama are exposed to realistic background as the filming of ‘The Confidant’ took place at Hengdian World Studio where a similar replica of Forbidden City palace is built. This of course helps the drama a lot as it would engage audiences into the story more with that majestic backdrop of palace buildings.

Overall, there are good and bad aspects I found from this drama after I finished it up yesterday’s night. If there are many intense dramas or exciting stuff going on in this drama, then this series would be much more awesome. But then, it’s not in the end. It’s like playing safe, with no breakthrough. But I’m still satisfied with the drama generally. This drama is still considered one of the best for the year, and there is a chance for it to win Best Series tonight at the TVB awards presentation. However, it’s still not on par if compared to several great productions TVB had like what I mentioned earlier. If there is s sequel to ‘The Confidant’, I’m looking forward to it too since the story can proceeds and continue well from the ending with many more things able to be explored. Out of 10 points, I rate ‘The Confidant’ a total of 7.7.

(All images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

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3 Responses to “My thoughts on ‘The Confidant’”

  1. I cannot agree with you more on the point of there being no drama!! Especially at the end, Lianying just comes and easily gets rid of the bad guys. Like for Tim Sau, all he had to do was ask Cixi to give him a higher rank.

    My full review: http://casualtvb.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-confidant-review.html

  2. Yeo Lay Peng Miss Says:

    Who is that little boy who would become king? As I do not understand cantonese well, I am curious to know. The late King n Queen did not have any children. Can someone tell me who was that cute boy who was carried by Wayne Lai to be seated on the throne in the ending. Thanks.

    • vincentloy Says:

      according to history, cixi’s son left no offspring to inherit the empire…hence, cixi finds her nephew to be the new emperor

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