Here it is at last, the long awaited (by no one in particular, save myself) series in which I do an episode by episode break down of my second viewing of The Untamed. Listen, I do not choose my obsessions idly, okay, but when they happen, they happen.
Right, let's get on with it!
You have my attention, The Untamed.
Oh! An injured, pretty man (Boy? Man? I mean, they all look like they're twelve) in white is trying to save the pretty man in red and black, who cast himself off the edge of a precipice. We find out that this man in white is Lan Zhan (Lan Wangji, who will be abbreviated to LWJ from now on. Brevity and all that) and he's trying to save Wei Ying (Wei Wuxian, who will be abbreviated to WWX from now on).
Ugh, that "Let me go," genuinely breaks my heart. That small, sad smile. The strain on LWJ's face as he tries to hold on... MY HEART!
Oh dear. An angry pretty man (seriously, what is in the water in China?!) in purple kills WWX. His name is Jiang Cheng.
LWJ looks utterly devastated.
Alright, The Untamed, you definitely have my attention.
For reals, though, this is a great opening sequence for twits like me. It plunges you into the action right away, with a genuinely devastating inter-personal moment that has me wondering what the hell happened, why is that man suicidal, why is the other one trying to save him, and why is everyone killing each other like this? Great opening. I could watch it a thousand times.
Change of scene, and we see an older gentleman telling stories to a bunch of young men all dressed the same in a tavern (probably). We find out later that it's a group of Lan Clan cultivators (cultivators are, near as I can tell, magical folks. There are folks with magic, and folks without... I think). It cuts to a mysterious figure tapping a closed fan in the palm of his hand, listening from behind a curtain. This is my second viewing, so that cut makes sense to me now, and I slapped myself hard on the forehead on my second viewing for not piecing it together in the first. It's so obvious. The cut seems random. It isn't. At all.
OOOOOH! The mention of WWX returning brings in ominous clouds... and a random drunk person calling for ghosts as he stumbles down an empty street.
Complete change of scene, and we see WWX, surrounded by talismans on paper, in a room covered in blood. He was, apparently, summoned by one Mo Xuanyu, who sacrifices his body to bring WWX back to life and fulfil his desire for revenge. The thing is, the Mo family don't really know what Mo Xuanyu looks like as an adult (he always wore a mask or powdered his face, we learn), so that he now suddenly has WWX's face doesn't really register to them. This of course, has left me with a thousand questions. Why does WWX have his old face instead of Mo Xuanyu's face? Does the sacrifice of Mo Xuanyu give WWX the former's golden core? Or... I feel like this is a thing that should be explained.
We find out that Mo Xuanyu is - was - a bastard child of a cultivator, who went to his father's clan (the Jin Clan), only to be exiled. Back at the Mo estate, his cousin abuses him. This cousin makes the mistake of beating the crap out of WWX, thinking it's Mo Xuanyu.
WWX gets his revenge soon, by playing the fool and exposing his cousin's cruelty (the actor playing WWX had too much fun with this scene, I'm sure) to a watching crowd. He happens to do so when cultivators from the Lan Clan - including Lan Sizhui, who proves to be kind and sweet - are there investigating some terrible haunting of the manor; and they're using the talismans WWX devised in his past life to help (despite, we learn, the clans all uniting in their condemnation of the use of such tricks).
The stupid cousin steals one of the cultivator's flags, which happens to make him be possessed by whatever evil is haunting the Mo estate. I mean, play stupid games, you little shit. Then it's Mr. Mo who is possessed. And then Mrs. Mo. And holy shit, they're all fighting each other in the courtyard.
To be honest, some of this particular fight scene had me giggling. There's a lot of highly unnecessary wire work, and then that obviously rubber sword... Oi. Still, it's fun if you don't let those things bother you.
The young cultivators soon find themselves out of their depth, despite their magical rope.
Enter Lan Wangji. Look, I'm not saying that this is one of the most epic entrances of any character I've ever seen, but it's pretty damned close!
Terrified that LWJ will discover him, because LWJ would know him on sight, WWX flees the scene (but not before stopping to observe LWJ in action for a bit. There's something precious in the watching, and it makes me audibly 'aw.' I am very glad that the only witness to my weakness is my cat). LWJ gives chase, but loses him, and the secret is safe... for now. But LWJ has his suspicions. The voiceover is perfect - just enough longing in there... Another audible "Aw!"
And then we cut to a scene where the mysterious man with the closed fan throws the storyteller (you know, the guy near the beginning, entertaining the cultivators) some money as WWX leaves the Mo estate and the town with a donkey. On WWX's arm are three healed cuts. The Mo family has suffered (presumably they're now dead because of that sword ghost thing). So, that vengeance quest has been completed. There is one more cut, still open, indicating that there is one more person on Mo Xuanyu's hit list, and WWX has no idea who that might be.
And that's the end of the episode.
What I Loved
Safe to say that I was hooked from the beginning. You cannot show me a battle scene with a mysterious object of power that everyone is killing each other over, and then someone trying desperately to save a suicidal man, and another determined to see him die, and then the would-be saviour devastated when he fails and expect me not to binge the whole thing as quickly as possible.
Also... the costumes. OMG THE COSTUMES ARE GORGEOUS.
Also, everyone carries a sword, which makes everyone like, ten thousand times more awesome than if they didn't.
What Could Have Been Better
There isn't a whole lot that would have improved this. Perhaps some better cutting in the scene where all the zombie/puppet Mos are fighting one another so that a few of the more dopey moments are a little better hidden wouldn't be too bad.
I do have one slightly major gripe, and it has to do with the subtitles.
You see, when the young cultivators are discussing the plan to call their master, they use his title Hanguang Jun (the Light-Bearing Lord) in the original Chinese, rather than his name. They use his name in the subtitles, robbing the audience of the (albeit mild) surprise about who, precisely, the cultivators summoned. It would have been much better if the subtitles used the title instead of his name as well. Hell, even a translation of the title would have been better. It would have made LWJ's entrance all that more epic, in my opinion.
I fell in love with the series on the first viewing of the first episode. Watching it again, I'm still desperately in love. What a great way kick off a show.
Well done, everyone. See you back here next week for the second episode.