First Impressions: Legend of the Phoenix (2019)

Legend of the Phoenix is a historical drama that finishes airing on July 2, and is available with English subtitles on Viki. It’s also on YouTube but I only see English subtitles for the first two episodes.

I started watching this drama because I saw some cute clips of the main characters’ romance, but my verdict after watching six episodes is that I will be dropping it. In the first six episodes, the leads already share a number of great scenes together. The show is well-paced, it’s just that I don’t feel like I have an understanding of any character except the female lead, who I find to be annoyingly silly and reckless.

However, if you’re looking for a romance-centered historical drama and you don’t find the female lead annoying, you might like this!

Ye Ningzhi (He Hongshan) is a traveling circus performer with a lively, carefree nature. She first meets Wei Guang (Jeremy Tsui) when the Princess (the Emperor’s sister) uses her in a plot against the Empress, and he helps save her.

Wei Guang is a quick-witted strategist for the Empress with a calm demeanor, but his standing is unstable because he is the son of a criminal. Ningzhi develops a crush on Wei Guang, who seems to take a liking to her as well. Six months later, their paths cross again, ultimately leading them both into the palace.

The Empress is a key character, and she is calculating and rather cold. I’m honestly confused by some of her decisions. Her right-hand man is the corrupt Lang Kun.

Wei Guang is a morally just white-knight sort of character and it seems his family was wrongfully accused so there’s an unrevealed reason he remains by the Empress. I feel like it’s Ningzhi’s strong instinct to protect the innocent that wins him over, and their relationship develops very quickly. For Ningzhi, it looks like puppy love. She crushes on him instantly and it feels like how a teenager would act.

Although Ningzhi is brave and willing to sacrifice herself for people she cares about, she acts recklessly and is undisciplined. She deceives the Empress with a complete disregard of the consequences, and doesn’t seem to take her responsibilities seriously. (While in training, I thought she’d be more graceful due to her experience as a circus performer…) One wrong step in the palace and you’ll lose your head, but it doesn’t feel like Ningzhi has any self-awareness. It’s like she’s supposed to be similar to Wei Ying Luo in Story of Yanxi Palace with her daring actions, except Wei Ying Luo was cunning and quick-witted while Ningzhi just seems silly and naive.

This drama didn’t win me over, but I’ll be keeping an eye on reviews when it finishes to see if it warrants a second chance. I’ll leave you with this scenic moment of the two leads.

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