Goodbye My Princess (东宫) is a 52-episode historical drama based on the novel by Fei Wo Si Cun. It’s available on Viki with English subtitles, but worth noting that an uncut version without subtitles is on YouTube.
I watched the Viki version (what I assume to be the TV version) but skimmed through the first few episodes of the uncut version to see what the difference is. The uncut version totals 55 episodes and there’s more character development and context in the beginning.
This is a story of ill-fated lovers, a prince who ruthlessly seeks revenge and a princess who is torn between love and hate, duty and emotion. I really enjoyed the first 15-20 episodes, but soon after that this drama started to drag. I didn’t care about the political storyline at all, and only finished it out of curiosity about how exactly it’d end. It’s possible that I would have enjoyed the uncut version more.
There are no spoilers in this review.
The naive and spirited Xiaofeng (Peng Xiaoran) is a princess of Xi State who must marry the crown prince of Li Empire to maintain their kingdoms’ alliance. Resistant to leaving the home she loves, Xiaofeng wants to run away with her teacher Gu Jian (Shawn Wu), who she’s secretly in love with.
However, a series of events leads her to fall in love with Li Chengyin (Chen Xingxu) in disguise. Li Chengyin seeks revenge for the deaths of his mother and brother and will do whatever it takes to destroy his enemies.
Revenge plots are fairly common in historical dramas and I’m not against political storylines. (I mean, Nirvana in Fire is my favorite drama.) In this case, I was never invested in Li Chengyin’s vendetta. He’s deceptive from the beginning, and grows increasingly ambitious and ruthless. That being said, he’s not a one-dimensional villain. He develops genuine feelings for Xiaofeng and tries to protect her, though sometimes through cruel methods that he views as necessary. Ultimately, I find it difficult to have any sympathy for him. He made his choices knowing what the consequences would be.
Li Chengyin’s actions cause Xiaofeng to realize how naive she’s been, and she experiences a lot of growth throughout the series. Although her storyline is heartbreaking, Xiaofeng is not a pitiful character. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, and isn’t afraid to speak up or take action. She loves her kingdom and understands her responsibility to protect it. It’s a heavy burden for anyone to bear.
I liked the contrast between the three kingdoms with their differing cultures, settings, and costumes, and this aspect of the drama set it apart from some other historical dramas. It also highlighted what an adjustment Xiaofeng made in leaving her home for Li Kingdom.
Around episode 20, when it started to feel like nothing was happening, the episodes on Viki became noticeably shorter and I seriously considered dropping the drama. I did love Pei Zhao and the two princesses, as they added some much-needed lightheartedness. (The handkerchief scene is one of my favorites.) Gu Jian, however, ended up pretty unnecessary and acted like a mopey drunk for a large chunk of time. I actually felt bad for Se Se as she was also used by Li Chengyin.
I wish the final storyline had begun sooner in the drama, as it was a really interesting turn of events that could have been developed more. The ending… I’m saddened by it and wonder if there was no other choice. I’m still torn about it.
There were some beautifully shot moments though so I leave you with a few of those.