Review: The Wolf (2020)

The Wolf (2020)

I heard a lot about The Wolf, so I was curious and decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, this 49-episode drama was a miss for me, and I forced myself to finish it in case the ending somehow changed my opinion of it. However, if you like romance-centric dramas you may enjoy this! The Wolf is available on Viki and YouTube with English subtitles.

The first portion of this review will not have spoilers, and the spoiler section will be clearly marked. I also want to warn anyone giving this drama a try that the CGI in the first couple episodes was a tad cringe-worthy so don’t be discouraged.

The Wolf centers foremost around the love story of Bo Wang* (played by Darren Wang) and Ma Zhai Xing (played by Li Qin). Bo Wang was raised by wolves, and when Ma Zhai Xing encounters him, she becomes his friend and introduces him to the human world. Circumstances tear them apart for years, and when they are reunited, Bo Wang has become an entirely different person, a prince as well as a leader of a team of assassins, the Night Fury.

*I know Bo Wang is his title and not really his name, but I’m just going to refer to him this way because that’s what he’s called throughout the drama.

There are plenty of obstacles standing between Bo Wang and Ma Zhai Xing: a misunderstanding, a complicated secret, years spent apart, and most importantly, the emperor’s scheming. I recognized the emperor from Nirvana in Fire (my favorite!) and let me tell you, he’s even worse here! Manipulative and shrewd, he’s a really strong villain for this drama. There’s also a war with another kingdom, and a third kingdom in play in the story. The political storyline is solid without taking up too much screentime away from the characters. (I’ve seen plenty of romance-centric dramas in this general that have paper-thin, boring political intrigue storylines.)

If you find yourself invested in the relationship between Bo Wang and Ma Zhai Xing, then you will enjoy this drama. If you don’t, it’ll become a chore to watch. I just didn’t feel any emotional pull, especially in the latter half when I clearly was supposed to feel pain and heartbreak. It’s abundantly clear that Bo Wang and Ma Zhai Xing have a strong connection from beginning to end, but they both contributed to my loss of interest.

Some of Bo Wang’s actions crossed the line, but I did like his character arc. Bo Wang is fiercely loyal and has a strong sense of responsibility. He has a strategic mind and is an excellent general and leader. Darren Wang really brings the character to life with his radiant smirk. As for Ma Zhai Xing… the more I watched, the more I realized that I liked her less and less. Although Mai Zhai Xing is smart, kind-hearted, and values justice, it soon becomes clear that she single-mindedly cares about Bo Wang and nothing else.

Ma Zhai Xing is obsessed with her memories of Lang Zai, and she becomes a character who thinks she’s smarter than she is. Did she ever consider what Bo Wang had been through in those eight years or try to understand the ways that his situation had changed? All she does is try to bring back every single thing they liked together in the past, to drag him back to the Lang Zai she had preserved in her heart. Sure, you could say she was trying to help him find his true self, that she brought him warmth and kindness… but she not only disregards his precarious new identity as a prince but also becomes his weakness, a tool that can be used against him, and she doesn’t even realize it. Although her character supposedly has a growth arc, I didn’t see that growth and the ending she receives didn’t feel earned.

There are some gems in the supporting cast. Of course there’s fan-favorite Xiao Zhan as Ji Chong, who is such a fun character in the beginning. I like that he never becomes petty or selfish, and there’s depth to his backstory. I was surprised that I liked Bao Na a lot, as she offered some comedic moments, except her last story arc felt too contrived. The biggest surprise for me was Wang Jia Yi as the fourth prince: a great performance and a likable character. (Can you believe it was only about two years ago that Wang Jia Yi was on Idol Producer and auditioned while holding that stuffed animal?!) The biggest missed opportunity for this drama was Yao Ji, played by Xin Zhi Lei, who is such a great actress. I would’ve loved to see more of her character’s backstory. I also liked the members of the Night Fury a lot but would’ve liked more depth to them individually. There was a scene where they did acknowledge their conflicted feelings about serving the emperor, but I thought there could’ve been more. Zhang Xin/Daniel Zhang especially stood out to me because I had seen him play an entirely different character in The Fox’s Summer a couple years back. I would love to see more drama roles for him.

All in all, I’m glad I watched The Wolf because I was so curious about the hype, but it was a disappointment for me and I really had to force myself to watch those last 15 episodes.

That’s it for the spoiler-free portion!

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

When Ma Zhai Xing finally learns the truth, this drama had a chance to prove me wrong and offer some growth in her character. But what does Ma Zhai Xing do? She repeatedly makes emotional, impulsive choices when it comes to anything relating to Bo Wang. Does it ever really feel like she cares about those loyal family troops of hers? From beginning to end, I felt like that kindness and pureness of heart that ~everyone~ loves Ma Zhai Xing for has always been reserved for and dedicated solely for Bo Wang. Even if it seemed like kindness toward another character, wasn’t that character someone related to Bo Wang?

I kept powering through this drama but those last 10ish episodes really didn’t make sense to me. We kept being reminded of what a connection and understanding Ma Zhai Xing and Bo Wang had, and yet Ma Zhai Xing didn’t see through his actions during that battle scene? Sorry, you can’t keep trying to sell me the ~special connection~ and ~Ma Zhai Xing is so smart~ but tell me that Ma Zhai Xing had no suspicions at all despite everything that happens during and after the battle. It even takes a push from Ji Chong for her to reconcile with Bo Wang. Then, the last episode celebrates Ma Zhai Xing as this grand hero and it made me roll my eyes. First, where was that Ma Zhai Xing in the previous ten episodes??? That’s what I wanted to see much earlier. Second, the events and timeline just didn’t make sense for me. Some scenes must’ve been cut, because I was so confused about the poison. Ji Chong is shot down by arrows but wakes up alone and unharmed? And I was so skeptical that they didn’t have a way to just capture Ma Zhai Xing.

Some episodes with notable moments:

  • Episode 15 – Bo Wang humiliates Ma Zhai Xing (this was so awful)
  • Episode 20 – introduction of Yao Ji
  • Episode 23 – Wen Yan sacrifices himself
  • Episode 26 – Mai Zhai Xing finds out the truth
  • Episode 30 – Qitan storyline (cringe)
  • Episode 35 – Ji Chong reconciles with his father, Ma Zhai Xing trains

(Sorry, I stopped keeping track when I lost interest altogether.)

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