Thoughts On: The Untamed

There’s already been quite a lot said and written about The Untamed, so I don’t have all that much to add. I’m just going to ramble on a bit about my own observations and feelings.

The drama may have had a shoestring budget thus lacking in technical aspects. There’s some wonky CGI, odd lighting choices and dodgy editing in places. Among other things. But, it IS a very good yarn, well told and that wins over all that other stuff. As it is, I don’t usually pay much attention to those things anyway, unless they are really in-your-face type of bad, or truly excellent. When writing is great, the story carries you through and that’s basically all I need to enjoy a show. The Untamed also lucked out in having two leads, who despite of being pretty new to acting, eventually settled in their roles and made the characters their own. So much so that I can’t see anyone else as Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji now. I’ve already sung the praises of the OST in my other post, but I just have to mention it again as the soundtrack truly is a great one. [Makers of sageuks (and plenty of kdramas in general), please take note. This is how it should be done if you want the music pieces to make a fitting and cohesive part of the story telling. 😉 Kdramas used to have great soundtracks in the past. Dunno what happened.]

Just look at that smile! 😍

As I’d already read a good chunk of the novel Untamed is based on and watched the S1 of the donghua, I already knew the plot. I’m still going to claim that I would have loved Drama even if I didn’t have any previous knowledge of the story. It did take a while for things to really get going and the first few episodes weren’t the greatest, but I still enjoyed even the beginning. The early episodes are important in establishing the base on which the later plotlines are built on and they also shead a light on who and what kind of people the characters are when our story begins. They all changed in some ways because of what they had to endure. Some more than others. It’s also interesting to see what traits are prevalent. E.g Wuxian’s deep rooted kindess, that nothing seemed to be able to eradicate. Or the sweet soul of Wen Ning’s, that somehow survived after all the abuse he was put through, even becoming the Ghost General couldn’t wipe it out.

Not my edit, I just found it while trawling Untamed pics and though the colours were really pretty.

In many ways Untamed is a typcal hero’s journey, but Drama give us more just than that. It explores themes that are familiar even in the real world we live in. ~~ Peer preasure and bullying. Being different in a rather rigid society, where people are expected to act and do things in a certain way to be ‘proper’ and accepted. The difficulties you face when being succesfull or excelling in something, as that will always spur jelousy and hatred in small minded individuals, who’ll go to great lengths to put you down or even hurt you. What happens when you let the greavances born from undeserved bad things happening to you fester and then lash out, without caring whom you hurt along the way. How a caring environment can nurture and lift someone above bad or downright horrible origins, when someone less fortunate will go under and become ‘the devil’. How being associated with a group of horrible people only by name will get you persecuted and killed, with no mitigating circumstances or voices of reason allowed. For being a ‘light’ fantasy show, Untamed has some pretty heavy undercurrents. Well, it’s not all doom and gloom though. Drama does have enough levity and lighter moments, especially in the early episodes, to prevent Drama from drowning in angst. And central to it all is a lovely friendship that overcomes everything, even The Grim Reaper. 🙂

The Yi City “triangle” 🙂

Even though The Untamed is not quite a typical xianxia, as there are no heavenly realms nor gods, it still has some of the markings I’ve come to expect in xianxia stories. One of which seem to pop up in just about every one I’ve seen. Several of the goody-two-shoes sects tend to be judgemental and sanctimonious SOBs, ready to bounce on anyone who doesn’t toe the line, and where the line goes is decided by them. Woe betide anyone who has the effrontery to go against what they deem just and proper. I had a moment of heavy eyerolling in an epi towards the end, when everyone shifted their “Yiling Patriach is the devil and should be killed at sight!” to someone else, who actually deserves it. The irony of it. It was such a quick turnabout that I just couldn’t help but to laugh. Seriously though, isn’t this just how mobs tend to behave?

I doubt there’s anyone out there who doesn’t alrady know that The Untamed is based on a BL web novel. That aspect is pretty subtle in the drama and leaves room for viewers’ own interpretation of Wuxian and Wangji’s relationship. I actually like it that way. Not because I’m against BL content, but because the way the ‘bromance’ was depicted fits the overall tone of the drama. I came across this really vitriolic rant in one drama blog, where the commenter went on and on about how the drama makers ruined the story because they left the explicit BL parts out. All I could think of was “Whoah, hold your horses! You must be really into BL.” The person obviously had no idea how the Chinese drama productions work. TPTB always have to take into consideraton of what’s been prohibited by the censorship at any given time and work around that. Or run into risk of never getting their drama aired. And who’d want that.
Looks like I had more to say than I initially thought. 😀 I guess I just had to get the drama off my system before I can properly move on. When I become totally engrossed in a show, I always have a hard time saying goodbye to the story and characters I’ve grown to love. Such is the case also with The Untamed. It may not be on the level of greatness that is Of Monks and Masters (I wonder if there will ever be another one like that), but it is now one of my fave period cdramas. One I’m sure I’ll be rewatching in the years to come.

AvenueX’s final review of The Untamed – I do concur with her take

Bunch of official posters and character photos.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts On: The Untamed

  1. We’re in complete agreement here; this drama succeeds by creating main characters who have terrific chemistry (BL-oriented or not, it just works), having great good fortune in this casting, and having a well-adapted story. Oh, and great costumes! I’m still trying to decide if I like Wei Wuxian’s dark blue/red or embellished black/red ensemble best 😉.

    I think it’s naive for anyone to get all worked up over missing overt BL content in any production intended for wider audiences anywhere, let alone censorious China. Dramas aren’t produced with any other hope and dream than to make money for their producers (and just maybe have a good product at the end). The script and direction allowed for those who wish to do so to infer to their heart’s content, and for those who wish only to see a more ‘pure’ love of brotherhood, that’s an option too. I think The Untamed did a fine job with this tricky proposition.

    In addition to the “let’s kill Yiling Patriarch” to “Yiling Patriarch, you’re our hero” mental whiplash causing eye-rolls, there are a few characters who caused me to do the same at times with the OTT acting and plot points (Xue Yang, anyone? …and can we talk about Jiang Cheng’s ‘face acting’?), but mostly I enjoyed the supporting characters too, but especially Wen Ning’s role.

    • The Chinese productions do have to walk the line between what is acceptable by the censors and the story they want to tell. You have to know how far you can push the envelope and still be allowed to air your show.

      I liked the costuming a lot too. And the fact that the overall color palette wasn’t overly pastelly, like it often is in these fantasy dramas. Sometimes the colors are so garish that I feel like I need sunglasses. 😃

      Yes, most of the supprting characters were pretty good. My fave was Wen Ning, hands down. He was such a sweetie. Xue Yang was kinda OTT in the novel as well, so I didn’t really mind him, ha.

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