Burning Flame II

Reviewed by: Bridget

December 31, 2003

Rating: four

Chinese Title: "Leet For Hung Sum II"
# of episodes: 35
Theme Songs: Aaron Kwok "Light Swan" (opening) and Gigi Leung "Long Pain Long Love" (closing)

Alex Fong Jung Sun as Tong Ming (Wilson)
Wong Hei as Kei Tak Tin
Maggie Cheung Hor Yee as Chung Yun Yee
Yoyo Mung Ka Wai as Kong Yut Ngah (Yan)
Stephen Au Kam Tong as Choi Nam Fung
Annie Man Jung Han as Yip Heung Yeung
Kevin Cheng Ka Wing as Kei Hing Tin (Mark)
Flora Chan Wai San as Ho Bo Lam (Michelle)

Supporting Cast:
Jenny Shing Ka Ying as Kei Yiu (Yiu Yiu)
Yuen Wah as Kwan On Yam
Leila Tong Ling as Kwan Wing Yan
Ellesmere Choi Jee Kin as Yeen Jai
Cheung Chi Kwong as Man Kung
With a cameo appearance from Jessica Hester Hsuan as Ling (Kei Tak's deceased wife)

The sequel to "Burning Flame" (BF) only shares its name. The cast is different (well, except for Wong Hei), the storyline is different, and the characters are different. Think "Detective Investigative Files (DIF) 4" compared to DIF 1-3.


Against the obvious backdrop of firefighting/paramedics, the storyline of this series can be divided into 3 main parts.

Plot #1: Kei Tak-Yee-Mark
Kei Tak, being the single father of a young daughter (Yiu yiu), does not put everything he has into his firefighting job. Because his wife is deceased, he must play both the mother and father role to his daughter and must thus stay alive for the sake of his daughter. His cowardly ways and seemingly too-carefree and loose morals do not impress Yee, a morally upright paramedic who is extremely serious about her job. As time passes, Yee and Kei Tak eventually become friends, and Kei Tak even begins to grow feelings for Yee but does not reveal them. Alas, at this time Yee reveals that she has had feelings for a mystery guy since her high school days, and it turns out that this mystery guy happens to be Mark (Kei Hin Tin), Kei Tak's younger brother from which he was separated at a young age due to their parents being divorced. Mark is the opposite of Kei Tak - courageous, serious, and is the leader of his team at the fire station. Mark and Yee start going out, although Mark neglects Yee's feelings while Kei Tak actively and passively supports Yee in everything she does.

Yee's past as a rebel schoolgirl is revealed, and Mark starts to question his feelings for Yee because of his perfectionist ideals. Mark is also extremely ambitious, and for the sake of trying to achieve a promotion, he begins to date Wing Yan, the goddaughter of a high-level superintendent at the fire station. He does this behind Yee's back, and brushes off Kei Tak's outraged scolding. However, Yee begins to realize that she and Mark don't get along very well, and breaks up with him. She is upset at Mark's nonchalant reaction, but also begins to realize that she has started to grow feelings for Kei Tak. Kei Tak and Yee get together less than 2 episodes after the breakup, and Kei Tak proposes to Yee. Yee gives him an IQ question he must answer before she will say yes. Kei Tak then enters a burning building on a job and turns to look at Yee, saying: "Be ready to be my wife when I come out!" Unfortunately, this unsung hero dies a dignified death as a firefighter in the building, forever leaving a daughter he doted upon and a chance to again find happiness with the woman he loves (*shakes fist at TVB*- see below).

Plot #2: Wilson-Yan-Michelle
Wilson, the calm, cool, composed, slightly chauvinistic man is husband to Yan, the naive, simple-minded, some would say dumb "flower in a greenhouse", wife. Happy marriage? Oh yes. Until Michelle, the accomplished, independent, and intelligent third party comes into their lives. Wilson gets a little frustrated with Yan's childish temper tantrums (running off to Thailand without saying anything, for example) and starts to grow feelings for Michelle, who has kept feelings for him since primary school (Korean TV drama, anyone?). The two of them don't do anything, but still conceal feelings for each other. Yan returns from Thailand and decides she must become more mature for the sake of their marriage, but begins to smell some fish, if you know what I mean. She then moves out.

After several unsuccessful attempts at salvaging the marriage, Wilson starts to accept Michelle. Yan, after having moved out, decides she must learn independence and looks for a job. Ironically, she ends up as an office worker at Michelle's Linkage, which is owned by you-know-who. However, both of them don't know that they love the same man (Yan doesn't know Michelle's the 3rd party, Michelle doesn't know that Wilson is the husband Yan divorced). Wilson begins to suspect that the woman he truly loves is Yan, and tries to reconcile with her, to no avail, since Yan has decided to leave to England in the near future. However, during a job Wilson is injured, and Yan comes to visit him. They both realize that they still deeply love and need each other, but less than 24 hours later Michelle appears, knowing that Wilson is about to break up with her. She reveals that she just found out that Yan was the "new girl" working in her business, and that she will be moving her business to Canada because she knows that Wilson and Yan are the two who belong together. However, their good-bye hug is witnessed by Yan, who, at the shock of realizing that her "big sister" Michelle was the woman behind the failure of her marriage, decides to leave her husband again. So Wilson goes from having two women vying for his affections, to one woman, to no women.

Plot #3: Heung Yeung and Lam Fung
Heung Yeung is Fung's widowed "see moh" (Cantonese which translates to motherly teacher but means teacher's wife - Fung is the martial arts disciple of Heung Yeung's deceased husband), and after growing feelings for Fung, directly reveals her feelings to Fung and demands a response. Fung, initially horrified at the taboo idea of dating his "see moh", rejects Heung Yeung although he is also in love with her. Eventually, they get together, and after some hilarious-but-unsuccessful antics at trying to hide their relationship from the other disciples, decide to get married.

Then Heung Yeung decides that she won't marry Fung unless he quits his job as a firefighter. For awhile, Fung heeds to her wishes but realizes that he really does love his old job, and therefore gives up his woman for his career. Alas, Fung wants the best of both worlds, and tries to get back together with an indignant Heung Yeung, who refuses a relationship but agrees to friendship. At this time, Heung Yeung finds out she's pregnant, but still refuses to marry Fung. However, an accident where she witnesses a baby dying because of smoke makes her realize why Fung insists on being a firefighter, and accepts him again.

Evaluation of the Cast and Characters

Wong Hei
He's always been one of my favourite TVB actors. Wong Hei always engages the audience, he is an actor who has a very likeable and charismatic presence on the screen. Here, he does a wonderful job as the cowardly-gone-courageous firefighter and plays such a convincing father to Kei Yiu. He has brilliant comic timing (for example, in the scenes with his good friends Kung and Yeen Jai) but also does dramatic scenes very well (the one fight he has with his daughter and the fights he has with Mark). Nothing much more to say, he gives the best performance of the series, I believe. As for his character, his growth was nice to watch, but as seen below (in the Decisions, Decisions section) I find that there is a fundamental disappointment in his character. If he needed to stay alive for the sake of his half-orphaned daughter, why stay a firefighter? Why endanger the lives of people you're trying to save by not giving everything you've got in your job? A disappointment, but his witty and genuine personality made this perhaps the favourite character for me in the show. Wong Hei's chemistry with Jenny Shing is also incredibly impressive. For such a believable portrayal of a father-daughter relationship, Wong Hei must have had to work hard to get along with Jenny Shing very well offscreen to be able to translate an offscreen friendship to an amazing chemistry onscreen. Terrific job. He might not be terribly good-looking, but Wong Hei is one talented actor and this series proves it again.

Maggie Cheung
She is quite pretty here although I didn't really like her hairstyle at first. Anyhow, she seems to be an actress who's now known for playing the strong-headed, independent, accomplished young woman who butts heads with seemingly inferior men in her lives ("Let's Face It", for example). However, I liked her portrayal of Yee in here. Maggie Cheung was able to play a more humanized, more compassionate strong-headed and independent woman here than her character in "Let's Face It" (I hated Cally in that series). However, she lacks chemistry with Kevin Cheng but fared better with Wong Hei. A solid job, but not a breakthrough performance. I still liked her best in "Old Time Buddy". As for her character, I really liked how TVB wrote her growth from being a rebellious schoolgirl to becoming a selfless and accomplished paramedic. Second chances do exist in real life. Happy happy.

Alex Fong
Sigh. Yet another TVB actor who's set in stone with a particular type of role. He always plays the cool, aloof, smoking hot (yeah right) man that every woman dreams of. However, I haven't seen this guy in a long time and his comeback is decent enough. I liked his acting here, and I think he did a good job acting the scenes where he was begging for Yan back. Ha. Ha. Ha. Sweet, sweet justice my friends. His crying scenes were decent enough but for some reason I remained detached from his character, which means Alex Fong probably didn't do that good a job after all. And lo and behold, I actually find Wong Hei more good-looking than him.

Yoyo Mung
Ah, an interesting role for Yoyo Mung. I do think her performance was quite good here. She was the epitome of the simple-minded, clingy, and needy housewife who could do nothing but bake cheesecakes. Those glasses were just hilarious! They sort of gave her a comic presence on the screen, but of course, after leaving Wilson, Yan had to turn back all pretty and all, a la "The Green Hope". Her dramatic/sad scenes were delivered pretty well, even though she has this scarily weird voice when she cries. Yoyo Mung is way too thin to look at though. Eat a steak please! However, I find her look pretty compatible with Alex Fong for some reason...but then again, Flora Chan looks good with Alex Fong too. Hmm.

Stephen Au
Ah, a wonderful performance by an actor I haven't seen much. After watching BF2 I now believe that he's an incredibly underused actor. The only series I remember seeing him recently in is "Witness to a Prosecution II" (opposite the average-but-overrated Joyce Tang). In this series, he plays such a likeable character and he is also such a likeable actor himself. Stephen Au proves to be a great comic lead (when he tries to reject Annie's affections, for example) but also does a nice job in the dramatic scenes. One in particular stands out, the one where it's his last day as a firefighter and he breaks down in tears in at the firestation. The way Stephen played that scene was so good; some kind of comedy but also touching at the same time. It's quite hard to describe, actually. He also had very good chemistry with Annie Man, they do make quite a cute couple. However, in my memory Stephen played the same type of role in WTP2 (or am I mistaken and he turns villainous at the end?)- I'm pretty sure he played the slightly silly but good-hearted man in that series too. I'd love to see him play a role like Alex Fong's character here. That would be very interesting indeed!

Annie Man
Initially Heung Yeung was quite cute and a character that I enjoyed watching, and then when she turned all selfish and unreasonable, I was quite annoyed. However, Annie herself did a nice job. She has these lively eyes that tell a lot about the character she's playing, and her crying scenes here were delivered well. I like the scene where she drinks alcohol as a "punishment" for allegedly wanting to sell the martial arts school, such inner strength displayed from a petite frame and I think Annie Man did quite well in that scene. I also like the scene where Fung tells everyone he's choosing his career over Heung Yeung before they get married. However, in terms of acting she still has a long way to go and has lots of room for improvement. I believe it's because she doesn't really have a defined presence on the screen (she doesn't have an "aura" if you know what I mean), although pairing her up with Stephen Au was an excellent casting choice and brought out many positive aspects in Annie's acting that I never really expected.

Kevin Cheng
Didn't like him at all. I didn't like his character, I didn't like his acting. He's like a log. His acting was so wooden here, everything including his bad-guy scenes were done over the top or under the bottom. He's the type of actor who has zero presence on the screen and remains detached from the role he's playing, and scenes with him in them are like commercials- washroom break!! The only adjective I can think of to describe this actor is boring. I wouldn't be surprised if he was boring in real life too. I mean, he got a relatively interesting role to play (as the manipulative, ambitious, morally bankrupt Mark) and yet he's still as dull as ever in the series. That's pretty sad and a sign of terrible acting.

Flora Chan
Will someone please, please, please, PLEASE give her another role to play?! She's done these independent, career women characters to death! Even if she's not bored playing them, I'm bored watching her do them! Oh no. I think she's playing the same type of character AGAIN in the upcoming "Triumph in the Skies". Oh geez. So her legacy lives on. There is nothing to say about her job here because she's been playing this type of character for ten trillion years. All I can say is that she's still the least convincing crier I've seen ever in TVB and that her character plain sucks. I don't care what anyone says. Third parties are lowlives! And then when Michelle found out that Wilson was actually the husband that Yan left but still loved, she STILL didn't confess to Wilson or Yan! Blah! Evil woman.

Comments on the Supporting Cast

Cheong Chi Kwong and Ellesmere Choi turn in the usual effective supporting performances as Kei Tak's good friends. Yuen Wah also is an effective addition to the cast. Jessica Hester Hsuan, in her cameo, proved yet again that she looks the same way and acts the same way and walks the same way and has the same facial expressions no matter what character she plays. She's the same everywhere. The only way I'm able to differentiate between the different characters she plays is a) her hairstyle and b) her dialogue. But then, she had minimal screen time here in BF2 so can't really blame her.

Leila Tong continues to impress with her range (I thought she did the best job in "Aqua Heroes") and she's quite cute here. But of course, the cutest ever is definitely Jenny Shing who plays Yiu Yiu. This child actress is just too adorable for words! I'm sure even people who hate kids will want them if they were guaranteed a kid like this. And as such a young actress (I believe she was 9 years old while playing a 6-7 yr old in BF2) she did a fabulous job; there were a LOT of lines to memorize for such a small kid and even some different facial expressions necessary too. Seriously, Jenny Shing puts Kevin Cheng to shame here! By the way, she is quite a famous child actress from what I hear in TVB...if you remember, she was the actress who played SaSa (Joyce's and Marco's daughter) in "Armed Reaction III" and has guest-starred in many other series. In any case, she's quite the scene-stealer of this series. It'll be interesting to see if Jenny Shing continues acting for TVB as she grows up.

Best Scenes

1) Any with Kei Tak and Yiu Yiu. Jenny Shing is too cute for words! Some of the memorable ones were when father and daughter got into a huge fight because Fung bought Yiu Yiu a dress (and Kei Tak was angry because the dress reminded him of Ling, his deceased wife), the one where they were brushing their teeth together, and the one where Kei Tak thinks Yee stood him up and goes to Yiu Yiu's room and asks if she will spend her life with him if "no one wants him" and Yiu Yiu says yes. Oh so cute!

2) When Heung Yeung and Fung get together. They really do make a good couple, and they were actually quite a joy to watch, until Heung Yeung got all childish and irritating.

3) When Yee breaks up with Mark! I was cheering during that part. At least Yee did the dumping and not that evil Mark, grr.

4) When Fung tells Heung Yeung, in front of everyone, right before they marry, that he's going to choose his career over her. Call me cruel but I thought Heung Yeung deserved that (see Slap #3). At least we know that Fung is a MAN! Heung Yeung, just a petty woman. Hmmph.

5) Any of the scenes in the firestation when the team is waiting for a job. The comic friendship among the members of the team was always enjoyable to watch.

6) When Yee tries to save Fanny, to no avail. A wonderful job by Maggie Cheung here when Fanny dies.

The Ultimate Best Scene

The scenes beginning from Kei Tak trapped in that tiny room and he knows he's going to die, he keeps saying "Yiu Yiu, Dad's gonna be home soon, Dad's gonna get off work and come home soon" and he keeps banging the wall to find an exit. Oh my god. I was already starting to cry then because I (and the rest of the audience, plus Kei Tak himself) knew he wasn't going to make it. And then that major explosion and Kei Tak screams "YIU YIU!" and then we know that this unsung hero is taken from us forever. The whole dejected team then exits the building and Tong Ming hands an anticipating Yee a battered helmet and she just stands there with a sense of disbelief-loss on her face (wonderful job done by Maggie Cheung). And then the scene with poor Yiu Yiu who tearfully asks Fung (her uncle) whether they were lying about her dad and that he's actually not coming home ever again? I watched the final episode with my roommate and we were both so terribly sad. Poor kid.

The Slap Awards go to...

1) The producers/writers of the show. Early on in the series, it was the way they portrayed Tong Ming's older brother. I cannot believe how homophobic Hong Kong seems from these recent series churned out by TVB! Homosexual people do NOT act like that! The reality is that most gay men do not act so "womanly" as Gilbert Lam who played Tong Ming's older brother. The reality is that most gay men act completely "normal" (I use the term loosely...the societal "norm" is heterosexuality). I'm very disappointed with the way the producers portrayed this gay character. How can gay people in real life feel good about themselves and their choices if shows like this portray their lifestyle and personality in such a demeaning way?! This is also the case in another one of TVB's recent series, "Let's Face It", where Giano (the gay friend of Maggie Cheung's character) is presented the same way. However, both actors who played the gay characters were quite good, even though I couldn't stand the way they were portrayed by the producers/writers. Huge slap!

2) Yoyo Mung and Annie Man's stick-ness. SLAP!!! Seriously, people! Gain some weight! Life isn't life without a steak. Being sticks make you look LESS womanly, not more so! The thinness wasn't that obvious with Annie Man but it was very obvious with Yoyo Mung because of her height. The healthiest-looking (and therefore with the best and most womanly figure) actress in this series was Flora Chan. Maggie Cheung also fares slightly better.

3) Heung Yeung for her refusal to accept Fung's job as a firefighter. I can understand why Heung Yeung would be worried for his safety and the fact that she doesn't want to be widowed again, but come on! That should have been only her initial thinking and after some more thought she should have accepted his job, even beyond the fact that when you truly love someone you should accept everything about them. What I couldn't stand the most was Heung Yeung's accusal of Fung being selfish. SLAP! Being a firefighter is perhaps the most selfless job one can have. You're risking your own life to save other people's lives! The bottom line is, Heung Yeung didn't want Fung to be a firefighter because if anything happened he wouldn't be able to take care of her (and she'd be heartbroken, of course). How hard it is to come across someone who's so passionate about risking your life to save others, and this stupid and immature woman forces the man to give up such a selfless ambition that can save so many people! Heung Yeung is the selfish one! SLAP!

4) The idiot who decided to kill off Wong Hei's character in the final episode. Seriously, TVB has no sense of justice these days. The good guy dies and the bad guy (well not the total villain but still calculative younger brother Mark) lives? What's even more ironic is that Kei Tak died trying to save a bad guy. What's wrong with TVB, I ask you!!? What's wronggggggg!?!? Feel a need to remind us that life isn't fair? As if we didn't know that already! TV is supposed to be an outlet for us to fantasize, not to emphasize harsh realities! ARGH! I hate you, oh idiot who decided to kill off Kei Tak. Hate you hate you hate you hate you!!! SLAP!!!

Things that make you go "HUH?"

1) How Kei Tak always says that his daughter looks like his deceased wife Ling (played by Jessica Hsuan). Hilarious. Sorry to the obsessed, sometimes violently obsessed fans of Jessica Hsuan but Jenny Shing is much, much too cute to look like she's Jessica's offspring. Casting Esther Kwan would probably have been better, I can see Jenny Shing as Esther Kwan's daughter. But then again, Esther Kwan plays Wong Hei's lover in BF1, so that would be some twisted casting choice.

2) At first I really didn't understand how someone like Wilson would fall in love with someone like Yan, until they revealed the story of how they fell in love halfway through the series. I mean, if you were Wilson, wouldn't you be attracted to someone like Michelle in the first place? Well, unless you were a chauvinistic pig who wanted a useless and simple-minded wife. Cough.

3) Okay, the girl who plays Young Yee doesn't look anything like Maggie Cheung. Couldn't TVB have found an actress who at least remotely resembled Maggie Cheung?

4) Uncle Yam's (Yuen Wah's character) stupidity at going along with his daughter's lie that he has cancer to keep his wife by his side. Come on! That kind of lie would bust in like 30 seconds!

5) In less than one episode Heung Yeung goes from just finding out she's pregnant and being flat-stomached as ever, and then right to looking like she's 7 months pregnant. Hello? Some continuity please?

6) Remember early on in the series with the fire on the boat? The firemen ran around looking for survivors as if they've been on the boat before! Seriously, it was so incredibly unrealistic for them to know the boat's blueprint so well since they'd never seen it and also because it was so incredibly dark.

7) Why is Yiu Yiu left at home all alone all the time? Poor kid! Besides, isn't it illegal to leave a kid at home alone? I'm surprised Kei Tak never got arrested for child neglect or something.

8) Heung Yeung's immaturity. Seriously, she acts like a high school girl with a petty vendetta against Fung, and she even acts like this when she's pregnant with twins! Come on, I wouldn't want that kind of immature and unreasonable woman to be the wife of my children. Up until Heung Yeung finally realized the reason behind Fung's firefighter ambition, Fung was way too good for her.

9) The ending. Okay, I'm still bitter about Kei Tak's death but the actual ending, showing Tong Ming chasing after Yan? That was so pointless! I would have enjoyed the series more if the ending wasn't so rushed or if it ended right after the flash-forward scene of Yiu Yiu sitting there in the dark looking at pictures. Or if you wanted a "happy" ending, they should have stopped at the flash-forward scene of Yiu Yiu's birthday party.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It
Wong Hei and Jenny Shing won awards at the 35th Annual TVB Awards for "Favourite Character in a Drama Series". When they went up to accept their awards, Wong Hei carried Jenny Shing up to the stage and thanked her because he said that without this kid he would not have been such a convincing father. So cute! Apparently, Alex Fong also won the same award but his character Tong Ming in my opinion shouldn't have won.

Decisions, decisions. Burning Flame 1 or Burning Flame 2?

Well, Burning Flame 1, of course. For one, Wong Hei isn't a coward in there. Yes, I know his character had to stay alive for the sake of his daughter in BF2, but I think there's something inherently wrong with a guy who takes such an important job lightly. He should have switched to a normal office job. Being so cowardly and passive in a dangerous job not only threatens yourself, but also threatens the lives of the people you're supposed to be saving! Why else? Because the friendship between Wong Hei, Chin Ka Lok, and Cheng King Kei's characters in BF1 was truly affecting, and BF2 lacks this. Also, BF2 has Alex Fong, who I'm not too fond of, and also gives Flora Chan yet ANOTHER series where she plays the strong career woman. Ho hum. I also don't like Kevin Cheng. Of course, some people say half the cast dies off in BF1 and therefore it's too melodramatic, but personally I felt that the delivery of outstanding performances from the whole cast (especially Wong Hei and now-ATV Esther Kwok, both of whom I love) in BF1 rendered it a TVB classic and therefore merits a Better Than Its Sequel label. Of course, BF1 and BF2 do share an irritating similarity: they lack any sense of justice. In BF1, all the good people die...Jade Leung, Wong Hei's mother, Cheng King Kei, and Louis Koo loses a leg, and the bad people live as well as ever (evil Cheng Chi Sing who plays Louis Koo's brother for example). In BF2, Alex Fong's older brother died, and then Fanny's father, and then Wong Hei at the end. Seriously, it's like both of them are following the maxim of "the good die young". In any case, BF1 is better than BF2, in my opinion. But then again, BF2 stands as a solid series itself, with some well-defined and an assortment of characters acted by some solid actors, with a plot that is sometimes nonsensical but is still fast-paced enough to keep interest. I'd recommend watching it, even if it's only to put all the dollars TVB spent on the fire scenes to use.

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