War and Destiny


Reviewed by: LittleLing

August 24, 2006

Rating: four

Cast:
Sunny Chan - Poon Sai Cheong
Myolie Wu - Koo Ping On
Ron Ng - Seng Tin Hau Yee
Leila Tong - Koo Yuet Fong
Mandy Cho - Shum Yi Ping

As with all reviews, spoilers are inevitable, so please do not read on if you're keen on watching the series with no inkling of what's gonna happen.

Synopsis

"War and Destiny" is set in 1940s China when the Japanese were launching invasions on various Chinese provinces.

The story starts in Nanking, which was the capital at the time. The head of the Koo family, Koo Man Cheng (Lau Dan), is a self-made rich rice merchant who worked his way from a little rice shop to becoming the largest supplier of rice in Nanking. However, he is very dictatorial, and treats his family like a business and expects them to do as he says.

He has three wives - two of whom produced three daughters, and one of whom had an autistic son. Being a proud and traditional man, he marries a fourth wife, Yuet Fong (Leila Tong), in order to try for another child in the hopes that the union would produce a son to carry on his name.

He also had an affair some twenty years ago with a maid whom he never married because she had been forced to leave the household by his first wife, a jealous and domineering matriach. That affair yielded him a daughter, Ping On (Myolie Wu) whom he never knew about until she came looking for him in Nanking after her mother dies. He takes her home to live with his three other wives, who are always at loggerheads. The ironically-named Ping On (which means "peace" in Chinese) is well-meaning, but often her actions bring about more chaos to the family, thereby creating animosity between the Koo family and herself.

Ping On has a childhood buddy, Hau Yee (Ron Ng) who was orphaned at a young age and raised by Ping On's mother. He is a helpful young man with a strong sense of responsibility towards Ping On following the death of her mother. However, Ping On is actually in love with him, but he does not reciprocate her feelings, and instead develops a crush on Ping On's fourth mother, Yuet Fong.

The Koo family and Hau Yee are on bad terms with a businessman, Poon Sai Cheong (Sunny Chan), who has dealings with the Japanese and is viewed as a traitor. When the Japanese invade and occupy Nanking, Sai Cheong becomes the Commissioner on the board set up by the Japanese and the animosity between him and the patriotic Koos deepens.

During the occupation of Nanking, Sai Cheong exposes Hau Yee's father-son relationship with the Japanese commander of Nanking, Matsuda, in order to save Hau Yee's life. This deepens their misunderstanding because Hau Yee is unable to accept that he is part Japanese and at the same time, hates Sai Cheong for being a Japanese bootlicker.

It is revealed later on that Sai Cheong is a Chinese agent who has been tasked with collecting strategic information about the Japanese to aid the war to drive them out of China. During this time, Sai Cheong helps the Koo family out many times through Ping On, who has become his employee. She is initially hostile to him because of his Japanese connections. But when he reveals to true identity to her, she starts to see a different side to the money-minded businessman and falls for him.

Review

I must state upfront that I hate serials set in the Cheong-sam era. They are usually quite silly and a complete waste of time (think, the recent "Au Revior Shanghai"). But "War and Destiny" surprised me.

The storyline is solid, very watchable and in fact, quite addictive. I finished 27 of the 30 episodes within 2 days. While I still do not have an appreciation for the then-fashion, the storyline more than made up for the terrible costumes that the actors had to suffer through to make this series.

I don't have much to say about Ron Ng because he always acts the same way no matter what sort of character he plays. Come to think of it, it could be because all his characters in TVB have always been the same - brash, angry and sulky. I really like Leila Tong, but there was no major breakthrough for her in this role. She was hardly believable as Yuet Fong because she looks too young to carry off the elegance of such a character. She may have been better off playing Ping On, to be honest.

The pairing of Leila Tong and Ron Ng is not a new one, and accordingly does not yield any surprise breakthroughs. They are sweet and make a very good-looking couple. But there is little more that I can say about them. In the beginning, I was aching for them to finally be together, but her married status did not allow them to pursue it beyond some furtive and embarrassed glances. But the scriptwriters dragged their love affair on for too long without doing anything, which cheesed me off. When something finally happened between them, I was way over that aching phase and was already rooting for Sunny and Myolie.

Myolie's character can be summed up in one word - self-sacrificial, and I don't mean it in a flattering way. She did a lot of things for others, and yet almost everything she did produced some adverse consequence. For instance, when she didn't tell her dad about her sister's misadventure with the Japanese soldiers, she ended up making her father so angry that he ended up in the hospital. It just annoyed me that someone with such a big heart could be so incredibly stupid. Plus I hated how she seemed perfect all the time, which is terribly annoying.

Sunny, on the other hand, was deliciously sickening as the money-grubbing businessman who could conspire with the Japanese to cheat his fellow Chinese. Even when he was playing the good guy after having revealed that he was a Chinese agent, his decisions weren't always so annoyingly self-sacrificial. When he had to make difficult decisions, he made them and took any consequences in his stride instead of making sad eyes and looking pitiful all the time a la Ping On.

But when Sunny and Myolie were finally showing interest in each other, I was glad. They were really rather cute together. He made her a lot less annoying because she became less of a martyr and her character became more multi-dimensional. Their relationship was a gradual sort of conclusion so one could understand the flow of events that led to their mutual affection for each other.

Other honourable mentions include Shek Sau, who was pretty good as Commander Matsuda. He was the hateful Japanese man in power, but he made me sort of like him because he played the part of a ruthless man tempered with sentimentality very well.

The story was really well-written in the sense that even outside of the romantic relationships, I was always riveted by everything that was happening - the business arguments, the decisions on the governance of Nanking, the plans of the Chinese government to overthrow Japanese rule...

It was, all in all, one of the better TVB series I've seen, and most definitely the best Cheong-sam era series I've ever had the pleasure of watching.

Personally, I would recommend this as a must-watch, in spite of the unfortunate dress sense displayed.


Add your own review and become a featured critic on spcnet.tv!

Advertise on SPCNET.TV


Buy DVDs
War and Destiny

Shop Asian Fashion at YesStyle