When destiny plays matchmaker.
- William Feng as Gao Chang Gong (Lan Ling Wang)
- Ariel Lin as Yang Xue Wu
- Daniel Chan as Yu Wen Yong/Ah Guai
- George Hu as Gao Yan Zong (An De Wang)
- Zhai Tian Ling as Gao Wei
- Nikita Mao as Zheng Er/Feng Xiao Lian
- Chinese & Taiwanese
- 46 episodes
- Original run: Aug 14 – 30, 2013
- Also known as: Lan Ling Wang (Chinese title)
Legend has it that the Prince of Lan Ling, Gao Chang Gong, had a face so beautiful that he needed to wear a frightening mask when he went into battle to better hide his kind personality. While he is beloved both on and off the battlefield, a prophecy foretold that he will eventually die at the hands of his own “brother.” After encountering and falling in love with him, the young and last priestess of her clan, Yang Xue Wu, vows to protect this “God of War” at all costs. The couple’s popularity amongst the people incurs the jealousy and wrath of others, including the Crown Prince of Qi, and only leads to more problems and obstacles for them to face. Xue Wu will do anything to protect the Prince of Lan Ling, but is fate something that can be easily changed or even changed at all?
There’s usually a very distinct pattern to how I watch a drama. When I start a new drama, there is a period of obsession and pure love for it that lasts for the first 5 or so episodes. After the initial viewing marathon, the sprint turns into a light run and I’m still watching, but with considerably less enthusiasm. Then, the inevitable drama drag happens and I’m jogging along until my patience and stamina runs out, and I completely drop the show from my viewing rotation. By the time I pick it back up, just for the sake of finishing what I started, months could have already gone by. 7 times out of 10, that’s how it goes. With Prince of Lan Ling, however, it was like I was reinvigorated after each episode and I never wanted to stop chasing after it.
I don’t know if I can even adequately express how much I love this drama in this review, but I’ll try my best. I had heard around the blogosphere that Prince of Lan Ling is an amazing drama that’s ranked high up on everyone’s “Must Watch” list, but I’ve been burned before by others’ rave reviews. Still, I decided to approach this one with an open mind and to see if it really deserves all the praise it’s given. My answer for you is an enthusiastic and resounding “HELL YEAH!” and then some. Everything about Lan Ling was so amazingly on point that I honestly don’t have anything negative thing to say about it. Sure, I could be super nitpicky and say that those random extras in that one scene could have chanted more convincingly, but c’mon, who cares? Acting, directing, writing, characters, music, costumes, scenery; there was nothing that Lan Ling didn’t excel at.
The drama drag is something that creeps up in every drama. There’s no real way to combat it except to grit your teeth, roll your eyes, and get through those frustrating episodes. I kept waiting for it to happen in Lan Ling, but it just never reared its ugly head! It’s even more impressive when considering Lan Ling‘s long episode count (46), but the continuous fast-paced action and storytelling really allowed its audience to remain invested. I think the biggest thing is that there was always something happening in every single episode, and that each thing that did happen had an effect on the overall story. Nothing ever felt superfluous or like a waste of time, which encourages viewers to keep watching because there’s going to be an eventual payoff to everything that’s happening.
While the plot progression in Lan Ling was logical and made sense, I still found myself being constantly surprised by the direction that the plot took. It was as if the drama always chose the second option instead of the obvious and easy first one. That’s not to say that the second option was a bad one, it was just unexpected and that in turn kept the drama interesting. By choosing the road less traveled, Lan Ling avoided being a period drama cliche. I’m not going so far as to say that the wheel is being reinvented here, but there was never a dull moment with this drama because it kept you wondering what’s going to happen next. Lan Ling accomplished in even making me, a veteran drama watcher who’s pretty much seen it all, guessing (and usually being wrong) what’s to come next, which is no easy feat.
Besides a lot of the credit going to how well the story’s pace and writing were done, a lot of Lan Ling‘s success belongs to the actors. In general, the entire cast played their characters perfectly and I can’t fault anyone for their acting. While William Feng and Daniel Chan were both really, really good in their portrayals of Gao Chang Gong and Yu Wen Yong, they just couldn’t compare to the outright brilliance of Ariel Lin and Nikita Mao as Yang Xue Wu and Zheng Er, respectively. It was all about the ladies here because they slayed it like nobody’s business.
Ariel obviously carried the heaviest acting load, and she was great at showing Xue Wu’s inner turmoil and struggles while having to put on a happy face for everyone around her. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that Ariel was excellent, but omg you guys, Nikita Mao was all kinds of amazing. Her Zheng Er character was so despicable that she had me yelling curse words at my TV whenever she appeared. But while I absolutely loathed her character, I still found myself missing her when she wasn’t onscreen. Along with the outstanding writing for the character, Nikita managed to sympathize Zheng Er, but never allowing us to truly forget what an awful person she was. Just like how Zheng Er felt about Gao Chang Gong: I hated that I loved her, but I loved to hate her. Mad props, Nikita.
In addition to all the serious stuff like writing and acting, Lan Ling also succeeded on all the superficial levels. Eye and ear candy for days! The costumes and scenery were absolutely gorgeous. Since the Prince of Lan Ling was supposedly the most beautiful man around, everything around him obviously had to step it up. Okay, the hairstyles on the guys were definitely questionable (dreadlocks on William Feng, really?), but I’ll let that pass since all the leading men were still so swoon-worthy. Pretty people and clothes make for a lovely drama, but it’s the Lan Ling OST that really puts this drama on a whole other level. The music is outta this world good, like other dramas aren’t even in the same stratosphere as it. When you have a Mayday rock song as the theme, you know it’s the good stuff. Give the whole soundtrack a listen; you’ll thank me later.
The moment I started watching Prince of Lan Ling, I didn’t want it to end. When I was reaching the finish line with it, I was sad that it’d soon be over, but also anxious that I wouldn’t be able to find another comparable drama. It’s quite rare to have a show that has widespread appeal, but also having the artistic and cinematic qualities to make it more than just another pretty, but empty drama. I have yet to come across another drama that I wholeheartedly love as much as I did with Lan Ling. But in the meantime, I’m happy to watch Prince of Lan Ling over again…and again. That’s how good it is.
- Taiwanese alternative rock band, Mayday, sang the opening theme song for Prince of Lan Ling, “Into the Array Song/Ru Zhen Qu.” Instant coolness.
- William Feng recently starred in the Chinese-Hong Kong movie, The Golden Era, alongside Tang Wei as the 20th century Chinese writer, Xiao Jun.
- William Feng is currently dating Chinese actress, Ni Ni.
- Prince of Lan Ling was Ariel Lin’s comeback drama after a two-year hiatus following the 2011 Taiwanese drama, In Time with You.
- Ariel accepted the role of Yang Xue Wu after finding out that Daniel Chan was going to be her costar. He was apparently her first celebrity crush, and she had pictures of him on her wall in the 9th grade. So cute!