Review: The Legends is a fast-paced wuxia rom-com with two great female leads

Featuring two female leads with character flaws and character growth, The Legends has one of the best written female friendships of late.

The Legends 招摇 might be the best wuxia-ish drama with a female lead out yet (I know, low bar), and the three leads might have my favorite drama lead dynamic since The Disguiser.  The currently-airing drama is still a funny, cute rom-com at heart, but it’s one of the few wuxia that treats its female leads’ ambitions no different than a male lead.  It  reminds me of Wicked the musical with its polar-opposite female leads who share a room and who change each other for good. One of them is pushed into wickedness after being called so by the leader of the land, but the other believes in her even after the world has deemed her wicked. The romance plot reminds me of The Disguiser, with the male lead being in love with not just the female lead but her visions for the world.

update: You should stop watching the moment Zhaoyao explodes because that is when the series also explodes as they go into original content. Everyone becomes out of character and the plot is a mix of cringe+boring+??? after that. 

Zhaoyao (Bai Lu) starts off as a young girl fed naive visions of helping her people “become good” by her mentor and first crush. Yet when he condemns to death an innocent youth prophecied for evil, she is horrified and rebels against him.  Her mentor ends up killing her grandfather while she saves the youth. After being told repeatedly she’s wicked by everyone, Zhaoyao chooses to become wicked. She sets out to build a ruthless empire, killing both her mentor and her old dreams along the way.

Five years later, the “righteous” sects gang up on her and she is killed. The youth she saved, Li Chenlan (Xu Kai), takes over her sect and rebuilds it in her original vision. When she magically returns from death, she finds that her acres of traps and torture equipment have all been converted to pastures and tools for the villagers. Enraged by this sign of betrayal, she goes back to her sect undercover and spends every day trying to seduce and/or kill Li Chenlan.  All this happens in the first five episodes! 

Zhaoyao: Who would be so shameless as to want to care for the most wicked person alive? Zhiyan: I’m that shameless.

Meanwhile, Qin Zhiyan (Xiao Yan) is the body that Zhaoyao shares after coming back from death. When her father was murdered, the sheltered Qin Zhiyan escapes from the righteous sects to avenge him and protect herself. She is indecisive and timid and far from a hero, but once she has her mind made up she won’t give up.    She’s terrified to even talk to strangers, but forces herself to be brave for the people who she cares about。

Zhiyan repeatedly pushes Zhaoyao out of her comfort zone, tells her over and over again that she deserves to be and already is loved, and forces Zhaoyao to be true to herself. Similarly, Zhaoyao spent day after day teaching Zhiyan how to fight, how to talk, and how to stand up for herself. In the book at least, Zhiyan even takes over the sect in the end and continues to build Zhaoyao’s dreams. Through their journey together, the two women learn from and support each other in a way that I haven’t seen in a female-female relationship in a wuxia-esque drama in forever.

Since Zhaoyao is partly dead, she also has to maintain strength by doing good deeds in exchange for money for the dead. In her attempts to rejoin her sect and interactions with Qin Zhiyan and Li Chenlan, she slowly regains her belief in humanity and remembers her original dreams.

“After I have given up on those dreams, I just realized now that someone else has been continuing it for me.”  – Zhaoyao when she realized Li Chenlan has building the world she dreams of.

Unknown to Zhaoyao, Li Chenlan has been in love with her since she saved him. He remembered all her grand dreams even when she forgot them.  He actually recognized her!   He spends much of the drama enjoying her failed attempts at killing and/or seducing him. He has always loved Zhaoyao unconditionally, and does anything she asks of him without exceptions. All his scenes with Zhaoyao are adorable.   He’s like the dock that’s always waiting for Zhaoyao to return, while Zhiyan is the wind that constantly pushes her on her way.  Xu Kai’s character is relatively underdeveloped, but he’s so cute and loves Zhaoyao so much and that’s more than enough for the role.

I’ve never seen Bai Lu in anything before, and I’m impressed with her pulling off all three different stages of Zhaoyao’s life. Every scene with her is interesting no matter who she is with, and she has great chemistry with everyone.  Xiao Yan is weaker than Bai Lu when playing Zhaoyao, but does an excellent job playing Qin Zhiyan.

The “righteous” sects also have pretty interesting characters. There’s Lu Mingxuan (Liu Guanxiang), who isn’t pure evil so far but is fatalistic and is willing to kill for what he believes is the greater good;  Qin Qianxuan (Li Zifeng), who is so determined to block all his inner desires and flaws that they  took on a life of its own; Liu Suruo (Mi Lu), who is so in love with what she thought was perfect goodness that she turned evil to find it. Unfortunately, everyone there gave forgettable performances and many of their scenes are fillers.

Although limited in number, the costumes for Bai Lu and Xu Kai look amazing on them . I especially love the blue iridescence of Xu Kai’s outfit and Bai Lu’s “evil” makeup+ hair.  Clothes for the rest of the cast are pretty costume-y, as are the special effects, but they don’t distract much.  The music is solid, with my favorite being the ending song, The Path is Far 路之遥 . The song plays on a pun of Zhaoyao’s name and captures her journey and emotions perfectly. The singer, Ding Ding, even sounds like Zhaoyao’s dub. 

The Legends is ultimately a solid rom-com with humor and romance, but it also features great characterization. It’s one of the few dramas featuring two female leads with character flaws, character growth, who are also genuine friends. The series is based on the book of the same name by Jiu Lu Fei Xiang and directed by Steven Cheng. It’s available on Youtube here and airs two episodes every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Also, I know the story is technically xianxia, but the story feels very wuxia

“The world is never the way I want. Not like you.”  – Zhaoyao




21 thoughts on “Review: The Legends is a fast-paced wuxia rom-com with two great female leads

  1. I love this review! This perfectly captured my feelings watching the beginning of the drama.

    When does the story explode? And does the beginning stay satisfying and have a good stopping point?

  2. Thanks. This is a great review. I particularly love and agree with your comments about the character development of the female lead and the realetionship between the two women. And Li Chenlan/ Mo Wing is the dreamiest male lead in a long time.

    I’m only on episode 18 but your comments have me scared for the later episodes now.

  3. I hated all four of this week’s episodes. What is happening with Zhaoyao. I can’t believe she let Yuan Jie die without a hint of remorse. Even if he’s betrayed Wanglumen, he never betrayed you (except for killing you but imo that’s understandable after you told him you gave it up because you want to share everything with the person you love ) . The dating parts are also super unhealthy with Zhaoyao letting Moqing being so controlling. I didn’t know Zhaoyao washed away her spine along with her powers?

    • I guess it is because Zhaoyao wants someone to dote on her…just like when she has her grandfather… but yeah, the plot becomes kinda off after Zhaoyao explodes. With only about 11 episodes left, I don’t know how they are going to fit in finishing off Lin Ziyu, Jiang Wu and Lu Mingxuan.
      Actually, now watching the drama for the ending and I hope that it is a happy ending like in the novel. But so far, the songs and certain clips make it seems that Moqing will die. :(

  4. Thanks so much for posting this review and giving us an introduction to this show! I rarely check out the new cdramas nowadays and would have totally missed this little gem if it wasn’t for this post and review! You had me hooked at the mention of two great female leads where their ambitions no different than a male lead as well as real character growth that is usually sorely lacking in chinese dramas. I’ve been burnt so badly by so many awful cdramas that are plagued by rock bottom story lines and plot filled with one dimensional characters and sometimes even the editing and or acting is bad to top it all off. And these shows are long too, so it’s quite an investment timewise which I don’t feel I have anymore nor do I have the patience. I’ve only watched a few episodes so far, but I can totally agree with the sentiments here… it seems really promising and I’m really enjoying the show so far. I really hope that it will continue be this good and make sense by the time the shows reaches its end, no horrible whiplash ending please!

  5. Great review! I’m currently watching it and totally love it! :D

    Only sad thing is…it has cut/uncut/cut some more versions T________T
    And the worst thing of all…the official youtube channel had the cut version + it has horrible editing. Makes one’s head ache when watching, like, why would they cut out scenes from the middle of the episode and put it at the beginning of it? where’s the logic?

    sigh, other than that – the drama is indeed awesome :D

  6. I love with this drama, so frustrated to
    Watch with no sub but still watch..wonder why viki until now not take this movie,but take huabuqie and goodbye my princess ( sorry for the fans for those two drama,but I thing this drama good above them all). Hope viki will soon take this drama n show the uncut version 😁

  7. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this drama too! Even though I’m usually not huge on this genre.
    I couldn’t wait for the drama to update so I went ahead and read the novel.

  8. So happy to read your post. This is my fav drama from the last 9 months. Fav rom-com from the past 12 months. Other recent rom-coms and dramas have been either too dog blood or have too much family or other baggage. Or the acting was not within my tolerable range: Dali Temple Pet, a number of Princess dramas.

    I’m confused with the 唐砖 post. There was an earlier (2018?) drama with Anita Yuen with a similar drama title?

  9. Fans of the drama go watch their bts clips. The main pair have such good chemistry I’m not surprised at all they started dating afterwards. The bts clips are actually sweeter than the drama itself lol

  10. I honestly think this drama may be the best ‘fantasy’ drama I’ve seen in years. It’s relatively low budget (and its cgi is not the best) but it’s done well. The coloring and costumes are nice on the eyes and the main leads have done a good job acting. Nothing is overdone and I have to say they’re more natural than a lot of the veteran actresses (ahem sorry but Ariel lin’s terrible crying in huabuqing? Kill me if I ever have to see her act again). The storyline is light hearted and humorous, none of that angsty jumping off cliffs thing that xianxia tends to get into. I think the first five episodes or so messed it up though, a lot of people gave up before it even got good.

    • It’s definitely my favorite wuxia/xianxia drama in forever.

      I originally started with her coming back to life because I’m used to non-romance bits being boring in this type of drama, but once I realized that Zhaoyao carries every scene she’s in, I went back and watched the whole thing.

      I feel like first five episodes can seem boring if you’re just checking it out as a rom-com, but if you actually watch them they make for a really solid origin story (minus maybe ep. 1 because too much Lu Mingxuan).

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