Mid-series review: Novoland: Eagle Flag

Novoland: Eagle Flag is a show that attempts to chronicle the journey of three young heroes who go from naïve youngsters to rulers in their own right. I say attempt only because at the time of writing this review, the one character that seems to be getting a proper and logical growth arc is Ji Ye (Chen Ruoxuan), and even his arc is written in such a way that the character takes one step forward and two steps backward. Lv Guichen (Liu Haoran) is still the just and benevolent saviour, though his resurrection should help drive the character forward. That being said, I still find the show riveting enough to watch every single episode, which doesn’t happen very often these days.

The brooding and flawed Ji Ye is a particular standout, and I’ve been invested in his story from the get go. Having not read Jiangnan’s original, I feel like the entire betrayal subplot in Nanhuai was developed very well, especially with regards to the conflicted feelings Ji Ye holds for his family. Compared to Lv Guichen, he has an inferiority complex, often acts selfishly, is ambitious and desperately wants to prove himself, but these qualities make the character feel like a real human being, and I was completely with him when he killed the official that tortured his mother.

Lv Guichen has had his moments to shine, and killing the Chiya warrior in episode 6 was a particularly carthartic moment for the character. The moment he revealed his true feelings for Yu Ran (Song Zu’er) was a turning point in the love triangle, and it’s a beautiful moment of honesty that is completely in line with Lv Guichen’s personality. Unfortunately his high points have been few and far between throughout the drama, and his idealism, naivety and stagnant growth arc are just some of the reasons why the character doesn’t appeal to me.

 It’s clear from the start that the main leads are simply pawns in the brutal game of power, and now that we’re past the halfway mark, I’m impatient to see how Lv Guichen and Ji Ye will take control of their own fate and hold their own against the calculating warlord Baili Jinghong (Zhang Jiayi), Chenyue cult leader Lei Bicheng (Zhang Zhijian) and anti-villain Ying Wuyi (Zhang Fengyi). Whoever cast the three veteran actors is a genius, because even when the pacing is slow, I’m still interested in watching them sitting around devising political machinations to make the waters even murkier.

Surprisingly, Ying Wuyi’s brutal honesty also provides most of the humour in the show.

Apart from Ying Yu’s (Wu Jiayi) love line, I’m not particularly interested in the main love pentagon, because I’ve already found my OTP in Su Shunqing (Wang Ou) and Xi Yan (Li Guangjie). Su Shunqing describes herself as a bird willingly locked inside a cage that wouldn’t know where to fly even if someone were to open the cage. Unfortunately her predictions came true, as Su Shunqing’s fate was sealed when Baili Yin (Liu Qiushi) died from his injuries in the underground palace. Though I respected her decision and believed it was a fitting end for her character, the fact that her plans to leave were disrupted by her adopted son drove the shipper in me mad. The romance between a warrior and a former assassin bound to love and duty was never meant to be, but the unspoken tenderness between them had me rooting for the couple the entire time they were onscreen.

The production values, cinematography and music cues are excellent, and though parts of the storyline are making me question the screenwriters’ common sense (making the leads camp in a mountain valley overnight twice when there are enemies on all sides), the series is well worth a watch. Novoland: Eagle Flag is currently streaming on Youtube (English subs) and Tencent (VIP).

6 thoughts on “Mid-series review: Novoland: Eagle Flag

  1. HI ALL !!! When I saw this I was thinking— This is China´s response to Game of Thrones… The ravens… the undead… Big Budget??? But one thing I get annoyed about in all Chinese dramasis… As soon as you get really in love with a character.. and you believe something nice is going to happen – THEY GET KILLED !!!! (lady Su) Ming Yu had me crying for a week…

  2. I read that the author wanted Ji Ye’s character to be the lead, as well. He does “feel” more like a main character, but I think Asule or Yuran could’ve both worked as the leads if they played them right.

    I’m only 12 episodes in but it’s a really solid drama so far. I really like the fragile camaraderie between the three leads so far, and the pacing is imo the best out of all the male-lead epic dramas.

    Also, I really need Liu Haoran to play Guo Jing before he gets too old to play him. I haven’t seen a more perfect Guo Jing since like 1983.

  3. Asule’s character traits are unsuitable for being the male lead. The character is way too naive and passive. Generally speaking, viewers like to see a strong and decisive protagonist especially for this type of war themed drama. If Asule had Ji Ye’s personality, he would be more appealing to the audience..

    • I agree. That’s why, I think, Asule is a really difficult character to play. He is weak, physically, not aggressive most of the time, and too kind. If the actor can not pull it off and not charismatic enough, then he will be overshadowed by Ji Ye

  4. The cinematography is amazing!!! I totally agree with you about Ji Ye – his character is the most interesting, although there was a stretch in the series where it gets a bit repetitive how much torture and brutality he has to go through. Like really, another stab wound and beating? I love Yu Ran as well. I like Asule because I like LHR, but I agree his character hasn’t done much. And I found the whole love triangle very underdeveloped – it’s been clear from the beginning that Ji Ye and Yu Ran had something going but all of a sudden in episode 20 when Asule confesses his true feelings for her, I was like, really? All along it seemed more like friendship than something romantic.

  5. i like the war scene , they use large quantity troops , unlike other drama that looks like a small war with dozens or at most thousand soldiers

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