Mini-Review: The first five minutes of Serenade of Peaceful Joy is all substance but no serenade

Beautifully designed, written, and acted, Serenade of Peaceful Joy is unfortunately held back by poor directing that leaves way too much work for the audience.

I have so many thoughts about Serenade of Peaceful Joy aka Held in the Lonely Castle that I feel like I need multiple posts to cover even the first few episodes, so here is the first one focusing on the very first five minutes of the drama.

What a well-written opening scene that begs for better directing and editing. Even in this short opening, scriptwriter Zhu Zhu shows her ambitions to create dramatic effects while trying to showcase the uniqueness of the rule of reason that marked Emperor Renzong’s rule in what’s essentially a bioepic of the emperor. Unfortunately, Zhu Zhu’s epic is constrained by Zhang Kaizhou’s directing (or lack thereof). I have no idea what is going in his mind in some of the creative decisions.

The drama opens with the frazzled wet nurse of the Emperor Renzong hurrying through the Palace. Immediately we get that something is up. The scene cuts to the emperor finishing up a calligraphy piece of the “Classic of Filial Piety“, and then asking her to come in. We see that the wet nurse is scared by this meeting, and the Emperor Renzong turns abruptly. What’s this meeting about and why is she so scared while he so calm? The tension builds and both the nurse and the audience expects anger or blame, but all we hear is a soft-spoken question: “What do you think of my calligraphy?”

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Serenade of Peaceful Joy TV spots spotlights the relationships

Ren Min and Bian Cheng play out a rare romance between a Princess and her eunuch

Here’s a compilation of the much more enticing TV spots for Serenade of Peaceful Joy (formerly Held in the Lonely Castle), focusing on the relationships between the Emperor (Wang Kai) and his Empress (Jiang Shuying), favorite concubine (Wang Churan), daughter (Ren Min), and first love (Crystal Zhang Tian’ai), as well as that between the Princess and her first crush (Ding Jiawen), husband, eunuch (Bian Cheng), and father.

The drama has been moved back to April 7th due to a national day of mourning for victims of the coronavirus on April 4th.

Princess Huirou’s relationships
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Held in the Lonely Castle gets name change and release date, releases new promos

So SARFT has decided to give Held in the Lonely Castle a new name, and the historical drama is now going by the name Serenade of Peaceful Joy 清平乐. The new name is the title of a popular song during the Song Dynasty commonly used by poets to pen lyrics of common life, a reference to the peaceful and prosperous reign under the Emperor Renzong, in part perhaps due to the high and lonely standards the Emperor held for himself and his family. Wang Kai plays the emperor stuck between a rock and hard place, while Jiang Shuying costars as his empress.

The 69 episode drama airs daily on Hunan TV beginning April 6 April 7.

Despite the name change, there is definitely not an iota of joy in the new trailer below.

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Trailer and posters round-up: 2020 Hunan TV dramas

The official poster simply has ‘Ming Dynasty’ as the English title – it’s going to be a pain sifting through Google searches using that title…

Hunan TV has released previews for some of its 2020 shows. Do note that schedules and even broadcasters are subject to change due to updates to censorship policy and budget. Which dramas are you looking forward to most?

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Daylight Entertainment releases drama posters

Wang Kai plays Emperor Renzong of Song, an emperor known for and is trapped by his good looks benevolence, in Held in the Lonely Castle.

Daylight Entertainment released a new set of posters for three of its upcoming dramas – Wang Kai’s Held in the Lonely Castle 孤城闭 , Guo Jingfei’s If There Is No Tomorrow 我是余欢水 , and Wan Qian and Qin Hao’s We Are Young 我们正年轻 as a part of the Beijing Film Festival. Which one are you looking forward to the most?

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