This series has already surpassed the billion-viewer mark for its trailer, so it’s a well-marketed package with the right level of intensity expecting to break barriers in TV and streaming viewing.
The cast of this series is just one of the reasons to fall for it, but the storyline itself, a dystopian future actually resembles many histories of past empires and civilizations, as well as some cultures found around the globe today.
The cast includes the incredible Zhao Li Ying as Chu Qiao and Lin Geng Xin as Yu Wen Yue. Shawn Dou performs an excellent Yan Xun, as does Li Qin as Yuan Chun.
This series is set in a world where life is dictated by the upper classes, and the life of a commoner is like sand in the wind, given and taken by a whim. The story centers around Chu Qiao, played by Zhao Li Ying, who wakes in a carriage full of criminals, after she had committed a corporal crime., however, she doesn’t remember the crime or anything else to that matter. She is being taken to a death pit, where the criminals are pitted against wild and ravenous wolves.
Now let’s pan out to the enlightened nobles, and there are always enlightened nobles in all dark societies. In this, we have the happy Yan Xun, played by Shawn Dou, who does not like the way society is being run, but being a noble is part of the system.
What is instantaneously obvious is that Chu Qiao was an exceptional martial artist, and while her memories are clean, her instincts are as honed as ever. Her situation is quickly changed when she survives the encounter and is then take on by Yu-Wen Yue, played by Lin Geng Xin. Yu-Wen You is her new master and is a cold, calculating, and mysterious person.
The story centers around Chu’s experiences and trials, where she constantly battles to protect her half-siblings, she also has to fight the internal struggle that demands she kills Yu Wen Yue for killing her brother, and this is while he is nurturing her abilities and retraining her in the martial arts.
The solution that Chu has to find is a careful balance between escape and survival, and also how to protect her half-siblings in the process.
The drama is somewhat confusing, and in 58 episodes you should be able to compress an entire novel quite easily into the folds and add some. This one diverges in all kinds of ways and strays from the original book as a script. As such, we end up having a confusion of time-traveled scenes with actors that seem cardboard and repetitive. The love relationship that you expect between Yu Wen Yue and Chu Qiao is not forthwith, and never reaches full potential.
When I view it from an acting and character point of view, I find that Yan Xun stands out in both sectors. Shawn Dou takes his role from a bright and cheerful proponent of liberalism, down a slow winding path that leads to a revengeful and spiteful spirit. His transformation over the series is exceptional.
For the most hated character comes Chun Er, a spoilt vengeful persona, that is also damningly naïve, and that naivety adds to the levels of hate a person can have for her. All through the series, people die for her, and it is not until the very end that she starts to understand the levels of her own naivety and accepts her role and place. Together with Chun Er, comes Yuang Son, who is also a naïve character, and this is best portrayed when Yan Xun faces his deepest tragedy, Yuang Son was capable of forgiveness believing in a utopian world.
Finally, we have Chu Qiao, the leading light for freedom and the end of slavery. Yet, she never reached her goals and was always portrayed as an intelligent follower, a woman behind the scenes, never leading, only acting out another person’s directions. Another contradictory facet of this character is her constant battling with her only trainer, Yu-Wen Yue, who, when rescued her, left her looking like a limp protagonist rather than a strong and vibrant character.
All I can say is that what worked for the 300 is not always going to work for everyone else, and slow-mo is not an answer for love scenes.
Cinematography and Costumes
The budget on this series was not drawn tight, so we have a lot of lively, and intriguing costumes with the refinery and elegance of a decadent upper-class mingling with the drab and expected dirty linen of the commoners and slaves.
The use of strong, vibrant background colors with shaded black, greys, and whites for the main roles, led us to see a three-dimensional vibrant society filled with one-dimensional imagery. Essentially, a work of art drawing attention to both without reducing from either.
My Final Take
Princess Agents is a great concept but did not hit the mark. It was a drawn-out in some cases tacky and even preposterous. This is what I call an all-out special effects to show, where the visuals are taken to cancel out or negate the lack in the plot. Essentially, had the actors been given life-sized roles to play, and a storyline that provides ample holding, it would have been a truly successful if not epic series. In the end, it was as magnificent as its scenery and as drab as its clothing.