After a brief hiatus, I’m back at it with another C-drama recommendation. This is a show that I was excited about because it stars Wang Yibo, and y’all know that after The Untamed, I’m determined to watch his entire filmography. But also, I’d heard really good things about the plot and production quality, and it was very well-received in China – for good reason. Luoyang is an amazing, tense political drama full of complex characters and constant surprises.
Set during the Tang Dynasty (roughly 618 to 907 CE) in the capital city, Luoyang centers around Gao Bingzhu (Huang Xuan), one of the imperial coroners, Wu Siyue (Victoria Song), a member of the city police, and Baili Hongyi (Wang Yibo), the son of a nobleman. From the very first episode, you know that this is going to be a fascinating story. Right away, we’re embroiled in a murder mystery.
A man and his daughter come to the city to speak to Baili Hongyi. They have an important piece of information they need to relay to him, in the hopes that he will tell the Empress. Unfortunately, they are being followed and must run before they can tell him anything. In another part of the city, there is an assassination attempt on the princess, which devolves into a riot. During the chaos of the riot, the man and his daughter are killed.
Gao Bingzhu, who had been following the person following the man and his daughter, takes responsibility for the murders hoping that he can get to the bottom of the mystery. As he tries to investigate, he gets help from Wu Siyue, who has been tasked with the official investigation by order of the Empress, and Baili Hongyi, who has also been investigating on his own after learning of the murders.
If you’re a person who really enjoys political intrigue, you will probably really enjoy Luoyang. It’s a relatively slow burn of a plot, though most of the episodes reveal another piece of the puzzle. It’s one of those shows that you really have to pay attention to. This is a conspiracy with a lot of moving parts, and I repeatedly changed my mind about who I thought was involved.
I usually make it a point to mention when the female characters are well-developed, and they definitely are in Luoyang. Instead of all of the women being similar, there are a lot of different kinds of women being portrayed. Liu Ran (Song Yi), Baili Hongyi’s wife, is determined to be, like, the world’s best wife, even though he didn’t want the marriage at first. Whereas Wu Siyue joined the city police as a bit of a laugh and then decided she would be the best fighter in the service after hearing some of the men talk about how she only got the job because of her brother. (Spoiler alert, she did. Her brother is basically Chief of Police.)
The best part is that both women are respected despite having drastically different roles. Liu Ran is from a noble family and married into one, but when her father-in-law is murdered and the Baili family loses face, she steps in and takes over the household duties. And Wu Siyue has gained unwavering loyalty from the other officers because she’s so great at her job.
Honestly, there are a lot of interesting characters in Luoyang. As the show goes on, we start to learn more and more of their backstories. Most of the characters are incredibly complex, and there is a lot of nuance involved as you start to uncover the conspirators. The top two villains in particular have motivations that make sense in a twisted sort of way.
Our primary character is Gao Bingzhu. He is probably the character that changes the most. He starts out hell-bent on revenge. (He has a murder wall, like they have in a lot of crime dramas.) But as he gets more involved with the conspiracy – and Baili Hongyi and Wu Siyue – he starts to realize that there is more to life than getting vengeance.
I mean, obviously, I loved Baili Hongyi. I thought he had really great development throughout the show, particularly in his relationships. One thing I really like about him is that he’s not a fighter. He had a privileged upbringing and has never really had to fight, but he is quite clever and resourceful so he is able to hold his own despite not having martial arts skills. His strength is his intelligence and his vast knowledge of the city and its history.
The production quality is incredible. I especially loved the sets, particularly the Information Services (sort of like the CIA, the people tasked with knowing everything in the city) headquarters, which was just this massive library with, like, crazy mechanical devices and a giant pool. Seriously, it was the most badass headquarters I’ve ever seen. Baili Hongyi’s room was also really cool.
It’s the attention to detail that shows how great the production quality is. Both the sets and the costumes have all these little details that just fill out this incredibly rich world. Every episode is like a feast for the eyes. One of my favorite scenes is in episode 3, when Baili Hongyi gets married. That wedding scene, with the robes and the processional, was just beautiful.
Luoyang is an engaging show. I was on the edge of my seat (metaphorically) as I watched, especially as I got closer to the end. I kept trying to figure out who was involved, and I was constantly surprised by what was happening. There are a lot of reasons to watch this show, from the plot to the characters, to the sets and costumes. (And the music! How could I forget the music? Someone find me this soundtrack because it is on fire!) I highly recommend this show if you like political dramas with complex characters.
Luoyang is 39 episodes and is currently streaming on iQiyi.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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