27 April 2016

The Stalker Review

 

Chinese Title: 潜行者
Episodes: 38

This drama upsets me tremendously.

I would recommend The Stalker to anyone in a heartbeat but I might be cyber-murdered for the ending. If it weren’t for the last episode, this would have been one of the best dramas I’ve seen this year hands down. Then again, if I get to redo my decision of watching this while knowing the ending for what it is, I'd still watch it. 

Synopsis: Li Zheng Bai is kidnapped, blindfolded, and threatened to help “Jun Tong” for this top secret mission where he’s supposed to deliver these boxes somewhere somehow. Because of x, y, and z (variables for things that happened), he’s forced to take it upon himself to complete the mission for the love of his country. He strings together a band of ex-convicts to complete the patriotic mission. His trusty team consists of a pickpocket, an ex-gang member, a macho muscle man, a girly dude, a frail old man, and others whom I will not disclose at this moment. It’s honestly the best team ever.


Setting

Here’s the boring stuff I thought I ought to go through to “help” some of you understand the drama better without subs. I’m no expert myself so if there’s anything wrong with my knowledge of Chinese history, please correct me.

China was amidst a civil war between “Gong Chan Dang” (Chinese Communist Party, CCP) and “Kuo Min Tang” (KMT aka Nationalist Party). When the Japanese invaded China, the two opposing forces now have a common enemy and the civil war subsides considerably in order to fight against the Japanese.

Using this setting, the male lead, Li Zheng Bai, is recruited by KMT (aka “Jun Tong”) to complete the mission which will eliminate Japanese’s presence in China.

An important thing to note is that the current party ruling in Mainland China is the communist party (KMT had lost and is now ruling Taiwan). That being said, this drama will not be fair towards KMT/Jun Tong because they need to make the communist party as the big hero. In the drama then, spy issues plague the KMT forcing Li Zheng Bai to turn to the communist party. The problem is the girl he loves has personal ties to KMT (her stepfather is a high-ranking officer there). Basically, we’ve got ourselves a Romeo and Juliet. (Pssssst don’t worry toooo much about this, it’s not a problem to worry about throughout the drama. It gets resolved quite quickly in the end)

Source: Wikipedia ...
Characters

Li Zheng Bai (Zhai Tian Lin)
He’s an intelligent professor and through x, y, and z circumstances he becomes the leader of a patriotic mission. He goes through a 101 training for shooting, combating, and deciphering spy code. He goes from being cynical to being a charismatic leader who gains the trust of all his followers not only for his wit but for his undying loyalty. He is a man a conman could trust and he is a man a scaredy-cat could risk his life for.

Zhai Tian Lin was stellar in this role. His love for his character has made me love his character so much more. For how serious his character is, he’s managed to instill so much humour I find myself laughing at odd times. It’s such a joy watching him in every scene and the genuine interactions between him and all the cast members. I am officially his fan.


Lu Qing Yao (Jiang Kai Tong)
She’s in charge of the romance with Li Zheng Bai. She’s a little hotheaded, great at combat, and smarter than the average girl. There’s a hate love-thing between her and Li Zheng Bai and it’s what made me stick around for this drama initially. She disappears for a few episodes but every time she’s on screen with Li Zheng Bai, their chemistry is just brimming, which is probably because these two are actually dating married! So much real life dating is happening in the dramas I’m watching. 

I don’t think this is a spoiler when it’s in the opening theme song for every episode.
She's recalling the kissing scene above


Gui Ye / Lao Gui Tou (Luo Jing Min)
He may look like a frail old man but he's no weakling. He’s called “Gui Ye” because he sneaks in and out stealthily (gui = ghost). Other than Li Zheng Bai, he’s the smartest one in the gang i.e. if there’s danger he’s the first one to escape, if there’s profit to gain he’s the first one in. In other words, he’s smart in the wrong ways.



Zhao Er Lin (Li Jia Ming)
The pickpocket. If anyone loses anything, it’s safe to assume he’s the culprit. He’s quick with his hands but not so much with his brain. Often times he’s Gui Ye’s prey. He’s so good at lying yet he’s so gullible. I was also astonished of how loyal he is.

One of the joys of watching this drama is how Li Zheng Bai earns the loyalty of all his followers friends.


Zhou Yi Feng (Chang Di)
The ex-gang member and also the most loyal guy to Li Zheng Bai. Watching him makes me feel at ease because everyone else makes me fear that they’ll betray Li Zheng Bai any minute, at least in the beginning.



He Jun Yang (Lou Yu Jian)
The girly dude. He’s a Chinese opera singer who sings the female part – mind you, he's prideful of his art. Honestly, he’s love. His obedience and respect towards Li Zheng Bai makes me wonder whether this girly dude has a crush on him. Since he’s got such a girly nature, everyone literally treats him like a girl (Li Zheng Bai even teases Yi Feng, the ex-gang member, for being overly caring towards her him). Unfortunately being like a girl means being weak. However, that will soon change as he'll be the strongest man there. 


Liu Xiao Wan (An Yue Xi)
She comes in much later and she’s like a little sister to He Jung Yang. She may not be useful at all, just like He Jung Yang, but she plays a pivotal role in role-playing. You’ll get what I mean if you watch the drama. Personally, I think she’s such an unfortunate girl. She brings death to everyone close to her.

She’s also the target of Zhao Er Lin’s (the pickpocket) quest for a wife but she’s got a crush on Li Zheng Bai. 


Cui Ma Zi (Dong Yan Lin)
The macho dude. Li Zheng Bai didn't want him but Ma Zi barges his way into the team. Personally, I think he likes the thrill and he’s patriotic to begin with.


Yan Zheng Fang (He Ming Han)
He’s recruited by the communist party to rescue Li Zheng Bai from prison. (Being in prison is where the drama excels.) He’s under the guise of Japanese loyalty but really he’s patriotic for his country; sort of like the misunderstood type. He is a little bit of a know-it-all yet it's charming.


He looks so good in a uniform! Such tall proportions. I’ve seen him in something else but he was completely forgettable in that other drama. In here, I've got a little crush on him. Just a little!


I was pretty giddy about the forthcoming comradery between him and Li Zheng Bai, thankfully it went beyond my expectations. As much as I love the other guys, Li Zheng Bai needs another level headed human being with him. xD

Can he see behind those sunglasses?

Favourite Scenes

I wasn’t very diligent with screencapping the drama. I was too absorbed watching so here are only some of my favourite scenes.


This scene was one of the many hilarious moments. Some context first though: no one but Li Zheng Bai knows the contents of the boxes they are to deliver. He entrusts the gun to He Jun Yang to shoot when anyone of the members try to steal a peek.

He’s the one holding the lethal weapon yet he’s the one being scared sh*tless – he’s so petrified he literally ignores his own bladder. The members mock him for not knowing how to use a gun but that might just be scarier than knowing how to. It’s like letting a five-year-old wave a gun around... 


The perfect reaction to your team member who is caught red-handed for attempting to betray you.


In the latter half of the drama, the entire cast is role-playing different characters – it's like acting in a drama within a drama. So fun to watch them have fun. The scene above was funny to watch because Li Zheng Bai and Yan Zheng Fan are completely absorbed into their fake roles except the girl who's like must we do this when no one else is around?


Actually in all the role-playing scenes involving Li Zheng Bai, his dead-serious-humour gets me all the time. I like actors who know how to be funny. 


Oh this scene was touching. Sniff. Li Zheng Bai warns his friends to run because a gun is aimed at him and him only. However their automatic reaction is to stand right between him and the gun. They're willing to risk their own lives just to protect his. I get teary recalling this scene.

The Ending

Ai-yaaaaa. The ending. For those that really need to know the ending before watching it or you don’t plan to watch it at all you can highlight the following to see how it ended. [Spoiler] Are you sure you want to know? You can still turn back now and watch the drama all on your own. LALALALA. You still want to know? Okay do not past this point if you're unsure; here goes: Li Zheng Bai DIES. The last episode wasn’t being delicate with it at all. The foreshadowing was way too obvious so for the last twenty minutes I just kept shaking my head telling myself they can’t do this to me. But they did. At least they give me the entire last episode to prepare myself? I guess a hero needs to die for their legacy to live on???? GAH there exists no explanation that will make me feel better. The ending left me so bitter I had actually wished romance wasn’t even in this because he died for choosing love over fighting for his country and his comrades. SCREW LOVE! Sniff. [/Spoiler]

Overall Comments


Despite how the drama ended, the process of watching was simply splendid. I was absorbed in a story I’d never thought would interest me (although it did take me a couple of episodes to get into). I cared for characters I never thought would be important. In the beginning so many people died, I thought I would be immune if more deaths were to come but I was so wrong. With each death, I care more for the remaining members, crossing my fingers hoping that one was the last one. No one likes to watch characters they care about die but that’s not a reason to turn down this drama. If anything, it increases the stake of the mission and it brings that much more satisfaction when they succeed. This drama just blew my expectations. 

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