Ultimate Note was my first foray into the widely popular “Dàomù Bǐjì Universe”. Adapted from Kennedy Xu’s “The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles” (盗墓笔记), the Lost Tomb Series follows main lead Wu Xie’s journey as he discovers a long-lost secret in his Grandfather’s notes.
Together with his Uncle Wu San Xing and a couple of other experienced Tomb Raiders, he sets off an expedition which changes the course of his life.My reasons for watching this adaptation were quite simple. As soon as I get done with watching a quality Chinese Bromance, I’m left with a feeling of foreboding. As such, I watch shows belonging to the similar genres, to tide me over the withdrawal symptoms.
When I learnt that there are several adaptations tied to Ultimate Note, I couldn’t stop myself. This drama’s ratings and reviews are abysmal. So what made me stick to this one? If you haven’t read the books, then watching this show is a must. It is an introductory preview where the base characters are established, and we get to know them primarily. As such, despite the lacklustre storyline and cringe worthy CGI, you can’t afford to skip on “The Lost Tomb”. Simply because, then you won’t understand prudent concepts in the next adaptation “The Lost Tomb Season 2”.
50 years ago, a group of Changsha grave robbers dug out silk manuscripts that portray the location of treasures from Warring States, but an encounter with the undead rendered almost the whole group dead. In the present time, the grandchild of one of the sole survivors, Wu Xie returns home from Germany with the aim to restore ancient relics belonging to his country. He discovers a hidden secret within his grandfather’s notes. His sole ambition is to discover those treasures and hand them over to the Archeological Department. As such he teams up with his Third Uncle, Wu San Xing and a few experienced grave robbers to search for the Tomb of Lord Shang. In the ensuing pursuit, the group encounters foreign mercenaries and various life-threatening situations that ultimately leads them to a major discovery.
Introducing the Damsel in Distress “Wu Xie”
Li Yi Feng’s Wu Xie is an adorable mix of innocence and righteousness. Wu Xie has just returned from Germany and has absolutely no idea about his Family Business (Tomb Raiding). His Grandfather and Uncles have kept their secrets well hidden from their pampered sheltered baby, who has a strong sense of ethics and morals. Li Yi Feng’s portrayal of Wu Xie gels well with Joseph Zheng’s depiction of Wu Xie in Ultimate Note. You understand his initial apprehensions, as Wu Xie begins to question his family history and becomes a part of the ensuing expedition. He doesn’t trust his Uncle’s flagrant gimmicks (some things never change) but their loving relationship still persists. He is severely inexperienced, gullible and yet knowledgeable when it comes to deciphering ancient scripts. There is a fine line of distinction that separates this younger version of Wu Xie from the Ultimate Note one. But you learn to love him nevertheless, because this character is that endearing.
The Knight in Shining Armor, Zhang Qiling
There is considerable amount of mystique and intrigue related to this character. This show manages to downplay the emotions that are rapidly associated with Zhang Qiling. Here, Zhang is introduced as “Little Master” and no one knows about his origin or whereabouts. He joins their expedition as a referral from Wu San Xing’s close friend and manages to grab your attention with his infinitesimal micro expressions. Again Yang Yang’s depiction of Zhang is on par with Xiao Yu Liang’s in Ultimate Note. The connectivity isn’t lost because both actors managed to maintain the ambiguity related to this amnesiac immortal. You will appreciate his fighting skills and long fingers. Although, Zhang still maintains his calm demeanor in most scenes, his knowledge will leave you bewildered. There isn’t any mention of his memory loss in this drama as we are merely introduced to the concept of a supernatural human.
The Iron Triangle
The Lost Tomb adaptations are characterized by their strong portrayal of friendships. As such we have Fatty (Liu Tian Zuo) tagging along for the ride with our main couple. He is incorrigible, rambunctious and yet entirely protective of his new friend Wu Xie. This drama doesn’t showcase “The Iron Triangle” in all its glory as they are in the beginning stages of their friendship. At least, Fatty and Wu Xie are! Zhang is still disconnected from them, as he has his own hidden agenda for joining the current expedition. Fatty and Wu Xie aren’t entirely convinced of Zhang’s true intentions, and his rampant disappearing acts just add to the general conundrum. Despite that, Fatty is still a huge comic relief, and I’m amazed by the character’s consistency throughout the entire series. Yes, he has vested interests in joining the expedition, but that doesn’t change the fact that he values friendship above all. His barbed conversations with Wu San Xing will leave you shocked as you slowly realize that Fatty is certainly quite knowledgeable when it comes to handling ancient tombs and relics.
The “PingXie” Bromance
Yes, it is Bromance! The wide popularity of “The Lost Tomb Series” is attributed to the chemistry between the main leads Wu Xie and Zhang. The first adaptation introduces them as they transverse the distance from being strangers to becoming strong allies. Their first meeting is shockening as Zhang makes a prolific entry to rescue Wu Xie from foreign mercenaries. The surprise and intrigue on Wu Xie’s face spells the start of this romance.
So, imagine Wu Xie’s surprise when his Uncle introduces his mysterious saviour as the new member of their team. While Wu Xie finds him intriguing, Zhang keeps his emotions well hidden. There is certain attraction on both sides that is depicted by soulful staring and longing glances. You can very well describe this phase as the beginning stages of their love story. Wu Xie as such nicknames Zhang as “Meng You Ping” (Poker Face) and hence the moniker “PingXie”. Despite being strangers, Zhang still spends the majority of his time rescuing Wu Xie who is a disaster magnet. Right now, their relationship can be described as mere friendship that might develop into something more.
The Cringeworthy Love Triangle
Each adaptation begins as a journey to search for ancient tombs and their hidden treasures. As such, this one dwells deep into the mysteries left behind by Lord Shang. He was a warlord who built his own tomb in the middle of the tomb raiders graveyard. While you might question his intelligence, Lord Shang’s backstory will you leave you exasperated. I’m not sure about the content in the books, but this story has a strong resemblance to the opening credits of Jackie Chan’s mythological film “The Myth”. I cringed alot when ingenuity took a backseat and similar scenes were routed to assemble a loosely ortracized love story. It was tragic and yet I didn’t understand the purpose behind its inclusion. Frankly I was waiting for something magnanimous to happen, instead I was fed with disappointment.
The Evil Female Antagonists
Ah Ning is largely depicted as the Head of the Mercernary Group, working for Foreigner Cox Hendry. As such, Tiffany Tang’s portrayal of Ah Ning was much appreciated. Ah Ning is a very complicated character and as we peel off the various layers, the person underneath seems to display an odd sense of loyalty and warmth. Though they start off as adversaries, Wu Xie’s caring nature brings about a change of heart in Ah Ning. There are times when she might seem temperamental, but she is fiercely protective of her team members and dedicated to her work.
The Huo Family Matriarch Mrs. Huo is singularly the only antagonist along with the villainous Cox Hendry, who makes her disastrous presence felt throughout the series. Her first meeting with Wu Xie is always characteristized by her rude disapproval of his Grandfather. Both in “The Lost Tomb” and “Ultimate Note”, Wu Xie is faced with unfavorable circumstances where he seeks her help. In both situations, she demands to meet Wu Xie’s Grandmother to answer his questions (at this point, you are left wondering if she is infatuated with Wu Xie’s Grandfather or his Grandmother). Cheng Pei Pei displays the same arrogance as her Ultimate Note counterpart, and you are left bewildered at the decades old hatred.
Chen Cheng Cheng (Yoki Sun) was the surprise element of this show. She masquerades as Wu San Xing’s ex girlfriend Chen Wen Jin’s niece and joins the expedition. For the most part, she manages to fool everyone including Wu San Xing. But in the end it is revealed that she is actually a mercenary working for Cox Hendry. Her intentions aren’t revealed in their entirety, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise, that she is working on Hendry’s lifelong pursuit to attain “Immortality”.
My Overall Impression
This show isn’t exactly a mess but isn’t praiseworthy either. I kept comparing the production value of this show with that of Ultimate Note, and found it sorely lacking. Maybe I shouldn’t have bid my expectations too high because starting from the lacklustre storyline to the CGI and even the abysmal music, everything about this show screams mediocre. The only saving grace is the talented star cast. You enjoy Wu Xie’s excitement as he wonders through the tomb, revel in Zhang’s mysterious aura and question Wu San Xing’s true intentions. This show shines light on important details related to the Wu Family Ancestry, their trade and the Mystic Nine Organization. So buckle your seatbelts and get ready for this ride, because unless you watch this show, the next adaptation would be very difficult to understand.
Rating- 3 out of 5