“Word of Honor” Mid Series Review (Ep.13 to 24)

Fortunately…I haven’t fallen for you!

These lines though left unsaid describe Wen Ke Xing’s (WKX) vulnerability as he comes to terms with Zhou Zi Shou’s (ZZS) life-threatening condition. The current episodes focus on the tumultuous past of our Ghost Valley Chief as he seeks revenge while coming to terms with his new-found feelings for ZZS. This journey isn’t easy as our main leads play a tug of war with their emotions, which leaves them entirely susceptible to suspicion and discord. While ZZS finally realises WKX’s true identity, the latter is hellbent on burying his past memories. But being on the war path isn’t peaceful and ZZS rehabilitates the entire family to Four Seasons Manor, while new rumors spread throughout the martial arts world. Let’s dig deeper to figure out the present dynamics between our main leads!

As WKX realises that ZZS is suffering from imminent death, he is left shattered. In his devastated state, he watches as the Five Lakes Alliance falls apart and Chief Gao Chong is killed mercilessly after being framed for deception. ZZS and WKX rescue Cheng Ling and bring him to safety. The Sword Immortal Ye Bai Yi turns up to offer help and they set out on a journey to the Longyuan Cabinet. The journey is fraught with deadly traps and despite getting separated, our heroes reunite. Finally, they get a chance to meet Long Que, who reveals the entire truth related to the “Glazed Armor” existence. ZZS also realises that WKX is Zhen Yan, his junior while WKX refutes the claims. As our main couple try to heal each other’s deepest wounds, Zhao Jing is trying to claim dominance over the martial arts world. Will ZZS and WKX seek justice for WKX’s parents death? Or will they will act as mute spectators?

ZZS and WKX’s Unhindered Romance

The second half of the storyline strongly focuses on projecting ZZS’s emotional attachment to WKX. The Ghost King is left shattered after Ye Baiyi reveals about ZZS’s shortened lifespan. The meticulous recreation of this scene left me spellbound. Simon Gong is a fine actor and his efforts to portray WKX’s helplessness as well as desperation will tug at your heartstrings. Falling for a person who is on the deathbed leaves him vulnerable and exposed. His devastated state is a stark contrast to his image of the brutal Ghost Valley Chief and it was shocking to watch the sudden display of his humane nature. ZZS on the other hand refuses to part with his martial arts skills, even if it means he has to face death. Both are grasping onto a single thread, while hoping for second chance of survival and redemption.

I also wanted to discuss their odd relationship with the Sword Immortal, Ye Bai Yi. The exceedingly arrogant Elder is huge on formalities and obviously has been away from the human civilization for too long. Barbed insults are his only way of offering help. While ZZS instantly recognizes his real identity and shows him respect, our Ghost Chief hates Ye Bai Yi with a fierceness that borders on annoyance and intolerance. Their constant bickering is highly enjoyable and even though he doesn’t respect the Immortal, WKX still professes allegiance when Ye Bai Yi decides to help ZZS survive the ordeal. Although he has returned to the martial arts world with his own hidden agenda, Ye Bai Yi can’t help but feel sorry for ZZS. Depite projecting an arrogant demeanor (because obviously he is quite older and stronger than the current generation of martial artists), he totally loves to get onto WKX’s nerves. These two have the most ridiculous relationship in this storyline and yet you can’t help but enjoy watching them together. Ye Bai Yi’s favorite pastime is interrupting our main lead’s romance and he enjoys rebuking them about flirting in the midst of dangerous crusades (totally reminds me of nagging Indian Mother-in-law).

Their journey to the Longyuan Cabinet and rendezvous with the tortured Chief Long Que reveals secrets that shatters WKX’s lifelong pursuits. Several of his assumptions are rendered baseless and ZZS realises that WKX isn’t Rong Xuan’s son. The revelation of his true identity finally brings them closer as ZZS recognizes him as his long lost junior, Zhen Yan. Although WKX vehemently refuses to accept his identity or tumultous past, ZZS is happy to be reunited with his Junior.

I’m enjoying this contrast in their storyline, because unlike the initial episodes where ZZS disregarded WKX’s feelings, he is now ready to wait patiently until WKX accepts their Master’s tutelage. ZZS lost his brothers while working for the Window of Heaven and as such, dying seemed like the most suitable punishment for his sins. But the news of his Junior being alive brings him unexpected joy and happiness. The scene where ZZS offers solace to WKX by hugging him or holding onto his hand firmly is quite sentimental. Because it is the first time, that ZZS is acknowledging their relationship and offering his support to the despondent WKX. So, when Ye Bai Yi offers to compensate WKX for the sufferings he has been through, our Valley Chief reimburses on the chance to save his Ah Xu. I love how much attuned these characters are to each other. While ZZS is worried that WKX’s inner struggles are going to tear him apart, WKX only wishes for ZZS to survive longer.

In the last few episodes, WKX has slowly started to thaw and he was finally able to accept his parent’s brutal death. The pain and worry on ZZS’s face when WKX coughs up blood and collapses during the fierce confrontation with Sect Leader Shen Shen, is an indication of their changing dynamics. Although ZZS wants to learn his secrets, he still chooses to wait patiently until WKX trusts him completely. Like Cheng Ling points out, these two are sync with each other and also tactile. ZZS has been constantly sharing his inner struggles in the hope that one day WKX will reciprocate. This constant dancing around their emotions is getting tiring and I’m hoping they learn to lean onto each other.

The Intriguing Side Characters

The scriptwriter has made alot of changes to the original script and they might seem unwarranted, yet they add an intriguing twist to the storyline. Scorpion King and Zhao Jing’s relationship is one such added advantage. In the book, Zhao Jing and the Scorpion King are mere adversaries, while in the drama they are portrayed as a Father-Son duo. The details related to their true relationship is still under wraps, but it isn’t without aversion. While Scorpion King has a brutal outlook which scares most of his victims, but his demeanor is entirely different when faced with his Father’s overtly cautious ministrations. He is a hidden card that Zhao Jing uses mercilessly to take care of his enemies. Zhao Jing constantly preys on Scorpion’s emotions and has turned him into a trained assassin who kills without remorse or reason. Although Scorpion loves his Father immensely and is possessive, he isn’t without doubts. He often questions his Father’s actions and I’m guessing he isn’t entirely convinced with Zhao Jing’s plans of world domination.

The first major chink in Scorpion’s armor appears, when he saves Tragicomic ghost and Beauty Ghost from his Father’s murderous attempts. His belief is shaken because he realizes that Yu Qiu Feng’s claims about Zhao Jing’s unfaithful character might be true. He seems apologetic and as such he grants them protection. I’m also intrigued with Tragicomic Ghost and Beauty Ghost’s uncharacteristic depiction. While both of them are majorly portrayed as scorned lovers who seek justice from unfaithful men, the scriptwriter has made major changes to their stories. Liu Qian Qiao’s portrayal in the drama is quite different from her treacherous nature in the novel version. She seems much more humane and her attempts to safeguard her Mistress will surely win your sympathy. Tragicomic Ghost’s ill-fated relationship with Zhao Jing will tug at your heartstrings, because underneath the veneer of a murderous Ghost Devil, Tragicomic Ghost is a lost woman still awaiting the return of her loved one. Quite tragic yet understandable!

Sect Leader Shen Shen on the other hand is living his life as a wanderer, searching for his lost niece Gao Xiao Lian, while seeking redemption for his past sins. I’m not a huge fan of this character because of his exceedingly annoying attitude. But given the current circumstances, Gao Chong’s sudden death has turned Shen Shen into a new leaf. His confrontation scene with WKX was really painful to watch, because when faced with the reality of his lost brother Wen Ru Yu’s death as well as WKX’s anger, Shen Shen is rendered helpless. He wants to mend the bridge and feels guilty of his actions. But life doesn’t hand out second chances to everyone and Shen Shen is one of the unlucky ones.

WKX’s current state of despair is because he seeks retribution. His merciful father Wen Ru Yu was tortured for his ties with Rong Xuan and although ZZS’s Master Qin Huai Zhang did save the family, the Healer Valley couple faced an untimely death at the hands of the late Ghost Valley Chief. Although Tragicomic Ghost saved WKX from the same fate and he had to drink the Water of Lethe to survive, WKX’s fought hard to save the last memories of his parents. His unforgiving nature is because of the brutality he faced at the hands of the late Valley Chief, who constantly tortured WKX to shape him for his role as the next heir to the throne. WKX’s journey hasn’t been easy and his association with ZZS is slowly turning him into a decent human being.

Strong Depiction of Found Family Concept

The concept of “Found Family” is the real strength of this storyline. As such we have a lonely beggar (ZZS), Ghost Valley (WKX), his deadly assassin (Gu Xiang) and a lost orphan (Cheng Ling) forming a family unit while Immortal Sword Ye Bai Yi acts as the unwanted Guest who comes and goes according to his convenience. They don’t have any blood ties and despite that, are willing to protect the child whose entire family was brutally massacred for the Glazed Armor. I really enjoyed watching their developing family dynamics. While ZZS plays the part of a strict Master who wants his disciple to succeed at all costs, WKX portrays the softer version who is rather more concerned about Cheng Ling’s fragile physique. Gu Xiang on the other hand plays her part very well. She acts as a faithful servant to her Master while loyally fulfilling his orders. However when Cheng Ling is in danger, she instantly transforms into a fierce assassin ready to kill anyone who tries to harm her younger brother. Although it isn’t spelled out, these characters have a close-knit relationship and that binds them together.

While the preceding episodes focused on establishing Cheng Ling’s relationship with his Master and Uncle Wen, the current episodes leaned towards WKX and Gu Xiang’s family dynamics. It was rather heartwarming to watch WKX accept that Gu Xiang is like his daughter. The fact that they both saved each other in ways unknown explains the true nature of their relationship. ZZS’s attempts to disciple their unruly girl were really amusing and I’m amazed by far they have come. From deceiving each other for their own benefits to becoming a real family, these four characters have formed a makeshift family of their own.

So, although WKX isn’t a huge fan of Gu Xiang’s choice (Cao Wei Ning), he still reluctantly acquiesces because he truly wishes for her to lead a happy and peaceful life. Bought up in a ghastly environment like the Ghost Valley, Gu Xiang has always been his touchstone. It’s just that WKX was so hellbent on revenge, that he never realised her importance. Now he does and as such, he decides to cut ties so that his little girl would have a chance at happiness. The sentimentality of this entire episode strikes you hard, as you realise how much they mean to each other. As ZZS and WKX settle into the Four Seasons Manor, they are finally back home, along with their child in tow!

Overall Impression

I’m really impressed with the current pacing of the subject. The scriptwriter’s arduous efforts to maintain the originality of the storyline shines through. Zhang Zhe Han and Simon Gong have an incredible chemistry and watching their romance is indeed an enjoyable experience. Child actors Zhou Ye and Sun Xi Lun add a certain depth to this wuxia drama with the nearly perfect portrayal of their character roles. YouKu has certainly managed to turn the tide in their favor and upcoming BL 101* adaptations will surely face fierce competition and comparison.

Rating- 4.5 out of 5

Keep watching this space as we promise to bring you the finale review sooner than later!

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