When the duo unexpectedly stumbles across evidence implicating the Wen clan’s chief in a plot to bring mayhem to the inhabitants of their land, Wei Wu Xian and Lan Wang Ji decide to intervene.
However, the pair’s attempts to foil the Wen clan boss’s wicked plans go wrong. In the confusion that follows, Wei Wu Xian disappears – with many fearing the worst for him.
Sixteen years later, Wei Wu Xian returns out of the blue. He is soon reunited with Lan Wang Ji, just as a spate of mysterious murders has broken out. The duo joins forces once more to investigate, determined not to fail this time…
Can the pair get to the bottom of the intrigue? Will they solve the murder cases? And just who is the dastardly secret figure pulling the strings behind the evildoings now blighting the land?
Adding another show to the favorites list. There’s a lot to unpack here so buckle up. I watched this show originally because I wanted to know if it deserved the ridiculous hype it had, or if it was just rated so highly because it was what might be considered, for lack of a better word, an “issue” show. So if you know anything about The Untamed, you’ll know it’s based on a BL (boys love) novel (aka gay romance), which is not usually my go-to genre. But I had read that due to Chinese censorship of homosexuality on TV, the story had essentially been “watered down” to a friendship/brotherhood type relationship, rather than lovers. So I was like, ok, why not, the trailer looks amazing, the art is stunning, let’s see if the hype is real or if a bunch of fan girls have just rated it super highly because of the BL status.
To be honest, The Untamed is excellent. The production quality on some shows in this genre is not great, but The Untamed is incredible in almost every area- AMAZING acting from our leads, gorgeous soundtrack with lots of traditional type music, stunning cinematography, awesome fight choreography, really interesting writing, gorgeous sets and props…really anything you can think of is good (there is the occasional exception to this, but nothing important enough to mention).
The Untamed follows a story of cultivation clan rivalries (you can think of cultivation as a type of magic, thought that’s a simplistic definition), and a series of mysterious murders that are investigated by two warriors (Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji) who have sworn to uphold justice. One of these warriors begins cultivating a dark magic, and is expelled from the clans, while his friend tries his hardest to protect him even while he tries to maintain the stringent rules of his own clan.
I fell in love with the two main characters – Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji – immediately. Xiao Zhan (Wei Wuxian) is honestly a masterclass in acting here – I can see why his popularity exploded following this show – in his journey from lighthearted mischief maker, through his slow descent into deep darkness as he begins cultivating “crafty tricks”, and then his steady rise back to honor (with the relentless help of his BFF). Wei Wuxian’s journey is painful and yet very satisfying to watch, and Xiao Zhan’s acting is spot on all the way through, which is impressive as he was a fairly young/new actor at this point. Wang Yibo (Lan Wangji) had a slightly more difficult task of expressing the ever stoic Lan Zhan’s struggle with knowing what is right and wrong and eventually dedicating himself to protecting and helping Wei Wuxian and fighting for the integrity of his soul.
So as I said earlier, due to censorship laws in China, the production team here had an interesting conundrum. How do they stay true to the subject matter (aka ultimately a romance between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji) without actually showing romance between the two. From a production standpoint, they did a lot of really interesting things to accomplish this. Many shots were framed in very specific ways that showed the two always connecting eyes or being very aware of each other no matter what else was happening in the scene.
This isn’t done in a gratuitous way, rather, it’s largely done more in a “you are the person I trust most to share my thoughts and emotions with” kind of way, which I think allows the viewer to make judgment on what their actual relationship is. There is nothing explicit to cement it (no kissing, hugging, hand holding etc), but by the end of the show the audience is fully convinced that Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji love each other. Whether that is as friends, lovers, or brothers is left up to the audiences judgment.
I would classify this show as dark fantasy. Some places list it as horror, but I wouldn’t go that far necessarily. There’s lots of fantastic fight sequences, zombie-like beings that Wei Wuxian can control by playing a flute (music plays a HUGE role in The Untamed, both as a weapon and as a way to soothe the soul and bring enlightenment), and some truly horrifyingly evil villains.
This show doesn’t pull any emotional punches. It goes for the emotional kill again and again and then – because that wasn’t enough – drags you into the afterlife with it, which of course makes your journey back with Wei Wuxian even more satisfying.
The secondary characters get slightly overshadowed occasionally by our two leading men (and there’s a little bit of overacting from some of the supporting characters as well), but there are so many delightful characters in the cast (especially the Juniors in the second half, those crazy kids) that there’s never a dull moment.
Honestly, I was super skeptical going in to this show. It surprised me in all the best ways, and I do think The Untamed will be a favorite for a long time because of how good it was and how committed to telling a fantastic story everyone involved was. It is easily one of the best of this genre I have seen, and I know for a fact I’ll be rewatching this at some point soon.