C-Drama Review: The Untamed


In a land dominated by the mighty Wen clan, a young man named Wei Wu Xian (Xiao Zhan) strikes up an unconventional friendship with justice-loving Lan Wang Ji (Wang Yibo of boyband Uniq).

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.

back to gusu
Ugh the aesthetic of this show is so pretty!

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).

wonderwomans.tumblr.com - Tumbex
The Nightless City battle eps are literally beautiful to watch. Through your tears.

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.

immorality for immortality — The Untamed Episode 21: Execution Is Also A  Love...
I love the obvious divide between them the team made through the costuming choices. They are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, which just adds yet another layer of visual tension during the first half whenever they are at odds.

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.

Lan Zhan discovered by T I F F A N Y ☆ I M on We Heart It
The whole rain sequence in these episodes are some of the most emotional I’ve seen in a long time. The production team did not shy away from the emotional punch here.

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.

It's Killing Him — The Untamed (陈情令) - Whumplist - 🇨🇳
Lan Zhan is pretty much *always* hyper focused on Wei Ying, especially in the second half of the show.

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.

Reasons why you should watch THE UNTAMED (and suffer with me 😭) – The  Literary Huntress
Cue Wen Ning third wheeling at the other end of the boat.

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.

Top 30 The Untamed GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat
Ok but I need someone to apologize for Coffin Town.

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.

Dramabeans Korean drama recaps
Seriously, if you don’t cry in this episode, I question your emotional state.

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.

The Untamed has taken over my life — The Juniors
I love these children. I REALLY need a spin off movie where Lan Zhan and Wei Ying take the juniors night hunting. Or maybe just a season 2 of that. 50 more eps, please and thank you.

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.

The Untamed - A Review | Brin's Book Blog
We are ALL Jiang Cheng’s eye roll.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.