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Since this was made available in Netflix recently, it may or may not be able to garner a large viewership.
It will be unattractive for sure among those looking for sappy melodramas, cringing sugar-coated love lines or slapstick comedy. While the series is not lacking in humor, the funny moments easily burst when one first immerses into the drowning emotions that each of the many relationships here build on.
Those drawn to the series should have a deeper familiarity with the tensions in varying political centers, Shanghai, Chongqing and Beijing (to name a few) before WWII to appreciate the web of overlapping alliances and layered secrets among politically-active Chinese mainlanders who publicly and/or privately lived through varying degrees of loyalties, whether they were: Japanese allies, anti-Japanese, communists, nationalists and/or simply greedy individuals. Kudos to the makers behind this for not "dumbing" down (a tendency that Hollywood has yet to learn from) on the real political tensions that created a deep dent in China's society during this critical historical period.
The cacophony of social affiliations may be overlooked however by some who are unfamiliar with these details. The stellar acting talents, mature character portrayals and family-oriented script can easily serve to attract spectators across ethnicities or nationalities who look for complicated familial story lines. That family here is not simply bounded by those belonging to the same bloodline but bonded through loyalty, respect and honor are values not always effectively portrayed in many family dramas.
All in all, it is a good introduction to the fast rising potential of China's entertainment industry. This series shows some gaps that may yet improve as time passes with regard to cinematography and post-production but it also offers lessons for the Western entertainment industry due to its deeply entrenched historical plot which does not attempt to oversimplify for the sake of entertainment.
There have been online reviews which notice the strong anti-Japanese sentiment and pedestaling of the CCP. It is however worthwhile to mention that there was enough emphasis shown here of the repercussions to the lives of the loyal communist cadres. The loss of family members, the senseless killings (even of loved ones) in the name of the "nation," the mistrust among communist members were not lacking emphasis.
While it is hoped by many outside of China that more of these intelligent series be made available to the non-Mandarin speaking public, there is much expectation for more stories that do not only involve the days when China looked like "old-Hollywood" but also the Maoist era where the country evolved from. At this day and age where fast-growing countries and the more stable world economies are faced with common problems due to corruption and the lack of moral values, it is high time that China owns up to its controversial early communist past which it knows it cannot and will not go back to. Doing this shall allow its present generation to be thankful for having born in this era.
I believe in time, it is through the medium of films and television that people from outside the mainland may learn and understand more from a civilization that brought the world its first modern instruments: the compass, paper and gunpowder.
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