My First Impression on Judge Dee's Mystery, a Costume Detective Chinese Drama

Judge Dee's Mystery drama review 

If you are someone who likes costume series, read this post to check if this new historical Chinese drama will pick your interest. 

But please bear in mind that reviews are based on a personal watching experience. My favorite drama might appear uninteresting to you and vice versa. 

Judge Dee's Mystery is a detective/investigative drama and not really wuxia. Although there are some wuxia elements woven into the scenes, the story did not tackle conflicts in the martial arts community. The narrative focuses on the investigation of crime cases.

Judge Dee's Mystery cast
Zi Ling, Zhou Yiwei, and Ji Ta

Judge Dee's Mystery is based on the detective book, Celebrated Case of Judge Dee, written by Robert van Gulik, a Dutch writer and diplomat. 

He borrowed some of the characters from the popular 18th-century Chinese fiction investigative novel, Di Goong An. Judge Dee, or Judge Di, is a character based on the historical figure Di Renjie, a magistrate and statesman of the Tang Dynasty court known for his wit and sharp ability to solve strange crime cases.

If you remember the drama, "Strange Tales of Tang Dynasty", the main protagonist there was based on the fictional character student of Di Renjie.

Judge Dee's Mystery cast
Zhou Yiwei as Di Renjie

Judge Dee's Mystery starred veteran actor, Zhou Yiwei (the male lead in the 2021 costume drama, The Rebel Princess). Three popular names are part of the cast: Elaine Zhong plays Empress Wu (Chang'an arc), Chen Duling as Qiu Yue (she will appear in episode 17 in the Red Pavilion arc), and Zhang Ruoyun as Diao Xiao Guan (he will appear in episode 19 in the Desert Pursuit arc).

Judge Dee's Mystery cast
Chen Duling and Zhang Ruoyun

The story is set in the Tang dynasty era and follows Huaiying, the son of a former palace official who committed suicide, so Huaiying was raised by Hong Liang, a loyal aide of his father. 

Huaiying was supposed to enter the palace as an official after taking an imperial examination but due to his excellent crime-solving abilities, Empress Wu sent him to the border to take the role of a "judge" or magistrate to investigate and resolve mysterious crime cases. Huaiying became known as Magistrate Di Renjie. 

Judge Dee's Mystery cast
Chen Duling as Qiao Yue

Judge Dee's Mystery cast
Wang Likun as Cao An and Elaine Zhong as Empress Wu

My First Impression:

Plot wise, this is the best costume drama ever shown in the first two months of 2024. Compared to other costume series aired in January and this month, Judge Dee's Mystery is a well-made drama starred by veteran actors. 

It has a great cinematic appeal and the tone is serious to the point that you'll get bored for having no sense of humor. The cinematography, the aesthetics, and the palette are both cinema-grade rather than small screen-grade. It's intended for a global audience not just for C-Drama fans in Asia. This is the first costume Chinese drama bought by Netflix so you could see how impressive the production is. 

Judge Dee's Mystery Chinese drama
Zhou Yiwei as Di Renjie

However, there's something about this drama that I find bland and flat. I am still on episode 8 so it's early to say, but I don't have any motivation to continue watching lol! 😂

Believe me, this is my favorite genre. I love costume Chinese series especially if the theme is crime/suspense/investigative/detective, but somehow this drama failed to fascinate me.

It lacks excitement or dramatic appeal to keep me invested in the show, something is lacking in the screenplay, perhaps the way the scenes are set up. It has no "hook" or flavor of fun to pin me down to watch the episodes . 

I am looking for a more compelling scene in each episode. But there seems to be none. I have a short attention span and I am always impatient with a drama that is slow to progress.

Judge Dee's Mystery takes two episodes to resolve a case which is too long, so the scenes feel draggy. I am also annoyed with the editing as there are many disconnecting plot points. 

I did not enjoy the first four episodes, in fact I was extremely bored. I was impatient with the long narration/explanation of how Di Renjie came up with his conclusion of the identity of the suspect or the murderer. The way it narrated is simply dry. 

Although I am impressed with the concept of the story, the fantastic cinematography, and the good fight scenes, but somehow, it lacks grit. The scenes are not riveting enough to be called impressive.

Judge Dee's Mystery cast
Ji Ta as Qiao Tai

Judge Dee's Mystery cast
Zi Ling as Ma Rong

But it's too early to roast this drama to the core lol! I'm still on episode 8 perhaps things will get better in the succeeding episodes. According to other viewers, excitement builds up from episode 10 and onwards. 

Just like most detective dramas, Di Renjie has two sidekicks: Qiao Tai (played by Ji Ta) and Ma Rong, who is a female (played by Zi Ling) which is surprising because in the novel, Ma Rong is a male.

The story will move from one place to another as they try to solve different crimes in each town, so it has a different set of characters. 

The plot thickens from episode 6 and if you love crime investigation dramas you might like this one. But when it comes to excitement, Mysterious Lotus Casebook is better and a more compelling detective drama than this. 

However, you can try watching the first seven episodes and see if this drama suits your taste. It is currently streaming on Youku. 

By the way, Zhou Yiwei is part of the main cast of the upcoming classic wuxia drama, the New Jinyong Wuxia Universe, also known as The Legend of Heroes. 

Post a Comment