The year 2023 witnessed the emergence of mystery dramas as the undisputed delicacies of the Chinese television industry. The inaugural production of Tencent Video's X Theatre, "The Long Season," set the stage with a resounding success, garnering an impressive rating of 9.4 on Douban. It has transcended the boundaries of the suspense drama genre, becoming the highest-rated cdrama in the past eight years. The subsequent series, "Ripe Town," may not have garnered as much attention, but it has received equally high praise, setting a positive tone for X Theatre.
iQiyi's Mystique Theatre, now in its fourth year, may not have produced a mega-hit like "The Bad Kid" this year, but it maintains a stable output. "Thirteen Years of Dust" demonstrates ingenuity in its suspenseful plot and character development, while "Why Try to Change Me Now" boldly combines artistry and mystery, achieving commendable results.
Youku and Mango TV, on the other hand, have fewer mystery dramas with average quality. "Who Is He," despite benefiting from the popularity of its cast, only managed to secure a disappointing score of 5.6. "Desire Catcher," with its attention-grabbing dual male leads, failed to live up to its promising premise, ultimately receiving a score of 5.5. Overall, 2023 can be hailed as a grand year of mystery, with the average rating of domestic suspense dramas reaching 6.7, remaining relatively consistent with the previous year. Moreover, we witnessed the phenomenon of "The Long Season," a work that achieved both popularity and critical acclaim.
The genre of mystery cdramas has become increasingly diverse, with the emergence of combinations such as "mystery + martial arts," "mystery + artistry," and "mystery + espionage," broadening the boundaries of the genre. Although the unfortunate phenomenon of many series having an unsatisfactory conclusion has left viewers somewhat disappointed, mystery dramas continue to be a realm full of possibilities and worthy of exploration. Looking at the upcoming 2024 release schedule of Chinese video platforms, mystery dramas hold a considerable share.
1 - Tencent Video
In the lineup announced by Tencent, mystery dramas dominate the list, with a whopping 13 upcoming mystery cdramas for 2024, of which 9 belong to X Theatre. It is evident that Tencent Video is determined to build its own brand.
"Sao Shu Ling" is an adaptation of the lengthy mystery masterpiece by Hu Yan Yun. It unveils a symphony of fate revolving around love, redemption, and the dichotomy of good and evil through two decade-spanning murder cases. Produced by Wen Muye and written by Zhao Dongling, the latter being a nominee for the Best Screenplay Award at the Magnolia Awards for her work on "Red Sorghum." Many of her exceptional works in recent years, such as "Ordinary Greatness," "The Story of Xing Fu," and "A Long Way Home," have received high acclaim.
"Sao Shu Ling" is expected to excel in its storyline, and with the backing of Huace Film & TV, one of China's leading and most influential companies, the success of the series will depend on the interpretation and performance of the director and cast.
"Ming An Qi Shi Lu Zhi Xuan An" tells the story of a bizarre murder scene where the discovery of a Higanbana flower leads to a tragedy from twenty years ago, entangling a group of seemingly innocent individuals who are all inexplicably connected. The story follows a classic mystery plot, but what is particularly worth anticipating is the directorial team of Li Hongchou and Xing Dongdong. Both directors are affiliated with Youying Culture, and their mystery crime drama "Moral Peanuts" achieved an outstanding rating of 9.7 on Douban, placing it among the highest-rated films in history.
Previous works by Youying Culture have received virtually no negative reviews in terms of their plots. Most of the criticisms from viewers were mainly focused on subpar supporting performances, unclear visuals, and shoddy props and sets, all of which resulted from budget constraints. With professional actors and platform support, these issues will undoubtedly be resolved, making the final product highly anticipated.
"Playing Go," produced by Han Sanping, renowned for his masterpiece "The Bad Kid," firmly grasps the essence of mystery dramas. It also marks Wang Baoqiang's return to television after a decade, collaborating with Chen Minghao. Chen Minghao has already delivered exceptional performances in previous mystery cdramas such as "The Long Season" and "Endless Journey," so the combination of these two talented actors may ignite sparks of brilliance.
Similarly produced by Han Sanping, "No Way Back" focuses on the power of women and family issues. It follows the journey of a wife who investigates her husband's mysterious death and uncovers another side of the Chinese small town's residents. Departing from a female perspective, the story is innovative and unique. Screenwriter Han Jia Nü, who was nominated for the Best Screenplay Award at the Golden Rooster Awards for "Dying to Survive," is exceptionally suited to portray the female perspective in this drama.
Finally, "Blemish Flaw," produced by Linghe Culture, features screenwriter Bai Yicong and director Wei Lizhou, who were part of the production team for "Ultimate Note." Judging from the quality of the miniseries, there is a sense of anticipation for this new project.
2 - iQiyi
Compared to X Theater, the lineup of IQiyi's Mist Theater for 2024 seems somewhat meager, with only five productions announced, among which the most highly anticipated one is undoubtedly "Breaking The Shadows".
Starring Sun Li, Luo Jin, and Li Xiaoran, directed by Hua Jing and written by Wang Bu and Yi Ying. "Breaking The Shadows" focuses on the perspective of a female detective and tells the story of Han Qing, a female detective who, after her partner's disappearance, unravels a major case intertwined with missing persons, murder, and drug trafficking, alongside the criminal investigation team. They ultimately shatter the criminal organization.
It has been twenty years since Sun Li last portrayed a police officer, and there is no need to worry about the performance. This drama also marks the second collaboration between Sun Li and Luo Jin, who portrayed "Fang Sijin" and "Xu Gu Gu" in "I Will Find You a Better Home." They transform into detective partners and lovers, engaging in compelling dialogues. We eagerly await the sparks they will ignite once again.
In contrast to the heavier emphasis on criminal investigation in "Breaking The Shadows," another drama titled "Lost in the Shadows" aligns more closely with the style of Mist Theater. It tells the story of an encounter between a lonely and resolute veteran detective and a rough and untamed teenager. As the mystery unfolds, the veteran detective and the "missing teenager" both find redemption, weaving a tale of familial love beneath the cloak of mystery.
Starring Zhang Songwen and Rong Zishan, both actors are perfectly suited to their respective roles. They are also seasoned performers in the mystery genre, so there is no need to worry about their acting skills. Director and screenwriter Zhou Quan directed the web drama "Song of Life," focusing on post-90s mortician, which received rave reviews on Bilibili and across the entire internet, with a score of 8.4 on Douban. Achieving such impressive results in the television drama field right from the start, we eagerly anticipate what this young director can bring to the world of mystery cdramas.
Outside the Mist Theater, there are long-awaited series, especially "Trident Season 2" and "Under the Skin Season 2" brought by the original team.
The main storyline of "Trident Season 2" still revolves around the trio known as the "Trident" at the city bureau, Cui Tiejun (played by Chen Jianbin), Xu Guozhu (played by Dong Yong), and Pan Jianghai (played by Hao Ping). The humorous and lighthearted plot, the ups and downs of the story, and the well-rounded characters create a refreshing stream in the field of criminal investigation and mystery.
The three veteran actors play their roles authentically, and the sparks that collide between them give the characters a soul, shaping a down-to-earth image of Chinese police officers. The second season's plot focuses on telecommunications fraud, allowing the three veterans to embark on the path of catching criminals once again, closely aligning with the current social hot topic of frequent online crimes.
The main actors of "Under the Skin Season 2" are still Tan Jianci and Jin Shijia, without the addition of a female lead as rumored on the internet, which can be seen as meeting the expectations of netizens. However, the director and screenwriter have changed. The director of the second season, Liu Shuqiao, has a strong artistic style, especially skilled in intense plot-driven films. Her mysteryful action film "The City of Chaos" received a score of 7.2 on Douban. Screenwriter Zhang Lai is also a well-regarded veteran in the industry, known for works such as "Peace Hotel." It seems that there is reason to have some expectations, with the only concern being whether the narrative pace of the first season can be maintained.
The screenwriter of the first season of "Under the Skin" has also been busy. "Justifiable Defence," co-created by Jia Dongyan and Wu Yao, has successfully wrapped up filming. It tells the story of a "campus defense excessive force case" that was closed ten years ago, which is reignited, bringing together seven main characters related to the case in a small town.
What is even more anticipated is director Li Yunliang, whose work "The Message" praises by many netizens. The screenwriter is also Jia and Wu. This time, they collaborated again on "Justifiable Defense," ensuring the quality of the series. In addition, Bai Jingting's first portrayal of an antagonist role adds to the excitement, making it a highly anticipated series.
In addition to these, director Yang Dong's collaboration with Zhang Yi and Wang Junkai in "Shen Yuan" after "Be Reborn" is worth mentioning. However, "Be Reborn" did not perform well, and seeing the same team again leaves one feeling somewhat disappointed, so a wait-and-see attitude is appropriate for now.
"Stealing Time," starring Guo Jingfei and Qin Lan, focuses on the theme of anti-theft, created by the original team, is a social life flow mysteryful crime drama with a unique setting of double-faced individuals among the entire cast.
"Ji Dao Zhe," as the flagship work of iQiyi's literary "Creating Waves Plan," is adapted from Bai Xukan's "The Qingcheng Incident," inviting the newly appointed female police chief to solve a magic case, with a captivating setting in the Republican era.
3 - Youku
Within Youku's 24 drama lineup, the quantity of mystery cdramas is somewhat beyond imagination, with a total of 18.
"The First Shot", supervised by the Zhang Yimou, directed by Lu Xing (known for works such as "Burning Ice"), and written by Zhang Yuanang, who has participated in several outstanding works such as "Ultimate Notebook," and "Ashes of Love," is experienced and cannot be underestimated. The cast is also very star-studded, with both the Huang Jingyu and the talented actors Zhang Yu and Hai Qing. Although the plot has not been revealed yet, both the production team and the cast are highly anticipated.
The director and writer who participated in "Reset" single-handedly took on the drama "Bian Shui Wang Shi," telling the story of a naive worker who accidentally ends up in the San Bian Po and embarks on an adventure with the Uncle Cai, who navigates multiple forces. Guo Qilin is very suitable for this kind of role of an ordinary person, and the story background with tropical characteristics is also worth watching.
"Regeneration," after releasing its first trailer in May last year, has not had any follow-ups. The story starts with a memorial service for Feike (played by Jing Boran). Female journalist He Shan (played by Zhou Yiran) is invited to attend along with four strangers. They all have unknown pasts with Feike, but in their communication, they discover that the Feike they know is not the same person. Who is Feike really? The group begins to trace back and gradually uncover the truth about Feike. Zhou Yiran's acting in "Across the Furious Sea" has been recognized by the public, and Wang Yanhui and Huang Jue are both talented actors, making the cast reassuring. From the existing trailers, the visuals are textured and the pacing is fast, setting up many mysteries that await resolution in the full film. The level of anticipation is high.
The crime mystery drama "Sandstorm," is based on a murder case and tells the story of two detectives, one old and one new, reopening the investigation and overcoming numerous difficulties to ultimately capture the real killer.
The story takes place in a small border town that is well-versed in the rules of acquaintances, where human nature is catalyzed to the extreme under the influence of "acquaintances," intertwining good and evil, prompting deep reflection. Although the plot may be cliché, the portrayal of complex human nature and the performances by Duan Yihong, Wang Qiang, and Zhang Jianing are still worth looking forward to.
In addition, there is the adaptation of Wei Yu's work, "Qi Geng Xin Jian." Wei Yu's adaptations have not been very successful, except for "Rattan," other adaptations have been difficult to evaluate. This time, Wei Yu personally serves as the script supervisor, hoping to maintain good control over the content. Director Cai Yuexun has directed works such as "South Sea Tomb," with a relatively wide range of styles. The biggest challenge this time may be the cast, as the pairing of Song Weilong and Liu Haocun raises some concerns.
4 - Mango TV
Among the four major platforms, Mango TV has the fewest number of mystery cdramas, with only 12.
"Treasures" belongs to Mango TV's "Monsoon Theater." From the director, writer to the cast, the all-female team is refreshing. It is a rare urban family mystery drama with a full-time housewife as the protagonist. However, since the start of production, there has been no news about the drama, leaving us uncertain when we can meet it.
Another highly anticipated series is the Medical Examiner Dr. Qin series directed by Xing Jianjun. "Dr. Qin" has a large audience, whether it's the original work or the web series previously starring Zhang Ruoyun, Jiao Junyan, and Li Xian, it has gained significant popularity. Mango TV is likely to place a bet on this series. However, apart from the director and writer, the cast is yet to be determined, making it difficult to predict the quality and performance.
In addition to the above, "The Silent Testimony," which focuses on internet violence, explores the nature of good and evil, and is closely related to reality in terms of themes. "Mo Lu Zhi Tu," starring Sun Honglei and Wang Qianyuan, has a powerful cast that arouses anticipation. The two works directed and written by Guo Jingming, "Chang Ye Chang An" and "The Resurrection Painted Skin," are both ancient mystery dramas, likely to offer a visual feast of Guo's aesthetics.
The year 2023 is a mystery big year, with "The Long Season" gaining popularity. The concept of "mystery+" continues to broaden the boundaries of mystery, allowing more people with different tastes to join in tasting this great dish. mystery dramas have transitioned from niche to mainstream.
More audience also means higher standards of evaluation. mystery dramas must conquer the viewers with quality. We hope that the mentioned series in the previous text, those with high anticipation, can meet expectations, and those with low anticipation can exceed expectations. Each one should have a good performance, continuing the prosperity of mystery dramas.