One of the questions or requests that I get most often lately is to write a video about why The Untamed cast is so popular.
The Untamed is a 2019 fantasy Chinese costume drama starring Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo. It is based on the famous BL novel or Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation. The drama ran from June 27th to August 20th and I believe it’s safe to say that it’s one of the biggest if not the biggest hit of the year.
So I will start by getting into some of the cast and characters and then I’ll talk about the synopsis and then why it’s so popular.
1. The Untamed Characters
Xiao Zhan plays Wei Wuxian, a disciple of the Jiang sect. He wields the Suibian sword and Chenqing flute, and his specialty is demonic cultivation and the invention of new spiritual techniques.
Wang Yibo plays Lan Wangji of the Gusu Lan sect. He wields the Bichen sword and the Wangji zither. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji regard each other as soul mates.
Zoey Meng plays Wen Qing, a doctor who belongs to the healing branch of the Wen sect. She is aloof but kind and is protective of her younger brother Wen Ning. Yu Bin plays Wen Ning, also known as the Ghost General and Wuxian’s right-hand man. He is shy and has a strange ailment due to a near-death experience when he was young.
Wang Zhuocheng plays Jiang Cheng, leader of the Jiang sect. He wields the Sandu sword and the Zidian ring. He has feelings for Wen Qing but hatred for the Wen sect. Xuan Lu plays Jiang Yanli, Jiang Cheng’s older sister.
She’s kind-hearted and treats Wuxian like her own little brother. Liu Haikuan plays Lan Xichen, the leader and first young master of Lan sect.
Wang Haoxuan plays Xue Yang, a guest disciple of the Jin sect who has an affiliation with the Stygian Iron. He is known for his evil and twisted ways.
2. The Untamed Plot
The Untamed begins 16 years after Wei Wuxian falls off a cliff to his death. Wuxian’s spirit is summoned into the body of a man who has sacrificed it so that Wuxian can exact revenge for him.
About 30 episodes out of the 50 are flashbacks to Wuxian’s beginnings, how he met Wangji and how they form their relationship. It is a time where the world is ruled by the powerful Wen sect, which dominates over the smaller Lan, Jiang, Nie and Jin sects.
Wuxian and Wangji discover that the leader of the Wen sect is behind a series of plots that would wreak havoc on the lands. They try to stop him but it ends in a disaster, with Wuxian falling off the cliff.
Back to the present, in his new body, Wuxian reunites with Wangji and they work together to solve a series of murder mysteries. While I feel like many of its production aspects could be improved, namely the CGI, I would say that The Untamed is still a captivating drama.
3. The Highlights of the Untamed
Its main draw is its story and the chemistry between its two leads. Like so many other Chinese dramas, once you get pass about 10 episodes or so, you’ll be hooked. Some have asked how much the BL factor plays into the drama.
I would say the BL scenes are quite subtle – mostly just gazing and the odd piggy back ride. Production did a good balancing act in the sense that they kept the BL stuff subtle enough to pass censorship while at the same time, kept plenty of undertones for the fans who read the novel.
Like the two lead’s relationship, much of the drama is left up to interpretation, including the ending. Xiao Zhan is a joy to watch. He has a wide range of facial expressions in his locker and he uses them well to portray.
Wei Wuxian, who can be playful at one moment, irreverent at another, and dark at yet another. As an audience member, it is very easy for us to invest our emotions in Wei Wuxian.
Even though he lives in a fantasy world he is very relatable – he laughs, he cries, he mourns. He is an essentially good person but capable of doing evil deeds. Xiao Zhan is also great at the physical acting, like with the twirling of his flute, the joking around, and things like that.
Wang Yibo also does a terrific job. His character, Lan Wangji is almost the polar opposite of Wei Wuxian. He is more reserved and stone-faced but at times his deadpan stare speaks volumes. And because he doesn’t use the facial expression that much, every time he does even the slightest smile, it says so much more.
It’s safe to say that Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are polar opposites yet complementary to each other. The supporting cast was great too. Zheng Fanxing and Yu Bin even got their own spin-off movie, The Living Dead.
The Untamed explores many themes that I find interesting in Chinese dramas like loyalty, morals and selflessness. It is all sewn together with a plotline that is not the most complex but like I said, leaves much to interpretation, which can be a good thing.
Another one of the drama’s great features is the music. Particularly the OST duet by Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo entitled Unrestrained. I like how throughout the drama, they use traditional Chinese music instruments to bring out the many emotions in different scenes.
The only thing that takes away from it is that the music doesn’t always sync to the character playing it. For instance, Wei Wuxian’s lips on his flute don’t always sync with the music that he’s playing. Even though this is something I’ve come to expect from dramas that overdub everything, I still find it distracting.
4. The Untamed Review
Believe it or not, when The Untamed first came out it received a low rating.
This was due to the original novel’s fans being skeptical about Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo’s
portrayals as well the circulating rumor at the time that Wen Qing was going to be Wei Wuxian’s love interest.
Well as the show went on it became clear that was not the case and Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo eventually won the fans over.
The drama currently has an 8.3 rating on the Chinese review site Douban with over 660,000 ratings, the most on the website. Is The Untamed binge and rewatch worthy? Well, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard people saying they still can’t get over it. They have watched it five times, seven times, even ten times so yes the answer it can be.