REVIEW Drama Review: The Untamed - Final Arc

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THE UNTAMED DRAMA REVIEW - ARC 3: "WAKING UP IN THE PRESENT, YI CITY & THE ABSOLUTION OF WEI WUXIAN"
Written by: Polaris_Tae
OG Series: Episode 33 (13:18) - END
Wangxian Compilation Series: Episode 13 (24:39) - END







"The deeds I have not done, will not be forced upon me to carry."
- Wei Wuxian, Episode 44 (at the burial mounds)

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Disclaimer:
Men in this story often have three names. A birth name, a courtesy name, and a title. In the case of Wei Wuxian: his birth name is Wei Ying, his courtesy name is Wei Wuxian, and it could be argued that the Yiling Patriarch is his title (although he was never given an official title, unlike Lan Wangji). At the bottom of the page are a number of characters listed with their names and titles. In this article, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji may be referred to by any of their multiple names. All other characters will hereafter, be referred to by their courtesy names.

There will also be light spoilers for the novel when discussing the relationship between the two lead actors.

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In the third and final arc of 'The Untamed', we follow Wei Wuxian, and his journey with Lan Wangji to find the source of the malign energy within the Mo Manor spirit sword, while in the process absolving him of a number of crimes that he was wrongfully accused of. We also come to learn of some key events during the 16-year gap between the death and rebirth of Wei Wuxian.


After offering some clarity on the realities of Wei Wuxian's past life, and his relationship with Lan Wangji, the timeline shifts back into the present, where it is revealed that even now, years after his death, Wei Wuxian is still an immensely hated figure, considered to be an ugly stain on society.


We are reunited with the leading pair at the Cloud Recesses
Lan Wangji plays his guqin for an unconscious Wei Wuxian, having successfully brought him back to his home. Soon after awakening, Wei Wuxian happens upon Lan Wangji as he bathes; and is met with the sight of a body covered in scars—whip marks cover his back, and the Wen Clan symbol is seared into his breast (almost identical to the one sported by Wei Wuxian in his past life). The pair are then interrupted by some juniors from the Gusu Lan Sect, informing the two that the clan elders have been overwhelmed by malign energy while attempting to exorcise the Spirit Sword.


After managing to contain the energy within the sword, the two set out on a journey to discover its origin together. Along the way, the pair encounter ghosts from their past: friends and family, all estranged, somewhere between Wei Wuxian's death, and Lan Wangji's grieving. They meet up with Wei Wuxian's old childhood friend, Nie Huaisang—while Wei Wuxian is still masquerading as Mo Xuanyu—who is now the leader of the Nie Sect, following the apparent death of his older brother from Qi Deviation. Wei Wuxian comes to the realisation that the world he currently inhabits isn't all that different from the one that he knew before his death.


Through the course of this journey with Lan Wangji, Wei Wuxian begins to relive a number of his past traumas—even waking up in a cold sweat, at one point, from a nightmare about being thrown into the burial mounds during the 'Sunshot Campaign' by Wen Chao. However, despite this constant internal battle, Wei Wuxian is shown to be a much more happy and open person (especially with his loved ones)—a notable contrast from his unyielding austerity as the Yiling Patriarch.






Their travels together bring to light another startling revelation—the pair discovers that Wei Wuxian may have been framed as part of a covert power struggle and that a number of the crimes Wei Wuxian was implicated in, such as the massacre at the 'Battle of Nightless City', may not have been his fault at all, but that of an ill-intentioned third party's.


This is the cause of one of my primary gripes with this drama: the retroactive retconning of past plot development, done in order to absolve the protagonist of his sins—a complete betrayal of the original source material, where
Wei Wuxian accepts his mistakes and their burden as his own to bear; a duty to last lifetime. This change, in my opinion, strips away the most compelling aspects of the character—moral ambiguity, imperfect judgment, human-ness. They also reduce Wei Wuxian to a mere practitioner of demonic cultivation, rather than the founder—the 'Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation'—a title they reserved, instead, for a Xue Chonghai, who is, of course, nonexistent in the original source material; an invention of this particular dramatic adaptation. This further takes away from the character of Wei Wuxian, who's intelligence and ingenuity were supposed to amongst his greatest strengths.


These massive liberties taken in the screenplay further subtract from what I believe to be one of the greatest components of the original novel, 'Mo Dao Zu Shi'—the striking parallels drawn between the two protagonists and their oft-tragic counterparts. For example, Wei Wuxian often parallels somewhat questionable (arguably evil) characters such as Xue Yang. The pair had a similarly traumatic childhood, but whereas Wei Wuxian was ultimately adopted into a (mostly) loving family, Xue Yang was left to fend for himself on the streets, manipulated, and injured—a fate that sowed in him a deep, lifelong resentment. Perhaps, had Wei Wuxian not been adopted as a child, he may have met the same end as Xue Yang.






The plot, despite the major filler portion within its first arc, is one of this drama's greatest attributes. It is through the well-paced, and thoughtful development of the plot that the relationship between the two protagonists, as well as the many compelling characters, were built and brought to life—far exceeding my expectations for any BL based drama.


In particular
, the growth and progression of the relationship between the two leads (and main couple), Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, is beautifully done. In spite of the significant obstacle that is the stringent Chinese censorship of same-sex relations in media, this drama still manages to convey the idea of romanticism in a healthy way. Within the final arc, Lan Wangji finally confesses to Wei Wuxian that he regrets not having stood by him at the nightless city, and resolves to never be on the other side as him ever again.


The subtle clues of romance came in many forms, starting from the confession at Phoenix Mountain (the least subtle of all), to the drawing of a pair of male cultivators kissing on Wei Wuxian's bed frame, to stealing chickens for Wei Wuxian which. The last of those examples, alongside being an experience that the pair couldn't share in their youth, could also possibly be seen as Lan Wangji's wedding gift to Wei Wuxian (in other words, a dowry). In a similar strain of symbolism, the three bows that the pair completed, while in the Jiang ceremonial hall, is usually a practice reserved for wedding ceremonies (first to the heavens, second to the parents and third to each other in respect for married life). Therefore, following the conclusion of the series, the pair are practically married in everything but name.





'
The Untamed', as a drama, is a great addition to the BL-Xianxia sub-genre and manages to tastefully capture and convey a message of romance without a hint of explicitness. Though sadly, the best aspects of the relationship become a casualty of Chinese censorship, it is still enjoyable regardless. I hope that the airing of 'The Untamed', breeds the beginnings of confidence amongst Chinese production studios—as the popularity of BL drama adaptions continues to increase, changing the genders of characters to comply with censorship standards is no longer the smartest move. 'The Untamed' is a worthy template to base any such ventures into BL production upon—a novel adaptation where the genders remain unchanged, and yet the relationship is still successfully established despite the strict standards within the television and film industry.

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Main Characters & their multiple names:

Wèi Wúxiàn:
Portrayed by: Xiao Zhan & Lu Zhixing (overdubbing)
Birth Name: Wèi Yīng
Courtesy Name: Wèi Wúxiàn
Title: Yílíng Lǎozǔ (Yiling Patriarch)
Weapons:
The 'Chénqíng' flute (to express sentiments).
'Suíbiàn', his sword (lit. whatever).
'Stygian Tiger Seal' (formerly)
Inventions: 'Stygian Tiger Seal', 'Compass of Evil', and 'Spirit Attraction Flag'

Lán Wàngjī:
Portrayed by: Wang Yibo & Bian Jiang (overdubbing)
Birth Name:
Lán Zhàn
Courtesy Name: Lán Wàngjī
Title: Hánguāng-jūn ('Light-Bearing Lord')
Weapons:
'Bìchén' (lit. to avoid worldly matters), his sword.
The 'Wàngjī' Guqin.

Jiāng Chéng:
Portrayed by: Wang Zhuocheng & Wang Kai (overdubbing)
Birth Name: Jiāng Chéng
Courtesy Name: Jiāng Wǎnyín
Title: Sāndú Shèngshǒu
Weapons: the electric whip 'Zǐdiàn' and his sword, 'Sāndú'

Wēn Níng:
Portrayed by: Yu Bin & Li Xin (overdubbing)
Birth Name: Wēn Níng
Courtesy Name: Wēn Qiónglín
Title: Guǐ jiāngjūn ('Ghost General')


Hotlinks:

Find the Donghua on Youtube and WeTV
For the Novel:
OG Chinese version: https://www.luoxia.com/modaozushi/
English Translation: https://exiledrebelsscanlations.com/novels/grandmaster-of-demonic-cultivation/
Alternate English Translations: Doc with links to translations
Find the Web Drama on YouTube, WeTV, Netflix or Rakuten Viki
The WeTV Special Edition Wangxian Compilation Drama Series: WeTV, YouTube
^ It's spin-off movies '
The Living Dead' & 'Fatal Journey' on the IQIYI App or its international website, with full English Subtitles
Find the Audio Drama at Suibian Subs (via their Discord)
Find the Manhua at WeComics, or fan-translated here

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Story: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Cinematography: 7/10
Music: 10/10


8.8/10
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PROOFREAD BY: @Timingil
GRAPHICS BY: @Aerith