Word of Honor – to have your heart as mine

27 Mar

My thoughts and feelings have been all over the place since I finished Word of Honor so don’t mind me just throwing out anything that comes to mind in this space. Head over to Lovefia’s post for a more coherent review of the drama!

What a ride is has been with WoH, from the initial crazy fangirling at Wen Ke Xing’s shameless flirting, to slowly getting drawn into the game of cat and mouse between the jianghu players plotting against each other, and of course journeying with Lao Wen and Ah Xu as they found light and redemption from their past in each other. Maybe the bar had been set so low for drama watching that I would have been perfectly happy with being entertained by beautiful people flirting and falling in love for 36 episodes, plot or no plot. I mean, I fast-forwarded half of Under the Power 锦衣之下 and the main couple did put a smile on my face whenever they appeared and I had no complaints about that. But but but. WoH came out of nowhere to prove that good storytelling can happen, that characters can be alive! It’s made even all the more precious knowing the restrictions the production faced from their scheduling being thrown off by Covid, lack of budget, to censorship constrains given its BL origins.

It wasn’t a perfect drama and valid criticisms were made for some later episodes but for me, the world and character/relationship build up to that point have been sufficient for me to understand WKX/ZZS to fill in the blanks where the drama isn’t explicit in showing and… I’d say that’s job well done enough. I saw a number of viewers being angry and disappointed by ep31-36, and that’s fine. Drama watching is a subjective affair after all, coloured by the viewer’s experiences and expectations so I can only say I’m personally happy with WoH in its entirety, and grateful that this production with a heart wasn’t axed by the censorship board midway!

There’s 2 parts to the ep31-36 discussion. One, the way the story was presented on screen, and second, the actual plot points/development. Great care had been taken to slowly develop WKX/ZZS’s relationship up to ep30 and the plot just reached a new tension height with ZZS taken by Prince Jin, so naturally audiences were holding their breath to see how Lao Wen would lose his mind to save his Ah Xu. And… it was kinda anti climatic? I don’t have a problem with the scene in itself, I was of course swooning at WKX literally flying in with all his Demon Valley Master glory and snark to chase Duan Peng Ju away and bowing in front of Ah Xu without hesitation as his shidi. But the lack of follow up to that build up really threw me off and 31-32 was just jammed full of plot movement while not giving enough visual cues to link the various scenes together. I appreciate that WoH is a drama that leans towards showing instead of telling (we need more of that in dramaland!), but 31-32 was a lot of half showing and not telling which made me constantly go huh?? When did that happen? We will never know what went on behind the scenes that resulted in the jarring ep31-32, I can only guess that the production had to force 40+ episodes worth of content into 36 due to resource limitations and they had to fastforward the plot themselves!

Moving on to the second point, a good number of viewers are unhappy about WKX keeping ZZS in the dark about his fake!death plan which led to ZZS suicidally forcing out his nails, and by extension feeling that ZZS got the short end of the stick in this relationship given the subsequent developments. Would it have been healthy communication 101 for WKX to discuss his plans with ZZS? Sure, but our boy WKX is not known as Psycho Wen without reason and as much as ZZS has guided him on the path back to the human world, he has behind him years worth of emotional baggage and trauma. It’s partially the fault of the editing / visual presentation of plot mentioned above that makes it unclear on first viewing how much time passed between WKX/ZZS parting and WKX ‘coming back from the dead’, but going by WKX’s original plan, it should be a 1-2 day project and ZZS should still be recuperating in peace when WKX returns in his ‘human form’. It wouldn’t be out of character to me for WKX to want to do this by himself and wrap the result in a bow to present to ZZS. I can almost imagine WKX standing there proud as a peacock going ‘Look Ma Ah Xu! I did this all by myself!’ It has always been his dream to stand in front of his Ah Xu as a ‘clean’ person. As much as ZZS repeatedly showed and told him that he is loved completely and unreservedly as he is, it is WKX himself that is rejecting his own past, and therefore fears that ZZS would reject him the same way like what he tells ZZS in that (SO PERFECT) hugging scene in ep34.

And as with life, things often don’t go the way you plan even with the best of intentions and WKX returns victorious to his Ah Xu who is now going to die in days instead. 不合时宜 – untimely, it’s how WKX described his life. Always so near yet so far, and it has once again taken an untimely turn through this time it’s ZZS bearing the brunt of it. Yet, they still found something precious in return. The encounter with Ye Baiye has shown WKX that ZZS is 120% on his side but I don’t think he truly comprehended the lengths that ZZS would go to for him until he saw ZZS jumping off the cliff after him with no hesitation. And for ZZS, he sampled the immeasurable grief and rage that burned within WKX from the death of his parents. Yes, untimely indeed, but even through that their understanding of each other was deepened.

It’s hard not to feel for ZZS post ep33 knowing that he made such a big sacrifice over a lie, but even as ZZS griefs silently over the lost dreams and possibilities, he is truly happy for WKX. ZZS regrets how things turned out but I don’t think he regrets doing what he did. It is what it is. ZZS accepted it, and so do I.

As for some viewers being upset over WKX apparently not doing enough for ZZS, I can only say that love is not a neat 50/50 split in giving and receiving the exact same things. ZZS is WKX’s light, and I’d like to think that WKX is ZZS’s warmth. ZZS left Tian Chuang as a man disillusioned with the world, a lone wanderer in this vast jianghu counting down his days on earth. But then WKX happened and ZZS found a person to drink with, a person that calls him Ah Xu Ah Xu Ah Xu incessantly, a person that makes him feel that living can be such a good thing.

After finding out about ZZS’s nail situation, WKX accepts ZZS’s attitude about not wanting to be treated at the cost of losing his skills but he constantly keeps this at the back of his mind and asks about treating Ah Xu whenever there appears to be a chance. Later when they returned to the Four Seasons Manor, WKX literally cooked and cleaned for Ah Xu! XD Oh yes, when they fell off the bridge at Long Yuan Ge it was also implied that WKX used his body to break the fall for his Ah Xu. These are all kept in ZZS’s heart, hence he can say confidently to WKX, I don’t know when you are coming, how you are coming, but I know you will come. I don’t believe ZZS ever felt he was loved less by WKX, in fact I think ZZS felt equal parts joy in loving WKX and being loved in return.

And therein lies the beauty of WoH for me.

相见恨晚幸未晚 幸得君心似我心

3 Responses to “Word of Honor – to have your heart as mine”

  1. lovefia March 28, 2021 at 12:11 AM #

    Oh netizens – everyone always has something to say, right? I don’t see how WKX loves ZZS less. The boy would do anything for his Ah Xu! Like you, I felt their love was mutual, they give unconditionally and take unabashedly. WKX has been the loud and proud lover, and his actions are grand, while ZZS is the quiet and reserved one. Often times it’s the quiet ones that our heart goes out to, and ZZS character needs full appreciation for this, because he’ll do the most heartbreaking things. The hugging scene had me in tears, I think ZZS is devastated not because of the lie, but because he won’t have much time to spend and celebrate with WKX. I love these two so much, which is why I am finding it hard to move on. This show is such an underdog, it really came out swinging.
    As always, love and miss reading your musings J, I hope more shows inspire you to write more 🙂

    • J March 28, 2021 at 12:45 AM #

      I’m not too sure about the international audience’s reaction to the last few episodes but there were quite a number of posts arguing over / lamenting the last few episodes in the Chinese forum I visited. Some even took issue with WKX saying ‘Brother is coming to find you’ after he was severely injured from the fight with Mo Huai Yang cos they said it meant he was willing to die for Ah Xiang and didn’t care enough about ZZS. I was like whut???
      I hope I have the stamina to write another post or two about WoH cos it’s such a layered drama where even the supporting characters shine!

      • lovefia March 28, 2021 at 3:16 AM #

        Oh you totally should! There’s just so much to say about this show!

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