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Reunion: The Sound of Providence (2020)


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Reunion

 

The hero of the piece, Wu Xie, is successor to a family of former tomb raiders-turned-archaeologists living in modern day China. Hence the spirit of adventure runs deep in his veins. At the start of the drama we catch him in aimless retirement with his best friend and fellow adventurer, Pangzi (Fatty) barely making ends meet from the proceeds of their antique business While the bored slovenly Wu Xie ponders the meaning of his existence, an archaeological-related gig comes up offering a much needed injection of funds. During this job an incident occurs which sees him in hospital where he is diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. Not long afterwards, as Fatty clears out the junk they’ve accumulated over the years, he discovers an old mobile phone and a series of secret text messages purportedly sent by Wu Xie’s third uncle, Wu Sanxing whose whereabouts to date are unknown. This galvanises Wu Xie into action and as a man at apparently death’s door, he has nothing to lose by embarking on another adventure in search of his favourite uncle and coming to grips with the latter’s obsession with the legendary Thunder City and its connection with the South Sea King. 

 

Reunion is the latest in a series of various iterations derived from the Tomb Raider/Grave Robber Chronicles universe modelled in some fashion after the Indiana Jones franchise. It’s high on adrenaline-pumping action and leap-out-of-the-dark shock factor. More importantly there are genuinely intriguing elements scattered all throughout. Prior knowledge of the universe isn’t really needed to understand the storyline in this production although for some it might add something to their knowledge of Wu Xie’s backstory. But honestly, everything that is needed to follow the drama is given here. The plot although revolves in some measure around the friendship of the Iron Triangle trio of Wu Xie (Zhu Yilong), Pangzi (Chen Minghao) and Zhang Qiling (Huang Junjie), it does incorporate a large ensemble cast (predominantly male) who bring various skill sets similar to a superhero team-up to the table. I was led to this because of Zhu Yilong, who wonderfully portrays the sensitive and intellectually agile Wu Xie but there are other attractions to be enjoyed from wandering in this world of mysteries, mayhem, monsters and murder. Located within the sci-fi fantasy genre, there are a number of good ideas at work here that underpin the world building even if the process of arriving at key moments takes an inordinate amount of time particularly in the first season.

 

The drama is divided into two continuous seasons. The first season is divided into two main arcs which sees Wu Xie and Co. gallivanting off to the South Sea region in search of the secrets behind the enigmatic thunder code that in all likelihood fuelled Third Uncle's fixation. Wu Xie and his second uncle, Wu Er'bai are initially forced to work with each other to gain access to relevant sites and deal with an assortment of villains with differing goals. In the second arc Wu Xie is sent packing back to home turf where he traverses into the underbelly of a mysterious storage facility known as Warehouse 11 to retrace his third uncle’s steps. Here he is aided and abetted by the intrepid Bai Haotian (Rachel Mao), who knows the warehouse like the back of her hand and serves as his tour guide while he solves long-standing mysteries while playing cat and mouse with the director and his dangerous minions. The Warehouse 11 arc resembles an RPG video game with levelling up and increased difficulty features.

 

The second season picks up where the first leaves off. Wu Xie is forced to leave the warehouse with Xiao Bai in tow thinking that he is finished with the place. Both are disciplined for transgressing regulations in an off-limits zone. No obstacles do much to deter his quest for answers especially with the loyal Fatty, Zhang Qiling and Xiao Bai by his side to ensure that he stays alive long enough to achieve his goals. There’s more travelling back and forth which sees Wu Xie back at Warehouse 11 to put the final touches on all the mysteries that have plagued him and his companions for months.

 

While there’s much to like about it, the show does suffer from pacing and editing issues. There’s certainly a correlation between the two in part due to the censorship measures that C dramas are subject to. The problems are far more noticeable in the first season where the pacing is dragged out largely by unnecessary romance plot lines that involve Blind Guy (Baron Chen) and Mute Girl (Maggie Huang). Except for Xiao Bai, I can’t say I was too enamoured with the vast majority of women depicted here. I understand  the reason for their inclusion into the storyline to some degree but their antics often serve to annoy and frustrate rather than enhance enjoyment.

 

I adored the camaraderie amongst most of the male cast and it’s understandable why there’s so much love for Wu Xie. Not only is he a modern day Dee Renjie, his “leave-no-one-behind” philosophy ensures that his crew will give up their lives for his sake at the drop of a hat. Whatever respect he gets is earned with blood, sweat and tears. I also enjoyed Xiao Bai’s inclusion into the final adventures. She may be young but she pulls her weight and listens to advice to act or to hold back. Of all the females here she is the one most developed to fit in with the kind of life that is par for the course for men like Wu Xie. I was rooting for her and Wu Xie to end up together all throughout and despite Wu Xie’s seeming indifference, it seems to me there’s some indication at the end that the show leaves room for more development on that front.

 

 

Screen Shot 2020-09-30 at 6.27.13 pm

 

 

At the end of the day, Reunion, at its core, is a morality tale about obsession and greed. As Wu Xie and Third Uncle both conclude at different times, one shouldn’t be obsessed to the point of missing or being blind to what one already has around them. Gratitude and contentment keep an avid risk-taker from complete self-destruction. It’s not just a didactic for the avaricious and murderous villains but for the well-intentioned, insatiable adventurer for whom the next big mystery can be a drug that will lead to nowhere and lifelong loneliness.

 

For the most part the roles are well-cast but the performances are a mixed bag. Most are adequate to the task and the standouts would be Zhu Yilong who gives flesh to Wu Xie and Chen Minghao as the ridiculously talkative but often funny Fatty. Their chemistry is undoubtedly great. Huang Junjie is better here as the stoic, reticent Zhang Qiling than I've seen him. I also really liked the versatile Rachel Mao as Xiao Bai. She captured all the different aspect of the character perfectly. Her dynamic with Wu Xie and Fatty is one of the highlights of the second season. 

 

Story/Plot: 9

Acting/Cast: 8

Storytelling: 7

Production Values: 9

Rewatch Value: 6.5 (I wouldn’t mind revisiting certain portions especially in season two but I fast forwarded through a lot of the first season)

 

Overall: 8

 

reunion_iron triange

 

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Currently Watching:  She and Her Perfect Husband, The King of Pigs, Reborn Rich, Under the Queen's Umbrella, Thank You Doctor

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"Love is not an affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person's good as far as it can be obtained." -- CS Lewis.

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