Review: Tientsin Mystic

This was one of my anticipated dramas for 2017 but after watching about 10 minutes of the first episode without subtitles, I realised I was in over my head as got a little lost with no backstory or context. Picked this up again recently after Nirvana in Fire 2 as it was fan-subbed up to ep10 on and on for ep11-24.

I would say that I only watched the subtitled episodes until ep5 to give me some background and perhaps my Mandarin has improved since Sept 2017 (probably due to Princess Agents) that I realised I could follow the story reasonably well (albeit some minimal gaps). By the way, the show has been picked up by Netflix this year so anyone with Netflix (I don’t subscribe unfortunately) can watch it there too.

And how is show? I absolutely loved it!! Its adapted from a novel written by Tian Xia Ba Chang (same dude who wrote Mystic Nine) and while it has the same elements of mysticism and suspense, it is a much, much better produced drama. Much tauter, less clunky storylines and no unnecessary repetition – also helped there were much less censored scenes hence making the storyline more fluid and organic. I liked the somber but not dreary setting and the slightly surreal, but not fantastical, way the show was shot too.

Li Xian was spot-on in his role as Guo De You, the little River God, head of the rag-tag undersea salvagers of bodies and anything else in the Hai River (I think that’s what the river is called) attached to the police who can hold his breath unnaturally long underwater. and is a street-smart, righteous kid with investigative skills to boot. My first time watching him and he nailed the character with his slight cocky swagger befitting a highly observant (but not unrealistically so) and intelligent urchin – think a streetsmart, Oliver Twist all grown up and savvy. He becomes besties with Ting Mao, heir to the Ting family who runs the Shipping Association which essentially is a gang who controls the ports, a recent returnee from Germany who wants to pursue a career in forensic investigation. Ting Mao is played by Zhang Ming En, loyal Lt Zhang in Mystic Nine, and although adequate in his role of a rich man son who wants to pursue his own dreams while carrying out familial responsibilities, could definitely use more experience (the same could be said for many, many more experienced c-actors too…)- there was some minor overacting in the first episodes but he got better once he settled in the role.

While I enjoyed Guo De You, I was really rooting for Gu Ying, the daughter of the town’s shaman lady, and a little shaman in her own right. She had a kind heart, a brave soul and can hold her own much better in a fist/knife/outright fight better than both De You and Ting Mao combined. She never came off pathetic even when it seemed that De You had no romantic feelings for her (but she and the viewers know that he does!) but just forlorn in grace. Kudos to Wang Zi Xuan who did a really good job as it would have been easy to overact and overdramatize (esp with the outlandish clothes) given the role and its really fitting she won the female NextGen award at the 2017 Anhui TV Awards. Rounding out the quartet is Xiao Lan Lan, the female counterpart to Ting Mao, also an heir to wealthy and politically connected Xiao family who dreams of becoming a reporter. I like Chen Yu Mi too – she had that really cute 1920s bob and was every inch the elegant, respectable scion albeit one with integrity in her work and an inquisitive mind.

All 4 had great chemistry with each other and there was enough humor to offset the darkness of the story. The supporting characters executed their parts well – I particularly liked the ineffectual police head who uses his smarts to protect his job rather than solving real police problems – and they gelled in with the entire storyline and the main cast rather than a distraction (a problem many c-dramas seem to have).

The show unfolds slowly with all the parts coming together and I couldn’t wait to watch what was coming next. What it did particularly well was to interweave Chinese culture and myths into essentially a Sherlockian tale quite seamlessly and I found it to be absolutely delightful. For me, definitely one of the best c-dramas of 2017!





19 thoughts on “Review: Tientsin Mystic

  1. Netflix has a free one month trial for which you wont be charged. I know because I did. Those who havent taken advantage of this can use this offer to watch Tientsin Mystic. Downloaded videos are even available after trial period is over.
    I wish they had taken Lets shake it and Crazy Queen.


  2. Judging from your review you clearly didnt see it till the end otherwise you wouldn’t be singing only praises of the show. I guarantee there would be a few choice words for the writer. Yes i do have Netflix subscription. Overall tho the show was good.


  3. Welcome back, Lizzie! I have not yet finished watching this but I quite like it. One of my fav dramas in recent years. It doesn’t have the usual tiresome Mary Sue and Gary excelling in everything.

    Your Mandarin is great. I had to repeat the part where Lao Hu discussed the background story for the Mo Gu Dao cult a few times to get a better sense of what they are talking about.

    My favorite is also Gu Ying. So many talented young actresses now.

    I’ve been struggling to finish NIF2 since January. Less than 40 episodes in 3 months. LHR is dashing in wuxia action scenes, but I didn’t like a lot of the plot twists. The good guys are not nearly proactive enough. The Empress and a few villains are frustrating to watch and making very few interesting or brilliant moves.

    Are you still into teas? I happen to know more than the average person about tea though I know far less than any tea expert. NIF2 mostly use ceramic tea wares. Green teas are well-suited for ceramics. Ceramics cool down faster than metal or specialty clay teapots. Green teas are more delicate than hong cha (“black tea”), oolongs and pu-erhs. That’s why green teas are best brewed in ceramic wares. But green teas don’t taste good if stores too long. After 1-2 years, they don’t taste good.

    What are 2018 dramas that you’re most anticipating? For me, it may be Rise of the Phoenixes.


    1. Hi!! Long time no speak 🙂 I also stopped and picked up NiF2 after a short break. For me, besides needing the subtitles, it was also because some parts of the show was just too close to real life. Smart people making bad decisions, insecure people with too much power and how sometimes Life is just c$&p. Nothing new in c-dramaland but I felt that the dialogue and actions were quite within the realm of logic which made watching it quite a jolt sometimes.

      Still loving my cup of tea – the whole process of pouring tea out of a small tea pot and refilling both the cup and the pot allows one to take a break in a busy workday! I have both clay and ceramic teapots but I confess that I buy what looks pretty and delicate! Strangely, I drink my Chinese tea hot (shui Xian mostly) but I like my green teas cold so don’t really drink the latter at home.

      Yes, as I watch more c-dramas, I realize there are so many talented and watchable c—actors/actresses which are not as famous as the popular ones hence not getting the chance to act in the better produced dramas. Too many dramas, too little time!

      For 2018, I am anticipating Rise of the Phoenixes too as I have yet to watch Chen Kun in a drama. I also try to watch Elvis Han, Sun Yi and Zhang Ruo Yun’s shows so on the watchlist is Siege in Fog, Three Kingdoms and the Fated General as well.

      Have a great weekend!!


      1. Commenters have been saying Siege in Fog got chopped up into fewer eps. And later eps have plot issues. In particular, Sun Yi’s character ends up being less coherent after extensive editing. I like Sun Yi and HDJ, but I don’t enjoy watching Joe Xu. And I’m afraid this genre may be too melodramatic for me. So I have only watched 1 ep.

        I’ve never actually had Shui Xian yet. It’s hard to find where I live. I’ve only had Shou Mei while having dimsum in town. Not sure if their Shou Mei is typical, but their SM tastes almost like pu-erh. While I sometimes fall prey to or get tempted by Kusmi teas and the likes, I do minimize drinking blended or flavored tea like Earl Grey. And vendors that specialize in flavored teas. I read that these teas have added flavors. Often essential oils. Not the most desirable or natural ingredient to have in your food items.

        For actresses, I find it interesting how well-known actress like Zhou Xun likes to take breaks to sharpen her acting while the under-contract Dilraba looks to be working around the clock.

        I hope Tientsin Mystic and Burning Ice will do well on Netflix. Maybe that will compel C producers to focus on plot and script more, rather than devoting a huge chunk on their budget on elaborately embroidered drama costumes.


  4. While the show is good in and of itself, it failed to attract me (and I’m a big sucker for supernatural detective genre.) I mainly feel that it does not have “enough humor to offset the darkness of the story.” The overall tone, while beautify, is too heavy for my liking. It is one drama that I’m not eager to re-watch. Not for being bad, far from it, rather it’s for the suffocating feeling I often get while watching it.


    1. Hi ! Thanks for sharing your thoughts – always good to give the readers alternative views too. I actually found parts of NiF2 more suffocating when it was obvious crap was gonna hit the ceiling and nothing could be done about it! 😂


  5. This is in my queue, I guess I’ll have to watch this weekend😂😂 glad you loved it sidenote: Any news on Princess Agent? I refuse believe that’s the ending we get


    1. No news yet re Princess’s Agent 2. ZLY has finished MingLan so depends what’s her next role and it’s been pretty quiet for LGX aside from him participating in some reality show.


      Liked by 1 person

  6. I only watched the first seven episodes with subs. Unfortunately, I do not subscribe to NF, to view the remaining episodes. The maina and supporting casts were very good. The costumes and the hairstyles were over the top, but they seem to fit in with the over the top elements of the drama. Some of the “trippy” scenes look eerily similar to the “trippy” scenes in the side story of M9, with the very tall Gate and Lt. Zhang.

    Having labored through many extraneous C-dramas in 2017 and early 2018, I felt that Tientsin Mystic stepped outside the box. 👏👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can watch the remaining subbed episodes on those 2 websites – not sure about the sub quality but last I checked, they were still available 🙂

      Which would be your most extraneous c-drama for 2018? 🙂


  7. Lol but the ending tho T_T I don’t know if I regret watching it or not considering it made me pull my hair at the ending hahah


    1. I hope so IF it’s not going to be censored. If it is, probably best to leave it as it is rather than having another disjointed mess like Mystic Nine


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