“The Eternal Love” (not to be confused with “Eternal Love”) is a 24 episode time-travel romantic-comedy drama. It tells the story of Xiaotan, a modern-day woman who travels almost 2000 years into the past, in the Dongyue Kingdom. The core of this delightful love story is the dynamics of the relationship between the 8th Prince and his 21st century bride.
Tan’er is the illegitimate daughter of the Prime Minister. She has been in a mutual romantic relationship with the 1st Prince since they were very young. However, when he becomes a promising candidate to the throne, he decides to marry her sister instead, the legitimate daughter of the Prime Minister. At the news, Tan’er is heartbroken. But when she is told that, by royal command, she is to marry his brother, the 8th Prince, Tan’er attempts suicide. She survives the attempt, but ever since that day she experiences black-outs and her personality seems to change drastically from time to time as if she is a different person.
And that is exactly the case; every time she blacks-out, Xiaotan (who inhabits Tan’er’s body) takes over. The two women are unaware of each other’s presence. Tan’er thinks her inexplicable behavior is due to her head injury, while Xiaotan believes she traveled back in time and that she inhabits the body of a young lady who died (a recurrent theme in Asian time-travel dramas).
Premise of the Story
Xiaotan is a 21st century real-estate agent; one of the best in the industry. One night, on her way home, she realizes that two strange people are following her. Sensing the danger, she seeks refuge in an abandoned building. Here she sees a beautifully decorated old bed with a mysterious inscription on it. As she reads it out loud, Xiaotan loses consciousness and wakes up 2000 years into the past, in Tan’er’s body. She finds out that she is the Prime Minister’s daughter and that she is about to marry the 8th Prince, Mo Lian-Cheng. Unwilling to remain into the past and dreading the thought of marrying a stranger, Xiaotan tries everything she can to avoid getting married; but eventually she fails and she decides to use her time to look for the mysterious inscription, hoping she can return home.
But she finds herself caught between two scheming spouses. On one hand, Tan’er is trying to use her husband to get information to pass to her loved one. On the other hand Mo Lian-Cheng is planning to use her in order to give his brother false leads. Unaware of their plans, Xiaotan relies on herself and tries her best to navigate through her new reality, to her husband’s confusion.
Mo Lian-Cheng is puzzled: sometime his bride is acting suspiciously, as a spy would; but other times she is innocent and shows a crystal clear personality who does not betray him, even when she has the chance to do so. More than that, she is willing to put her life in danger for him. Which is her true self? The cold and well-mannered maiden or the straightforward girl with a volcano-like behavior? Confused and disarmed by her genuine demeanor and sunny personality, Mo Lian-Cheng starts to slowly fall in love with Xiaotan. But deep wounds of betrayal await the 8th Prince when he finds out that his beloved wife has been in contact with his older brother all along. Can their relationship survive?
Xiaotan has a bubbly and carefree personality. She is not willing to give in to the unfavorable situations she is presented with; hence she tries to change her circumstances and pursues her goals with determination. While thinking she is in control of the situation, she starts to fall in love with her husband, although in her eyes he appears as cold-hearted and scheming.
Tan’er on the other hand is quiet and submissive. She accepts her role of victim of a cruel destiny. She is willing to put her life at risk in order to help the one who abandoned her, even at the cost of betraying her spouse, whom she does not consider, nor treat as such.
Mo Lian-Cheng (8th prince) considers the throne as rightfully his. The heir to the crown is not determined by age, but by competence. Another important factor in inheriting the throne is the predilection the emperor has towards one of the princes. Mo Lian-Cheng has both: he is highly competent; in fact he is the Commander of the Imperial Army. Moreover, he was favored by the previous emperor (his grandfather). But he finds himself in a difficult position: the same grandfather who favored him as the next heir, was the same one who wrote in his testament that he shall marry the illegitimate daughter of the Prime Minister, Tan’er. Although he is aware that the heart of his bride-to-be belongs to his brother, Mo Lian-Cheng does not dare to go against the imperial command, even if that means marrying a potential spy.
The 1st Prince. Despite being the older among his brothers, the 1st Prince has the odds stacked against him. Thus he is looking for a way to better those odds by marrying the legitimate daughter of the Prime Minister, in order to gain his support. Tempted by the prospect of becoming the father-in-law of the next emperor, the Prime Minister agrees to give his legitimate daughter in marriage instead of Tan’er. The 1st Prince has had genuine feelings for Tan’er since childhood, but he soon realizes that his love for her does not stand a chance in front of his ambition.
Jing Xin (Tan’er’s personal maid): I think she is one of the reasons the series was so enjoyable. She is loyal and reliable. Not just a servant, but a genuine friend and confident. She is the light of the show; the viewer will find her as one of the most relatable characters in the show
I would like to premise this review by stating that “The Eternal Love” is a flawed drama. Starting from writing, characters and even some of the acting, everything has space for improvement. However, it is also one of the very few dramas that I re-watched more than once. This is a drama that does not pretend to be perfect. It is an “honest” drama, where what you see is what you get. That is how I explain the fact that I came to like it so much despite all its imperfections.
You might wonder “What are its flaws?” Well, there are quite a few:
The production is low budget, hence the sets are not luxurious and the visual effects are underwhelming. But since the visual effects are not central to the story, these aspects are easy to overlook.
The acting is great, but some characters are not very well written. One example is the main female character Xiaotan. At times she appears fussy and a bit immature. However, the actress does her best to interpret Xiaotan and she saves the day. The result is a very quirky, yet endearing character.
The story raises a few questions that were not fully answered. Does Xiaotan have any right on Tan’er’s body? The fact that they both inhabit it, does that mean that they have equal rights to it? Who married Moo Chan? Tan’er or Xiaotan? Does the marital bond extend to both?
There are a few instances where the main characters display a rather amoral behavior. I cannot give you more details, without spoiling it for you. Suffice it to say that the viewer is taken aback by some of the decisions made by the main characters, but their amoral behavior is soon somewhat redeemed and the viewer can continue to enjoy the development of the story.
There are minor plot-holes and inconsistencies, but the love story is so sweet and captivating that the viewer is more than willing not to focus on those.
Then, what makes “The Eternal Love” a great drama to watch? Well, I think it has to be the way the drama presents and carries itself. This drama is like a slice of cake: you know it isn’t really nutritious for your body, but it surely soothes your soul and cuddles your senses. To put it in other words, it resembles a child who is a rascal that causes problems with their immature behavior. But despite all that, you are willing to overlook it and decide to give them a chance, because they look at you with those sweet puppy eyes that melt your heart and disarm you completely.
“The Eternal Love” makes a great drama for beginners. It is a light and funny drama that tells a beautiful love story between two spouses who learn how to love and trust each other against all odds. It was quite precious to follow the love story between the 8th Prince and the 21st century “unpolished”, but willful young lady. He will come to appreciate her free spirit, while she will willingly “submit” to his love and protection.
This is a very easy-to-watch drama. I recommend it wholeheartedly, especially to the helplessly romantics out there. I already watched it a few times in the past year and a half and I am looking forward for the new season.
Interesting enough, against all expectations, the drama became a hit both in China and among the international fans. It became so popular, that the producers have decided to come back with a second season (quite a rare occurrence in Asian drama-land). Investors competed among themselves to finance the new season. So, I am curious to see what the producers and the director can do with the same team but with a much bigger budget at their disposal. The new season will start airing next week.
Acting, Cinematography and Music
The acting is quite good, without, however, being stellar. The main cast and most of the support cast are relatively new to the world of TV series. Despite all that, the drama, not only did not flop, but it became an instant hit. I would say that is an amazing achievement.
Xing Zhao-Lin, playing the role of the 8th Prince, steals the screen every time with his dignified aura. I first saw him in “Princess Agents” and I remember liking his acting but I did not think much of it at the time. However, this role gave him the chance to prove his acting skills and shine. Unsurprisingly, he is already booked for several future projects. I am happy for him as he fully deserves it.
As this is the first time watching Liang Jie (Xiaotan), I have no point of reference to compare her acting to. She still has a long way to go in polishing her acting skills. But from what I’ve observed, she has a rare talent that compensates for the lack of acting experience; she has a very charming presence on the screen and the viewer cannot help but find her endearing.
As far as cinematography and music go, there is not much to say. Both come out rather lacking. However, since I knew beforehand not to expect much in that department due to the small budget, I chose to concentrate more on the story and acting rather than nitpicking on those aspects.