Netflix’s Chinese fantasy ‘The Untamed’: The beginners’ guide
The Untamed 陈情令 is a 50-episode Chinese fantasy and drama series adapted from the boy love novel entitled Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation (Mo Dao Zu Shi) written by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu that has gathered a cult-like following.
Fans of the novel had serious reasons to celebrate the series. Starring Xiao Zhan from X NINE, and Wang Yibo from UNIQ, the popular boy-band idols quickly embodied their roles. Despite rumors prior to the release of The Untamed, the story stayed remarkably true to the novel and quickly became its own phenomenon when it was released on Tencent Video last summer.
Fans showed up for the series in a big way, as The Untamed served as the highest-earning Chinese drama of 2019. All the buzz had us intrigued, so we were thrilled when Netflix picked up the popular series and it began streaming on the platform on October 25th, 2019. We realized quickly that over 1 billion streams couldn’t be wrong. The complex fantasy drama had us enthralled for the artistry alone.
We know now that everyone needs to check out this series. In order to give the audience a jump on understanding the complicated story, we’ve created a quick beginner’s guide to The Untamed.
Wei Wuxian: Loveable, headstrong lead
The Untamed’s story revolves mainly around Wei Wuxian (played by Xiao Zhan 肖战), also known as Wei Ying and Yiling Patriarch. Orphaned by his servant parents at a young age, Wei Wuxian lived a hard life on the streets until he was found by Jiang Fengmian (Lu Jianmin).
Fengmian is the leader of the Jiang sect and brought Wei Wuxian to the Lotus Pier which became his new home. There he gained a new family, stepsister Jiang Yanli (Xuan Lu), who becomes his closest ally, and step-brother Jiang Cheng (Wang Zhuocheng) who he loves despite their differences.
Wei Wuxian is a lovable dichotomy, he is a skilled sword fighter and archer, but also writes powerful talismans. Although he’s lighthearted and carefree, he’s also outspoken and opinionated. The Untamed focuses on his need to find his own path.
While Wei Wuxian is fiercely loyal, he also loves to tease his step-siblings, and his fellow fighter, Lan Wangji.
Lan Wangji: Stoic rule-follower
Lan Wangji’s (Wang Yibo 王一博) birth name is Lan Zhan, and his title is Hanguang Jun (Light-bearing Lord). He’s also called Second master Lan.
In The Untamed, Lan Wangji is raised in the Gusu Lan sect by his uncle Lan Qiren after losing his parents. Still grieving the death of his mother, Lan Wangji grew up to be strict and aloof.
In contrast to Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji is obedient to all of the 3500+ rules of the Gusu Lan sect. He’s proud of his clan and fastidious about his uniform. Lan Wangji is also an epic sword fighter, and uses a guqin(seven-stringed zither) to both attack evil creatures and speak to spirits.
Lan Wangji stands out in The Untamed as the opposite of Wei Wuxian, but their mutual sense of loyalty to their families and clan show they are similar where it counts.
An Untamed world composed of five clans
In a fantasy world where martial arts are tantamount, The Untamed follows five separate clans: Gusu Lan, Yunmeng Jiang, Qinghe Nie, Qishan Wen, and Lanling Jin.
Each sect has its own base, whether it be in the Cloud Recesses, like the Gusu Lan clan, or the Nightless City of the Qishan Wen clan.
Of the five clans of The Untamed, the Wen clan is the most powerful. The Wen Clan begins to dominate the other clans, destroying the collective peace.
The epic storyline for The Untamed that had fans addicted
The Untamed begins with the resurrection of Wei Wuxian, who has been dead for 16 years. A sacrificing ritual enables Mo Xuanyu, an illegitimate son of Jin Guangshan (Shen Xiaohai), to give up his body to summon Wei Wuxian’s spirit. He calls Wei Wuxian to incite revenge after his family mistreats him and casts him out of the Jin sect.
The Untamed’s flashbacks also reveal how Wei Wuxian develops his close friendship with Lan Wangji, both prominent members of different clans, the Jiang clan, and the Lan clan, respectively. We also watch as the two uncover the Lan family’s dark secret and legacy. As the pieces unravel, an extensive conspiracy emerges.
Villains both obvious & hidden
Dipping back into the world of 16 years ago, The Untamed tells the story of how Wen Ruohan (Xiu Qing) tried to gain enough power to rule all of the other clans. A powerful Yin metal that had been broken into four pieces and sealed off in different locations was key to his strength. Wen Ruohan had collected three of the four metals and is pursuing the fourth.
While Wen Rouhan’s quest for power is an obvious origin for the evildoers of The Untamed, there are other nefarious forces at work. The audience is consistently kept on their toes as new truths are revealed.
What makes The Untamed a can’t-miss drama
On the surface, The Untamed seems like a pretty typical Xianxia drama, filled with fantasy and martial arts. However, the relationship between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji is where the story really shines.
In both The Untamed and the novel it’s based on, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are soulmates. The series, despite the limitations of Chinese censorship, has created a love story for the ages. Quite simpy, The Untamed is the romance of the decade.
Regardless of the shift, Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo are magnetic in their roles. Each perfectly embodies their characters and manage to convey the intensity of their relationship though longing looks and hidden smiles.
The Untamed’s perfect triad of a smoldering relationship, heart-thumping action, and complexly layered storyline had us instantly hooked. Thankfully there are 50 episodes to feed our addiction.