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We’re here to tell you, though, not to give up. This show is a must finish. So come with us as we journey through the first episodes of 'The Untamed'.

‘The Untamed’ got you stymied? We explain episodes 1 to 3

The Untamed is a Chinese fantasy and drama series adapted from the novel entitled Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation (Mo Dao Zu Shi) written by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. Prior to October, 2019, the show was only available for viewing on YouTube. However, its cult following was so loud that Netflix picked it up and began streaming it on October 25, 2019. 

It’s been quite a ride since then. Instantly popular, the show created an epic social media frenzy. There appears to be two camps of people right now: those that can’t stop binging, and those that can’t work out what’s actually happening in the first few episodes. 

We get it; there’s a lot going on. Those unfamiliar with Chinese culture, or the source material, may find themselves overwhelmed with the character’s names, the subtitles, and the fantasy lore that exists in the show. 

We’re here to tell you, though, not to give up. This show is a must finish. We’ve put together an episode recap of episode 1 that not only outlines the plot for those having trouble following, but we’ve also pointed out moments of possible confusion & provided necessary context. So come with us as we journey through the first episode of The Untamed. 

The battle of the Nightless City

The beginning of the episode flashes back to the Nightless City 16 years ago where Wei WuXian (Xiao Zhan), also known as the YiLing Patriarch, was fighting against all five clans in a supernatural stand-off. As the battle comes to a close, Wei WuXian feels defeated & completely alone in the world, and throws himself off a cliff. 

Lan Wang Ji (Wang Yibo) of the Lan clan of Gusu, also known as Lan Zhan (and later in the show he is also referred to as Hanguang-Jun), is the only person at the Nightless City that doesn’t want Wei Wuxian dead. He attempts to save Wei Wuxian by grabbing for his wrist as he goes over the side of the cliff. The two boys are crying as Wei Wuxian hangs over the edge of the cliff, begging Lan Wang Ji to let him go.

Jiang Cheng (Wang Zhuo Cheng) from the Yunmeng Jiang sect, who actually does want Wei Wuxian dead, appears behind Lan Wang Ji and drives his sword into the side of the cliff. This causes Lan Wang Ji to lose his hold on Wei WuXian and the man plunges to his death. 

These are very intense opening minutes. As these are the first few moments of the show, investment in these characters clearly hasn’t occurred yet, so while the scene is obviously tragic, the sheer importance of this moment isn’t really clear. However, it is very important when it comes to understanding the relationship dynamics as the show moves forward. 

Jiang Cheng is actually Wei WuXian’s brother, for all intents and purposes. Jiang Cheng’s father took Wei WuXian in as a young boy after both of his parents died. They welcomed Wei WuXian into their family and raised him as their own. Therefore, Wei WuXian was killed by his own brother

The other thing to pay attention to here is Lan Wang Ji. Everyone who showed up to the battle at the Nightless City did so with one thing in mind: killing the YiLing Patriarch. Members of the Lan clan were there for the same reason. So why is Lan Wang Ji, who is a very respected member of the Lan clan, crying as Wei WuXian plunges to his death? The subtleties here are very important and should not be missed. 

Resurrecting Wei Wuxian

The next scene flashes forward again, bringing us back sixteen years after the death of Wei Wuxian. Young members of the Lan clan are in some kind of class scenario, discussing the historical events that occurred at Nightless City. The instructor confirms that Wei Wuxian’s body fell from the cliff, however, although members of his clan went searching below, his body was never recovered. 

Then things get a little odd. If you’re completely new to the story and have no knowledge of the source material, this scene may be particularly confusing, but it’s crucial for understanding the following episodes. Wei Wuxian is actually resurrected in this scene by Mo Xuanyu (Xiao Zhan). 

So who is Mo Xuanyu & why is he resurrecting Wei Wuxian after all these years? Mo Xuanyu is the illegitimate son of Jin Guangshan, a former disciple of the Jin Sect. His family always considered Mo Xuanyu to be somewhat of a lunatic & treated him poorly. Fed up with their torment, he summons Wei Wuxian to carry out revenge on Mo Xuanyu’s family on his behalf. 

Here’s why this scene is confusing: Wei Wuxian wakes up in Mo Xuanyu’s body, yet on screen the actor doesn’t change. Even though Wei Wuxian’s persona is supposed to be in Mo’s body, the actor Xiao Zhan continues to assume the role. Unless you come to the show with knowledge of the source material, the resurrection is likely to be confusing for this reason. 

As Wei Wuxian begins to navigate the nuances of being in Mo’s body, he stumbles across young members of the Lan clan, who have been summoned to help deal with an evil presence. Coming into contact with the Lan clan seems to make Wei Wuxian nervous and he causes a scene. It is important to remember here that everyone around him thinks that Wei Wuxian is actually Mo Xuanyu. 

After the young cultivators from the Lan clan struggle to contain the evil spirit, they suggest signaling for backup from their teacher: Hanguang-Jun. Wei Wuxian recognizes the name and asks if they’re referring to Lan Wang Ji. Wei Wuxian begs them not to summon him, but they ignore his request. 

The Lan Wang Ji connection

Everything else is pretty straight forward as the episode moves forward. Then Lan Wang Ji shows up and seems to know that Wei Wuxian is there. Remember, Wei Wuxian in Mo’s body, not his own. While it’s not revealed in this episode how Lan Wang Ji knows this, Lan Wangji calls out to Wei Wuxian, using an affectionate name for him, Wei Ying. Lan Wang Ji stares longingly after him as Wei Wuxian exits the scene. 

Why is this important? Remember back to the beginning of the episode when Wei Wuxian was hanging off the edge of a cliff? It was Lan Wang Ji who was crying and trying to save him. Fast forward to this scene sixteen years later and Lan Wang Ji is calling after him with affection. There is clearly some kind of relationship between these two that we are supposed to assume here. 

As the episode comes to a close we see Wei Wuxian leaving on a donkey by himself. That’s a wrap! Stay tuned for our recap & debunking of episode 2.

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Comments
  • Hi Nikki, thank you very much for this wonderful review. I am a big fan of this drama and I love reading reviews and comments from English-speaking viewers. They help spread the drama and also help me enrich my vocabulary in expressing similar ideas.
    I take great joy in reading your recap, and I would like to correct a few minor misinterpretations in your recap and supplement a vital piece of information. Please don’t take offense in the correction. I am such a devoted fan that I couldn’t help doing so.
    Under the subheading “Resurrecting Wei Wuxian”, young members of the Lan clan are not in some kind of class scenario. They are in a tea house enjoying tea while listening to a storyteller telling the story about the Yiling Patriarch.
    When one junior cultivator, Lan Jingyi, asked the story-teller a question regarding the death of Wei Wuxian, the story-teller did not answer him immediately. Instead, he glanced at a man sitting behind the curtain, a man with a fan in hand. The fabric of his clothing reveals his identity because it is emblematic of a prominent clan, which viewers won’t learn until later in the drama (in episode 35).
    At the end of episode1, the story-teller was rewarded with a piece of gold by the same man for telling the story. So it is not accidental that the story of the Yiling Patriarch was told at such a time. It was arranged to spread the word about Wei Wuxian’s ability to come back and to attract the attention of someone.
    Under the subheading “The Lan Wangji connection”, you write “Lan Wangji stares longingly after him as Wei Wuxuab exits the scene”.
    Lan Wangji did stare longingly and try to chase a man in black who ran away. But this person was not Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian wore white in this scene and left as soon as Lan Wangji arrived at the scene. The person Lan Wangji chased after and thought of as Wei Wuxian was in black. This is the person who threw the sword ghost to the Mo Manor to stir things up. His true identity we can only infer in episode 50.
    These are minute details that first-time viewers can easily miss. But these fine details help make the drama all the more superb.
    Again, please forgive me for this correction. And I am looking forward to more of your recaps of this drama.

    December 12, 2019
  • Hi Nikki, thank you very much for this wonderful review. I am a big fan of this drama and I love reading reviews and comments from English-speaking viewers. They help spread the drama and also help me enrich my vocabulary in expressing similar ideas.
    I take great joy in reading your recap, and I would like to correct a few minor misinterpretations in your recap and supplement a vital piece of information. Please don’t take offense in the correction. I am such a devoted fan that I couldn’t help doing so.
    Under the subheading “Resurrecting Wei Wuxian”, young members of the Lan clan are not in some kind of class scenario. They are in a tea house enjoying tea while listening to a story-teller telling the story about the Yiling Patriarch.
    When one junior cultivator, Lan Jingyi, asked the story-teller a question regarding the death of Wei Wuxian, the story-teller did not answer him immediately. Instead, he glanced at a man sitting behind the curtain, a man with a fan in hand. The fabric of his clothing reveals his identity because it is emblematic of a prominent clan, which viewers won’t learn until later in the drama (in episode 35).
    At the end of episode1, the story-teller was rewarded with a piece of gold by the same man for telling the story. So it is not accidental that the story of the Yiling Patriarch was told at such a time. It was arranged to spread the word about Wei Wuxian’s ability to come back and to attract the attention of someone.
    Under the subheading “The Lan Wangji connection”, you write “Lan Wangji stares longingly after him as Wei Wuxian exits the scene”.
    Lan Wangji did stare longingly and try to chase a man in black who ran away. But this person was not Wei Wuxian. Wei Wuxian wore white in this scene and left as soon as Lan Wangji arrived at the scene. The person Lan Wangji chased after and thought of as Wei Wuxian was in black. This is the person who threw the sword ghost to the Mo Manor to stir things up. His true identity we can only infer in episode 50.
    These are minute details that first-time viewers can easily miss. But these fine details help make the drama all the more superb.
    Again, please forgive me about this correction. And I am looking forward to more of your recaps of this drama.

    December 13, 2019
  • In the actual web novel, Lan Wangji was written to have been in love with Wei Ying since they were teenagers. It wasn’t quite clear when, but it was inferred during the time of the hunting competition at Phoenix Mountain. They were about 17-18 years old.

    However, to answer the question as to how Wangji knew that Mo Xuanyu was Wei Ying, we have to think back to the era of the Sunshot campaign. When Wen Chao took away all of the young cultivators’ swords and forced them into a cave to fight off a huge monster, everyone managed to escape because of Wei Ying and Lan Wangji. After killing the monster, they spent 7 days in the cave, and Wei Ying was badly injured. Wangji spent a lot of time pouring his energy into him so that he wouldn’t die, and Wei Ying went as far as to ask Wangji to sing for him as he slept. Wangji did so. The song he hummed was a song that his mother used to sing for him, and no one else knew of it but him and his mother. Now, Wei Ying will be the third person to know.

    Fast forward 13-16 years later when Wei Ying (as Mo Xuanyu) traveled into the forest alone with the donkey, and encountered a corpse and Jin Ling, he played a song on his poorly made Chen Qing to rid the corpse. The song he played was the song Wangji hummed in the cave. That was how Wangji recognized him. This was revealed in the end of the novel. Later, the song was revealed to be named WangXian by Wangji. There is the actual song on YouTube. The lyrics are beautiful!

    Also, I highly encourage Untamed fans to read the novel if they haven’t yet, because the love story between the two characters is so pure. Especially Lan Wangji. Lan Xichen’s confession in the drama about Wangji’s feelings isn’t as affectionate. But the author does a really great job is describing Wangji’s longing that it makes you feel sad for him. This novel was a rollercoaster of emotions for me.

    December 21, 2019
  • Wow thank you for the recap and thank you to the commenter above that further cleared things up. I’m thankful for English speakers such as yourself because I miss so much!

    January 12, 2020
  • where can i read the novel in english ?im really desperate but idk where to read from ; / ..can someone help me ? i’l be glad !

    May 18, 2020
  • My interpretation is that Wei Wuxian wasn’t revived in Mo’s body, but his own. This is evident in episode 1 when Wuxian wasn’t wearing his mask and worriedly thought that he might be exposed if the Lan disciples saw his face because those disciples had seen the real adult Mo before, but the Mo family had not seen the grown-up Mo before as he was sent to the Jins as a kid. Initially, I also thought that he was in Mo’s body.

    July 30, 2020
  • Thanks for the information, Nikki! The comments from other fans of the drama and novel also helped me understand the story more, which made it even more enjoyable.

    July 31, 2020

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