Skip to the final section for a quick, spoiler-free rating.
Legend of Two Sisters in the Chaos (Chinese title: 浮世双娇传) had a promising premise: In a fictionalized Later Zhou Dynasty, two daughters of the Fu family become intertwined with the political turmoils of their country after a folk song prophesied that a woman with the surname Fu is destined to become empress. The sisters, Fu Yuzhan and Fu Jinzhan, subsequently fall for two different men who both have claims to the throne. Together, they navigate their family through a time of strife, and protect their country from certain ill-intent forces from within.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Between the general idea of the story and the fact that this drama stars not one but three actors I like, Legend of Two Sisters in the Chaos had been on my must-watch drama list since Meng Ziyi, Wang Zhuocheng, and Aarif Rahman’s character posters first came out. Sadly, for all my anticipation, I was rewarded with a half baked letdown.
Good Story, Bad Plotting
The first few episodes start out well enough. There’s a slowness to the initial pace, yes, and certain scenes linger on showy fight choreographies longer than necessary. But the drama establishes the setting, the characters, the context, and various seedlings of conflicts with enough care that I brushed the flaws off as the typical problems first episodes of most drama series have.
As the episodes go on, though, it becomes harder to excuse the dragging pace and repetitive dialogue. The characters, who all have really interesting backstories and agendas, barely grow beyond the template personalities the first few episodes set up for them.
Legend of Two Sisters in the Chaos has a lot of great stuff to work with, but the drama does not meet its potential. Instead, what should’ve been thrilling story arcs are rendered obvious and predictable because of the way the drama handles mysteries and reveals—upfront, with no sense of suspense or nuance. This makes certain points in the drama (like the Emperor not decreeing a crown prince as soon as he falls sick, which could’ve saved everyone so much headache; to the Elder Princess’ inexplicable trust in the Emperor’s head eunuch) come off rather stupid.
Basically, the writers behind this series seemed like they had no idea what to do with what they were given, and simply gave up half way through.
Likable But Infuriating Main Characters
Each of the four main leads straddles the fence between endearing and annoying in their unique ways. I could be biased because I like the actors from their previous works, but the positives of their characters generally outweigh their shortcomings. Generally.
Fu Yuzhan is by far my favorite out of them all. Her soft-spoken intelligence and steadfast personality were some of the few things Legend of Two Sisters successfully show instead of tell. The drama did do a disservice by making her wishy-washy about her love for Xue Rong, but her reasoning makes sense within the world of the drama, even if it’s a drag narratively.
Given Xue Rong is played by Aarif Rahman, Legend of Two Sisters would’ve had to screw the character up big time for me to hate him. Luckily, he’s alright as well. Xue Rong’s childishness and paranoia are frustrating at times, but the drama never went overboard with them. As far as emperor characters go, he is surprisingly and pleasantly a trusting and kind one.
Jiang Shao is the one with the most straightforward agenda, and therefore the easiest to track and follow. There’s not much to nitpick with his character, partly because he has such a muted and mellow personality. My main point of frustration came from his and Jinzhan’s decision (but really, it’s his idea) to swap the brides in episode 7. Sure, it’s perfectly possible for anyone to have done that in his shoes, but it’s narratively annoying to have a main character make a completely avoidable mistake like that.
Lastly, and certainly least, Fu Jinzhan. What can I say about Fu Jinzhan. This girl has guts, a heart of gold, a free spirit… and zero consideration and respect for the wishes of her loved ones. She seems unable to understand that there are consequences to her actions—consequences that other people who are not her may have to suffer.
This is a glaring fault of hers early on, so you’d at least expect that she’d learn from her mistakes, right? Well, no. Her inability to grow up and respect her family and friends’ boundaries causes so much unnecessary miscommunication and trouble for the other characters that I was left wondering whether we were even supposed to like her at multiple points in the drama.
What’s even more infuriating is that the plot itself coddles her as much as her sister does. There are several instances of her going against someone’s request for her to not do something, only to have things work out in her favor. Almost every attempt by other characters to teach her the negative repercussions of her thoughtlessness are rendered useless either by her just not accepting that what she did was wrong, or by her turning the punishment into another way she pushes back.
Luckily, she’s a likable character when she’s not making stupid and inconsiderate decisions, especially whenever her clever side kicks in.
The drama becomes increasingly reliant on cliches to drive the story forward with each episodes, such as the Elder Princess, a compelling villain with understandable and even justifiable reasons for her villainy, getting replaced by her less than impressive son, whose whole reason for turning evil boils down to him not getting the girl. Not to mention the Noble Consort and Princess Shou An’s team up to kill Fu Yuzhan… I don’t even want to get into how unimaginative and vaguely misogynistic that whole mess is.
This all culminates in an ending that you can see coming a mile away: Jiang Shao and Xue Rong’s trap for Li Huaijin is as subtle as a thirty-ton boulder, and such as it is, void of emotional impact. When the attempted coup was over, I thought “okay” and moved on with my life. It was that dull to watch.
Fu Yuzhan’s death is sad. But more importantly, it’s unnecessary, which renders the “sad” part ineffective. I kept wondering why the hell the writers decided to do that when they didn’t have to.
Final Rating and Recommendations
Do I recommend Legend of Two Sisters in the Chaos? Hard no, unless you really, really want to see more of Meng Ziyi, Wang Zhuocheng, or Aarif Rahman and have watched everything else they acted in. (And I guess Li Yitong as well, but I only knew her from her minor role in season 2 of Cinderella Chef. She was all right in that.)
Legend of Two Sisters is a good story that’s executed poorly, and a cast of incredible talents that somehow have very little chemistry with each other. The plot is riddled with pacing issues and cliches. The characters are unable to either communicate with each other, or respect each other’s choices and wishes, or both. A lot of the scenes and dialogues are redundant more often than not, and you can see certain “twists” coming a mile away.
On the other hand, if you really want more content from any of the four main actors, or if you just want something playing in the background or enjoy nice looking ancient Chinese costumes and set designs, Legend of Two Sisters may be worth a watch. If not, you’re not missing anything by giving this one a pass.
My Rating: 4.5/10