Skip to the final section for a quick, spoiler-free rating.
Wonderful Fate (Chinese title: 奇妙的命运呀) is the first period drama I watched in 2022 after my five-month long hiatus from dramas in general. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s pretty cute, but that’s about as glowing of a compliment as I’m willing to give this show.
Wonderful Fate Synopsis
Li Fuzhu, a comic book addict and an infamous slacker in school, time travels/transmigrates into the fictional universe of the last comic series she read. She inadvertently gets mistaken for a “heavenly girl” by the people of the Yunlai kingdom and finds herself in the middle of a power struggle between the young Emperor Yun Yi and the powerful State Preceptor (and by proxy, his scheming, two-faced daughter Ruan Qing). Unable to find her way home, Li Fuzhu gets handed the unenviable task of revitalizing this deteriorating kingdom, but finds help and friendship in some familiar faces.
The Few Things Wonderful Fate Did Right
First of all, job well done by the costume and design department. The work they put in made Wonderful Fate feel like a bigger project than it is. There aren’t a lot variations in terms of what the actors wore, but the pieces they did wear fit their characters well, look flawless for all intents and purposes, and don’t distract from the overall story, which is all good costuming should do at the end of the day.
The drama also did a spectacular job with one aspect of the time travel trope that most other stories tend to miss: tying the stakes back to modern day. Unlike a lot of other dramas of the same premise, I genuinely feel that the events of this past/fictional world connect to Fuzhu’s life in the modern world. At the same time, you can clearly see how Fuzhu’s actions in the modern world affected her decision-making in the larger story.
Lastly, I love the nuances to Li Fuzhu and Ruan Qing, such as Fuzhu’s carefree outlook in life getting juxtaposed by little moments like when she overheard her teacher praising her intelligence after lamenting her laziness; or how Ruan Qing’s inferiority complex bleeds into her every decision and interaction. Although these nuances are terribly under explored, even for a drama as short as this one, they do exist and I appreciate them for making these otherwise flat characters more interesting.
Dumb and One Note Characters
Most of the characters are one-dimensional and perform entirely to the expectations of their archetypes.
You have Yun Yi, the quintessential young, powerless emperor character who is suppressed both by a powerful court official and his own dowager mother.
You have the State Preceptor, a villain with a one-track mind of usurping the throne who somehow doesn’t take into account the fact that: one, he has no the male heirs to inherit his position; and two, he’s going to need to undo all the harms he’s done once he’s in power, because who the hell does he think the people would rise up against once his puppet ruler is out and they’re still suffering?
You have Yun Yi’s mom, the Queen Dowager, who, like every dowager mother character ever, has the worst judge of character of anyone in the drama. But we’re supposed to forgive her because she loves her son or whatever. Just one of her sons though, apparently.
Then there’s Lan’er, whose entire existence can be reduced to Li Fuzhu’s faithful, comic relief sidekick. Both incarnations of her.
(I could go on, but I won’t.)
What makes this all worse is that everybody is also incredibly stupid. Yun Yi, for instance, seems to have zero political know-how on how to navigate his situation despite the State Preceptor being the most obvious bad guy ever. Not the mention, I can’t wrap my head around how the Queen Dowager, who knows the State Preceptor’s ambition, thinks marrying her son to his daughter is a viable solution when all that does is tip the balance of power in the State Preceptor’s favor even more.
This does have the unintentional effect of making Li Fuzhu’s inaction and stupidity a lot more forgiving. Even though our main character is pretty slow on the uptake and can’t properly assess a situation to save her life at times, she consistently remains one of the smartest characters in the ensemble thanks to the sheer incompetence of everyone else.
Where TF Did the Plot Go?
At the beginning of the drama, Li Fuzhu, having been mistaken for a heaven-sent savior, proposes the idea of a building a canal for the Yunlai kingdom. This entire plot thread then gets relegated to the background and has zero significant impact later beyond becoming an excuse for the State Preceptor to revolt, which, according to the trajectory of the comic series, he was planning on doing anyways, meaning Fuzhu’s appearance makes no difference whatsoever.
Also at the beginning, the kingdom of Yunlai seems to be in territorial conflict with a neighboring enemy. This is never addressed again aside from the occasional mentions that the State Preceptor is colluding with said enemy.
The story then shifts to Li Fuzhu versus Ruan Qing conflicts, with Ruan Qing serving as the proxy antagonist for her father for the rest of the drama, which is just about the most uninteresting move the writers could’ve gone for. Gone are the political implications of what a “heavenly girl” descending on earth can mean for a dying kingdom. Instead, it’s all about catty fights between two teenage girls. Given the tropey and the upbeat nature of the genre, I wouldn’t have mind, except their fights are so… so forgettable, in that I can’t remember any of them in details, quite frankly.
That (Stupidly and Unnecessarily) Horrible Ending
Things do happen in Wonderful Fate, but almost none of it ends up being important. Probably the one plot thread that has consequences is the love triangle between Lan’er, Chef Xue, and Bodyguard Hong, and even the impact of that is cut short by the atrocity that is episode 16.
Oh, episode 16. What can I say about episode 16?
It’s a mess. It’s as if someone wrote themselves into a corner so they took a sledgehammer and knocked down the entire house in the process of trying to get out. So much emotional deliveries happen in a span of ten minutes that it’s comical the way they all fall flat—case in point, the Queen Dowager coming out of nowhere to kill Ruan Qing.
The ending is so ridiculous that I thought I was getting set up for a Reverse Uno situation where the Emperor and Fuzhu turn the table on the Ruan family somehow. Instead, everybody loses because it’s all a dream and therefore has zero consequences aside from motivating Fuzhu to do better in school. Oh, and she gets to rewrite everybody’s fate via a fan comic so everything that’s taken place is meaningless.
I… guess that’s one way to end things. It’s not a good way. But it is a way, I’ll give you that.
(One last thing: I LOL’ed so hard when Fuzhu shows Yun Yi the future and describes it as a paradise with no more wars.)
Final Rating and Recommendations
Wonderful Fate is made for mindless bingeing. The drama is sixteen episodes at 30 minutes long each, which is only about eight hours. It’s perfect if you want something playing in the background that you can occasionally check into.
The story’s not made for any sort of deep thinking, because the moment you do—think too hard about it, that is—it becomes terrible. So if you want something cute and you’re someone who loves the time travel/transmigration trope, this drama should hit that sweet spot between the cutesy premise and the passably beautiful costumes. Just keep your expectations low.
My rating: 3.5/6