“The Untamed” Review

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Emily Teismann

‘The Untamed’ on Netflix.

Emily Teismann, Copy Editor

Ok, I’m going to start with a disclaimer; I don’t typically watch shows like this, so it was an entirely new experience for me. Also, this series is TV-14 for blood, violence, and language as well as some mature themes/content, so if you can’t handle that, don’t watch.

I honestly found out about this show when I saw fanart of two of the characters and thought “Oh, this looks interesting”. Thus began my search to quell my little curiosity. At the time, I discovered the name of the two and that was it. But this isn’t the end. A week or two later, I dug a little deeper. Through this, I found out the two were from a Chinese Drama called The Untamed, which one night, again to sate my curiosity, I discovered it was on Netflix. Huzzah.                

After a little internal debate, I decided to watch an episode and if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d move on and watch something else. Thus, I started the first episode.

At first, I couldn’t help but be distracted by some of the, for lack of  better word, corniness of it all, like with the special effects, which I got a few laughs out of (I later discovered when I mentioned the show to my mom that the special effects are of the same ilk as the award winning movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). But only when I finally got past that and advanced in the series, did I realize how deep this show is.

 The Untamed is based on a Chinese BL (Boys Love) novel called Mo Dao Zu Shi. Like the novel, it is set in a magical realm of cultivators, people who use energy that comes from their golden core, and inter clan rivalries, filled with dark secrets and mystery. The main character is Wei Wuxian, the cheeky adopted son of the Jiang Clan leader. He and his brother, Jiang Cheng, and sister, Jiang Yanli, attend a cultivator clan meeting at the base of the Lan Clan, Cloud Recesses. Here, Wei Wuxian meets Lan Zhan, the seemingly uptight, cold, and quiet brother of the Lan Clan leader, Lan Xichen. In the Netflix description, it mentions “two soulmates face treacherous schemes and uncover a dark mystery linked to a tragic event in the past”. So, I quickly put together that Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan were going to end up together. However, there’s a problem. 

Something you may not know is that in Chinese TV, it is unlawful to show homosexuality. This creates the said problem, as the two characters (spoiler) get married and even have an adopted son by the end of the novel (which I should mention is WAY more explicit than the show). But what the directors did in light of this conflict was truly beautiful.

As the story develops, you see deep within each character’s interior. You discover Wei Ying (Wei Wuxian) is one of the most selfless people. He is the kind of person that will do anything for others, even if it means destroying himself. You discover the seemingly cold and aloof Lan Wangji (Lan Zhan) is actually one of the kindest, most open minded people who doesn’t know how to express himself very well. It is even mentioned that even his elder brother has trouble reading him from time to time. You also learn how deep the bond between these two truly is. Yes, they don’t hug or kiss on screen, but the little actions, expressions, words (even in the beautiful instrumental music) they say tell the viewer how deeply they care for each other and the lengths they are willing to go for them. And the fact that the directors were able to convey this while dealing with such unfortunate circumstances, is truly moving. Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan became the reason I kept watching. As an LGBTQ+ ally, I lived for their little moments because each expression spoke so many words without a single thing being said and I could pinpoint exactly what each meant.

I truly became unexpectedly enthralled with this show, which is uncommon for me. The first few episodes were slightly confusing (as the show begins in the present but goes back into the past [backstory] and then returns the present) and my mind kept saying, “Why on earth are you still watching this?”. My brother asked the same thing when he found me watching it in the living room on the couch in nearly complete darkness. I didn’t know how to answer him at the time. But now, after finishing the 50 episode series and having a few days to stew, I think I do. 

I watched it because I wanted to see that love could be deeply conveyed, even in such circumstances. I wanted to see these characters triumph over the adversity they faced (because oh boy do things go down) and live happily together after. Yes, I know this show is not everyone’s cup of tea, which is completely ok. This is for those who love a good story that its characters not only triumph, but manage to love despite everything.

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