Sunday, December 20, 2009

Beyond the Realm of Conscience Review

As the series all TVB fans anticipated for over a year, Beyond is at most mediocre. On the outside, it is definitely a "grand production." It offered beautiful and well done costumes, and the technical production team spared no effort making the series as visually pleasing to the eye as possible. Look beyond (oh look now we're making title puns) the pretty mask though and you find a plot slightly short of "just ok."

Characterization & Performances

Charmaine Sheh - "Lau Sam Ho"

Your typical "too good to be true" character. Instead of hating Sam Ho for her unrealistic good will though, I blame the script writers. To me, Sam Ho's goodness was to make up for the lack of development in her character. Most likely, the script writers were to lazy to spend extra time on Sam Ho as they had a million other characters to create. Since after all, this series is packed with tons of characters and artistes. I didn't hate the character, but I didn't like her either. I never felt any sympathy for her at any point. Although I enjoyed the stronger, more outspoken, Lau Sam Ho who took action that was exhibited in the last few episodes, the sudden change in character felt like it came out of nowhere.

This goody two shoes role reminds me that Charmaine has never portrayed a villain, and I do hope I won't be able to say that for much longer. After watching her as the adorable but rough Lam Miu Miu in You're Hired, I've grown to love Charmaine. Though her performance is solid, it is nothing special.

Tavia Yeung - "Yiu Kam Ling"

The complete opposite of inital good sister Lau Sam Ho, Yiu Kam Ling believes the only way to get what you want in life is by scheming and cheating. Originally a maid in the Imperial Bureau, she often ran into situations where she didn't get the best end of the deal. This left her feeling that justice in the palace was never brought and that the world was cruel and unfair. She did all she could until she finally became a lady. From there, she tries to eliminate all her competition, one by one. In the early stages of the series, I pitied and felt for Kam Ling. Whenever she ran into trouble, I supported her. That's because, I know how it feels to be aggravated by injustice. Kam Ling was irritated by the cheating and scheming in the palace and how those who did so were the ones that won. In short, that's how I feel with the people at my school too, but not as serious. Both me and Kam Ling are 'aggravated' by the world around us. The difference between us? I don't kill and I didn't become mentally unstable.

I thought that there were only two possible endings for a villain like Kam Ling: She'd either turn good or die. I am annoyed and amused with myself to never have thought that she'd might just turn mental. Haha.

The most notable reason for my initial anticipation for the series was to watch Tavia's first portrayal of a villain. My expectations and hopes were way too high, making me at first disappointed. After getting over the ridiculous amount of expectations I had though, I saw the excellent performance Tavia delivered. Although her inexperience compared to veterans like Susan Tse and Lee Kwok Lun are clearly shown, she is still one of the most hardworking and hardworking artistes I know, making her one of the TVB artistes I respect and love most.

Moses Chan - "Li Chen"

He and his mother were discriminated against since birth. In an attempt to leave the palace, a young Li Chen fakes becoming mentally retarded after an accident. 20 years later, he returns and becomes Emperor. Although he had two concubines, Yiu Kam Ling and Man Po Yin, Li Chen has been in love with Lau Sam Ho since childhood.

Li Chen is a respectable character who did lots of admirable things. He has many positive characteristics and at the same time has his insecurities. In terms of character, Li Chen is technically supposed to be my favorite. Unfortunately, with Moses' rather boring performance, I couldn't bring myself to say so. Though I think Moses' comedy is exaggerated, he is a better comedic actor than drama actor.

Kevin Cheng - "Ko Hin Yeung"

A palace chess teacher who actually loves to practice martial arts. He is a calm and confident person. He is not afraid to take action. At many times, he takes risks that aren't worth it. If anything, Ko Hin Yeung is the most boring character of the year in my book. As a second male lead, Hin Yeung was there just to give Charmaine a love interest and Moses a 'sidekick'/body guard. I found myself annoyed at Hin Yeung a couple times in the middle of the series because I felt he was too brave. He risked his life to save people several times. Although I understand and respect his want to keep his loved ones safe, I don't believe that he should just jump in and take action, not taking into consideration that he could do nothing but kill himself.

Every Kevin series I've watched after Last One Standing, I have to remind myself that he can indeed act and he is (somewhat) versatile. After all, it's pretty hard to think so with all the 'Mr. Nice Guy' roles TVB gives him. If there is a TVB actor whom I never want to see in another ancient series, it's Kevin. He looks stiff and uncomfortable in his costumes and it's obvious he doesn't have the 'ancient' aura. Kevin fits modern series much better.

Susanna Kwan - "Yuen Chiu Wan"

As a woman who's worked in the Imperial Bureau for who knows how long, Yuen Chiu Wan is as a pure and innocent figure you could get in a place like the palace. Although believed to be a villain when the series first started, it became evident that Chiu Wan was indeed a person with a big heart. While I wouldn't say she was my favorite character, she was definitely the character I pitied most.

I'm used to Susanna playing loud and outspoken characters, so watching her portray the rather quiet Yuen Chiu Wan was a different experience. While she's a versatile actress who I've become very fond of, I much prefer her loud and outspoken characters. Nevertheless, Susanna delivered a good performance.

Michelle Yim - "Chung Suet Ha"

Rather stubborn and calculating, Suet Ha can be very spiteful. It is ironic how she and Chui Wan could've ever been 'sisters' in the first place with their ridiculous arguments. With Chui Wan's kind but cautious and scared nature, I don't doubt for one second that it's mostly Suet Ha's fault their so called 'sisterhood' fell apart numerous times. Although I pitied her for her loss of her love, Po Kat Cheung, my sympathy only lasted for so long because she started acting like a child.

It seems as though it's been a while since Michelle has portrayed a likable character. Disregarding the character, Michelle gave a solid performance as always. Also, Michelle has taken great care of herself all these years as she still looks youthful and pretty in her ancient costume.

Other Notable Performances

Susan Tse - "Empress Kwok"

Excellent and flawless performance by Susan Tse! What she can do with her eyes is amazing, and her evil glares have the ability the send chills down my spine! She is definitely deserving of the recognition she's been getting for her acting. Although she was only around for a couple episodes, her character and performance is probably what left the deepest impact on me.The line that Empress Kwok gives to Empress Cheng (Mary Hon) is one I'll never forget: "Mui Mui, I'd like to borrow something, your head." What a haunting and misleading phrase!

Lee Kwok Lun - "Ma Yuen Chi"

It's actually a shame Lee Kwok Lun didn't win Best Supporting Actor at this year's anniversary awards. After all, he's never going to get such a golden opportunity again. Lee Kwok Lun's ability to portray a villain so realistically is astounding. At this point, I would be convinced if Lee Kwok Lun IS indeed General Ma.

Selena Li "Man Bo Yin"

For an actress who didn't even understand a majority of the script during the beginning of filming, I'm impressed by Selena's portrayal of the initially spoiled and rather b*tchy girl turned sweet and innocent one. This being Selena's first time portraying such an initially catty character, I loved her performance. As for the later turned sweet Bo Yin, that was nothing new for Selena. Although disappointed she didn't even manage to get into the top 5 for Best Supporting Actress, it became awfully clear to me her performance was nothing compared to her veteran costars. However, it was great to see Selena back and the actress looks very pretty and angelic in ancient costumes. By the end, Man Bo Yin was one of the characters I pitied most.

Cheung Kwok Keung - "Man Kim Fung"

I'm now convinced of Cheung Kwok Keung's versatility after seeing him portray the villain in You're Hired and the righteous General Man in Beyond. The actor really knows how to communicate with his eyes as well. In the last 3 episodes where he is paralyzed and can not speak nor move, he still delivers a great performance by 'speaking with his eyes.' While I'm sad that General Man could not be cured of his paralyzation in the end, I respect TVB's decision to not have him cured. After all, such a thing couldn't happen in real life. General Man is probably my favorite character.

Ram Chiang - "Bo Kat Cheung"

Ram never fails to bring a smile to my face with his comedic characters. His performance is not the overall best, but he definitely shined and brought comic relief. I was aggaravated by his sudden death, and missed his presence onscreen. Bo Kat Cheung is another one of my favs, because he was incredibly sweet, especially in the way he pursued Suet Ha.

Lawerence Ng & Little Sam Ho + Little Yiu Kam Ling

All three are absolutely adorable! Lawerence is just so cute and charming and I always enjoy watching him onscreen. It is ironic how the child actress who played little Sam Ho probably outperformed a few of the artistes in the series despite her age and inexperience. She is so adorable! Little Sam Ho and little Yiu Kam Ling sure know how to shed real tears. The scene of the two crying at the well was one that made me shed tears myself. Finally, that was the only time throughout the whole series in which I cried. I'm pleased with Mui Siu Ching's decision to have the actress who played little Sam Ho come back to play Sam Ho's child.

Characterization for this series was very poor. I'm disappointed that even though this is a grand production, TVB didn't put any extra effort into developing the characters. I noticed that usually a grand production will feature at least one dynamic, and multi layered character. For example, Chai Kau from Rosy Business, Ko Cheung Sing from The Gem of Life, and Chung Siu Sa from Moonlight Resonance. Each character was flat and nothing special. It wasn't surprising that practically every character in this series was evil or at least 'semi-evil.' It doesn't help though that our three main protagonists, Lau Sam Ho, Li Chen, and Ko Hin Yeung are the most boring characters.

Favorite characters: Man Kim Fung, Man Bo Yin, and Bo Kat Cheung

Chemistry & Love Relationships

Lau Sam Ho (Charmaine Sheh) and Ko Hin Yeung (Kevin Cheng)

It blows my mind that TVB would pair these two up again, after all the gossip the two have recieved. It was painfully obvious during filming the two tried their best to keep their distance, as no chemistry was present. Lau Sam Ho and Ko Hin Yeung's love line felt like another poor attempt to recreate the tragic palace romance.

Chung Suet Ha (Michelle Yim) and Bo Kat Cheung (Ram Chiang)

These two made the sweetest couple ever, and I couldn't help but smile in any of the scenes the two shared. Kat Cheung's attempts at pursuing Suet Ha were so sweet. The fact that he is uneducated and wrote a love poem for Suet Ha by drawings was very creative, romantic, and adorable. It saddens me that just as the two are finally together, Kat Cheung's character has to be 'sacrificed' just to make the plot of Yiu Kam Ling turning evil go forward.

Yuen Chui Wan (Susanna Kwan) and Man Kim Fung (Cheung Kwok Keung)

Chui Wan and Kim Fung's love story was what I call a better attempt at a tragic palace romance. Perhaps since Susanna and Cheung Kwok Keung are more experienced, I actually felt the chemistry between the two. Their love story is the plot I felt most interested in and I have to admit that a big push factor for me to finish this series was to watch the two. Though I don't necessarily like the unrealistically happy endings TVB pushes out, I'm satisified that Chui Wan and Kim Fung could finally be reunited and together after undergoing so many misunderstandings and obstacles. They are my favorite couple in the series and this is the first time I've ever felt for a 'middle aged' couple.


Unless I were to watch War and Beauty, I think I'll stay away from palace series from now on. All the arguing, backstabbing, lying, and cheating feels so immature and is aggravating to watch. Plus, I easily become irritated when justice is not served and the 'good guy' is left to suffer while the evil gets away with the glory. Suffering was definitely one of the themes in the series. One way or another, all the characters suffered.

In terms of plot though, things were sloppy. I expected a complex and intriguing drama. I really don't know why, especially since this is TVB we're talking about. Even though I've just finished this series yesterday, already, the plot feels all murky in my mind. The deepest impression the plot had on me was all the ridiculous arguing. As for positive impressions though, I loved watching Yuen Chui Wan and Man Kim Fung.

I've never watched 'Jewel in the Palace', which is the series Beyond is based off of. However, with all the critical praise it's gotten, some who go as far as to saying it's Asia's best drama, Beyond definitely doesn't live up as an 'adaptation.'

Many scenes were boring and unnecessary. The series felt draggy at many times. It amuses me how I can't call this a time killer, because it seems to make the time go by even slower. Perhaps the pacing of the series is the problem. While the series started off strong with a solid and promising pilot episode, it quickly goes downhill. Beyond starts to pick up again after episode 15 with the entrance of Selena's character. The scenes Tavia and Selena shared when Man Bo Yin first appears are easily the best scenes of the entire series. Although it picks ups and gradually gets better, it still can not live up to everyone's massive expectations. Perhaps it's because of my interest in Man Kim Fung and Yuen Chui Wan, but the last 3 episodes or so managed to keep me interested. I actually felt intrigued and wanted to keep watching.

The Death Factor

Though it is expected that there are many deaths in a grand production, the number of deaths in this series astounds me. In fact, there are so many deaths that you can't even count them all with your fingers and toes. Although some are necessary, many felt unneeded. A majority of the characters in general felt unnecessary. Perhaps the death factor was just a way of pointing out that a life in the palace was delicate. You make one mistake, boom, you're gone. No matter what you do, you were always just a step away from death.

The Ending Scene

I'm guessing this is Producer Mui's idea of 'ending with a cliffhanger to let the audience assume.' When the end credits rolled, I felt confused. My mind was thinking 'wait, that's it? What just happened?' Do Lau Sam Ho and Ko Hin Yeung end up together? Is Ko Hin Yeung suffering from amnesia? Did he recall who Sam Ho was if he did? Honestly, I don't care. However, it was a sloppy script move on Producer Mui's side. Plus, my slowly increasingly optimistic view of the series came to a terribly sudden pitfall upon watching the last scene. All the slightly positive thoughts I started to have about the last few episodes of the series were destroyed.

The Good

  • Pilot episode. Krystal Tin looked beautiful in her ancient costume and hair. And this was the episode that made me actually shed tears.
  • Lawrence and Little Sam Ho's scenes
  • Tavia and Selena's early arguements. Meow, catfight!
  • Susan's appearance as the Empress. And her last scene/"faceoff" with Lee Kwok Lun. That scene is easily the best in the series with their impressive acting skills. Susan and Lee Kwok Lun are hands down the best actors/actresses in the series. Left me sitting at the edge of my seat.
  • Bo Kat Cheung and Chung Suet Ha's short lived relationship
  • Yuen Chui Wan and Man Kim Fung's love story

The Bad

  • Lau Sam Ho and Ko Hin Yeung's 'tragic love story' Sorry, not interested. Zero chemistry, and forwarded through most of their scenes.
  • Any scenes Moses and Kevin shared. Um, they're honestly the two most boring performances in the series. So why would I enjoy both boring people sharing the screen?
  • All the ridiculous arguement scenes!
  • Chung Suet Ha's childish behavior towards Chui Wan
  • The whooping number of deaths
  • The dragginess. I guess 33 episodes was too long.

Overrall Thoughts

Beyond is not the worst series ever. I'm not going as far as to say that. However, it's not a 'good series.' It has a few merits when it comes to captivating performances (mainly from Susan and Lee Kwok Lun). I look for plot though, and that was what this series was lacking. To be nicer though, I believe I would've enjoyed the latter parts of the series if I hadn't had so much anticipation beforehand. If I were to watch this series with no expectations, maybe my opinion would be slightly better. Eh, maybe not, but who knows? Honestly, Beyond the Realm of Conscience? Disappointment.

Rating: 3 stars


  1. Longest review I've written so far! I've pretty much said all I've wanted about this series.

  2. Great review! However, Charmaine did play a villain in Heavenly Sword and Dragon least that's what I remember lol. You should check it out sometimes!