By: Caroline Frost · October 01, 2018
As the chief of the Special Investigation Unit, or SID, Zhao Yunlan (Bai Yu) must investigate supernatural cases every day. But when he meets Professor Shen Wei (Zhu Yi Long), who has a strange tendency to appear at his crime scenes, and seems to have a mysterious connection to him, he finds that some things last beyond time itself.
Instead of having regrets for twenty years, I'd rather follow my heart from the start.
Well, good going, show. I am officially destroyed. I've been trying to catch a few good BL dramas out there, which surprisingly—not—is crazy hard, especially when you're looking for protags who are not actually in school and stupid, so Guardian was a really good find. It had a lot of faults, but the main romance (and yes, it's a romance, how anyone could even think of this as not gay I will never understand. It's so gay, people. So gay.) just carries the entire show. It's that great.
Really, Zhu Yi Long and Bai Yu did an amazing job at bringing the characters of Guardian to life. Shen Wei's unwavering devotion and quiet intensity had me whipped right off the bat, but the more I watched, the more he interacted with Yunlan, the more my heart shattered. Zhu Yi Long's performance is just that powerful.
As for Bai Yu, well. He was incredibly good as well. He truly embodied cunning, passionate Zhao Yunlan, and I just... I just finished this and have no words to talk about it. The relationship between the two was just so incredibly powerful. They didn't even say anything explicit, of course, because you know. China. But the production team still dared to slip in stuff here and there that made it more than clear what Shen Wei and Zhao Yunlan are to each other.
Not-too-spoilery example: in episode 6, Zhao Yunlan asks a suspect where she got her jacket, because he “wants to buy the same for his girlfriend.” Guess who shows up with that same jacket ten episodes later? That's right, Shen Wei.
All in all, it's just so good to see two grown men who are attracted to each other and don't make a big deal out of it by throwing “no homos” left and right. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Advance Bravely.) Instead, they quietly accept that the other is more important than even themselves in their eyes, and go on with their lives, although all the stronger for it. Their quiet, unconditional love and trust in each other is only ever expressed through gazes and quiet gestures, but is all the more potent for it. For all that China censored anything more open that that, I think Guardian didn't need kisses or sex to be classified as BL.
Let's be real, though, the show had a lot of faults. The plot was full of holes, so much stuff could have been avoided, the CGI ranged from okay to really bad, and there was a bunch of character backstories that we couldn't care less about, mostly because while the show tries to give everybody a backstory, nobody cares about the victims of the «monster of the week”, and those flashbacks consequently tend to drag.
But as stated before, the plot and cool supernatural stuff is not why you will watch this show. You will watch it for Yu Zhi Long and Bai Yu's stunning chemistry, and for the epic, heartbreaking love-story they bring to life. You will watch it because of the way Yunlan and Shen Wei look at each other, and because of the way Shen Wei whispers “You're worth everything” and Yunlan will do anything for him. You will watch it, because who can resist the story of a man who waited for another for 10,000 years?
And you will also watch it because Guardian is an ode to strength. Strength from people who see and go through all sorts of horrible things, yet rise and rise again, and keep persevering until their very last breath. Shen Wei, Zhao Yunlan, Zhu Hong, Chu Shuzhi,... whether their pain is of the heart, the mind or the body, they keep holding on and moving forward. It's a powerful message that Guardian conveys, one of hope, trust, and perseverance.
Bonus points also to the way Guardian abstained from writing the female character with an interest in Yunlan as a downright bitch, and instead chose to make her a strong, straightforward, and honest woman. This to me was one of the best things of the show, too, because it's so common to find female-bashing in BL content... or mindless, giggling groupies, too, although that's pretty much everywhere, not only in BL. This girl was stern, didn't take anybody's bullshit—Yunlan's less than anybody else's—and just very likeable all around.
The bottom line is: watch Guardian. You may skip forward after a while, but the interactions between our two leads are a true joy to watch. They will break your heart, they will make you giggle and smile giddily. Those two are everything, and have ruined me forever, I think.
Also, I'm sorry, but can we talk about the absolute perfection that is this man? God knows I'm a tough cookie, but it literally hurts my heart to look at him, he's that flawless.
One last note: I apologize if this particular review felt jumbled and incoherent. Guardian really messed with my head and heart, so it's really hard to put my feelings into words right now. Hopefully this all made sense.
[SPOILER ALERT] I always check the ending before I start a show, so I deliberated a lot before starting this one when I found out it was a sad ending. What convinced me was that the author of the novel Guardian is adapted from gave our beloved Weilan the happy ending they deserved in the book, and was so salty over the ending of the drama, that she wrote an additional chapter to tie in with the show.
In other words, everything that happened in the show was just an alternate reality that Yunlan was trapped in for a while. Shen Wei pulled him out of it after he died in that reality, and they both returned to the real world and lived happily ever after. I hope this may convince people to start the show despite the ending. [END SPOILER]
You can read the translated novel here.
Starring: Bai Yu, Zhu Yi Long
Aired: 06/13/2018 to 07/24/2018
Number of Episodes: 40
Genres: LGBTQ+, Romance, Supernatural
My grade: ★★★★☆