Oh My General
An unexpected joy to watch
In a Nutshell
Oh My General is a 2017 Chinese drama adapted from the novel “General on top, I am below”. The drama is set in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), where our main female character, Ye Zhao, is a General of the Imperial Army who has dedicated most of her life defending the borders from neighbouring hostile Kingdoms. She is steadfast loyal to her Country and fierce in battle; earning her the ominous reputation as “The Devil Incarnate” by both allies and enemies. When she returns victorious from battle, the Emperor rewards her with a military promotion and much to her surprise - a husband! Her arranged beau is Yu Jin, a pampered playboy Prince, who is well known for his hedonistic lifestyle at brothels and effeminate artistic pursuits. After a turbulent and rocky start to their marriage, Yu Jin and Ye Zhao’s love and admiration of each other grow as they uncover political schemes and defend the Song Dynasty from its enemies, both externally and from within.
Oh My General is an addictive drama that hooks you right from the start with its unique blend of lighthearted romantic comedy, political intrigue, and action, all served with a dollop of quirkiness. The on-screen chemistry between the Prince and the General, played by Peter Sheng and Sandra Ma, is electrifyingly good, and all their scenes together are pure gold.
The character of Ye Zhao is a terrific but tricky one to play, and the wrong actor could have easily portrayed her as a boring one-dimensional butch Mary Sue. Thankfully, Sandra Ma is perfectly cast in this role as she effortlessly peels back the many layers of the General’s personality and backstory with each episode. Her charismatic performance strikes a nuance balance between the General’s physical and mental toughness in battle, with her soft feminine side, charming sense of humour, and genuine desire to support her husband in all his endeavours. Sandra Ma also shows off her talent for comedy, especially in the early episodes where the General has to learn the skills and decorum of being a "good" Chinese wife and fails miserably.
Despite coming in at a whooping 60 episodes, at no point was I bored or felt compelled to play scenes at x2 speed. There were some impressive battle sequences and the fight choreography was executed well enough to keep me entertained. The cinematography was breath-taking in some episodes with judicious use of panoramic camerawork and slow-motion capture to absorb you into this chaotic world of kingdoms at war. The sublime soundtrack and theme songs gave me earworms for weeks and I couldn't stop humming the tunes much to my amusement … and also annoyance!
The double-edged sword of having interesting and well played main characters, is that secondary plotlines involving other characters felt more like an unnecessary distraction. The scenes involving palace politics were particularly long-winded and could have been more succinctly written into fewer episodes. The villains were also cliched, cringey and largely forgettable. I also found the writing of the General’s cousin a bit inconsistent – her motivations made sense in some episodes, but were lost in translation for me in others (perhaps literally!). The drama also suffers from terrible sound dubbing in some episodes.
Sandra Ma and Peter Sheng’s synergistic on-screen chemistry and delightful performances perfectly encapsulate the evolution of their characters love story. The General and the Prince, share many funny and adorable moments, but also experience multiple setbacks and challenges. The actors ability to immerse you into the growth of their characters both as individuals and as husband and wife, was a real treat to watch.
While initially skeptical, I found Oh My General to be an overall enjoyable and unique drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is goofy, fun, and at times over-the-top, yet has a heartwarming and feel-good storyline that will leave a lasting impression.
Some C-drama tropes to look for:
Sex with clothes on. This one takes birth control to the extreme! LOL.
Husband and wife drawing each other’s eyebrows. This historic practice actually dates back to the Han Dynasty and was apparently an indication of a loving relationship between a couple.
Getting wet in the rain, or falling into a body of water, will cripple you with a life-threatening cold. Heaven forbid!
Male character grabs female character’s hand, and as they walk off, the female (no matter her current status or ability) suddenly regresses into a helpless giggly 5 year old. Yeah, enough said!
Any ailment big or small, will have you coughing up copious amounts of blood. Always.
1. How many episodes? 60 episodes, each around 45 mins
2. Where can I watch? All 60 episodes with English subtitles available on Youtube. See link below
3. Will I become addicted and end up binge-watching this drama? Yup!
4. Will the theme songs and music from the soundtrack be stuck in my head? Yup! The only cure is to replace them with another drama OST.