The C-drama starring EXO’s Lay Zhang, “The Golden Eyes,” had all eyes on it from the onset with its intoxicating mix of fantasy, history, and a good dose of adventure to boot. The teasers and trailers before the premiere all hinted that this would be a superhero, crime-busting style of drama (think magical 20/20 vision instead of spidey senses), and it sure did not disappoint! Here are seven reasons that make “The Golden Eyes” pretty darn golden in our eyes (golden boy aside!).
Warning: Minor spoilers for the episodes ahead.
1. Go-getter from the get-go
You know those eye roll-inducing dramas where the characters are meek, lackadaisical, and overall just content to lead their lives on a day-to-day basis until bam, an accident (or miracle, flip side of the coin, I hear) occurs and the character suddenly sprouts wits, smarts, and a backbone? Yeah, none of that here! Our full-time superhero, part-time pawnshop worker Zhuang Rui (Lay Zhang) and his wacky best bud Huangfu Yun (Wang Li Xin) are not here to mess around — the pair are armed with drive and the formidable can-do attitude of urban millennials that is inspiring and frankly, very comforting at the same time.
The show starts off with both young men being ostensibly down on their luck and brainstorming ways they can pay off Huangfu Yun’s debt and get rich. Although Zhuang Rui vetoes the idea of dabbling in the sharing economy, he later concedes to taking a spin in an antiques market where he can possibly lend his expertise working in a pawnshop to land some good finds. This proves to be a wise decision, as he is able to activate his magical golden eyes to identify an antique bottle gourd which pulls a vast profit (600 to 300,000 yuan — approximately $84 to $42,000 — say what?!).
And yes, he paid off Huangfu Yun’s debt with it!
2. The bromance
Zhuang Rui and Huangfu Yun are lifelong friends, and it shows! When they made their first windfall, Zhuang Rui quietly sent Huangfu Yun the money he needed to pay off his debt (we all love a silent hero), which reduced the wacky bestie to a puddle of emotional tears.
And although I had doubts about how “serious” their friendship was with Huangfu Yun constantly getting into trouble due to his impulsive nature, he later proved to be the much-needed counterbalance to Zhuang Rui’s calm and collected nature.
Riding through the highs and lows of life…
It’s nice to have a bro who can do cute shoulder jiggles with you!
3. Strong female characters
Let’s face it, the time for Mary Sues in dramaland is dead. We appreciate our female characters flawed and stronger for the better of it! Sometimes, dramas like to paint their female characters in an unfairly one-sided lens of innocent, kind, and all-around perfect. So it’s nice to see “The Golden Eyes” breaking the mold with interesting female characters and fleshing out their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s take our main female character Miao Feifei (Cici Wang). The dedicated policewoman is no dainty flower all right! Her entrance in the first episode is marked by her intimidating Zhuang Rui into confessing he’s in cahoots with a gang of robbers, and she’s quick to show that she’s earned her badge too (those killer martial arts skills make her more than a little crush-worthy). Not that she’s without some chinks in her armor — Feifei also shows vulnerability and heartache, things that make her less invincible and more human, and we (and Zhuang Rui of course) love her for it.
So. Much. Swag.
4. A wrinkle in time
This is what got me into this drama in the first place, and I must say, “The Golden Eyes” sure did deliver in spades. A wee bit of a history buff myself, the little pockets of history the drama was able to tie in through revealing the origins of the antiques, and then stones, was fascinating. It feels like a mini whirlwind through Chinese history class, from the Han Dynasty to the Warring States.
Best of all, the drama also incorporates some flashbacks, so you’ll be able to catch some pretty cool period costumes and past-to-modern comparisons.
In one final linkage to time, it seems the magical golden eyes don’t just function as binoculars on steroids, they are also capable of stopping time! Don’t ask me (or the scriptwriters) how: it’s magic, shh!
5. The magic powers
So, the magical golden eyes give 20/20 vision and time-stopping abilities. And now what, you might ask? Well, tons of other cool powers!
For starters, the golden eyes can see through matter and give an X-ray like view of the internal composition of an object. It’s why Zhuang Rui manages to strike gold from jade-hunting — his X-ray vision simply sees through plain old rock (well, geodes actually, you won’t get lucky off that pebble on your sidewalk) and reveals whether there’s jade inside.
Next, aside from seeing through matter, it seems the powers of the golden eyes extend to seeing into the history of an object. That’s how Zhuang Rui’s quote, “In it, I can see history,” rings true.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Aren’t the magic powers the main draw of the entire drama?” Not quite. The powers and abilities the golden eyes imparted weren’t everything. Despite the wealth and influence Zhuang Rui managed to accumulate with the help of his superpowers, he learns that the main reason for his successes were the people around him who cared, supported, and stood by him when the going got tough.
6. Friends are the family you choose
You might meet some along the way who let you down, but sometimes, as Zhuang Rui has, you meet some diamonds in the rough who pick you up when you’re down.
I will be honest, the first half of the show didn’t exactly give me the best impression of Huangfu Yun. Especially as Zhuang Rui was constantly getting into tough situations because of Huangfu Yun’s impulsive nature and blunders. But I started to understand a bit more on why our male lead was inclined to forgive and just guide his careless pal along (childhood memories and general puppy dog kindness aside) when Huangfu Yun stepped up to shoulder Zhuang Rui’s challenges with him.
7. In life, there are no shortcuts.
Our rags-to-riches hero leaves us with a great message in this drama.
Magical golden eyes are great and all, and we might be forgiven for thinking that they are all that it takes to be invincible, to accumulate all the riches in the world and to play God. However, as only someone who has had those magical golden eyes will tell you, they are not a golden bullet and must be coupled with other things like communal support, hard work, and perseverance.
In some cases, other such illusory shortcuts might even be obstacles, blinding us from recognizing the strengths that we have in favor of chasing a better, faster, and stronger shortcut.
As Zhuang Rui said, “In the extreme of darkness, everything will be made bright and clear.” In other words, no golden eyes needed here!