Fans of 24 will be familiar with the structure of this Chinese period drama, which follows one very stressful day in the cosmopolitan heart of the Tang dynasty, Chang’an.
It’s 744AD, and the capital city is gearing up to stage the Lantern festival, one of the most important events on the calendar. Curfew is lifted and people flood in from all around to celebrate. But Intelligence receives a tip-off that terrorists are planning an attack on the day of the festival. The young leader of the bureau must scramble to stop the planned attack, which would devastate not only the city, but the court itself.
Lu Cai (Saving Mr Wu) plays the Intelligence leader with decisive constraint and a maturity belying his youthfulness. To head up the immediate investigation, he retrieves a former army officer from his tortured life on death row (Lei Jiayin) and teams him up with an eager young investigator, Li Bi (played by pop idol Jackson Yee).
The tension ramps up quickly. With the stakes set this high, so much stands to unravel along the way. On top of the tight deadline to avoid a catastrophe are the stress of a court rife with infighting and an ageing emperor preoccupied with his young lover; there’s no shortage of action here.
Directed by Dun Cao, who is also a cinematographer (Love Is Not Blind), the show is visually stunning, and the high production values had people raving upon its premier in China last year. The show has also been praised for its research into the clothing, make-up and architecture of the time, ensuring its visually rich depictions are as authentic as possible. The details make for a substantial backdrop to the unfolding drama of a momentous day in China’s history.
Based on Ma Boyong’s novel of the same name, the series takes place over 48 episodes, each accounting for 30 minutes of the day. You won’t notice the time passing though, there’s so much going on, and you’ll be cheering for the team to complete their extremely high-stakes mission.
The Longest Day In Chang’an season 1 and 2 (that's all 48 episodes) is now streaming at SBS On Demand.