Neung Dao Fah Diew (One Sky, One Land) – First Impression
Posted on May 9, 2018
Neung Dao Fah Diew – starring James Jirayu and Taew Nataporn – takes us to the end of an era. The Ayutthaya era that is. It is no longer the charming, easy going, and thriving world that Buppae Sunniwas presented, in fact this time period is a darker time, where the Thai people struggled against Burmese power, as well as their own people, who must decide whom to strike their allegiance. Do you stay loyal to the King, or save yourself by aligning with the winner? In this world, looking out for yourself will paint you as a traitor, and you’ll struggle for the rest of your life, trying to bury that truth.
Phor Kanthong (James Jirayu) is pitted in this world against the traitors who will protect their betrayal at all cost. The first episode is a fast paced storytelling that skips years to get Phor Kanthong from a monk to a fighter and then an undercover eunuch. His father was a Robin Hood type character who steals from the rich to give to the poor, though he’s a bit more unruly than that. Upon his untimely death, Phor Kanthong vows to find the traitor and exact revenge. Team Kanthong decides that the best place to go undercover and seek the truth is in the palace. But as they get help from an insider, a eunuch ends up dead, and Phor Kanthong relents that he can masquerade as that eunuch to further protect the insider (Head Eunuch) and to also investigate the identity of the traitor. And thus, Phor Kanthong becomes Ork Luang See Kanthin.
The journey of uncovering the traitor is no easy feat. Living under this pretense of a eunuch makes everyone nervous, most especially the Head Eunuch who treats Phor Kanthong and his friend as guests in his home who are overstaying their welcome. He wants them to finish their business, but at the same time, he’s just so damn tired of being afraid he would get caught. Although Phor Kanthong is a clever and capable person, he’s still hitting a brick wall wherever he goes. To us the traitors have made themselves known but are covering their tracks so well, that Phor Kanthong has lived in the palace for some time, but hasn’t gotten much Intel. That is until Maeying Mangmao appears and shakes things up a notch, or two.
This TV Scene lakorn (which has four episodes aired thus far) is an action packed lakorn with a serious tone, as much as some humor (from Maeying Mangmao) gets injected periodically. It took me a solid two episodes to finally buy into this world, perhaps it’s due to a severe withdrawal from the boran romcom that is Buppae Sunniwas, or perhaps the serious tone and the costumes of Neung Dao Fah Diew threw me off. But I will say that by the third episode, Phor Kanthong and Mae Mangmao got cuter together, and by the fourth, I’m more invested in the story. At the end of the day, what truly sells a lakorn to me is the personal story of a character, and whether that captivates me, namely, Phor Kanthong in this show.
James Ji took a minute to get into his character; right at the intro it was rough watching his reaction to the report of his father’s death. I was expecting some pain, shock, and then anger. That isn’t what I got, however James Ji eventually warmed up to being Khun Luang Kanthin and his “di chan” and “jao ka” made me giggle and smile, because these are things a woman/eunuch would say, and to hear that from James Ji is adorable and funny at the same time. He also had a meet cute with Mae Mangmao at the perfume shop, where she got angry because he’s hogging the store, and he nicely replied that he’s on duty and needed to carefully procure a perfume. Then later he offered her a selection to redeem her good graces. Through his interactions with her, I grew to like him more, until I realize that his character made me sad. What gravitates me to Phor Kanthong is that he’s the opposite of Phor Daed, in that he has a truly tragic past, and a current revengey present, with no sight of a future.
As Phor Kanthong unravel his own parent’s tragedy – dad was betrayed, grandpa was betrayed, and mom was betrayed/murdered – it’s so fitting that he would regale this story as almost a fairy tale for a boy who does not know what a fairy tale is. Case in point, the scene in the forest. Leading up to this, Mae Mangmao had been in possession of an incriminating note. Little did she know that the note should lead to a journal that a high official and one of the King’s wives have been trying to destroy. The journal details their treason, at the time, the high official had written a note to Burma for protection since he thought Ayutthaya would fall under the Thai-Burmese war. Fortunately (or unfortunately for them) the Burma King ended up dead within a few days and the Burma army retreated. At any rate, Mae Mangmao’s brother warns her never to tell anyone that she knows about that note, since they don’t know who is good/bad and no idea of what the note even entails.
So back at this scene in the forest, the high official decides the safest bet is to eliminate Mae Mangmao indefinitely. He sends two men after her, meanwhile the Head Eunuch takes matters into his own hands and want to ensure Phor Kanthong is an Eunuch for real (every man in Thailand covered their eyes during the too close for comfort castration scene) but ends up getting mauled by an elephant of doom – who seemingly came out of nowhere, but acted as karma and killed the Head Eunuch. Phor Kanthong escapes the castration, though the anesthesia leaves him incapable of much movement. No worries, Mae Mangmao comes to his rescue and they team up to take down the two men who were after her, and thus leaving Mae Mangmao to stare at him, in the dead of night, wondering how she would ever sleep tonight after all that had happened. She begs for a story. A fairytale to put her to sleep.
So Phor Kanthong, as funny and sad as it may be, regales his own story, his narration is void of emotion, as if he’s telling a true fairytale, and not one of his own origin. The story goes that his grandpa is an Ayutthaya man but got betrayed by his own friend who is of foreign descent. Phor Kanthong’s dad vows to exact revenge and became a bit of a bandit, where he steals (and kills) the rich and gives to the poor. He became a well-known name in the area, feared by the rich, and respected by the poor. His time to seek revenge came about when his dad’s friend marries his daughter off. He kidnaps the daughter before she could consummate the marriage and tries to use her to lure the dad out. Instead, the husband came out but in the end he cared more about his own life than his wife, and used her as a scapegoat so that he could survive. Suea Khun Thong (Phor Kanthong’s dad) takes the woman to his abode and tends to her. He keeps her hostage for many months, and naturally, they grew fond of each other and love blossomed. Eventually he sends her back because she misses her parents, but her dad tries to marry her off to the same man again but he wanted nothing to do with her. He doesn’t believe that she remained loyal to him all these months. Suea Khun Thong scales her window and vows to seek revenge for her, but mom tells him to let it go. In the end, dad tells her that he loves her and wishes to be with her forever. Mom runs away with dad and they produce a boy (Phor Kanthong). For years they lived a happy life, and sadly, that is the only happiness the boy has ever experienced. His grandpa found their hideout village and retrieved his daughter, leaving Phor Kanthong behind. He sends mom to the palace to work so that dad may never get access to her, yet tragically she was betrayed and word spread that she committed suicide (though Phor Kanthong learns that she was killed instead). Meanwhile dad sends Phor Kanthong to study under a monk until dad too met his demise, leaving Phor Kanthong an orphan who dedicates his life to seek revenge for his parents.
Mae Mangmao cries at the thought of the poor boy. And I think that’s where it hit me, I just feel really badly for Phor Kanthong. It just seems so unfair that he knew happiness for maybe 6-7 years of his young life. His enemies are sometimes a step ahead of him, he has to pretend to be a eunuch, forgoing any pleasure or just being a man, or even just living life. He rarely ever laughs and when he does experience a few minute of joy (mostly due to Mae Mangmao) he has to tell himself over and over again to never get attached. Now I’m invested in watching Phor Kanthong finding a semblance of happiness in his life. I’m rooting for Mae Mangmao to keep saving him from himself. If anyone can do it, it is she. She’s fearless, tough, smart, and unaware of her own beauty. It is no wonder so many palace men are flocking to her, and I’m loving how Phor Kanthong is getting a little protective about that. Show is getting cute, and I think I’m sticking around to see Phor Kanthong – James Ji – be happy again, and maybe realize there is a future beyond revenge.
Speaking of future. The introduction of Phraya Taksin brings a lot of hope, even for Phor Kanthong. When he looks up at the man who is the air of someone who will hold power (future king), I think to myself, I could watch this bromance between Aum Atichart and James Ji. Heck, JJ looks great with Aum! I hope we get more star struck scenes where James Ji is peering up at his hero, just as we all wont to do when it comes to the great Aum Atichart. Then Phraya Taksin can play like a mentor/teacher and allow Phor Kanthong to realize his true potential, because if anything, Phor Kanthong has learned so much on his own, but could use a bro/daddy figure in his life. Actually, I just want Phor Kanthong – namely James Ji – to be loved by everyone. Because his lonely soul is killing me.
Thank you so much for this post. I have been watching but now I understand a lot more than I did before.
I heard before that the author of NDFD had written it with JamesJi in mind as Khanthong, and that she was a big fan of his in Khun Chai Puttipat. Watching the first two episodes (I haven’t seen episodes 3 onwards yet), I could clearly see the parallel between two characters – especially in that almost austere restraint in feeling emotions and sticking to the mission. In Puttipat, James was cold to the point of being a he-man woman hater, and the character was quite stiff in denying his feelings for Kaew in the beginning. The charm was a nerd slowly realizing his love for a beauty queen.
In NDFD, I saw that Khanthong has a deeper level of emotional restraint – like a desensitized soldier. As you had mentioned, he had suffered much pain his whole life – and I think that scene where he learns of his father’s death – I think the main purpose why he was introduced as a monk would also kind of highlight this “emotional death” of his – like you know how Buddhist monks are supposed to rid themselves of human emotions to reach enlightenment – no attachments to the mortal world, accept death, deny pleasure, etc. except Khanthong has had enough and wants to get revenge for the injustice suffered by his father. (But still, I agree with you. I was expecting more emotion from James at that scene) he quickly grows his hair and goes out of monkhood and starts his mission to get revenge (which is against the precepts of monkhood) but even as a “soldier” – he is still cold and unyielding BUT very very kind (to the point of being sweet) – as can be seen in his scenes with Yuern. It’s like circumstances just made him cold, but that precious 6 happy years of his life made him a warm and kind person.
Also, on that note, his being a monk was supposedly the justification as to how he can resist women’s charms while being a eunuch – so it’s like Puttipat was nerd; Khanthong was a monk = and both of them had not been exposed to women and “life” in general (like remember how Puttipat’s grandma was saying in episode 1 that Chai Pat needs a woman since his life is all work and no play). Yet in truth both of them are internally and naturally nice and sweet people – Puttipat was a surgeon saving lives (being an “Angel” as the nurses called him) and Khanthong was a natural at being a sweet and kind effeminate eunuch, and scolding Mangmao whenever she said or did something unladylike – probably because his mother, the court lady, was very refined and sweet and all that.
Oh sorry. haha I just realized how long this comment has been. Thanks again for the insight Fia! I hope to catch up as soon as possible!
That’s so interesting that the writer was inspired by James Ji. Talk about a fanfic coming to life – lol! If that is the case, I do see the parallels. I’m starting to like Kanthong though, and I blame the rough transition of the first couple of episodes on the director, and not so much James Ji (it’s hard to convey an emotion when you’re not given much to work with). Chai Pat for example, we knew right off the bat that he was a strict, brilliant and upright doctor, and I was hooked right away because Paa Jaew has such a great directorial hand. Even if it was James Ji’s first lakorn, he did well. Meanwhile, I know James Ji is capable of pulling out the emotional depth, he just needs the right director (Padiwarada for example was awesome). At any rate, it’s getting better so I’ll hold off on my final verdict, I feel good about the potential. Catch up soon Greta so we can chat some more!
Fia, there is one thing though. Haha forgive this shameless plugging, but I made this as a gift for fans last Christmas/New Year. I was hoping if you had the time (and JamesJi can occupy a teeny-tiny bit of your heart for a while – let Pope go eat his noodles! for 5 mins) you would play this game:
I am wondering who people end up with *sweatdrop*
Yay you created a fan page for JJ! The game was fun, you gotta go to your site to see the result! I’m a fangirl (fan mommy?) with a really big heart, plenty of room for all of my heroes. If you can deliver your characters to a tee, I’m ready to swoon.
I’ve always enjoyed reading your critical and constructive thoughts on lakorns and I thank you for always putting in effort in your writing. On the other hand, do you mind if I share your opinions to JJ’s fans on a Facebook fanpage? I heard these people would love to deliver audience’s feedback to James so he can develop more as an actor.
Hi there Anna! It’s so good to hear from you! I hope all is well. Feel free to share – it is my first impression, so it has developed somewhat from the time that I first wrote it – as any thoughts would as the story itself develops. If you’re caught up with the current episode, you know show really went there – in terms of ripping our heart out. I’ve been tweeting NDFD’s recap, because Twitter is a great place to write short, poetic recaps, instead of my often times long, fangirly ones haha. In terms of James Ji, I think he’s doing a good job playing the disguised eunuch who has to hold all of his emotions in. He plays the character with a lot of restraint, eyes misting over at just the perfect time. The latest hit to his life is just heartbreaking. Despite all of the difficulties, he truly is resilient. James Ji will always have his supportive fanbase, and I hope he continues to be offered varying roles and challenging scripts. If I have time, I will write my middle or final impressions to close out this series. I am enjoying their innocent, supportive, and most adorable understanding and interaction between Phor Kanthong and Mae Mangmao. And I’m wishing that he gets help from Phraya Taksin soon (even though I know he can’t help everyone!) but at least Phor Kanthong would be a little less lonely in his revenge mission.
Thank you so much Fia for the extra information 💖💖. All is well for me, I hope your 2 boys are growing well and giving you lots of joy (hopefully I remember correctly that you have 2 boys. Please excuse me if I remember it incorrectly, many bloggers that I’ve followed had babies and took some hiatus at the same time you did).
And don’t you worry, whenever I share your comments, I will make sure to put an accurate time line to them, because although the lakorn got better, they could always use a little of your critical feedback for future reference. The reason I am doing this is because JJ has super duper dedicated fans who would ask for feedback on every episode; hence, I am so touch by their constant dedication and felt compelled to do something. I can give them some feedback of my own, but you’ve done it so exceptionally well so I thought I could make use of it, too. TBH, English is my second language and I hate writing so much so I admire you a lot. You have a good weekend Fia.
So sorry I thought I responded to you already- maybe in my head 🙂 Great memory, I do have 2 boys.. 2 very busy boys. Thanks again for your kind words, Anna!
Really enjoyed reading that,waiting to hear reviews on the ending as I was a lil disappointed with it.