Review: Joy Of Life Season 2 (2024) 庆余年 第二季

TV series Joy of Life is adapted from the novel Qing Yu Nian (庆余年) by Mao Ni (猫腻). The series stars Zhang Ruoyun, Li Qin, Wu Gang, and Chen Daoming in the lead roles. Its first season was released in 2019. Nearly four and a half years later, the sequel, season 2, was released in May 2024.

Joy Of Life Season 2 Review

Ratings: 8.5/10 : Joy of Life Season 2 boasts excellent production value, a compelling storyline, well-developed characters, and stellar performances, but somehow suffers from inconsistent pacing issues, an over use of humor compared to season 1. It takes at least 15+ episodes to recapture that thrilling and exciting atmosphere of the first season.

  • Episode: 36
  • Broadcast Details: May 16 2023 – May 30, 2023
  • Original Platform: CCTV & Tencent Video

Joy Of Life Season 2 – Plot Introduction

Season 2 picks up right where Season 1 left off, with the betrayal of Fan Xian by Yan Bingyun. The fight for survival and vengeance against his enemy, Li Chengze (Second Prince), becomes a highlighted starting point in the drama. Fan Xian not only miraculously recovers from his apparent demise, but also rebuilds his power base within the Capital. Through eliminating corrupt officials and pursuing his mother’s dream, Fan Xian gains a deeper understanding of the complex world he inhabits and discovers his true purpose.


Joy Of Life Season 2 Cast
Joy Of Life Season 2 Characters

Fan Xian

The adopted son of Finance minister Fan Jian, and the biological son of Emperor Qing and Ye Qing Mei, he fell in love with Lin Wan Er at first sight. This man, born in a historical ancient period, held a memory of the 21st century world.

Lin Wan Er

The illegitimate daughter of the Chancellor and the Eldest Princess. She might look fragile but is sharp inside.

Chen Ping Ping

He is the head of Overwatch council.

Emperor of Qing

Emperor of Qing Kingdom and is also the biological father of Fan Xian.

Wang Qi Nian

confidante of Fan Xian.

Fan Si Zhe

Younger brother of Fan Xian, who is good at business.

Overall Thoughts

Joy of Life Season 1 was highly acclaimed by critics and viewers for its unique storyline and execution. It’s one of the highest-rated costume dramas in C-Drama history with over 1.05 million ratings on Douban. Given its exceptional performance in season 1, the sequel was one of the most anticipated series in 2024. It garnered over 18 million reservations on Tencent Video, making it the only C-Drama to surpass such a high number of reservations not only on its original platform but across all platforms.

As soon as the drama’s sequel was released, it broke 30,000 Heat Index within 1 hour of its premiere. The drama eventually crossed 34K Heat Index surpassing a top Drama A Dream Of Splendor which had 33,520.

If season 1 was about getting familiar with new world, new people and new direction, Season 2 felt like it was about Fan Xian’s internal growth, understanding how the world and people around him works in a deeper level.

As compared to season 1 which explored intrigue, mystery and thrills, season 2’s story leans towards politics, corruption, self discovery along with spice comedy and humor. While some viewers seem to take this comedy parts as enjoyable while some do not. Unlike season 1, which hooked me immediately, season 2 took at least four episodes to grab my attention. Here’s my review for season 2 of Joy Of Life.

What’s Been Great….

High Quality Production

Just like in season 1, the production team successfully recreated the same world and atmosphere in the second season. Impressively, with minimal changes, they managed to maintain the exact set designs, costumes, and cinematography. In fact, the costumes in season 2 were noticeably improved compared to season 1. For example, Zhang Ruoyun’s portrayal of Fan Xian showcased a more stylish outfits and hairstyle, reflecting his character growth and maturity. Not only the main character, but each character’s costumes and accessories in the drama was intact and beautiful with some enhancement.

In season 1, the filter was way more oily and greyish but in season 2, there was less filter giving a realistic vibe. You could clearly see the skin texture of each actors which is definitely a improvement in effects and filter quality.

Joy Of Life Season 2 Review
Joy Of Life Season 2 & Season 1

Talking about cinematography, every scene was beautifully shot. The transition between actors, with Wu Xing Jian replacing Xiao Zhan, is smooth and seamless. The scene picks up right where season 1 left off, with Yan Bingyun stabbing Fan Xian.

Character Development

Fan Xian: His journey from a sheltered prodigy in season 1 to a shrewd player in season 2 was a worthwhile trip. So, the story begins with Fan Xian facing betrayal and danger, a harsh awakening from his innocence and failed character judgement.

For Fan Xian every challenges is an oppurtunity. This adversity becomes a turning point in his life, pushing him to prioritize protecting his loved ones including common people lives. Fan Xian’s initial motive was to survive and then slowly confront his enemies head on. Gradually, he not only outsmart his opponents through his cunning tactics, & intelligence but also eliminates corrupt officials and nepotism. This helps him to understand his mother’s dream for the world and his own aspirations.

Even though he struggles with challenges and goes through baffling moments during difficult times, ultimately he finds his purpose. In the end, the experiences he gathered along the way acts as a catalyst. It grants him a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world, including the so-called mastermind chess mover behind the scenes.

Fan Xian is such a fascinating hero that I’ve ever meet in C-Dramaland. His sly actions, cunning wit & bold moves are what makes this character so attractive. Additionally, his self-awareness about belonging to a different time era, and his ability to use those ideas and skills to his advantage against his enemies, is truly intriguing.

Not only Fan Xian, but his brother Fan Si Zhe also had a significant character development in the drama including other.

Original Cast Returns

The other best thing about this production is that they were able to bring back almost the entire original cast from season 1 introducing some new faces, with the exceptions of Xiao Zhan and Han Jiu Nuo. This continuity made it feel like no time had passed since season 1. It’s true, in C-dramaland, production teams often replace the entire cast for later seasons. Thankfully, Joy of Life Season 2 avoided that pitfall. Most of the faces, representing the characters, remained intact and brought their characters to life vividly in season 2. There were, however, two recasts: Wu Xingjian took over the role of Yan Bingyun, and Gina Jin replaced Han Jiunu as Ye Ling Er.

Top Notch Performances

When I could see those micro-expressions flitting across their faces—like fleeting smirks, veins pulsing in their temples, and flickers of surprise and anger in their eyes—what more could I ask for? Every time Fan Xian, the Crown Prince, and the Second Prince meet, you could feel the tension between the three. Plus, Emperor Qing? What’s going to happen next, and what’s he thinking? Only he and god know. Truly, each actor’s performance in the series was simply phenomenal. They successfully captured the characters’ emotions with such raw intensity that it felt like I was living the scene with them. Every scene and every character’s portrayal is distinct and vivid, something you won’t forget for a long time.

Joy Of Life Season 2 Review
Joy Of Life season 2, this scene was kinda serious as well as funny

Like the surgical scene in Episode 30, where those popping veins, dripping sweat in the forehead, and pale face of Fan Xian after being badly injured, was so realistic.

Zhang Ruoyun and Li Qin’s chemistry

Since romance is just a added element here, the screentime Zhang Rouyun and Li Qin got in the 36 episode drama as a couple was tentatively less than 2 hour. To be honest, I’m kinda utterly surprised that despite their very minimal screentime in season 2, their chemistry still sizzled.

Fan Xian and Lin Waner relationship is one of the perfect example of healthy relationship. The trust, understanding and love they have each other is simply beautiful. Though, this might be quite different in the original source material.

Reasons why Joy Of Life Season 2 Can’t Beat Season 1

While some viewers might prefer season 2, I found season 1 to be the stronger season. Here’s why:

Actor’s Replacement: Gina Jin as Ye Ling Er and Wu Xing Jian as Yan Bingyun

Joy Of Life Season 2 Review
Joy Of Life Season 2 Review

Since some of the actors like Xiao Zhan and Han Jiu Nuo were not able to return to the screen, they were replaced by actors like Wu Xing Jian as Yan Bingyun and Gina Jin as Ye Ling Er. However, I find this replacement somewhat unfavorable.

  • The actor who played Yan Bingyun in season 2 wasn’t able to capture the sharp, intense, and brooding personality we saw in season 1.
  • While replacing the actress for Ye Ling Er wasn’t necessarily a problem, changes to her personality were unwelcome. Season 1’s Ye Ling Er was far more lively, whereas season 2 presented a completely different character – serious, cold, and emotionless. We were supposed to see changes in actresses, not in their character’s personality.

One advantage I can see is that Jin Chen aka Gina Jin’s portrayal of Ye Ling Er felt more compatible with the character of Second Prince Li Cheng Ze compared to the actress from season 1. Jin Chen is one of the well known good actress in today’s entertainment scene, but her presence in the drama didn’t seem to contribute much value to the overall production.

Too much comedy

For viewers unfamiliar with the first season, Joy of Life season 2 might come across as a straight comedy-drama. The drama team likely intended to add some levity with humorous elements, but these elements may have been overused. Scenes like the confrontation between the Crown Prince, Second Prince, and Fan Xian in the Moon Embracing Pavilion were meant to be tense and serious. However, the comedic interjections undermined the intended gravitas of the moment. While a touch of humor could have lightened the scene, the sheer volume of comedic elements throughout in the first 15 episodes likely diluted the overall seriousness of the drama.

Too Many Ads

Its not only me but about 40% viewers criticized the production team for placing excessive advertisements during the series run. They inserted like nine product ads totaling 136 seconds in each episodes. The worst part was even premium subscribers were unable to skip them. I would say, this was one of the reason which somehow ended up ruining shows’s viewing experience.

Lack Of Action Scenes

Since the season 2 focuses more on politics and internal conflict, it lacks the same amount of fighting scenes as season 1. Viewers who enjoyed the breathtaking fight choreography of season 1 might be disappointed, as such scenes are scarce until the last eight episodes.

My Verdict – Worth Watching

The first half of the season felt slow compared to season 1, but it picked up after episode 15. The plot became more intricate and engaging, even though it wasn’t quite as thrilling from the start. While some characters seemed to have shifted slightly from season 1, there were still plenty of exciting moments/scenes. Overall, the series is an 8.5/10, but the latter half is a solid 9/10.

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