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I discovered this Chinese drama unexpectedly when I was browsing My Drama List.
I love me some good Chinese historical dramas and since A Familiar Stranger had decent reviews, I decided to give this a shot.
The story is about Shen Qin and Shi Qi getting their faces switched. Shen Qin is the prime minister’s daughter. Due to her being in love with Zi Heng, she refuses the arranged marriage with Xiao Han Sheng. She switches her face with Shi Qi, a painter looking for her sister. Shi Qi marries Xiao Han Sheng with Shen Qin’s face and recognizes him from her past.
A Familiar Stranger Drama Review – Characters
Shi Qi will do whatever it takes to get her sister back. She lost her sister when she was younger and has been trying to find her since.
The audience can’t help but feel bad for Shi Qi. She got dragged into this face swap mess unwillingly and now is stuck with the situation. Shi Qi has to juggle her new identity, her feelings for Xiao Han Sheng, and dealing with Shen Qi and Zi Heng all at the same time.
You gotta give her credit for being put in this impossible situation. She’s doing the best she can without being completely helpless.
Xiao Han Sheng
Since Shi Qi is now Shen Qin, she is married to a general called Xiao Han Sheng.
He’s wary of her in the beginning but soon begins to trust her.
You can’t help but root for them due to their solid chemistry together. They’re a sweet little couple.
This male lead is not the super cold type towards the main female lead like you see in other dramas. It’s cute when he smiles because of her.
On the battlefield, he’s this undefeatable general but in front of his wife, he’s shy, considerate, and gentle. The scriptwriters did a good job of writing this character. He’s the ideal guy for a lot of girls out there.
There’s an inner battle for Shi Qi because she wants to reunite with him as her authentic self but how can she with someone else’s face?
Yet our smart male lead eventually finds out on his own because he recognizes her soul. He knows the truth before she dared to confess.
Shen Qin is the prime minister’s daughter that is in love with a prince called Zi Heng. He’s the main reason she refuses to marry Xiao Han Sheng. It sucks for her though because Zi Heng doesn’t love her the way she wants him to.
As the main villain of the drama, there aren’t a lot of positive feelings toward her.
The only exception is when she shared the back story of why she’s so stubborn about Zi Heng to Shi Qi. They have a quick bonding moment but her actions toward Shi Qi shatter all those good feelings.
Prince Ning aka Zi Heng is the love interest of Shen Qin. He tries to act like he doesn’t care about anything but Shi Qi sees through him. He soon falls for Shi Qi even though she only has eyes for her husband.
For someone who grew up with Shen Qin and was her lover, it might be a bit surprising to see that he couldn’t recognize Shen Qin and Shi Qi switched places.
However, this shows how little attention he pays to Shen Qin.
He’s a terrific contrast with the male lead, Xiao Han Sheng because Han Sheng found out about Shi Qi even when she wasn’t in her own body anymore.
There tends to be one or two supporting characters that stand out in each drama. In A Familiar Stranger, that person is Yuan Bao. She is Han Sheng’s adopted daughter.
She appears early in the drama and helps pull Shi Qi and Xiao Han Sheng closer as a couple. Like a lot of younger kid characters, Yuan Bao is adorable and lively. You want to reach for her cheeks through the screen to pinch or squeeze them.
A Familiar Stranger Drama Review – Actors
In A Familiar Stranger, I didn’t recognize a single cast member, which was refreshing.
It can get hard into character with big-name celebrities because their faces are plastered everywhere. You’ve watched a bunch of shows already with them so it’s normal to compare them in previous roles.
For example, I adored Cheng Yi from Love and Redemption so much as Si Feng I kept thinking about his character even in Immortal Samsara. It also didn’t help that both dramas were in the xianxia genre and the plot focuses on a forbidden love story.
With A Familiar Stranger, I had no expectations because I haven’t seen them act in other dramas before. Everyone had a blank slate.
The casting director did a terrific job of finding suitable actors for their roles.
For example, the real Shen Qin is a scheming character. Ke Ying, who was Shi Qi with Shen Qin’s face fit her role better after the face swap. She has a cute face so it was a bit strange to see her being cunning in the first episode.
Her counterpart, Kay Song’s face and aura fit the role of Shen Qin with Shi Qi’s face.
Ryan Cheng who played Xiao Heng Sheng was also a good choice for the role because his face and aura match the position of a high-ranking official.
Sometimes, there are dramas where someone’s acting skills might be passable but their face doesn’t fit with the dialogue they’re saying on screen.
In the case of A Familiar Stranger, there’s no such gap with all 4 main characters.
What Could Have Been Better
This drama is unlike other Chinese dramas I’ve watched because each episode is only 10 minutes long.
I’m used to dramas with famous faces (especially Yang Zi) with each episode being 45 minutes long. This short episode format took some getting used to.
It was frustrating because by the time you get into the episode, you already have to click on ‘next episode.’
The short episodes ruin the flow. I would have preferred it if the drama was at least 20-30 minutes long per episode.
Although the episodes were short, the story didn’t feel like it wasn’t developed enough. Props to the team for doing so because tons of dramas are either too draggy or the plotline is underdeveloped.
If the scriptwriter did add to the plotline, I’m interested to know more about the magician, the person who did the face switch. He appears only for a few seconds in the drama but I would have wanted to learn more about his story.
There are also some pretty graphic scenes. There were moments when it was uncomfortable to watch but they don’t come by too often.
If you enjoyed watching the two main leads together, they partnered up in two other projects called Double Identity Crown Princess and My Queen of Capricious.
These two movies along with this TV drama aren’t connected (at least I think so because I didn’t watch the other two) but they do have the same faces.
You can support the actors and coo over their chemistry by watching another one of their projects.
Final Thoughts – A Familiar Stranger Drama Review
This 18-episode drama goes by extremely quickly. The plotline doesn’t drag. It’s partly due to the limited time.
Think of it as a long movie. Many movies can go up to 2.5-3 hours. This drama in total takes about 3 hours.
Why didn’t they create it as a movie instead?
I have no idea.
It’s a show you can binge-watch after work to relax. It won’t take much time to finish it all so for those who can’t commit to longer dramas like My Sassy Princess or Dance of the Sky Empire, A Familiar Stranger is a suitable choice.
This web TV drama was surprisingly alright for its budgeting, storyline, and casting. With good chemistry between the main lead couple, satisfactory acting skills, and a plot twist at the end, this drama will keep your attention to the end.
People were probably surprised at this drama because it’s a smaller-budget drama. Therefore, A Familiar Stranger was able to surpass the audience’s expectations.
Thanks to A Familiar Stranger, I am now more open to watching shorter dramas because this show proved to me that these web dramas have a lot of potential.
Those who like fantasy romance historical dramas should check this out.
Now to You – A Familiar Stranger Drama Review
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