Review: Thoughts on Zhou Zishu and The Ending of “Word Of Honor”

I’ve been hesitant to write this article for a long time due to the complete mess I became after the final episode of “Word Of Honor.” I thought that I would just put an end to this journey without writing a final thought because it wasn’t an easy task to put my mixed thoughts into words.

Note: This is my personal opinion about the ending of “Word Of Honor,” especially the drama version’s Zhou Zishu and it doesn’t have anything to do with the original novel “Faraway Wanderers.”

Two thousand layers of Zhou Zishu

I did mention how much I loved Zhou Zishu as well as my expectation of the character development in the second half of the drama. The last episodes didn’t come up to my expectations. Despite Zhang Zhehan’s outstanding performance and the original novel’s light, two thousand layers of Zhou Zishu in the drama were fragile and incomplete which left me with a lot of pity. 


Zhou Zishu didn’t have many highlight moments he deserved throughout the drama. Sometimes it felt like he was a storyteller who observed and told the stories of others, especially in the last episodes. His Four Season Manor and Tian Chuang storyline were seemingly fast-forwarded. Although the torture scene was apparently one of the best scenes in terms of character development, settings, and acting skills, the subsequent development made the angst and climax weren’t satisfying enough.

Imagine you expected an epic beat drop after a prolonged build-up during 30-something episodes, but what you received eventually was just an emptiness.

However, Zhou Zishu wasn’t an easy character to write (and to act) to begin with. Sometimes, I wished we didn’t have to analyze so many subtle details to truly understand this character. But the specification and emphasis on every description of this character would lose his hazy and wandering essence. 

Thinking about the differences in writing styles of popular Chinese wuxia novelists Jin Yong and Gu Long. Readers could use all kinds of evidence, logic, philosophy, historical contexts, or martial arts techniques to analyze Jin Yong’s characters. Meanwhile, Gu Long’s characters were more vague, mythical, and hard to depict with solely scripts and images that readers could only perceive and admire with their souls. It was difficult for filmmakers to express the souls in Gu Long’s works. That was why most of the film adaptations of Gu Long’s novels weren’t as successful as those of Jin Yong’s. 

Zhou Zishu resembled Gu Long’s character style, which was extremely hard to represent in films. It was indeed a difficult mountain to climb for such a young screenwriter.

Fortunately, Zhou Zishu was gradually getting a lot of love as the drama went on despite his lack of highlight moments. In my opinion, most of the credits went to actor Zhang Zhehan whose appearance, acting skills, and character interpretation exceedingly conveyed Zhou Zishu’s soul and spirit. His performance might not fully portray the original novel’s Zhou Zishu (which mainly because of the script), but with what was given, the drama’s Zhou Zishu was still an interesting and attractive character who shined like a light he was, not just someone’s shadow. 

If you love Zhou Zishu and his laopo-ness, this is the article for you: Zhang Zhehan and “Word Of Honor” Zhou Zishu – A Perspective on Gender Perception.

Zhou Zishu’s loneliness in the last episodes

“When will you stop making me guess?”

“You will tell me when you want to. You don’t want to tell, it’s meaningless even if I ask.”

“I will wait for the day when you open your heart to me.”

It took Zhou Zishu a lot of love and patience to be with Wen Kexing despite many secrets the latter kept hiding from him. If Wen Kexing’s love was as passionate as a hurricane, Zhou Zishu’s silently tugged at our heartstrings.

Wen Kexing’s fake death was not only the start of his huge plan to be back in the human world but also a trigger to a series of unfortunate events later on. When executing the plan without informing his soulmate, Wen Kexing underestimated what Zhou Zishu could do for him. 

Zhou Zishu, on the other hand, would kill himself for his soulmate. Thrice.

When he jumped down the cliff with him.

When he saw his soulmate’s dead body and had to burn it by himself.

When he decided to get rid of the nails on his body and had his days numbered.

What mood did Zhou Zishu embrace when he took the nails off his body? Anger, despair, or the determination to send those bastards to hell together with him? Wen Kexing took such a special place in Zhou Zishu’s heart that he even broke his life principles for him. From a person who let go of hatred, Zhou Zishu desperately engulfed in the thirst for revenge against all.

This turning point could be more meaningful than just showing off the soulmate bond if Zhou Zishu was involved in Zhao Jing’s storyline or had at least an epic stage for himself in episode 33. Zhou Zishu, the lord of Four Season Manor, gave up his reputation to stand against the world because of Wen Kexing, the Ghost Valley Master. He challenged Zhao Jing, every word was stained with blood.

Then Wen Kexing just appeared with a smile, slapping him back to the truth that everything was a lie and he was the only clown. Zhou Zishu used to say that “his life was like a joke,” now that his sacrifice turned out to be a joke as well.

Though he was furious, he couldn’t hide his gratitude for the fact that Wen Kexing was still alive. That expression on Zhou Zishu’s face wasn’t just a mix of gratitude and pain, but also uttered “Lao Wen, you are wrong this time, but there is no chance to fix it. It’s not because I don’t want to give you a chance, but I’m no longer able to.”

We all knew Zhou Zishu would easily forgive Wen Kexing and hide the fact that he took off the nails and only had a couple of days left. In episode 34, he quietly sat at a corner of the table drinking his tasteless wine, thinking about everyone’s bright future without him.

His heart didn’t break for himself, but for those alive. Even his smile was so painful that it hurt so bad. 

Every glimpse of Zhou Zishu silently watching the play unfold without his part just screamed loneliness.

The non-faraway wandering ending

Wen Kexing didn’t tell  Zhou Zishu about him pretending to die,  Zhou Zishu didn’t tell him about him dying for real. Although that was a cliche “Romeo and Juliet” type of plot, it was still fair enough. But much to my surprise, Wen Kexing again decided to trade his life for Zhou Zishu without telling him. Zhou Zishu didn’t even have a choice but was forced to live without someone he was willing to die for.

Many people were satisfied with the “extra” happy ending where the two main characters finally became Immortals living in Changming Mountain happily ever after, I felt like it was a dreamy treatment that sugarcoated a harsh reality. The screenwriter could have thought of something better than having Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu practice Liuhe Xinfa which trapped them in the cold mountain and the abyss of time. 

Zhou Zishu, the leader of Tian Chuang, whose hands were stained with blood, was willing to suffer from seven nails inside his body to have his freedom and live the fullest life in his last three years. That was also the reason why Zhou Zishu initially refused to give up his martial arts to live longer. Wen Kexing, the master of Ghost Valley, who dwelled in hatred and tragic past, finally found his light and tried to go back to the human world. They talked about being faraway wanderers traveling around the world together, trying all kinds of delicious dishes, drinking wine under the new moon, so their lives wouldn’t go in vain.

As a result,  Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing, who were attached to the human world, ended up in Changming Mountain which wasn’t any different from Tian Chuang or Ghost Valley, not a place for human beings. 

It was true that they have each other at the end, but losing the “faraway wandering” factor was a sad thing for a film adaptation of “Faraway Wanderers” in particular and a wuxia film in general. “Word Of Honor” was one of a few dramas with such a strong wuxia taste in recent years. The difference between wuxia and xianxia was that there was a limit of time in the wuxia world making people cherish every moment of life. The sudden turning point at the end lost me.

Conclusion

I’m not a huge fan of BL dramas, but I’ve enjoyed all the bromance in the drama since they were blended reasonably throughout the plot. Moreover, “Word Of Honor” is a good wuxia drama I’ve watched in recent years. Even though it is not perfect, it is one of the best experiences I’ve had this spring. I will cherish this memory of WenZhou and Four Season Manor with four seasons of blooming flowers. Ah Xu will forever be the white moonlight of my life, the one I adore and keep dearly in my heart but will never be able to touch. 

There is a behind the scene video of Zhou Zishu walking away from the sea of people. The light shines on him which visually portrays “There is light on you, I’ll just take a look.” There are multiple interpretations of the video, but to me, it’s an embodiment of the real jianghu in “Word Of Honor,” the rich taste of wuxia, and the highlight moment of Zhou Zishu – a free spirit. 

I won’t re-upload the video, so please watch the original video by 天涯皆是客 on Weibo.

Gif from Video by 天涯皆是客
Pic from Zhang Zhehan

周子舒 江湖再见
Zhou Zishu, goodbye and see you again in jianghu!


Sip Of Tea

7 thoughts on “Review: Thoughts on Zhou Zishu and The Ending of “Word Of Honor”

  1. If WenZhou are together that’s their happy ending. In the Heavens, on the mountain, in the mortal realm, even down in 九泉之下, as long as they’re together that’s their happy ending. No one else has any right to tell them otherwise.

  2. I actually need to thank you for bold enough to share your opinion about character development for Zhou ZiShu in the drama. I have had people told me that there was nothing wrong with ZZS character development as it was in-line with the book and was told numerous times I should read the book to prove their point. LOL I’m not going to read a book to judge a series, I can form an opinion based on what was shown to me, what the character said and what played out.
    I think we can celebrate the series good points but ultimately the last few episodes of the series kind of ruin a lot of that goodwill.
    Just like you I was waiting for Zhou Zishu highlight and what we got was emptiness but more unfair treatment to ZZS. When ZZS said he felt his life was a joke, the last few episodes literally and figuratively played out what it looks like. With them using the fake death plotline, it ruined the characterization of WKX for me, it felt such a betrayal for all of the love, support and patience ZZS had toward WKX. At the same time, it felt like WKX doesn’t understand ZZS at all, eventhough they spent all of that time together. Why spending 30 something plus episodes making WKX felt like he was one step too late for meeting ZZS and how little time he had left to be with ZZS. Then accelerated that thought 100 times in the last few eps. I can’t understand and be able to process this point at all.
    Over all, Zhang ZheHan gives more depth to ZZS than what was in the script. I’ll remember the character ZZS but not the series because I can’t re-watch it, it just bring so much rage, sadness and pities on what could have been a really great series.

    1. The lack of development for ZZS characters in later episodes and the ending was actually got noticed by a lot of drama fans. The fans named the dining scene as “the party from hell”. And ZZH himself said that his preferred ending was ZZS living his final years freely.

  3. I absolutely loved the ending. To me it made sense from drama ZZS’s perspective. I think people get too hung up on “Faraway Wanderers”, there is a reason they changed the name. For book characters wandering made sense. For the drama ZZS his ending made sense.

    To me physical freedom was never ZZS’s priority but freedom of choice and will which he didn’t have as Tian Chuang’s leader. He was bound by duty to do what he didn’t want to do. Over time he found a reason to live in WKX and WKX found a reason to live in him. They are each other’s salvation. The show reiterates “The world is not important, finding a soulmate is” as does ZZS. ZZS over time demonstrated this choosing to die if they both couldn’t live. So, when he at the end says that he is fine with living on snow and ice as long as both of them can live then to me it makes absolute sense with how his drama character was. WKX was his choice. Even before when they thought that ZZS could be healed his dream wasn’t to wander but to settle down/rebuild Four Season’s Manor with WKX. In a way he got both, a life with WKX while training and watching the next generation of Four Seasons Manor disciples grow. That to me was what character-wise his happy ending was. He was living freely doing what he wanted to do and not being forced by anyone else.

  4. I read all three of your write-up on Word of Honor and you are my soulmate in regards to perspectives on ZZH, ZZS and WoH. LOL.

    For the ending, I agree that how ZZS’s story arc towards the end felt so unfair to ZZS, the character, and to ZZH the actor. I was expecting more emphasis on his fighting prowess after removing the nails and give ZZH some “center stage”. That would have felt more complete.

    However, after rewatching and re-thinking the story arc, I’ve came to this different perspective: the unfair feeling makes us ache more for ZZS and the “imperfect” arc really is quite “perfect”. It makes the viewer few the pain and the bitter-sweetness of ZZS more and appreciate ZZH’s character interpretation even more!

    Now, the most dissatisfying scene for me is the scene of WKX’ “dying” under the tree. This scene makes zero sense. As he thought he was dying, his “final” thoughts appear to be of only AXiang and meeting her soon. Why no thought about leaving his dear soulmate behind and never getting to see ZZS one last time! It would have been better if WKX whispers AXu’s name once or twice as he nods off? That would at least give us comfort that ZZS is important to him… Once again, he brushed off ZZS… like how he left ZZS in the dark about his plan. Ok, done ranting. LOL.

    The epilogue, I also wouldn’t consider that a happy ending! After all that and they couldn’t wander the world. So sad since I love to wander.

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