Mind Game review – Malaysian drama

This 2015 Malaysian production hits all the right buttons. It maintains flow, suspense and plot development over its 30 episode run. I began watching this at the same time as Unriddle, which also features a handsome female cop as the lead. While Unriddle is quite watchable, it does have a few audio problems and isn’t quite as addictive as Mind Game.

What sets Mind Game or Xīnmí (心迷) apart? High production values, excellent casting, tight subplots, intriguing story arc. And an excellent soundtrack. MediaCorp Malaysia almost equals Singapore’s Truth Seekers with this slick 2015 production. While not as emotionally dark, Mind Games is still gripping. It will have you clicking “Next Episode” on Netflix until the sun rises.

Yes Madam

Meet Zhao Anni, played with energy and charm by Joanne Peh. She directs her team of detectives in a series of murder, extortion, and kidnapping cases. You rarely hear her called by name. Her team calls her Madam, and responds to her directives with “Yes Madam”. Peh’s solid performance raises the standard of an already good show. Zhao Anni is both strong and vulnerable, bold and sensitive, tough and smart.

Anni in the meeting room
No we can’t go for a drink until we’ve cracked this case

Her ex-boyfriend is Liang Wenjie, a paralegal, played by the ubiquitous Tay Ping Hui. Anni is unable to move on from Wenjie, until she meets counsellor and hypnotherapist Guo Yongyan (Zhang Yaodong). Yongyan gradually draws Anni into his world, but is there more to Yongyan than his empathy and calm exterior?

Yongyan has a meaningful career as a hypnotherapist. But he is from a shady underworld family. He is seemingly not involved in the family business, diligently pursuing a career as a counsellor. On the surface he is balanced and mentally stable. But an earlier tragedy threatens to surface and shatter his equanimity.

You will forget everything that happened

Yongyan’s hypnotic powers are strong. Yet he is aware of the potential for hypnotism to be misused. Mind Game cleverly weaves hypnotism into the story as a mechanism for both committing crime and solving cases.

The excellent Breakout also featured hypnotism. In Breakout the master hypnotist was a gypsy from Myanmar who used hypnotism as a form of sorcery and control. And she was firmly embedded in the underworld camp.

I’m now intrigued by hypnotism. I’ve had hypnotherapy on a couple of occasions – I found it useful the first time, not so much the second. Its efficacy depends on the personal presence of the hypnotist vis a vis the power of the patient’s mind. ‘Weaker’ minds are more susceptible to hypnotism. They can reap its benefits, but are also more open to manipulation.

Anni and Yongyan
If I could get a girlfriend through hypnosis, would I really spend all this money buying you drinks?

Research in hypnotherapy and mind manipulation is very much an open field, but this show carefully exploits current knowledge, creating intriguing situations. One episode has a main character hypnotised with their colleagues unaware of it. In another, Anni’s team are set against each other by an escaping criminal using hypnosis. Mind Game also touches on the legal ramifications of committing a crime under hypnosis.

Another artfully woven subplot features the amiable Paige Chua as Feng Xuezhi. Xuezhi’s background is mysterious and so is she. Susceptible to psychic episodes, Xuezhi’s intuition occasionally helps the detectives crack cases, or alerts the team to the presence of imminent danger. Xuezhi’s mysterious past may hold the clue to the whereabouts of Wenjie’s sister, missing for many years.

Final verdict

8.5/10. Surprisingly Mind Game took home only one award at the 2016 Star Awards. Ng Lai Huat was nominated for Best Director at the Backstage Achievement Awards. This possibly says more about the awards than the show, which favour epic period dramas like The Little Nyonya or The Golden Path, both with featured Joanne Peh (she won Best Actress at the 2009 Star Awards for The Little Nyonya).

Special mentions also to Yuán Shuài (袁帅) as Jason and Ye Shipin as Uncle Chen – Anni’s loyal subordinates in the police. Akit Tay is also good as Wu Ke’er, in a subplot that explores multiple personality disorder. What are the legal ramifications for crimes committed by people suffering dissociative identity disorder? More thought-provoking material from a show committed to keep you guessing.

Possibly useful vocab:

催眠: cuīmián – hypnosis. The art of attracting people to your website
直觉: zhíjué – intuition. Knowing when it’s time to turn the TV off
尸体: shītǐ – corpse. You’ll be one of these if you don’t turn off the TV
孤儿: gū’ér – orphan. I was one of these
危急: wēijí – critical. A critical situation (not a critical review)


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