“Tomb of the Sea“《沙海》is a sequel to the popular 2015 series, “The Lost Tomb”, and based on a web novel taking place several years after the events of the first series, though with new actors. It stars Wu Leo (“Nirvana in Fire”) as a loser high school student who is suddenly kidnapped and taken to the desert to help locate a mysterious, forbidden city.
The series starts with a teenager digging himself out of the sand. Alone, in the middle of the desert, he desperately tries to dig out someone else he thinks is buried there as well, when a strange tentacle creature that looks like it’s made up of vines suddenly appears and chases him. He runs for his life, finding shelter in an old, abandoned truck, and records a video on his phone saying that he was kidnapped by a man named Wu Xie who is now dead. Before we can learn much more, he is nabbed. And so begins “Tomb of the Sea”.
The teenager is Li Cu (Wu Leo), a high school student who failed his college exams along with his girl-crazy friend, Su Wan (Wang Yuxuan, “Youth”). His father is an abusive drunk who locks the claustrophobic teen in a closet when he wants to punish him. When his neighbor gives him a mysterious iron box, Li Cu figures out how to open it, only to have a strange black substance suddenly absorb itself into his body. But the box turns out to have been brought back from the desert by the one surviving member of a team of explorers, who has slowly gone crazy. When the man finds Li Cu, he ends up attacking him and knocking him out. When the man discovers the box is empty, he carves symbols into Li Cu’s back which the boy discovers later when he wakes up in the hospital.
At the hospital, Li Cu and his doctor, Liang Wan (Yang Rong, “Memory Lost”), end up being kidnapped by Wu Xie (Qin Hao, The Legend of the Demon Cat) and his team. Wu Xie is interested in the carvings on his back and he promises to pay Li Cu a lot of money if he goes on a trip with him to the deserts of Mongolia and into No Man’s Land. Accompanied by Wu Xie’s assistant, Wang Meng (Zhu Jie, “Falling Down”), they meet up with a group of mercenaries, including a knife-wielding woman named Su Nan (Zhang Meng, “Ice Fantasy Destiny”), who is tasked with retrieving a treasure for her boss while also acting as his enforcer. They also run into a documentary crew who end up joining them on the way to find Gutong City, a forbidden and haunted abandoned city in the desert.
In the meantime, Su Wan teams up with a local bully, Yang Hao (Zhu Jian, “Untouchable Lovers”) to try to find his friend. They find the doctor, still terrified from the kidnapping, who also starts her own search for her missing patient, even as she is being watched by Wu Xie’s people. The boys eventually end up running into Zhang Rishan, (Zhang Mingen, “Tientstin Mystic”), another of Wu Xie’s friends from the first series and the head of a group of antiques dealers. He begins his own search for Wu Xie and Li Cu after hearing from others where they have gone.
The first three episodes of the series are mainly to introduce the various characters, but in episode four the action picks up as the desert expedition finds an underground palace laden with various treasures and traps, one that Wu Xie may have already visited before. As they slowly make their way through the old structure, sometimes barely surviving some of the intricate traps, we start to find out more about the different people and why they are there.
This show will have 54 episodes total and sixteen episodes have already been released on Tencent, with ten of the episodes currently out on YoYo Television’s YouTube Channel. (And it appears someone who has read the original book is fansubbing them on YouTube as well, with up to episode 6 translated so far as of this writing.)
Though I’ve only seen the first six episodes, so far the production value seems pretty good and it’s interesting to see the different traps and puzzles to be solved as they explore further in the abandoned palace. It’s got a Tomb Raider feel to it, as well as a lot of intrigue with the various characters involved. There were a few instances where I had to suspend disbelief to go along with the story (How is it a documentary crew only has one camera?), but so far I’ve been intrigued enough to want to keep watching. Judging from the publicity stills I’ve seen, eventually Li Cu’s friends and the doctor will be joining him in the desert, so I’m interested to see how that comes about.
If you like modern, adventure dramas with a bit of suspense and some jump scares, this looks like a good one to watch.