If you are anything like yours truly, you hang on to bygones by a very thin nostalgic thread understanding quite well that things aren’t as great as they used to be. Yet, you can’t quite bring yourself to give up and abandon what was once a wonderful thing and now a dear memory. So, what is a girl to do but to wait? And wait and wait for things to get better.
And then things do actually get better. Hope is not all lost. All the reason not to let go, right?
That, my friend, is not a love story (though very close to one), but it is how I currently feel about TVB and the dramas it produces.
Rest assured I still keep tabs here and there, waiting for a drama, any drama, one which can illicit an opinion that is more left or right of, “It’s all right.” After all, I need something other than, “Meh.” Patience is a virtue and it has paid off.
Everyone, go watch 使徒行者 Line Walker, because it’s actually good. Who knew?
The premise is simple: a group of five undercover cops infiltrate different totem pole of a triad organization to bring it down. When their handler dies a mysterious “suicide” and their identities deleted, it is up to CIB Chief Inspector, Cheuk Hoi (Michael Miu), to track down these five cops and lead the operation forward.
Perhaps undercover part is all too familiar that I was initially quite turned off by the drama. I mean, at this point, can you blame me for initially groaning, “Not another Laughing Gor?” This is what happens when you take what was a successful thing and beat it like a dead horse with sequels, spin-offs and a movie. I digress but my point is, I was quite wary of set-up and didn’t expect to, well, dare I say, like the show, a lot.
While the premise is familiar, the show is kept afloat with intriguing secrecy and my favorite thing of all times–you guessed it–abundant of humor. We have Charmaine Sheh to thank for most of that as she portray the very spunky but not-all-that-righteous Ding Siu Ka (Ding Je). Raymond Lam‘s Sit Ka Keung (Bau Seed) ain’t too shabby in the humor department either, but pales a bit in competition with Deng Je. Yet both characters have become dearest to me and whom I care most about through out the whole journey of this drama.
I like that the show takes a distinctive approach in keeping the good guys a mystery for the viewers which has us guessing (and second guessing), “Who are the undercovers?” I also want to give the show points for playing up that question in an effective way where it whet our appetite first by quickly disclosing (the obvious) Deng Je and Kobe Lin Ho Kan (Sammy Sum Jun Chun Hin) as undercovers. This is very smart in that it lets us feel included as if we were invited inside their inner undercover circle to unravel along with them the other three undercovers. The key word here is include. Oftentimes, this mystery element is done very wrongly in other dramas where the show hoards all the information to itself and keep the viewer at arms length. It expects us to be patient and understanding while knowing little to nothing, which really takes away the fun for viewers. And quite frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Do you know when I love this show best? When it blurs the line between good and bad. This case is most obvious with everyone’s favorite character, Chum Foon Hei (Benz Hui Siu Hung). He was, through and through, a definite bad guy, and for a while he was even The Bad Guy. He does bad things does so with a smiley face and no remorse (which is even worse). But then he’s also an ex-cop and an extremely doting father. The line blurs even further when Foon Hei Gor undergoes a traumatic event and he changes completely. You therefore find yourself no longer wishing for his downfall and even wish that he can live happily ever after as Deng Je’s (surrogate) father? A character that manages to successfully go from negative to heart-tugging is a feat.
This gray area was also demonstrated in many occasions of the drama but further explored in-dept with Bau Seed when he ventured to the dark side in later episodes (towards the end). Though, I would say it was less well done in this instance as there were also 50 and 1 things simultaneously going on at that time which clouded this development. What a waste because I find this the more interesting and raw aspect of the drama.
Now this drama isn’t perfect and has it’s flaws. For on, I find some characters, namely the Mok Sisters (Elena Kong and Sharon Chan), to be plain excessive. I mean, the two add nothing to the narrative and can literally be taken out without even affecting the story. At the end of the day, they exist solely as two love interests (for our more important characters) with little importance and too much screen time—too damn much, I say *shake fist*. Now, the Kobe-Yan fans out there (and I think there is quite the cult following?) would argue that love interests are important (I am not saying they aren’t, really) and that Sharon Chan’s Mok Shin Yan serves a vital role in the development of Kobe’s character. That would be a valid explanation and all if only there were any development at all with him. Unfortunately, Kobe is a very one-dimensional character who lives and dies for one thing, his love interest, AND NOTHING ELSE. After much eye-rolling and cringing, I was pretty much done with him and his ridiculousness that when that cancer arch rolled around, I just didn’t care. The saddest part is that, Lin Ho Kan had the potential to be so much more endearing had there been any depth written in the character.
Then we have the ending. You would think that after so many endings being shitted on over at TVB, I would learn to keep my expectation low. Line Walker has managed to exceed expectations, pulled off twists and still be consistently good that I momentarily let my guards down. But that last Cheuk Sir centric “twist” in the last few (5?) episodes was bad and so SO contrived. It’s akin to watching someone try to be smooth and intelligence, only to actually see through them completely and witness their sheer corniness. I therefore felt no urgency of the stakes and didn’t feel the gratification as well. Maybe concluding with Cheuk Sir as the Ultimate Undercover would have worked if it weren’t so rushed, sloppily done and hardly explained. If only some effort were made to not make this ending plot look like some sort of last ditch effort.
To be fair it isn’t the worst ending I’ve seen. There are way worse ones out there and I could be especially harsh here. But this is only a testament that the drama was good and I was THAT invested, which makes the contrived ending THAT much more jarring. I must, however, point out that what I did like from the ending was how Cheuk Sir’s sacrifice reclaimed Bau Seed from the dark side. I feel that this was necessary and very consistent with the rest of the drama (*cough*unlike the recent string of concluding events*cough*).
All in all, this drama was a good choice on Sheh and Lam’s part as a returning and farewell project, respectively. Ah, what will life be with a Raymond Lam-less TVB?
(Until next time, my lovely readers, which hopefully wont be that long since I want to weigh in on the recent turn of events in Come Home Love. Apologies for the extremely sporadic posts. )