It’s been 5 years since I became inspired by Chinese epic Nirvana In Fire, to put more C-dramas on my drama plate, and I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that modern C-dramas require their own specific lens.
My current conclusion is that a lot – not all, but most – of the C-dramas with modern settings (vs. period dramas) aren’t actually designed to be taken seriously. At least, I find that this perspective helps me the most, when it comes to maximizing my enjoyment of a C-romcom.
And this particular C-romcom is.. more palatable than average, I think.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Jiang Jun (Bai Lu) has a longstanding dream to enter the investment banking world, and sets her sights on MH, a top investment company. At her hard-won interview, she meets her childhood friend Yuan Shuai (Luo Yun Xi), who’s now an Executive Director at MH. However, curiously, he’s determined to prove that Jiang Jun isn’t suitable for the job, and sets out to keep her from joining MH.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review. The OST is generally pleasant, though I have to admit it doesn’t quite stick with me after the show.
If I had to pick a favorite, I think it’d be Track 2, Blue Bird, for its moodsy-breezy vibe. Track 4, A Love Song For You, has a nice acoustic sound and a light-cheery feel that I like.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS + LENS ADJUSTMENTS
Here’s a bunch of things to keep in mind, that I think will help to maximize your enjoyment of this show.
1. There’s a cartoonish quality about this drama world that feels akin to Boys Over Flowers, when Boys Over Flowers actually felt appealing to me. A lot of stuff is illogical, but if you can roll with it instead of nitpick it, the watch experience can have a silly-cracky quality about it.
Show has a degree of self-awareness, which I appreciate. In episode 8, I’m rather amused by how Jiang Jun’s best friend Xu Li (Xiao Yan) accurately predicts Director Qiao’s (Zhao Yuan Yuan) every move based on her makjang / absurd / exaggerated 狗血 urban novels. That was pretty meta.
2. You need to be able to appreciate or at least tolerate the 霸道总裁 (literally, Overbearing President) sort of thing, because wrist-grabs, “I’m doing this for your own good” and “Be good” are thrown about with relish, right away.
3. This story has shades of Well Intended Love about it, but is more benevolent.
[VAGUE HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS] Similar to Well Intended Love, our male lead is using his money and influence to manipulate the reality of his love interest, in order to get her into his orbit. But the big difference here, is that in this case, our male lead isn’t committing fraud in order to make his love interest think that she’s terminally ill and that he’s her only chance of survival. Here, he’s opting to suffer financial loss, in order to trick his love interest into moving into the apartment next door to his, at a discounted rental rate, which is more well-meaning and therefore more harmless and acceptable within our cartoony drama world, I think. [END SPOILER]
4. The corporate stuff can be quite boring at times. Feel free to skip-watch the parts that don’t interest you. That’s what I did.
5. Xu Li has a love interest and romantic arc of her own. I personally found it cringey to watch, mostly because I found her love interest Xiao Chuan (Wang Yi Lun) very stiffly and awkwardly delivered, and the entire arc, quite secondhand embarrassing to watch. I took to FF-ing through their scenes almost immediately. Feel free to do the same, if you feel similarly. I finished the show and have absolutely no regrets about skip-watching this arc.
6. This show occasionally has epilogues, so look out for them at the end of the episodes. When they’re there, they do tend to shed light on character backstories and motivations.
THE MAIN HIGHLIGHT: OUR OTP
Honestly, this entire story is just a platform on which Yuan Shuai and Jiang Jun can just play around and have fun falling in love, because that’s the main point of the show anyway. Nothing really has to make sense.
The reason why I stuck with this show, despite having little to no interest in so many of the surrounding stories, is because our OTP has excellent, excellent chemistry. Luo Yun Xi and Bai Lu share a chemistry that feels cracky-sparky, easy and natural. The skinship feels so believable and organic, that I often felt like I was a voyeur peeping at real-life lovers. For example, this couple kisses like they really really mean it. It’s a little startling to me, to be confronted with such full-on snogging in a drama; Show’s realistic in that respect, that’s for sure.
Whether they’re circling each other like faux-enemies, bickering like longtime buddies, or getting all hyperaware of each other, the air between them often gets quite crackly, and that in itself can be quite compelling.
Plus, because our characters have so much history between them, Show’s early use of up-close-and-personal shots works quite well, because the up-close-and-personal-let-me-share-your-air sort of thing doesn’t feel as much of an invasion of space as it would between two people who’d just met.
As an example, the drunken hyper-proximity outside Jiang Jun’s apartment in episode 7, where her breathy tipsy mumbling at Yuan Shuai’s neck gets him all up in a twist is pretty great. His efforts to moderate his breathing, even as he reels from the tingles on his neck, are so real.
For the record, my favorite OTP scene out of the entire show, is from episode 20, when our OTP finally comes together as a couple.
Yuan Shuai is galvanized by Qiao Na’s confession and taunt, while Jiang Jun is galvanized – ironically, also by Qiao Na – into getting upset with Yuan Shuai, which leads her to his treasure box, and his secret confession letter which he’d never given her. They are fittingly in sync, that they can find each other, even though Jiang Jun’s left her phone at home (I rationalize this is near the apartment).
I’d actually hoped for Yuan Shuai to say more in the way of a confession, but the way he hard-breathes, “I don’t want to wait any longer,” seems to tell Jiang Jun all she needs to hear, because her response is, “I love you.” It’s cute that she tells him that she’s about to cry, and he helps her stop the tears in the way he always has, by putting his hand over her eyes – only this time, he doubles up with a kiss as well. And I do love how gentle and heartfelt the kisses feel. YES. This is how you kiss the one that you’ve loved for years, and held in your feelings for, for years. With gentleness, tenderness and a sense of wonder. There is no sense of hurry or awkwardness about these kisses, and I very much approve. 😍
YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY: Gao Han Yu as Du Lei
I feel like Du Lei (Gao Han Yu) as a character was created to be collateral damage in service of Show’s Main Event, the OTP story. I have possibly never felt more whiplashy about a character and his development, ever.
Essentially, Du Lei morphs into whatever kind of character the story needs him to be, in order to create drama, tension or resolution on its main story front. He’s almost like an X-Man, that way, ha. The thing is, I hadn’t realized this during my watch, and that made the whiplash feel all the more real. Now that I’ve warned you, though, you can just roll with it.
Gao Han Yu does his best with Du Lei’s various facets, and I did rather enjoy his nice guy moments. At those times, he gave me Kim Kyung Nam vibes, which is an excellent thing in my books. However, I have to confess that I found Gao Han Yu’s delivery of Du Lei’s more angsty moments too hard and overwrought. Those scenes generally felt forced and too theatrical, to my eyes.
As a silver lining, Gao Han Yu does clean up nice, and he looks especially appealing while boxing shirtless, heh. Show knows it too, since the shirtless boxing gets served up on several different occasions. 🤩
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
In Show’s late stretch, we get a 2-year time skip, and I have to confess, everything felt less interesting to me, after this point. It all feels like some kind of extended epilogue, to show us what happens to our characters after the main story is over.
I found myself skip-watching almost all the way through, pausing only to enjoy the couple moments between Yuan Shuai and Jiang Jun. There’s a lot of teasing and bickering, which I didn’t quite enjoy, since they’re jostling over work matters. Those times when Yuan Shuai gazes at Jiang Jun fondly, though, are lovely. I totally buy that affection; it feels so cozy and real.
The two big events in Show’s last stretch, are, 1, Du Lei going dark-rogue, when he realizes that Jiang Jun has no feelings for him and intends to resign, and 2, Yuan Shuai finally proposing to Jiang Jun.
I found the change in Du Lei to Sudden Big Bad very stark and weird, since I’d had it in my head that he was supposed to be the misunderstood decent guy. I mean, deciding to take Jiang Jun down because she won’t accept his feelings? Talk about a violent turnaround, from the guy who’d put himself on the line to protect her.
I’m quite surprised that Du Lei accepts the grace that Yuan Shuai offers him, that he won’t report Du Lei’s crimes, as long as he stops all the illegal stuff he’s been doing and steps away. It occurs to me that Du Lei has hated himself for a long time, and the ugliness he shows while lashing out at Jiang Jun, is his way of leaning into the negative self image he’s held onto for so long. This perspective does make me feel more sympathetic towards him.
Yuan Shuai finally proposes to Jiang Jun, after some extended humming and hawing on both sides, with each of them wondering whether the other person really wanted to get married. I found the proposal cheesy and sweet, and I’m extra delighted that our resident cute doggo Wealth gets to play a key part. Attagirl. 😍
I’d kind of expected a romantic wedding, so our OTP’s choice of a literal mad dash to the Civil Affairs Bureau to get their marriage license was a bit of a surprise to me. But since everyone’s happy and in a good mood, I just shrug and roll with it.
Show culminates in a highlight reel of all our characters being contented and happy, and we end with Jiang Jun and Yuan Shuai squealing in excitement at the news that she’s pregnant. Aw. One more addition to their cute little family. That’s not a bad way to finish our story, I hafta say.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Excellent OTP chemistry on a shoestring plot. Good for a spot of mindless fluff.
FINAL GRADE: B-