This.. was a weird one, for me.
I guess this really is a case of “your mileage may vary,” because a quick scan of viewer reactions on MyDramaList tells me that lots of people really, really enjoyed this one, and think it’s truly one of the best things, ever.
The thing is, I found this weirdly watchable, which is how I ended up finishing it, and yet, coming away from the finish line, I still don’t think it’s a very good drama. 😅
I’ll elaborate on that in a bit – hopefully in a way that actually makes sense, because right now, my thoughts are all over the place, kinda like how I feel this drama is all over the place. 😁
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Chen Meng Yun (Tiffany Hsu) is the new teacher at Nanyi High School, and soon after her arrival, student Zhang Yi Xiang (Edward Chen), who happens to be the resident bully, sets his sights on her, and starts to make his presence very much felt, in her life.
WHY I CHECKED IT OUT
Originally, I’d had very little intention of checking out this drama, because the promos basically indicated a love affair between a teacher and her high school student, and that’s just a premise that hasn’t worked for me in the past (Melancholia comes to mind 😅).
I mean, it’s a problematic premise, objectively speaking, and I was hesitant to invest drama hours in something that appeared to glamorize a teacher-student romance.
However, one day, I found myself poking around for potential new shows to cover on Patreon, and coming up quite empty, in that, there were dramas to check out, yes, but they weren’t exactly grabbing me.
I tried half an episode of The Interest of Love, but it didn’t grab me, and I tried half an episode of The Forbidden Marriage (because some folks seem to like it quite well), but that didn’t grab me either.
Not only did neither show grab me, I didn’t have enough interest in either show, to actually finish watching their respective first episodes. Oops. 😅
And then I remembered someone on my Twitter feed actually saying something positive about this show, and so I went to MyDramaList, and was pleasantly surprised to find quite a lot of positive reactions to this one, by drama fans.
Essentially, folks were praising the writing and acting in this show, saying that it’s basically top tier, and therefore not to be missed.
That made me curious enough to dip my toe into episode 1, and whaddya know, I actually finished watching it, where, with the other two shows, I’d struggled to even get to the halfway point of each first episode.
Also, by the end of episode 1, I was curious to see what happened next, and that’s how I ended up watching episode 2, then 3, then.. you get the idea. 😁
I didn’t end up covering this for Patreon, because most folks were hesitant about the premise, but I did end up finishing this one on my own – as you can tell, by the fact that I’m writing this review.
MY JOURNEY WITH THIS ONE
So.. here’s where things get weird for me.
If you take a look at the opening lines of the currently featured reviews for this show on MyDramaList, both say, essentially, that this show isn’t what it seems.
And you know what, that’s so true.
But I didn’t know just how true, going in. 😅
I don’t know how to really talk about this properly without spoilers, for this section, but I’ll try.
You know those quick-change artists, who can change into multiple new outfits in the blink of an eye, during a performance? Here’s a quick example, from last year’s America’s Got Talent, if you’d like to check it out:
Well, Show is something like that.
So if you know this going in, then the best viewing lens would be to just go in with an open mind, and be ready to roll with the punches – like you would, if you were watching a crazy makjang.
But I didn’t know this going in, right, and so, I basically found myself going, “Wha..?” every time Show did a quick change. 🤪
Ultimately, I found myself watching till the end, in a state of something akin to morbid fascination. 😅
I didn’t feel the writing was good in the sense of it fleshing out a thoughtful theme, or exploring a delicate topic, or peeling back layers of our characters, or exploring a difficult relationship in a meaningful way.
But, it did manage to create that, “Oh my, what’s going to happen next?” sort of effect, which is basically the thing that kept me coming back for more, even when I found Show wanting, in the areas I just mentioned.
Like, just how is this show planning to resolve this arc? And then how is this show intending to wrap up this story? I just wanted to know, even if I wasn’t convinced that the answer would be all that robust.
If you’re game to give this one a try, I’d say, maybe stop reading after this section, so that you can experience the rollercoaster for yourself.
Just go in with an open mind, don’t try to analyze stuff too much, and also, this is very vaguely spoilery, perhaps, but as someone who’s crossed the finish line on this one, I would also say, be prepared for genre changes, because Show likes her multiple costume changes. 😉
ROLLERCOASTER SPECIFICS [SPOILERS – DON’T READ IF YOU PLAN TO WATCH THE SHOW]
Full disclosure: I didn’t take any notes during my watch, aside from my initial episode 1 & 2 notes, which I posted to Patreon, and I also took quite a long time to come back to this, after watching the first 9 episodes, so many details are likely to be hazy to me. 😅
But, here’s a broad overview of my experience with some specific points of this show.
Based on the trailer that I watched (below), which I realize on hindsight, is designed to hook you with the idea of a scandalous affair between a teacher and a student (I share a longer, more balanced trailer at the end of the review), I’d expected Show to be quite salacious.
(Which, y’know, is why I hadn’t been planning to check this out in the first place, but like I said, the positive comments on MyDramaList intrigued me enough to make me change my mind.)
And so, when, in the opening minutes of episode 1, we’re told that the student in this equation, Yi Xiang, ends up stabbing the teacher, Meng Yun, I thought, “Oh, Show doesn’t appear to endorse or encourage the teacher-student affair, after all.”
I then thought, “Well, this likely means that Show is designed to be more of a cautionary tale than salacious romance,” and I was pretty on board with that – so I switched my viewing lens to align with that idea.
And because we see Yi Xiang harassing Meng Yun, instead of the other way around, I thought Show was trying to play with the usual trope, of the power imbalance typically being in favor of the adult in the equation.
In this case, it was the student harassing the teacher, and I was intrigued, because, to my eyes, Meng Yun was just trying to do her job – which is how she ends up having that counseling session with him after school, which is how we end up with Show’s literal title, “The 9th Period,” because 9th period is when Yi Xiang’s counseling sessions with Meng Yun take place.
So there I was, fairly intrigued and curious to see how Show was planning to peel back all of our characters’ layers, and explore this dynamic of them falling in love despite the unusual circumstances, and also, how Show was planning to get me on board with rooting for this romance, despite the problematic teacher-student premise.
To Show’s credit, there is some of that, in the sense that Show does flesh out Yi Xiang’s character, so that, soon enough, he comes across more sympathetically, compared to the taunting, defiant tyrant that he first appears to be.
Does Show demonstrate any kind of elegance or finesse in doing that? Well, not that I can recall? 😅
Overall, I do remember thinking that it was a little odd, the way Show characterized Yi Xiang as being a good kid at heart, who’s just acting out against his mother – because if that’s the case, then why be so horrible to other people, while flaunting the fact that your mom will be able to get you out of any kind of trouble?
That never added up, to me.
The way Meng Yun starts showing affection for Yi Xiang also never did land as organic to me, because it had felt quite sudden, to my eyes.
As a side note, I also found it really weird that Meng Yun’s friend, who’s the school nurse, would encourage her to just sleep with Yi Xiang. I mean, what school nurse encourages a teacher to sleep with a student..?
Y’know, maybe that should’ve been my cue to stop trying to take this show seriously, but unfortunately, I, uh, mostly missed that cue. 😅
Meaning, I did dial down my expectations, but I still had some expectations that, by and large, this story would still make some kind of character sense (which, honestly, I don’t think Show actually fulfills, to be honest).
At around the halfway mark, Show introduces the idea that Meng Yun had basically recognized her father’s mistress when she’d met Yi Xiang’s mother (Ivy Yin), because Mother Dearest had had an affair with Meng Yun’s father, when Dad had been Mother Dearest’s professor in university.
So now, Meng Yun is kinda-sorta using her relationship with Yi Xiang to get back at Mother Dearest, for wrecking her family, back in the day – which had resulted in her own mother’s death.
And so, I gamely put on my makjang lens, and tried to process the fact that, ok, maybe this was turning out to be a makjang-revenge drama instead.
Of course, by this point, Mother Dearest is going nuts and doing everything in her power to stop this relationship, which accounts for some parts of the rollercoaster experience of watching this show.
Show introduces the idea that Meng Yun and Yi Xiang (who have by this point fallen in love and consummated their relationship) are half-siblings, because Mother Dearest had conceived him during her affair with Dad.
Say, Hello to Full Blown Makjang, is what. 😅
When Meng Yun learns that Yi Xiang is her brother, she breaks up with him (without telling him that he’s her brother; she just tells him that she never loved him), which then brings on lots of angst, etc.
At this time, Goody Two Shoes Director Li (Simon Hsueh) starts to intensify his efforts to court Meng Yun, even though, by this time, she’s already told him that she doesn’t like him.
Things finally get to a screaming crescendo, when Meng Yun, desperate to get Yi Xiang to accept that they will never be, blurts out that they’re siblings, and Yi Xiang runs off – right into a Vehicle Of Doom (I didn’t pay attention to whether it was a truck. Maybe it was Truck’s cousin, Car? 😅).
And so, Meng Yun cradles him right there on the road, and sobs that she doesn’t care if he’s her brother; if he’ll just wake up, she’ll cherish him forever.
..Which could be either really romantic to you, or really disturbing, depending on how well you’re taking to Show’s idea of “love is love.” 😅🙈
Show then quickly flips the whole thing upside down, by revealing that Mother Dearest had lied, and Yi Xiang and Meng Yun aren’t siblings after all. Pfft.
But we’re not done with this story yet, because suddenly, it becomes a mystery-thriller of sorts, with a mysterious someone sending an accusatory email to the principal, claiming that Meng Yun and Yi Xiang are in an incestuous relationship, and the same information gets splashed on various cyber portals and bulletin boards.
Everyone gets into investigative mode, trying to solve this mystery – which is when we find out that Goody Two Shoes Director Li, who’s been heading the school investigation, is actually Meng Yun’s stalker, and the originator of the malicious rumor.
And so, in the end, it turns out that Yi Xiang was never the one to stab Meng Yun. Meng Yun actually gets stabbed while trying to block Director Li from stabbing Yi Xiang, gah.
Thanks to Meng Yun saving Yi Xiang’s life, things are suddenly a lot more cordial between Meng Yun and Mother Dearest, who suddenly doesn’t seem to object to their relationship anymore.
In fact, Mother Dearest even bows in apology to Meng Yun, right there at the hospital, for causing so much distress to her family, back during the time when she’d had that affair with Dad.
Mother Dearest also tells Meng Yun that Dad never chose her over his family, and somehow, miraculously, that helps Meng Yun overcome all the grudge and angst she’s felt towards her father, all these years.
Six years later, we see that Yi Xiang’s now an IT professor (he was always a genius kid, did I forget to mention?), and Meng Yun’s still happily making lunch boxes for him, and bringing them to him.
We see a final shot of Meng Yun looking peaceful on the balcony (rooftop?) as she waits for Yi Xiang, eyes closed, while breathing in the fresh air and basking in the sunshine.
Which makes me wonder if Show’s really a healing drama, in the end..? Because Meng Yun’s finally learned a lesson in love..?
I have no idea. 🤪
Well, that was a journey. 😅
In the end, I realize that when people say that this show is well-written, they’re mostly talking about the twists and turns that Show serves up, over the course of its story.
Some people say that the characters and themes are well-developed, but I personally wanted more (much more! 😅) from Show, on those fronts.
I think the fact that I didn’t feel emotionally connected to either of our lead characters, even in Show’s late stretch, tells me that I found the teasing out of the character journeys insufficient.
But oh well. Different strokes for different folks, right?
In the end, I thought this was reasonably entertaining, for what it wanted to be. And if you happen to think that this is freaking brilliant? Well, so much the better. 😉
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Not very deep (or logical, sometimes), but makes for a pretty entertaining rollercoaster.
FINAL GRADE: B
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki and iQIYI.
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The drama was trying to do too many things and turned into a makjang, a very scattered makjang. (B grade is rather generous here, I think. 😅)
They should have chosen 1-2 themes and stick to it. Like the bullying of a teacher during the first episodes, very well done btw, or the class division and power of rich at school and education… In the end, the most interesting story was surprisingly the one about Mommy the Dearest.
Wow, that was… um… something. 😄 Never heard of the drama, but it doesn’t sound like one I would have even attempted at watching.
Every now and then I come across a show that strings me along by sheer facination, at least for a while. I never last long with those though. There always comes a point when I just can’t continue anymore, and off I go without a backward glance. 😁
Thank you, Fangurl, for defining why I kept watching this one – morbid fascination!
I finished this one and I get where you’re coming from. I knew it wasn’t that good but I was sufficiently curious enough to keep playing next. It helps a lot that it’s only 12 episodes at 40mins each. Part of the appeal also is to see Tiffany Hsu be the lead here (as opposed to being the second FL in Autumn’s Concerto).
Makjang plot twists notwithstanding, I couldn’t get into this one fully because ML really was acting like an immature student. He was throwing tantrums and stomping his feet in some scenes. But there were some scenes too that were done captivatingly and stood out in my mind, like jumping out of the car and hitching a ride with a wide smile.
Show also serves as a good quick comparison on how different Taiwanese dramas are from Mainland Chinese ones (this has more steamy scenes, “problematic” themes) and from Korean ones (has less polish and filters).
I don’t quite regret the show but I can’t actively recommend it either. I think it would be fun to discuss with someone live watching just to wait for their reactions.
I totally feel you on this Jiyuu! I totally agree it would’ve been quite a fun thing to watch with a friend, if only to roll our eyes together and groan at the screen together. A fun, mindless, guilty pleasure sort of watch. 😁
I agree with you on the ML acting like an immature student, which, to be fair, he was supposed to be. It just.. didn’t help to bring across his appeal to an adult woman in her 30s! Like, if I were her, I wouldn’t actually find him attractive or appealing, because of his behavior, so that didn’t work so well for me either.
Fangurl – I am sorry but it is going to be hard for me to be positive about this drama. My apologies in advance! 🙏
I managed to finish this, but just barely, because I became quite perturbed with show (the school nurse is just one of the many issues I had with show) and I almost dropped it several times. I felt that this show very cheaply pulled out every single low level trick in the book, one after the other, to shock the viewers instead of developing the characters in any real kind of way. The twists and turns were there for viewer shock value only. I felt the show was quite shallow.
With all due respect to those who loved it, I say I am glad that it made you happy. I know that everyone is different and I respect that. As you say above “Different strokes for different folks.”
I support the actors and the film crew but I felt that the writer/s let everyone down. The only good thing about watching this drama was seeing Edward Chen act. I just wish they gave him (and everyone else) a decent script.
I rated this a 1 out of 10 at MDL and here are my comments: “Are there any adults in the room?”
I am so sorry that I could not be positive Fangurl! Great recap!
@phl1rxd Oh wow, a 1 out of 10 from you?? That’s rare indeed! I think the only reason I didn’t get as upset as you in response to this show, is because of my efforts at lens-switching. I didn’t quite get the right one in place for the genre quick-change, but I did land on having an irreverent attitude to an unfolding makjang, which helped. 😅
This one was definitely gunning for shock value, with some of those narrative surprises that it sprung on us! 😁
Fangurl – I guess I kept with it because I thought that surely, from somewhere or someone, there would be a teachable moment or some real character growth.
Yes Fangurl, you are great at figuring out which lens in which to watch each drama. 👏 That is a real skill!
@phl1rxd Ahhh, ok, if you were waiting for a teachable moment or real character growth, I can see why you’d be disappointed! 😅
(Although, I did see some people say on MDL, that this show does a great job of shining the spotlight on parenting struggles and the like. I don’t really agree with that, but, y’know, maybe there are also folks who think there was real character growth in here 😅)
Fangurl – I count seeing Edward Chen act on my screen as a positive, even when he was being a jerk. He has the acting chops at his young age to pull those scenes off.
@phl1rxd He was a very convincing jerk, yes! 😂
Wow. Props for seeing this one through to the end, and many thanks for writing up a quick review to confirm my initial impression that this is so very much not for me… 😬
Trent – this show threw out the possible sibling scenario out of nowhere. This was definitely not Winter Sonata where you at least felt something for and from the OTP.
phl1rxd — yeah, as I was reading the synopsis, I was like, wait, somebody needs to do a compare and contrast with WS?
I guess without seeing this one, the whole teacher–student relationship concept would get me off on such a wrong foot that I would never recover, no matter how many lenses I switched.
Ahaha, you’re welcome? 😅 I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have taken to this one. I made it through, but mostly with an irreverent lens and a healthy helping of morbid fascination, to power me through the ride. 😁
As you rightly note, people are into different things. My own personal “yuck, no, what are you thinking? Gross, stay away” is no doubt someone else’s deeply meaningful exploration of…something deeply meaningful to them? And vice-versa, to be sure.
Ahahaha Trent. I doubt anyone found it deeply meaningful or anything of the remote sort. We were all thinking “yuck” at some point too but couldn’t detach ourselves because of curiosity. It wasn’t because we were all-in for the OTP either. It’s such a strange case, this one 😆