I finally understand why so many of you recommended Go Ahead to me, you guys.
It’s taken me a while to get around to checking it out (I was intimidated by the 40-episode length, and I was also always distracted by newer, shinier dramas coming out all the time), but I’ve finally watched it, and I finally geddit. 😍
Thanks to my recent semi-hiatus, when I was recovering from surgery (AND covid too, at one point 😭), I found myself well-positioned to marathon a drama, in that stretch of time when I was well enough to watch stuff, but not quite well enough to write about it.
I picked Go Ahead for my marathon, because of how highly recommended it’s been, from so many people, and, you guys, I love it. So, SO much. ❤️
If you like slice-of-life / family dramas / found family stories, this one is right up there, along with the best ones I’ve seen.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
As kids, Jianjian, Ling Xiao and Ziqiu become found siblings, as their respective broken households come together to make one big de facto family.
Our story follows this found family through all the ups and downs that come their way over the years, and it’s moving, heartwarming goodness to witness them becoming a true family, through it all. ❤️
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Our story takes a while to get settled
This is completely in character, given that Show is a slice-of-life creature at its heart, but this also meant that it took me several episodes to really get into this drama, and I thought it would be helpful to put that out there, upfront.
You might need a few episodes to get into this too.
2. The story isn’t very romance-forward
What I mean is, there is eventually romance in our story, but the romance is never the central focus of our story.
It’s there to support the story, and comes across as one of several important plot lines.
3. The romance is quite understated
What I mean is, the flavor of romance that Show serves up, is not of the sweeping, swoony variety.
It’s more of the “what does romance look like in everyday situations” and also “what does romance look like in the face of difficulty and struggles” variety, and I have to say, I have really become quite drawn to this category of romance, of late.
If you like those kinds of low-key, earthy flavors in your romance, then let me also recommend Nothing But You (review here), which offers up a nice large amount of it. 🥰 (Also! Wu Lei!! 😍😍😍)
4. It’s ultimately all about family
This might sound very obvious, since I’ve categorized this as a family drama upfront, but I do think it’s helpful to keep that in mind.
Show is true to this family-centric focus, through all of our characters’ ups and downs, and I liked that a lot. 🥰
STUFF I LIKED
The idea of our central found family
I came into this show with only a vague idea that it was about found family, so when I finally realized the specifics of this particular found family, I found myself loving the idea a great deal.
I love the idea of the two fathers coming together to raise the three kids, with one dad being more dad-like, and the other dad being more mom-like. I think this particular detail tickled me the most, and in the best way.
I loved the idea of them coming together, and pooling their skills and resources, and becoming a fuller, more wholistic home for these kids, than either of them could have managed, on their own.
As time goes by, our two dads even give us ol’ married couple vibes, with Hai Chao (Tu Song Yan), the more Mom-like of the two, doing wifely chores and gently nagging He Ping (Zhang Xi Lin), who’s the epitome of the typical Gruff Asian Dad.
Lookie, aren’t they quite adorable, just sitting on the couch together? 😁
Because all three of the families involved in this equation had suffered so much, and had been left behind in different ways by their respective mothers, it gave me a really deep sense of gratification, each time this found family proved that they were doing just fine, and were perfectly happy in this new found family.
As much as I loved the idea of this found family pretty much right away, I was surprised by how much more I grew to love them, over the course of these 40 episodes.
These people may not be related by blood, but they chose one another, again and again, and were, to one another, the family that they needed, and that they deserved. 🥰
I loved that, so much. ❤️
Tu Song Yan as Hai Chao
I loved many of the characters in this drama world, but hands-down, my favorite of them all, was Tu Song Yan as Hai Chao.
I just loved how kind, pure-hearted, warm and loving this man was, not only to his family, but to people in general. I completely believe that there isn’t a single malicious bone in his body, and that made him hugely appealing to me.
On top of that, I just loved the Mom-like qualities he displays, with his passion for cooking and for feeding his family, and his ability to tap into the emotional side of things, and connect with people there.
I was also very impressed that Tu Song Yan believably portrays Hai Chao at different life stages, meaning, I completely believed when he was young, strong and robust, and I also completely believed when he was older and less strong.
I remember sitting up with interest, upon setting eyes on young Hai Chao, and wondering if I’d been mis-categorizing Tu Song Yan’s age in my head, because he looked so young, bright and energetic.
There are many, many small moments when I loved Hai Chao on my screen, but the one that stands out to me most, is this one:
There’s a scene in episode 5, where Hai Chao overhears Ziqiu’s aunt He Lan (Zhao Pei Lin) reminding Ziqiu to always be grateful, because Hai Chao is being so very kind to bring him up, even though Ziqiu isn’t his son.
In the moment, I can see that Hai Chao’s deeply uncomfortable at He Lan’s words, but it’s only later, when he gets drunk and starts crying about how it hurts him so much, to be reminded that he’s not Ziqiu’s biological dad, that I start to understand his true heart.
To Hai Chao, it’s not just for Ziqiu’s sake that he doesn’t want people to keep talking about how they’re not blood-related; it’s for his sake too.
He’s long embraced Ziqiu as his own son, and anything that detracts from that, really cuts him to the bone.
Aw. Isn’t that such a pure, tender, father’s heart? 🥲
Our three “siblings”
I loved-loved-loved the bond between our three faux siblings, from the very moment they decided to become siblings.
The way they are so in sync with one another, even though they are so different in so many ways; the way they always have one another’s backs; the way they save snacks for one another because it’s just the natural thing to do; this all gave me toasty, cozy feels, and made me want to be one of them too. 🥰
Most of all, I loved how they understood and knew one another so well, that they instinctively knew what any one of them might be upset about, on any given occasion.
It truly felt like they made one another stronger by being together, and I loved that about them.
Of course, I was gutted when they were separated, when Ling Xiao and Ziqiu both go off to study abroad, for different reasons, and I was even more gutted, to see them be all awkward and weird around one another, after they came back.
I thought this plotline was very realistically handled; it’s so true that as you spend a lot of time apart from the people who are dearest to you, you can’t help but drift apart over time.
This felt especially believable, given the fact that this was during a time when technology wasn’t what it is today, which hampered their attempts to connect over video calls.
In the end, when they actually find a way to recapture the closeness that they’d once lost, I was so, so – so, so! – glad. 🥰
The child actors
I just had to give a shout-out to the child actors who play our three siblings, (left to right) Li Zhen Zhen, Cong Shang and Xu Wai Luo, who play Ziqiu, Jianjian and Ling Xiao respectively.
I thought they were all extremely well-cast, and very excellent in their deliveries.
Xu Wai Luo’s serves up the same sad eyes with hidden pain that Song Wei Long brings to Ling Xiao’s character, while Cong Shang gives us similar bubbly vibes to what Tan Song Yun brings to Jianjian’s character.
My favorite of three, though, is Li Zhen Zhen, whom I thought was really great, as Ziqiu.
He brings a wonderfully raw sense of vulnerability and open-heartedness to young Ziqiu, which I felt was pitch-perfect for Ziqiu’s character arc.
Tan Song Yun as Jianjian
Tan Song Yun is perfectly cast as Jianjian, in my opinion.
She’s so petite, and inhabits her character so well, that I could instantly believe that she really was a cluelessly chaotic 16-year-old with big love for her brothers, and who says exactly what she thinks, because she really seems to have no filter for her thoughts. 😁
And then, when Jianjian grows up, I really like Tan Song Yun how retains the core of that chaotic energy, while still giving Jianjian more grown-up layers.
As a character, Jianjian’s a constant ball of energy, who is, at key points, more perceptive to others’ feelings than one might expect.
It really does feel like Jianjian’s the one who brought this found family together in the first place, and it also feels like her very presence is a strong factor that keeps this family together, because everyone in the family – her brothers in particular – wants to protect her and keep her safe.
I found it an interesting, almost oxymoronic sort of thing, that the youngest, most overtly chaotic person in the family, turns out to be the glue that draws and then keeps the family together.
Song Wei Long as Ling Xiao
I have a huge soft spot for Song Wei Long after enjoying him very well in Find Yourself (review here!), so I was very pleased to have him on my screen as Ling Xiao.
I just love the effortless intent smolder that he exudes so naturally, through his gaze.
And that gaze fits Ling Xiao’s character so perfectly.
Between Ling Xiao and Ziqiu, I somehow found my heart going out to Ling Xiao more, even though both boys are abandoned by their mothers.
Overall, I just feel like Ling Xiao had to suffer more, and also, I feel like he had a deeper, more acute understanding of his mother abandoning him, because of the way it happened.
Whereas Ziqiu at the same age had some hope that his mother would come back for him, because that’s what she’d promised, Ling Xiao was overtly “thrown away” by his mother, when she tells Jianjian that Jianjian can have him now.
That rejection by his own mother must have hurt him so deeply. 💔
And then, I felt so very sorry for him, when his mother, Chen Ting, comes back to haunt him, once he’s older, first by trying to guilt-trip him into spending time with her and his new half-sister, and then, after her accident, by emotionally blackmailing him into staying with her, when all he wanted was to return to his found family.
My heart hurt so much for him, through all of that.
I appreciate that Show acknowledges his emotional wounds, and makes his relationship with Jianjian a source of healing and restoration for him. 🥲
Zhang Xin Cheng as Ziqiu
I also think that Zhang Xin Cheng is pitch-perfect as Ziqiu.
I feel like he perfectly brings out the essence of Ziqiu; Ziqiu tries to act all tough and gruff, like everything’s more than ok in his life, but there’s an insecurity and vulnerability that can’t help but shine through, in his gaze, which, if you can see it, tells you that there’s a lot of pain that he’s trying to keep out of view.
And, Zhang Xin Cheng gives us all of that, while making it look completely effortless and natural, like he is Ziqiu.
Very nicely done, I thought.
I was also glad that Show focused Ziqiu’s personal arc on his abandonment issues, because of course it’s a huge part of his life, and has shaped him in significant ways.
On the one hand, he tries so hard to be part of the family that he’s found himself in, but you can tell that there’s a part of him that still feels like he’s an outsider needing to earn his keep, or show consideration for the family that’s taken him in.
And on the other hand, he tries so hard to reject any association with his biological parents, because of the way they had rejected him, but there’s still that lingering need and desire in his heart, particularly for his mother, whom he’d thought the world of.
It’s a delicate, complex situation, particularly since Ziqiu basically refuses to talk about it or acknowledge it.
Overall, I feel like Show does a nice job of exploring his story, and giving him the closure that he needed, in order to heal.
Show’s treatment of the loveline
As you can tell from the picture above, there are two potential lovelines here, with both “brothers” eventually having romantic intentions towards Jianjian.
Given the delicate nature of this topic, since they grew up as siblings, I thought Show handled this very well.
From very early in our story, while Jianjian’s still in high school, we can already see that Ling Xiao is aware of her, not as a sister, but as a person of the opposite sex.
I thought this was helpful early framing, so that we know that even from a young age, Ling Xiao doesn’t only think of Jianjian as a sister.
We see him drawing important boundaries with her, like not allowing her onto his bed, once she expresses that his blanket smells nice.
Later on, even though I didn’t like the idea of the three of them being separated for such a long period of time, I do think that the separation is also helpful, to make the idea of the romance easier to digest, when they do get reunited.
Even though Ziqiu also eventually expresses romantic intentions towards Jianjian, I felt that it was very clear to see, that he didn’t actually like her romantically.
He just believed Zhuang Bei (An Ge), when Zhuang Bei analyzed that Ziqiu must like Jianjian, to be behaving in the way he was.
In reality, Ziqiu was more interested in having a way to become family with Jianjian and Hai Chao, in the eyes of the law, than in being with Jianjian in a romantic way.
In comparison, it was easy to see that Ling Xiao really liked Jianjian as a person, and felt a deep need to have her in his life.
I could believe that Ling Xiao had real romantic feelings for Jianjian, whereas I always felt that Ziqiu was just trying to psych himself into the idea that he liked Jianjian romantically.
Which is why I felt that it made a lot of sense that Ling Xiao and Jianjian were our OTP, instead of Ziqiu and Jianjian.
And, even though we don’t get a great deal of screen time exploring the relationship between Ling Xiao and Jianjian, I do like what we do get.
We get to see them being there for each other, and understanding and helping each other, and supporting each other, in everyday ways, as well as in bigger, key moments.
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, I find that I really do enjoy this flavor of romance, and while I absolutely wouldn’t have minded more screen time for this romance, I am also satisfied with everything that Show served up, for this couple.
The three gal pals
Although we see this friendship show up to varying degrees while our characters are in high school, it’s only after the time skip, when they’ve grown up, that we get a stronger focus on this friendship.
And I have to say, I liked this addition very much.
I appreciate that Show takes time, not only to explore the dynamics among this group of friends, but also, to give us insight into the personal struggles of both Mingyue and Tang Can (Sun Yi and He Rui Xian).
I have to confess that between Mingyue and Tang Can, my heart was more with Mingyue, because I’m more drawn to her gentleness.
At the same time, I find it interesting to realize that, even though Mingyue and Tang Can have such different personalities and backgrounds, that they are both essentially fighting the same battle; to have the courage to be true to themselves, in the face of parental disapproval.
I’m glad that in the end, both girls find the courage to stand up for what they believe in, and take steps to live the lives that they truly desire for themselves.
In particular, I found it very moving to watch Mingyue fight that battle, while also doing her best to be there emotionally for her mother (Hao Wen Ting), who suddenly finds her life falling apart, with her divorce.
That decision of Mingyue’s, to reach through her own struggle, to embrace, love and support Mom through Mom’s own pain, was very beautiful, I thought. 🥲
STUFF THAT WAS OK
The more problematic characters
I’ve got this in this section, because while I sometimes had strongly negative feelings towards these more problematic characters, at the same time, I understand that they have value, in our story.
1, they provide the narrative tension that we need, in order to keep our story flowing, and,
2, they aren’t two-dimensional caricatures, there just to provide challenges to our central characters.
Instead, Show takes time to flesh out each of these problematic characters, such that we eventually come to understand them better.
I thought Show handled this very well, in that this wasn’t overly neat.
Sometimes, I had a change of heart after coming to understand a character better, and sometimes, I didn’t have a change of heart, but at least I felt more understanding for the character, and why they behaved the way that they did.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
I can honestly say that I really, really liked how Show wraps up our story.
Yes, I did think that it was a tiny bit rushed at the very end, and I would have liked maybe an additional episode, so that things could have felt a little less rushed, but overall, I really like where we leave our characters.
I love the way Hai Chao gets his own loveline in the end, when we learn that he’s always had a soft spot for He Mei (Yuan Ran).
I mean, for a good stretch there, he had me going, thinking that he was being truthful every time he denied actually liking He Mei for real.
Their romance is on the quick side of things, but I thought it was very earthy and sweet, how they do become a couple in the end.
That scene of Hai Chao getting ready for their first date, and doing his best to look all spruced up, is so dorky and adorable, seriously. 😍
I love how this means that everyone in our little family gets what they really want.
With He Mei marrying Hai Chao, Ziqiu gets to legally become family with Hai Chao and Jianjian, which is the thing that he’s wanted, all this time.
Not only that, he’s now reunited with He Mei, who’d never actually wanted to abandon him, in the first place.
Of course, this also means that Hai Chao finally has a sweetheart of his own, after being a widow for so many years, and I’m happy for him, for that.
And then, with Ling Xiao soon to marry Jianjian, Ling Xiao’s also set to become legal family with Hai Chao and Jianjian, which is something that’s very important to him too.
AND, with this marriage, He Ping would also become legal family with Hai Chao and Jianjian.
It’s just perfectly perfect, all around, isn’t it? 🥲
I also appreciate that Show wraps up Chen Ting’s arc in a manner that feels satisfying and realistic, with her finally seeing the error of her ways and choosing to give Ling Xiao the space that he needs.
This way, they are still connected, but not overly so, and that feels healthier for everyone.
All in all, this was a finale that I found emotionally very satisfying, with enough firm bows, and enough open endings, to feel like a nice balance between cozy-toasty and hopeful-realistic.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Absorbing, warm and ultimately uplifting. Well worth the drama hours.
FINAL GRADE: A
WHERE TO WATCH:
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
You can use my affiliate link (here!) to enjoy up to 68% off, plus 3 months free, with prices starting as low as US$3.19 per month.
An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.