Love Keeps Going
is the Taiwanese drama starring Mike He and Cyndi Wang which began airing at the beginning of this month (June). I had highlighted
my hopes and fears about this drama before it began airing (quick summary: plus=Cyndi is cute and adorable, minus=Mike has a terrible record of drama choices). I went into this with even lower expectations after that, because I hadn't been able to get into either of Mike's two previous dramas - Calling for Love
was just bad and I couldn't seem to warm up to Sunny Happiness
, despite all the positive reviews for the latter.
The first two episodes, like those of Lie to Me
, were awful. Mike and Cyndi both over-acted, particularly Mike, which was shocking because he is usually completely comfortable in the overbearing, high-maintenance character roles he always gets cast in. Many actors overdo it when given those sorts of roles, but Mike has always seemed born to them, balancing the arrogance with emotional nuance and the gradual dawning of romantic affection. Whatever the reason, initially he overplays his role, coming across as shrill rather than arrogant. He and Cyndi indulge in lots of shrill shouting at each other in the first two episodes. Main leads always bicker and argue in the first part of the drama, but usually it's played up more as comedy, or there's flashes of attraction even in the first episode, but it's not the case here. These two people are genuinely angry at each other and shout at each other frequently, which makes for a less-than-pleasant experience in the first episode.
Mike is an arrogant, emotionally distant composer who is famed for his music compositions for film and television, and is nicknamed "J-King" because of his position of musical dominance (and, one assumes, for his looks). Cyndi is your usual kind, upbeat poor girl with a deadbeat family. Both are at first hard to like, because while Mike's usual cosmic charm is in odd abeyance, Cyndi is an intense and rather annoying people-pleaser reminiscent of Chen Xin Yi in Fated to Love You
(one of my least favorite drama characters of all time), though unlike Xin Yi she's at least competent. With Mike petulant and Cyndi a doormat in the first episode, the drama gets off to a less-than-endearing start (also, the plot's really dull).
After two episodes of dull, over-acted story however, things pick up remarkably. As with Lie to Me
, all the story really needed was for the two main characters to settle into their roles and start spending a lot of onscreen time together. As soon as they do, things fall into place. There's several well-set up side stories with Mei Le (Cyndi Wang)'s fiance and Yi Lie (Mike He)'s family which provide a great narrative base, and all that was needed was for Cyndi and Mike to start having sparks.
There's a wonderful relationship dynamic here - he, emotionally scarred, has shut everyone and everything out of his life, pushing them away with arrogance and a demanding personality. She, also deeply scarred by her family rejecting her in early life, has made it her life's mission to make herself indispensable to those she loves, so her natural default is to serve others. Both consider themselves unloved by their parents, which a shared trauma that I love, but what I really love is that given these two people and their personalities, what we have is not Mei Le giving in to Yi Lie's every whim and struggling to please him (as a certain sticky note girl did in another drama). Instead, he's the only one
that draws out her real spunky personality. From the first moment they meet she speaks nothing but her mind to him - there's something about him that makes her entirely comfortable. In turn, the drive she puts into her work and into loving those around her touches him despite himself.
I also love that she sees right through his bristly exterior almost immediately, constantly taking the wind out of his sails as she manipulates him into being the good man that she seems to instinctively know he is. The drama starts out with him making her life miserable - but a few episodes in, she's got him twined around her little finger, though I don't think she quite realizes it. There's one hilarious moment where she's not-particularly-meekly apologizing for having her employee forge his autographs so she call sell them, and he glowers and yells at her (perfectly justifiably) and then the next moment
steps across, kicks her employee out, and starts signing the autographs himself.
My favorite relationships are those in which the guy falls for the girl first, and that's very much the case here - she's his brother's girlfriend and sees him as an interesting puzzle and her brother-in-law, while he has fallen for her by the end of episode three. And in doing so, Mike settles into his role - I get the strong sense he's much more comfortable as a romantic lead who is often acerbic than as a general bad guy who makes everyone around him miserable. I'd forgotten what an effective, smoldering romantic lead Mike can be, but the way he looks at Mei Le in episode three and four has thoroughly reminded me.
In case it hasn't become clear by now, Cyndi and Mike also develop, seemingly in the space between episode two and three, all the sparkly, melting chemistry that one could wish for. Both have always had a knack for creating chemistry with their co-stars, and while it oddly took a little while to kick in here, once it did it's lovely.
All of which is to say, Love Keeps Going
is developing into a wonderful little gem, with witty dialogue, romantic chemistry between the leads, great back stories of emotional trauma for both leads, and all the jealousy and longing one could hope for. Another of my favorite romantic tropes is when the heroine gets deeply hurt by someone and the hero steps in to protect her, which is why (yes, I'm evil) I absolutely cannot wait until Mei Le's boyfriend of years dumps her in the cruelest way possible. Give this drama a shot.