Second Impressions: Love Keeps Going
Love Keeps Going is one of those dramas that has a distinct upward trajectory - it starts out bad and then just gets better and better until it's utterly fantastic. Unfortunately, most people judge a show by the beginning, which is why it hasn't been much talked about online.
With episode seven, it's finally official - Love Keeps Going is a very good drama. It's turning into one of the better ones I've seen, as a matter of fact, though it is like Lie to Me in two things: it has a slow, deceptively offputting beginning, and it has a central romance that is much better than the overall plot. This seems to be the year of dramas in which the chemistry and/or interactions of the main couple outshine the mediocre-to-bad plot and predictable side stories and characters. My Princess, The Greatest Love, and Lie to Me have all been of these stripe - good actors with great chemistry taking a cliched or messy script and elevating it into something worthwhile. The best dramas have plots which are vehicles for good actors to ride on; the bad ones are sinking ships that must be saved by the actors' skill.
Love Keeps Going is certainly not a sinking ship, but neither is it (yet) the drama in which the excellence of the main couple's storyline fits in seamlessly with the excellence of all the other parts. Is is the main romance that shines here, after a rocky start. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would never believe that Cyndi Wang and Mike He had almost zero chemistry at the beginning of this drama - because they have it in such bucketloads now. Mike has more chemistry with Cyndi than with any other actress he's been paired with aside from Rainie Yang - and if you've seen Devil Beside You and Why Why Love, in which the Mike/Rainie chemistry is literally legendary, than you'll know that's saying something.
Mike admitted in an interview that he has more chemistry with Cyndi than with the leading lady of his other, recently-ended drama Sunny Happiness - and the reason for such a usually careful celebrity to say that must be because it's strikingly obvious to everyone. As for Cyndi, she admitted in another article that her romantic scenes in this drama are more intense than her previous roles and that she had her first "passionate kiss" for this one. She laughed that Mike's kissing experience is very rich since she and Mike kissed for seven or eight different angles. When asked how it felt to kiss Cyndi Wang, Mike replied that it was "sweet". And since we're on the subject of kissing, this past episode had one of the sexiest kissing scenes I've ever seen in a drama. This drama knows a good recipe: take two actors with vivid, shimmering chemistry - and then give them lots of makeout scenes. (And there are a lot in this drama - we've already had more than a usual Twdrama, and the series preview promised lots to follow). Why is everyone not watching this drama yet??
I said in my last post that I couldn't wait until Mei Le broke up with her fiance because I couldn't wait to see Yi Lie (Mike) swoop in and be all protective of her broken heart. But as it turned out, the drama spent relatively little time on the direct aftermath of the breakup - it was all taken care of in one episode - and I'm grateful for that because the truth is, this drama isn't about Yi Lie taking pity on a girl who was practically dumped at the alter, or about how he is inspired by and needs the bread she bakes, or about anything else, really. This drama is about a man who falls in love with a girl because he sees who she is and loves her for it, and all these external circumstances of him being her ex-fiance's brother and loving her toast and helping her get revenge on her fiance are just extras.
I think what I love the most - and I was most surprised by - about this drama is that after a certain point, it stopped being driven by all those other conflicts - yes, Mei Le and Yi Lei's relationship is affected by them, but the central driving force and the heart of the drama is their relationship itself. Their interactions, worries, concerns (mostly about each other) are what the drama focuses on. And that romance is so incredibly well-written. The pacing is just so perfect. In a Korean drama, Yi Lie would have ignored his attraction to Mei Le through episode five, and Mei Le would still, in episode seven, be in denial about her attraction to him. As it is, everything has happened so realistically, from Shao Yin (Yi Lie's manager) confronting him about his feelings for Mei Le early on and making him realize them, to his determined pursuit of Mei Le and support of her in everything, which in turn is making her fall for him and she admits it to herself in this episode (a self-aware heroine!!! Have I died and gone to progressive-drama heaven??). And last but not least, to his manager confessing her feelings this episode, when I had expected her to remain a silent antagonist to Mei Le and the relationship for a few episodes yet, to bring doom to them later on. Now, even if she plots against them later, Yi Lei will be aware of it and (hopefully) forestall.
There's nothing better than a story in which the characters are not only consistent but who feel all the appropriate emotions at all the right times AND who admit it to themselves and often each other. Yi Lie and Mei Le are strikingly open with each other, on the whole, and I love that Yi Lie just keeps pursuing her, but not in a crazy, bull-headed way - she rejects him twice in episode seven, once outside her house when she tells him they can never be together, and once at his place, after dinner when she tells him being around him reminds her of his brother (ouch!). Yi Lie promptly walks away from her both times, as well he should - but he keeps coming back, both because he's crazy about her and because I think his instincts are telling him, regardless of what she says, that she loves him too.
The leads in this drama have an unusual dynamic in that most of the drama consists of them just hanging out. Taiwanese dramas have always been better at that than Korean dramas - the conflict tends to be more internal and therefore more organic in Taiwanese dramas, while angst between the couple tends to spring from outside circumstances in Kdramas. Which is why we get much more romantic interaction, usually, and a much more intimate look at the main couple in a Twdrama. But it's hard to pull off, and this drama is doing is swimmingly. Yi LIe and Mei Le fight over completely understandable things, look after each other, laugh together, banter, bicker...and it's all so warm and convincing. It's like watching two very good friends who also have intense romantic chemistry spend time together. There's a moment in the latest episode where they're driving in the car together and Mei Le is just sort of sitting there grinning and laughing to herself over the reporters and Yi Lie catches her mood and grins at her and the warmth between them just fills up the car, it's so tangible. And achingly real - that scene is straight out of real life.
I might, might be up for brief recaps of this show if people are interested - anyone?
Also, we get this in a later episode-