Ben Wong, Charmaine Sheh, Hong Kong Entertainment, Queenie Chu

When Heaven Burns

I watched this one because my mom was looking for something serious to watch after all those sitcoms we were watching–among other comedies. First off, the title. I must admit that I was in objection of it when the title got changed from Heaven and Earth to When Heaven Burns but after having watched it, I could say that it suited the series quite well. Seriously, it was so intense and nerve-wrecking at various points so in a way, it wasn’t too lame with changing the title. After all, the Chinese title was still Heaven and Earth, right?  So how was it? Honestly, people who skipped it just missed a really good series. YES, that coming from me who have been ranting about recent series (and even got scolded for it on this blog). For once, I didn’t mind the repetitive team and/or group who contributed in this series. I meant not that I didn’t like the cast (okay, maybe for one or two persons), but I just got tired seeing them together all the time. I was curious so I tuned in along with my mom anyway. Yet I found it more enjoyable than I expected. People who think that this series was dragging shouldn’t even give it another go because you already set an opinion, so don’t let me convince you and later come back to scold me. Because seriously, if you think this was dragging, I’m not sure what ‘dragging’ mean anyway. Sure, it was slow and passive at times, BUT it did not mean dragging. There was this underlying heaviness and intensity building up episode after episode until the breaking point that led to the mind buzzing mind games in the later half of the series. Don’t believe me? It’s okay. You don’t have to. And perhaps I don’t like over-hyped stuffs so I enjoyed this series even more. Though the cast seemed to be promoted heavily of recent but the series did not aim to ‘shove it into your face’, or I didn’t get that feeling like they were trying to sell something. Maybe that was why it worked.

Moving on, like my usual reviews, I will place in the whole ‘cast/characters’ discussions–among other things. But will also include the ‘theme’ part this time around as well since I feel it’s essential and actually feel like discussing it more specifically for this series. However, I won’t include ‘couples/pairings’ this time around because I feel that wasn’t the point of the drama. YES, there were love spread into the drama at times, making things even more complicated with relationships. But that was just part of the small piece and I don’t want to get distracted with it for this one series.

Main Cast/Characters:

  • Charmaine Sheh as Hazel Yip Chi Yan (葉梓恩).  A character worth watching after so many of her recent ‘goody two shoes’ ones. I mean I like to see her in those ‘nice and kind’ ones too. YET I felt she was getting rusty or would get there soon if she doesn’t take on any challenging role soon. Sure, the majority of the characters in here had to be quite serious as well. But I felt this one was a role that she won me over again with her portrayal. It wasn’t too much or too little. It was just right with her passiveness at times or her cold composure. She managed to capture those moments when Yan was hurting so much that she didn’t know where to turn to (aka all lost and confused). Then there was the whole not caring for the world attitude. There were so many complications in her life that she couldn’t handle, even turning to different means as an outlet–like senseless one-night stands or alcohol. I was really disturbed at first with how her character appeared to be cheating and all, but somehow sympathize with her later with how her family was so broken and her being stuck in the past for so long that she was hurting herself and others around her. The worst part was not being able to pull out until later. But what I really liked about her character throughout was her stubbornness. Once she made a decision, she didn’t waver anymore. There was another thing that they (the script-writers) added to her character that I quite like, which was the whole deep thoughts and stories in her radio segments. I like those narrations and it sort of set the tone for what was going on around them and how the guys–or other characters–would think it over as they listened to her segment. It was somewhat a narration or reflective moment at times when the scenes were happening around them but there was only her words to convey the message of those scenes–and the impact of what just happened.
    • Angel Chiang as the young Yan. Though she doesn’t resemble Charmaine to be a younger version of Yan but she has the spunk and grace for the character. I really enjoyed her chemistry with the rest of the guys throughout as a band. Her bravery to fight against the guys at times was quite admirable as well. Maybe that was just her rebellious nature.
  • Moses Chan as Angus Sung Yee Long (宋以朗). After all those so-called ‘comedies’, he finally returned to the more serious roles as well. Mixed feelings at times actually. Maybe it was his intimidating image that had made the others believe he might have been the cause of their role in the Ka Ming conspiracy, BUT it wasn’t so. Perhaps Joe was right with his whole ‘drummer versus guitarist/lead singer’ theory/concept because that was what made Angus more suspicious out of the three of them. What was admirable of him–even IF that seemed like an excuse to like his character–was whoever he hurt, he didn’t hurt the people within his group of friends (aka between the four of them, i.e. Joe, Ronnie, and Yan). It was like he was compensating for what he’d done in the past hence leading a distorted life yet didn’t want to hurt the other three more than he already did. (Possibly that was the difference between him and Joe.) What made me not being able to forgive him in the end was sacrificing Jessica in order to get back at Ben (and eventually Joe). Did he have to do that? He probably thought so but that little act condemned him even more with his already life sentence (even if it wasn’t served in prison). SO Jessica had agreed to help him after confronting him BUT he should have considered it more, considering how Jessica had been so loyal to him throughout. (Or was he too blind with hatred and/or wanting to take revenge that he didn’t care? Not to mention how he was so close to winning.)
    • Yeung Chiu Hoi as the young Angus. Consistent enough. He looked less intimidating than his current self, of course, but for obvious reasons. However, there were always traces of the lack in confidence in him and the reluctance that was still present.
  • Bowie Lam as Joe Lau Chun Hung (劉俊雄). Was I the only one who got fooled by his character? Okay, so I was trying to put my biases past Bowie since I found his expressions always so intimidating regardless of the roles he portrayed and thought I was being mean for picking on him. So I tried to focus on his character instead and what was going on around his character. YET I was wrong to think he was some poor guy who was trying to repent–with his wife not understanding him and even cheated on him. Sadly no. He was the most dangerous one out of the three. He was so charming in character and so manipulative in his words that made everyone felt they were in the wrong more than him. Often taking the blame and sounding like he was protecting the others yet he was just protecting himself by letting others think he was the victim. The part where he was telling Angus the reason why he picked up playing the drum really summed up his character. He told Angus that he used to think it was so cool being a guitarist and sing at the same time, having all the attention. However, he later realized that the drummer actually held the key to it all because the band had to follow the drummer’s rhythm or they would be all off (aka the drummer controlled all with forcing everyone to play fast or slow). Seriously, it really boiled down to him being able to control everything in front of him with his careful planning and patience throughout–and most of all his persuasive abilities.
    • Ronald Law as the young Joe. He managed to look as intimidating? LOL! I had no idea but I guess he was convincing as the younger version of Joe since there were signs present that showed how the current Joe hadn’t changed–with some flashbacks here and there.
    • Signs that Joe isn’t all bad. AND NO, I’m not talking about the whole ‘facade’ he put up at times to deceive them–regardless of when he was younger or at times when he was older. I’m talking about when it was finally revealed that he was actually the most manipulative among the three guys. There were parts like him lying or trying to get through some sticky situations yet during his time alone, he would reconsider. Another time and more obvious was after Cloris’ death and him crying out in his office finally–while he was deleting her text messages to him.
  • Kenny Wong as Ronnie Cheng Chun Hin (鄭振軒). He started out as losing his memory and then recovering it slowly. We all hate the ‘lost memory’ card, right? But it made sense this time since he and the other two went through a near-death experience after all. Not to mention how he was traumatized along with the others during the whole incident. He strike first and planted the seed of evil. (YES, he was the one who stabbed Ka Ming first when Ka Ming was lying inside the tent resting.) But repented greatly later, wanting to pay for his sin. But wasn’t given the chance in that way. Instead, he paid for it with his eyes, and some more.
    • Kelvin Leung as the young Ronnie. Another good choice because he merged in quite well with Kenny’s portrayal because Ronnie seemed to me as always the passive one OR possibly the invisible one out of the three guys (aside from Ka Ming).

The reason why I only listed 4 as the main cast AND not like the other lists had indicated was because I felt the story revolved around those characters for the majority of the time and it took them to resolve all the conflicts as well.

Supporting Cast/ Characters:

  • Ben Wong as Bowman. The reason why I put him first was sort of by order of appearance and somewhat because I’m biased (LOL). Anyway, he was actually somewhat my favorite character throughout despite his limited screen time. (Though acceptable since I felt he contributed to the story with tying in different characters and moving the story forward but didn’t need to be ‘in your face’ to get the point across.) I felt so bad for him at the beginning since he was just part of the whole charade that Yan was putting up for herself, wanting to find replacements for her past (and more specifically for Ka Ming). But then I had somewhat forgiven Yan for deceiving him. Though that didn’t mean I like him less because I found him very genuine, not tainted by all the things around them. Ben had made that happened with his portrayal–regardless of the amount of screen time he had. In a way, I was glad he got a new start later–after Yan finally sorted out her mind (for good). (Side-note: My mom actually wanted to see Ben portray Kenny’s character instead YET I had convinced her it wasn’t a good idea because that would mean he was part of the ‘cannibalism’ conspiracy. LOL! NOT that anyone was being sacrificed in the events of shooting the drama but those types of characters were disturbing still, LOL!)
  • Maggie Siu as Emma. One of Maggie’s couldn’t care less roles? I don’t know. It seemed like it didn’t fit her. I had a hard time imagining Emma so dumb, mostly due to Maggie. NOT that I doubt her acting in the past, but this time it seemed weird. I don’t know what happened. But it was like she was uncomfortable with the role? I enjoyed her chemistry with Moses when they were shown as a somewhat cute couple at first. Yet it all crumbled in the later events (mostly due to the story), but I also had a hard time with her character was that naive. But I guess her character wasn’t too unbelievable since she was so sheltered by her sister and how she sort of depended heavily on her sister to look after the family business so she didn’t have to worry about other stuffs.
  • Astrid Chan as Gina. I had mixed feelings for her throughout the series but I let go of certain judgments later on because I felt she was another victim in this whole web of lies and other deception games. So she chosen to stick around and continued with her role but I felt she was so given a bad image or seemed to reflect so in front of the others at the beginning because her husband was so good at acting that she had been pushed to become the ‘bad person’. Astrid didn’t fail to deliver her emotions throughout, projecting her image–or what we were led into believing–and the actual tormenting turmoils she went through later on.
    • Joey Mak as the young Gina. Good casting actually since she somewhat resembled Astrid. OR did they do the make up that way and somewhat of the hairstyle too? Not sure but she did manage to show consistency in the character.
  • Felix Lok as Dr. Ivan Wong. At first, I found him too despicable because of the affair he was involved in. But I sort of pity him later. Just slightly. Or perhaps I wasn’t so judging of him anymore. A minimal role for Felix but he played a key role in the end. Somewhat, but it wasn’t like he needed to prove himself.
  • Angela Tong as Shirley. Ronnie’s wife. I was arguing with my mom whether her character accepted Ronnie regardless if her husband had once eaten someone OR if she was too traumatized and didn’t want to believe. YET I had to wonder in the later parts of the plot after things cooled down. YES, she relied on her husband the majority of the time. But let that slide as well? Do people just accept things just like that? (I meant cannibalism isn’t like shop-lifting. Sure, both could be repeated BUT shop-lifting dealt with the store’s possession versus a human being.) Regardless of the ambiguous of her character, I thought Angela did quite well with conveying all the torn feelings she’d gone through. AND no, I’m not saying it’s unrealistic with her character, just felt that it was worth some thinking with her point of views–and how it was a different sort of reaction from the other female population in here. AND yet it made one really think about human nature–and whether one choose to accept or to dodge.
  • Queenie Chu as Jessica. I think she was the most pitiful in here. Some could argue that she got what she deserved because she aided Angus in deceiving Emma–and possibly others. YET I felt she had always been loyal to Angus and only loved him hence it was too cruel to see her being sacrificed as his final pawn. The scene with her and Angus at the music store was quite touching. She didn’t ask for anything extraordinary–and had never asked for more, except for him to play a song for her one last time. Indeed, she was right that Angus was the most truthful or real when he was playing his music. The other thing about her that made it even more sad was how she was a replacement for Yan at first (could be seen through various points of when Angus was playing the guitar at the shop and saw Yan sitting there instead of the actual Jessica) and gradually earning a place in Angus’ heart with how he finally took the hint to be more attentive to her (mostly through Ben’s urging BUT Angus began to open his eyes to see Jessica for herself, not as a Yan who he could never be with), like how he was giving her the birthday gift (aka his necklace) to symbolize her importance in his heart. Yet it was just too late for them when he pulled the final card (i.e. sacrificing her as well) and perhaps that little scene with him playing the guitar for Emma (and actually picturing both Yan and Jessica) made it somewhat forgivable for him? NOT like completely forgivable but like how she finally earned a spot in his heart. Anyway, another different role for Queenie and I think she nailed it.
  • Cheung Kwok Keung as Ben. He got robbed. NOT the character, but CKK. Personal opinions here since seeing him in these types of roles just make me want to cry because I imagine him all so powerful in some of his previous roles. (One of the most memorable was in No. 8 Bus.) Anyway, he didn’t fail to deliver with convincing us he was this despicable character who betrayed his boss again and again. Yet I felt it was kind of lame that they had him playing the harmonica and trying to seek sympathy from Jessica in the end. I swear it was a bit over-killed with linking everyone to music–one way or another, but I will let it slide. (Like I could do anything anyway.)
  • Lau Dan as Uncle Chuen. Had some major scenes at the beginning but still didn’t lack in importance later on. It was his mission to help Joe repent from his past wrongdoings, and he made it his responsibility to bring Joe back to the correct path near the end as well. Yet it was too late. Or was it? AND do I need to say anything else about his acting? Convincing as always.
  • Cindy Lee as Cloris. Also a pawn in here and this had to do with Joe. Yet I can’t feel any pity for her though I was shocked by her death. I meant, okay her final moments were really worrisome and tragic, and I know I’m heartless to not pity her. But she had it coming. She criticized and chastised Gina at the beginning for cheating on Joe YET she ended up helping Joe cheat on Gina? Love’s blind YET she had it coming. The reason I was shocked, of course, was I didn’t expect her to die. I would expect the usual seeking out Gina later to confront Gina or would just go crazy, not death. Though her ending indeed made an impact on Joe when he broke down while deleting her messages. (As mentioned earlier.)
  • Elaine Jin as Brenda. She was an interesting character at first because of her mysterious nature with possibly being the only one to overthrow Angus. YET I lost interest in her character after she fall into Joe’s trap as well. WHAT? I don’t care if they were having an affair either since I was used to Joe’s manipulation already. But what I was disappointed at was seeing how she fall into his trap so easily. Or was she just letting go and using him to enjoy her remaining days? Another way to look at it though was emphasizing Joe’s ability to manipulate–even the most cunning person in here (at least from the female side).
  • Chan Hung Lit as George. His second last role and he got this? How memorable. NOT. But anyway, to be honest, he did quite well (OF COURSE) and I think it got cut off because of the inevitable? NOT SURE. But it wasn’t too lame in covering the tracks because he could might as well just disappear though he was sent on a mission to uncover Angus’ secrets elsewhere. (Though I shouldn’t even blame anyone or be mean about it since no one knew this one was his second last role, right?)
  • Tsui Wing as Arthur. I really, really hated him at first (equally as Yan so don’t worry about me picking on just the guy) but later, I was like whatever. And TW showed us another side of him in here with this role.
  • Andy Dai as Sam. The minute I heard ‘Sam’, it reminded me of his role in this old series called Exchanging Couples (OR something like that), because he was also named Sam in there (and the fact that his wife/later ex-wife in there worked at a radio station as well made it even more familiar). He was quite funny in here. So he was trying to be serious and at times appearing quite arrogant–as most bosses were allowed to. But it made it even funnier that he thought they were supposed to worship him yet they were just conning him at times.
  • Joe Junior as Dr. Dylan. The person driving the whole ‘rock and roll’ theme forward in here. Though the rest of them were there with their goth look and all, but I thought it wouldn’t be the same without his recounts of past events and his passionate talks about ‘rock and roll’ from time to time. They definitely needed a respected elder to point them into the right direction or telling them to go with the music, etc. His talk about life wasn’t cheesy either but it made sense, incorporating into the overall theme itself.
  • Rachel Kan as Daisy. Sort of a double-faced person, but I don’t blame her since she was quite witty with her comments (even if it was mostly through sarcasm). And the other reason of being bitter was having to cover for Emma just because Sam wanted to score points with Emma.
  • Catherine Chau as Mabel. Almost didn’t recognize her. Maybe it was because of the image. It was all right I guess, fitting in with her character and making her sort of wild along with the other two. It was kind of random that she got together with Arthur at one point (since Arthur claimed to really love Yan, so much for it).
  • Stanley Cheung as Hui Ka Ming (許家明). The unfortunate guy that got eaten by Angus, Joe, and Ronnie. I put him last on purpose (AND YES to make a point). Was this what they called the weakest link? He was really kind-hearted and down to earth from those flashbacks.

Themes:

  • Cannibalism. YES, I placed this first because that was the ‘advertised’ theme at the beginning–even before the actual filming took place. It was just a small part of the story but had a really big impact. Because they only showed a bit of it at the beginning and a more graphic (IF could be called ‘graphic’ at all) scene later on when the truth finally unfolded. But they didn’t dwell on it. They moved on to the ‘forgiving’ part and the whole ‘repenting’ part. Or what could be called an attempt to heal–if at all.
  • Friendship. It was all over the place in here. Yet it was real. Besides, what’s the right way to be friends anyway, right? What I mean is those random times between Hazel and her co-workers versus what she would do with the other three guys.
  • Black/White. The morality in here was also quite scattered but understandable. Yet it had made its point that life was more about the grayness of it all more than establishing boundaries. Sure, people could put up boundaries all they want YET the outcome when those things happened was different. In short, you don’t know what you would do until the actual moment. ‘What ifs’ could not measure the real impact anyway.
  • Rock and Roll. The reason for the whole goth look throughout the series with the majority. And at first I felt it would be too wannabe with seeing them trying to fit in and act like they were caring about ‘rock and roll’. BUT it wasn’t so. I was so glad that they made it so natural with different characters talking about ‘rock and roll’ but tied it in with the whole story. They weren’t trying too hard either (for once).

Favorites: Basically, I like the whole series–regardless of how random it got at times but it made sense and let us explore the characters even more. But there are other things I want to focus on as well.

  • Dark. I guess what made the whole thing worked was its goth nature and how it didn’t manage to crank the hype up by throwing in some other things. It appeared boring (to some people) and passive, but it was like they were waiting for that dark curtain to lift and free them all. The darkness of it all (NOT literally but could be) allowed for a wider range of exploration–whether through the mind or other types of interactions.
  • Consistent. I’m talking about both the consistency in personalities for the characters who had a younger version of themselves in here, and of the storyline itself as an overall. It was a bonus of a so-called ‘slow’ series because it covered most of the tracks with its flow. It was never too fast or too slow, but drove the point loud and clear in the end.
  • Filming Technique. I was surprised and somewhat blew away by how it was filmed with merging the two worlds into the story–back and forth–throughout the whole story. I will admit that it was a bit confusing at first but I got used to it later and really liked how they used the past as bits and pieces of the puzzles–until they reached the end. Awesome indeed.
  • Karma’s Kick. Chills literally ran down my back when the mother of that kid call out his name, telling him to apologize to Gina in the hospital. I must admit I was soooo scared that the ending would be corny and cheesy with everyone getting together singing a ‘Barney song’. (SORRY, inside joke if you know what I mean.) But it wasn’t so. NOT that I’m the type that wants to see deaths left and right. In fact, I’m more peace-loving than I let on at times. But what I felt throughout the series was the intensity that reeked so strongly as each episode went by, so how could they mend things just like that? Yet when Joe died, I only felt okay so one of the bad guys died, and indeed it was because of his own doing. Not to mention it was too late to return. But it wasn’t so. It was until the kid’s mother called his name (also Ka Ming like their friend Ka Ming), it totally went over my head and really made it more complicated in a way. In fact, it was really the writer’s intention because Gina had literally stopped in shock and finally realized it was really karma getting her husband, NOT just because he died saving a kid. YES, there was something inside him (something still good in there though he had claimed it was too late) that insisted that he wasn’t all bad. He even made an effort to buy his wife a gift for their upcoming anniversary, and then the obvious with him wanting to save the kid the instant he saw the kid wandering out in the street. But it was like the time to pay his debt had arrived. What about the other guys? Ronnie lost his vision and had to face the authorities regarding the case involving Joe. The final question that the investigation detective had asked Angus upon his departure was if Angus had felt lucky that he had gotten away for what all three of them had done. But Angus had replied, “How would you know I’m not facing my own punishment?” Indeed, Angus’ punishment was never seeing Yan again because she had claimed that she would leave and would never come back. That was on the surface though because I seriously think that Angus had already paid somewhat for his betrayal to Ka Ming. Why? Yan had stabbed him that one time at the apartment where they used to gather and practice their music after learning the truth version as to what really happened to Ka Ming–and Yan. Then she came back–as if having forgiven him already. (Yeah, call me superstitious but I sort of want to elaborate on that little possibility as some of the details were relevant to the story.) That was why Angus received the lightest punishment physically. (And personally, I think the reason why Angus got the lightest punishment was because he never intended or really agreed to their actions at first with Joe trying to convince him, pulling him out of the tent to talk about it since Joe was saying Ka Ming would die anyway. Then before they knew it, Ronnie had already stabbed Ka Ming–and they just went ahead with the plan. Perhaps Angus’ reluctance at first and his deep regret later made it more pitiful? Sure, he participated in different schemes later on and wasn’t so ‘good’ anyway, but before Ronnie recovered his memory, between the two of them, Angus had showed more regrets among them all, knowing he was already marked to pay a debt.) Emotionally, all three would always be scarred with what they did–regardless. Though I think Joe had finally got his release from it all, because usually the ones staying behind are the ones who have to face with the cruel truth–no matter how they try to repent themselves.
  • Full circle. I almost forgot about this but it was the scene where Yan saw a group of five going into the apartment building where they once practiced at and found Angus renting the apartment out to the five teenagers. Life was full of both the expected and unexpected. Yet it seemed familiar with how they once started out.
  • Alternate Ending. Most of us probably hate alternate endings, but I thought this one was well planned and well executed. Maybe because of the ‘what if’ concept and not the actual thing with TVB playing us, saying it didn’t happen, they were doing the ‘what if’ at the beginning. (LOL, that would suck big time because they did put us through so much since the beginning.) And the most unexpected thing (but made sense) was it was Yan who held the key to it all if their lives had been different. Why? It was revealed when Yan was walking to the bus stop at the end that “if she had turned around, Ka Ming wouldn’t leave with the guys to the mountains” thus their lives leading toward a normality–with everyone not suffering with endless guilt til the end. Then there was also the possibilities of the other people’s lives like how Emma would’ve gotten married with that one lawyer guy, Angus might have started something with Jessica, etc. And one day, just like the scene showed with them reuniting to sing and enjoy their music once in awhile. But to get back to Yan and her decision, maybe that was why she tortured herself, indulging in guilt all these years? She was blaming herself more than anyone because if she had turned around, then Ka Ming wouldn’t leave. But it was too much to take so she had chosen to blame it on the others and severed her ties from them rather than confronting her own demons. SURE, the others were at fault for making that decision, but it was from her own take that she could’ve made a difference if she didn’t leave. Interesting take indeed.
  • The sub-theme song. At first, I was like ‘whatever’ since I didn’t like the three guys’ singing too much. How wrong I was. Because I actually like it a lot more when the last two episodes came around. Because at that point, it made sense. Though some earlier episode showed them composing it together that one night. But I still thought it would be one of those moments and then they were back to scheming again. That was it. Yet the song finally came into importance when they finally reunited onstage and performed together with their counterparts. (And just for clarification, for the relevancy of the story, the characters wrote it BUT in real life, some of the talented musicians/lyricists had made it happen. Go here for the translations from llwy12.) Oh yeah, for some weird reason, when they sang onstage like that, it seemed to be the live version? (Like it wasn’t obvious with the stage setup but at times nowadays, we wouldn’t know if they just sync in the studio version.) Or was it? I wasn’t sure but it sounded different from how it was in the sub-theme.

On a concluding note, I must give this series a ‘one of the best of 2011’ label. This actually deserved to be on a mantel for once. This really put the ‘quality’ part back into some of the recent TVB productions. YET if people are just looking for some ‘excitement’, better skip it. Because this wasn’t another ‘hype-up’ series trying to draw in viewers just for the sake of it. But about a journey all of us must go through in life, accepting things, reflecting on things, forgiving or not forgiving, etc. In short, it was the explorations of the mind and heart.

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10 thoughts on “When Heaven Burns”

  1. Wow, great review (as usual)! You absolutely nailed all the important elements of the series perfectly – definitely enjoyed reading this particular review!

    Anyway, as I stated in my blog post about the themesong, I was one of those who felt the series was slow and draggy (and that’s why I didn’t watch the series in its entirety), BUT that doesn’t mean the series wasn’t good. In fact, this series was definitely one of the best modern series of 2011 – a well-made and high quality series all around, from the filming techniques to the acting to the storyline, etc. Unfortunately though, the series just wasn’t my cup of tea (mostly because I’m impatient and don’t tolerate slow series too well).

    Ok, so in terms of overall thoughts (like usual, I’ll be posting in multiple parts, since I have a lot to say and won’t be able to finish all my comments in one sitting..lol).

    I totally agree with your assessment of Charmaine’s role in this series – even though I didn’t watch the entire series, I watched enough of it to know how different her character was from most of the other ones she played….I remember thinking at that time: FINALLY!! TVB actually gave Charmaine a non-typecasted character for once! And of course, she NAILED IT in terms of the acting. I’m sure you know how I normally feel about Charmaine (it’s more negative than positive) and even though I’m still not a fan of hers (and probably never will be), I give her a lot of credit for her fine acting in this series – to the point that at the end of the series, my first reaction was that she deserves TV Queen this year for her performance in here (and no, she didn’t just ‘stand out’ because most of the actresses sucked last year – out of all the series that aired there wasn’t a single performance on the female lead side that I liked – she was actually truly excellent in here and could have beat out all the other actresses hands down even if they all had good performances).

    As for the 3 main guys – Moses, Bowie, and Kenny – yes, they all pulled very impressive performances in here as well.

    First, Moses – I don’t know about you, but I actually always felt that Moses did better with serious roles than comedic ones…I think that turning him into a comedic actor really killed his career because to me, he’s just not a good fit for comedy – he tends to be too OTT with his acting whenever he does comedy. His serious / tragic roles are definitely way better. Again, I’m not a fan and to be honest, I’m sick and tired of seeing Moses now (all those OTT comedies really left a bad taste in my mouth), but I liked the way he portrayed the character of Angus in this series. And I liked that his character was not all bad, but wasn’t all good either (which to me, is more realistic, since most of us as humans are like that as well).

    In terms of Bowie – well, let’s put it this way – you weren’t the only one who got fooled by his character. I too was surprised to find out in the end that he was the most ‘evil’ out of the 3 (though like you said, he technically wasn’t completely evil either – he pretty much just strayed off the path and by the time he realized it and wanted to repent, it was too late). Like I said earlier, I didn’t watch the entire series, so I actually missed some of the critical parts of the storyline involving Joe (such as the whole affair thing with Cloris and her subsequent death as well as how he ended up getting involved with Brenda), but the parts I did watch were enough to make me realize how complicated the character was and how well Bowie acted the part. I will be honest and say that I actually got a bit teary-eyed during the hospital scene when Gina learns of Joe’s death and also hears the name of the boy he had died saving – I actually ‘applauded’ at the very end (the ‘what if’ segment when we get to see the ‘good’ Joe back again).

    Kenny Wong’s role as Ronnie – is it just me or did it seem like Kenny’s character was the most boring out of the three? I mean, I can picture both Moses and Bowie’s characters quite clearly and describe their personality traits, but with Kenny’s character, I pretty much draw a blank – it’s almost as though he was just ‘there’, even though he technically had one of the most important roles in terms of being the first one to ‘pull the trigger’ so to speak. Now I’m not saying that Kenny wasn’t good – he pulled a fine performance as usual, which isn’t surprising with his steady, consistent acting – but I just felt that his character was the most poorly developed (or maybe I just didn’t understand the storyline involving his character all that well). One thing’s for sure though – boy am I glad that Nick Cheung didn’t end up filming this series – he was originally supposed to be cast in the role of Ronnie, but since he couldn’t accommodate the filming schedule, he got replaced with Kenny instead. For Nick to portray Ronnie would have been a huge waste of his acting talent (it would have worked out better for him to play Joe instead)….

    In terms of the ‘younger versions’ of the main characters – I too think that they were well-casted in their roles, but I will be honest and say that I was confused as heck whenever the series cut to the scenes involving them because for some reason, throughout the entire series, I found it very difficult to tell the guys apart…all I knew was that the guy with the crazy hair was supposed to be the younger version of Bowie’s character Joe – the rest of them I kept mixing up, which really affected my ‘watching’ of this series because I ended up getting more flustered than anything else. I think if I would have been able to get past the ‘who’s who’ part, I would have probably enjoyed the whole ‘flashback’ thing a lot more.

    Ok, I’ll stop here for now, since it’s getting late….I’ll come back tomorrow to comment on the rest of the stuff (I definitely have some things to say about the supporting cast as well as the themes)….

  2. @llwy12 – Wow, thanks for taking time with the first part of the your comment! LOL! As usual, I enjoy reading long assessments, lol.

    I’ll skip around and maybe will back-track later too since I seem to forgot somewhat because I had finished watching several months back, BUT thought I should publish this post anyway.

    About the award debate, I gave up on those already. I just like to make fun of it when it comes around, LOL! OR sit back and laugh at people argue over who deserved it more since TVB often give people the trophy at the wrong time. But I think the series’ popularity (though it seemed quiet to me with promos and all – comparing to their past collaboration series) said it all with their performances.

    Moses – I have to agree regarding his comedic roles. He seemed better in serious ones. I think the only time he didn’t exaggerate though given a somewhat comedic role was ‘Family Man’ because everything turned quite serious later too. SO it was half half. Interestingly, the exaggerations was noticeable to me in “Love Bond”, which was really bugging me so I sort of stop watching the ones that he portray with more comedic sides.

    Joe – Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who got fooled. The only hint that got me into thinking Joe might NOT be what seen the eye was how Angus had broke his car window at the beginning (the end of episode one and going into episode 2 a bit) that Joe shouldn’t play the innocent victim when he (Joe) wasn’t any better than him (Angus). YET I also want to reconsider that Angus just might be bitter (along with his intimidating attitude at first). OR I was also ruling out the fact that it might just meant Joe also had a hand in the whole conspiracy. AND yes, I did get a bit teary-eyed too during the hospital scene, especially the part where Gina finally spoke up to the kid, etc.

    Ronnie – Nick was supposed to be Ronnie? WOW. I didn’t realize since I wasn’t following the news as actively around that time. I don’t know about wasting Nick’s time. But I thought Nick would have made it more interesting since Ronnie was actually quite complicated sometime in the middle. AND also when he recovered his memory. NOT sure if it was Kenny’s portrayal or what but that was why my mom was saying how if Ben Wong had portrayed it, it would bring out the character more. (Her soft spot for Ben, LOL!) There’s also the other thing that I mentioned (but didn’t say more clearly) was I think Ronnie was supposed to be more passive/invisible comparing to the other two BECAUSE don’t we have one of those in each group of friends? One is always the leader (Angus – supposedly on the surface, but usually lack confidence in some areas), one really good with words aka the smooth talker (i.e. Joe – but it doesn’t mean those are usually the bad ones), one peacemaker but didn’t lack in intelligence or talent (def. Ka Ming), and lastly someone who usually stay in the background to the point of invisibility (Ronnie). AND perhaps because Ronnie seemed to be lacking importance that we get fooled by the things he might be capable of (if the circumstance presents itself and in this case it was the whole survival the fittest thing). Not to mention the quiet ones are usually the ones to watch out for. It’s cliches, but it’s true.

    How to differentiate the younger version of them? I think I got lucky because the Viet version had the same person dubbing for the ones who had a younger version of themselves, LOL! But the other thing was how their clothes were. Angus was the one wearing the pink striped shirt (somewhat colorful too). AND I guess that was true with Joe having a “special” hairstyle hence easier to recognize, lol. The easiest was Ka Ming with his obvious closeness to Yan. BUT that didn’t mean my mom and I had an easy time distinguishing them. We finally got it sort out which one was which (between the other three) like maybe a third-way through, realizing that we should just go by the voice (LOL).

    AND I just realize I forgot to add something so I did an edit regarding Queenie’s character. BUT will comment more in the next one (aka waiting for your follow-up first, lol.)

  3. @DTLCT: Haha…I know you’re like me — the longer the assessment, the better…LOL!

    Before I do my part 2 (starting at the supporting characters where I left off), I wanted to reply to a few of your comments…

    The younger versions — LOL…glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who had difficulty telling them apart (I was starting to think that something was wrong with me…haha) — though of course the difference is that you and your mom have more patience than me and actually tried to sort them out whereas I just got flustered and sort of gave up….not good, I know, but unfortunately I have very little patience when it comes to watching TVB series nowadays….

    With regard to Ronnie — hmmm,you make a very good point….maybe his character was truly supposed to be that way (passive/invisible) so as to highlight the personality differences amongst them. It could be that my assessment of his character as being ‘boring’ might not be too fair given that I didn’t watch the entire series, so I may have missed some important character developments in that regard…well, whatever the case, I’m still glad that Nick Cheung didn’t film the series because somehow, I just feel that TVB would have screwed up the storyline surrounding his character — I have no doubt that Nick would have done an excellent job in terms of the acting, but I just don’t trust that TVB would know how to utilize him properly.

    Ok, so on to part 2….(not going to comment on all the supporting characters, since I stopped paying attention at certain parts and so don’t know enough about some of the characters to comment on them)…

    Ben Wong — Haha…I can totally understand where your mom was coming from about wanting Ben to play the role of Ronnie and have a more significant role in the series because I’m just as biased when it comes to Ben as you guys are…LOL! I loved Ben’s character in this series and even though he had so little screentime, he was still able to make his character shine (the mark of a good actor right there)! For me, Ben is like Ray Cho — put either of them in a series and I’ll likely tune in to the series just to watch them because I know that I will be treated to great acting!

    Maggie Siu — Ok, I will admit that I still have a bone to pick with TVB for casting Maggie in this stupid role. I sort of felt that her character was one of those ‘filler’ roles that really didn’t even need to be in the series in the first place. What was the point? Her character really bordered on ‘pathetic’ for me and I just couldn’t accept it. Maggie is one of my favorite actresses and it’s really a shame to see how sucky most of her roles have been over the past couple years….it’s almost as though TVB doesn’t care about her anymore (which, unfortunately, is probably closer to the truth than I would like)…

    Astrid Chan — I really didn’t know what to make of Astrid’s character Gina….I feel that her character was poorly developed because it didn’t make sense to me how she could have no qualms about having an affair with another man and hurting her husband like that, but then turn around later and be the ‘loving wife’ faithfully sticking by her husband no matter what he did wrong, even supporting him in putting up a facade with the whole Ka Ming story…I don’t know if I was just reading too much into it, but I just felt like something wasn’t quite right about the entire Gina / Joe storyline…

    Lau Dan — I pretty much agree with everything you said, though I kind of wish he had more screentime. I really started feeling sorry for his character after awhile because he was trying so hard to help Joe stay on the right path, yet Joe was drifting further and further away. I mean, he wasn’t even related to Joe, yet he cared enough about him to feel so hurt and pained when he was betrayed by him — and in the end, he still cared about him, never giving up on him just like a father never gives up on his son! I actually really liked the Uncle Chuen / Joe storyline — for me, that was one of the more emotional aspects of the series.

    Tsui Wing — I think I would have appreciated the significant of TW’s character more if his voice wasn’t dubbed throughout the entire time he appeared in the series (which wasn’t much to begin with). I mean, I understand the reason behind dubbing his voice and all and I’m not saying it’s wrong or anything, but to me, it was just too much of a distraction….

    Joe Junior — Lol…I always appreciate Joe Junior’s performances and for some reason, I always end up liking his characters, probably because most of the characters he plays are very similar to how he is in real life — very happy-go-lucky and optimistic and always ready with a word of wisdom or a profound thought that helps us think more deeply into our lives. I find it very appropriate that one of the most memorable ‘golden phrases’ from the entire series came from the mouth of Dr. Dylan — “This city is dying, you know?”

    Stanley Cheung — Ah, Ka Ming…..the person who, though dead physically, continued to be very much ‘present’ in the lives of his friends and bandmates….for a newbie, I think he did quite well — though I doubt that he’ll ever be able to live down the ‘Ka Ming’ persona until another role comes along that leaves an even bigger impression on audiences….

    Additional comments:

    Overall, this was a very well-made series — very unique and very well put together. I think it was definitely brave of the production team to try a completely different filming technique for this series, though it’s a shame that not very many audiences were accepting of it (probably because many of the viewers were housewives and this went way over their heads?). I feel that if WHB was actually a movie rather than a TV series, it would have garnered much more success and accolade than it did (because let’s face it — in HK, the reality is that audiences who watch TV series are very different from those who watch movies and so the ‘appreciation’ for a work of art such as WHB probably would not resonate with TV audiences as much as it would with movie audieces).

    Also, I have to say that I really liked the ending to this series. We all know that TVB is notorious for doing lame, stupid endings and most of the series from 2011 were no exception. But with WHB, the ending was beautifully written and almost flawlessly executed….I will admit that when I first read the description of the ending from various sources (you know me and my thing for spoilers), my first thought was that TVB was going to go down the ‘lame’ route again with some cheesy ‘happily ever after’ music video thing — but it turns out that wasn’t the case….the “What If” segment at the end was a very appropriate ending for the series — the ending was heartwarming, but not in a cheesy, cliched way….

    Lastly, a WHB “Fun Fact”….not sure if you knew this, but in the ending ‘What If’ MV clip, where the 4 guys + Yan reunite on the rooftop — guess who was originally supposed to play the role of the ‘older’ Ka Ming? PAUL WONG!! It would have been a nice gesture given the ‘Beyond’ connection, but unfortunately they (meaning Paul and TVB) couldn’t get the scheduling to work out…..

  4. More replies, lol. But I’m skipping around and might double back later. (LOL!)

    Anyway, I agree regarding about Ben Wong and Ray Cho standing out without even trying since whenever they appear, it’s hard to dismiss, LOL! (NOT that I want to but their presences are that way without even trying.)

    Okay, back to this.

    Maggie Siu – EXACTLY, the latest series I’ve seen of Maggie that was sort of worth watching was this one series “I Do?” (which is a TW series) though she didn’t have that much screen time BUT was essential because she had driven forward a certain part of the plot. This role? I thought it was more like she had to play the weakling/dumb sister while her older sister was the cunning one. Then there was the part in enhancing Angus’ cunning side, i.e. using her. AND that was it. I think Queenie’s character Jessica, though was also used by Angus, but had more significant (which is SAD).

    Astrid Chan as Gina – I’m not sure if you watched the part where Joe was doing the radio interview in an attempt to dispel rumors regarding whether his wife was cheating or not. (The photos were published in magazines previously.) But honestly, Joe was sooooo convincing in putting the blame on himself that even I was blew away. And I told you I had this little bit of a radar up for all three guys (regardless of how harmless they might look) so I didn’t buy his act completely – though I didn’t quite grasp what his intention was. It eventually dawn on me that he was using the ‘victim’ card to his full advantage, putting all the blame on himself with not being attentive enough to his wife hence forcing her to seek comfort elsewhere. That little act had caused Gina to feel soooo guilty and realized what a good husband he was AND how he could even forgive such acts that she sort of swore loyalty to him for a lifetime. (There goes his persuasive skills and manipulative abilities go into play again.) NOT to mention how their relationship was rocky since they were young as well so I thought it was consistent enough with the scenes later on (of course those little scenes when they were younger were filled in along the way). And yes, even the scenes where she cheated on him (which was soooo wrong – regardless of how evil he could be). SO, the thing with her and him, it was just one of those couples in life that you see that probably knew it themselves that they were soooo wrong for one another YET stick together anyway. Or perhaps they went through so much these past times, so it wasn’t too unconvincing that she was still around later, even becoming more faithful toward him? (Hey, he even managed to convince her to get an abortion that one time, even though she really love kids, soo….) Their relationship seemed so messed up but not too unrealistic either. I’m not trying to defend this couple on purpose since like I said in the review that I didn’t think the romance was supposed to be the highlights of it all, but more like the whole human nature, etc. Was just analyzing it from different stories and putting the pieces together, plus some other angles I try to look into. LOL! (And didn’t realize I typed sooo much.)

    Tsui Wing – I swear I wouldn’t know the difference since you know I’m watching the Viet version. But that was strange that his voice got dubbed even in the Chinese version. And again, I didn’t follow the production of this series too actively when it was filming so didn’t know the reason. (Since I wasn’t even planning to watch this one in the first place.)

    I have to agree that it would make a better movie with the artistic approach, etc. Such a shame. I don’t think it’s just the ‘housewives’ theory but maybe about people who just want to watch fun stories after a long day at school/work versus a heavy themed one hence this series getting abandoned in the end.

    Regarding spoilers, lol. And there goes a reason not to read spoilers in the first place? ‘Cause descriptions sometime make it sound lame but the actual one isn’t? At least this one rare time?

    Whoa, thanks for the fun fact. It would’ve been even more awesome since I felt it was a bit odd Ka Ming was still Ka Ming. Yet I thought it was because they needed Ka Ming to still be Ka Ming since he never had an older version in the first place so it would be odd? (OR would appearing by Charmaine be obvious that he’s Ka Ming’s already?) Still worked out well in the end.

  5. @ DTLCT:

    Regarding the dubbing of Tsui Wing’s voice: I was told that they actually dubbed his voice on purpose to further the story — basically, the reason why Yan has an affair with him of all people is because his voice sounds like Ka Ming’s and since at that time, she was still ‘haunted’ by her past relationship, she was attracted to him because of the voice (so in a sense, he’s a replacement for Ka Ming). I actually didn’t really pay attention as to whether TW’s voice was dubbed by Stanley or not (since I didn’t even know who Stanley was at that time so I definitely wouldn’t be able to recognize his voice) –all I knew was that TW’s voice didn’t sound like his own and then when I saw the lips didn’t match with the words during some parts, that’s when I figured out it was dubbed.

    That’s why I say that it makes sense why they dubbed it, but it was still difficult for me to get over, mostly because I just can’t stand any type of dubbing in series…

  6. @llwy12 – OOOOHHHHHHH, so now I get it, LOL! Need to tell my mom too since I was sort of confused as to why she chose him versus all those others. Though I had guess he was a replacement for her past (mostly Ka Ming), but didn’t realize that part. LOL! Thanks!

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