WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW WILL COVER TOPICS THAT MIGHT BE TRIGGERING, SO PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION. TOPICS OF DISCUSSION INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO: GANG-RELATED VIOLENCE, RAPE, SUICIDE, ETC. (It is in no way as graphic as Hollywood productions, but it highlighted the very real issues that occur in real life.)
I started this a while back and finished it already. Yet took my precious time like always to review this. It mostly had to do with the fact that I wanted to step away to analyze it fully before diving in. It was really emotionally draining in some sense, but also quite impressive in other ways. The reason why I didn’t start until all parts were released was because I didn’t want to be left hanging. The second reason? I usually try to stay away from highly popular shows because they often lead to disappointment. I was glad I was proven wrong this time. (If you’re interested, check out my thread on Twitter. Obviously, some opinions have changed. However, those were some thoughts I had when I was watching.)
First off, I initially thought that this was produced by Netflix from the get-go, but I was wrong. When I went on my usual information hunting journey, I found out that they started it to be broadcasted by TVBS. Netflix only jumped in after seeing how high quality the overall production was. It was indeed impressive from the cast, the setting, and the costumes. Then I saw Ruby’s name on the producers’ list, so it made sense. Her productions are usually of high quality and she tries to aim for the best. The collaboration this time was equally successful.
- Ruby Lin (林心如) as Luo Yu Nong (羅雨儂) / Rose (蘿絲). The manager of Hikari, also Sue’s best friend. Rose was considered a wild child by traditional standards and she continued to walk her path as she traveled on her journey of life. She wasn’t perfect and never claimed to be so. She did what she thought was right and go from there. Since young, she was impulsive and obnoxious. In some ways, she was very optimistic about life—regardless of how she always got punished for her behaviors—and wanted to live to the fullest. That also included diving all in in the name of love. That continued to be one of her fatal flaws later on. However, it had evolved to a different level. After experiencing different turbulences, she became jaded, no longer naive about certain things. She learned some major lessons from the harsh reality. However, the most consistent thing about her was she was never a pushover. She stood up for herself and for others. It was a flame in her that refused to extinguish completely, regardless of how much it had gotten her into trouble. What others thought of her was a different story, and that was something she couldn’t control. And perhaps it was because of her headstrong nature and her unrelenting spirit that made others suspect her or misunderstand her. It had been a while now since I last watched Ruby in a series. I meant, I knew she had projects and followed her. I also placed the past dramas on the list, but it wasn’t really my priority to watch them. Then I got busy, so yeah, just didn’t feel like back-watch those. Anyway, this role of Ruby was different from her typical goody-two-shoes from previous mainland dramas. So, I liked it. She was a gray area character, and that was what made me stuck with her throughout. At times, she seemed too softhearted, letting so many people get away with things, but she was so resilient. She just kept on moving along, taking everything life was tossing at her. I thought this was one of the challenging roles for Ruby. It might seem normal for some people, but she had been taking similar roles when she was still in China. So, it was about time she worked with a different one. Some of the past roles, even if she had seemed cruel, the writers seemed to justify her actions too much, and it had the opposite effect on me. This one? They just told the stories and let the viewers decide.
- Yo Yang (楊祐寧) as Pan Wen Cheng (潘文成) / Cheng Ge (成哥). Team Leader of the Homicide Department. Wen Cheng was an unknown for the longest time. Considering the time and environment he was in, there were tricks he had to pull to deal with a certain group. However, for the most part, he seemed serious about his work, with a dash of the humorous side. He was one of the best, hence being able to make it to the other side. Despite his having to deal with everyday danger because of his job, I felt he was a safer character to support than the majority of the male characters in here. It was mostly because there was no never-ending soap revolving around him, unlike others. He was a straightforward person and spoke his mind when it came to things. (Of course, I excluded situations where he had to conceal information because of cases, since that was different.) The writers teased a possible controversial relationship between him and Rose. After the corruption case that involved several police and/or law enforcement officers being arrested, it seemed there was a change of pace, a burden lifting from his shoulder. He even asked Rose out on a date (as he had jokingly said—or was he serious?). They (the production team) even did some flashback sequences of their past interactions, trying to tie their relationship up and showing how far they had come since the beginning of the series. However, in the end, it was just a teaser because he soon went on his way again and it was done away. I didn’t mind that he had to resort to some tactics to deal with the suspects at times because the corruption case was really big and involved a lot of major players. However, I found it hypocritical that he criticized Rose for wanting to cover for Hana later on. Rose was right to call him out on it. It was like, who was he to judge her? He accepted the bribe and joined forces with the corrupted officials. (Yes, it was a halfway compromise to solve the current situation and buy him some time to dig deeper, but some people do not know that, so on the surface, he was a sellout.) This was my first time watching him—although I know who he is. He did very well and was not disappointing at all, for me.
- Cheryl Yang (楊謹華) as Su Qing Yi (蘇慶儀) / Sue (蘇). The owner of Hikari, also Rose’s best friend. On the surface, Sue was the perfect person, a supporting friend, a gentle and kind soul who would only know how to smile and say nice words to everyone. However, behind that masquerade, there was a lot to be explored. It wasn’t just because of the love triangles either that made things messy. Because if anyone wanted to be technical, Jiang Han did break up with Rose first before pursuing Sue. Yet, her perfect image was the complete opposite when the story unfolded even more. Not talking about how she had to smile and interact with her customers during working hours here, because, duh, she was a hostess, so she had to play the role—just like everyone else. What I meant was her never-ending deception, even among her so-called friends. Or perhaps, she never treated them like friends in the first place, but always someone she could use as a convenience for her circumstances. After the truth about her past came out (having been raped by her stepfather and then coping with the aftermath and much more), I sympathized with her and understood her insecurities and how guarded she was toward others in general. However, I didn’t like it when she targeted other victims too. I’m not saying it was her job to fight for all victims or put the weight on her shoulders to right all wrongs or something. She had suffered enough. She deserved a future of happiness and much more. However, the least she could have done was not becoming those who had harmed her in the past as well. Sure, that was a realistic pattern with how victims becoming the perpetrators, but I just didn’t like it. Her past had haunted her, so she was cautious around others, so be cautious. Yet she had to say those words to Hana after Hana was raped. (Like Hana said during that conversation with Sue, she felt assaulted all over again after hearing Sue say those words to her). In some ways, Sue had become exactly like her mom (ironically), not caring for anyone but herself. That was just one example among all of those others. Yet, I can’t sympathize with her completely. Perhaps, she was such a master manipulator that still managed to keep her reputation intact—regardless of what she had done. Acting? Cheryl was awesome. I never doubted her. She was one of the reasons I started watching too—aside from seeing Ruby and Esther on the cast list initially. I liked Cheryl since watching Angel Lover, and that had been years ago, lol. Even if I don’t actively follow every single drama of hers but watching her advance forward to the next stage was fascinating over the years. This was another challenge for her and she nailed it.
- Rhydian Vaughan (鳳小岳) as Jiang Han (江瀚). A screenwriter for the local TV station and then was let go. Rose’s lover, later ex-lover. Sue’s secret lover, then later ex-lover. Basically, an all-around player yet was redeemed later just because. He was charming indeed, so it was easy to carry on with his womanizing ways. I understood the angle of the story, but I found him pretentious in a lot of ways. Not picking on the plot, since it did make sense why people loved him. However, I was actually in the minority who found him hard to like. It might have to do with the beginning where he was trying to write and putting on classical music at the same time. It attempted to show he had class and all but made him unrelatable to me. Like it was super cliche to expect writers to draw inspiration from classics or enjoy some glass of fancy wine or whatever else. When the orphanage story arc came into play, I knew redemption was around the corner for him. It explained a lot about his insecurities and how he didn’t think he deserved a normal life, thus always moving on to the next target. It made sense, but I still didn’t like that the writers were drawing us in by sympathizing with him in that way. (Hey, I gave Sue hell too, so don’t expect me to hold back for Pretty Boy over here.) What was more, I thought it was just giving him a great excuse for behaving the way that he did and giving him a license to hurt those people because of his insecurities. But what I didn’t expect was for him to die. It was a shocker. Perhaps, that was why they wanted to redeem him? So, his death would be tragic as it was? Like one more step and he was back together with Sue kind of thing? Because yes, I was expecting him to reunite with Sue as well. The writers had us good all right. Once again, I didn’t expect the characters to be perfect because everyone in here had gone through messy situations throughout. That was life. But I just didn’t like his type of character. The actor? This was actually my first time watching him, although I knew who he is. He did his part all right.
- Derek Chang (張軒睿) as He Yu En (何予恩). A college student who liked Sue and dated her for a while and then got dumped. I initially felt bad for him but eventually just got really annoyed with him. Then was super annoyed with him. He sure played the victim nicely because, on the surface, it looked like he was used and tossed aside after Sue was done with her game YET it wasn’t so. It wasn’t exactly so. Even if Sue was manipulating the situation and testing him with some scenario, it showed that he wasn’t ready for the responsibility, yet acted all pitiful afterward. It was all right that he wasn’t ready. He was probably too impulsive. It was his first time falling in love, after all. However, what took it to another level was how he fled the scene and then later acted like Sue was the heartless one. When he regretted it and wanted another chance and she said no, he continued to pester her and disrupted her life even more. So, I found him unforgivable regardless of his intention or whatever else later. At least, he got a second chance to move on and start over later as he learned and grew throughout, unlike some other characters. Derek? I never really watched his shows before, lol. Even if I made it a point to put it on my list. I do like his real-life personality or at least, the one we could see during promos. But I found him genuine and likable. As for his acting in here, I found him convincing for the role and contributed his part.
- Esther Liu (劉品言) as Li Shu Hua (李淑華) / Hana (花子). Rose’s prison mate and then later friend. Hana seriously had a very tragic life. Well, most in here did. Yet hers seemed to never end. It was like life was telling her that she made one mistake when she was young and naïve and would always live with the consequences regardless of how she already paid for that past (through imprisonment) or having learned a valuable lesson. It made sense how things had turned out later, but it wasn’t any less frustrating to see her going through so much. She was pimped out by her so-called boyfriend and ended up assaulting him when she found out the truth (of his intention). After she served out her sentence, Rose helped her get back on her feet by offering her a job at Hikari—to much of Sue’s objection. That also fueled Sue’s dislike for Hana even more. So, when Hana was abducted and raped, it was high time Sue went out of her way to get rid of Hana for good. Too bad Sue’s plan didn’t work since Rose went to Hana’s hometown to search for her and brought her back. (Sometimes, it made me wonder if Rose hadn’t brought Hana back, would the other events occur? Or eventually, it would anyway, because of how Sue had racked up too many enemies along the way?) Regardless of those what-ifs, I thought Esther had gone a long way since her awkward performance in Westside Story. Her complex character helped, but if she wasn’t able to deliver, it wouldn’t have worked out. Her portrayal allowed Hana’s many sides to come out, like her carefree side, her deeply wounded side, etc. Interestingly and somewhat irrelevant, but after all these years, I finally realized that Esther is left-handed, lol. I couldn’t believe how blind I was before, lol.
- Cherry Hsieh (謝瓊煖) as Ji Man Ru (季滿如) / Ah Ji (阿季). Used to work at the same club as Sue, then later became a hostess under Sue (because the previous owner transferred the ownership to Sue). Then eventually inherited a portion of Hikari as co-owner. I hated her from the start. Yes, I used “hate” and not just the typical annoyance. Regardless of how she claimed Sue had stolen her man or whatever else, I felt her tactics were really low and despicable. Well, some of the details didn’t come out until later. But I didn’t like how she was taunting others one after another. I knew she had a sharp tongue at times and didn’t expect her to be perfect. But it was just too much. So, the redeeming arch for her was interesting and was enough to wrap up the show. Seeing from her point of view at times helped. What I found interesting was how she was showing attitude to the majority in here yet there was a sense of tolerance toward Hana at various points. Yes, she chided Hana too but there was a subtle difference in her attitude. Like that one time Hana stole her food while they were chatting and eating at this one stall. There was a trace of concern or gentle chiding, not the typical sharp words she used toward others. (Of course, like the other hostesses, she had to show her smiles and all during working hours, but I meant off work.) I guess in some ways, she was a more predictable and less scary enemy than some others? Yes, she did pull the despicable moves, but she did reveal who she was behind the scenes with the rest of them, unlike the facade some were still operating on.
- Nikki Hsieh (謝欣穎) as Huang Bai He (黃百合) / Yuri (百合). A hostess at Hikari. She seemed uninterested in the rest of the hostesses at the beginning. It wasn’t that she didn’t care for them. But it was like she just wanted to do the deed and be done for the day (or night). It was later revealed, her sole focus was on her relationship with her boyfriend, Henry. Interestingly, they were in the same business. However, that was only a part of the puzzle. They actually met when their parents set them up on a blind date. Both showed their disinterest but went anyway. Yet Yuri was later won over by Henry’s charm and his personality in general. What she didn’t realize was his ulterior motive. It was blurry whether he truly cared for her or was just toying with her. But he was indeed good with his con, luring her in completely. It wasn’t until she caught him with his lover that she finally took action against stopping him. In regard to her, I could only compliment Nikki’s performance, not the character itself. It wasn’t because it was unrelatable but I felt she only took action to stop Henry because of the betrayal toward her, NOT because she cared about anyone being harmed by the drugs being spread around. (She did tell him to stop before she found out how involved he was and was just using her YET she only wanted him to stop because she feared for his safety and not mankind in general.) It was like her personality seemed to project from the start. She just didn’t care about other people’s problems, but wanted to focus on herself. There was nothing wrong with minding her own business and focusing on living her life. But I think it would be giving her too much credit by saying she stopped a certain someone. Although I understood where she came from, I just didn’t agree with her. Especially how she said Rose loved herself more hence letting go of Jiang Han. That was general observation because Rose did struggle and sink very deep before finally pulling herself back up. How could Yuri say it so lightly like that? Or perhaps it was because she just didn’t understand because she wasn’t around. Regardless, I didn’t like the air that she was projecting, like she was somehow superior in her choice and her dedication to love. What about Hana who had given up everything and lost herself in her past relationship? Loving yourself is not wrong. Why make it like one must dedicate one’s life toward one person to be considered worthy of love?
- Puff Kuo (郭雪芙) as Wang Ai Lian (王愛蓮) / Aiko (愛子). A hostess at Hikari. She was revealed to be a college student, specifically Yu En’s classmate. A side story revealed that she actually was a delivery girl who stumbled into the club one day when she was waiting to get some papers signed. A client of the club thought she was a hostess, but she clarified that she was just making a delivery. However, that client continued with his antics, not letting off. He said if she drink this glass of wine, he would reward her. She asked to confirm before emptying the glass. That was when Rose and Sue recruited her. They recognized her charm (and alcohol tolerance level, lol) and persuaded her to use that opportunity to earn some money for college. She agreed shortly after a private conversation in the back room. That was how she ended up being one of the hostesses. At first, I didn’t like her at all, because I felt her bitterness annoying. It was all right that she didn’t like Sue for whatever reason. However, I felt it had a lot to do with Yu En and I was sick and tired of the cat fight formula. It wasn’t worth it anyway. However, it was later revealed that her family issues had a lot to do with her attitude. One of the reasons she accepted Rose and Sue’s offer was a subtle way to rebel as well. She found their (her parents’) hypocritical nature sickening. That also transformed into her hatred towards Sue. She indeed had her own hand in causing a lot of complications with various characters. However, she somehow overcame her past demons and had a fresh start. That could be called a happy ending on her end. This was my very first time watching Puff, although I knew who she is. It was just that I wasn’t that interested in her past dramas. I was glad to see her part of the cast in here and finally able to see her performance.
- Cammy Chiang (江宜蓉) as Lin Ya Wen (林雅文) / Yaya (雅雅). The accountant of Hikari and later become a hostess as well. Mixed feelings at times. I felt she was just there, not contributing to the plot one way or another. Sure, she was the accountant and was important in her own way. But it was more like they needed an additional person, that was all. She seemed to have a good relationship with Sue—or at least, admired Sue for who she was, so she also thought Rose killed Sue, hence the hostility at one point. I understood her suspicions but felt like she had also fallen for those on the surface/ at face value thing rather dig deeper. No one could blame her, most others in here also had their suspicions but seriously. Or that was just to create more tension with the way things were. She did apologize later though, so at least she was aware of the effect she had on others.
- Hu Wei Jie (胡瑋杰) as Ding Jia Hao (丁家豪) / Xiao Hao (小豪). A waiter of Hikari. He appeared often but didn’t have his own side story. He was just there at times to help others and back them up as necessary, considering what kind of business they were running and if they could run into trouble. He was an additional character and had his humorous side too, possibly to cope. But he never took sides one way or another. Or at least, he seemed neutral and was doing his job for the most part. He did mingle with them at times but didn’t participate in those disagreements. At one point, I actually suspected he was the killer. Yes, because the character you usually do not pay attention to or seemed to blend into the background were usually revealed as the actual culprit later. Also, it was said the person who was able to carry the body through a part of the wood must be a man. So yeah. I thought at least, he was part of the team.
- Nash Zhang (章廣辰) as Li Jian Da (李健達) / Ah Da (阿達). I thought he was just a funny sidekick. I was so wrong. That was sure a good twist to the show. As if it wasn’t already wrapped in layers and layers of secrets with the other major characters, they had to spin a new one with his character. It was ironically tragic that he initially started out with great ambition and all, wanting to be a good cop. He was timid at first, but learned to adapt later. Considering how having a dream was one thing and going through the actual routines of being a cop was different. Yet, he just went from one extreme to the other. His being in cahoot with the rest of the corrupted officials could be because he was too afraid, not wanting to be eliminated by them hence staying quiet. But the whole killing of Jiang Han? Wow, that took some major nerve. Because that was so scary. How could he just do it like that? Like it was nothing? So, yes, he was convincing in his act all right. Even Wen Cheng didn’t want to believe it. How could he? Not because he looked down on Ah Da. But it was because he knew Ah Da and his dream, wanting to be the best cop, etc.
- Dora Hsieh (謝雨芝) as Yan Qiao Ru (顏巧如) / Mei Mei (妹妹). A police officer. She was actually one of the cops that believed in her duty and tried to keep by the codes. However, she still had a lot to learn, even after helping to uncover one of the biggest corruption cases. She obviously had great analytical skills and good instincts for her job. If there was a sequel or spin-off focusing on the police side, she could be a major character. Not saying I want the creators of the show to stretch the theme too much. But that was a possibility.
- Jim Liu (劉敬) as Wu Zi Wei (吳子維). Rose’s adopted son, Sue’s son. He was seen as the good son who worked hard in school and helped his mom do chores when he had time. Perhaps, it was because of the conflict between his parents that forced him to mature earlier than the typical students in his age bracket. At times, he showed frustration toward their conflict, which was understandable. Being stuck between parents was the worst. He tried to maintain a balance between bonds with both parents. Later, he learned that the parents who raised him since little wasn’t really his parents, and his godmother was his actual mother. It was a tragedy. At least, they had a good relationship before his mother passed away. However, he was forced to go with his biological father (who didn’t even deserve the title). He promised to return later to Rose’s side when he was of legal age and could make his own decisions. I sure hope he wouldn’t turn out like his so-called father. Even if in a few years, anything could happen. Most lied to him regarding the real version of what happened between his parents to protect him. It mostly had to do with the fact that they didn’t want the trial to drag out and many details coming out, causing even more complications. It was also because of how much it had affected him after Rose was accused of murder. This one was even more serious. How could he bear it when it wasn’t his fault at all? Not to mention, it seemed super ironic how things turned out that led to the final result. Because Rose went on TV to talk about her past prison term and clarified some stuff, hence tanking her husband’s company, which led to him selling off Zi Wei to the monster. Aside from all that frustration, I thought he did a good job at various points to portray his struggles.
- Wallace Huo (霍建華) as Ma Tian Hua (馬天華) / Hinoki (檜木). A gangster, Sue’s sworn brother. He appeared around the end of the second part. Sue went to prison to visit him and manipulate him to target Rose after he was released. Her plan was halfway successful until Wen Cheng convinced him to stand down and promise to investigate the matter thoroughly. What about Wallace? No complaints about his performance, obviously. However, as a major fan, I greedily wanted more scenes of him. In the grand scheme of things, it was about enough. But like I said, as his fan, I wanted more. Like maybe just a little more about how he crossed paths with Sue and how he trusted Sue so much. Yes, I got the dialogue version but needed a little more detail. Because it was so unbelievable that he risked so much for Sue. Not to mention how it was strange seeing Sue having some connection with him. I know, I know, she was the master manipulator and had a lot of connections. Yet, a little more background story would help.
- Joe Cheng (鄭元暢) as Wu Shao Qiang (吳少強). Rose’s husband, later ex-husband. He was the definition of people who changed. I meant everyone changes as they go through life, but his change puzzled me the most. I guessed the toll of it all got to him. However, it was indeed heartbreaking to see how much he changed. He not only fled the scene during the most crucial moment but also left Rose to take the fall for him (i.e. going to prison). Then he dared to play victim after so many years, saying how she was the difficult one. What in the world? But whatever helped him sleep at night, I guess. They tried to redeem him or at least made us reconsider him by seeing how well he treated his son. Yet, who was he kidding? Handing the poor kid to the wolf just like that? Maybe it was more realistic that he wasn’t so linear or one-note with his character and how complicated some situations were. Yet I still didn’t care for him. Hey, at least, he got his business back. He would be fine. Maybe then he could buy an in-house, submissive wife who would cooperate better with his grand schemes than oh say, Rose. Well, Rose loved him and trusted him so much, hence even ending up taking the fall for him in the first place. Yet she woke up after that betrayal, so that was what he was upset over, not having a typical lamb to listen to all his lies anymore. Hey, she never said she was goody-two-shoes. Why was he bitter? Joe? Okay, he goes by Joseph now, but I still haven’t changed my tags yet. But I haven’t seen anything of his since You Light Up My Star and that seemed a long time ago, lol. He’s doing pretty well with various projects and was just a guest in here. His acting was convincing. But, obviously, I can’t like his character. If he had just outright admitted he was a terrible person, I would have forgiven him, or at least cut him some slacks. Yet he continued to justify his behaviors and paved Rose out to be a terrible person. (Congrats, somehow, he made Jiang Han seem more likable. Because at least Jiang Han admitted who he was at various points.)
- Jacob Wang (王柏傑) as Hong Li Heng (洪立亨) / Henry (亨利). A host at Ciao Club. Yuri’s boyfriend. He was smooth-talking all right, being able to con anyone he wanted to. I wasn’t sure if he was a natural conversationist/charmer or if that had come with experience. What was his true personality in all of that? Did he really trust Henry or was he also conning him? It was hard to tell and I thought that was a good bit to leave it open-ended. That scene where Yuri went to prison to visit Hao Zi, it seemed like they had their official stare down and all. It was funny how they were fighting over whom actually cared for. Well, he (Hao Zi) didn’t really say it, but if looks could killed. Yuri actually said that Henry cared for her because he had given her his house key. Was that the answer? Or was that just part of the long con? Like I said, it was hard to tell with him. And it was funny how the writers tried to humanize Henry but he wasn’t any better than Hana’s ex-boyfriend who pimped her out. Even if Henry didn’t pimp anyone out, he used his good looks and charms to lure in girls to transport and/or hide drugs for him. So, how was he any better? He was just using them. Even if he had a change of heart with Yuri, he won’t get the glowing reputation in my book.
- Xiu Jie Kai (修杰楷) as Ge Zhi Hao (葛志浩) / Hao Zi (浩子). A prosecutor. It was later revealed that he was also Henry’s lover. That was the sole reason why Henry trusted him so much and never thought that he would betray him (Henry). I haven’t watched him for ages now. I still follow him on social media, lol. It’s just that I haven’t gotten back into watching some of the recent shows and sort of not wanting to back-watch some stuff. Yet his acting was still solid. He was creepy all right, but also showed a different side when he was with Henry. I totally saw it when they drove to the seaside together and how Henry had placed a soda can on his cheek. It was a subtle, intimate gesture that tipped us off early on. Because if they were merely collaborating on the business front, would he have accepted the gesture just like that? He also showed obvious jealousy toward Yuri when Henry brought it up (aka admitting that Yuri was kinda cute).
- Li Li Ren (李李仁) as Xu Guo Biao (徐國彪) / Biao Ge (彪哥). A local bully, Hana’s past customer. Later bumped into Hana at Hikari and was kicked out for causing trouble. He gathered his minions to kidnap Hana and raped her. He was later caught and put in prison for his crime. This was probably Li Li Ren’s lowest role. So, he wasn’t winning any points from anyone. Maybe possibly acting-wise, though. Because yes, he was really hateful and convincing with the character.
- Kagami Tomohisa (加賀美智久) as Nakamura Masao (中村正男). A Japanese customer of Hikari. He liked Sue and wanted to marry her, bringing her back to Japan with him.
- Qu Zhong Heng (屈中恆) as Sun Ming Zhang (孫明章). Wen Cheng’s superior. At first, I thought he was a character created to keep the comedy alive while the rest of the plot leaned toward the much darker side. Yet, I was wrong. I was glad too because it was really a shocker. He was much more involved with the overall plot than one could predict. He held the key to a crucial part of the plot, after all.
- Ah Ken as Lin Yu Feng (林裕峰) / Feng Ge (峰哥). A producer, Jiang Han’s superior.
- Lorene Jen (任容萱) as Xiao Wan Ru (蕭婉柔). A famous actress, the main actress of a TV show that Jiang Han was writing for. She and Jiang Han had a brief affair and were found out. Luckily for her, she wasn’t punished severely for it. She only had to stay away from Jiang Han and listen. Yet was that something she wanted? I guess that sort of came with the price of wanting fame and having a relationship with the producer. This was actually my first time watching Lorene, although, I follow her and meant to watch some of her other works. Maybe I would go back to it now, lol.
- Chris Wu (吳慷仁) as Liao Bao Long (劉寶龍) / Bao Bao (寶寶). The owner of Sugar Club, a rival of Hikari Club. I couldn’t believe the day that I see Chris in such a role. NO, not judging based on the environment he was in (running a club) because every character in here had their own complex background. However, usually, he would portray some prince in shining armor (regardless of background) or at least some notable role. This was considered out of the box type of role for me when watching him perform in here. Because he took it to the next level and was quite convincing in his performance and brought a different mood to the show as an overall. Was his character cunning and despicable at one point? Yes. It didn’t top some of the other scumbags and could be redeemed (because he was persuaded by the money). All in all, another successful performance.
- Jean Wang (王靜瑩) as Su Mei Yu (蘇美玉). Sue’s mother. Probably the worst mother of the century. I blamed her for everything. Seducing someone else’s husband wasn’t bad enough. (People somehow usually excuse cheaters and homewreckers in movies/ TV shows, so I won’t dwell on that here.) Yet, somehow, she managed to top it off by accusing her daughter of “seducing her man.” By “seducing”, she meant “laying in bed and staying silent while the monster raped her daughter” because if she had said anything, he would leave her. Spoilers alert, he left her anyway. Also, she kicked her daughter out to fend for herself and then had the audacity later to come asking for money and much more (because she was the mother and deserved all that her daughter worked hard for after going through hell and back). I don’t know why I was surprised anyway since she allowed the other thing to happen, so what else wouldn’t she do? If anyone wanted to defend her for saying she was scared, he might harm her and her daughter even more (aka killing them both). At least they tried, okay? And I wasn’t convinced she was scared for hers and her daughter’s life per se, she just kept quiet so he wouldn’t leave her (like said above). The story was drawn straight from real-life situations, all right. Yet it was equally frustrating and maddening. It was even more frustrating that nothing happened to her later, and she got to reap from helping the rapist snatch the kid away from Rose. But was that supposed to be more realistic with life stuff? Because it was beyond infuriating. (What was more, I started watching this after a certain real-life situation similar unfolded, so imagine the level of livid I was feeling when that scene rolled around. Not going to go into specifics, but it had to do with the theme of having your child snatched away from you by your rapist because he was so powerful and wealthy. In the story’s case, Rose had to deal with it, but if it was Sue, then the situation would be the exact same thing. I knew it was a major coincidence since the location and the time of the TV show and all, but it sure hit me hard in the face with the theme being addressed. Yeah, the writers couldn’t predict the future, but stuff like that happened a lot in the past, so they just drew from real-life situations.)
- Yi Zheng (伊正) as Zhu Wen Xiong (朱文雄). Su Mei Yu’s lover, Sue’s stepfather. Scumbag all around and proved to be so throughout. I was just glad they didn’t skirt around the issue and redeem him. They hid his true animal nature from his son just to spare the kid from further trauma. Yet it was so infuriating. Like the writers had to include an extra layer of madness with tragedy. Yi Zheng probably ended up in the group that was most hated after the series, lol. I swear, no way was he going to get out of this one looking good—regardless.
- Greg Hsu (許光漢) as Yu En’s classmate.
- Shen Meng Sheng (沈孟生) as Luo Chen Sheng (羅春生). Rose’s father.
- Moon Wang (王月) as Luo Xie Xue Ling (羅謝雪齡). Rose’s mother.
- James Wen (温昇豪) as Luo Li Nong (羅立農). Rose’s older brother.
- June Tsai (六月) as Luo Yi Nong (羅伊儂). Rose’s older sister.
- Ma Nian Xian (馬念先) as Cai Huo Wang (蔡火旺). The owner of an izakaya.
- Heaven Hai (海裕芬) as Ke Xiu Zhi (柯秀枝). The owner of a barbershop.
- Hans Chung (鍾承翰) as Zheng Kai Wen (鄭凱文) / Kevin. The manager of Ciao.
- Chen Bo Zheng (陳博正) as Hana’s father. A somewhat cute old parent vibe role for him. I felt he was the only one who represented unconditioned love in here. He was proud of Hana. It was obvious with his attitude and words whenever she came home or talked about her to Rose that one time. Sure, Hana did hide some stuff from him, but he never expected her to bring home tons of money for him or drew out all these outrageous conditions, unlike other parents. He was just glad she found success in her work (wine expert—as he was told) and was living her life comfortably in such a competitive city.
- Fan Rui Jun (范瑞君) as Aiko’s mother. A college professor.
- JC Lin (林哲熹) as one of the students that found the victim’s body.
- Edison Song (宋柏緯) as one of the students that found the victim’s body.
- Ying Cai Ling (應采靈) as Zhang Yi Fen (張逸芬). The dean of the orphanage.
- Vivian Hsu (徐若瑄) as Qiong Fang (瓊芳). The previous owner of Hikari. It was nice to see Vivian in here portraying a guest role.
- Austin Lin (林柏宏) as the senior of the magazine club.
- Tang Zhi Wei (湯志偉) as Li Si Jing (李思敬). The host of the TV show who interviewed Rose.
- Ray Chang (張睿家) as Hana’s ex-boyfriend. He was another scumbag of the show. His crime was pimping out his girlfriend for money. Ray wanted to show up for this? (LOL!) Yeah, I know, not everyone could be a hero, but these people sure made some sacrifices to be part of the production all right. (I know it’s not supposed to be funny, but I couldn’t help it. If anyone watched True Love 365, he was the main lead and paired off with Joanne, so it was interesting this time he was kind of, sort of associated with Esther at one point in here. The roles were total opposites, but tragic. Hey, he wasn’t that innocent, goody-two-shoes in True Love 365 either, but bad attitude versus scumbag is all I’m saying.)
- Music. Definitely the music. The majority were remixes of classics. However, the production team put a new twist on it and allow us to enjoy those songs again in a different setting.
- Cast. Regardless of liking them or not, I thought the cast did really well and coordinated nicely to make everything work.
- Wallace and Ruby’s reunion. I know, I know, they’re married and see each other every day. But they haven’t been in a drama together for a while now. It was interesting to see them on screen together once again and on the opposite side this time. The fact that they weren’t romantically involved made it different. Maybe they needed a break from the mushy on-screen scenes? (Joking, lol.)
- The pieces of the puzzle spread throughout the drama. I liked how the story was told and the sequences that allowed us to discover various characters’ background and their relationships throughout that had led to that point. Also, the mystery around the body was found and finally revealing it. At various points, they (the writers) teased the audience as to whom to body belonged to, even right down to the last minute. It was intriguing to watch and guess. After it was revealed, I even suspected that everyone at Hikari had a part in killing Sue and they covered for one another. Yes, that extreme. Because it was like everyone had a grudge against her deep down. Well, almost everyone. So, it wasn’t too much to say everyone had a hand in it.
- Plot driven versus character driven. Yes, we knew who the major characters were. However, I felt unlike the majority of the productions nowadays, adding length just because they wanted to add more screen time for characters and stretching out to the max, this was actually plot driven. The plot did focus on some characters versus others. However, it didn’t linger to the point of unbearable. Like I said in the previous point, the pieces of the puzzle here and there revealed itself slowly but had always followed the timeline. It allowed us to explore the different characters and how it linked with the main plot and then finally wrapping it up. It didn’t stretch unnecessarily. Did I hate some part of the plot? Yes, I did. Because I hated seeing some of the tragedies the characters went through. Yet the plot continued to move on, allowing the length and pace to be just about right.
- The characters. Surprisingly, I didn’t have a favorite character in here. Yes, I said it. It was strange how it seemed I defended Rose at various points or disliked certain characters at one point or another, but I never had a favorite character. Perhaps it was because the cast worked together well along with the plot that didn’t allow for camera hog moments too much that had caused the effect. Perhaps, I would say I liked the cast as an overall because the whole team had worked together so well to make it happen. I liked that each of the major characters had their moment or own story, but it didn’t overshadow over the others. It was just the right mix. Much credit to the writers for not forcing us to like one character or another through different justifications, but just laid out the plot and let us come to our own conclusions. (As I said previously.)
- The truth about Sue wasn’t revealed. Okay, I get it. She’s dead. No need to drag it out. Not to mention the majority of the major characters already understood who she was as a person and what kind of hypocrite she was. However, the rest of the public did not know. I guess they were trying to send a message that it did not matter anymore. Yet, her action affected so many people. How could she be praised and remembered as a sweet and gentle person, just like that? Her cunning and cruel side were never revealed. It was like letting her off because she was dead. Like redeeming a character just because. Sure, no one could do anything anymore. But it seemed to say one could be the worst possible yet could be forgiven or all the harm they did could just be erased?
- Zhu Wen Xiong wasn’t exposed for the scumbag that he was. I knew and understood why they wanted to protect Zi Wei, not wanting him to find out the truth of his existence (and all the public backlash with having to carry that for the rest of his life, even if it wasn’t his fault). However, allowing Zhu Wen Xiong to get away with everything was just messed up. In some ways, it was more realistic (considering the circumstances) but I hated it. If they had gone to court, he would have won with all his money and all. It was probably sending a message like money would always win over the truth.
- Rose’s whole family. Please just throw them all in the bin. Yes, I said it. I had it with the BS about how they were family after all. Was Sue a goody-two-shoes and/or perfect child? Nope. She ran away from home, after all the mishaps she got into. Or more like her father kicked her out after having enough. Sure, I got it, all parents wanted their kids to behave and life was harsh if she didn’t study or whatever. Yet at least, be consistent. Her mother loved her yet wasn’t able to do anything about it (like changing her father’s mind about things) and I didn’t blame her because it was obvious he controlled the household and whatever he said was the final word. The problem I had with him was how he and the others just expected her to bring home money or help them in general just because she was successful at that point. Hey, who kicked her out? Can anyone keep it straight or stick with the decision? Sure, people change all the time and they could mend the family. But it was an automatic thing with them expecting Rose to chip in, NO apologies or some kind of real talk or whatever. I get it, they were busy with livelihood stuff and might not have time to dwell too much on sensitivity or talk out matters. But I felt it was too much and too one-sided to just expect Rose to step forward because they were family. Like hey, she was wrong but also she was successful now, so she must contribute regardless. Like they were never wrong, it was just Rose being wrong. It was ridiculous. Obviously, I’m talking about the characters here, NOT the actors. Because they all did well for their roles. Because I actually like James and June.
- Rose and Sue’s friendship. Were they ever really friends? I had so many questions. I understood how the foundation was paved and we saw how they’d overcome different obstacles together. Yet, were they really the best of friends, or were they just sticking together because of circumstances? I understood more when pieces and bits of Sue’s past were revealed and the tragedies she went through. It had shaped her past and fed her insecurity, forcing her to be cautious of others, which she had every right to. Yet, as I said before, it was the only thing that was holding her character back and pushing it into the gray area. Sue lived in her head too much and assumed that Rose should understand her, which was uncalled for. Seriously, even if they had known each other since whenever, it was harsh to expect Rose to just know. It was ridiculous. She also assumed that Rose always wanted to be in power, hence pulling the final card with wanting to restrict Rose’s life by leaving behind those shares to the rest of the hostesses. During their last conversation, Sue said that Rose always wanted to have the upper hand each time and how Rose only helped people so they would show gratitude toward her (thus being loyal to her, specifically Hana). It was a lot of assumptions on her part. Should Rose have meddled at times? Possibly not, it wasn’t up to her to right all wrongs of the world. However, we could see that it was in Rose’s gene or something. She couldn’t just sit around seeing others suffer, so if she was able to help, to speak up, or something, she did it. Sue also seemed to blame Rose for everything that happened to her or something. Well, Rose did get her into trouble with her mom because of how they ditched class and stuff at times when they were younger. Yet she can’t just push everything onto Rose. And I seriously didn’t blame Sue for wanting to have a friend, etc. However, when she made her own decision, it was all her. Perhaps, deep down, Sue also understood it. Perhaps, she did appreciate Rose at one point, that Rose actually stuck up for her when neighbors gossiped about her family situation (more specifically her mom). Or how her classmates bullied her and Rose stuck up for her. However, those things faded as time progressed. Her own insecurities and self-loathing forced her to push all the blame onto Rose, so she didn’t have to face them. Because she admitted at one point that she was too weak, not like Rose, always doing this or that. She didn’t like that about herself. They were just too different. That big argument when they were younger said a lot. That was one of those rare times they were honest with one another, laying it all out, no filter. They argued and tossed out everything. Somehow, they ended up mending things again, even hugging and halfway arguing back to being friends again. It was childhood memories and showed they had past conflicts, but it was all part of growing up. Yet it also opened up the question I initially had. Was it because how they were so used to one another’s presence that it was hard to end the friendship after they grew up and grew apart as well? And there was another question nagging in the back of my mind. Jiang Han was right when he said that Sue was very possessive. He was possibly the last person to have a say regarding Rose or Sue (or anyone else) for that matter, considering how he wasn’t the top candidate for anyone turning to when it came to a moral compass. However, he nailed it when he said those things about Sue when he broke up with her. (Except for the last bit that had fueled Sue’s rage even more, though. That was a bad idea and had caused her to take her own revenge after she returned from the depth.) Sue was really good at masquerading. We all do it to protect ourselves. Yet, she took it to a whole new level that was disturbing. With all those issues she had with Rose, it was possibly better to just part ways. Yet somehow, she still stuck through and acted like no one should have this connection with Rose except her or something. Perhaps she didn’t realize she was a walking contradiction. Also, I felt like she was projecting major time. She said that Rose was a controlling person and things had to go her way or else. However, she didn’t realize she was the controlling one, always wanting the last word or needing things to be in her favor to be happy or satisfied. Hana and Jiang Han’s situations were good examples of those behaviors. She didn’t like Hana from the start and hated that Rose protected Hana. She had every right to worry about Hana’s lack of experience which could affect the business. But the way she hung onto that grudge made it too much. Hana lacked experience, but soon learned a lot and become a lovable hostess like the majority at Hikari. That didn’t change Sue’s mind, either. She didn’t have to force herself to interact with Hana, but it was like she hated that she was wrong and that Hana could learn and improve. It seemed like she was jealous of the friendship Rose had with Hana after having been to prison together. Like Hana had snatched her friend from her, so she went out of her way to get rid of Hana—whether in the past or present. The way it was, I swear it was almost like she had tipped that scumbag off so he could abduct and kidnap Hana and assault Hana. So, then she could swoop in to get rid of Hana once and for all. Yes, it was terrible of me to assume so, but with the level of planning and execution she had with her other schemes, I don’t think it was impossible to come to that conclusion. Sue even went to the extreme of calling Hana a dog time and time again, indicating her relationship with Rose was just that of an owner and its dog, nothing more. It was like she was saying whether or not Rose was a terrible friend, she still wanted Rose by her side, no one else could be Rose’s friend. She called Hana a dog on purpose, to degrade the latter even more, implying Hana was on a lower level than her in relations to Rose. It was a superiority complex thing. About Jiang Han? How in the world was Rose supposed to know Sue liked Jiang Han? Jiang Han also showed interest in Rose first and initiated contact after meeting Rose. To Sue, Rose was a third-party, so she had every right to snatch him back. Yet she forgot that they never had a romantic relationship in the first place, so Rose couldn’t be blamed for entering that relationship with Jiang Han. Sue was acting all like she was being considerate about not mentioning anything along the line of liking Jiang Han after learning the progress of Rose and Jiang Han’s relationship already. However, I thought they were best friends and could be honest with one another. Well, that was everyone’s initial impression too, until stories unfolded for us to see they weren’t that close, anyway. Was Rose supposed to ask? Possibly. But then again, they were able to talk about the most random stuff and even had heated debates over business decisions. So, why was it so hard to be honest about other matters? It was ridiculous. So, yes, I thought it was stretching to not talk about it at all. I don’t even remember anymore if Rose had asked Sue beforehand about the two’s relationship when Sue brought him to Hikari for the first time. I somewhat remember the answer was “a friend.” It could be a code for much more, but was Rose supposed to assume everyone Sue brought there was a romantic interest? Again, considering how straightforward Rose was and Sue knew her that long already, maybe just say it out. Don’t hold it in and then later blame the other person for not knowing how to read minds. Why am I so harsh on Sue and not Rose? I thought it was obvious the majority were against Rose if it come down to it. Like I said, she was often too outspoken and wasn’t the most “model” citizen, so people automatically assumed she was in the wrong when they heard rumors of her being the actual killer. Sue was just too pretentious for my taste. I’m not saying Sue’s death was justified, but I just thought regardless of whether she was dead or alive, she was too much. She projected the too perfect image and caused the opposite effect on me. Also, I felt that Sue just wanted Rose’s friendship when it was convenient. Like when she needed Rose for something or another, they were friends and it was all right that Rose meddle. After that, or it was something she disagreed with? Rose was considered controlling and condescending. I’m not saying she can’t establish her own boundaries because she had every right to draw her comfort zone. It was just that she kept moving the goalpost and expected Rose to abide by it. Did she help Rose with stuff too? Yes, she did. But it was like she only counted things when it was in her favor. Again, the control thing was all her, not Rose like she said. For what it mattered, I thought Rose helped her in the past because they were friends, NOT because Rose wanted some upper hand or wanted to use some gratitude thing to dangle over Sue’s head for the future. They were still considered kids at that time, who would have thought so far ahead? So, were they better off not friends? They had a lot of good memories as well as bad. The flashbacks from Rose’s perspective showed they shared almost everything (from hopes and dreams, even what they wanted with their funeral arrangements and all). That was why Rose had assumed they had a good relationship. That was also why the betrayal hurt so badly. So, Rose’s world and perspective had shattered while she tried to piece everything together again. She wasn’t perfect, but she learned from it. Unlike others who had continued to think they were never wrong.
- Rose and Hana’s friendship. They met in prison. Hana’s loyalty to Rose was obvious, considering how Rose protected her in prison. Hana also appreciated Rose for reminding her of her value, and not allowing her to think the worst of herself. Rose helped Hana stand on her own two feet again after Hana was released. Hana was grateful for Rose’s help, for keeping in contact and reaching out, not distancing from her because both wanted to erase their rough history. Although Hana was grateful for Rose’s help, she knew Rose treated her like a friend, a human being, wanting to lift each other up because they had both been betrayed by the men they loved. Even if it was gratitude at first, Hana didn’t take it the wrong way or thought it was Rose’s way to gain some upper hand on her or try to act superior in any way. She appreciated Rose for Rose’s efforts and understood Rose just wanted to help her heal and start a new life. She used Rose’s emotional support as a source of energy to strive and thrive. She was able to leave her past behind and focus on her present. It was too bad that some of that past had caught up with her. Their friendship seemed honest and open since they met at the worst time possible. Yet that also strengthened their bond because they’d been through the worst together. Their bond up to that point made it tragic when it was revealed Hana was the real killer. I thought their friendship was done for. And yes, the confrontation was ugly and heartbreaking. Yet, after both parties calmed down, they seemed to have reached a certain level of peace. Rose even wanted to cover for Hana, not wanting to see her back in prison again. Perhaps, Rose pitied Hana, so she didn’t want to turn Hana in. She admitted to Wen Cheng that much, saying that Hana had gone through so much. Yet Hana knew too well she could not let anyone go to prison for her, nor live with it for the rest of her life like that (even if she did initially convince herself that she had no choice but to hide). Too many people had been impacted. It was indeed quite tragic how things turned out.
- Killing off two major characters of the show. Yes, this was a shocker for me. I mean, seeing how serious it was throughout, it was inevitable that people got hurt. However, I didn’t expect them to start off by killing Sue. I initially thought she was the killer and whoever it was they revealed later would be someone who knew about Sue’s past, hence her getting rid of that person, and that was why she was missing in the present timeline. It was a clever approach because the characters were forced to deal with their past demons as well. Also, because Sue had collected so many enemies along the way, the journey to find her killer was intriguing and nerve-wracking rolled into one. I thought the writers wanted to redeem Jiang Han because they wanted to pair him off with Rose, after all. However, it took another turn, and he was also killed off. The writers sure took no mercy on the characters as they tried to cope with another tragedy.
- Jiang Han’s betrayal. I initially thought that Jiang Han’s downfall and eventual death were due to the fact that he messed around with many people’s hearts and had caused too much pain, hence his past actions caught up with him. However, it was revealed later that he once made an oath to Rose, stating that if he ever betrayed her, he would be met with such a downfall. Whether it was true or not that the universe was listening and keeping its eyes on that oath, it was indeed a lesson for some.
- The irony of Hana’s action. Yes, I found that tragically ironic. Hana lost it and killed Sue in a rage. When she confessed to Rose, she said that Sue was going to take Zi Wei away. Well, no one knew the future, etc. Yet Sue’s mom’s discovery regarding Zi Wei’s real identity caused everything to go into chaos, and it allowed for the scumbag to claim Zi Wei. Rose had to give up Zi Wei, regardless. If Sue was still alive and successfully framed Rose and sent Rose to prison, Zi Wei would be in Sue’s custody. However, we could bet that Wen Cheng would have found out about the scheme, anyway. So, was having Sue alive a better route? Hana was triggered, and she killed in a rage. So obviously, she wasn’t thinking. Yet it was too much.
- Wen Cheng’s grand plan. I had a feeling that Wen Cheng was planning something else later. It was why he sent Yan Qiao Ru away for the time being. He needed to broaden his connections and plan for the future. He knew he couldn’t take down them all because of the scope of the people involved. That was why he pretended to be as power-hungry as the others. It would be ridiculous if he said he was in for the money. Power would make more sense. So they knocked out some small fishes to take the fall before going back into business. Yet, his actions said otherwise. He even told Yan Qiao Ru to trust his decisions. So, if they did a spin-off or sequel, it would focus on him trying to take down all the upper management or the whole chain. Or maybe it was implied, so there was no need for more? They could do a side movie, lol. The whole corruption within the police network reminded me so much of Black & White, though. (Some of the cast from here was also in there, lol.)
Recommended? You have to be a fan of the cast to stick it through. Or at least, one could appreciate their acting. Also, if you prefer serious productions over the typical idol dramas. The series itself is very emotionally draining and could be quite triggering, so those could be reasons to reconsider. I obviously watched this way before I heard of the show receiving several awards nominations. However, I thought those were well deserved. Because this production was indeed high quality and the whole team (both cast and crew) put in a lot of effort to make it happen.