On the eve of the New Year, I asked my niece to give me the lowdown on some dramas on my watch list, Designated Survivor (Korean), Welcome to Samdal-ri and My Demon and whether I should dive into any of them. She gave me the quick Cliff-notes versions of all of them and instead pointed me to something called Light the Night (华灯初上) (2021-2022) since she knows I like 告五人 songs.
So on the eve of 2023 when everybody was partying and watching the fireworks, Choo and I did what we love to do. We effortlessly binged 4 episodes of this 24-episode Taiwanese series divided into 3 parts of 8 episodes each.
What will grab you first is the setting: In the early 20th century, this was a residential neighborhood for the Japanese elite in Taipei, and it retained its Japanese character even after World War II, becoming the favorite haunt of Japanese businessmen from the 1960s as it evolved into a nightlife hotspot complete with a red-light district. Even today, Tiaotong’s bars, restaurants, karaoke lounges and nightclubs have an authentic Japanese flavor that continues to draw tourists and locals. In this red light district of 1980s Taipei, women at a popular Japanese night club navigate jealousy, heartbreak, friendship and love. It has to be mentioned that without handphones and the internet, interesting stories can be told.
The show begins with a dead body and part 1 will reveal who she was. Part 2 is the investigation culminating in the revelation of who the perpetrator is. Part 3 is the why and how, and we are left with just 6 episodes. Judging by the growing strength of the show, I have full confidence it will nail the ending.
The second thing that will grab you is the characters. The show doesn’t merely use Ruby Lin and Cheryl Yang who play the mamasans of a nightclub, it loves them. Over the course of the show it will reveal layers to both of them, including the other 4 girls under their charge.
The next thing that will hit you is the languid pacing and this part is the weeding element. For me, the mystery isn’t that important, it is finding out who the 6 women are and the tapestries of lies they spin with each other. This is a show that shows you the unfathomable human heart and how all of us are capable of being good and evil. The switch to the other mode is but a split second. The scenes breathe with authenticity and the sisterhood is a marvel to behold. It might have a mystery as its spine, but the oxygen that sustains it is the intricate characterisation.
The show also boasts many cameos - Gingle Wang plays a young Rose Lo Yu-nung, Wallace Huo (Ruby Lin’s husband) plays a gangster, Greg Han and Wu Kang Ren hams it up as a drag queen.
The cinematography is gorgeous and the editing is nifty, playing effortlessly with the timeline of the plot. The haute couture is sweet, reminiscent of the 80s fashion.
This is a gem. A menagerie of vile human behaviour engaging in evil drug deals, sordid police corruption and nothing beats women’s jealousy. They can justify their reckless actions anytime and weaponise their bodies and parts of speech for maximum carnage. This is a vivid showcase of female relationships, lies, betrayals, breaking bad, breaking good and the uneasy burden of friendships.
I have done the Math for Choo - if we start at 7, we will be done at 1130 tonight. It is always great to start with something awesome for the year and tomorrow will be my turn to jump on the hamster wheel again.
爱你的, 你不爱。爱上的, 永远不是你该爱的人。
Thank goodness it’s not true for me and I hope it’s not true for you too.