Black & White – A Montage-esque After Post

As a compromise between the poll result and what I was willing to do, I’ve decided to write an After Post rather than a comprehensive Overview. The latter simply takes too much time.

In this After Post, I’ll rant and rave about what I liked (characters) and what I didn’t like (characters!) — because I’ve been itching to dissect them for a long time! *evil cackle* I’ll re-post a selection of screen shots since they sum up the fine points of this drama quite well. Finally, by reader Lisa’s request, I’ll talk about my expectation of the Black & White movie to wrap up this post. (God, I sound like a snotty critic writing this! And, it’s about to get worse… Bear with me.)

So, Characters

Frankly, I don’t care for any of the main characters, (that’d be Chen Zai Tian, Chen Lin, and Wu YingXiong/Hero). Not really.

But before you drop your jaw in disbelief and accuse me of being a lunatic and a moron, hear me out:

Chen Zai Tian

Okay, he’s your pale skinned pinup guy and he can act(!) but that doesn’t mean his character was given a full “facelift” (if you will) by the very end. One just doesn’t get the feeling of growing up, of coming of age — he did change but it didn’t feel enough.

Zai Zai is extraordinary, no doubt, when it comes to highly emotionally charged scenes. Cases in point: the turmoil following the explosion of the burger restaurant as well as the alienation by the San Lian Hui director. But that’s not enough. His pre-transformation persona did left somewhat of a callow womanizer image (save for the one outburst upon spotting Xiao Mei). But in my mind, if he were more unctuous, more narcissistic in his portrayal, the contrast would have made his personal growth more apparent.

Although Zai Zai lacks a more refined touch of subtlety in his acting, I think the main problem has to do with the pacing of this drama. It’s simply too compacted to allow room for development. As I have said many times, if the love triangle were to be removed all together, the relationships could’ve been dealt with in a more complex way as more attention would’ve then been focused on the theme of camaraderie, which we ought to feel but didn’t quite feel. Someone raised the point that a lack of romance would’ve made a police drama less appealing to the female audience, I beg to differ. I think as long as the relationships were handled properly and thoroughly, romance or not, we can still emote as the plot unfolded. There has actually been an abundance of romance lurking on the sideline: Zai Tian and Xiao Mei’s innocent, almost family-like affection, Hero and Lei Mu Sha’s love-hate relationship, and even Xiao Ma’s one-sided feeling towards Chen Lin. Besides these, there’s also the heartfelt father-daughter relationship, the tension and forgiveness between age-old love rivals (San Lian Hui director and the president), and Cheng Nuo’s absolute devotion to his sister. Any one of these in finer detail could have ended up more meaningful and certainly less abrupt than the love triangle we were tossed with.

Hero and Chen Lin

Although both Hero and Chen Lin have different sides to them, they are like two open books. Hero is a straight arrow, he’s just, but often impetuous and jumps to conclusions readily. Chen Lin can be mischievous but she is often quick to anger and spoiled (and a serious monogamist might I add). I think both actors played their parts well to forecast these characteristics from the beginning, but not well enough to make them walk out of  the book and speak to the audience. They are essentially fixed and rarely surprise us with their actions (not even the one-night stand).

Throughout the drama, Hero underwent three major crisis: the betrayal from Lei Mu Sha, a new identity, and the bending of his principle to set the San Lian Hui director free. Sure, he wallowed and moped each time but he was changed to a lesser degree than Chen Zai Tian was, if at all. He seemed flat and that’s not good consider he’s one of the main characters! The same goes with Chen Lin.

Since we’re on the subject of Hero, allow me to digress, *cough* vent a little. WTF was Hero doing swinging between Chen Lin and Lei Mu Sha like a wishy-washy pendulum?! So out of character wasn’t he? On the one hand he’s sworn loyalty to Chen Lin saying things like “all I wanted to do was to embrace you, hold your hand to sleep” and “I like you so much I don’t why I didn’t tell you that before”; on the other hand, he’s stared Lei Mu Sha down, barking and demanding to know if she’s ever felt the same attraction toward him as he had definitely felt for her. Of course, he’s a man and she’s attractive, it’s only natural to give in to lust. But when she died, the way he held her and mourned for her may very well mislead one into thinking he has lost the love of his life! So did the writer suddenly get whacked on the head and forgot she had planted an abrupt and all too forced love triangle for the three leads? Or was she too keen to create drama for Hero?

Lan Xi Ying

Now, that’s a wonderful surprise! Lan Xi Ying originally appeared bland to me. She’s level-headed and professional but too perfect to arouse any real interest. (Perfection be damned, it’s BORING!) But the three times she’s been in danger, she’s exhibited such bravery and such raw emotion of terror, I’m beginning to think Director Tsai has a wrong set of main characters in mind. Joke aside, Janine Chang did do a fantastic job as the intellectual Lan Xi Ying and the plot undoubtedly helped her create this success. Each time Xi Ying was in danger, she always managed to find a way out of adversity On. Her. Own. Most memorably, in the last episode, she, a frail woman, ended up saving herself and her wounded protector Cheng Nuo. It’s satisfying to see the one unostentatious female character hailed as the heroine in an understated and  modest way.

Lei Mu Sha

I was initially on the fence about Sonia Sui’s acting. I don’t think she’s quite as dangerous as she ought to be but as a darker and female version of Hero, she’s let out way more complexity in the short time she was on screen.

She and Hero are similar in that they both abide by the rules they were taught and saw no alternative. Unfortunately for Lei Mu Sha, her rules were the duties and missions of Heaven while Hero’s is justice. They were meant to be on opposite ends of the chess board, singing love songs at each other while contemplating how best to check mate. But while Hero looked frustratingly inflexible, Lei Mu Sha appeared contained and sophisticated.

I liked the difference and the variant feeling they each gave off, I just wish it was the other way around.

Xiao Ma

He came in as a character who’s already developed. Yet it’s this “ripeness” that made him one of the most interesting characters. He’s like a tree full of fruits (not the most poetic analogy), and each fruit contained a little story. There’s so much mystery about him that makes one want to pluck the fruits and delve into his past. (Er, “pluck the fruits” is not meant to be a sexual innuendo.)

There really is a wealth of characters, interesting ones too. Sadly none is fully developed. I wish the story had offered more about Xiao Ma’s past, which I’m sure would’ve been captivating.

Cheng Nuo

I was completely fascinated by Cheng Nuo in the last episode. He was violent killing the attacker at the subway, he was earnest in his offer to help Xi Ying, and he was cool cocking his head and refusing to explain himself. When he saw Xi Ying waiting for him at the top of the stairs after his trial, he was complacent and almost tender towards her. If we rewind a little and consider him as he reemerged, viciously vowing to avenge his sister, there really was a menacing vibe about him. The hollow eyes, the piercing gazes, and the threatening presence, all made him into a fear factor. If we rewind even further and remember him when he first appeared, he was smartly dressed, slick and dangerously manipulative.

I admit there has always been a certain appeal for me to see the un-reformable reformed in the end, but the actor also deserved credit for demonstrating a wide array of emotions before us. It is this multi-dimensionality that made Cheng Nuo a vivid and fascinating character.

To sum up this exhaustive character analysis, I felt there is a disjunction between the main leads and the supporting characters (due to a lack of proper development, owing to the fact that the plot was too tightly weaved). Here we have some terribly fascinating minor characters and we also have two (Chen Lin & Hero) rather dull main characters. In juxtaposition, the more interesting albeit less important characters swiftly stole the spotlight from the less interesting but more important ones.

Pictures, Pictures!

While I was taking screenshots for recaps, I’ve noticed a constant switch between dimness (black) and vibrancy (white) in the drama. I always dismissed this darkness to the interior scenes as bad lighting (or bad video source, or both). Now come to think of it, it might have contained elements of intention. For instance, any San Lian Hui related scenes remained dark while our conception of the organization stayed at the general understanding of the evil-doing mob. However, it changed to resort-level scenery once we learned that San Lian Hui was actually on “our” side.

Black & White

Compare and contrast for yourself:

very vibrant with peachy hue, as in an induced drug state

The Kodak Moments

The nice scenery is one of the hallmarks of this drama. I would be remiss to omit it. Here’s just a few of them, indulge your eyes:

Cuteness

Since I’m at it, might as well:

Eh, Movie?

Now, I haven’t really thought of the movie until now. I don’t expect it to be breathtakingly gripping but I do expect it to be breathtakingly beautiful. It’s definitely going to be visually appealing but given the time (according to the director, the movie will “hopefully” begin filming by Christmas) and the standard set by the drama (which is high in TW but only above average in other areas), it might be difficult to live up to the expectation. Especially when the idea to create a movie spurred from B&W’s commercial success instead of the director’s long term planning — it all seemed very hasty. It’ll definitely be very watchable and even enjoyable but I don’t think it’ll “sweep me off my feet”.

On a more optimistic note, Xi Ying’s long lost brother might just appear in the movie and lead us to the discovery of some of Xi Ying’s family secrets. And family secrets are always fun!

19 thoughts on “Black & White – A Montage-esque After Post”

  1. very grateful for writing this last entry on black & white. i too am looking forward to what role Lan Xi Ying’s brother will play in the movie :]
    thanksss alot.

  2. Hey, glad u decided to do a short recap on the entire drama in general, although I am one of the 75 who had hoped it to be the Comprehensive Overview. Anyway, I’m glad to take what is given.

    I agree about what you wrote regarding the supporting characters. I really wish for more of them, especially Xi Ying & Xiao Ma.

    The scenery I like the most from all your Kodak Moments will definitely be the one from Zai Tian’s balcony overlooking the sea. They have many shots it, ranging from dawn, to daylight, and also night-time. Is there dusk as well? Can’t remember. Hahaha

    1. I don’t remember if there’s a balcony shot at dusk either but that balcony is definitely the thing to show when talking about the sceneries offered by this drama. (Oh so pretty! @.@)

  3. omg.hello.i love this drama.gets addictive by every episodes.just dont get why xiying doesnt end up with hero^.^ i started to watch this drama 4 days ago.watch the videos in youtube in english subbed until 17 only.episodes after that didnt hv english subbed.kinda stuck there.AND LUCKILY!! u did the recaps after episode 17.thank god of U.haha my greatest thanks to you for doing the recaps. good lord,i cant wait for the movie. anyways i hope the movie pairs up xiying&hero.(i’m being biased) i was wondering will the cast of this drama will be the same cast for the movie?????
    and i would love to look forward whats more in the soon-to-be-movie! haha

  4. hi.. i really love your recap.. always read your recap first before watching the episode (checking whether the ep is worth the time:)) anyway.. i always love the montage that you put up… mind if you tell me how to do it…. there are few scenes in the show that i want to have. anyway i really love xi ying… never really like ivy chen though…. i really wish xi ying will end up with zai tian… but it seems quite impossible… so glad that you write the overall summary of the show… really love it… i wish if they do the movie, xi ying will get more part in it….;)

  5. Honestly I loved this drama! I didn’t really watch the beginning as police dramas don’t really interest me, but it was on TV so I began to watch it a little, and boy was I hooked! I went online to watch the first few eps, and controlled myself to watch it on TV with better quality.

    Loved it. Despite its flaws of course. I have not watched many of Vic Zhou’s dramas, but I was genuinely surprised at his acting ability. I didn’t know that he could convey emotions that well!
    And the newbie actor, Mark Chao, was hot!!! Haha. But he did really well too, looking forward to more from him in the future.
    Janine Cheng is one of my favs and she was good in the show 🙂

    Definitely a great drama 😀

  6. This drama makes me seriously consider learning Chinese… in Taiwan.

    I used to think that female tourists from Japan and China coming to Korea to visit the shooting locations of Kdramas like Winter Sonata were a bit silly… But after watching Vic Zhou’s dramas, my first thought was “I want to go to Taiwan!” LOL

  7. Great recaps!!! Thank you !!! Having bought a DVD set with only traditional Chinese subtitles when I can only read simplified Chinese, after every episode I checked out your site to see what I missed (yes totally agree with you about poor enunciation by tw actors) I was searching for a site like dramabeans but for tw drama instead of korean drama. Yours is the best so far

  8. I agree that some of the photography in the movie is just amazing! I am sure the movie version would be a lot better captured. I am so looking forward to seeing the movie now.

    The most interesting character is Chen Zai Ten (this is my first time watching Zaizai). CZT is more intense, yet comical than most other characters. However, there are parts where CZT over reacts, which I find not ‘necessary’ for his part. I blame this on the scriptwriter and director for not being realistic. For example, the scene where CZT was drunk and lying on the street. He was depressed because of the girl he loved had died. His character is flirtatious, non-committed to relationship, then there is no need to over react in that scene. I thought the script should reserve that scene until the later ends where he found out that he is not the son of the boss. When everything have fallen apart in his life, then having a nervous break down like such would be more realistic behavior.

    The romance in this drama series is pretty much like a soap opera where love triangle rotates in full circle. This is where all the main characters have the chance to fall in love again and again….with somebody else that is likely to die…lol…. I find this fact most annoying. Chenlin and ChenZaiTen have amazing onscreen chemistry, especially their first kiss. They are very cute together! Why not let that be just as in?

    1. Rather than thinking Zai Tian’s breakdown as an “overreaction”, I thought it was rather in keep with his character.

      He’s flirtatious, yes, but it’s to disguise his commitment phobia. He suffered a great loss via the burger shop’s explosion, so taunting was the experience that he refused to open his heart for new relationships here on after. Thus the numerous flings and not a single meaningful relationship. And then he sees a figure that resembles his first love. Suddenly, all of the horror of that moment comes back with the same vividness, rendering him devastated to the nth degree. And you see Zai Zai playing it out to its full tilt.

  9. (So I know this is super late, but still…) OMG I totally agree with you about how easily Ying Xiong vacillated between Sonia Sui and Ivy Chen, that was totally ridiculous to me. To be honest I could actually see them very easily dropping the Ivy Chen romance as, to be honest, they did VERY little to keep the love-line up towards the end. So I think they should have foregone the brother-sister-love angst and just gone for the my-super-hot-ex-flame-who-was-my-current-flame-until-she-framed-me-and-then-tried-to-kill-me-but-is-now-reformed,-just-died angst,but OH WELL.

    I also totally loved the actor who played Cheng Nuo, and I don’t know if it’s just because I have a notoriously bad memory, but I totally didn’t care that he killed off so many people in the beginning, I still wanted him to get together with Lan Xi Ying. Speaking of Xi Ying, I totally agree with you that in many ways she was more bad-ass than Chen Lin. I feel like Chen Lin talked a big game but was CONSTANTLY having to be rescued, whereas Xi Ying might speak softly, but girl’s got some SERIOUS game. Hence why Xi Ying + Cheng Nuo = Smartest, most bad-ass babies EVER.

    Anyways thanks so much for all the recaps, and I can’t WAIT for the movie (even if it only will be a prequel and is missing some of the more interesting Characters (WHY Zai Zai? WHY Janine?).

      1. Wow, you respond super quickly ^.^ And that would be totally awesome (though hopefully not super burdensome). I don’t know about you but I am definitely looking forward to what exactly this prequel will consist of (for instance what will Chen Lin’s relationship be to Ying Xiong if they technically haven’t met yet, right?).

        Just out of curiousity, are there any dramas you’re currently interested in? I don’t know why but it’s much harder for me to find a good Taiwanese drama than a good Korean or Japanese one, so any recommendations would be awesome.

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