I finally caught up with Behind Your Smile and I’m glad that I only started watching it towards the end of its run because I got to marathon it. I only wish I’d begun a little later because I’ve still got five episodes to watch in real time. And Lord, please don’t let them extend it because that’s a guaranteed Taiwanese drama killer.
What makes this Taiwanese drama different from others? I ask this because it’s been years since I actually completed one and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to drop this because I’m yet to be bored.
I think it’s because of the way the mystery unfolds. We know from the start that Yiting is out for revenge against Xinyu’s mother and I love how it’s revealed in different bits and pieces through well-placed flashbacks via different characters.
Before I get into it, am I the only one who slightly ships Yiting and Xiaoyue? I’m totally all about the OTP but I love how direct she is with him, how she’s often the first to suss him out and gets him to open up about his past. I think they share more screen time than a typical lead and supporting character often do which helps build their chemistry. Oh, I am the only one? Haha. Not surprising.
Anyway, as I was saying, the show manages to keep our attention because things are slowly being revealed as the characters are developed and relationships blossom.
So far, we know that Yiting’s family was destroyed by Xinyu’s mother, Lin Man. Is she guilty? In instances like this, one often expects the main characters’ supposedly evil parents to have been misunderstood but one thing we know is that she convinced Yiting’s father to go into business with her, supplied them with defective milk powder, got them to take the fall, watched their business crumble then bought their land for cheap.
Of course, Lin Man is not directly responsible for his father’s death but as far as he can see, if his family hadn’t been ruined, his father wouldn’t have been involved with loan sharks, thus, would not have been on the road that fateful day and gotten hit by a truck. Similarly with his mom’s psychological state.
Witnessing his father brutally die for such a ridiculous, unfair reason changed his life. That, and his father’s dying words that kindness doesn’t pay. Not only did his personality change from warm to cold, his life goal became one thing: revenge.
We are still awaiting Lin Man’s side of the story but the truth remains that even if her hands had been tied, not only did she not come to the family’s aid, intentionally ignore Yiting’s pain, and try to shut him up with a pittance, she profited from their suffering, so I have no idea how they can make her sympathetic and redeem her. But we’ll see.
After 12 years, Yiting manages to take Lin Man’s business down with the help of his fiancee’s dad. Unbeknownst to him, he – CEO Tang – also helped her escape from the country. So he simultaneously destroyed and protected her. It also turns out that he’s a murderer and we’re still in the dark about what his relationship with Lin Man is/was (it appears to have soured around the time Xinyu graduated from high school) and how this ties in with his right-hand man, Uncle Qing’s death.
Anyone who follows this blog knows I generally hate the typical obnoxious, rude, cold, bullying, controlling male jerks we often get saddled with for leads.
The reason this one works for me is that he isn’t really any of those things (except controlling – in a different way – but we’ll get to that soon).
Okay, he’s cold but we’re shown right from the very first episode that he’s also kind and caring. Yes, he’s calculating and claims his kindness and cape (because he’s continuously saving our female lead) is an act to get her to trust him but we immediately see what lies beneath that mask. We learn that his deep love for his family is what drives him to make his enemy pay. And while he masks himself and suffers their wrath, he still does what he can to protect and care for them. And hell, he’s the type of person who repays one’s kindness, even helping the baker who kept him from starving during his broke days. How can I hate such a character?
He’s controlling and all of that but the truth is Xinyu’s mother got her in this mess (well, Yiting is the true orchestrator) and while she was desperate, he protected her from the protesters and got her a place to stay (and a job).
But objectively, the “controlling and all of that” is pretty darn terrible. Not only is her roommate/friend his plant and spy, he’s intercepted her communication with her real friend abroad and in addition to not getting his messages, all her messages to him and are read by Yiting who is now privy to things he’s not entitled to.
And as a result, he gets to wear his cape more often, doing things to make her happy which in turn draws her deeper into his web. While on the surface, it’s all part of his plan but underneath it’s from his sincere desire for her happiness, it’s manipulative and something I would find very difficult to forgive.
Other than the fact that he lies to her face on a daily basis, he’s using her trust in him to get to her mother, wishing to hurt the one person she wants to protect. Their needs are polar opposite and while Xinyu understands he hates her mother, I don’t know how she would live with herself if her love for him is the tool used in her mother’s capture. If we’ve learned anything about her, it’s that she’s loyal to that woman.
Right now, Xinyu has found happiness in an artificial world. Her best friend is a spy, her boyfriend is using her to exact revenge on her mother and the least culpable place – the farm – isn’t entirely blameless because although Qianren doesn’t know the details, he knows that his brother has an ulterior motive with her.
But despite his despicable acts, I love Yiting and don’t even wish for him to stop and make his relationship honest because it’s fun to see how far he will go. I love how conflicted he is and watching Xiaoyue constantly call him out. I love seeing his assistant, Shihuan’s constant WTF faces whenever he does anything out of character. He always felt bad about how his boss’s fiancee treated her but while humane, he doesn’t want Yiting’s love to derail their plans. I wonder if he too holds a grudge against Lin Man.
While, at first, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Xinyu were brain dead, I’m glad that they’ve now shown that though naive, too trusting and simple-minded, she’s not entirely stupid.
She was smart and scheming enough to use the press to get a message to her mother and also leave one for her at the lighthouse on the off chance that they do not meet.
Yiting has been working towards his goal for 12 years; risking any semblance of happiness, pseudo abandoning his family, even letting his mother hate him, refusing to get off course or listen to the loved ones who’d begged him to move on but he thought he could talk Xinyu into abandoning her plans. “I’m not asking this as a boss.” Whatever, Bro! I loved that not only did she not listen, she also only gave him a half-truth. It’s kind of funny that he wants her to be honest with him but he continuously keeps her in the dark about things that affect her (like her mother’s whereabouts and his plans for her).
I’m thoroughly enjoying this drama and think the script and writing have improved with time. We had ridiculous forced scenes like Xinyu playing piano in a house they’d snuck into and suddenly teaching the guy how to waltz in episode 2. Not to speak of strategically placed roaches that appear to get our heroine to scream so that we can get a band-aid fueled romance. But the writing has gotten less gimmicky and more organic with the show’s progress and Eugenie Liu has also improved as she’s gotten more into her role as Xinyu.
What have been my favorite scenes so far?
I liked the flashback of their first meeting where she “saved” him and gave him her handkerchief which contrasted with his first meeting on the same day with Qianni. I love their food/bribe game. I enjoyed their adorable bike ride. The lighthouse. The shed. Loved the montage of the “best date ever” at the restaurant. Love all the scenes (flashback and present time) of the brothers. Really liked Xiaomao’s “confession.” It was kind of hot (and goofy) and I actually preferred it to the OTP’s confession scene which I felt got ruined by the bad kiss. lol. Enjoyed watching Qianni get dumped. While it was fair to be mad at Yiting for ditching the awards without an explanation, it didn’t give her the right to tear up what she thought were important documents. Psycho. But these are just a few of the many scenes I liked.
The story is simple and not particularly unique but other than the good pace (things aren’t needlessly dragged) and nicely placed revelations, we’ve also got lovable characters.
As already mentioned, our cold jerk is sweet. He might not smile all the time but he’s respectful to his assistant and his now former father-in-law. He blackmailed Xiaoyue into working for him but we learn that he bailed her ass out. Plus she gets away with speaking to him any way she damn well pleases which isn’t usually the case with chaebol-type jerks. The one person he’s genuinely cold to is Qianni, who’s worse than he is, rendering it impossible for us to care. They also couldn’t have come up with a better actor for a drama with “smile” in its title because his is breathtaking. He looks a bit short but boy does his smile make up for it.
Xinyu may come off as dimwitted but she’s genuinely kind which explains why everyone who meets her goes into instant protect mode. She’s very naive and sees the best in everyone. She goes out of her way to be understanding and helpful so it was easy for me to get over her damsel-in-distress act. It does help that it was front-loaded so we don’t have to continuously watch her make stupid mistakes. She may put herself in danger but we kind of understand the risks that one might take for the love of a mother. Plus they’ve also revealed her smarts. She was able to come up with reasonable plans to improve the farm’s bottom line and smart enough to find covert ways to communicate with her mother. My only thing is how she hasn’t yet figured out the full scope of Yiting’s relationship with the farm.
The supporting characters are also sweet. Xiaoyue is street smart and a plant but she also genuinely likes 50% and is there when needed. Qianren is Xinyu’s adorable Xiaomao who like her, doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. I don’t like the whole “too alike to date” thing the writers pulled but I like that he stepped aside once he realized that there might be something between her and his brother. The others at the farm are okay although the thief was really annoying for a while there. I couldn’t stand his entitled act. Yunan also has issues but I would too if I were in love with a dense knucklehead who still insists on seeing me as a kid. I can’t wait to see how her attitude towards Yiting changes now that she knows that he never stopped caring for them.
With five episodes left, we still have to see exactly how everything blows up. Who is Lin Man? What is she truly responsible for? How does CEO Tang fit in? How will they be caught? Will Qianni turn against her sexist father once she learns of his role in her precious uncle’s demise? How will Xinyu react when she learns that she was a pawn in Yiting’s game? We all know it will be a happy ending but as much as I love this couple, I would totally support her dumping him. It’s crazy because I am not against his revenge act at all but she’s so innocent and unaware that I want him to pay for controlling her world in every imaginable way. I can’t say that I’m a Qianren/Yunan shipper but I wonder when they’ll start building that relationship up if things are headed that way.
So yeah, I totally can’t wait for more and I’m happy that Sunday is almost here.