[Mild spoilers episodes 1 – 14]
In A Good Way is humming along nicely with its utterly adorable cast of characters worming their way deeper and deeper into my heart each week. This is such a wholesome feel-good show that I often wonder how on earth it manages to pull off all its earnestness without seeming insufferable.
A lot of it has to do with its quiet warmth and the growing pains of a loveable gang of close-knit friends. I’ve grown so attached to these girls and boys that I swell with pride to see them take their first tentative steps into adulthood. It’s like my babies are growing up before my eyes–I guess this is what parenthood feels like!
This is a show where no one is cruel or evil or unnecessarily wretched, and it has surprised me by constantly challenging it’s characters to do better and be better. For me, the women in this show offer the best examples of this, and after a season of dramas in which many K-drama women were schooled rather patronisingly and disrespectfully by men, In A Good Way has been an oasis of functional, supportive human relationships.
So allow me to pay tribute to these awesome gals in this awesome show:
The campus ‘it’ girl who has everything except the boy that she loves, thoughtful and bookish Bai Xue could’ve so easily turned catty and spiteful. Instead, she’s been nothing but kind and generous.
Hiding her obvious pain, and watching her struggle with her resentment and jealousy towards two friends she genuinely loves and respects, and seeing her survive getting her heart broken has been one of the drama’s high points for me. I love her courage in bearing her soul to Liu Chuan despite knowing at the back of her mind that the outcome of her confession wouldn’t be in her favour. Her decision to let go of him and move on is hard-won, and I felt so proud that she chose to hold on to Jia Ern’s friendship and told her to follow her heart.
I do wish I’d got to see Liu Chuan honour her feelings and their long-standing friendship in the way that I know he would. But I understood that she chose not continue that conversation any longer because she realised that didn’t need him for that–she could close this chapter on her own.
And at her lowest point, despite feeling miserable and alone, she steels herself and decides to conquer her fear of heights. What a moment of triumph this is for her:
And that my friends, is why this she is kick ass.
Her relationship with Ren Wei also speaks volumes–she’s been clear about her non-interest in him from the start, and as exasperating as Ren Wei is in his bumbling and relentless pursuit of her, she still appreciates his warmth and sincerity.
Smile Weng has played her so well too, capturing her aching vulnerability and strength. Plus, she has some awesome WTH-faces that have me in stitches.
Need wardrobe tips? Tracy will sort you out. Wanna know what ‘third base’ is? Tracy to the rescue!
She’s the friend you want in your corner when you can’t handle the girl stuff– she can decipher the mysteries of thong underwear, make-up, relationships and romance. Tracy brings all the boys to the yard, and she owns it like a boss.
Earlier on, I mistook her for being a ditz-with-a-heart-of-gold. But she is no mere airhead. She may not be as book smart as the rest of them, but she’s savvy about people and has practical view of the workings of the world–if your looks give you a leg up in life, why not embrace it wholeheartedly?
What I love most about Tracy is that she is never holds back and tells it like it is. Direct to a fault, she knows her own mind and doesn’t blindly follow the crowd, the clearest indication of which was her standing apart from her friends who were protesting Xiao Wei’s treatment by the evil Professor.
It takes a certain kind of person to take an unpopular position. Furthermore, it’s one that speaks a truth that everyone seems to have missed. In the kerfuffle in which everyone seemed to have a stake in except the victim herself, Tracy says in a huff: “Truth, justice and freedom are all great, but if Xiao Wei gives up on herself, what right do we have to help her?”
Tracy’s irrepressible spirit is exactly what the group needs, and her sass is something to be feared too. How awesome was her take down of Ah Qing, as told to his clingy ex-girlfriend?
What century is it already? Why are there still women like you? Breaking up is to make your life better. Be a woman that a man regrets over.
Do you think it’s worth it for a man like this? Is it worth it? Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself for a man like him?
Also, it’ll be understandable if your boyfriend is Tony Leung or Takeshi Kaneshiro. He’s superficial, irresponsible and smooth tongued….
And I so approve of her shout-out to 90’s heartthrobs Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro! The gal has good taste.
Out of all the girls, it is shy, retiring Xiao Wei who is the one who transforms most radically. Who would’ve thought that she who once played the victim and shrank in the face of pressure would end up not just standing up for herself but doing so in such public fashion, on a stage under the glare of spotlights not less! Talk about personal triumphs!
Xiao Wei’s arc snuck up on me a little seeing how she was such a quiet unassuming character. She seemed primed be the sweet but minor role of love interest to one of the other boys. So imagine my surprise when her story evolved to not just become about her own personal growth, but also test the bonds of the group, and even encompass weighty issues of justice and the repercussions of challenging oppressive systems!
Her story is captures of one of the show’s biggest themes, that friendship sustains you and gives you strength when you have none, and that you don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love. She comes to realise that her inaction was affecting the people who were willing to stand up for her when she herself wasn’t able to. And despite indulging in a fair bit of self-pity, and habouring a complex about her family’s poverty, she toughens up and promises to do better.
Last but certainly not least is Jia Ern. From wide-eyed, naive girl from the country chasing the coattails of her best friend Ren Wei to the picture of confidence on the cusp of womanhood, Jia Ern’s journey of self-discovery has been at the heart and soul of this drama.
Her qualities read like a laundry list of every Candy known to dramaland: unfailingly loyal, plucky, loving, caring, kind, and steadfast.
Why then does she transcend this Candy mould? Because the drama treats her like a person not a trope, with hopes and dreams, sometimes stumbling, always questioning. Her star is hitched to no one by herself, and she is undoubtedly the hero of her own story. Or to paraphrase her own words, the queen of her own castle.
The greatest expression of how far she’s come is her little pep talk-turned-confession to her beloved Liu Chuan. It distilled all the lessons she’s learnt since she’d arrived at the university–about forging your own path, loving yourself–and paid tribute to the special role Liu Chuan played in this. She reflects back to him a bit of his own wisdom, something he’d forgotten while mired in a spate of self-loathing. It’s something he needs to hear at a time when he’s lost a sense of who he is. She tells him that he doesn’t need to be perfect to be loved. In short, she becomes his hero.
She doesn’t hesitate and is fully in command of herself and assured of the truth of her words. Her whole speech in this moment is so graceful, eloquent and profound that my knees buckle just to read it again:
Do you remember that I promised to tell you first when understood love? You helped me to realize it. You taught me that love begins like a mirror. In love, you see yourself. In love, you grow. In love, you learn to be better. But love ceases to be a mirror once it reaches a certain stage. It becomes bravery. To have bravery to break the mirror and the self you see in the mirror, to break the limitations you set for yourself, to break all the inhibitions irrelevant to love.
I think you underestimated me. You think I can only love a certain kind of Liu Chuan and I can’t love another side of Liu Chuan. You limited our love. But you gave me the bravery to break through too. The you who taught me about freedom is worthy of my love. The you who is limited by freedom is worthy of my love too. Liu Chuan, you taught me that love is a kind of freedom.
She then caps it off by singing a song for him, a love song that he sang to her earlier, and then envelopes him in a bear hug. Liu Chuan of course, is overwhelmed and on the verge of tears, while I am a puddle on the floor.
Now that this pair are finally together, the fun is only just beginning.
And I can’t wait to find out what else this drama has in store for all my lovely and their adventures in growing up.