Is anyone still alive after watching “In a Good Way?” Some of you might have already patched up your cuts and bruises after watching this show, but I’m still reeling from the ending – or shall we say the open ending – to this Taiwanese drama. So don’t mind me as I pick up the wayward pieces of my shredded heart. Like a knife master, Show knows how to cut me deep and in many unexpected ways.
Who knew that a lighthearted romp back in time to 1997 could pack such a punch? We’ve witnessed college students going through character and life changing experiences, all the while allowing us to fall in love with the Prince Charming Liu Chuan and his relationship with Jia En as well as the Treasure Hunting Club. Where do I sign up for this fun and intriguing club? I don’t recall such an interesting club when I was in college in ’97 that’s for sure.
The way I judge a show’s overall story success is usually how the ending or resolution made me feel. I will start by saying that I’m not a fan of open endings, especially one that will attempt to offer viewers closure on the big screen. I truly believe that each platform deserve their own closure. Because if anything, it is the writer’s responsibility to see their argument to the end of the road, whether their main argument wins or loses at the end of the day.
Let’s evaluate Liu Chuan and Jia En’s relationship throughline to begin with. Our duo struggles with separation anxiety when they each have to be away from each other for a certain period of time. I totally empathize, I know the feeling of wanting to see your beloved every day, and feeling that each day apart is like lifetimes apart. But this challenge has not been given a resolution in the end, which is one of my biggest contentions.
We see the writer’s argument that in order for Liu Chuan to understand what it means to gain freedom, he must learn to let go: letting go of his prejudice with his father, and letting go of Jia En so that she may reach her full potential. His actions impact Jia En who admits a year later after the breakup that he made her see what she wouldn’t have seen or experienced without the push. Through this sacrifice (what’s with this noble, freedom without sacrifice BS anyway?) he empowers Jia En to be truly independent from anything and anyone, and gain the study abroad experience.
But can you only be free if you break up? Can you only be free by being alone and heartbroken? It is as if the show is telling us that in order for a couple to maintain separation, they must break up. I disagree. And if that isn’t the ultimate closure, then goddammit, show me that isn’t true. Show ME that true love surpasses all, that Liu Chuan and Jia En can bear the separation, overcome the obstacles and come out stronger together – make the best versions of each other. That’s how they can overcome separation anxiety and ultimately, a successful relationship. But we don’t get to see that closure, nor a follow through from the writer.
To me, an open ending is like looking at a scrumptious cake that is right within my fingertips, but I can’t eat it. And I really, really want to eat it. So I just don’t see that a breakup is the best viable option for Liu Chuan, which leads me to my next contention: Liu Chuan’s character arc. From the beginning, Liu Chuan has been a force to be reckoned with, very logical and kind. But his weakness is his difficulty in letting people in and learning to trust others. As much as I adore him and as much as he’s the sole reason why I’ve watched this to the end – he still hasn’t learned to trust people. My almost perfect Prince makes me a little sad to see how his character turned out in the end. If you want a successful relationship, honesty, trust and listening is key. I wish that he would trust in Jia En’s love for him and that she can persevere through his darkest days with him. I also wish that the show trusts Jia En enough to make the right decision for herself – whether that is going to study abroad on her own accord and put the relationship to a long distance test – instead of forcing her hand with a breakup. But instead we see that the only way for Jia En to learn to be independent is to do it for someone else – she decides she will study abroad because of Liu Chuan’s sacrifice. I get that there are roads that we have to walk alone, I get that there are battles that we have to fight alone. But dude, you can still do that while supporting each other.
Some of us may take comfort in the idea that the “real” ending to this drama series will exist on the silver screen. After all, we can only enjoy what is given to us. But I hope that the show will have Jia En returning to Taiwan to give Liu Chuan a run for his money – none of that, thank you for breaking up with me BS – then teach Liu Chuan a thing or two about gaining her trust and stop being so patronizing. I want to see that a relationship works both ways, and that he needs her too.
Ah, but I’ll watch Liu Chuan being a recluse and hurting and fighting his own battle any day, as much as I gripe about the ending. I’m indignant because I want MORE. He’s still my awesome Prince and I’m still rooting for him to come around the bend, and excited to know that he will blaze his own path as an attorney. But I’m also rooting for a lot of the characters in this show. Ren Wei has really grown on me and probably encountered the best character change: from someone who is selfish to someone who simply wants the person he loves to be happy. Now this new Ren Wei, he is someone worthy of love. This drama series have created palpable, realistic and dynamic characters that you can’t help but fall in love with.
At the end of the day, I do walk away with a full heart, but also a heavy heart. This show (and Liu Chuan) will stay in a soft place in my heart, and I’ll always remember it in the best way.