Episode 1. Meteor Garden

Let's begin from where things kicked off (Quite literally, in this case)

Ok Guys, here it is. The very first shot we have the iconic kick.


                        

Our protagonist Shancai, asks if anyone has ever wondered what would happen in the future. No Shancai, I really wish I had done that. I really wish I had thought a lot before clicking play on this recommended series, as I am well aware of how I am with Asian dramas. But anyway, that's the opening shot of this awaited, ultra-modern remake of a classic series. That is based on a classic manga. That has proved that it can be successful in any adaptation it gets(There has been an anime, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean and another Chinese screen adaptation of this manga so far). And yes, since it has been adapted so many times, it has a dedicated following. So when they decided to adapt it again, I was intrigued, how are they going to audiences hooked into this plotline again? After a few seconds into this drama, I realized how. Turns out setting, fresh faces, different cultures, languages and subtle changes to the plot can do really a lot to the story. It does provide a sense of nostalgia and a sense of familiarity but it also had a fresh outtake and a gripping storyline. To explain further, I had an idea of what might come, but no idea about how it might unfold. It had an element of Unpredictability for sure, which I will discuss later. So unlike its predecessors, this drama thrived in its modern outtake and its differences. While boasting its modern values, and putting us through endless product placements, it managed to stick to the original manga plotline for the most part, which is commendable, considering how other adaptions took the manga plotline for granted. But if I had to point fingers at one thing that attracted the audience and kept us stuck to our screens, I would definitely point at the romance and the cliches. Ah, the romance.The endless, breathless, tireless, ever so exasperating romance that kept us on our toes. The heroic chase(which again happens literally, at one point). The lonely, droopy yet somehow dreamy second lead(He's single ladies, like always single). More handsome guys. The wretched mother-in-law (yes, she has strong lipstick game )And lastly, the always poor, dowdy heroine with improper bangs, and a slow functioning brain, which she will claim to always do right by justice(whatever). This and so many more tropes along the way, that somehow works in this modern adaptation. As it rightly should, considering it has 49 episodes. So with it sticking to fan favourite cliches, yet set on an ultra modern background with new faces, it managed to attract both new and old fans of Asian Drama and the manga. And if you haven't already realized, it managed to ensnare me into its bubble trap of reruns and Instagram searches once again (facepalm). So, yeah that's how it all began and that's how I see it. If you are an avid watcher of television series, you know how important a pilot is. The thing about this pilot is, it works well in a fresh, ubiquitous sense. As someone who has watched most adaptions related to the drama, beginning it with the kicking scene, felt new since most other adaptations focused on monologues presenting class disparity or more dark start, like the Korean one. Then we are pulled into the life of Shancai, an optimistic, hard-working teen, living in Shanghai, hailing from a mediocre family. We see her buying fish with Mama Dong, and saying how similar she is to her mum. Way too similar Shancai, way too similar.
                                                                                                                         
Then we see her deliver food to her dad and go on about her family's cooking business and the most popular dish (sweet and sour pork ribs) of her family. We see her working hard, getting excited about getting into Mingde, jumping and giggling with her friend Xiaoyou, which I found to be cute.
This cuteness works, because it was amiable to see the pleasant sides of her life for a change. This and the various shots of current Shanghai made it seem new and relatable, and I could connect to it more and the lazy millennial in me was pleased. So then we see her walking into Mingde, taking in its glory and meet her friends from school, Qinghe, and Lizhen. All of which is done in a minimalistic middle school fashion, a nod to their way of thinking perhaps. After which we see her rush into an event, probably an opening ceremony, since it has a special Guest, Mr. Bobbit, who looks like your average middle-aged white man in a suit, but with over hair-sprayed hair, that I thought looked like a wig (Think infamous Donald Trump hairstyle, but grey in colour). I think he's supposed to be somebody revered in Academics, anyway, he is not exactly that important. It's after the ceremony that things get going because we see Shancai drop her phone while being mobbed by fans of "F4", which she tries to get desperately, but instead watches it get stepped on by someone in a green shoe.
  Her next move baffled me, honestly. Because we then see her stand up furiously, run after the person in green shoes, and in a fit of confrontation, grab Mr. Bobbit instead, only to be held back by his bodyguard. Yikes, but I guess we get that she's tempered and impulsive. It's by the time she's groaning and complaining about F4 that we get the most awaited introduction of the pilot: The F4. It's done by Guo Caijie( a cameo role by Amber Kuo), who introduces them with all the sauce and swag we were looking forward too. Turns out the F4 are very popular seniors, rich and handsome who also happen to be very skilled at Bridge( card game). The F4 consists of 4 members: Huaze Lei, Doaming Si, Ximen Yan, and Feng Meizuo. All of whom are outstanding in school and have their respective strengths when it comes to Bridge.
                                      We have Meizuo, who artistic with a super memory.

We have Ximen, an expert at tea culture who is an expert in psychological games, aptly nicknamed "Battlegod". 
Then we have Huaze Lei, who is a Music genius with laser eyes.
Then finally we have Daoming Si, a financial genius and a legend who earned one million yen by trading stocks when he was 18. The leader of F4, who is so scary his opponents get scared into making mistakes. 
The general consensus seems to agree that there is way to much sauciness into this intro. Which I agree, but I don't oppose, because as much the sauce is over applied, I love every single bit of it. (I also prefer it to the tonic sweet "Flower boys"enterance with a smoky opening sequence that majority of the adaptations get).Apparently, they're so good at Bridge they've never lost a game. And their opponents always end up getting punishments like staying in the biology lab with all the specimens( Daoming Si's idea, I Knew it), doing traditional dance by the sea etc.. all very quirky ideas. Those who are familiar with the original plotline will know this wasn't the part of the original storyline. In the actual manga, they're supposed to be actual bullies who subject their conquests to dire, atrocious punishments. But since this series had to comply with the restrictions of current Chinese Broadcasts, they had to tone down the bullying. In my opinion, I think the Bridge idea works because while it adds to their "swag", it makes them seem a little less bratty and more likeable. Anyway, since they get so many requests to play Bridge, they've set a rule: Only those who they think are worthy gets to play with them, and that's when they get the Joker card, which is the F4's invitation to play bridge. So since they're such untouchable Legends, does Shancai still want to confront them?, Caijie asks, after the introduction. Of course, she does. Because then, we see her go to the bridge room and Practically declare war to an empty room. Only to realize that the room is empty so that we could get another blaring pop intro. Tada Tada, F4 enters. In their classic long legged arrogantly handsome manner, as Shancai herself describes. And truth be told, they all do walk like a minion troupe because they were so coordinated. If minions could walk arrogant and proud. Anyway, the next shot we see one of the most important scenes of the drama(which was revisited multiple times in Flashbacks later on).We see Shancai confront her aggressor. (Daoming Si of course) 


                                       



We literally see her give him his first nickname. Green Shoe guy. AWWWWWW. If you're not aware already this is their first meeting, and without even realizing the Chronicles of #Shansilovelanguage has begun. (Cr: everyoutfitonmeteorgarden2018 on insta). She confronts him about stepping on her phone and he ignores her. Literally. In a classic Sebastien ignores Mia in Lala Land fashion (I should mention now that I'm never the one to miss the opportunity to reference Lala Land or any of my fav musicals). So yeah, he is a jerk and she is furious. And this is probably the first and last time he ignores her. So anyway, she is left furious but I get she had to keep on going so she bakes a cake for her friend Li Zhen's Birthday. A total degenerative low-fat delicious cake(totally not suggestive Shancai). But apparently, Li Zhen is totally moved ( I would give a side eye or two if someone bakes a "low fat" cake for me, just saying). So moved that she wants to take a selfie with it so they for some reason go to the least picturesque place with the worst lighting ever. Atop a staircase huddled with more stairways and dim lighting and very grey walls. Anyway they pose with it and clumsy Lizhen somehow manages to trip over and fall, leaving the cake somersaulting in the air and landing on you guessed it: Daoming Si. Again we don't know why they chose that location but we can ignore it cuz we see cake smudged all over Daoming Si's face.

                                 
As he says his iconic lines: If Apologies worked, why would we need the police? The line that is happily highlighted in literally every adaptation that is there and is said with the utmost suave and arrogance, that has literally become a symbol of sorts. You can't separate Daoming Si or that line. Because he is that line, especially since it became an essential symbol of his character. And this gives marvellous glimpses into the extent of his entitlement and the length of superficiality he's been put through. Because literally the next minute we see him pushing LiZhen to the side when she tries to wipe the cake off his face(in the middle of a freaking staircase). This obviously spurs off our ever so righteous and hot-blooded Shancai, as she starts calling him out on his nasty behaviour and ends it with calling him a jerk, which ends in this glorious pose.
                                    
As he pulls her closer and says "You've got Guts".This is another important moment because while there have been a lot of theories about the moment that he especially fell in love with her, it is clear that this moment set off a spark that flares into a foreboding flame. It's Hot. Exciting. Intense. And gets us all speculative. And it clearly establishes the fact that it was the first time someone has ever spoken to him that way. He clearly is intrigued because he sends her a joker card to her locker the very next day. Which sends her right to the rooftop to vent.And she vents. Like an effortless teenager having a mid-life crisis. Fun fact that can be considered unnecessary: When she vents, she mentions aliens and nose hairs and phone signals and in later dialogues Doaming Si mentions mars. I clearly think the writer is being subtle but clever cuz besides establishing how simple and like-minded they are, who doesn't love #littlespaceloveanalogies 😸.   I honestly believe this is another aspect of their adorable love language. Anyway, while she's out there venting like a deranged woman who killed her cat she doesn't notice the person sitting behind her. It's Huaze Lei, the quiet and supposedly a bit "autistic member of the F4. He confronts her and she questions him on bullying her. To which he responds with another iconic character symbolising line.
                                             


    This is not an entirely accurate representation of his character though, as he is a very complex character that is hard to summarise. Anyway, this interests Shancai( I should mention that he helped Shancai bit when the cake fell too). But guess who's she's not interested in at all: Daoming Si. Later that evening Shancai has to deliver 20 takeouts to a customer and unfamiliar part of the city. And guess who the unfamiliar customer is: Daoming Si. And he makes his motive very clear: he wants her attention and since he doesn't do chivalry he clearly wants to belittle her. Something he's quite used to actually. Terrible idea, given the fact he's belittling a classic Asian Drama heroine. And classic Asian Drama heroines are always dowdy and mouthful. At least they try to be. But Shancai is clearly a dowdy and mouthful heroine and she is not immune to an offence. She usually has an extreme allergic reaction to it, especially when it concerns her family. And that's exactly where Daoming Si hits her when he insults her family and mocks her mom's cooking. Which causes her to hit right back to him with the insult that he's a parasite of society.Which leads to this.
                                         

After he throws the food at her, she runs away out of embarrassment. And stops at a place to refresh and wipe away the food all over her. Only to get harassed by two random street pugs and saved by the least expected person in the least expected part of town. Huaze Lei. I have no idea why someone so elite would be in that part of town, all alone. Maybe he is more devoted to his meat cleaver than the show lets on (meteorgardners know what is ). Anyway, he tells them to get lost and consoles a very distraught Shancai. First, he gives her a handkerchief. Then he shows her this classic move that another symbol of his character.                                                                                                                    

                                         
He tells her to do a handstand. So the tears won't fall down. Another set off a spark moment. Only this time its more a candle and wax situation. Very mild and definitely not an inferno as the spark that set off with Si. But it gives her warmth and light. Enough to decide who she likes who she doesn't.For a while. And to decide to fight against the one she doesn't like. So that's what leads us to the opening shot of this post. Where she kicks Daoming Si's face out of spite for revenge. And that has brought us to the end of this episode. And like I said it works in a fresh sense. But where it lacks is it doesn't set itself apart much from other adaptations. At least the pilot doesn't. I believe when its an adaptation after dozens of adaptation, another remake after remake, it doesn't need to adhere to the plotline or the rules much. Because only then it will be allocated its own credit. Or else people will criticise and compare with its predecessors. And that's exactly what happened, especially in China. People compared to the Taiwanese version and didn't give it the chance it deserves. And that explains its extremely low (3.8) Douban score. It broke my heart when I saw that. It doesn't need many changes only little quirky changes that won't affect the major plotline. Something like Shancai trying to open a cooking club that clashes with the Bridge club's space or something. And that leads to a confrontation, cake on the face and voila, the kick on the face. (Dumb idea but I can't think of something better). And maybe include some elements of nostalgia for the people that have watched the original, like music or lighting. Like they could've played Qing Fei De Yi as the soundtrack for some scenes, that would remind people of their love for the original. Of course, it shouldn't be eerily similar or people will get bored and drop it. But something subtle like music or stills would've struck nostalgic. And it could've been put together more naturally like the Taiwanese one. Like some moments seemed absurd and unnecessary to me (like her attacking Bobbit or taking a photo in that stairwell so the cake could drop on his. face). And this might be a petty one but please dress Shancai in something more than just hoodies and sweaters. But I will give them credit for the Characterization of this F4. That was very well done and it set them apart from the previous F4. Other than this was actually a good pilot, in my opinion. Its only problem was it had a whole of expectations to meet. And it was bound to be compared and scrutinised. Which resulted in mediocre or bad reviews and caused many to underestimate.Shame.But if this was the first adaptation, it would've definitely killed the rating crowd. A Pity, really. But since it did succeed in establishing a strong international fanbase, I will consider it successful in my eyes. And despite my stupid critique, I will confess I loved it and never get tired out of watching it. I loved its quirky, fun outtake. And it's an Asian Drama, of course, there's going to be something stupid. So yeah, if you have read all the way till here,I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am sorry for such a long post, Idoit me is incapable of short&curt posts. Especially when it concerns my favourite dramas. So let me know what you think and correct or contradict if you wish. I would love your opinions on this post. I will try to update sooner, until next time,Peace.
(credits to google images, skimmedmilkdrama , dramapanda for the pictures. I'm lazy and inexprienced in taking pictures. Sorry)

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