Cupid's Kitchen (2022) What were they thinking?
*This post contains spoilers from the final episodes*
I can only imagine that loud echoes of “whaaaat” reverberated through the labyrinthine corridors of the world wide web from the moment the finale dropped up to this moment. While I was bracing myself for a not-too-great and somewhat rushed ending from how the show progressed in the last few episodes, the showrunners exceeded themselves in terms of how ridiculous a C drama’s resolution could be. There’s been plenty to mock but the ending really took the cake. And there’s a lot of cake on offer in the last episode. A happy ending in this instance can’t even begin to plug the holes of this extremely leaky ship. Certainly not the glaring script flaws which persisted right to the end and then exploded into a song and dance. I’m still at a loss for words at how out of left field that final musical sequence was. When I made reference to My Fair Lady in my last post, I had no idea that such a harebrained notion was coming down the pipeline.
Once the show hit the mid-thirties, it became increasingly obvious that there wouldn’t be sufficient time for it to wrap up all the growth and redemption arcs in a generally satisfactory manner. The high strung Elise Quentin was still not ‘fessing up to her misdeeds and she was angsting over her dastardly scheme that saw Qianfan disabled. There’s only so much “woe is me” overacting one can stomach when there’s no real comeuppance in store. After an absurdly short stint in jail, she has her happily-ever-after with the irresponsible Junbin who abandoned the Hippocratic Oath for love a while back. He’s bought himself a clinic in Transylvania and is ready to inflict more of his “unorthodox” doctoring on unsuspecting Romanians. Bleah.
Needless to say apart from the overreliance on stupidity and bad behaviour of oversized egos at work, the show presents a shaky moral universe. The message seems clear: It doesn’t matter how awful your actions have been in the past or how much damage you’ve caused because the good people of Shanghai will forgive you because the story has reached the final act. When that’s over and done with, we will all sit in a circle, hold hands and sing “Imagine”. Let’s do the can-can while we’re at it. It isn’t that the show has far too many “villains” that’s the problem. It’s the fact that the show hasn’t the faintest idea what to do with them once they’ve done their worst. That’s why many will find their 11th hour redemption thoroughly unconvincing because it’s hard to rationalize that justice has been served in this narrative.
Cupid’s Kitchen in the final analysis is a romance in search of a script. I for one object to characters being used purely as plot devices and cushion fillers. It’s the height of lazy writing. At the end of the day most of the supporting acts are just cardboard cut-outs to move around the set.
When one removes all the clamour of the bad people plots, the build-up of the romance between the leads is actually pretty decent. Ethan and Song Zu’er really hold their own individually and together. Ethan gets better with age and Song Zu’er a mini dynamo, a talent to watch. Their interactions in more light-hearted and melancholic moments are easily the brightest parts of this kitchen sink tale of how food can bring all kinds of people together if they can just remember to chuck their egos outside the kitchen door. Qianfan and Kesong consistently have the most thoughtful dialogue in the story, a world of a difference to the cheesy dynamics of other pairings in the show. I suppose I put up with the ridiculous melodramatic elements because I have a great fondness for leads that grow together.
There definitely needs to be a leads-only-with-food-porn cut. When all’s finally said and done, that’s the only version worth salivating over.