Oh No! Here Comes Trouble (2023) A Review and a Recommendation
I’m far too busy these days and I really don’t have a lot of time to write… sadly but I really wanted to give this one a plug because it’s a Taiwanese drama and in all likelihood will disappear under the radar for most because it’s not on any of the bigger US streaming platforms. I will preface this by saying that this is in all likelihood the best drama I’ve seen all year. By a strong margin. It’s certainly one of the best I’ve seen in the last 12 months. Until Shards of Her, I hadn’t watch any Taiwanese dramas in several years. Yet in the last couple of months, I’ve discovered a treasure trove of good shows. This is perhaps the best one with the widest appeal. While it has whodunit elements, there’s no gore or violence to deter the faint-hearted. It’s a gloriously perfect blend of coming-of-age, fantasy, a touch of horror, detective and family drama. The weakest part I’d say is the police procedural side of things occasionally played for laughs (which doesn’t help especially from the perspective of a seasoned watcher) but all is quickly forgiven because this show is driven by great storytelling and is imbued with plenty of heart. It’s the kind of show that the Koreans call a “healing drama”. Which usually results in an outpouring of eye water once the waterworks are turned on. Good grief. I don’t remembered the last time I cried this much in a drama.
The star of the show is Pu Yiyong played by Tseng Jinghua, an underachieving high school graduand whose only talent is calligraphy. It’s hereditary. His grandfather is a renowned calligrapher and a teacher in the art. But that distinct family trait has a habit of skipping a generation. Calligraphy however is a dying art form, quickly being replaced by technology. On the other hand Yiyong’s only ambition is to be a comic book artist after completing high school. One day on his way to a calligraphy competition, Yiyong, his father and grandfather board a bus which unfortunately falls prey to an incoming airplane. The lad survives but wakes up after being comatosed for over 2 years. His grandfather barely makes it and is still unconscious in hospital even after all that time. It is left to Mother, Ye Baosheng (Cheryl Yang) to pick up the pieces.
While time has moved on and everyone else with it, Yiyong is lost at sea with no paddle. Or map. Metaphorically. He has no idea what’s next for him until he becomes entangled with supernatural beings who insist that they need him to settle unfinished business on their behalf. So an almost 20 year old unemployed Yiyong reluctantly takes on “cases” that contain at their heart a riddle that needs to be unravelled. Enter Chen Chuying, a junior police officer (Vivian Sung) to lend him a helping hand and takes the lion’s share of the credit for clearing up these mysteries in front of her colleagues. Still cracking these cases is a team effort. Along for the ride is former schoolmate and med student Cao Guangyan (Peng Cianyou) who coincidentally moves next door with his dad (Mario Pu) when Dad’s days in publishing comes to an abrupt end.
Yiyong becomes a reluctant sleuth as he wrestles with his own future and the loss of his father which has left a gaping wound with guilt at the centre of it. He has nightmares that he can’t make head or tail of. There’s also a shadowy figure in the background determined to test his mettle at every turn. Unlike others who have come before, Yiyong is a reluctant superhero. He would rather get on with life and not be haunted by beings that only he can see. Until he starts drawing them that is.
On a deeper level, like many crime shows, this is about the forgotten people in our communities. Those who have suffered loss. The lonely. The homeless. The victims of crimes. This where the show tugs at the heartstrings effectively. The rollercoaster of emotions that I feel in this comes only very rarely. Beautifully intertwined with all of this is also the message that everyone has something that they’re good at. Even a designated “loser” by current social standards can contribute in unexpected ways. Academic smarts aren’t the be all and end all. Everyone has a part to play in the social engine regardless of social status, education, smarts or rank.
This journey of course isn’t Yiyong’s alone. Chen Chuying and Cao Guangyan, his so-called “superiors” who accompany him have a lot to learn from him as well as these out-of-this-world experiences. Chuying understandably is desperate the climb the ladder and break glass ceilings in the police but is forced to confront her own motives for wanting to be a respected detective. And Guangyan, for once in his life doesn’t have all the answers regarding his future.
I am new to most of the cast and Tseng Jinghua who leads the cast is definitely brimming with potential. He brings the right balance of confusion, grumpy frustration and a reluctant compassion to the role. Despite Yiyong’s brusque demeanour Tseng Jinghua manages to keep him relatable and likeable.
To give credit where it’s due, I leave my highest praise for the script and by extension the writer. It’s the kind of story that could easily lose its way or get derailed by all the moralizing but unlike many others it’s unusually disciplined by keeping the main thing the main thing. The result is a coherent piece of storytelling which is undergirded by a surefooted direction. Once it takes off it never falters. Furthermore they also manage not to butcher the finale in order to leave the door open for another series. Which is entirely doable if the will (and a decent script) is on the table.