Singapore Drama Breakout
Breakout is a 2010-2011 Singaporean drama. Now, this is my first drama really outside the major four, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and China. I had watched the Malaysian drama Sky and enjoyed it even though it was a bit silly and childish and had an ending that was less than what I had hoped for. I have to say that with this drama, I was disappointed. There was such promise and the whole drama fell flat and the first words out of my mouth when the final credits rolled on the 25th episode was “Give me back the 25 hours I wasted watching this!”
Even if a drama’s ending dissatisfies me or I found some glaring schizophrenic plot annoying, I have never really felt that I had wasted my time in watching a drama to its end. With this drama, I can honestly say that I felt I had wasted the time by the ending.
The plot revolves around a very crazy revenge scheme. Yang Tian Wei set out to make his fortune in illegal gem mining. After he had risked death and many hardships, he went back to his home country to bring in his three childhood friends. When their relationship goes south and Tian Wei is left for dead, he vows revenge. The man is a sick psycho who not only goes after the three friends who he believed betrayed him, but he sets out to kill everyone in their families [wives and children, not necessarily the whole extended family].
Thus, on the night of her 12th birthday, Tang Ying and her entire family are caught in a nasty car accident. Her older brother and mother are killed instantly leaving only herself and her father. When the truck that initially hit them comes back for a 2nd time, her father Tang Yao Zu barely manages to throw her out of the car before it is hit, catches on fire and explodes. From the next thirteen years she is in a deep coma, but still manages to age and grow as she should. Meanwhile, after finishing of the Tang family, Tian Wei picks up his own family. He kills his wife [who cheated on him with Tang] and takes his son and daughter into the wild jungles of no man’s land where he raises them to be more like ruthless animals than human beings.
In the present day when Tang Ying wakes up, she is horrified to learn that she is no longer 12, but 25. She runs away from her aunt and uncle who just want to steal her father’s inheritance from her and runs into Zou Jie Ming, an autistic young man. The two eventually become friends and Jie Ming helps and protects the Ying who is still very much a little girl mentally. Ying is eventually taken in by the Zou household where they see her as their daughter-in-law and Ying helps out and tries to find out who killed her family and why.
We then get one more character introduced, Situ Dongcheng. He was Tian Wei’s son’s lawyer after the boy got arrested for murder. After Zhen Feng lost his fiancée in the badlands, he became a very cold and cruel person. He is also very paranoid and seems to really have a sister complex at times for his little sister Nian Qing. However much Tian Wei and Zhen Feng say they want to protect her, it is the two of them who do her the most harm [i.e. killing her mother and fiancée in front of her]. Dongcheng’s life is destroyed by the Yangs when he disagrees with using dirty methods to free Zhen Feng. After he is released from jail, he and Nian Qing become entangled – she uses him as a toy until she falls for him.
What I liked:
Elvin Ng’s portrayal of the autistic Zou Jie Ming. I mean I seriously believed that he was autistic. It was so realistic how you saw how smart he was and yet how far off in his own little world he was. He was cold and distant to his family, but only after he let Tang Ying into his life and fell in love with her [as much as he could fall in love with anyone] did he come more out of his shell and became a little more open and normal. I really loved any screen time this man had. From his nervous hand tics to his obsessiveness over chocolate, he just did an incredible job. I really felt for him as a character every time he was hurt or confused.
Kola Zhou’s initial portrayal of the adult Tang Ying. Really, I did believe she was a 12-year-old trapped in a 25-year-old body at the beginning. However, as time progressed her attitude, ignorance, and selfishness just got to be too much for me.
Dai Yang Tian’s portrayal of the torn Zhen Feng. He initially wasn’t a totally bad person, though he was always mistrusting of overs [even his own mother when he was a child]. Him confusing the initially innocent Tang Ying with his dead fiancée Su Ying [Rebecca Lim] had such a great potential of redemption, plus his struggle to go against his desire to protect Tang Ying in order to complete the cycle of revenge by ending her life. Of course…none of that happened and he just went completely evil psycho dark side…from a forced marriage to get money to killing Tang Ying because of his father’s eventual demise.
The promising premise of the plot. Unlike a lot of dramas where there is clearly defined good and evil and right and wrong, this drama really showcased the shades of grey in between. Tang was not an innocent man. Whether or not he really betrayed Tian Wei like Tian Wei thought or if it was all a misunderstanding, Tang had still wronged his best friend by coveting [and I think even fooling around with] his wife. And both men were involved in some very illegal and underhand dealings. Tian Wei, though, hands down was probably the rottenest character. I did like how they made mention of how nobody was really innocent in the end and that the cycle of revenge was choosing sin instead of salvation, which, when you think about it is really true. Of course…you still got to love a good revenge drama when the evil doers get their just desserts…
Tang Ying was innocent at first. Just going along to find out the truth. Yes, we learn her father was a less than stellar person in the long rung, but that didn’t justify what Tian Wei did to the entire families of his friends and look what happened to his children because of his warped and twisted upbringing? No happiness for them. Both were borderline psychotic and got no happiness in the long run. What good was that revenge?
The relationship between Nian Qing [Jeanette Aw] and Situ Dongcheng [Christopher Lee] and the relationship between Tang Ying and Zou Jie Ming. On one hand you have a girl who toys with someone who will bite back and put her in her place and on the other you have a boy who will do anything for a girl and the girl who wishes to get closer into his closed off world. But…given Tang Ying’s attitude as the show progressed, I really did feel badly for Jie Ming. She got more adult like and then she went total selfish witch at times. Sure…she still cared for the autistic man, but she should have been better to him on several occasions.
What I didn’t like:
Kola Zhou’s portrayal of the adult Tang Ying after her mentality caught up with her body. She became obsessed with the truth and avenging the deaths of her family to the point of hurting and alienating the person who cared about her the most. Tang Ying would have been better off not going the route that she chose as she had it all when she was taken in by Jie Ming’s family.
The witch. Yes, there was a witch in this drama. No, she didn’t have special powers per se. She basically just waved her hands around to shake a powder into your face that made you susceptible to her hypnosis. Really, the character was there for plot convenience more than anything else.
Zhen Feng’s blind faith and obedience to his father. Seriously. For a man who is a paranoid person who mistrusts everyone, why in the world did he put so much stock into blindly following his father and being so obedient to him [with one or two exceptions]?
The whole must kill everyone, even women and children. It’s bad enough if you have men killing men. But taking out your anger on innocent women and children who had nothing to do with the supposed betrayal is just horrible.
Jeanette Aw’s portrayal of Nian Qing’s fragmenting personalities. I mean, the girl did have some really great moments in portraying something that is quite difficult. However, there were a lot more moments when these times fell flat or were just over done and unbelievable.
THE ENDING! Why? Um…if you know anything about the kdrama What Happened in Bali, it’s got that kind of depressing ending.
This drama had potential, but fell flat. I think the main problem is there was heavily disjointed story telling, not to mention time jump discontinuities. You never really know how much time has passed and you miss out on key points to explain the developing relationships of some of these characters. You also have Nian Qing’s fragmenting personalities. She never developed full-blown dissociative identity disorder, but there was so much time spent on this and her inner demons that it just kind of fell below expectations.
I really did like that at the end Nian Qing was finally able to step up to end the vicious cycle as she had come back to herself enough to try to see things through even if it meant hurting the two people she loved [and yet hated] the most. I really didn’t like Tang Ying’s insistence that she was basically the only victim. Her family was murdered for no good reason. Well, there really wasn’t a good reason to kill her mom and brother, however, she did not see that her father was partly to blame for the entire mess. She also couldn’t feel for Zhen Feng and Nian Qing who basically went through hell living with their father who had also murdered their mother. It would have been better in the long run if Tang Ying could understand that her desire to avenge her family and to only see all the Yangs as evil people was actually wrong and put herself on the right path before it became too late.
Likewise, Zhen Feng, who had realized what Tang Ying couldn’t, was horribly disappointing. Even though he had Tang Ying and Su Ying caught up as one person in his head, he still couldn’t break the cycle and was bound and determined to see it through by killing the last survivor of the Tang family. I also hated his paranoia which led to the huge breakdown between Si Ling and Tian Wei. Situ Dongcheng and Nian Qing were the stronger characters for realizing that revenge wasn’t the way to go in the long run and that they needed to end things and put their negative emotions to rest.
Ah, this would have been so much better with a lot less hokiness, a lot less plot holes and character discontinuity. Although, I suppose such things show a more realistic ending. These people have become trapped and entangled and blinded so they can only stay on the path that will end in tragedy.
For those curious about the title, which you might think would reference a deadly disease or prison break, it actually has to do with the last words Yang Tian Wei says. In the end he couldn’t breakout of heaven’s wrath. Which, I guess, really suits the horrible ending well. In the end, no one could breakout from their cruel fate. Should we feel sorry for these characters? Well, I felt really bad for Jie Ming and Situ Dongcheng who got caught up in it because of the women they loved. And I did feel for Nian Qing’s character. I really hated her in the beginning, but ended up resonating more with her in the end and wished that she could have had a happier ending.