Singapore Drama Review: Beyond

X Beyond X元素

Romanized title: X yuánsù
English Title: Beyond
Broadcast station: MediaCorp Ch. 8
Broadcast dates: 24 December 2012 – 18 January 2013
Episodes: 20
Writer: Peng Kaiyi
Cast: Jeanette Aw, Peirre Png, Li Nanxing, Xiang Yun, Shaun Chen
Opening theme: “Huxi” by Huang Li Hui
Insert songs: “Ai Dao” by Leon Lim, “A Place” by Leon Lim
Synopsis: After Jiang Wei’s fiancee Shen Meichen goes missing during the wedding rehearsal, he becomes a private eye to find her and becomes neighbors with Yang Zhiqing who has a special pair of eyes that allows her to see others’ inner thoughts.

The first drama from Singapore that I ever completed was the 25 episode drama Breakout which I found a complete disaster in the long run. It was apparently very popular in its home country and while it had its moments, it was a heaping disaster of disappointment for character development, some of the main casts’ acting, and the ending in general. So why did I attempt another Chinese drama from Singapore? I can’t really say. The plot synopsis that someone wrote describing it has being kind of like X-Files, maybe. But…if you really think this is anything like that US series, you’ll be sadly disappointed.

Overall, I did enjoy the series. Like a lot of dramas, the ending did leave a lot to be desired, and I wasn’t quite sure if I really bought Jiang Wei’s decision or not, but there you have it.

This drama’s 20 episodes are broken down into six main story arcs. Episodes 1-4 cover the 13 1/2 Floor, episodes 5-8 cover the Youth Stealer, episodes 9-11 cover Kampong Mimpi, episodes 12-14 cover Back in Time, episodes 15-17 cover Wenbin’s inner soul, and episodes 18-20 cover Another Dimension. Of these story arcs, the 13 1/2 floor one was very slow and rather dull. Actually, the final episode arc was rather bland, especially after Wenbin’s story. Plus, the final story arc is what led us to a conclusion that I found rather unsatisfying.

Story Arc 1: 13 1/2 Floor

This story arc contained the episodes “The vagrant who talks backwards”, “A pair of strange eyes”, “Welcome to 13-and-a-half floor”, and “The Weeping clown.” The first episode introduces us to Jiang Wei [Li Nanxing], a former detective who turned private eye after his fiancée goes missing. While he desperately seeks her, he takes on the cases of other missing people. He moves in down the hall from Yang Zhiqing [Jeanette Aw] affectionately known as “Sha Mei” (silly girl). Zhiqing and her mother hope that Jiang Wei may be able to find the missing Mr. Yang.

Anywho, a body falls to the ground at their building and nearly crushes Zhiqing, but she is saved by the cold PI. Her glasses get knocked off and she sees him as a vagrant who talks backwards. It turns out that the body is from a woman missing for quite some time, but she has not aged a day! While trying to unravel this mystery, a child from the same building goes missing. Zhiqing employees Jiang Wei to help and the two inadvertently become stuck on the 13 1/2 floor where nothing is where it seems.

On this floor, people neither eat nor drink nor sleep per se as they are living in a world of illusion, a world where their dreams come true. Zhiqing is immune to this thanks to her special eyes. When she came onto the floor and saw it without her glasses, she saw it for what it really was. The child and Jiang Wei, on the other hand, were caught in illusions.

Seriously, most of these 4 episodes are them running around trapped in the in-between floor not being able to escape. They finally figure out how to do it which involves jumping out of a window (the reason why the woman died earlier). They send a message by tossing a phone out the window and give it a few days. Jiang Wei then jumps down first. Several days later the boy and Zhiqing jump as well. That’s the end to that story arc.

Story Arc 2: The Youth Stealer

This story arc contains the episodes “The immortal freak?”, “Your age, my vitamin”, “A wretched stealer of age”, and “What beautiful snow”. This story arc was more interesting than the first, but still not all that amazing. By this time, Jiang Wei has officially accepted Silly Girl Zhiqing as his assistant. The two come across a case where a person rapidly ages overnight and dies very shortly after. They find a man in the insane asylum where Zhiqing was originally institutionalized several years ago after she first discovered her special eyes and saw the ugliness of people’s souls whose wife died because of the age thief.

The original age thief passed his powers on to middle-aged failure Chen Dayu who’s former coworker discovers his power and helps him capitalize on it. Chen Dayu steals people’s youth to give to the ailing rich and keep himself young. Unfortunately, he also steal’s Zhiqing’s youth and she rapidly ages. Jiang Wei searches for anyway he can reverse the process. It’s in this story arc that Zhiqing confesses how she feels for Jiang Wei while she is at death’s door. It’s also the arc where Wenbin [Pierre Png], Zhiqing’s psychiatrist and best friend, realizes his true feelings and how jealous he is of Jiang Wei. Needless to say, Zhiqing is saved at the last minute.

Story Arc 3: Kampo Mimpi

This arc contained the episodes “Do not rouse a sleepwalker”, “The queer smile of the moon”, and “What scary devils from the dream”. Zhiqing basically takes back her confession as being one of a confused and elderly mind, but we all know that really isn’t the case at all since she’s now getting jealous of Jiang Wei’s single-minded search for his missing fiancée.

Anywho, the missing Yang father Guoli shows up out of nowhere one night. This shocks the Yang family. Even more surprising is the fact that he had no idea he’d been missing for 5 years! He also came back with a new habit—sleepwalking. In order to find out the truth, Mrs. Yang, Zhiqing, Jiang Wei, and Wenbin take Guoli to Malaysia where they look for the village of Kampo Mimpi which is where Guoli believes is the “real world” and not this dream world.

Once the village is found, the villagers capture our group and accuse them of being devils from the dream world. The witch of the village refuses to send them back to the real world unless Guoli stays as her husband and the father of her daughter. Zhiqing and her mother do not want to concede to this, but Guoli wants them back in the real world and agrees to sacrifice himself. I guess the real progress of this arc is Zhang Cuiyan [Xiang Yun] (Zhiqing’s mother) encouraging Wenbin to pursue her daughter since Jiang Wei is obviously not the right man for Zhiqing.

Story Arc 4: The Time Traveller

This arc contained the episodes “Where goes the soul of a comatose person”, “The pain of love is like a palpitation”, and “The comatose patient who travels through time.” This story arc brings the love triangle to the forefront and finally gives some insight into Meichen’s disappearance three years ago. Oh, and it also sets up the premise for the final story arc.

So the gang has returned safe and sound from the land of dreams and Wenbin finally gets up the courage to confess to Zhiqing who is completely floored. She never thought of Wenbin as more than a friend so its rather hard for her to face him romantically.

During this time Hanxiang [Shaun Chen], is on the hunt for criminals he believes made his sister Lixuan a vegetable. He’s been with us from the beginning helping Jiang Wei and vice a versa. As it turns out, during this arc we learn that Meichen and Hanxiang developed feelings for each other thanks to Jiang Wei’s neglect of his fiancée. Hanxiang knew this was wrong, and in the end, encouraged her to go through with the marriage. This throws Jiang Wei for quite the loop, but he refuses to let go of Meichen as he cannot rest until he finds her.

We also learn that Hanxiang’s sister has saved Zhiqing on several occasions over the years. It turns out that this happened when Lixuan’s consciousness traveled through time! She couldn’t control what time she went back to, but she did her best to convey to her brother that she wanted him to take her eyes when her time is up to save him from a congenital eye disease.

It also turns out that the people Hanxiang thought were responsible for his sister’s condition really weren’t. Instead it was a fellow classmate of Lixuan’s. This classmate visits her while Zhiqing is keeping watch and tries killing Lixuan. When Zhiqing goes to stop him, he nearly chokes her to death and Wenbin barely makes it in time to save her. Unfortunately, she winds up in a coma, too! Her consciousness starts time travelling as well to the point just before Meichen disappears. When Zhiqing tries to stop Meichen, Jiang Wei ends up dead instead! When Zhiqing finally regains consciousness in the present, she freaks out thinking she killed Jiang Wei, but he’s there safe and sound. Wenbin later says that she probably created a parallel universe in which Jiang Wei died. In this final episode of the arc, Zhiqing accepts Wenbin’s feelings for her.

Story Arc 5: Wenbin’s Inner Soul

Pierre Ng

Pierre Ng as Wenbin

This arc consists of the episodes “The bed should never face the mirror”, “Be yourself, Bro!”, and “A punk guitarist vs. a brokenhearted vagrant.” This arc, by far, is my absolute FAVORITE! These three episodes really allow Pierre Png as Xu Wenbin to shine. So Zhiqing and Wenbin are officially dating, but its awkward and you can tell Zhiqing’s heart isn’t in it. She will forget her dates or do things with Jiang Wei instead. This irks Wenbin as he feels she’s just using him to get over Jiang Wei who is still obsessed with Meichen. Let us add on the horrible pressure his family puts on him, and the poor guy is set to explode.

Somehow, Wenbin’s inner soul, a punk rocker with red eyes, takes over, trapping Wenbin in the mirror. Rocker Wenbin busts out of the asylum and uses his guitar to hypnotize his parents, Zhiqing, the band who rejected him, and Zhang Cuiyan. Rocker Wenbin wants to get Jiang Wei out of the picture so he gets Jiang Wei to face his own inner vagrant, trapping Jiang Wei in the mirror. This Jiang Wei is out to kill himself while Zhiqing fights to free herself from Rocker Wenbin’s spell and get the real Wenbin back.

This arc is important as Rocker Wenbin realizes he doesn’t really like a zombie Zhiqing who only robotically loves him because of his hypnosis. But he just can’t take reality and the fact that she really loves Jiang Wei and not him. However, the vagrant overcomes himself to become the real Jiang Wei again and the rocker heals himself when he realizes that his sister took on all the pressure she could to save him so he could pursue music like he really wanted. Of course, Zhiqing finally confesses her feelings to Jiang Wei and doesn’t take them back. He does say that he won’t do anything until after he has found Meichen, but there is an unspoken promise that he would possibly pursue Zhiqing later.

Story Arc 6: Another Dimension

This arc contains the episodes “So close, yet so far away”, “When Silly Girl met Beautiful Psychic”, and “The outcome of two worlds”. Okay, remember when Zhiqing’s soul traveled through time and caused Jiang Wei to be killed? Well this arc takes us to that parallel universe. Our sleuthing duo travel to an alternate dimension while trying to find a young doctor who went missing.

In this alternate world, Jiang Wei is dead, Meichen is alive with his daughter (which she supposedly miscarried when she fell down a flight of stairs after Jiang Wei stood her up yet again), Zhiqing is a famous psychic and is engaged to Wenbin. The only way for our duo to return home is to discover the reason why they are there. In the case of the young doctor, it was to save the woman he loved. He failed and she died in their dimension. In this dimension, the doctor died in an accident before he ever knew the woman.

The doctor manages to save the woman when Jiang Wei’s stalker gets hit by a car while running away and dies. It turns out this man (who was also stalking Jiang Wei in their dimension) is an angry father who unfairly blamed Jiang Wei for his son’s death. The doctor thanks Jiang Wei and says how funny it is. In their world, it was Meichen’s heart and the failed transplant. The man leaves and Jiang Wei comes across reality—Meichen has not been missing all of these years. She has been dead. He saw her get run over by a car while fleeing from the church during the rehearsal. He couldn’t accept this fact and alienated himself from everyone but Hanxiang in his pursuit to find the “missing” woman.

While Jiang Wei is making his discovery, Zhiqing is learning about her alternate self. This Zhiqing is confident and can use her powers at will. That is until Jiang Wei’s stalker clobbers her and she loses her ability. She then tries to make use of Sha Mei’s skills, but that ends disastrously. Zhiqing realizes that she is there to bring herself back down to earth and to also learn more about her powers from her other self. She and Jiang Wei go to head home, but Jiang Wei won’t be going back. He’s found Meichen and he has his daughter—he can’t go back to his world now.

So Zhiqing returns alone. Even as time passes and she uses her ability to help the police and others, she still holds out hope that she and Jiang Wei will meet again. Of course, Wenbin hasn’t given up on her (especially after learning that Zhiqing and Wenbin were engaged in the other dimension).

And that’s why I’m dissatisfied with the ending. Even though I did not buy the chemistry between Zhiqing and Jiang Wei… this feels a bit ridiculous. But, Meichen was the love of his life. Since Jiang Wei can leave his good friend Sha Mei, then she should move on to Wenbin en toto instead of waiting for a person who won’t be coming back.

So yeah. Some pretty weak story arcs that go with one superly awesome story arc. And that arc was only awesome because of Pierre Png’s acting. I didn’t know he did comedy, too. He did dramas for MediaCorp’s English channel, so all the English he does in his story arc is very natural. I have to say…that’s probably the whole reason I love this drama. Oddly enough, I found it a little odd about just how accepting all the characters are about all the supernatural happenings. Even Wenbin who should be a logical doctor, saw no problem in believing all the stuff that happened. Such events aren’t commonplace, so how can everyone go, okay, this weird thing happened, now what?

As for acting, Jeanette Aw proved how good she was in the drama I hated with a passion—Breakout. She played the sex kitten with multiple personalities and she did that very well. The character of Sha Mei/Zhiqing is one that is innocent and naïve. Her portrayal kind of grated on my nerves with the tone of voice and how Sha Mei talked. But I can’t deny her body language and other parts were done well. And Li Nanxing who played Jiang Wei is known as being a very great actor. He’s not bad…but I didn’t necessarily like his character… It’s not a bad character and I’ve seen another drama (Quiz Show 2) where one of the male leads totally lost his memory about what happened to the woman he loved, but there was just something about Jiang Wei that I can’t put my finger on.

Just like Elvin Ng was the one reason I couldn’t completely hate all things about Breakout, Pierre Png is the main reason I love this drama. Sure, at first he’s the stereotypical second male lead who is perfect in every way. Although, throughout the entire drama until he gets his own arc, we do get hints of Sha Mei being afraid of his inner soul’s punk rocker. And yes, thanks to his stressful environment, he does have a dark and dangerous side, but that isn’t who he truly is. But, anywho, Pierre’s acting which you can’t complain about throughout the whole drama as he was believable and consistent as Wenbin, really outshined everyone when his punk rocker soul burst through the mirror. I was amazed and I had to laugh at this zany character which was a complete 180 from the serious and caring Wenbin.

I never really liked Pamelyn Chee’s portrayal of Chen Meichen for some reason. I get that Meichen was hurt that she wasn’t important enough in either Jiang Wei’s or Hanxiang’s eyes, but still. I guess at least the alternate reality one realized that while Jiang Wei was wrong in his treatment of her, she was also wrong in not trying to understand him and realize that no matter what, she can’t always come first. Even though this whole drama is revolving around Jiang Wei’s search for her…I actually could have done without that strain of the plot, especially since it really was in the background more often than the foreground.

But that being said, this drama is definitely worth at least one watch, and Wenbin’s storyline could be worth several alone. If you’re afraid of the supernatural plots, it really isn’t X-file like at all and there’s nothing really scary or creep…unless you don’t like mirrors and have a fear of something in a mirror that isn’t on your side of the glass… but that’s really about it. Oh, and the insert songs and opening theme? Totally in love with them! I’m fairly certain that in parts Pierre really did his own singing, but it was revealed that in certain parts Leon Lim’s songs were inserted in the parts where Wenbin plays the guitar and sings. So…I really don’t know for sure.

Chet out some BTS, bloopers, and previews from Channel 8’s official YouTube:

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