RESET (Chinese TV Drama)
Yes, I have been seduced by my children to watch a Chinese drama, but the saving grace is that it’s only 15 episodes of 45 minutes each. And for a change, the main thread was not a romance, though as of Episode 14, the main girl character told the police that the main boy character was her boyfriend. No. The genre is one of those time loops things that started becoming popular after Groundhog Day hit it big.
Some other time-loop or shall we call them “limited time travel” had a less grandiose financial success, like About Time, but they usually hinge around the idea of either improving their character or coming to terms with their status quo. This one, entitled “Reset”, is about a bomb explosion which the two main characters try again and again to foil. What the character angle is, I’m not quite sure yet, and I may have to wait until we watch that final episode to find out.
In fact, I chose to write this review BEFORE watching the last episode so I won’t inadvertently give away anything. If you’ve read anything from this blog already, you know for a fact that I’ll be giving away spoiler after spoiler anyway, just not the final ending this time.
The plot is simple. Or not so simple. A university student falls asleep on the bus, and wakes up just before the bus explodes. She finds herself back on the bus, but this time another minute earlier, which allows her to see a motorcyclist colliding with an oil tanker, which slides over, which causes a collision with the bus, which explodes. She wakes up again and again, each time one more minute earlier. She tries to get off the bus before the explosion, and finally manages to do so, but faces severe self-recrimination when she sees the other passengers die.
So we keep going with this time loop, picking up on the way the boy sitting next to her on the bus as he now seems to have entered the time loop with her. Having managed to cause the motorcyclist not to collide, they happily congratulate themselves, only to find that the bus explodes anyway after getting onto the bridge.
The two accidental detectives conclude that someone on the bus must have carried a bomb. At 1:45 pm exactly a phone goes off with an outdated ringtone, and the bomb explodes. They now go back in the time loop in order to figure out which of the passengers is the bomber. This turns out to be a depressed-looking older lady, who by the way has amazingly powerful arms, but they then find out she has an accomplice: the bus driver!
They try to inform the police at first but whenever they try talking about the time loop, they are viewed as either liars or madmen. They finally realize they need to act on their own for the detective work, and call in the police only for reinforcement.
By the last few episodes, we have patched together the bombers’ story: their daughter stepped off this same bus five years ago in the middle of the bridge but was knocked down by a truck and died. Despite their plea to find out why the bus driver let off the girl at a place which was not a designated station, the police pressures them to settle with the bus company. The mother goes off the deep end and convinces the father that they should move to the city, develop a bomb (she’s a chemistry teacher) and take revenge on society which has refused to help their daughter’s case.
I meant the outline of the plot to be brief, but it looks like I took some time with it… Anyhow, it is quite gripping, on the one hand because we want to know the final answer: will the two young people be able to stop the explosion? In the last version of the time loop, they saved the bus but the police chief who tried to throw the bomb into the river died of his injuries. Since he was the only police officer who had sort of half believed them previously and tried helping them, the two become very regretful. Has the time loop stopped? Or will they go through it one last time?
On the other hand, the human stories are equally fascinating. The young man with hat, mask, jacket, etc who lives a secret life because of unsupportive parents. The peasant father bringing a bag of watermelons for his son in the city who has cut himself off from him. The popular online video livestreamer who seems quite nosy and obnoxious in real life. Even the police officers and their various personalities grow on us.
Several secondary themes also are woven into the narrative. For example, violence in video games. Another one: is it selfishness to only save yourself? When the two protagonists finally manage to save the whole bus, the police chief dies instead. Was it worth it? The two bombers stayed alive. Well, so far. Let’s see what happens to them in the last episode.
Yet another side effect of time loop travel: Whenever you come back, you have exactly the same amount of money in your pocket and your bank account. So, how about having a blast at an expensive restaurant? I actually loved that bit!
Another heavy theme: what is called in Chinese “Searching for human flesh”, or the power of social media and its effect on people in real life. In Episode 14, we finally find an eye witness to what happened on the bus five years ago. Not only was she a witness to sexual molestation of the young girl MengMeng, she even took a picture of the molester. But because of the pressure of social media, she had to keep quiet for fear of retribution.
I suppose it was hard to delve too deep in any one of those side stories because after all, this is a TV drama and each episode has a limited time of 45 minutes. When we decide to watch it, we understand that this is not an epic Russian novel, so we forgive the casual treatment of heavy human drama. It does make for great entertainment, a bit of brain work (as do all whodunits), and fodder for discussions.
PS: I will not update this after watching the last episode! =)