I Promised You the Moon did not come to play. It did not come to make friends.
The struggle is real.
The pain is sharp.
The betrayal hurts.
There comes a point in some relationships where being together can be as toxic as being apart. For me, Teh and Oh Aew represented an essential part of each other’s lives. From childhood to adulthood, they played a vital role in teaching each other about compromise, jealousy, sacrifice, and dreams while also navigating the confusion of sexuality. Although Teh’s betrayal and his actions in I Promised You the Moon has been less than stellar, there is growth in him I do find myself thankful for. He’s found acceptance with himself and his sexuality. In I Told Sunset About You, Teh struggled to accept his attraction to Oh Aew. He struggled to accept the decisions he made based on this confusion. In I Promised You the Moon, Teh’s moved past his sexuality struggles and entered a complicated entertainment world full of competition, emotional chaos, and sexual temptation. There’s a lot of focus on Oh Aew’s broken heart and Teh’s part in that brokenness, but I also feel it’s important to point out how sexuality no longer plays a role in the decisions Teh’s making.
I fear many people will watch Teh and label him as a toxic representation of sexuality, but the truth is, he’s a positive one. Although he comes across as an antagonist in I Promised You the Moon, he’s a man making wrong decisions based on real human emotions rather than making them based on exploring his sexuality. While I Told Sunset About You represents what many of us in the LGBTQ+ community feel, I Promised You The Moon simply tells the story about an unhealthy relationship, albeit one steeped in symbolism.
Teh’s biggest flaw lies in his inability to communicate well with people, a fault that has been with him since the first episode of I Told Sunset About You. From his childhood fight with Oh Aew to his inability to express his affections to his changing desires, Teh bottles up his thoughts and feelings, letting them build up before allowing these same exploding emotions to ruin his life in arbitrary decisions he can’t take back. This frustrating personality trait is both attractive and dangerous.
My first love and my first committed relationship was with someone like Teh. He had big dreams, lots of ambitions, and lots of bottled-up emotions. As teenagers, we were inseparable. We liked the same things, loved the same foods, and enjoyed every moment we spent together. Then graduation happened. He went off to pursue his dreams, and our relationship changed. The passion he had for his plans, his spontaneity, and his resolve to accomplish his goals is both what made him so special to me and part of what drove us apart. We were both big dreamers, and both of us changed because of those dreams. After eleven years and wayward attractions to outside people, it became apparent that the things that made us a strong couple as teenagers made us a weak couple as adults.
We spent a long time blaming each other because being hurt does that to people. We don’t want to look at what led to a problem; we want to blame people for our anger.
In I Promised You The Moon, Teh’s feelings are led astray, and his inability to communicate with the man he loves drives a wedge between them that isn’t repairable. Oh Aew has every right to be angry about this.
On the opposite side, I also hurt for Teh’s torn heart, his struggle to relate to Akin (the character he’s portraying), and the growing attraction for a man who is using Teh’s loneliness and confusion to his advantage. Jai heard Teh’s cries for understanding and help inside the pages of Teh’s logbook and rather than help him assimilate his emotions, Jai used them to build a fire inside Teh.
Jai basically says, “Let’s utilize this forbidden heat you’re feeling and fuel Akin with it.”
And it works.
I’ve been Oh Aew, sitting on the side of a room wondering why I wasn’t able to draw out the same kind of passion in the person I loved that a stranger was. It’s because I’ve been where Oh Aew has been that I find it so hard to watch Teh try to talk himself out of his feelings. It would hurt so much less for both Teh and Oh Aew if Teh were able to be honest with himself, but weirdly, it’s sometimes hard to be truthful with ourselves.
“Do you love me?” Oh Aew asks. “Kiss me.”
Most people see kisses as something attractive to watch on television, a physical action that defines love between two people. There are even viewers who refuse to watch a romantic show/movie if there isn’t a kiss scene included. I’m not one of those people, but what I like about I Promised You the Moon is how they use kissing. Rather than defining romance in a relationship, kissing is utilized to express how physical intimacy can say things words can’t. From personal experience, I know that kisses feel different when feelings change. When Oh Aew asks for Teh to kiss him, my heart broke because I knew Oh Aew didn’t need physical contact; he needed the truth and the reassurance he could get from it.
Oh Aew loves a man passionate about a dream. Jai is attracted to a man with the talent to make his dreams come true. For Teh, Oh Aew represents his first love and the man who taught him to be happy with himself. Jai is a dream Teh thinks he wants.
Oh Aew is a past me wondering if my love was strong enough to bridge personal happiness with professional happiness. It’s such a sad place to be in, such a sad moment to live inside. It’s such a painful realization to come to.
But Teh is a past me, too, a man whose heart is broken both by his dreams and the relationship falling apart around him. Dreams can attack people much the same way that love can, and I think Jai is meant to represent that. He represents what we give up in pursuit of those dreams. I understood the symbolism behind Jai’s part in this series, that he represented more than a man. He represented a choice between professional and personal happiness. Teh isn’t able to find a balance between the two.
The fact that acting is the profession this drama centers on is even more stark. There’s an old adage about walking inside someone’s shoes in order to understand them. Actors are asked to do this for every job they take on. Be this person. Represent this person. Feel what this person feels. Hurt the way this person hurts. Fall in love the same way this person falls in love.
It has to make you wonder how many directors and producers abuse their power by building a narrative that fools the actor into believing he belongs there, a narrative the actor can’t escape from. There are countless dark stories inside the industry where an actor succumbs to the shadows a role drowned him in. In some instances, it killed him.
I cried for Oh Aew. I cried for Teh. I Promised You the Moon isn’t a simple story. I’ve seen many viscerally painful reactions to Teh as a character and to the people behind this series. I think a large part of this has to do with the time jumps. Another factor has to do with cheating. Cheating is often an overused trope in series explained away by things like, “It happens” and “This is real life.” While I agree that “cheating happens” shouldn’t be used to make excuses for a character and that the trope is overused, I do believe because of what Jai represents that it works in I Promised You the Moon.
I can already feel the heated stares I am getting for that statement, but bear with me. Attraction, love, and temptation are genuine emotions that often get tangled up inside complex life paths. Especially relationships that start young and most especially in relationships where communication is lacking. Relationships built on sand are easily washed away by the sea. Teh and Oh Aew are the sand. Jai represents the dream Teh has always wanted, a turbulent sea that sweeps away the fragile but intense relationship Teh and Oh Aew have built together.
I find myself not hating Teh because he makes me sad. He represents a youthful part of me that I’ve learned to grow past. He represents so many people who have lost themselves to something they pursued rather than enjoying the supporting people who genuinely care about them.
I hurt for Oh Aew, but I also feel relieved for him. Teh is a complicated character who has been complicated since the first episode of I Told Sunset About You. He is a flawed character with issues, a man Oh Aew fell deeply in love with while also realizing that part of what makes Teh who he is are the complicated emotions Teh feels and can’t express. Teh is toxic to himself, and therefore to the people around him. Oh Aew chose himself, and he needs time to simply be just that away from Teh. Teh needs time to grow out of his complexities.
As broken as my heart is over Oh Aew, it is equally broken for Teh. Outside of his mother and brother, all Teh has left is his career. And while I am proud of Teh’s growing success, I also fear for him. Oh Aew has built a healthy life and formed healthy friendships for himself, a healthy future that can nurture him. Oh Aew also has potential in advertising, which helps secure a promising future. Teh has essentially deleted everything important in his life, and while I realize he has only himself to blame for this, he will continue building his life and career on the sand. One sweep of the ocean, and it could pull him floundering out to sea. Oh Aew, on the other hand, has built his life on a solid foundation with people and things that can anchor him through a storm.
Will a future, more adult Oh Aew become the anchor for a driftless but successful Teh? Or will they simply remain apart, both of them stronger having learned and grown from their first love?
I am continuously surprised by how sad each episode makes me rather than angry. I am invested in both Teh and Oh Aew, flaws and all. It’s because of the flaws that I am so involved in their story. Stories don’t grow from perfection. They grow from the dirt that perfection sprung out of. Because of this, I dread as much as I anticipate the final episode.