Ae-Pete, Tharn-Type, Tin-Can, and now Fiat & Leo join the ranks of Boy’s Love couples created and popularized by renowned Thai BL author Mame.
Her books have sold millions of copies, some available internationally with English translations, while others are accessible only in Thai. With her new spin-off series “Don’t Say No”, Mame yet again proves that she is an expert at creating love stories out of thin air. Now does this romance measure up to the standards set by “Love By Chance” and “TharnType”(We don’t talk about “A Chance to Love”), we will eventually figure that out in this review of the first six episodes.
In the second season of TharnType franchise, the show should have been focusing on the main couple enjoying some domestic bliss, instead we have both them constantly arguing over inconsequential matters. Fiat (First Chalongrat) enters their lives after a knee injury lands him at the sports clinic where Type is working. Fiat quickly becomes enamored with Type and goes out of his way to pursue the man even though Tharn exists. Leo (Ja Phachara of Until We Meet Again) is Fiat’s childhood best friend who has unrequited feelings for Fiat. Fiat is a spoiled man child with innumerable affairs, before he presumably falls for Type. By the end of that series however, Fiat and Leo confess their feelings for each other and that brings us to the current spin-off which is set in an entirely different tone!
The mood of the series alone alienates it from her previous series. Gone are the overtly done rape scenes, the blackmailers, or the evil men who elevate her notoriety factor. Instead, we have a mostly high energy, zany casts breaking the molds of BL archetypes. The two women in this series aren’t BL enthusiasts or shippers but are instead, hardworking and headstrong (albeit messy little gossips). Basketball team manager Natsu (Beam Phunthida) and the tomboyishly beautiful Anda(Rin Sirinya) are certainly worthy additions to this storyline. The two don’t suck up screen time or offer eye candy for viewers but actually contribute to the story, which is quite refreshing. Rounding up the cast of side characters is Leon (Smart Chisanupong), Leo’s annoying younger brother. Joining them is Leon’s love interest, Pob (James Pongsapak), an introverted genius who only wants to write his thesis when he isn’t cuddling his stray cat Pobjer.
In the current scenario where the BL industry is continuously churning out quality content, creating a romcom BL is quite a bit of gamble. You have to grab the audience’s attention while trying new comedy routes, as opposed to the old tropes that are normally used to drive the narrative forward. The series begins with strong vibes, showcasing the awkwardness between our main couple as they come to terms with their feelings for one another. It is oddly realistic and relatable how the two internalize their shyness, doubts and fears. But also invariably reach a point, where they can discuss and sort out their issues. Directed by Pique Passawut, who also helmed the last two seasons of the TharnType series, this series is surely shockingly refreshing.
The episode begins with Leo’s surprising love confession for Fiat. Their entire university witnesses the confession via the video clip which goes viral within hours. Fiat’s two friends jokingly tease him about the clip, until Leo appears. Most of the first episode is relegated to their awkward moments as they interact in an unseemly manner, entirely unsure about what to do. Allusions are made to Fiat’s Father, highlighting him as a menacing presence in Fiat’s life, but the dark tone doesn’t last long. All in all, it was a fun start to the series and sets the tone for it. At times, I did find it a bit tedious to watch the couple’s inner monologue on everything (giving and receiving hugs). Ironically, the ending was the strongest acted moments. Fiat has been trying to act decent, while abstaining from having sex. In a moment of weakness, he gives up and masturbates on Leo’s bed. Only, he ends up getting caught by Leo and in a comedic overdramatic moment runs down the stairs. Obviously, Leo catches onto him and while they share a passionate kiss, both are caught by Leo’s housemaid.
I get trying to distance themselves from TharnType Season Two, since it was not well received, but at the same time I felt the spin-off relies too much on humor and that makes most significant moments appear blasé. I enjoyed it for the most part, although the storyline isn’t worth mentioning.
In an act of ridiculous practicality, Leo moves out of his family home. The reason being that Fiat is embarrassed to face the housemaids because the maids who have basically raised him alongside Leo’s parents. This might sound a bit overboard, but Leo has waited at least ten+ years for Fiat and he is not giving up willingly. Leon, Leo’s brother surprises them by returning from France a week early, much to Fiat’s chagrin as Leon playfully bullies him. A bulk of the episode is spent introducing Leon through Gameboyesque social media posts. Natsu mistakenly interprets Fiat’s words and repeats them to An, who spreads the news to the entire school that Leo and Fiat are having bedroom issues. Which makes Leo doubt his sexual prowess as he has only had it once and with Fiat. Leon tells Leo this and embellishes the details to make it sound like Leo isn’t enough for Fiat. This leads to our pair talking about the rumors. Fiat is left to deal with a pair of arrogant gossiping girls, until Leo appears and reproaches them for badmouthing his boyfriend. The episode ends with Fiat opening a gift from his friends. Inside is a vibrator which Fiat can’t manage to turn off.
This slice of life IS doing a great job as it shows more of Fiat and Leo’s lives and through it allows the viewers to get to know them better. The episode felt more like a collection of random, orchestrated moments between the cast. The way it shifted focus to individuals takes away the organic feeling in the pilot episode. It wasn’t very cohesive. The pacing itself felt off as the episode slowed down for showcasing Fiat’s random temper tantrums.
The episode begins with Leo wanting to know if Fiat uses vibrators. It was a bit confusing seeing the way that Fiat because his thoughts don’t match his words. With well acted kisses and good choreography, the device is lost, but just as they are about to have sex; Leon appears. He shows pictures related to Fiat’s sexual past and Fiat has a breakdown. The contrast in moods between the arousing start to the picture reveal was very well done. But I found it strange the way Fiat loses all sense of reasoning and literally begs Leo to solve his problems. Finally, we meet Fiat’s Father who isn’t as evil as Fiat portrays him. He asks logical questions and expresses his displeasure not with the photographs, but instead with his son’s life choices. He scolds Fiat and sends him to his room. After last episode’s Leon/Pob moments as well as Leo and Fiat’s silly cuteness, this harsher reality check is a fresh breath of air. Fiat displays his teenage mindset, with his rude behavior to his stepmother and half sister. The blackmailer threatens Fiat and asks him to end things with Leo. In response Fiat has another breakdown, well acted, but I can’t help but feel this fits his immaturity a bit too well. At his age, he should be able to handle himself better. He distances himself from Leo and Leo turns to his friends for help. In a jarring change, the focus switches to Leon being accosted by a girl he slept with. Leon is unaware he is being watched by a boy (Pob) taking care of a stray cat. Leon instant tries to get his attention, but Pob silently gets him some ice and leaves. Fiat has another breakdown in front of Natsu when Leo appears and promises to stand by him. While Leo assures Fiat that he is working with Aek on tracking the blackmailer. In the ending scene, the blackmailer is apprehended and Aek takes him to Leo.
Oh God! Where to begin? Fiat is a man child and not just that but a spoiled man child. It was certainly unique that the drama showcases his flaws in neon lit, starting from his insecurity to his instability. Leo the “Patron Saint of Patience” just silently goes along with Fiat’s temper tantrums. Up to this point, I just wrote off Fiat as a stereotypical bottom, but seeing his snotty attitude towards everyone; it’s obvious that he never grew up. His father didn’t’t even seem that bad, just someone who doesn’t know how to handle his disrespecting son. The abrupt switch to Leon and Pop WAS NOT WELCOME. I was all into the drama and then the cute boy gets slapped by a woman who apparently didn’t know what “No Strings Attached” means. I get it we have to add more characters to the mix, but there are more clever ways to integrate them into the plot than that.
It’s nice to see a different side of Leo as he interrogates the blackmailer. Leo is mostly an independent person, no bodyguards; so it was nice to see him surrounded by his handsome friends who are there for more than just looks. It was his friends who track down the man, with some help from their mafia father and his men. The POV switches to Fiat’s past, not the gigolo but the gigolo’s boyfriend Chika (Strong CK). The scenes occur in a gay bar, where Fiat and Chika become fast friends. They open up to one another and Fiat learns that Chika is being extorted and abused by his lover. So he seduces the man to get him to leave Chika. Back in the present, Leo’s plan works out and the blackmailer is gone from their lives. Leo and Fiat have sex. The episode changes focus to Leon, who is constantly stalking Pob in an attempt to woo him. This episode does a better job of interspersing their scenes with Leo-Fiat scenes. Leo meets Fiat’s Father and their conversation confirms that he isn’t a villain, just an overprotective father who cares about his son. Leon notices that Pob acts weirdly when Leo’s name is mentioned and jumps to random conclusions. He includes Fiat in his silly moments of temporary insanity. They stalk the boy while he is studying in the library and Leon tells Fiat to “control Leo”.
This episode had a lot going on, with the extortion plot, Fiat being a baby, Leo being a boss, and Leon stalking Pob. It was all over the place, but instead it was well executed. While Fiat’s hysterical ways aren’t surprising, he seriously has no idea how to handle adult situations. Seeing Leo and his crew find the man and deal with him was a welcome surprise because up to this point all Leo did was smile, kiss amazingly and do long foreplay. Pob and Leon grew on me now that they weren’t being shoved in my face abruptly. I don’t understand why they wrote Leon the way they do, but his jumping to conclusions and being insecure was a bit over-the-top. Stalking is not cute or romantic F.Y.I.
This episode solely focuses on our cute cat lover Pob. Leon finds Pob in the library and I am going to ignore the inconsistencies, while portraying Pob’s OCD. Leon presents Pob with a collar for Jer, and Pob invites him over to give it to her himself. All while Fiat debates whether to use the dildo on himself. All of that being the first section of the episode left me a bit confused on the pacing. Fiat successfully seduces Leo. The two are very comfortable with one another as actors and I enjoyed their sexy chemistry. The episode was sprinkled with romantic moments, which showcases how strong the couple are; as Leo listens to Fiat’s insecurity and offers assurances. On a surprising note, Leo’s father advises Fiat’s father to open up to his son. Unneeded moments like this add an emotional weight to the series and I enjoy them. Fiat and Leon discover Leo and Pob together and learn the truth about Pob. Confirming that Leon jumped to a random conclusion. Leon confesses his feelings to Pob, who explains he isn’t looking for a relationship now, but welcomes the friendship. It’s a well acted scene of maturity and I really like their chemistry. The section ends on Natsu showing An the schedule for the basketball team’s first game. Neither are happy about their rival team. Fiat tries to do the housework and offers help to Leo. Pob tells Leon to pursue someone else and Leon politely refuses. The episode ends on the team getting ready for the game and the rival team’s captain who supposedly slept with Fiat, tries to provoke Leo.
Switching from the extortion angle to actual relationship building was a delicate change of pace for the series, which deliberately focuses more over Leon and Pob than on Fiat and Leo. I liked the sense of curiosity building in Pob’s mind, who up to this point had always ignored or avoided Leon’s advances. To enjoy it, I had to accept the fact that stalking was how their courtship occurred. Also, seeing a domestic side to Leo and Fiat was cute. The two have grown a lot more comfortable with each other since the show started (when they couldn’t even hug without internalized monologues). Including Miat’s (Fiat’s Father) internal struggle with expressing simple feelings was a nice addition. I don’t know whether he will become essential to the plot in the future episodes, but it was nice all the same.
Episode Six was certainly a game changer. We are introduced to King, tall, gorgeous and a total asshole. He constantly smacks Fiat’s butt during the match to provoke Leo. But off the court moments are rather interesting. We learn that Fiat had agreed to sleep with King in exchange for not revealing that one of his teammates was using drugs. Here is where the episode falters. King wandered around the corner, we have no way of knowing if he has prior knowledge of the event being discussed. He just blackmails Fiat. But my question is what was he doing in someone else’s university? Was he looking for Fiat the entire time? Why did Fiat feel that sleeping with King would even work, since King is Leo’s rival since they were kids? It doesn’t make any kind of sense to me. I did enjoy An and all the friends being there as a sign of support for the guys. An shows she is Leo’s equal when she storms into the locker room and slaps him hard to give him the much-needed reality check. This was probably one of the best moments in the series because it was so surprising. The acting was superb as they talk and he rushes to find Fiat. Once Fiat and Leo settle things, the plot switches to Leon. Leo explains what happened and Leon provides exposition on what’s going on. It’s beautifully portrayed because it betrays the fact that Leo is vulnerable and not perfect. The later portion of the episode focuses on Pob who is upset because Pobjer is sick and I love that the script showcases Pob’s backstory through how he relates to his pet cat. Leon does his best to make him smile. Leo and Fiat apologize to the team and then to each other. Leon comforts Pob and learns about his adoptive father when Pob invites him to his room. The episode ends on Leo’s mother arriving early. She seems happy to see everyone, but something about her puts me on edge.
I don’t think the King/Leo/Fiat part was handled well. If Leo knows the reason of why Fiat slept with King, then why did he act that way while he was on the court. Was it to show how hot headed he really is? An’s scenes were on point, the way she gets annoyed, her one liners and the slap. All perfect, the show should really give her more to do but since this is a Mame show I know they won’t. Natsu’s only purpose seems to stir the pot, stare, or look lost. Her moments of introspective caring are few and far between. I enjoyed the episode, but it did feel a bit random.
As a whole, I enjoyed “Don’t Say No” but couldn’t help but feel a bit bored with it. The lack of plot versus random snapshots from these characters minimizes the emotional attachments. Each mini-crisis is resolved in the same episode, and the characters don’t seem to learn anything from their actions. Fiat sleeping around to solve most of his problems feels a bit too excessive. Most of the side characters have nothing much to offer, but are interesting with a lot of potential. I hope they utilize them in the future. Will keep watching and see where this plot line goes.
Rating- 3 out of 5