“Tien Bromance” Series Review (Ep.1 to 10)

Unique is not quite the right word to describe this series, including its title. Flippant comes to mind, but still alluring.

The first 4 to 5 episodes are beyond description. They are filled with macabre, killings, tortures, and painful dilemmas. Each is a separate anthology, with episode 5 being the actual beginning where we get any actual semblance of a cohesive story. The only constant is that there are two characters in love and a third character lurking menacingly throughout and negatively influencing the entire storyline. It is an incredibly fascinating series that will leave you wondering, am I watching the “Perils of Pauline”? (Look it up if you do not know what that reference is).

Underneath all the noise, there is a passionate love story between Tien (Duoc si Tien) and Tai (Huu Tai). It is obvious from the first episode that these two are in love with each other, but how their relationship materialized is still unknown (that intrigues me). The only connection is that, this intense love that they feel for each other transcends all obstacles in their path. And they have huge obstacles to overcome. I cannot decide how I feel about the first four episodes, since they are so unrelated yet astonishingly connected. The only interrelation is their extraordinary love and an evil revenge that is hell-bent on destroying that love. The disruptor to their happiness is Hong, portrayed deviously by Luang Anh Ngoc. She is so sinister, evil, mentally deranged yet central to their development as a couple. Honestly, this story makes the ‘Perils of Pauline’ look like a cakewalk in the park. These guys suffer immeasurable pain and agony over many years to attain the fruition of their love. I do not want to summarize the story for you, because you must see it for yourself. I must warn you that this series is raw, gritty, non-apologetic about its depths into the grotesque killings, stalkings, and murders. It is bloody and gruesome, so hold off if this is not your thing. Normally, I might find this all a bit too gratuitous but, in this case, it is central to their development and quite literally a part of the story. Their relationship would not be as strong or intense if these situations never occurred.

In episode six, a new kind of commitment is added to their relationship that elevates this series to an even greater human construct. A very young student, named Do (Gia Huy), is orphaned, and cared for by Tai, who is his teacher. As Tien enters the picture (after an extended absence), he too becomes captivated by Do’s charm, wit, and vibrancy. It forces this couple to not only maintain their own precarious relationship, but to commit to the overwhelming responsibility of having a child to foster and parent. Indeed, this was a brilliant and unexpected twist. With all the insanity in their lives and relationship, the introduction of a child that influences their own relationship was ingenious and unexpected. But is that not life?! This kid almost single-handedly steals this series with his charm and effervescence. (By the way, this boy can ACT! He is superb!)

I am truly not doing this BL series any justice in my attempts to describe it. There is so much to unpack in this production and to summarize, that I will be unable to do so without giving away too much of the story and plot. I want the viewer to experience the mystique of this series directly. Some will no doubt hate it, while other will love it because of its very unusual approach to its story line. I think it is brilliant. It is extremely well acted and there are a few steamy and lustful kissing scenes. I bought their relationship and the intensity of it. Yes, it is difficult to watch at times, but its overriding message is “Love will conquer all”. You will not find a stranger ‘love story’ than this one.

There is also a sequel to this series called Tien Bromance- My Small Family. These are snippets of scenes after Tien and Tai are together and Do has been adopted by them. I must admit that some scenes are quite endearing, while others missed the mark. The problem with this miniseries (five episodes of short duration) is the scenes aren’t always in sequence and the English subtitles are choppy and not very good. Again, a lot of it is simply translated into English words without context or syntax. I know these are not made for English-speaking audiences (oh, how I wish they were) so we can’t blame the production, necessarily.

It is obvious that they put in a lot of time and energy into making this story feel more like a real home (which it is). They tackle some very interesting issues such as bullying, jealousy, and most importantly having two gay dads rather than a mother and father. The storytelling doesn’t shy away from this major issue. They also tackle the normal upbringing issues in trying to raise a child who at times is a bit precocious. Like the prequel, Do stole the scenes he is in. He is an absolute natural on camera and makes this sequel work so well. He is just a joy to watch. I am not taking away anything from the main actors. They display the love these two characters have for each other with such believability, passion, and commitment, it is so hard to imagine that they are only acting. Here, in these short snippets, they are immensely relatable, and we get to see them in the humdrum of everyday living. Nothing special at times, but those slices of life are what living is all about. They are wonderful and despite all the issues with translations and editing, I truly like this series.

Kudos for making gayness spicy, captivating, perilous, erotic, and in the end so ordinary! What more can you ask from a BL series?!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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