“Daddy, are you top or bottom?”
It is really weird to be questioned about your sexual preferences by your indignant yet adorable kid. But this hilarious exchange instantly uplifts the foreboding mood that persists throughout the second season of “Papa & Daddy”. GagaOOLala’s latest offering skims past the sordid details that lead to the catastrophic breakup between the main couple, Damien & Jerry. There are wounds to be healed, secrets unveiled, while family values are debated or ostracized. Papa & Daddy S2 wouldn’t be an easy ride; at least that much is clear from the pilot episodes, which focus on the widening gap in Damien & Jerry’s relationship. While the prequel was more pivoted on prudent subjects like the hardships faced by same-sex parents, when they choose to adopt kids or opt for surrogacy, the current season seems to gleam over these topics. We don’t have a clear-cut picture about the theme for this season- is it “Cheating”, “Parental Pressures” or “Child Custodial Disputes”? There are a lot of discerning issues overlapping each other, so the underlying message seems to be lost. Despite that, there were quite a few moments where the familial connection broke through the absurdity. Without further ado, let’s review the first two episodes of this miniseries!
The Mid Life Relationship Crisis
The sequel picks up three months later and you obviously feel the disconnect. Rookie actor Chiu Mu Han’s depiction of Jerry is quite different from his predecessor, Mike Lin. I’m not saying that it is bad, obviously he has his own charm and sense of playing this character. But because he is new, his chemistry with Melvin Sia seems to be stilted. Melvin had a really hot chemistry with Mike, so comparisons are inevitable. And yet the story falls flat because they seem too disconcerted. Also, the storyline and the pacing are quite odd. I couldn’t help but compare the sequel to the prequel and it made me wonder if it has the same people writing & directing this show. The monotony isn’t lost, as Damien skirts around the main issue due to his cowardice; his lame attempts to reconcile with Jerry seem rather illogical. While Jerry is faced with the cataclysmic reality that his husband has been hiding the existence of his older child for almost six years; he is also struggling with parental pressures. Chiu Mu Han does a pretty decent job as he effortlessly portrays Jerry’s dormant fears & insecurities. While I’m seriously miffed at Damien’s callous attitude, I do understand his problems as well. He is suddenly tagged with a grown-up child who is at times rebellious and doesn’t understand nor accept their cultural differences. On the top of this, he is left alone to handle Jimmy, as Jerry sprints back home with Kai. I wouldn’t dare accuse Jerry because his anger makes sense; no one wants to be fooled by the person whom you have sworn to protect & cherish for the rest of your life. Damien’s lies are tearing them apart and he fails to understand the importance of prioritizing Jerry above all.
The Return of the Exes, New Flames and Much More
I’m pretty sure that Jerry didn’t think through his decision of reverting back home following his argument with Damien; because his return opens a whole new can of worms that should have been left untouched. While his parents seem elated by his return, they also have their own doubts about Kai’s paternity. Since Jerry firmly thinks of Kai as his own child (and not Damien’s biological one), this disparity of thoughts often leads to clashes or disagreements. The situation worsens when Jimmy and Damian’s ex-wife Kate are added to the mix. Kate (Helena Hsu) has a pretty strong demeanor and even stronger conservative perspective (which she ostensibly forces on others). It’s obvious that she hasn’t forgiven Damian for his farce during their marriage and has no qualms projecting her overtures on Damian. Damian’s weak disposition doesn’t go well with Jerry’s sensitivities (who just wants his husband to grow a spine and maybe stand up to his ex-wife). It’s quite clear that Kate’s introduction is going to wreck havoc on Damian and Jerry’s already weakening relationship.
Adding to this stress are new character introductions; in the form of Damian’s new office colleague, Wei (Jason Tauh). Wei seems to have a crush on Damian and whether or not he knows about Damian’s married life is still unknown. While Damian remains pleasantly unaware of Wei’s affections; Jerry seems to be moving onto greener pastures. Damian’s morbid excuses stress him so much that he goes searching for an old acquaintance, Kao (Peter Kuan). Strangely enough, Jerry and Kao seem to have a much better chemistry as compared to Damian. It’s as if an old flame is rekindled and although we are unaware of their past relationship, it’s obvious that Jerry is quite important to Kao. He doesn’t seem inflexible like Damian, and I’m torn between my desire to ship Jerry with Kao or cheer for his forced reconciliation with Damian. I have seriously never been this confused in my entire life. What Jerry needs right now is someone who puts his needs before anything else; clearly Kao could be that person. But Jerry’s overwhelming affections for Kai override his own desires, so the current situation is an unraveling mess.
Also, we need to talk about Jerry’s evolving relationship with Jimmy. Their interactions are refreshing, and Jerry doesn’t outright despise Jimmy. Although he does have difficulty accepting Jimmy into their makeshift family, Jerry isn’t entirely heartless. He notices Damian’s struggles to understand Jimmy; he also sympathizes with Jimmy, who longs for familial attachments. The kid loves his mother; but above all, Jimmy yearns for a family. He does seem rebellious, but that doesn’t stop him from accepting Damian’s relationship with Jerry or Kai. Jimmy is easy-going and takes his role as an elder brother quite seriously; something that floors Jerry and makes it easy for him to accept Jimmy.
Directed by Nancy Chen (Big Three Dragons and History4), Papa & Daddy S2 takes a dig at the familial pressures faced by same-sex couples. So, although Jerry knows that Damian is gay, he still feels afraid when his mother points out that Damian might like women. Also, Jerry’s parents represent a generation who are still coming to terms with the diversity of the LGBTQ community. To them, it is something new and confusing; as against the old conservative set up of heterosexual relationships. They are afraid that their son might get dumped and actively express their displeasure over the fact that Jerry doesn’t have his own biological child. Them projecting their own fears on Jerry makes the situation even worse; given the fact that Jerry is already fighting his own demons.
So is the show worthy of your attention? Unlike its prequel, the sequel isn’t a light-hearted romance. The tone is decisively serious and it won’t be an easy watch. Melvin Sia and Chiu Mu Han’s chemistry is still questionable, but it might change in the upcoming episodes as they get comfortable with each other. The storytelling seems indecisive, but that’s more to do with the characters. I was actually afraid that Chiu Mu Han’s depiction might not be on par with Mike Lin, but he is certainly a surprise package. His acting improves with time and he seems much more at ease with his character and the kids. Their connection is bright and vibrant; totally unexpected yet heartwarming. I’m not yet sold on the premise, but I’m definitely curious about the upcoming changes in the family dynamics. Will Kate, Kao and Wei’s presence create ripples in the troubled waters and tear apart Damian- Jerry’s dreams of having a perfect family? Let’s hope for the best while awaiting the worst!
Rating- 3 out of 5