When I watch BL content, I generally know what to expect.
Boy meets boy, they create drama; they fall in love and that’s it. It does get dull. The short feminine boy is the bottom while the more masculine guy is the top. They have behavioral habits that are played off to spice up things. But at the end of the day, that’s all that is to the show; until “I Told Sunset About You” changed the narrative, giving us flawed characters with substance. Seeing a teenage boy in a bra was often perceived as queerness using comedy. But when you see the boy in the bright red bra, watch his joy at being able to wear it, turn to horror and shame; you know this is not the show that wants to check boxes, it is a show that wants to standalone and say “I’m here”.
That level of boldness in a television web series hasn’t been recreated. Maybe because people are afraid to try to get lighting to strike twice in the same direction. But “21 Days Theory” wants to create its own magic and the first two episodes are very much a delicately crafted build up to what I hope will be a tremendous series. Here are my thoughts:
When it comes to Thai BL, to say a trope is a staple is an understatement. You know if you see a gear or a medical coat, what you’re going to get. The same goes for blue shorts. It’s a high school BL. It’s been a few years since Thailand’s “American Pie” -esque “Make It Right” came onto the scene with its high school characters; some of them being the most realistic characters I had seen in a BL. They were rude, fun loving, horny as hell, and that’s why we loved them.
“21 Days Theory” focuses on 3 nerds who are good friends who seem like typical losers. Q played by Tee Khunakorn is the main character; smaller than most, with a lot of attitude to compensate for his lack of talents, he really wants to win. Not for himself, but for his mother, who has high hopes of him getting an acting job. I personally feel if he wanted to he could get a role, but he doesn’t bring enough of himself to anything, happy to just coast along and pout over having to do anything. His characterization is so refreshing because he is not a carbon copy of any BL main character. He has a rich personality that only appears when he is with his friends.
Toy played by Prat Itthichaichareon is a Himbo jock with a heart of gold. He grins a lot because he honestly enjoys being a part of a conversation. But when alone or talking one on one, he earnestly tries to prove he had a right to be there. And that he isn’t stupid and I find that endearing. He is Q’s wing man and tries his best to make sure his friend is taken care of. Q’s other friend is the spectacle wearing Frank played by Bigboom Jirayu. The boy has the least amount of experience with life and his life seems to be all about studies as his mother wants it to be. But he speaks as if he knows everything.
When the series begins, they are aimlessly going through day-to-day life until fate or X (more specifically) gives them a quest. That is to get Q to escort the most popular girl, Mook to an upcoming school event. Why it matters that Q should take Mook there and X’s clever plots form the backbone of the plot.
X played by Bever Patsapon is a very mysterious main character that has intrigued me from the start. The only classmate as popular as Mook, it’s clear from the start everyone thinks they should be dating, but X is least interested in Mook; even though Mook herself seems enamored with him. X politely lets her down but also says enough to imply he wants to date someone else. The show makes a point to show just enough of X and his knowing smile to imply he has a plan. One that you want to understand.
The first episode is cleverly written and acted as it makes a point to depict just enough of each character to make you want to know them more. From Q’s narration, you learn that he has been on many auditions but has never gotten a call back. When he goes to the same audition as X and fails to impress mainly because of X’s curveballs, he decides he hates the boy. X, who has been teasing and toying with Q, enjoys the attention as he sweet talks his way into Q’s home for dinner. Q’s mother adores X making him feel very welcome, while Q sulks.
Through masterful manipulation on X’s part, Q agrees to a bet where he would get Mook to accompany him to the school event. If he loses the bet, X gets “something” that he would only say if he wins. The clever script, cute soundtrack and likable characters and their chemistry made the first episode a delightful smash. Also, the great directing and cinematography were perfect.
Unfortunately, the second episode gets off to a rocky start. The trio sit planning on how to help Q score a date with Mook. But his simple “Why don’t I just ask her out” is shot down by both Toy and Frank. They believe that stalking her is the best way so they can learn what she likes and can use the information to get her to like Q. I facepalmed at the appearance of this insufferable trope. I can’t think of a BL where this actually worked in.
I know it’s a plot device. No one asks Q if he even wanted to date her in the first place. Instead they use Toy to gather information on her which you can’t help but cringe at as he invades her privacy. It did offer more insight to Mook, so that was a win. Even if you have to sit through Frank attempting to romance his beautiful tutor, just so to be shocked when her identity is revealed later in the episode.
It’s sweet watching Toy attempt to help Q and his efforts add more to his character. There is also a bit of hilarity- like when he tries to dance along to the workout routine Mook is attending and fails at it. The first half of the episode continues in that cringey vein. But ironically, the second half of the episode returns it to the fantastic mood of the first episode. After Frank’s ridiculous “Q is a hero” mission fails and X is hurt, the episode reverts to focusing on them. X of-course plays up his injury and Q feels genuinely bad about it; made worse by his mother, who blames him for X getting hurt.
Q’s mother keeps singing X’s praise for various reasons and the monologue continues. I felt sorry for Q, who has to eat his dinner beside X who seems visibly uncomfortable with what his duplicity has caused. After Q sends X home to his condo, Q’s mother and the uncle talk. To me, this moment is one of the best in the series so far because you never get the opportunity to see how families react to the knowledge that their child might be gay. The mother broaches the subject with her brother without openly saying what they both suspect about Q. Man (Q’s uncle) says something leading about his attraction to X (who between has been meeting the uncle’s gazes that last too long) and is lightly scolded by the mom. The uncle defends his nephew for the choices that he will make in the future. Q’s mother reluctantly admits its hard to accept but will do her best and they walk back inside arm and arm.
The rest of the episode is split between Q and X growing closer as Q feels responsible for X. So he makes him breakfast and the two have a conversation that I’m taking as the start of a friendship. The other half of the ending is Toy going to give Mook a present that is presumably from “Q”. His shyness and her own shyness make me ship them as both act with amazing chemistry.
All in all, 21 Days Theory stole my attention by realistically depicting the teenagers these days (who mostly get caught in silly situations). All the characters are earnest and so open it’s hard not to be captivated by the actors and their depictions of them. Yes, the first half of the second episode had me cringing hardcore, but I did enjoy the second half immensely and can’t wait for the next episode.
Rating- 3.5 out of 5