“Papa What is Love” Series Review (Ep.1 to 6)

“My eyes are tempted by the smile of an angel and your lips whisper secrets of forbidden love”- Natasha Harvey

This series is an adult-oriented story, so if you are easily offended, perhaps this is not the series for you. It is a romp through a deep dark secret fantasy with feelings ranging from revulsion to secretive salaciousness. Underneath is a supposition that is too thinly veiled. And what is that? Let us just say that it takes a big bite of the forbidden fruit hanging from the tree of life.

If you are expecting this series to be a romanticized or cute BL, you best move on as well. It is not. But what it is, is a forthright LGBTQ series. It tackles so many issues that honestly, I could write a whole book about them. I shall mention only a few.

It centers around frankly a lonely middle-aged man named Rich (Arnold Reyes) who lost his wife not long ago. And is gay. But never acted on that while she was alive. In a way, he deeply loved his wife and respected and honored their marriage vows to not cause her more pain. Yet, he has been dying inside. He finally admits to himself and to his son Greg (Anthony Flores), that he is gay. In a twist of irony, Greg considers himself to be pansexual. (A pansexual is an individual who does not limit sexual choice regarding biological sex, gender or even gender identity. In other words, one is attracted to an individual on multiple levels irrelevant to their gender/identity).

The son is concerned about the welfare of his father and thinks he needs help around the house when he is not there. Rich is financially secure enough to employ a full-time live-in helper. So, father and son advertise for a personal assistant. In comes Tupe (Rex Lantano). And the perfect storm forms. Here is Rich, desperately and sadly trying to stop the hands of time from aging him, while Tupe, with his boyish charm, outward and inward sincerity, and astonishingly good looks, is like a ray of sunshine. He is incandescent and makes Rich feel special. Both become enamored with and,in the moment, fulfill a need for each other. One can speculate forever what that need is. A sense of security? A steady income for Tupe? A sexual desire for Rich? But mostly, it might be a sense that each is needed by the other, desired by the other, and wanted by the other. Does that define ‘love’?

It is not long before the two of them form a union with Rich, believing that Tupe is his boyfriend. Undoubtedly, for the first time in a long time, Rich feels alive and obviously young again, and finds intimate pleasure with another person that not only touches the physical needs within him, but the emotional attachment to contentment. All seems well.

One day, Greg comes home and is outraged that a relationship has formed. He thinks, understandably, that Tupe is a gold-digger, only after financial security. Many conclusions concerning that relationship could be speculated about, but that is just not one of them. However, with some legitimacy, there is a significant age difference between Rich and Tupe, with Tupe being closer to Greg’s age. The perception that an age gap is a real issue in any relationship cannot be completely ignored. Rich convinces his son to accept Tupe for his sake.

As Rich leaves for a business trip, he asks that the two of them to at least try to get along. Greg and Tupe spend more time together and engage in deeper conversations. They appreciate that they have more in common than they realized. And as such, they begin to see each other in a different light and become attracted to each other. While not meaning for it to happen, it does. A rather large bite from the forbidden fruit is bitten into by both. They end up have sex together. As Tupe realizes what he has done since he ‘loves’ Rich, he tries to leave. But in an intensely provocative scene, Greg says he has fallen for Tupe and in fact loves him. He asks Tupe if he loves him back. Haltingly, almost in a whisper, Tupe says, “Yes”. Greg then asks, “Who do you love more? My father or me?” With an unequivocal definitiveness, Tupe says to Greg, “I love you more”. Phenomenally powerful. Just as they exchange kisses, Rich comes home and sees them embraced and passionately kissing.

All the performers were convincing. But there is simply something about Rex Lantano that captures the screen. His sincerity in getting into his character is astonishing and riveting beyond what words can describe. When he shows emotions, he paints a picture, not just seeing them but feeling them. He has a naturalness about his acting that is rare. It is intense. Perhaps because his astonishing good looks and boyish face draw you into watching him. But honestly, that simply ensnares you; it will not keep you in. He does that on his own. He is one of those rare actors that draws you into his character and forces you to ‘see’ this individual with all his faults, pains, and weaknesses, and accept him. His projection forces us to have a deeper understanding of who his character really is. He makes his character more like us, therefore seeing ourselves in him. Kudos to Rex, meaning king in Latin. A term he richly deserves.

The production of this series swings from brilliant to cringy. The beginning scenes with Rich trying to make himself young are cringy to me and completely unnecessary. But when it gets into one-on-one dialogues with either his son and/or Tupe, they are brilliant. There are also luminous dialogues between Tupe and Greg that make this series a joy to experience. If you have watched a long-forgotten movie called “My Dinner with Andre” (1981), that is what these dialogues were. Thought-provoking, emotionally grabbing, and paints a story with words. The ending feels a bit feigned to me and ends too magnanimously. But to get to that point, the audience missed the highs and lows that must have happened if this was real. I wish that had been discussed and portrayed with more depth. Then maybe the very end would not have drifted into contrivance.

Now let’s move to the nucleus of this series and its impact. This IS a story of a guy that had sex with both father and son. You can justify the reasons why all of this occurred with intellectual gymnastics, but the fact remains that Tupe knows the father and son in the Biblical sense of the word. That act was salacious, lecherous, and carnal. When I watched this series, I initially did not appreciate its depth until I processed what I was seeing. While I found it intellectually revolting, it was not necessarily unpleasant as an emotional response. Perhaps I am demented but I found the notion of having sex with the father and son strangely erotic and fulfilling a long deep-seated dream of such a fantasy in my younger day when I was the age of these guys. I know we are not or should not admit to that, but I think the point of this story is to convey sexual fantasies that might be considered too dark, libidinous, or perverted out in the open and making them agreeable and as a part of the human continuum of sexual realms. This was a mind-bending and brilliant concept that was more vanguard and indulgent, but presented in such a sanitized fashion as something reasonable and rational. And understandable. To a degree, even acceptable.

I think with a bit more tightness to the script, fewer theatrics, and a more honest portrayal of the real story here, this series could have gone down in the annals as a pivotal series of seeing human sexuality, desires, and fantasies in a whole new light. To coin a term from baseball, this series was a swing and a miss, but missed being an out of the park home run by mere inches.

I hope season two does not miss.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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