“Papa & Daddy S2” Series Review (Ep.1 to 8)

“The couples that are ‘meant to be’ are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than they were before.”

– Nicolas Sparks Romantic Love Quotes

Romantic, sweet, and full of joy, yet with a (very small) hint of realistic pain underlying the bond between them. Pain that is relatable to any couple, be it gay or straight, as almost every couple has inner uncontrollable forces that attempted to thwart what was meant to be. Be it a ‘what if I had stayed with my first love?’ or ‘why can’t he see my problems are bigger than his?’ While this series is not quite Pollyanna, it comes close. It showed the strains of living as a couple, but pretending everything is copacetic or could be made to be so, if only ostensibly.

Its ending is what fairy tales and unicorns are made from. I did cry. I cried because it was stunningly beautiful, moving, and so full of wishful fantasies. And I wanted it to be so. It is quite moving, poignant, and the wedding ceremony is what every romantic wants, whether they are gay or straight. It was special, and it was made to be special. Mission accomplished. And then I cried some more as its message is one of hope and complete acceptance and, more importantly, validation.

You have to go out of your way to not like this series. However, I did not have to go too way out of my way to dislike this series. Unfortunately, what I disliked about this series far and away outweighed the things I liked about it. So, let’s look at what this series is about.

It is the continuing love story of Damian (Melvin Sia) and Jerry (Chiu Mu Han). Being a couple, they are now trying to raise their son Kia – one he calls Papa and the other Daddy. Additionally, they are now responsible for raising Damian’s other son, Jimmy (Yu Jia Lin) Jimmy was thrust into their lives when Damian’s ex-wife from America sends him to Taiwan since she is marrying her boyfriend. Jimmy is a precocious child but overall, a well-adjusted individual. He embraces his father’s sexual orientation with complete acceptance. Having grown up in the United States, his Chinese is still a bit primitive, and he comes across at times a bit too “American’. Damian is now closer than ever to finishing his restaurant. Jerry is still popular with his cooking video channel, but decides to expand into telling the world of his relationship with Damian and show the trials and tribulations of raising not only one child but two as a gay couple. He becomes rather successful, and this creates problems centering around individuals whose attitudes towards gayness and nonadherence to traditional societal standards are not as embracing as his.

What this series did right are these:

1. They presented two males in a very loving relationship and deeply in love with each other. Their love for each other is undeniable.

2. They showed that raising a child can be challenging no matter if the couple is gay, lesbian, or straight.

What this series showed, but only superficially with no real resolution, was:

1. While Damian unquestionably loves Jerry, he does not see Jerry’s career path as equal to his both in status and importance. Damian centers his world around what he thinks is of value.

2. Jerry has unresolved feelings for his former lover, Kao (Peter Kuan). Kao is still deeply in love with Jerry but respects the boundaries that he can only be friends with Jerry. Volumes could be written about what was left unsaid between the two of them and to me. Jerry maintains a deeper connection to Kao than perhaps he even realizes.

3. Jerry remains a very troubled individual who is always trying to maintain balance and order with no clear understanding as to what he wants or who he is. He has allowed others to define him, including Damian and his parents. And when he does figure out what he loves to do, it always seems wrong, or not the right time to pursue, or simply not a priority.

While this was labeled as a romance comedy, they did introduce all these issues into the relationship. At one point, Jerry leaves Damian because he feels devalued and unimportant. Those issues are never really addressed with any type of depth, understanding, or impact. This series is much deeper in nature than what is presented, but treated with hollowness.

So many of the characters are portrayed like cliché caricatures, except one. And he really shines in this series. Peter Kuan as Kao is simply brilliant in this series. He shows more by not saying than saying. His facial expressions, the depth of his feelings when looking at Jerry; his gentleness and softness in tone and behavior not only shows a deep love for Jerry but also a complete acceptance of his nature. His mannerisms are overflowing with regret and sadness at not pursuing his love when he had the chance. All he can do now is wallow away, putting up a front of being his friend while maintaining an unrequited love. His performance is one of subtlety and hidden behavior that goes beyond simply being a good friend. He telegraphs his feelings for Jerry not just by demeanor but by hidden language evident to both Jerry and Damian. One of the most affective depictions of a former love interest who maintains his love but would never display it outwardly or be the root of a breakup.

I do not want to diminish the acting skills of Chiu Mu Han as Jerry. His forlorn look and the underlying feeling that whatever he does is never good enough, take a toll on him. He quietly portrays being a victim without ever displaying externally that he is, only internally. He is so giving and caring that he forgets to take care of his own needs.

There is an odd but impactful sub-story affecting Damien and Jerry’s Lesbian friends. They too have a son close to Kai’s age. Apparently, he heard his parents talking, and they mentioned they wished they could have a girl. Impressionably, he internalizes that and now wants to dress and be a girl. Not wanting to stifle his creativity or create more issues later, they allow him to dress as he pleases. While it is a cute story, it is such a complex labyrinth that this format and limited exposure do not do it much justice. The handling of this seemed like everything from a laisse faire attitude to simply exposing him to more males and male identity activities. There is one right answer, of course, but there could be consequential wrong paths. It is a unique storyline and one that needed extensive explorations rather than a passing glance.

Admittedly, this series presents gay relationship in a positive light and does show that even ardent doubters (i.e., Jerry’s parents) can grow to understand. But the deeply intensive emotions of the two main characters were just not explored sufficiently enough to give me a sense that this relationship, now marriage, will be fulfilling. While this series is entertaining for sure, I felt a modicum of anxiety that so many real feelings were left unresolved, and a manufactured happy ending might not be enough for contentment. I wanted it to be either a fairytale fantasy or a realization that while they love each other deeply, that maybe, just maybe, the schism between them was too great to bridge. I wanted – trueness.

Rating- 3 out of 5

Streaming on- Gagaoolala


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