If lockdown has proven anything, it’s that yes, you really can finish Netflix. The English side of it, that is. It was with great trepidation that I, tired of rewatching old American sitcoms with annoying and noisy laugh tracks, decided to dip my toes in the massive pool of Chinese language content the streaming service offers – and I was not disappointed. Having never watched Chinese television before, I wasn’t sure how to choose my first one, and so I played a little game of eeny-meeny-miney-mo and, praise the gods that be, I landed on Netflix’s Meteor Garden ( or 流星花园). A whopping 49 episodes later, I have zero regrets.
If you’ve watched other Asian drama’s you’ll be familiar with the pattern Meteor Garden Follows (in fact, the story was based on a Japanese comic). If not, here’s how they go: bad boy and nice girl meet and instantly become rivals. Then, through a series of complicated misunderstandings and ridiculous coincidences, they catch feelings for each other. Not that they’d ever admit it to each other. Their lack of real communication is basically an entire central character that drives the plot. In this particular case, our frustrating focal couple is the wealthy and spoilt Daoming Si (played by Dylan Wang) and the defiant but quite cute Dong Shancai (played by Shen Yue). They’re surrounded by their adorable friends who, for some reason don’t often have anything better to do than to try and steer their relationship in the right direction. Coincidentally all the characters have great and extensive sweater collections because apparently it’s always winter in Shanghai.
Despite the fact that every event in Meteor Garden feels either extremely predictable while simultaneously absurdly unlikely, every episode will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. You’ll want to throw something at Shancai and Si, while at the same time rooting for them to be together. Really, I’ve never encountered something that I loved so much, which also had the power to make me roll my eyes so hard it hurt. Fortunately, from time to time the plot diverges and gives viewers another couple on the periphery to ship (and presumably to fill up all those 49 episodes). It’s a much-needed break from the absurdity of Si and Shancai’s weirdly adorably dysfunction.
It’s a heartwarming story with some great characters and a soundtrack that will be stuck in your head for weeks after (even if you can’t understand the words) – largely because they use the same handful of tracks in every single episode (many of which are actually performed by the show’s actors!). It’s a blessing and a curse. For those who are more visually inclined, the camera work is lovely, and matches the style that can be seen in many of the similar shows Netflix offers. Needless to say everyone on the cast is gorgeous so there’s that too.
I originally started watching Netflix’s Meteor Garden as a way to practice listening to spoken Chinese and (maybe) start learning the language. Little did I know, when I played that first episode, that I’d become so invested in the story that I’d be bashing that “play next episode” button every 50 minutes, with my study notes somewhere on the floor, long forgotten.
They’re lengthy episodes – and not to harp on about it but there are 49 of them! in one season! – but it was so worth the time. Except for the final episode, that one was pure trash. You’re better off skipping it and just imagining the end for yourself unless you want to spend forty minutes watching season flashbacks. But other than that, if you’re looking to broaden your Netflix horizons (and perhaps start learning Mandarin with me?) give Meteor Garden a try. At the very least you’ll come out on the other side owning a lot more sweaters.
Essential Millennial Rating: 3.5 out of 5 avocados