First Impressions: Between Love and Desire (TVB, 2016)

Between Love and Desire (完美叛侶)

Genre: Modern Drama
Length: 20 episodes
Producer: Au Yiu Hing

Cast: Moses Chan, Maggie Shiu, Ben Wong, Roxanne Tong, Eileen Yeow, Rachel Kan, Joey Law

The second series on air that’s part of TVB’s “Amazing Summer” lineup stars big names Moses Chan and Maggie Shiu.

Moses leads the series as an ambitious, brilliant lawyer who adopts a “whatever it takes” attitude to win cases in a cut-throat legal environment. Although Rachel Kan only plays a supporting role as his office rival aiming to take him down at every step of his way, she has already set herself up as a more promising character than female lead Maggie, who plays a mellow and simple-minded wife. Ben, Maggie’s old childhood friend from Indonesia, is a lawyer at another firm who sees a chance to develop something further with Maggie when her marriage is on the verge of collapse.

Because Moses spends most of his time in the office, Maggie quietly consoles herself that she’s still has a happy marriage, but subconsciously wishes that her husband spent more time with the family. Despite being an absent husband, Moses becomes jealous when he’s suspicious of his wife spending time with another man and that man happens to be Ben, whom he engages in a legal battle with in order to prove his dominance over him in their professional lives as well as their personal lives. Like he said, “Anyone who has the ability to make me feel threatened is impressive.” This has set up a love triangle for the episodes to come.

It’s not a real love triangle when Moses doesn’t treasure Maggie and spend most of his time at work, Ben is willing to put in the effort to pursue Maggie, and even Maggie is on the verge of having one foot out the door of their so-called marriage. It’s only a triangle worth exploring and one that makes sense if all parties want to be involved in a relationship for the right reasons. I hope Moses doesn’t try to keep Maggie because he doesn’t want to lose, can’t afford to lose, or for any selfish reason along the wavelength of maintaining a relationship for the wrong reasons. I hope that doesn’t happen, but his ambitious character definitely has the potential for something that rides along that wave. He has had Maggie for many years and for many years, he has been a lukewarm and emotionally unavailable husband.

Since Ben and Maggie were both friends since their Indonesia days, it’ll be interesting to find out why they didn’t get together (fingers crossed it’s not for a silly reason or irresponsible excuse disguised as a preachy sacrifice) before. The bigger mystery is why and how Moses and Maggie even got together because they seem like people from different walks of life with different values and personalities. Perhaps opposites really attract, but I don’t find that happening in my reality because it’s much easier to live and get along with someone who is similar to ourselves. Moses prioritizes career above all else and walks at the beat of his own drum and while it makes sense to find someone who is willing to follow, Maggie doesn’t seem to know what makes her happy. Her willingness and sometimes eagerness to compromise makes me have more compassion than sympathy for her. I’ve always had an issue with relationships where one party blindly sacrifices and quietly suffers without a good reason.

Love and romance-themed series are tricky to pull off and they have never been in TVB’s favor (but this one definitely isn’t romance, but love? Maybe.), but I do like the pacing of this one though for different reasons, unfortunately. I find that the legal and professional side of things has more drive while Moses and Maggie’s marriage is already set up for failure for the simple reason that he doesn’t prioritize family and wife at all. If he choose not to nurture the relationship, the relationship just won’t be there for him. Since the series kicks off with a thriller scene of Moses running after a bruised and broken Maggie who seems to have evidence that may be against his interests, the love triangle may just be the beginning that amounts to greater drama.

If anything makes the series lackluster it’s because Moses and Maggie has co-starred so many times prior. It will take a lot more for their chemistry to find a new high. It’s rare that I like Moses in any role, but it happens that he’s a great casting choice for this and Fashion War. I suppose being a father has indeed brought him some good luck in his career as well. ;)

Still, I cheated a bit and having glanced over the screen shots that were released by TVB, it seems like Moses and Maggie will indeed have their happy ending, and possibly with a third party who isn’t Ben, but their son?

The structure here is similar to a procedural legal drama but unlike it’s predecessors, it spends less time dealing with matters in court. Moses’ finds more leverage in settling matters outside of court as well. In fact, the procedural legal aspect seems to propel the story and brings out the characters’ values and personalities at some point as exemplified by the marital and drug dealing case with June Chan and Tyson Chak.

So far, the series has been suspenseful, especially for something that isn’t a detective show or crime thriller. Enough questions left unanswered to keep you going and a pace that doesn’t focus on small, trivial matters. It’s a little early to call it “amazing”, but between House and Spirits and this, this is the undeniable winner.

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