Review: Brother’s Keeper II (TVB, 2016)

Brother’s Keeper II (巨輪II)

Genre: Modern Drama
Length: 39 episodes
Producer: Amy Wong

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Cast

Edwin Siu as Lo Wai Son
Kristal Tin as Yiu Man Ying
Hugo Ng as Ko Tin Tsau
Jade Leung as Shum Mei Wah
Louis Yuen as Lung Fei
Grace Chan as Ko Yee Na aka Nana
Steven Cheung as Ko Sing Pak aka Piscine
Ali Lee as Chung Wing aka Ah Wing
Matt Yeung as Luck

and Leanne Li, Ruco Chan, Linda Chung, Tsui Wing, etc.

The Review

Some people have higher expectations for a sequel due to the success of the previous installment, but quite the contrary my reaction to Brother’s Keeper had always been bipolar, leaning towards the “all this drama isn’t really my type of series.” No doubt, I was still curious about the sequel because of Edwin and Kristal’s memorable partnership. Names like Hugo and Jade that don’t appear in TVB series as often also caught my eye. For something that sells itself as sequel and grand production, the writing is pointless, unfocused, and lazy.

Unfortunately, despite all this, Brother’s Keeper II was a complete flop both in quantifiable ratings and in fan sentiments.

The best week in ratings averaged about 25 points. On it’s worst weeks, it went as below as 21 points. Most viewers claim that the series is boring and I can see some truth in that having watched all 39 episodes. To give the series an additional 9 episodes boost was definitely an unnecessary overload. Not only did the story’s momentum peak and then went downhill, but character development was non-existent and there were several illogical inconsistencies that made me just blank out.

Even the series best moments in blissful Okiniwa, Japan was like a traveling variety show that appeared to be completely separate from the reality of what’s happening in Hong Kong and Macau.

The series lost momentum once all the main characters appeared and interacted after episode 18. Not only until episode 33 when Jade learns of Hugo lusting after their ‘adopted’ daughter and plots to run away from his influence does the series really pick up. Subplots like building up Louis’s credibility as an excellent and caring husband and loyal business partner for a climatic moment when his plane crashes in the Philippines was pointless and boring. When Grace suddenly returns to Okiniwa to escape Hugo the series begin to lose focus and momentum.

How can a leading character not be present for about 10 episodes? Long distance doesn’t work. Not even in dramas.

A boring and pointless story aside, Edwin and Kristal’s chemistry remains strong, but neither does it evolve or becomes challenge until the last 2 episodes. Kristal remains the same “bossy Ying” and Edwin’s right-hand woman with a bit more restraint that comes with her professional image. Edwin finally “grew up” when he started “crossing boundaries” and taking risks like his brother. Kristal is right, “the world hasn’t changed, but he has.” Still, for a leading character, Edwin’s growth is unfocused and half-assed.

He was embarrassed by Tsui Wing in the earlier episodes only to do everything to make sure the man wakes up alas. He broke down in anger and moral contemplation and escaped to Okiniwa to find himself again only to side with him at the end? No second thoughts, no hard feelings, lets dive in and do whatever it takes to bring down Hugo. I know he saw Hugo as a bigger threat, but if that’s a good reason to side with Tsui Wing without second thought, he doesn’t have much principles either. His love for Grace is probably deeper than his need to follow his principles then.

Edwin’s ending was anti-climatic and his new self was not thoroughly explored. Was Kristal’s accusations about his change of principles true? After all Tsui Wing survived, but was that an acceptable excuse for putting his life at risk? I realized that I didn’t really care and if you had a good impression of Edwin from the prequel, it’s best if you didn’t watch this sequel.

I loved Grace’s free spirited-ism on paper and the adventures she had with Edwin in Okiniwa. She was brave, independent, and most importantly, had her own way of thinking — surprised that these are the same reasons Edwin loves her for? I was even okay with her typical daddy’s girl act when she returned to HK. When she finally ran away to Okiniwa again is when her original character went off track.

Suddenly, her leg disease made her a victim. She was scared, not of her disease, but of her father. I would expect that from the average girl, but not from her. At least, not the way her character was portrayed in the first half. Even worse, instead of finding freedom in Okiniwa, the place served as her safety zone. Beyond this point, she only continues to act like a weakling and victim to Hugo’s influence and pressure. Her westernized and daring character had potential initially, but by the end, I thought it was completely out of tune with the Brother’s theme and vibe.

It’s refreshing to see different faces every now and then and Hugo and Jade’s presence was the only saving grace for their roles as the crazy tycoon villain and his wife who “blindly” (or not) trusted her husband for too many years. Hugo’s Ko Tin Tsau was driven by a boundless appetite for ambition, money, power, and dominance over everyone around him, including his family. Edwin, who bid against him for the same estate was perceived as his enemy for 39 episodes even though their businesses only collide once or twice.

Needless to say, the writers’ of Brother’s love an ambitious alpha archetype who crosses boundaries and likes to own the world. All this eventually leads to their downfall. We had more sympathy for Ruco because aside from being the handsome leading protagonist-turned-tragic-hero, we at least witnessed his growth from being an honorable and smart Inspector to someone who made impulsive and self-perseveration decisions. Hugo didn’t have this to fall back on and while Hugo had a lot to begin with already, but his energy for more is unmatched and unreasonable.

Sometimes I question how someone so crazy like him can make logical business decisions — which is apparent in his gullibility when he thought he was safe to return to Macau for business, but the Macau police was ready to arrest him right then and there.

You can probably tell I’m not a fan of this type of cartoonish, crazy tycoon. It’s too much for my logical mind to digest, not to mention Hugo was a stagnant character. Ruco had his redemption and turned around from being a tragic hero, but Hugo remained the same old.

In my first impressions of Brother’s Keeper II, I really thought the writers will turn Edwin into someone like his brother, but I was wrong. Sure, Edwin has his moments where he questioned the morality of society and people, but those segments were half-assed. He has a successful business that he grew from scratch, but he was never the ‘ambitious’ type per say. He was still the ‘family man’ type. His primary motivation to take down Hugo was because of Grace and not to make a name for himself or his business. By the end, I found more similarities between Ruco and Hugo than Ruco and Edwin. If Edwin was anything like his brother, he finally understood why Ruco crossed boundaries in order to get shit done. Haha.

Again, I liked Jade’s character on paper, but at the end, she amounted to nothing more than what a typical mother would do for their children. Because Grace isn’t her biological offspring, even more points for that. I really questioned Jade’s character because she was always aware of Hugo’s use of “black money” and his underhand tactics to get what he wants, but she was completely fine with it. That is, until she realized he didn’t “love” her as much as he thought. I suppose that excuse to leave him was weak. Jade doesn’t appear to be a weak woman as she helps Hugo in many aspects of his business. How is it that Jade’s intuition never told her that her husband has a greater desire to dominate and win than to love?

Supporting characters like Louis and Matt also had their fair share of screen time. Louis was never much of a significant character in Brother’s Keeper and I pretty much scorned at the idea of his aviation accident storyline before it even happened. You can tell that the writers tried hard to portray him as a good business partner and an even better family-oriented man. The plot would’ve propelled further if Kristal accepted Louis’s death as is and had something with Matt, who was always by her side during this difficult time. But no, Matt gave up when rumors between him and Kristal started, left the company, and started his own restaurant. How lame.

Now if there was one character that deserved my respect, it was probably Matt. He was introduced as Ruco’s prison friend and Tsui Wing’s former subordinate. The man has grit like Ruco, loyalty like Kristal, and knows his place and when to be satisfied unlike Raymond. Though it’s questionable if it was smart decision for him to take the blame for Edwin in forging Tsui Wing’s signature, but it’s also that very act that shows that Edwin can inspire loyalty and Matt knows what gratitude means.

Overall Evaluation

For the most part, I don’t think the writers of Brother’s Keeper II knew what they really wanted for the plot and story. There isn’t consistency nor purpose in the end product.There were several random moments that happened out of nowhere. Why did Jade suddenly not trust her husband and have spies to watch out for him? This lead to a break and ice that build in up their marriage, leading Steven to call Grace to come back to repair the family break. When Grace came back, she felt completely fine and comfortable in Hugo’s presence, acting like daddy’s girl. Suddenly, out of nowhere her suppressed memories of Hugo lusting after all came back and she decided to runaway, which eventually activated his anger and need to control again.

The Brother’s Keeper series was never really my type of series, but the sequel did arouse curiosity in me as someone who wrote reviews. To be entirely fair, I liked the first 18 episodes enough, but you can skip episodes 19-32 and still not miss a lot. The final action and adrenaline rush of Hugo’s downfall doesn’t start until episode 33. For the filler episodes, you can totally multi-task and not miss the main points.

The Verdict

Forty episodes is a long way to go. I can’t blame you if you are on the verge of wanting to skip this. Ratings for a grand production that averaged below 23 points is almost a joke.

My rating for this series wouldn’t be so low if this wasn’t a grand production with 39 episodes.