When his girlfriend is killed in action, Fang Han (Qin Jun Jie) decides to take over her unfinished mission and takes on the name of Fang Mo to go undercover in a drug-trafficking ring.
This show puzzles me. I’d heard so much good about it—how realistic it was, how competent the protagonist is, what an incredible bromance it held, so I went in with high hopes, but while this was an easy watch, Never Say Never just… didn’t work for me. I wasn’t bored, but I wasn’t excited either. There was no spark at all, and all it inspired in me was apathy and a vague sense of bitterness. So, what happened?
My troubles started when the bromance everyone seems to be so in love with simply didn’t happen. Or, more accurately, it remained one-sided throughout the entire show. While Gu Tao was so sincere in his affection for Fang Mo that it almost hurt, risking life and limb to save him when he got in trouble and vouching for him over and over again, not once did Fang Mo seem conflicted about his duty to bring him to justice. Especially knowing that the scope of his crimes was guaranteed to get Gu Tao a death sentence should the mission succeed.
Additionally, Fang Mo and Gu Tao’s bonding scenes remained, in the end, quite limited. I understand that this show was more oriented towards action (although that, too, is debatable), but we hardly see the two of them just enjoying each other’s company. Right now, off the top of my head, I can only think of one such scene. One over the course of 42 episodes…
Finally, I have a huge issue with the way bromance-establishing scenes were shot. Never Say Never has Gu Tao coming to Fang Mo’s rescue on several occasions, but these scenes remain mostly cold and impersonal through sheer bad directing. I’m not too sure if it will make any sense, but I will try to explain what I mean anyway. There are two specific occasions on which Gu Tao finds Fang Mo on the edge of death, but instead of showing his reaction, of having him rush over to him, call out to him, check him for injuries, gently move him to safety on screen, the camera cuts to another character, or to the next scene altogether, meaning there is no emotional impact to these instances at all.
Which brings me to my next issue: I found myself completely incapable of connecting with the protagonist, Fang Han, aka Fang Mo. The guy was completely emotionless most of the time, and showed very little attachment to anybody. He showed not a hint of being conflicted about his mission—which is kinda what I look for when I go for an undercover bromance show. Make no mistake, it’s not that obvious: I only realized this later on, when he did show more emotion.
On top of that, while he’s presented as very competent in the first half of the show, a midway-reveal undermines all of his efforts and credibility.
This is not to say that Qin Jun Jie is a bad actor, quite the opposite. On the few occasions that he was allowed emotions, he was extremely good at it.
Another thing that bothered me was that for a show that was praised for being realistic, Never Say Never sure presented some very odd choices on the characters’ part. Like deciding to send undercover the only two people who’ve come face-to-face in an official capacity with a guy they hope to catch. Or a guy being with a girl for seven years, and her parents never even mentioning him when she dies, even though she clearly had a good relationship with them. I mean, I can understand keeping a new relationship quiet, but seven years? There’s no way her parents wouldn’t know him, or at the very least, of him.
I was also very disappointed by the lack of tension in the show, insofar as I expected to feel Fang Mo’s relief when he got away from the constant pressure of an undercover mission, but he never showed any such thing. So if the protagonist isn’t feeling pressured, then why should I? To me, that’s a bit of a problem for a suspense drama…
All in All…
Never Say Never was an easy watch, but a disappointing one. While I never got bored (although I confess I skipped a lot of the drug lords’ business talk) and there were some nice visuals here and there, I couldn’t connect to the characters and didn’t get very invested in the story. The characters I did end up liking a bit more were all criminals and murderers, and if there’s one thing I did appreciate about this show, it’s that it really humanized the villains. But it overall felt cold and distant, and I’ll probably forget it soon enough.
Title: Never Say Never
Aired: 08/21/2019 to 09/18/2019
Starring: Qin Jun Jie, Xue Hao Wen, Yin Chi Wai, Sun Yi
Number of episodes: 42
Genres: Action & Adventure, Thriller, Suspense, Crime
My Grade: ★★★☆☆