de goxia, março 25, 2023
125

Introduction

Being a fan of Chinese dramas can be challenging because of many reasons, such as unpredictable release schedules, censorship, shelving productions for years, canceled projects - just to name a few. In this article I want to discuss yet another hurdle C-dramaland sometimes makes us jump over: leaving the viewer with an unfinished storyline and an uncertain future regarding the possible continuation of the drama. Unfortunately, “season 2” often becomes an almost mythical concept for the fans of certain dramas. 

It begs the question: does it ever make sense to watch over twenty or even forty episodes only to be left with a cliffhanger or a more-or-less shoe-horned plot twist at the end that clearly hints at a second season, which may never even be produced? I have seen many people asking the question: is the story complete? before they start watching a drama, as well as subsequent comments: I’ll wait till the next season is out and/or till the story is finished

My opinion on this matter is: even though the ending may be missing, give such dramas a chance! Why? I’ll explain in the paragraphs below - from my own experience of watching dramas which suffer from various levels of the condition described above.

(All spoilers are hidden, but the sole mentions of certain dramas in this article suggest what type of ending is to be expected from them.)

It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

This famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson actually sums up my feelings about the unfinished dramas: even though we have to say goodbye to the characters in the middle of their stories, we still got to spend a considerable amount of time with them, laughing and crying with them, observing their adventures, watching them grow and change - and isn’t that one of the main reasons we watch dramas for? 

I have never regretted going through 58 episodes of Princess Agents, even though the last episode has left me hanging. I loved watching the truly intelligent and strong female lead getting more and more life experiences and skills, as well as inner and outer strength, fighting for her freedom and the safety of the people she cares about; the male lead having to re-evaluate his life principles and decide which one to follow - the logic or his heart; the other male lead slowly losing himself and his allies in his obsession with bloody revenge. The character development is definitely what makes this drama stand out for me!

Smart and strong characters who make their own destiny!

What is funny and/or frustrating - in my opinion, the story in Princess Agents could be quite satisfactorily tied up with only one more episode (which we will most probably never see, due to copyright problems with the source material). However, there are also dramas which show us clearly only a half of the planned story, such as Joy of Life and Douluo Continent. There is still hope for both these dramas having their second parts made, but even if their productions are called off, I will still consider the released episodes worth watching - again, for the characters and their journeys of becoming more skilled, more mature and experienced versions of themselves, while having fun, adventures, heartbreaks, and amazing martial arts displays. :)

...and magic!

Lack of an ending makes you keep thinking about the drama.

Again, this is my opinion - but from all the dramas that I’ve watched, I tend to remember the ones with an open ending or a cliffhanger the most! What is more, I keep thinking about what could happen to the characters after that last scene; so, if you are a person who likes making up their own stories, dramas without a fixed ending are a great playground for your imagination! Also, how many instances of a drama with a “proper” yet entirely not satisfactory ending have you been through? Sometimes we wish we had simply not watched the last episode, which took the story in the direction we did not approve. So, is it really that bad having to figure out the ending by yourself, according to your own tastes?

...we're asking you politely :)

There are various ways to alleviate the cliffhanger-induced pain.

After experiencing the natural initial frustration that always comes with a cliffhanger at the end of the story, you can try out quite a few ways of dealing with it! Imagining your own version of the subsequent events is one; if you’re not a storymaker yourself, you can read what other people think - there are often fanfictions or discussions on forums to be found.

Another thing is that Chinese dramas are often based on existing novels, so you can simply check out the source material! Granted, there will probably be differences between the original story and the drama adaptation, but it is still something worth doing if you want to know the direction the story was supposed to go in. If the original material is not available, there are often other forms of it's adaptation, such as comics or animated series. For example: Joy of Life is based on a novel, Douluo Continent is also based on a novel and has a donghua (animation) adaptation. 

Another way of watching unfinished dramas is… knowing when to stop watching! Sometimes dramas consist of several story arcs, so if the last one is cut short, you can just save yourself from the pain of being left with a cliffhanger by watching only the complete arcs. An example from my own experience is Detective L - you can avoid most of the frustration of an unfinished story by watching only 21 out of 24 released episodes.

(Digression: The main concept of Detective L is heavily based on the Sherlock Holmes stories, so if you are familiar with them, you can also easily guess what the next scenes in the drama after the cliffhanger should be.)

Can you find the missing ending, detective?

There are quite a few dramas which can be enjoyed almost till the end - the plot is neatly tied up, only the last scene shows some last-minute development or a revelation which suggests the possibility of the second season. But it is rather easy to dismiss these last seconds and just focus on the complete story up to that point. For me that was the case with Miss Truth, Young Blood and Ancient Detective. I wouldn’t miss the enjoyment of the plots and characters of these dramas just because someone decided to open a new story arc in the last minute of the last episode!

Don't think about the last 20 seconds of the last episode. Seriously, don't :)

The last coping mechanism I want to mention is: watching other dramas with the same actors as main leads and thinking of them as alternative reality/reincarnation stories. Obviously, it is not always possible to find such dramas, but it does happen from time to time - it is precisely why Princess Agents fans can’t wait for the upcoming The Legend of Shen Li:)

It's them again! Just look at them!! 

Sometimes miracles do happen…

…and the drama really does get a second part! The joy I felt when Young Blood 2 was announced was immense, because I didn’t believe in the possibility of getting so many actors (the main cast consists of six leads) together again. Will this second part live up to our expectation is another question, though; it may as well turn out that we were better off with just the first part of the story. But until the drama is actually released I remain optimistic and also grateful for the producers who, for once, did want to give us a resolution of the cliffhanger they left us with four years ago.

Sometimes there can be joy in this cruel world :)

Conclusion

I do believe that there is no need to be afraid of dramas with cliffhangers - if that is the only reason why you’re apprehensive of giving the drama a chance. There are various ways of dealing with the frustration caused by an unfinished storyline, and the entertainment from watching some really great characters and plot ideas may eclipse the annoyance at the lack of proper ending if you approach it with an open mindset. 

If you have read this far, thank you! Did I manage to convince you to watch unfinished dramas? Or maybe you’ve never minded watching them in the first place? Are you waiting for any second seasons? Let me know your opinions in the comments!


Edited by: devitto (1st editor)

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