Chinese Dramas, Drama Reviews

Drama Review: Fifteen Years Waiting for Migratory Birds (十五年等待候鸟)

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(Thanks Baidu for this cheerful picture of our main and secondary couple)

Oops, I binge-watched another drama.

I was a bit skeptical when I started watching Fifteen Years Waiting for Migratory Birds (wow, what a mouthful, I’ll just call it Fifteen Years from here on out), since the acting seemed a bit forced and the present-day drama that you’re thrown into seems so melodramatic. But after giving the show some more episodes to redeem itself, it slowly grew on me and made me care for all its characters and relationships. Ultimately, Fifteen Years is a very well-done drama with a very youthful vibe that does a great job of showing the pains and joys of friendships and relationships as they change across the years. It’s not quite the light-hearted high school drama it appears to be from the posters, and would have been really great if not for the cop-out of an ending.

Fifteen Years does a great job of plotting and pacing–something I can’t say for a lot of dramas that I’ve watched–and also does a great job of focusing on our main characters and really fleshing out their personalities, growth, and relationships in a realistic, slice-of-life way. I loved seeing the changes and phases that they go through, and the subtle parallels in how our main and secondary couple are foils for each other. Nothing in the drama really comes as a surprise (unlike The Way We Were, which I am still bitter about) since there is a ton of foreshadowing, but seeing as the drama starts with the ending, the whole point is experiencing the journey and seeing the history behind the initial drama.

Sun Yi does a fabulous job of portraying our main girl Li Li. Throughout the course of the show, she never annoyed me, which is also something that is pretty rare to see in a drama. Li Li is a nuanced character, strong and independent, but also vulnerable. Since this is a romance drama, she obviously does a lot of following a guy around, but manages to be a stellar student and eventually have a successful career despite pining after a guy. So kudos to her. (Also, she looks a lot like an older Kim Yoo Jung from certain angles.)

Sun Yi also has some sweet chemistry and bantering with our lead male Pei Shang Xuan (portrayed by Zhang Ruo Yun.) Shang Xuan is a decent enough guy and I never really had any qualms with his character or portrayal, but I ended up rooting more for second lead Liu Qian Ren (Deng Lun).

In the beginning, Qian Ren is a total dick, and if there’s one thing Fifteen Years did well, it was that it made me actually grow to like Qian Ren. He has a great redemptive arc (in which he learns how to not be a dick), and after his initial rebellious phase, becomes this complete nice guy who doesn’t really ask for anything in return. I feel bad for him because he essentially unintentionally guilt-trips Li Li into marrying him. And I was very disappointed that he, like so many other second leads, gets zero resolution in the end.

Speaking of the ending, that was the one thing that bumped down my opinion of the show, not because it was sad or tragic, but because it was such a cop-out of an ending. The last episode is 95% flashbacks that summarize the whole show. What a non-ending. I suppose there is no “good” way to end it, since they couldn’t really kill her off immediately, nor could they create some fairytale, rainbow and sunshine ending, but I would rather have that than a final episode that I skipped through because it actually brought nothing to the table. It was like the writers ran out of story an episode early and had to throw in a 50-minute long flashback. I am pretty disappointed that the drama ended this way; it creates a low point for a drama I would have otherwise called “pretty good.”

1 thought on “Drama Review: Fifteen Years Waiting for Migratory Birds (十五年等待候鸟)”

  1. I am watching this right now and enjoy it a lot but there is something I don’t understand. I am up to episode 8 and already know the ending.

    Did Qian Ren actually sleep with Li Li that night she was drunk? It appears so to me but then Li Li didn’t really react much to it besides walking away from Peng Xuan so I am confused. Thoughts?

    If he really did take advantage of her I am super disappointed in him.

    Like

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