New drama time! I’ve decided to try recapping a currently airing drama while I watch, just because that’s a bit easier to keep up with. I picked The Endless Love/The Journey from Tonight is White (路从今夜白), an idol drama focusing on a talented art student with PTSD, and the girl who helps him overcome it. The drama is an adaptation of a novel with the same name by Mo Wu Bi Ge (墨舞碧歌). I mainly chose it because it’s one of the shorter shows that’s currently airing at 32 episodes. For the most part, I like what I’ve seen so far. The first episode is a lot of story set-up, but it’s very pretty and has a lot of promising elements, such as a college setting, strong friendships, and a female lead who has yet to get on my nerves.
Gu Ye Bai (Chen Ruo Xuan) peacefully rides his bike along a winding, scenic road. He rounds a corner and crashes into a red car. He gets knocked off his bike, but doesn’t seem injured, though he is very disoriented and something goes wrong with his vision.
Flash to a dream-like sequence in which Ye Bai attends a grand ceremony for an international arts award. He sees a woman in the crowd and the smile at each other, but then she turns and leaves. He tries to follow, but is held back by the crowd waiting to see his painting. The painting turns into a blank canvas, and the angry ceremony attendees suddenly don black and white masks and start jeering at him.
Ye Bai jolts awake in the present, where he is in the middle of a session with a psychologist, Dr. Liu, (Li Ruo Jia from Stand by Me in a cameo!) a month after the accident. It turns out that he has had a relapse of color blindness. She diagnoses him with PTSD, saying that the situation in he was in–rain, a car accident, a red car–must have reminded him of the traumatic event in his past from eleven years ago, which is why his color blindness has returned. He flashes through images of a different accident: rain, a red car, a shattered window.
In the past month, he’s done everything he could to try to get better. He spent his time on an island, tried to avoid cars, and tried to let his body recover. He doesn’t understand why it’s not working. His psychologist tells him that he just needs to let himself relax. She asks him to stop participating in high-stakes art competitions and focus on healing. She tries to be encouraging, saying that it’s a good sign that he can still see blurry hints of colors sometimes. But Ye Bai won’t listen: as an artist, he needs to be able to paint and see color every day. Moreover, he feels like he’s running out of time, and that this is his “last chance.”
We switch scenes to a fancy gala event celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Yi Xin Art Gallery. Zhou Huai An (Luo Yu Tong) texts Ye Bai, asking him when he’s free. She chats with Wei Zi Jian (Miles Wei aka Wei Zhe Ming), who is the token young artist at the event, complimenting him on the awards he’s won recently. He seems uncomfortable at the event, and doesn’t like the older art crowd, such as those milling around Teacher Xu, an older artist of some renown, who has long been a featured artist at the gallery. The gallery’s chairman chats with Teacher Xu, saying how he’s so pleased that they will be renewing their contract with him, while others compliment his artistic skill.
But things do not go according to plan. Teacher Xu starts off his speech at the event by expressing his gratitude that Yi Xin gave him a space to exhibit his works ten years ago, but continues to say that times have changed, the market has changed, art styles have changed, and that he will not be renewing his contract with Yi Xin.
Huai An is the managing director of the gallery and takes the stage to say a few words, most of which passive aggressively attack Teacher Xu. She agrees with him: times are changing, and his time is past. There is a new generation of young artists who are not as rigid in their ways and in fact, they have already identified a new artistic genius, a student at the University of Nottingham (Ningbo), who will be the face of their gallery. The press speculate that it’s Wei Zi Jian, since he is also a student there, but she says it’s not him and refuses to say more, which makes Zi Jian look a bit disgruntled.
Teacher Xu obviously seems a bit offended that Huai An has found a young artist who is possible better than him, and says that an artist should be judged by his works, not words. Huai An doesn’t have a painting to show, but she mentions that this young artist is a finalist for the top prize at the 45th International Young Artists competition.
Meanwhile, Ye Bai is painting by the shore at some sort of resort town. He’s frustrated by his inability to see color and remembers his psychologist saying that the more he pushes himself, the slower he’ll heal. But then he also recalls her saying that perhaps different scenery would help him see color better, so he heads to the beach for a change of scenery.
Lu You Yan (An Yue Xi) is also taking a stroll along the beach when she notices a woman wading into the water in a seemingly suicidal way. She yells at the woman to not jump, and runs in after her, which draws Ye Bai’s attention. Unfortunately, she’s not a very strong swimmer and is unable to bring the woman back. Instead, she starts drowning. Ye Bai runs into the water after her and brings her back to shore, then goes in after the other woman. Wanting to help, You Yan grabs the nearest flotation device she can find–which happens to be Ye Bai’s canvas–and runs into the water with it.
The ordeal ruins Ye Bai’s painting, which makes him extremely upset with You Yan, since this was his “last chance” and all he needed was a little more color to finish it. “This painting can’t be worth more than a person’s life, can it?” You Yan asks, trying to explain that it was the only thing in sight and the woman’s life was at risk. Ye Bai drops the painting and slowly walks away, saying, “It’s over…”
Huai An meets with her uncle, the gallery’s chairman, who reprimands her for her actions at the ceremony. He tells her that she’s still too young and doesn’t understand what’s going on. Xu left the art gallery because a bigger gallery lured him away with a more lucrative contract. Yi Xin isn’t doing so well financially and couldn’t afford to keep him. They’ve reached the point where they can’t be picky about their artists: the gallery is now the one trying to appeal to the artists, rather than the other way around. But Huai An has a solution: Gu Ye Bai. If he becomes their featured artist, she is certain that it will help turn the gallery around.
Zi Jian meets with Huai An and asks why he can’t be the new featured artist at Yi Xin. She explains that there are two kinds of talented people. There are people like him: everyone knows he’s talented and he will be able to succeed without the gallery. And then there are people like her mysterious artistic genius, who don’t reveal their talent to the world and keep it a secret. Zi Jian absorbs this, then asks Huai An to give him a chance. She looks troubled, and he persists by saying he has always wanted to be a signed artist with Yi Xin, and that he’ll show her he’s more talented than her secret artist.
The next morning, You Yan has taken it upon herself to fix the painting she ruined. She’s clearly beloved by the children at the resort, who circle around her and won’t let her leave when her cousin, Chi Pu (Zhang Jun Ran), comes to fetch her. Meanwhile, Ye Bai wakes up after dreaming that he joyfully tore apart his painting. He calls Dr. Liu to report that he can’t see any colors at all anymore, and that his dream is over. He then drafts an email to the International Young Artists award committee to withdraw from the contest, but doesn’t seem able to send it.
When he returns to his room, he finds his ruined painting waiting for him outside, with a note from You Yan saying that she’s no artist, but she really admires the people who are, and that she loves seeing the colors in the world around her, so she added a bit of her own world vision to the painting and gave it some color. He unveils the painting and suddenly… he can see color!
He starts looking for her, but gets sidetracked by a call from Professor Xia. His professor asks him what he’s doing–the final project is due soon, and it’s fine if Ye Bai doesn’t want his diploma, but what about the classmate he’s collaborating with? Ye Bai apologizes and promises to return as soon as possible, then runs off again.
Unfortunately, Ye Bai doesn’t see You Yan her until she’s gotten onto a bus and it starts driving away. He chases after it, yelling to try to get her attention, but obviously she doesn’t notice and he gives up.
That night, he sits outside and looks at an old article about a Chinese student winning the top International Young Artists award. Attached to the article is a picture of the girl from his dream. He thinks to himself that hope is fleeting and short-lived.
Ye Bai has another appointment with Dr. Liu, who asks if he’s sure his color vision’s brief recovery is because of “her”. He says he’s not sure, but says that the night after meeting her was the first time since his color blindness returned that he hasn’t had a nightmare, and he could see the color in her painting. He asks her if she knows why, and she offers up several possible explanations. Perhaps this painting was a burden on him, and its destruction allowed him to mentally free himself from his self-imposed shackles. His color vision might return upon encountering a certain trigger, but since he’s not sure of what it is, perhaps he should try finding that girl again.
Ye Bai thinks back on Dr. Liu’s words as he arrives back at the University of Nottingham. His color vision hasn’t fully returned, and he has no idea who that girl was, so what is he supposed to do? He leaves the school gates just in time to miss You Yan’s arrival.
You Yan’s cousin, Chi Pu, talks to a doctor about You Yan’s illness (uh oh!) The doctor says that even though they’ve defeated the disease for now, it’s only lying dormant and may come back later. Chi Pu responds saying that his biggest concern right now is that You Yan be able to make up for lost time and experience some of the happiness that she missed out on after getting sick.
You Yan is glad to be back on campus after months away, and exclaims, “This time, I will make sure to enjoy life!” She has a happy reunion with her roommate and best friend, Shan Shan (Wang Ling Yu). Shan Shan knows about You Yan’s illness and has appointed herself You Yan’s caretaker. They joke about getting You Yan a collar and leash, and at that moment, a gust of wind takes You Yan’s hat off her head and into Ye Bai’s face. You Yan runs over to apologize and get her hat back, and immediately recognizes Ye Bai. She asks him if he’s a student at Nottingham and if he saw her gift. He tries to ask her something, but is too stunned by her appearance and the return of his color vision to frame his words properly, and she gets called away by her friend. He quickly snaps some photos of her on his phone as she runs away.
You Yan and Shan Shan go to their dorm room, where we meet their third roommate, Xiao Cong, who is known for being a bookworm. Xiao Cong gives You Yan a return gift–she compiled all the notes that You Yan missed during her time off. You Yan notices Xiao Cong prepping a meal of plain white rice and chili paste and tries to get her to go out for a meal with them, but Xiao Cong is too busy studying and leaves.
Shan Shan takes her caretaker position very seriously and wraps You Yan in a blanket when she starts sneezing. She tells You Yan that she has to take care of herself and can’t be as free as she used to be. She can’t do things like jump into the ocean to save people. You Yan nods obediently, but clearly doesn’t plan on changing the way she lives her life.
Ye Bai’s roommate Lin Zi Yan catches him staring at pictures of You Yan on his phone and reading her letter and starts making fun of him. But Lin Zi Yan has missed Ye Bai this past month–this is the partner that Ye Bai has abandoned–and starts updating him on everything he’s missed: mainly complaints about an unfair Professor Lin who dotes on Wei Zi Jian. Lin Zi Yan thinks that Ye Bai is way more talented than Wei Zi Jian. Sure, they don’t always turn in their homework, but who else can get into Primary Colors?
Zi Jian is busy trying to figure out who Ye Bai is. At the International Young Artists contest, he only went by the pen name “Lin.” His friend, Long Li (Li Bing Hui), tries to get him to play basketball with them, but he’s too preoccupied.
He goes in to meet with Professor Lin, the one who favors him, and asks to see the class’s past homework submissions, claiming that he wants to learn from his peers. Professor Lin compliments his diligence, and says that he was the one who did the best on the assignment, while Zi Jian browses through the paintings and looks at all the names on the backs.
Shan Shan is busy trying to organize a mentorship event in which alumni return to share their wisdom with seniors at the university. You Yan watches her and laments that she’s never had the chance to attend an event like that. Shan Shan asks her if she’s really interested in it — she probably has the power to get her in.
Ye Bai paints by the riverside. He has his You Yan-touched painting with him, perhaps in the hopes that it’ll return his color vision, but he’s still frustratingly color-blind. He starts trying to visualize in his mind the order the colors are arranged on the palette, and wonders what’s so special about You Yan’s world view that it gave him back his color vision. He looks up, and the world bursts back into color when he catches sight of You Yan and Shan Shan taking a walk.
I’m not quite on the edge of my seat with this episode, but I believe this show airs two episodes a night, Monday through Thursday, so perhaps the second episode will contain more plot to keep the audiences coming back.
The opening sequence of the show is very colorful and pretty, which immediately made a good impression on me. That carried through the rest of the episode too. The scenery is beautiful, the people are beautiful, the sets are visually pleasing, with a lot of white/light colored backgrounds and some statement colors that just pop out, and the whole drama is shot with high-key lighting.
I think the premise of the show has promise–an artist who can no longer see color, but this girl brings color into his world–but Chen Ruo Xuan has a lot of work to do before I will begin to be convinced by his character. I thought he had the stiffest acting of the cast so far, and was not convinced by his portrayal of Ye Bai’s suffering. It might also be because of the voice dubbing (I really dislike dubbing in Chinese dramas, but alas, very few dramas use original sound), but I feel like the background music did a lot more in conveying Ye Bai’s struggles than the actual acting itself. I don’t sympathize with Ye Bai at all right now, and I’m hoping that will change, because it seems like his story is the central plot of the drama.
I wonder who Ye Bai’s mysterious woman is. She seems too old to be a former girlfriend or childhood love (she’s 25 in the old article that he keeps with him). I’m thinking she’s probably an older sister or mother who clearly isn’t around anymore, and is perhaps tied to his traumatic memory from eleven years ago.
I like You Yuan as a character so far. She’s supposed to be this upbeat, cheerful girl who is hard to dislike, and I’m glad that she hasn’t shown any annoying tendencies so far, so it’s easy to like her. An Yue Xi’s facial structure (and her hair in this show) remind me a lot of Zheng Shuang, but I feel like her expressions seem more genuine and natural than Zheng Shuang’s were in Love O2O (their characters in these two dramas are very similar.)
I am a bit apprehensive, because even though the drama seems very light so far, I think there are hints at angst to come. There’s that scene in which You Yuan’s brother speaks to her doctor about her illness, which, it seems, has kept her out of school for a while. That plot point is sure to come back soon. And of course, our main male protagonist is just full of angst, right now, and in his past, with the traumatic event that happened 11 years ago that his psychologist mentioned. (Perhaps a car accident in which he lost his family? That seems like a common trope.)
Right now, the well-produced feel and appealing visuals are keeping me watching, but let’s hope that this drama shows some more substance to really keep me interested.