The Republic (2019) 理想国  : HK-Drama Series Review

Main Poster

A short 13-episode, each episode is an individual story revolving the advances of technology in the near distant future affecting different aspects of society life. The concept of technology encroaching & embedding into our daily life, becoming a change agent along the way, provides many possibilities to story-telling.  

Episode 1 : Another Blissful Week explores the human’s inability to let go of death, whereby their psychological needs are manipulated for profit. The marketing of androids/ robots as replacements for hire to meet the needs push the desperate into significant debt. The constant struggle to face the reality is a difficult cycle to break, especially as the ending re-emphasises the aggressive marketing of the use of such androids.  

Episode 2 : Body Double delves into loneliness and the need for love. High-technology gadget in the form of a pair of spectacles projecting an image on a real person is used to exploit the driver’s obsession with his idol. With his ultimate obsession and reliance on the gadget, he misses out on real potential relationship. A real waste.

Obsession with physical attractions

Episode 3 : Good News Day focuses on a female TV anchor at True News, which explores the theme of veracity in news reporting. True News, true to good sarcasm on use of words, is only reporting part of the “good” news while the other perspectives are totally ignored in an ideal world. The story explores artificial beings (ie the female TV anchor) having clear conscience through learning and wanting to “right” the “wrong”. The ending is quite depressing as it is human being who chooses not to right the wrong, as they opt for a “better” alternative reality. 

Episode 4 : Blissful Taiping Mountain explores the elderly care, which is deemed as economic burden to the society. The technological solution explored is to provide a “peaceful” leaving for these abandoned elders. The ending is a little confusing with the elders trying to leave the home.

Episode 5 : Before Our Spring is a slightly different genre, looking at experience after death. When a music composer commits suicide but is unable to reincarnate unless he reduces his earthly burden, he gets the assistance of a novelist. Although a good story to explore, the story is messy, the actress is terrible and the suicide is actually made a trivial matter. A waste of materials. 

Episode 6 : 1.2m of Us revolves around a gadget which provide physical beauty to its wearer but is required to have a distance of 1.2 metres from any other person. The gadget becomes extremely popular but created a big dilemma for its inventor the aesthetic doctor who craves for physical contact with his long-time girlfriend. The obsession with physical appearances & beauty results in a real physical distance. The ending seems to be hanging although I am really rooting for the doctor with the abused lady who wanted actual cosmetic surgery rather than the new gadget.

Episode 7 : Needling Wound looks at a new drugs which provides temporary amnesia. The abuse of the drugs is imminent with the rampant use in managing daily stress. The key theme explores the daily stress of a couple in the midst of preparing for marriage. The story takes a different turn exposing the couple as trying to forget certain incidents. During confrontation, the couple asks the true reason for being together – is it real love or just being in their comfort zone. The ending shows the wedding going ahead, with 2 vials of the drugs next to the invitation card.

Episode 8 : Robots & The Three Laws uses the background whereby an android becomes slightly paranoid in her reactions towards her owner, the news on television informs that the 5th generation android is affected by virus. When the police arrives to investigate, the tense situation ultimately leads to the ultimate truth. The android reversed the role through admission of drugs to induce temporary amnesia on his owner to protect her depression arising from breaking up with her lover. What is extremely sad is the android chooses to protect his owner, while the owner runs off to escape. The ending emphasizes that the owner still does not learn her lesson, but proceeds to buy a 6th generation robot.

Episode 9 : 8FGF explores dating apps in a hyper-personalised services. The dating counsellor, an artificial being, attaches emotions in helping her socially awkward male client. The key theme seems to be spending more money to get personalised assistance, but the ending implies failure in finding a partner. Worse still, the artificial being is deleted due to its emotional attachment.  

Episode 10 : The Trial explores cyber-bullying & wrath of the netizens in providing internet judgement without any real evidence. A “netizen justice seeker” has the table turned on him when a girl he is investigating dies and the netizens blame him in an accusation of cyber-bullying. Persisting over his innocence, he helps the authority to find the truth in the girl’s accident. The key theme is actually the vast information available in the internet, with the quick judging by netizens. Sifting through the real news lies in the individuals.

Episode 11 : Rosewater starts off with an almost perfect life for a couple – courteous, loving, disciplined, with one small detail that all the citizens drink “rosewater”. The rosewater is presumably laced with drugs to induce delusions. As the male lead awakens from his hallucinations, he is in horror to find his home a mess, his wife serving inedible food, colleagues bickering in office. When he manages to struggle to stop drinking the rosewater, he escapes out to an open-air garden, only to be confronted by another person offering him to drink a water. Escaping one delusion to enter another with hope.

Episode 12 : The Fissure is partly technology, partly unexplainable ghost story. A young editor moves to a new apartment and befriends a young teacher, only to realise she died years back. However, he manages to find the video-camera and exposes her real murderer in an implied time-travel.

Episode 13 : Sonic Jail looks at the imprisoning of prisoners in an extremely small cubicle, with a regimented lifestyle. Punishment is meted via a piercing sound, coupled with the lack of socialisation & regimented lifestyle, the purpose is really to drive the prisoners to insanity. The story ends with the prisoner committing suicide, not before speaking to the next door prisoner who has survived a lot longer mainly due to his lack of want of anything other than the basic need of food & accommodation.

New-style imprisonment

Conclusion 7/10

The sci-fi background is actually very interesting, providing a lot of possibilities to the story-telling. Some episodes are better than others, some themes better brought out. Of the various episodes, my favourites are episode 2, 6 and 11, which is well done on the acting & story-telling part. For these episodes, I thought the key themes are well prescribed & embedded into the plot of the stories well.

Most of the episodes are quite superficial in nature, perhaps due to the short time allocated. Most of the actors & actresses are not familiar faces (at least to me), but thusfar have performed well. The latter episodes are a lot less thought through with details.

The series is quite depressing as there is a lot more negativity embedded with strong messaging such as human are naturally selfish, obsession with physical appearances & other needs drive. There is also implied sarcasm on the deemed control of government over the daily activities of citizens. The Chinese meaning of Li Xiang Guo is literally translated into Desirable/ Aspirational Country. Perhaps with the imminent changes brought about from the technological advances & changing social, it is about time to think about what the future means to the new generation.   

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s