Go Ahead Synopsis
It’s been a while since we clicked into a Family drama, but following Tan Song Yun into Go Ahead (以家人之名), we found ourselves hanging onto the developments of this heartwarming as well as heart-tugging drama.
Li Jian Jian (Tan Song Yun), Ling Xiao (Song Wei Long) and He Ziqiu (Steven Zhang Xin Cheng) grow up closer than any blood-related siblings after both Ling Xiao’s mother and He Ziqiu’s mother abandon them under the care of Li Jian Jian’s father, Li Haichao (Tu Song Yan), and Ling Xiao’s father, Ling Heping (Zhang Xi Lin). However, in the last year of high school, the belief which Li Jian Jian had that they were as real as any blood-related family is challenged when both Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu is forced to be with original family out of duty or as a way to keep threats at bay. The separation causes a gradual drifting apart between them. Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu’s thoughts have always been with their foster family and they return nine years later to come together as become family not only through their bond but through marriage.
Ling Xiao and He Ziqui’s Story
Ling Xiao suffers from a childhood incident which saw his sister died from having choked on a walnut. It’s an incident which his mother, Chen Ting (Yang Tong Shu), hold him responsible even though it was she who had locked him and his sister in their apartment to go play mahjong with her friends, preventing Ling Xiao from getting help. The incident caused many fights between his parents, with Chen Ting ending up packing her bags, abandoning Ling Xiao, divorcing his father, Ling Heping, and moving abroad to remarry and having a daughter which seemed to replace the daughter she lost.
Ling Xiao grows up to be quite a mature, standup man despite the tragic and painful incidents in his past. Thanks to the great care of Ling Xiao’s neighbour, Li Jian Jian, a girl two years younger than him, and her dad, Li Haichao, who—despite his limited means—had taken Ling Xiao into his care to raise Ling Xiao as his own son, Li Haichao and Li Jian Jian (with He Ziqiu and Ling Xiao’s dad) provided Ling Xiao a loving family.
However, behind Ling Xiao’s put-together appearance, nightmares of being locked inside the house that day that resulted in his sister’s death continue to haunt him. Without sleeping pills, he isn’t able to sleep.
His mother makes a return during Ling Xiao’s last year of high school, wanting him to be a big brother to her daughter, Qin Mei Ying a.k.a Chengzi (Amber Song). When her and her husband suffers a car accident which sees her husband pass away and Chen Ting herself paralysed, Ling Xiao is forced out of duty to his biological mother to go abroad to his mother’s home in Singapore to care for her and Qin Mei Ying.
It didn’t matter that Ling Xiao’s not seen his mother since she abandoned him (what must be) over a decade ago, he is still Chen Ting’s son. With none of the relatives wanting to take the responsibility for Chen Ting, and Ling Xiao’s father already divorced from her, Ling Xiao couldn’t reject his responsibilities as a son to see that his mother saw through her struggles after losing her husband. While still suffering from his own childhood trauma on a daily basis, he helps Chen Ting see through her depression and attempted suicide and ultimately see her want to live on and walk again. He seemed to have only made the decision to head back home to China when Qin Mei Ying, was old enough to take over the care of their mother.
It took nine years for Ling Xiao to finally be able to return to China to his father, Li Jian Jian and Li Haichao.
He Ziqiu also makes the decision to leave after his last year of high school. At exactly the same time as Ling Xiao, He Ziqiu was forced to move abroad to study as his estranged father, Zhao Huaguang (Liu Jing Long), had wanted him to do. Under the belief that his father was behind some malicious acts to force He Ziqiu to return with his father (malicious acts such as Li Jian Jian being pushed down the steps at high school and Li Haichao’s noodle shop being temporarily closed because of food poisoning and pest complaints) as well as seeing how much of a burden it must be for Li Haichao to come up with the tuition fees for him, He Ziqiu reluctantly leaves the Li family to go abroad. It is also nine years before He Ziqiu finally returns.
The Drama, Struggles and Obstacles
The decision, even though a forced one, has Li Jian Jian realise and admit that she, He Ziqiu and Ling Xiao didn’t at all have any kind of relationship with each other like they believed. Ling Xiao was just a neighbour and He Ziqiu was just a kid her dad had taken in to raise. Their once close bond seem to break further during the nine years apart. Less and less they talked as their lives got busier and busier with study, work and life. Their close bond appear to reduce to just well-wishes during important holidays and occasions like birthdays.
It appears this way to Li Jian Jian, but it’s definitely not the case as Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu’s intent was always to return. He Ziqiu’s desire to return and stay with the Li family is a lot easier to do than Ling Xiao’s desire to return and stay, though.
Chen Ting doesn’t have any right to hold Ling Xiao back when she learns the flight Ling Xiao took to China was not a temporary visit, but was one he intended to make permanent. Still, she tried to prevent him from leaving her by hiding his travel documents for a brief time. Failing that, Chen Ting tried to impose herself on him by making the decision to move back to China (to Qin Mei Ying’s dissatisfaction since her life, friends and schooling was in Singapore) and had tried to get in between him and Li Jian Jian (who end up together as a couple) with Feng Xixi, one of Ling Xiao’s female colleagues at his dental practice and who Chen Ting liked (because she wasn’t Li Jian Jian who knew and reminded Chen Ting about her family’s past and the things that happened).
He Ziqiu’s time abroad is not as suffocating, but no less hard for him. For two years, Zhao Huaguang supported He Ziqiu, but upon He Ziqiu’s refusal to call Zhao Huaguang “Dad” or change his surname to “Zhao”, Zhao Huaguang cut He Ziqiu’s access to money. It left He Ziqiu to earn every cent himself for the rest of the time, working part-time to pay for his tuition and living expenses. Upon his return to China, everyone thought he had it made being the son of a wealthy father. They all thought the café he returned to open in China was because of Zhao Huaguang’s money. However, that’s not the case. He earned and used his own money for that, too.
He Ziqiu seems to have an issue with people pitying him and helping him. He wants to rely on himself and is quite insistent on using his own money and efforts to make that money. The need to do that seem to have developed from feeling indebted to Li Haichao for taking him in and wanting to pay him and Li Jian Jian back. Although he recognises Li Haichao and Li Jian Jian as his family and is only willing to acknowledge Li Haichao as his dad, He Ziqiu’s been trying to earn his keep ever since being taken in by Li Haichao. Ever since then, he’s been doing chores without being asked. Now that he’s an adult, he continues to pay them back by running a cafe to make money and visits Li Jian Jian’s apartment to make her and her friends breakfast every morning without fail.
(An interesting observation: He Ziqiu as well as Ling Xiao’s career choices looks to have been a decision revolving around Li Jian Jian. As Li Jian Jian likes sweet things, He Ziqiu becoming a pastry chef and opening a cafe selling these items looks to be because he wants to be able to make the things Li Jian Jian likes to eat. Ling Xiao becoming a dentist could possibly have come about because of the same fact about Li Jian Jian liking sweet things. While He Ziqiu makes what Li Jian Jian likes to eat, Ling Xiao fixes/cares for the teeth which suffer under the sweet things Li Jian Jian likes to eat!)
The story of He Ziqiu’s mother, He Mei (Luna Yuan), her relationship with He Ziqiu and her abandoning him is quite a sad one. Unlike Chen Ting who actually abandoned Ling Xiao and truly didn’t want him at the time, He Mei actually adored He Ziqiu and couldn’t bear to leave him when she made the decision to head to Shenzhen to try make some money to support He Ziqiu. She had every intention of returning for him, but an incident which saw her charged with manslaughter and jailed prevented her from doing that.
Two months after arriving in Shenzhen and getting work as a manager at a beauty salon, she got herself involved in an accident which saw a customer die. A confrontational exchange after a treatment causing an allergic reaction saw the customer slip backwards over a step and hitting her head, killing her then and there. He Mei was sentenced to four years in prison for the accident.
Thinking of the effect having no father and a mother who spent time in jail might have on He Ziqiu, He Mei thought it was best for He Ziqiu to think she had abandoned him and no longer wanted him. She made up a story about having remarried and even had a son to go with this story. This son, which she shows up with, is eventually revealed to be not her son, but the son of a beautician who worked under her at the salon. The beautician had gone to jail for stabbing her abusive and alcoholic husband to death following another session of abuse and He Mei was just looking after her son until the beautician finished serving her prison sentence.
He Mei, who initially shows up back in the drama as a successful-looking and selfish woman (not too dissimilar to the way Chen Ting shows back up in the drama), is cleared up be quite a good person who had no intention of abandoning her son. She is in fact a little like Li Haichao with how she took in someone else’s child to raise. She is also like He Ziqiu (as Li Haichao had picked up) with how she likes to internalise the struggles and pain as a way to protect and not place burden on the people she cares about.
Romance Arc and The Ending
Ling Xiao, He Ziqiu and Li Jian Jian may start off as regarding each other as siblings, but after Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu’s return, the two non-blood-related brothers end up suggesting and wanting more than that. In fact, in the case of Ling Xiao, he showed hints and signs he saw Li Jian Jian as more than just his sister much earlier than this.
As early as Episode 3 when Ling Xiao (who was 18 years old) freaked out hearing Li Jian Jian (16 years old) mention how his bed quilts smelled like him whilst lying in his bed. The comment saw Ling Xiao kick her straight out of there, telling her to stop hopping into his bed (or He Ziqiu’s bed for that matter) as she pleased. Compare this reaction of Ling Xiao’s to He Ziqiu who saw nothing wrong with Li Jian Jian’s action, Ling Xiao’s mind was clearly thinking not so pure, innocent thoughts at the time.
Episode 8, Ling Xiao tells Li Jian Jian he will marry her twice when Li Jian Jian tells him not to hit her head as no one will marry a dumb person (Ling Xiao had flicked her head for getting her homework wrong). Li Jian Jian appeared to not have taken it seriously (as she reveals nine years later). No, Ling Xiao was dead serious and had already decided to marry Li Jian Jian from as early as when he was still in high school.
The development of romantic relationship between Ling Xiao and Li Jian Jian is a good way to making Ling Xiao and Li Jian Jian become real family not only in their eyes but on the family register as well, which we think is quite a nice direction to be hinting.
Li Jian Jian was so devastated when Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu made the decision to study abroad. She was angry, she had cried, and it took her months for Li Jian Jian to get over Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu having not discussed their decision to go abroad with her, making her see they weren’t real siblings. Had they been real siblings, she could at least try stop them, but she had no right because they don’t have a relationship of that kind.
Ling Xiao was also pretty hurt when Li Jian Jian called him and He Ziqiu not her biological brothers after Ling Xiao demanded Li Jian Jian break up with Zheng Ran, a guy she met online who both Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu disapproved because he had this perverted way of getting inspiration for his artwork. As they weren’t really family, she felt they had no need to concern themselves with this area or the right to demand she do anything.
The above two moments highlighted that no matter how much Li Jian Jian, Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu believed in their hearts they were family, the fact of the matter is that when matters and issues arise between blood related members of a family, non-blood related members really had no right to say or do anything. So, having Ling Xiao as the boyfriend with the likelihood of becoming Li Jian Jian’s husband is the perfect way to get Ling Xiao onto the Li family register.
As for He Ziqiu, he actually becomes a member of the Li family in the end through his mother’s marriage to Li Jian Jian’s father. He Mei and Li Haichao looked to have dated when they were young and was originally set up to be together until her need to head off to Shenzhen to make money saw the relationship fail to lift off again. However, after He Mei finally returned and the matter of abandoning He Ziqiu is cleared up, He Mei and Li Haichao finally get together and marry, making He Ziqiu Li Jian Jian’s step-brother.
It’s a pretty perfect, happy end to the issue of Li Jian Jian, Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu not being real family. A marriage between Li Jian Jian and Ling Xiao plus a marriage between Li Haichao and He Mei finally links them all together as a family in an official and legal way, giving them all that wish of being family not only in their hearts, but on paper as well.
Other Interesting and Cool Arcs
The main stories and drama of Li Jian Jian, Ling Xiao and He Ziqiu provides a lot of great drama-watching time, but there’s a lot of other great, secondary story arcs. The aspiring actress Tang Can (He Rui Xian) and her struggles to get her big break is one; the academic high-achiever Qi Mingyue (Sun Yi) and her controlling mother is the other; and there’s a nice secondary love triangle between Tang Can, Qi Mingyue and Zhuang Bei (who’s a friend of He Ziqiu).
Tang Can’s arc focusing on her struggles to make her big break as an actress and her love triangle is one of our favourite parts of the drama. In her childhood, she acted in many top-rated dramas. She was in many advertisements, too. She was so successful during those days that she was able to earn enough to buy her parents cars and houses.
During high school, her career was looking extremely promising when she made the cut in an audition for the lead in a project of a highly-respected director. However, she struggles to gain traction after that. She fails to secure major roles, only succeeding in securing minor roles (which she describes is no better than being an extra). Tang Can had this call to work alongside Sun Li, but it turned out the director only wanted her to be the stand-in. When Tang Can did land a role, the project doesn’t release.
Tang Can is forced to somewhat continue doing what she loves through an online store offering role-playing services, such as playing a flight-attendant, a past love who’s no longer in this world for a customer’s grandfather, and playing a young boy’s mother. Zhuang Bei would be the one to eventually help realise her dream. Before this, though, Tang Can is made to face reality that at the age of 26 years old, and not having made any major break into the entertainment industry as an actress, she should let go of chasing this acting dream of hers and settle down, find a stable job and save embarrassing her parents.
Zhuang Bei, who we mentioned would be the one who helps her get that big break, doesn’t start off paying attention to Tang Can so much. He actually develops a crush on her friend, Qi Mingyue, and was led to believe he stayed around because of her when the truth is he only stays around when Qi Mingyue is around or when there is a chance to be around Qi Mingyue.
It’s only when Zhuang Bei’s confession to Qi Mingyue gets harshly rejected with immediate blocking and a plea he stop liking her because it makes her extremely uncomfortable, he starts seeing Tang Can. Despite having been rejected by Zhuang Bei and having been made a bit of a fool for thinking Zhuang Bei liked her, Tang Can still tried her best to console him by telling him that Qi Mingyue’s rejection didn’t mean he was not a good person. This seems to be the beginning of Zhuang Bei noticing Tang Can and taking an interest in her and her struggles: he is seen asking about Tang Can’s reasons for giving up her acting aspirations before ultimately helping her to land a lead role in a theatre production.
Qi Mingyue’s arc is another interesting one. During high school, she was a top student and a class monitor. Her notable traits is that she’s passive, submitting and struggles to make a simple decision in situations like picking off a menu. The inability to decisively pick from a menu seem to reference to her mother’s very active, overbearing approach to Qi Mingyue’s education and future career where it’s all comes off as having already been decided for her. According to Qi Mingyue, if she falls outside Top 5, Qi Mingyue’s mother, Jin Yu Xiang (Sunny Hao), would give out some kind of punishment for failing that.
Qi Mingyue aspirations is to be a journalist/reporter not a lawyer (which is what her mother wants her to become). In order to give herself a chance to escape her mother’s plans and work towards being a reporter (which is what she ends up doing), she purposely missed completing a whole page on her exams so she wouldn’t make the cut.
It was a surprising little development and end result to her mother’s overbearingness. Qi Mingyue’s mother draws focus on the idea of the hands-on approach versus the hands-off approach to a child’s education; and how a hands-on approach like Jin Yu Xiang’s one isn’t always the best way to get the best out of them. Qi Mingyue could have at least achieved results to give her better and greater options should she decide to take it up, but sabotaging her own exams the way she did reduces her options, and her mother’s constant watch in her studies played a part in it.
In comparison, Li Haichao who took a relatively hands-off approach to Li Jian Jian’s education saw Li Jian Jian at the bottom of the class in high school. However, after graduating university, she actually turned out to have the most success with the most stability in her career out of Qi Mingyue and Tang Can. Li Jian Jian came out with an art and sculpture studio which she opened with a friend. She’s earning, getting lots of clients and is going places as her reputation as an artist grows. Li Haichao was not seen nagging Li Jian Jian about her poor results. He didn’t make decisions over what Li Jian Jian should choose as a career. Li Jian Jian was left to her own devices. It’s fortunate she had a passion for sculpturing during high school and she was left to nurture it (with a bit of help from Ling Xiao who submitted one of her works to a competition where she won an award) and made a successful career out of it.
Go Ahead is really a fantastic drama about family, what it means to be family, life, life’s struggles, life’s pressures, aspirations and living up to expectations. It’s all told through a very good set of interesting characters, different family types and parenting styles. There’s just a chock-full of good viewing in this drama.
The soundtrack, we just love. It compliments the emotional moments of drama so well.
We think the only thing we would criticise—rather, wonder about—is Go Ahead’s portrayal of mothers in the family. Every one of the mothers except we suppose He Mei were portrayed as the cause of problems in the family. Chen Ting is behind Ling Xiao’s psychological issues. Jin Yu Xiang is behind the stress and pressure in Qi Mingyue as well as a divorce between Jin Yu Xiang and her husband. Tang Can’s parents weren’t so bad with both initially 100% behind Tang Can’s acting aspirations. They both wanted and hoped she’d make it in the industry, but after Tang Can wasn’t getting anywhere with it, her mother was the one showing dissatisfaction with Tang Can’s role-playing and errands business which her mother found embarrassing and not respectable. Tang Can was made to feel pretty down when her mother lied about her working in the museum before she actually worked there in order to save face in front of relatives.
Meanwhile, the fathers in the families were portrayed as the better, likable parent. Ling Xiao’s father, Ling Heping, isn’t perfect as he is often away from home working hard as a police officer. He can be said to be a part of the reason for the issues between him and Chen Ting. However, Ling Heping is not portrayed as the bad guy in the family. Rather, he comes off as simply a hardworking father who’s just trying to support his family.
Qi Mingyue’s father, he doesn’t feature much until a couple scenes. The scenes sees Qi Mingyue’s mother go too far with yet another example of her control of the household: putting a sizable down-payment on a house without confiding with Qi Mingyue’s father first. Jin Yu Xiang also had plans for Qi Mingyue pick up the repayments for the house. Her thoughts send to be when she gets a great job as a lawyer, she’d have the ability to make the repayments. This scene suggests yet another example of the mother being the issue with the father being the silent, tolerant type. But, it’s not the mother who makes the decision to leave, it’s the father who leaves as he asks for divorce. Although it’s the father who leaves the family this time, he left when Qi Mingyue was already all grown up and able to care for her mother till she grows old, making the father’s departure not as reproachable of an act as mothers like Chen Ting.
If you’re looking for a drama to try next, give this family drama a go. It’s a pretty great watch. There’s something for everyone in Go Ahead.