You know, sometimes simpler is better.
As a rule, I think psychoanalyzing in the process of criticism is a pretty bad idea. Of course I have absolutely no idea what’s in the mind of Haoling Li, who’s written something immeasurably better than I could ever dream of writing on my finest day. But the way this season of Link Click plays – to me – is like the product of a writer who got a little heady with success and wanted to show off how clever he could be. In the process – to me – the charm of the series has largely been lost. To be frank, at this point I’m starting to lose interest. And if you’d asked me a couple months ago, I’d have laughed and said that was impossible.
Yesterday I praised AI no Idenshi as a series that succeeds because it never tries too hard. Shiguang Dailiren S1 had that same appeal. It had a very simple formula and executed it flawlessly. As a result it had great emotional weight. It was very clever while never giving the appearance of trying to be clever. And in my experience trying to be clever is always a bad look in fiction. The word that comes to mind for me with this season is “convoluted” (not coincidentally the opposite of simple) – quite unnecessarily so. All these twists and turns seem to be happening for their own sake, so that we can be impressed when they’re all tied together in the end. It’s not writing so much as flexing.
As I said, psychoanalyzing a writer is a fool’s errand. It’s entirely possible this is exactly what Li had planned out from the start, and the praise (justifiably) heaped on the first season had no impact on that. But as the viewer, I’m not sure it matters – my perception (which is mine and no one else’s, if you love S2 that’s fine) is what it is. I just know I don’t care for the fact that Lu and Cheng are basically bit players now, and cat and mouse games with the audience are crowding out the development of interesting and sympathetic characters and storylines.
So this ep was basically a huge flashback of Qian Jin and his past, which frankly doesn’t interest me all that much, and a lot of footage of characters laughing maniacally. And an extended (too much) animation of the fairy tale sequence we saw a few weeks back in the last really good episode we’ve had. Qian Jin’s wife cheated on him, okay. Did he kill her? That may be sort of implied. He’s obviously the one who’s manipulated Tianchen into being a “hunter” – though the boy did say “I killed them” at the crime scene. It also looks like Liu’s target for murder is the neighbor who called the police, presumably because Liu thinks he’s the ringleader of his online critics.
Could this whole storyline have worked as a two-episode arc in the first season? Yeah, I think so. For me there’s about two eps worth of good material here (which is about how many we’ve gotten), and the rest is just grandstanding. Or maybe if this had been the first season, with a brief introduction of the premise at the beginning, I’d view it more favorably, not having the baggage of knowing how much has been lost in the transition. But you know, sequels are hard. For every Godfather Part II (which was based on a book – that helps) there are a dozen Temple of Doom. I take some consolation from the fact that no matter how much Link Click II has lost the plot, it doesn’t take away from what a revelation the first season was.
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