Love By Chance’s so-called second season is merely fan fiction and its fans deserve better
Love By Chance‘s second season is emblematic of everything wrong with Thai BL.
I wasn’t expecting the creators of the Love By Chance universe to win back my goodwill after the direction they took TharnType (and I’m aware the follow-up post explaining why it was so bad has not yet eventuated). But the sequel to their hugely popular 2018 drama Love By Chance is even worse than I had imagined.
It’s become very clear that no one involved with this lucrative and popular franchise cares about their story or their characters. And it shows.
Although it was made first, Love by Chance was actually a sequel to the show TharnType. The two vehicles flesh out a considerable universe of young male University students who are in, or contemplating, same sex relationships.
By the time the events of Love By Chance happen, Tharn, Type, Techno and Tum are in their final year. The story instead centres on Ae (Perth) and Pete (Saint) who literally bump into each other one day and fall in love.
The second plotline for the first season involved Ae’s friend Can (Plan) and Pete’s best friend Tin (Mean). Tin was the cynical and deeply unhappy second son of a very wealthy family who believed Ae was only after Pete’s money. In contrast Can (short for Cantaloupe) was a simple and exuberant puppy of a person whose deep loyalty attracted Tin.
There were two threads underpinning the relationship between Tin and Can as it appeared onscreen in Love By Chance. The first was Tin’s desire to have for himself what Pete and Ae ended up having: a loyal person who was entirely his, untainted by his complicated relationship with his family. And the second was Can’s deeply ambivalent response to Tin’s too-aggressive wooing. Both of these things are grounded in the events of the first season, the development of Pete and Ae’s relationship and in the two mens’ characterisation.
The controversy surrounding the first season of Love By Chance is well-known and yet not so well understood. There’s a lot of rumour and innuendo and not a lot else. Whether Perth and Saint fell out or their production companies fell out or the show was cut short or they always intended to have a second season – these are not questions I can answer.
In the end, it was Saint who couldn’t come back this year, throwing up challenges for the production team on how to deal with Pete’s absence.
Season two, we were told, would focus on TinCan since this relationship suffered most by how Love By Chance (seemed to) end suddenly without a resolution.
Offscreenville: where all the interesting stuff happens
Since Love By Chance as a vehicle was underpinned by Pete and Ae’s relationship, the writers had to decide what to do with Pete’s character without the actor. They had two choices: recast or find a reason for Pete to not be around.
As season 2 opens, we soon find out how the writers choose to deal with Saint’s absence. And it’s (somewhat predictably) in the second-worst way possible – the worst being Pete’s untimely death. Pete and Ae have broken up offscreen.
Whatever you do with a sequel based on a romance you don’t kill that character off screen and you definitely don’t have them break up off screen. Otherwise – why did people sit through the first season if it had no point?
What happened in Offscreenville and why did it lead to Pete’s departure? Halfway through the season we do not know, just that it had something to do with Pete’s so-far absent father and has lead to Ae being sad. Very sad. Like, really sad. A lot.
Not to criticise Perth’s acting. He is and remains one of the better actors on Thai television at the moment and deserves better than to be a plot device helping Tin and Can learn a Very Important Lesson About Love.
There’s no bones about it, the offscreen breakup is a cheap and lazy device. Lucky those who live in Offscreenville. They’re watching a far more interesting drama.
It’s not just that the writers took the cheap route of breaking Pete and Ae up – off screen. They made the bizarre decision to rewind and reboot Tin and Can’s relationship. Instead of picking up the natural point at which they ended them in season 1 – with Tin being friendzoned by Can – they instead circled it back to the beginning and simply repeated all the plot points from season 1.
This creates the confusing situation where Pete, Ae, Techno and the other characters are living in a universe where Season 1 happened but TinCan isn’t. I’m all for particle physics but I don’t need some kind of Schrodinger’s season where I’m never sure at any point if it did or did not exist.
Why is Tin so drawn to Can? Why does Can entertain briefly the idea of dating Tin before getting spooked? Looking at the season in isolation it’s impossible to say.
Watching season 2 requires some kind of continuity sieve where you can filter out the things that apparently never happened from the things that definitely did. Many of these things were important and removing them removes all the show’s depth (and it did not have much to begin with).
Not fiction but fan fiction
This is why I think this show is not fiction but fan fiction. They assume their viewers are already accepting (enthusiastic even) of the TinCan ship. So they don’t bother to establish it, they instead rely on everyone’s head canon to fill in the blanks. I can’t even articulate the kind of bad writing that embodies.
Nothing we’ve seen on screen in season 2 helps us to understand the dynamics of this relationship. And retaining all the scenes where Can looks downright uncomfortable with skinship doesn’t help the show to sell this romance. I left season one convinced that Can was actually a good-natured straight man who found himself dating another man almost by accident.
Even though I disliked many parts of TinCan’s relationship in Love By Chance, I felt that Tin in particular was well-characterised and I was willing to let the show sell me on Can warming to the relationship. But the second season doesn’t even try, treading the same path without any of the character moments that would make the plotline make sense.
If we made a list of everything that you can do wrong with a sequel, then Love By Chance 2 has blithely made all of them. Not because of necessity but because of laziness: because nobody involved actually cares about this story or its characters. And as a consequence I don’t care either.
Love By Chance 2 is a pointless addition to the universe, one that exists merely to milk an audience that is genuinely invested in this series of shows and deserves better. It’s about time Thailand stop pumping out third-rate BL for the sake of it and began to invest time and energy in development.