This review may contains spoilersHaving been a huge fan of season 1 of this show, I was extremely excited that there was going to be a season 2. I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
I read the books the show was based on a long time ago and reread book one after I watched season one. I decided to reread book two while I was watching season two whenever I had the time as well, so this review will most likely be compared to season one and book two. The story is a continuation of season one, and continues telling the story of all five women. It followed the book as closely as possible imo, however they made some significant changes in regards to Xie Tong's character and Andy's storyline. Xie Tong was a police officer in the books and not a singer, and Andy actually got pregnant before marriage in the books as well. But I think because XT's police officer character in the books did some bad things, the production team was probably afraid to paint police officers in a negative light so they changed it. Same thing with Andy, having a kid out of wedlock isn't commonly accepted in China so that's probably why they changed it as well. However, some people might think that the storyline's logic got kind of confusing because they didn't reallly clean out these changes that well. Personally, the first half was really really good, but the latter half dragged a bit (however the second book also dragged a bit so I guess it followed the book pretty well). Not all the characters had happy endings, which I think is really nice because that's how real life is. I love how this show portrays life in quite a realistic way, especially coming from a Chinese background, so many things were painfully realistic and relatable. I think all the characters had character development, although some had more than others and some developed but then went back to point one and developed again. But I think that's the beauty of this show, not everyone can develop immediately and even real life people end up going back to their nature sometimes. The last episode is really nice, it feels that everyone made pretty smart decisions in regards to their future. Also I absolutely adored the friendship and support of these ladies!!!
Acting/Cast: Same cast as last season so I'd say the acting was all pretty good! :D Props to Jiang Xin though, her acting for her character was great, even though her character was annoying at certain points haha
Music: This isn't some chinese historical drama so I'm like quite sure they didn't put too much effort on the OSTs lol but it was like okay not too disracting or anything
Rewatch: I think it's rewatchable, however, it might be easier to fast forward through certain parts when rewatching.
Overall: Loved it! I followed this drama the day it aired and watched all the episodes the day they came out. It's a very precious drama in my life XD
Disclaimer: I gave it a 9.5 on my personal ratings, but for the review, I decided to give it a more objective 8.5 as a whole.
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The second season of Ode to Joy sees the characters more developed and set in their life. Some characters return with an existing relationship, while others were ended or didn't have one. Family plays a more prominent role as the relationships with the girls and their partners become more serious.
Andie comes into Season 2 from a fresh breakup. She gets over her previous boyfriend and begins dating Bao Yi Fan who had a minor appearance in Season 1. Season 2 mainly revolves around her relationship with him. My biggest gripe was the the plot between or involving family. It took the characters to a point where I no longer felt immersed in their world. The best takeaway from Andie's storyline comes from her development as a character. By the end of season 2, you get the sense that she's developed into this wonderful well rounded woman.
Ying Ying starts off with the continuation of her budding romance with Ying Qin. Things seem to go really well until it hit their down point. There was nothing particularly wrong with the plot however the issue was in character development. Ying Ying does a complete 180 and regresses to her season 1 incarnation. The final result of her journey that puts that 180 into perspective is fine, but as a viewer, it wasn't pleasant to see the same mistakes from last season repeated.
Unlike the rest of the girls, Guan Guan did not have a boyfriend but she was secretly pining for one of the character's existing boyfriends. One of the unique and high points about Guan Guan's storyline is her development as a character. She begins as a naive young career woman who doesn't know anything about relationships to realizing the complexities of life. Her eventual romance with Xie Tong was the high point out of all the girl's relationships.
Qu Xiao Xiao, the character that you love to hate ends up as the character you can't help but love. Her relationship with Zhao Qi Ping goes through it's ups and downs but further solidifies them. The story with her family takes a darker tone however it was solidly executed. It felt realistic but fictional. Overall, I think that Qu Xiao Xiao's storyline was one of the highest in quality.
Finally we get to Fan Sheng Mei. Sheng Mei continues her relationship from the previous season with Wang Bai Chuan. Apart from all the other girls, Sheng Mei takes the most traditional and practical approach. Sheng Mei is put under considerable pressure & as a result, she places her pressure onto others. The resolution of events brings a realization of her character flaws but also brings forth her inner strength.
The breakout star this season was Jiang Xin as Fan Sheng Mei. She played a multi-faceted role where she had to present a strong confident front for the ladies of the 22nd floor while on the inside, she was a very vulnerable person. Jiang Xin did a wonderful job showing so many sides to Sheng Mei and making me immersed in her world. I also loved that her character broke the 4th wall a few times which added to the realism.
Wang Zi Wen as Qu Xiao Xiao brings a notable performance. She takes her character from quirky, fun, to being condescending, and ultimately bring her to a point where Xiao Xiao is level with the other characters.
I did not particularly like Yang Zi's performance as Qiu Ying Ying but I don't blame that on her, the actress, rather, the material she had to work with wasn't good. Qiao Xin did an wonderful job as Guan Guan. She is just so lovable from start to finish. In my opinion, Liu Tao was kind of held back by the material but it doesn't detract from her as an actress. I liked that we saw the spontaneous & lighthearted side towards the end.
One more performance I want to take note of is Yang Shuo as Bao Yi Fan. In season 1, he was this suave, charismatic guy and his acting reflects that. In season 2, as we got to see more situations unravel, the less range that we didn't get in his acting.
As I watch more and more drama, I notice that lots of tracks are reused. Ode to Joy Season 2 is no exception. I liked the music, but I just didn't like the replays. Most notably with the vocal tracks. The incidental music was fine and I think it suited the scenarios it played in.
Ode to Joy season 2 is a rollercoaster ride filled with ups and downs. The ladies are as lovable as ever. Their journeys take me as a viewer into the world of 5 ladies living in Shanghai. I think that there was a perceptible drop in quality compared to Season 1 but it's nothing that cannot be fixed if there is a season 3. If they left it as it is, I'd be happy with it.
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We get to see the five neighbors' stories continue - basically picking up where we left off in the first season, with the five women continuing on their respective journeys. Whereas the first season focused a lot on careers and finding yourself in a city as big as Shanghai, the second season (imo) focuses a lot more on romantic and family relationships, and I think that was kind of where I just started losing interest.
Seeing romantic interests blossom is fun and all, but a lot of what came after was the manufactured drama that I was so happy to see the first season avoid. And I get it - romantic relationships in China can be crazy because it's not just a relationship between the couple - it's a potential marriage between families, but the issues just were neverending (and sometimes it really didn't make any sense - a character would get randomly angry and you don't even know why). Relationships are at its best when it makes you grow as a person - not when it makes you more irrational and immature.
Ying Ying (and pretty much everyone in that particular story thread) drove me batty. I was so happy that she had gotten over her bad experience in Season 1 and learned more about herself, but it's like she had forgotten about all the self discovery that she had done. Fan Sheng Mei, who I thought had finally accepted life on her terms, also had a really frustrating arc, though I still kind of understood her struggle.
And An Di's entire thread was just ludicrous and nonsense - I read online that a lot of Chinese viewers were basically skipping over her scenes (this isn't Liu Tao's fault at all - it's because they gave her a super frustrating storyline).
Speaking of An Di, I appreciate beautiful fashion in dramas as much as anyone does, but it becomes borderline distracting when a character changes five outfits in "one" day, especially when the outfits are a little overdone and leaning on the high fashion side versus what someone would actually wear in real life. I think that was also the problem with An Di's storyline - it felt very shallow.
Qu Xiao Xiao saved the show for me, because she was just as splendidly outrageous and compassionate as she was in Season 1, and it was nice to see Guan Guan come out of her shell and blossom (but she really needs to use that backbone on Ying Ying once in a while, I'm just saying).
But we still got a great dose of friendship (and the love-hate that goes into it) between the five women, which is really the saving grace for the show. And the script, despite its obvious flaws, still did provide some great social commentary (with one specific issue really taking off). I think they tried to go a little too flashy and polished for parts of this drama, and it made me miss the slice of life style that we got in the first season. Sure, the pace was slower, but it felt organic.
The actresses were pretty good, per usual, with Liu Tao flexing a bit more of her acting muscle than she did in the first season. Yang Zi was frustrating and adorable simultaneously, and Wang Zi Wen killed it even more than she did in Season 1. Jiang Xin is an amazing actress and I will continue to beat this drum forever and ever until everyone in the world realizes this. And major props to Qiao Xin, who has grown a lot as an actress (does anyone else remember her stint in Nirvana In Fire? She was so noticeably awful in that role and so, so green).
I was disappointed by Yang Shuo, who was so charismatic in his limited scenes in Season 1. He got a lot more screentime this season, but it actually turned out to be a bad thing, because the charm kind of turned smarmy and I think he overacted quite a bit in some scenes (I was paying a lot of attention to his acting because of the rumors that he may be the leading man in Zhao Li Ying's upcoming drama - as of now I'm really hoping this isn't true).
The other actors were just okay - but Wang Kai was by far (well, duh) the best actor among the romantic interests - in part because his character was a lot more "normal" than the other guys, but also because Wang Kai sells his characters well. Newcomer to the show Deng Lun was cute if a little too stoic.
There's basically a song that plays every other scene and it got distracting after a while. I get that Ying Ying has her theme song but do they really have to play it every single time? I think they went a little overboard with everyone having "their" song. Because some of the lyrics were really specific and explained the situation and feelings in a really detailed way, it kind of killed any semblance of emotional subtlety. I feel like the audience should get the chance to figure out they feel about a scene instead of being told how they should feel.
I honestly don't find this all that rewatchable, because I know how angry I get at some of the scenes and characters. There are some cute parts that I would fish out, but I definitely wouldn't marathon it again.
This isn't a bad drama - but it just doesn't live up to the first one, and I'm assuming that Season 3 is just going to be even more drama (because they need something to fill the story with).
With all of that said - there are still a lot of things that it does well compared to your average drama, so I still recommend giving it a shot, especially if you've watched the first season already.
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I agree with others and thought this season was better. I think this way because the friendship was already established, and there was less bitterness between Xiao Xiao vs Ying Ying/Sheng Mei. There were more instances in the 5 of them sitting together and sorting the problems out together instead of just a few of them at once.
I though Guan Ju was very relatable to me during the first half of the show. Everyone had boyfriends/work to keep them busy and she felt quite alone. She joined classes and kept busy instead. She was also a great friend to the rest of them, her relationship with each of the other girls was so pure and special.
Despite being loud and sometimes annoying Xiao Xiao was one of my favourites along with Andy. Xiao Xiao has strong opinions on what is moral and stuck by them and anything that was unfair, I like how honest and ruthless she was in most situations. How she did not put up with Sheng Mei's family and also Ying Qin backward thinking! So badass and just. Andy was so objective and fair in most situations and decisions (apart from her own)
Loved loved Bao so much. Such a wonderful character!!! I wish Bai Chuan didn't have to struggle so much the whole drama, and was really frustrated at how Sheng Mei treated him at times.
Ying Ying annoyed me too much. This girl is just so stupid and ignorant at times. The bit when she says Guan forgets friends when she gets a boy. GIRL you disappeared when you got with Manager Bai (?) and Ying Qin - who are you to talk! I just wish she took other peoples feelings and thoughts into perspective. Also her hatred or wariness of Xiao Xiao (over Manager Bais betrayal) lasted way too long. Get over it girl. Xiao Xiao just exposed what a jerk he was to you. Be thankful not hateful.
Guan and Xie Tong's relationship was cute, and they were so well suited!
Overall, a wonderful drama with relatable experiences and characters!
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Acting/Casting: The entire cast is fitting and comfortable with roles, storyline and each other, something rarely viewed.
Music: Never paid any attention
RW: The beginning of S2 with Bao aggressive courting. Watching & listening to his voice was mesmerizing - what took Andi so long?
Overall: For many, book 2 are primarily developmental portion of story - character of the trilogy, this followed suit. Many parts were simply nerve racking and silly. However knowing this is the bridge to S3, I will give space and reserve judgement. S3 has a heavy load to carry on putting closure to the many open ends.
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