Phupha and Nanfah have been friends since childhood. Phupha's father runs an old coffee shop opposite Nanfah's father's pharmacy, so the two grew up close, sharing experiences. However, after leaving college, Phupha suddenly disappears from Nanfah's world and hasn't been heard of in the past ten years. Sad and lonely, how will Nanfah start his new life? And how will he meet Phupha again? (Source: WeTV) Edit Translation
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Where to Watch The Promise
Cast & Credits
Promising, but sadly lacking in plenty of waysNot gonna lie, this is a weird one. Mainly because what I liked about it most, was also what I liked about it least. And that might make no sense, but let me explain…
This show definitely isn’t your typical BL. It’s much less filled with all the cliches and tropes, which was quite refreshing. Actually, it's what I enjoyed most about it. No sponge baths, no accidental tripping and falling into a kiss, no treating a little cut like an injury equivalent of someone in need of heart surgery. Having seen so many BLs serving us the same old scenes, just slightly varied, really is beginning to get boring, so I appreciated that this show wasn’t leaning into it as heavily as most other BLs. However, there was one big issue. The point of all these cliche scenes is to create cute and meaningful moments for the characters to connect, and to make the viewers feel all smiley and giddy about. So if you don’t add any of those cliche BL scenes, it seems rather obvious that you need to come up with original scenes that serve the same purpose. You need to somehow create swoon-worthy, cute moments that make us root for the characters as a couple. However, this show didn’t really do that? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a BL with as few cute moments as this one, which led to me not really care about the romance at all. They had plenty of scenes together, don’t get me wrong. But only very few of them actually served the purpose of them having an adorable, wholesome moment. Or deeply connecting on an emotional level.
This can maybe be excused with the fact that this is a series about two grown men, not high schoolers. So it does feel natural that you wouldn’t get as many moments that make you feel giddy and fluffy, because aww look at these two kids in love! However, if you have almost none of these moments, it just leaves the audience asking themselves "Are they actually in love?“ You could take many of these cliche scenes and alter them to fit a more adult narrative, and make them appear more mature. But in my opinion, they didn’t really do that. Mostly, it just felt like two best friends going about their lives, and every now and again giving each other a sweet look. Then suddenly, apparently their love is mutual and they kiss. It just wasn’t enough to get me invested in them as a couple.
It didn’t help that the leads didn’t really have much romantic chemistry in the first place. That, paired with a drought of cute moments, was, in my opinion, the show’s biggest downfall. Even their kiss scene was disappointing. You’d expect quite the passion if one of the two people involved has been pining over the other guy for well over ten years. But nope, no passion, no spark, no nothing. In fact, they spent more time on showing us reaction shots of side-characters, rather than showing us the actual kiss. I assume that’s because even the director saw that there was no chemistry between them. And after their kiss, they didn’t even let the characters have a few scenes of happiness, and being cute together. Instead, the next scene after the kiss is Phu’s grandmother dying, so that’s that for the honeymoon phase, I guess.
I’m sad to say all of that, because I really wanted to like this show. I’m always happy to hear when a BL is being released that isn’t centered around the lives of high school or college students. We’ve seen so many of those already, so anything different is refreshing. However, as much as I was trying to enjoy this, I ended up not really liking it. It wasn’t incredibly bad. It didn’t have as many plot holes as other BLs, the characters were mostly consistent, and it wasn’t romanticising toxic behaviors. It was just very boring. Despite this being only 10 episodes, instead of the usual 12, this series drags a lot. Nothing really interesting ever happens in it. The revelation that Phu abandoned Nan because he was secretly in love with him, was predictable from episode one. All in all, it was very predictable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with a show that already doesn’t have a lot going on, it certainly doesn’t help. By episode 4, I started fast-forwarding through it. I think the show would’ve greatly benefitted from being even shorter. 6 episodes would’ve been enough.
Another thing that irked me was the whole set-up. We’ve seen this plenty of times before: Pretty Boy A is secretly in love with Pretty Boy B. They get drunk one night, and kiss. In a fit of gay panic, Pretty Boy A does the totally sensical thing of vanishing into thin air - leaving Pretty Boy B a sad mess. In this case, Phu was the one to leave Nan behind, after them having been best friends since childhood. He didn’t respond to Nan’s messages, and they didn’t see each other for 10 years. Of course, when they coincidentally meet again, Nan is not furiously upset with Phu. Because that totally wouldn't be a logical reaction at all to your best friend abandoning you with only a post-it note left behind. Nope, instead Nan is super happy to see Phu and immediately wants to rekindle their friendship. Eventually, the pent up anger does come out, which was nice to see. But I couldn’t help but imagine how much more interesting this whole thing would’ve been, if they started off with Nan being extremely pissed at Phu. Seeing Phu try to win back Nan’s trust would’ve made for a much more appealing story than them instantly going back to being best friends. If you haven’t seen or talked to a person for 10 years, you’ll probably have grown apart quite a bit, so this really didn’t feel realistic.
The story had potential. If it had been executed in a better way, it might have actually been enjoyable. As I said, it would’ve been more appealing if Nan stayed angry at Phu for a while. Similarly, it would’ve been a lot better if the story didn’t start with a summary of their childhood and college days. It should’ve started in the present day with Phu and Nan meeting, and Nan being so upset that he refuses to even talk to Phu. The audience isn’t stupid. We would’ve understood that these two have some sort of history. It would’ve been much more intriguing to figure out the pieces this way. I think the revelation of Phu having had feelings for Nan for so long would’ve hit much more that way too. Not that it would’ve been very surprising either way, because this is a BL after all, but you get what I mean.
Another thing that bothered me, and this might be a bit random, but… Can we stop normalising people breaking into their love interest’s condo? Such a scene happened, and was played for laughs. I understand that Nan only sneaked into Phu’s place to check on his cat (Which he just left with Phu, without any instructions??), but still. He could’ve checked on the cat and then left again. But nope, he snooped through Phu’s belongings, such as opening boxes etc. And Phu was not mad about this at all? I love my best friend to the moon and back, but if she went into my apartment without my permission and looked through my stuff, I’d at least sit her down for a serious conversation.
The characters weren’t really likeable to me. The only one I actually enjoyed was Party, Nan’s jealous best friend. At first, I was annoyed that we’d be doing this trope again, but it was done in a pretty decent way. Party was never portrayed as a villain, but as someone really likeable and mature. Other than that, I didn’t care about anyone. I probably could’ve liked Phu if it weren’t for him having abandoned his best friend without a word. His grandmother was decent, but I didn’t feel emotionally connected to her, so when she died, I didn’t even feel slightly sad.
Another issue was the humour. It didn’t land at all. Only one scene got a chuckle out of me. And them trying to make fun of the overweight child was in very poor taste.
The acting was fine. Not noteworthily good or bad. In emotional scenes, the actor portraying Nan was actually quite good with his delivery. The actor portraying Phu on the other hand was lacking a lot in those scenes. I didn’t really buy his emotions which also didn’t help getting invested in the whole thing.
Now for a few things that I actually enjoyed:
- In flashbacks, we saw that during their college days, Phu was the one taking care of Nan. When they reunited 10 years later, Phu immediately fell back into that role, and went to clean up Nan’s entire place. They could’ve done more with this, but that was actually a scene I liked. It would’ve been awesome if they went with the storyline of Nan being super upset and cold with Phu at first. Then they could’ve had a dramatic line like "I’ve taken care of myself for the past 10 years, so there’s no need for you to do this now!“
- The relationship between Phu and his grandma was very wholesome and cute.
- That one scene where Nan comforts Phu who’s having a nightmare. If there were more moments like this, I might have actually rooted for them. This was by far the cutest moment in the entire show. Like one drop of water in a drought.
- The birthday fish instead of birthday cake was actually funny. That was the only moment I chuckled at.
- As I said, it doesn’t feel as trope-y as most other BLs, which is refreshing. If only the execution was better, this could’ve actually been very easy to like.
I’m not actually sure whom I’d recommend this to. I feel like it’s just not what most BL viewers want out of their BLs. Usually, viewers either want a lot of cuteness and fluff, which this show had very little of, or they want a great storyline, which this show also didn’t have. Ideally, there's both fluff and a solid storyline. This one had neither. It was dull and boring. So I guess I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, really. It wasn’t offensively bad, but I would’ve preferred it if it had been, because at least then it might have fallen into the so-bad-it’s-funny category. But this was just 10 episodes of boredom with no substance, and without much cuteness. So if you skip this one, you’re definitely not missing out on much. And that is my promise to you.
The waste!!!I had high expectations and I was disappointed. Many moments could have been cut or postponed. Everything seems to happen together. They tried to put a lot of drama and overdid it. Sad waste of a good premise. With beautiful scenes and a good track. The actors seem to put in a lot of effort. There is a chemistry. A lot was put to resolve in the end and it was developed poorly and poorly. Looks like they cut a lot.
A week late for the finale, a mid-series break, it still didn't save. Characters that disappear. A romance that seems like it can't happen and when it seems like it will, it ends. That's the series. Like I said, it had potential and it was wasted.