For millions of young women and men across Southeast Asia (and parts of North Asia and Europe), one of the best things to happen this pandemic was having 2gether The Series to tide them through the tough times of quarantine and lockdown.
The now wildly popular Thai BL, 2gether The Series, started off with “chic Tine” who, in a bid to get an armourous boy, Green, off his back, decided to ask the university’s most popular guy, Sarawat, to pretend to be his boyfriend. As expected of all BLs, Tine and Sawarat eventually became an item. As cheesy as the storyline goes, this show started trending #1 on Twitter from Episode 5, eventually topping the Twitter trend across as many as 28 countries every Friday when it premiered.
For a few years, BL series have been gaining traction. However, due to its nature as a “fringe” theme for dramas, as well as a lack of good actors and video production teams, there was never a BL show as wildly popular as 2gether The Series. Its exploding fandom begs the question: Why did 2gether The Series become a hit?
There were many “drama summarisers” on YouTube introducing this show when it first started to become hot. A few Chinese vloggers got the best description for the series: 颜值天花板. It meant that if we were to quantify looks (the term 颜值 referring to “Looks-meter”, has been used by the Chinese speaking community for over a decade), the cast of 2gether The Series would hit the ceiling.
Here’s an overview of the main cast and supporting roles.
Even the female characters, who weren’t the focus of the show, looked superb. Heck! Even the traditionally ugly role of “ex girlfriend” looked like some goddess.
Having a cast with mercury bursting Looks-meter ensured that viewers’ attention was locked in during the first few (boring) episodes when the production team was setting the stage. Well, even if the team failed to make a good show, we could all survive just ogling at pretty faces flashing across our screens for 45 minutes a week!
I wouldn’t say the acting of the leads, or the main supporting roles, was excellent. Nonetheless, when we consider the acting of other BL series so far, I would say the leads did a rather decent job.
Those who watched the Great Reveal of Ep11, where Sarawat revealed to Tine how excited he was to have met Tine again after searching for him in vain for a year, would be tempted to re-watch the earlier episodes. One of the highlights of Bright’s (Sarawat’s actor) acting was best displayed in the scene in Ep2 (1/4), when Tine asked Sarawat to be his boyfriend. Sarawat was at first surprised, and when Tine explained that he wanted Sarawat to be his fake boyfriend, there was a tinge of happiness. That ended in anger when Tine revealed that he did not like boys and wanted Sarawat to help him get another boy off his back. Many fans noted that Bright transit through the emotions with precise subtlety, since at that point of time, only Sarawat knew how surprised, happy and angry during the conversation.
Did all the cast of 2gether The Series have good acting? In the first few episodes, I must say I cringed whenever Tine was on screen. His acting did improve over the course of the series. However, I could never forget the scene when he 笑场 (could not control his laughter), when Tine’s gang left Tine in a lurch to face Green alone. However, we overlooked this fact because (i) Win, the actor, was good looking; (ii) the sound effects team came to the rescue.
Clever Use of Background Music and Sound Effects
One of the greatest aspects of the show, which I saw a BL fan point out early on, stemmed from the clever work done by the sound team. If you closed your eyes and listened to any of 2gether The Series, you will realise that is background music or sound effects more than 90% of the time. The music and sound effects in this series were remarkably effective in affecting the mood of the audience and masking the flaws of the show.
This is in contrast with other contemporary (or even earlier) BL works, where awkward silence always bugged a BL show. A known fact among BL fans was that many BL actors cannot act for the sake of their lives. Their bad acting always show up during the times when they forgot their lines and took more than 2 seconds to recite them. The video editing team also failed to cut away these portions. To make things worse, the sound team did not help cover up the flaws.
Another great job done by the sound effects team was the assignment of a particular music sequence to scenes depicting certain moods. Halfway through the show, whenever there were flashbacks of how Sarawat met Tine back when they were in high school, the same BGM came onboard. Even after they started getting together, whenever Tine uncovered something about Sawarat’s “hidden past”, this music came on.
I am like many other millennials – I watch videos in at least 1.25x, if not 2x. 2gether The Series was one of the few shows that let me slow the video down. (To be honest, I watched the first few episodes at 1.25x, while playing with my phone. But I slowed down the video speed when I re-watched the same episodes to catch all the nuances that were made known in the later episodes)
The main reason I was willing to spend time on this series? Good storytelling.
I mentioned earlier that the overarching storyline was cheesy, but that did not stop the production team (or the novel’s author, to be fair to her) from doing good storytelling.
Here’s the breakdown of the theme of the episodes:
|1||Set the stage; ended with Tine getting into a conflict with Sarawat||Setting the stage.|
|2||Tine asked Sarawat to pretend to be his boyfriend. Sarawat refused, so Tine joined the Music Club to pester Sarawat. Ended with Sarawat agreeing to Tine.||Tine asked Sarawat to be his pretend-boyfriend. The “Forming” stage.|
|3||Sarawat started Tine’s plan of flirting, but not without hiccups. Pear appeared, and Tine got smitten with her. Tine wanted Sarawat to make their “status” known. Ended with Sarawat declaring they were together in a cafe.||The “Storming” stage of them being a team. Journey of Sarawat and Tine becoming publicly “official”.|
|4||Sarawat “flirted” with Tine, while Tine flirted with Pear. Tine kept reminding Sarawat that they only needed to be close in front of Green. Ended with both of them listening to Scrubb’s “Everything” over earphones.||The “Performing” stage. But Tine got distracted by Pear.|
|5||Sarawat got jealous of Tine flirting with Pear, and bared his heart to Tine (albeit while drunk)||Sarawat got seriously jealous and declared his love for Tine.|
|6||Sarawat forgot about what he did last night. Tine tried to “test” if Sarwat liked him by trying to make Sarawat jealous. Tine ended up being jealous instead. Ended with Sarawat’s slip of tongue suggesting he knew Tine back in high school.||Tine realised he liked Sarawat too.|
|7||Tine started uncovering the fact that Sarawat had liked him since high school. Ended with Sarawat telling Tine he would start hitting on him officially.||Great reveal 1 – Tine found out that Sarawat had liked him since high school.|
|8||Sarawat started hitting on Tine officially. Ended with a group of mysterious guys bashing Sarawat up.||Tine struggled with the fact that Sarawat liked him.|
|9||Sarawat got injured during a football match with the Architecture faculty. Tine offered to substitute Sarawat in the Music Club’s show. Ended with Sarawat asking Tine to be his boyfriend.||Tine, through the help of his friend, Fong, started to accept the fact that he also liked Sarawat.|
|10||Tine agreed to be Sarawat’s boyfriend. Tine’s brother, Type, appeared and threatened to spoil things for them. Ended with Type knowing their relationship and blessing them.||Life of being official together; First obstacle in the form of Tine’s brother.|
|11||“Forest Scene” – Mil continued to make advances to Tine. Tine burned down the Pine Spirit shrine and felt guilty. He got lost when he returned to apologise to the spirit. Sarawat found Tine and told him the story about how he fell in love with Tine.||Great reveal 2 – Sarawat’s point of view, from high school to the time when he met Tine again in university (first few episode of series)|
|12||Sarawat’s ex girlfriend appears.||The appearance of Ex reaffirms their love for each other.|
Unpeeling of Storylines
As listed chronologically, the storyline underwent a series of “unpeeling”, uncovering on one hand the progress of Sarawat and Tine’s relationship from “pretend” to “official”, while uncovering the storyline of Sarawat’s hidden love since high school days.
In the case of Sarawat’s “secret love”, it was made known to Tine (or viewers) in Ep7. From then on, Tine started uncovering more of that secret love in a reverse order.
Many viewers had thought, after seeing how Sarawat flirted with Tine and how he looked at Tine in the first few episodes, that “Sarawat has fallen for Tine during the pretend process”. In comes the plot twist in Ep7: Sarawat had liked Tine way before Tine “met” Sarawat in Ep1.
Comparing Other BL’s Storytelling
As mentioned earlier, BL series (actually, all lovey dovey drama aka 偶像剧) suffered from stale storylines. Some series just accepted the fact and decided to just bank on the casts’ good looks to attract viewership and recover their cost. Here’s a side by side, ep by ep comparison of a typical BL’s storytelling with 2gether The Series.
|Ep||2gether The Series||Other BL Shows|
|1||Setting the stage.||Sets the stage. The leads usually hate each other.|
|2||Tine asked Sarawat to be his pretend-boyfriend. The “Forming” stage.||Continuing to set the stage. The leads continue to fight with each other. Director slips in accidental kisses along the way.|
|3||The “Storming” stage of them being a team. Journey of Sarawat and Tine becoming publicly “official”.||Viewers get a hint that Male 1 actually liked Male 2 and was using the fighting as a form of flirting.|
|4||The “Performing” stage. But Tine got distracted by Pear.||Male 2 started to realise he liked Male 1.|
|5||Sarawat got seriously jealous and declared his love for Tine.||The leads got official. Sex scene.|
|6||Tine realised he liked Sarawat too.||Ex of Male 1 appears. Conflict resolved. Sex scene.|
|7||Great reveal 1 – Tine realised that Sarawat had liked him since high school.||Father/Mother of Male 2 appears and objects to them being together. Conflict resolved. Sex scene.|
|8||Tine struggling with the fact that Sarawat liked him.||Ex #2 of Male 1 appears. Conflict resolved. Sex scene.|
|9||Tine, through the help of his friend, Fong, started to accept the fact that he also liked Sarawat.||Ex of Male 2 appears. Conflict resolved. Sex scene.|
|10||Life of being official together; First obstacle in the form of Tine’s brother.||Sex scene.|
|11||Great reveal 2 – Sarawat’s point of view, from high school to the time when he met Tine again in university (first few episode of series)||Develops side CP storyline. Side CP has sex.|
|13||??||Sex scene of main and side CP.|
Lighthearted From Start Till End (Hopefully)
BLs used to be filled with Bad Endings and GMMTV did an excellent job over the last few years to make BLs with Happy Endings. In fact, 2gether The Series was the first BL series in their offerings that had a lighthearted, near comedic pace, in every episode. All “conflicts” or “challenges” hat tSarawat and Tine faced were resolved at the end of the episode.
One fine example of them turning a gloomy segment into a lighthearted one, thanks to the sound effects team, could be seen from 2:35 to 3:00 of Ep11 Part 3/4.
The last time GMMTV, the producer of 2gether The Series, made such a storm among BL fans, was when they released Sotus. The common thread between these 2 series?
In 2gether The Series, there were only 2 scripted kisses, and nothing more than that. Even the “suggested” sex scenes were left to the viewers’ imagination.
In Ep9, after Tine asked Sarawat, “How do you kiss someone till he drops?” and then the director cut to the scene of the building, accompanied with Tine’s giggles – was it because he could not show scenes not suitable for PG13? Or was it because it was just that – Tine and Sarawat tickling each other on the couch?
When Sarawat pushed Tine onto the bed after knowing he offended Tine’s brother in Ep10, and the Director cut to the “morning after” scene of them in bed, what happened in between? If something happened, as detailed in the novel, why were they fully clothed?
Compared to the swathe of BL shows selling sex every episode, 2gether The Series was refreshing. Everyone needs to go Vegetarian for one day after days of all-meat buffet, eh? The explicit sex scenes in other BL series also put many people off. People who were still on the fence when it comes to gay issues, and just wanted some easy entertainment, found 2gether The Series to be more palatable.
Appeals to The Heart
Personally, the most appealing aspect of the series was how Sarawat’s love finally became a reality. He found the love of his life while attending a Scrubb concert in high school. He spent the next year attending Scrubb’s concerts in the hope that he can meet Tine again. When he finally found Tine, Tine told him he liked girls and only wanted to make use of Sarawat to tell another boy to back off. However, Sarawat persisted and little by little, he “bent” Tine to his will.
While not everyone experiences BL, many people went through some form of crush back in their younger days. In the Asian society, most of the crushes were just that – crushes. We told all our close friends about the crush, anyone but the target of our crush. Many of us just went on with our lives, carrying our little secret that we once crushed on someone, never knowing if that person would reciprocate the love.
Sarawat was the summation of what everyone who had a crush went through.
He went through the dismal stage of the crush, knowing that he may never meet the love of his life again, that he may never get to tell the love of his life he liked him. After they “reunited”, Sarawat then went through the struggle of having to contain his excitement and love for Tine; he went through the process of pretending not liking Tine when deep inside him, his emotions were undergoing a tumultuous upheaval. These were the parts that resonated with many of us who once had to deal with the hardship of keeping our crush a secret.
Finally, Sarawat lived the dream of many – he managed to convert Tine and even told Tine what he had always wanted to tell him since high school days. This was the reason for the outpouring of emotions by BL fans after Ep11 aired, when Sarawat finally got to show Tine the video that he had made on the day of meeting Tine. In the video, Sarawat said, “I wanted to tell you something, but it may get stuck in this video forever – I like you.” And guess what? Sarawat got the reply he wanted, albeit 1 year later. Who wouldn’t dig that?
This is what I think why 2gether The Series managed to grab the hearts of so many viewers, from Thailand to Singapore and to the Philippines. Apart from the all-cast good looks, good storytelling and postproduction added to the success of the series.
My fingers are now crossed – we are barely halfway through 2020. Will there be more BL shows that will outdo 2gether?
Interested? Start watching 2gether The Series: