Best drama series

Source: The China Project (11/14/22)
The best Chinese-language drama series with English subtitles you can stream right now
From an alternate-reality crime show about a sexual assault survivor to a visually stunning fantasy drama featuring a forbidden romance, these are 2022’s best Chinese-language TV series coming out that you can find on popular streaming services.
By Zhao Yuanyuan

A still image from ‘Shards of Her.’

Chinese-language TV series are overshadowed by the more popular offerings from South Korea, but there are a number of noteworthy new Sinophone shows, mostly from Taiwan, that you can binge-watch right now.

Mandarin-language shows are more accessible than ever these days thanks to streaming services such as Netflix, which routinely purchases broadcasting rights for series that generate conversations domestically, and are increasingly working with local creators to co-produce programs with a global reach in mind.

These are the five best Mandarin-language series of 2022 that are available for streaming with English subtitles on Netflix and HBO.

Shards of Her | Official Trailer | Netflix

Shards of Her 她和她的她 tā hé tā de tā
Where to stream: Netflix

Synopsis: A capable headhunter who has to deal with misogyny and discrimination in the workplace, Lin Chen-Hsi (林晨曦 Lín Chénxī) gets hit by a car one day. When she wakes up from a coma, Lin finds herself in an alternate reality where her high school chemistry teacher is killed. As her involvement in a police investigation into the murder case intensifies, Lin starts to regain her memory in real life and has to confront a piece of her past that she had hoped to forget.

Overview: Although the #MeToo movement has made ripples across the world, including in Chinese-speaking societies, it is not often that a Mandarin-language series comes along that grabs the collective attention of viewers while exploring one of the least-talked-about issues — that of sexual assault and its ramifications — in a nuanced, delicate way on-screen.

Shards of Her has just done that. Packed with searing emotion and armed with a showstopping central performance by Xǔ Wěiníng 许玮甯, the nine-part series is a fearless, boundary-pushing inquiry of gender dynamics, the imbalance of power, violence against women, and the path to recovery from trauma.

From its unconventional storytelling and attention to detail to masterful suspense building and top-notch dialogue writing, every facet of Shards of Her is groundbreaking and it has been receiving rave reviews not only in Taiwan but also across the Strait, where mainland viewers have rated the series a stellar 8.6 out of 10 on the popular Chinese review site Douban.

🧸 Official Trailer: Love Between Fairy and Devil | iQIYI Romance

Love Between Fairy and Devil 苍兰诀 cāng lán jué
Where to stream: Netflix

Synopsis: The leader of a demon army called the Moon Tribe, Dōngfāng Qīngcāng 东方青苍 is locked up in a tower for thousands of years after an ancient battle. One day, a young woman named Xiǎolánhuā 小兰花, who is reborn as a fairy after her kingdom is defeated by Dongfang Qingchang, accidentally releases the prisoner.

When Dongfang Qingchang sets out to break his curse by sacrificing his saver’s soul and unleashes chaos again, some bizarre magic appears to have taken place and make the pair switch bodies. But as they search for a way to undo the spell, love begins to blossom.

Overview: Love Between Fairy and Devil isn’t entirely free from the clichés of Chinese fantasy romances, but it also works hard to subvert expectations and reinvent what’s possible for the genre.

When it comes to characters, the series made an unusual decision to make an arrogant, ruthless, and sometimes downright despicable ruler as its protagonist. Dongfang Qingchang is the definition of an anti-hero, and his devilish charm immediately caught the attention of viewers when the series aired in China in the summer, resulting in a plethora of memes about his possessive behavior toward his romantic interest and his sheer apathy about everything but her.

Mom, Don’t Do That! | Official Trailer | Netflix

Mom, Don’t Do That! 妈,别闹了 mā, bié nào le
Where to stream: Netflix

Synopsis: After the passing of her husband, Wáng Méiméi 王玫玫, a 60-year-old widow, decides to live boldly and find love again. When dating around, she moves in with her daughter Chén Rúróng 陈如蓉, who is conservative, perpetually single, and annoyed by her mother’s lifestyle. At the same time, Rurong’s younger sister, Chén Ruòmǐn 陈若敏, reenters her life after a series of bad breakups.

In the face of their own dating problems, the three women make a wager: Whoever finds her romantic match first gets to go on an overseas trip paid for by the other two.

Overview: Emotional and funny, Mom, Don’t Do That! is a charming depiction of what dating looks like for women at different stages of their lives in Taiwan. Packed with comedic moments, the series also paints a heartwarming bond between a mother and her two daughters, which is reliably feel-good for nights when you want something lighthearted.

Twisted Strings | Announcement Trailer | HBO GO

Twisted Strings 良辰吉时 liáng chén jí shí
Where to stream: HBO

Synopsis: In the fictional city of Taiping, a spate of strange deaths occurs over the course of a week. Eerie and full of suspense, these incidents are woven in the memories of Wú Yuènǚ 吴月女, a nearly dead woman whose life is marked by a series of unfortunate events.

Overview: Twisted Strings is a thriller-comedy executive-produced by Taiwanese art house filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien (侯孝賢 Hóu Xiàoxián), ​​who is best known for his slow-paced realist works about everyday people, notably Taipei Story and The PuppetmasterTwisted Strings was written and directed by Huáng Xī 黃熙, whose directorial debut, Missing Johnny, earned her a nomination of Best New Director at the 2017 Golden Horse Awards.

Underscored by a delightful dark humor, Twisted Strings offers a satirical look at the darker side of the human condition.

Light the Night | Official Trailer | Netflix
Light the Night 华灯初上 huá dēng chū shàng
Where to stream: Netflix

Synopsis: Located in the red-light district of 1980s Taipei, Light is a Japanese-style nightclub that offers wealthy businessmen and influential politicians fun, flirtation, and companionship. On a seemingly normal day, the body of a young woman who appears to be a hostess at Light is found on a hiking trail outside Taipei. The murder draws police officers to the popular establishment. As the investigation deepens, they discover that there’s a complicated web of relationships at the nightclub, where women have to navigate jealousy, heartbreak, friendship, love, and betrayal while trying to keep their patrons satisfied.

Overview: While Light the Night opens with the discovery of an unidentified corpse, the series is not a murder mystery at heart. The greatest feature of this soapy drama, now in its third season after premiering on Netflix in November 2021, is its rich ensemble of characters. Through a total of 24 episodes so far, the program tracks the hostesses’ intertwined relationships and the unique struggles they face individually, inside and outside the club. Key to Light the Night’s brilliance are the strong performances given by each actress.

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