Against the Tide review – Singapore drama

Here’s another one that takes a few episodes to find its feet, then you’re sucked in and the next 20 episodes are engaging viewing. I’m not quite sure what the title, Against the Tide, actually means, but then the show is full of enigmas. 逆潮 (nìcháo) could be translated as Counter Current, or as Google Translate has it, Back Tide.

Christopher Lee and Rui En are the two leads, Dí Shēn (狄深) and Qiū Xuěqīng (邱雪清) and the Singapore scriptwriters prove their originality once again. Di Shen is a famous novelist specialising in murder mysteries. Xueqing is a psychiatrist with a particularly strong sense of empathy.

Both are entangled in a web of past events they are struggling to move on from. Secrets abound, but Xueqing falls for Di Shen despite him admitting he has a murky past that would unsettle her. He will only reveal this when the time is right.

Justice Warriors

Di Shen’s past is linked to his association with a vigilante group he has broken free from. His outlet is now his writing. Ex-members of the group want him back. One of them has fallen for him. Zhāngjìngxuán (张静璇), played by Paige Chua, is a lawyer who escaped a drug addiction.

Di Shen’s other ex-associate, Zhuō Dìngkāng (卓定康) has lost his way after the disbanding of the gang. He is still obsessed with dishing out justice as an end in itself, nevermind the means. Dispensing justice gives his life meaning. Zhāng Zhènhuán (张振寰) plays the high-minded Dingkang, and him and Paige Chua are good supporting characters, mirroring the inner conflicts of Di Shen and Xueqing to whom they are inextricably linked.

Add Desmond Tan as determined Assistant Superintendent Zhōu Jiànfēng (周健锋), and you don’t just have a love triangle, you have a love pentangle – in the future I’ll insert a diagram here.

Desmond Tan, Rui En, Christopher Lee in Against the Tide
Rui En tries to hide evidence

It’s good to see Rui En with a character and script that does justice to her talents. Unriddle can’t match the tight direction and imaginative plot of Mind Game. But Against the Tide certainly can. And En brings out all the nuances of a vulnerable psychiatrist wanting to help her patients overcome their inner demons, even if means putting herself in danger.

Invaders of the mind

Like Mind Game, Against the Tide also features hypnotherapy and dissociative identity disorder, or spilt personality. Intuition and hallucination are also called on in an overarching plot that weaves together a series of seemingly isolated murder cases. If anything, Against the Tide features more original characterisation as it doesn’t have a cop in the lead role despite being a crime series.

Carrie Wong Rui En
As Carrie Wong’s alter-ego makes clear, Against the Tide is definitely a crime series

But where Mind Game’s music is awesome, Against the Tide is heavily let down in this department. Looks like they could only pay the composer to write a couple of episodes. What’s been done is ok – decent suspense-orchestral-electro music. But it’s reused ad-infinitum, and overused, often drowning out the dialogue. How do subtitle translators work in these conditions? Do they just make stuff up?

Final verdict: 8.0

If the music was any more overdone I would have dropped another half mark. But it’s not so intrusive to ruin a good show. Against the Tide piles secrets on top of mysteries on top of illusions, layered with a healthy dollop of ill-fated romance.

Christopher Lee as Di Shen is sufficiently dashing, mysterious and remorseful to pit his conscience against his heart, while Rui En can be forgiven for falling for his charms in the character of Xueqing. As Xueqing’s uncle, Zhèng Gèpíng (郑各评) tries very hard to get her out of bed, while Carrie Wong is gorgeously innocent and devilishly insane as Di Shen’s younger sister.

A very watchable show – maybe they can do a second series called Fighting Gravity or something.

Possibly useful vocab:

末日: mòrì – Doomsday
分裂人格障碍: fēnliè réngé zhàng’ài – split personality disorder
催眠治疗: cuīmián zhìliáo – hypnotherapy
幻觉: huànjué – hallucination


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *