Brothers Son has all the makings of an odd-couple comedy. The titular siblings come from completely different worlds, a hardened gangster and a medical student who loves performing improv comedy. But in the streaming age, that simple premise is no longer enough. There should be mysteries, hard-won stakes, and big reveals. There has to be a fair amount of drama to fuel a season’s hour-long episodes. And at that point, the simple premise is no longer so simple – instead of sticking to the underlying humor of its setup, The Brothers Son overextends and finds itself unprepared for the weightier, emotional territory into which it blunders. Does.
Created by Byron Wu and Brad Falchuk for Netflix, the series follows Charles Sun (Justin Chien), the older brother raised in Taiwan by his father (Johnny Kou) and as a loyal enforcer for the Jade Dragons Triad. Molded. After a protracted fight scene that culminates in the shooting of the Sun patriarch, Charles leaves Taiwan to seek out his mother, Eileen (Michelle Yeoh), who took little Sun Bruce (Sam Song Lee) to America and raised him. Nurtured, about which he had no knowledge. the family business. After living apart for 15 years, at least it can be said that the brothers never got along. It’s a complicated setup, but once the exposition is out of the way the comedic potential begins to show.
Brothers Sun Gallery
Any peaks are found early on, when Brothers Sun is still enjoying ridiculous mismatches. The second episode sends Charles disposing of a body and dropping Bruce off at college on the way. But like a true sibling, he decides it’s not fair that mom gives him all the work, so he forces his younger brother to help. Their odyssey eventually brings them to a child’s dinosaur-themed birthday party, which culminates in one of the show’s best scenes when they are confronted by the secret killers. While Bruce cowers, Charles stabs, shoots, and generally causes serious harm to opponents with utmost seriousness, just as he does in the show’s other elaborately choreographed fight scenes – but in an inspired way. Touchingly, all the attackers here are wearing inflatable, floppy-led dinosaur costumes.
It’s a clever, pointed comparison of how these two see the world: Bruce’s wavering uncertainty and Charles’s eagerness to please against the tough guy’s preference for punching first and asking questions later. And the episode that follows shows similar strength when swapping Bruce for Eileen. The role finds Michelle Yeoh acting in the stern maternal style she has often done of late, as seen in Crazy Rich Asians or her Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere turn at once. She’s not just a comic-relief overbearing mother, though, as she solicits information from a mahjong parlor full of older women and quarrels with Charles over using the car’s air conditioning instead of breaking the windows. As the former brains behind the Jade Dragons, she is a planner and negotiator, and she often sends him off on subplots of his own, chasing leads or making deals with shady characters. After all, Yeoh is by far the biggest name in the cast, and his withering sincerity is the show’s greatest strength.
But The Brothers Sun stumbles whenever it divides the family, and it divides them often throughout the eight-episode first season. Bruce and Eileen are both captured separately, and Charles separates from the group to join in the fight or try to run the show on his own. In the process, the protagonists move between side characters and love interests. Rather than building on the dynamics of the initial episode, the shift towards drama is heightened through triad politics.
As deaths are mourned, clues are explored, and secrets are revealed, The Brother’s Son becomes a surprisingly plot-packed show, as opposed to effective vehicles for the characters’ interactions. Forgets those plot constructs as its main attraction. The series feels like it was built for streaming in the worst possible way, unwilling to invest in the small moments as it seems more concerned about laying the breadcrumbs for the next big reveal. For example, Bruce and Charles are functionally strangers – when they first meet again, Charles has to explain who he is. Yet it’s not until Episode 6 that they even think about raising the question of what it’s like to grow up separated.
Similarly, little is known about what life was like for Eileen and Bruce in Los Angeles over the past decade. Much of that history has been ignored in favor of the current predicament. This is the kind of show where Eileen is said to caress Bruce more often than she is seen doing so – clearly there is no time for that when there are secrets to uncover and There should be a plan to implement them. I would have happily watched more of the lower-tier early episodes, but that mode has been left behind in the rush of binge-worthy intrigue, and the characters’ relationships suffer for it across the board.
And without a strong foundation for the characters, the shift in tone adds a layer of weird inauthenticity. As a comedy, The Brother’s Son’s depiction of the criminal underworld doesn’t need to be particularly convincing. However, as a drama, it becomes a world of cardboard gangster cutouts, whose indicators of power and decadence often fail to explain. One character is described as a major player in the drug trade, just because his restaurant has a few security cameras and a side entrance – even that’s not a credibly funny analysis Can sell.
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The dramatic heist attempt brings with it a number of themes and concepts such as the allure of criminality, the toxic effects of organized-crime customs, or the question of whether people can truly change. But none of these ideas take coherent shape when spread across the tonal oscillations of eight overstuffed episodes – The Brother’s Sun is a far cry from Johnnie To’s 2005 Hong Kong triad thriller Election, which showed that at the expense of decency and ceremony. How easily one can pretend to be a gangster. Laser-focused to shreds in 100 minutes.
Perhaps the only idea that stands out clearly is one that has been at the forefront of Asian American storytelling: the weight of familial expectation. Here, it works because the brothers represent different paths so subtly, an idea that can be seen immediately and clearly, not one that has to be spoken into existence. Charles has been an obedient son, but Bruce’s interests lie outside the scope of what his mother wants for him. Yet as the plot gets lost in gangster politics, this conflict also falls by the wayside, and the brothers become a constant symbol of the series’ wasted potential.