Dylan Wang, left, and Shen Yue in "Meteor Garden." Just because the show finished doesn't mean you have to stop watching it. (Image via Push)
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Just because it’s over doesn’t mean you have to stop watching.

Another ending. Another depressed me. “Meteor Garden” 2018 and its many OSTs (official soundtracks) has been the anthem of summer 2018. Closing with Episodes 48 and 49 last Friday, I still cannot get enough of the cheesy but also legendary story that has everyone wishing for a love as pure and right as the main characters’.

The only thing that is better than watching a new show is re-watching it! With the stellar acting and captivating plot, you can count on these 5 “Meteor Garden” 2018 episodes to give your heart the involuntary rom-com tingles.

That being said, here are the five best episodes of “Meteor Garden.”

1. Ep. 2

Rather than the first episode, I picked the second to be in the top five because it gives the viewers a clearer sense of who each of the characters are. The first episode lays down the basics of the plot — how the Dong Shancai meets the members of F4, but it isn’t until the second episode that the viewer comes to understand the individual personalities.

The episode details one of the most beloved instance in all of the Hana Yori Dango adaptations — the scene where Dong Shancai is abducted by Daoming’s bodyguards for a makeover and a condescending offer to be his girlfriend.

Since this setting and plotline has been repeated over a series of adaptations, the actors in the “Meteor Garden” 2018 version face a daunting task in reinterpreting key scenes, and they deliver brilliantly.

For the female lead Dong Shancai, Shen does a great job of adding a sparkle and a freshness to a character who was originally a bit crabby. Rather than emulating the femme fatale of her Taiwanese predecessor, Shen does a great job of showing the childish, mature, vulnerable, and fierce sides of her character’s personality.

As for the rest of F4, it becomes clear to the viewers that their friendship is grounded not just in time but also a deep understanding of each other’s personalities in all their fickleness, idleness and womanizing ways.  The viewer comes to see how narcissistic Daoming Si is, but also how that mien dissolves into an innocence that is difficult to hate.

Aside from the plot itself and the acting, the camerawork is downright gorgeous. One of the aesthetics that I appreciate is that each characters’ clothing matched the background in color and in mood. Dong’s pink checkered shirt positively glows when the camera pans out to include the blush pink sunset, matching perfectly with her content facial expressions. Another godly instance is when Dong stumbles into Huaze playing violin in a brilliant white room and a soft white suit on. The camerawork captures the golden sunlight flooding the room and frames the angelic violinist perfectly.

All of the attention paid to even the most minute of details sets this version apart from any other Hana Yori Dango adaptation.

2. Ep. 19

If y’all thought Eleanor Young from “Crazy Rich Asians” was a tiger mom, its because you haven’t seen “Meteor Garden” yet. The fierce mother is a trope often used in Asian dramas as the main source of conflict between two lovers — “Meteor Garden” 2018 is no exception.

Hellbent on exposing Dong for her lower socioeconomic status at Daoming’s swanky birthday party, his mother challenges Dong to prove she belonged to the upper crust. In the most deliberate and eloquent way possible, Dong confronts the crazy Asian mother with a gentle piano piece while drilling home the notion that wealth and social status mean nothing in the absence of genuine human connection and emotion.

Because of censoring issues and other cultural reasons, this version has de-emphasized the importance of social status and thankfully other problematic occurrences that appear in other adaptations of Hana Yori Dango like bullying. Rather than subjecting Dong to abject poverty, the drama works to praise the working class citizens and to demonstrate that only those who rely on their own intelligence and hard work are deserving of their hefty inheritance.

Also, Dong gives Daoming the most adorable (and probably delicious) birthday present that anyone could ever ask for.

3. Ep. 23

This is the episode I would watch over and over again for the tingly rom-com feels. For those who wonder why this adaptation is titled “Meteor Garden” this episode explains it all.

After Dong’s encounter with Daoming’s mother, she finds herself homeless and alone until she is recruited into the Daoming household as a maid. When Daoming finally wrests Dong away from her various chores, duties and excuses, he brings Dong out for a spectacular meteor shower. As they both take turns marveling at the shooting stars, one cannot help but smile as Daoming says to Dong, “Because you’re the only one I’m willing to trade all the meteors in the sky for.” Talk about smooth.

One of the things I like best about this remake and this episode in particular is that it takes romance and romantic feelings seriously. Slowly but surely, this adaptation takes its time to establish that love requires effort and sacrifice. For this love story, the title “Meteor Garden” aptly suits a romance that is as scarce, brilliant and pure as a meteor shower.

4. Ep. 41

Probably need a tissue box and comfort food to re-watch this episode because it is a boatload of feels.

Unable to fight against the harsh realities of love and the cutthroat business world, the couple spends a bittersweet day in London vowing to find and be with one another in the next lifetime.

Nearing the end of the day, Daoming brings Dong to his favorite childhood restaurant for a last hotpot meal before their time was up. The two protagonists weren’t the only one choking back tears when they reminisce about their time together and pretend that their teary eyes were a result of a hilarious rather than heart shattering conversation. Their desperate fight to absorb everything about one another but also forcing themselves to separate and tear apart the love that they share is absolutely excruciating as a watcher. How do you ever encounter a love so pure and right?

To me, their last supper was the climax of both the episode and the drama itself. Sure, the ending scene of the episode where they both run back into each other’s’ arms is great but it is the dinner they suffer through together that aptly sums up their romance.

Also, is this really an Asian drama until one of the main characters dramatically gets kidnapped? The whole taze and collapse at the end of the episode was the (unintended) comic relief that turned my tears into tears of laughter.

Hands down, this is my favorite episode out of the 49-episode drama.

5. Ep. 49

The very last episode of “Meteor Garden” 2018 is one that I would watch over and over again. This summer must be the summer of rom-coms and super extra weddings because this adaptation went above and beyond to give the viewers closure.

In a princess-like wedding dress, a very confused Dong stands before her fiancé and friends while Daoming reenacts his first declaration of love. Copying the confrontation from Episode 2 almost to the tee, the viewers get to see how much the two protagonists have matured as adults but also how unchanging their core values are.

By far, “Meteor Garden” 2018 is superior in character development compared to the other adaptations like Boys Over Flowers. Daoming’s mother as a character also comes full circle. Instead of chalking up the mother’s character to simply being evil, the drama delves into how running a business empire surrounded by unsavory businessmen as a widowed mother takes a toll on any individual. The viewers come to understand how difficult the lifestyles of the rich and the ruthless are and ultimately to see that every human is vulnerable in their own ways.

And of course, you can’t call this show “Meteor Garden” unless there is another gorgeous meteor shower with a montage of all the main characters and their content faces.

Goodbye, “Meteor Garden” 2018, you can bet I’ll be re-watching this in between lectures and probably for the rest of my life.

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Christine Fang

University of California San Diego

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