I confess that I am always curious about trope-filled melodramas: the kind with love triangles/squares, intense business rivalries, company heirs forced into arranged marriages, buried secrets / birth secrets. For example, last year’s To Be With You (which I even partially recapped) and Nice to Meet You, or Royal Princess Returns (2017) and Love & Life & Lie (2017).
Fate (also known as Just to See You), a 40-episode Chinese drama that began airing in late November, definitely fits this profile. Noting that this drama was actually filmed back in 2017 but is finally airing, but aside from noticing outdated phones, it hasn’t made a difference in the viewing experience so far. I’m recapping the first five episodes here, so there will be spoilers below!
The first couple episodes were a little cringey so I skimmed through some parts, but I’m really liking the main characters together. Despite the unrealistic way they meet and start living together, I like that their friendship forms over time and that the male lead supports the female lead and helps her strategize. If it weren’t for the love square, I feel like this drama could’ve been a lighter rom-com! After all, there’s already a worthy villain storyline and the female lead seems to have plenty of potential romantic interests already. Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of angst and heartbreak will follow.
Fate stars Li Yi Tong as Xia Ranran and Lu Yi as Shao Mingzhe. Xia Ranran is in England, and tries to get in touch with her father for money, but is only able to reach Peng Jing, his mistress, who cuts her off. Framed for drug possession and not fluent in English, at the police station Ranran calls the only number she knows; she was given the wrong number for her mother, and it’s actually Shao Mingzhe’s number. Although initially he wants nothing to do with her, he ends up helping her because her plea reminds him of his ex-girlfriend’s words. He takes her in and writes up a work contract for Ranran to live in his home and be his personal assistant, and also encourages her to stay in England and improve herself before she returns to China to get back at Peng Jing. Mingzhe works on his startup, while Ranran is an art student.
Meanwhile, the ex-girlfriend Su Mo is also in England, and a young man named Lin Xiang An lives nearby and worries about her safety. He convinces her to move into a nicer apartment with him, and he takes care of the cost. Su Mo sets things straight with Lin Xiang An, saying that she knows he’s in love with her but there’s already someone else in her heart. A flashback shows that Mingzhe’s mother didn’t approve of Su Mo but offered to pay for her education abroad, and when Su Mo becomes her son’s equal and returns, Mingzhe’s mother would accept her. Su Mo took Mingzhe’s mother’s money, and that’s why she’s in England. Lin Xiang An disagrees with her choice, telling her that love doesn’t need to wait.
Xia Ranran’s flashback reveals that she knows Su Mo and Lin Xiang An, and that the three of them appear to be best friends from high school. Xia Ranran and Shao Mingzhe become friends over time, but he warns her not to mistake their relationship for love. Meanwhile, Su Mo pushes herself to the brink in her studies, and when Lin Xiang An scolds her about not taking care of herself, she says that her goal is to graduate and return to Mingzhe. Later, Lin Xiang An gives Su Mo Mingzhe’s address and tells her to go find him. Even though she claims she doesn’t want to, she goes to his address but the landlord tells her that a couple lives there. Su Mo waits and sees Mingzhe return and carry Ranran in on her back (she doesn’t see Ranran’s face). She returns home heartbroken and lets Xiang An comfort her.
Three years later, Ranran is still living with Mingzhe and looking for her mother. When Ranran recklessly pursues tips about her mother’s whereabouts, Mingzhe yells at her for making him worry and tells her there’s no record of her mother entering or exiting England. It’s icy between them after this argument, but a fire breaks out in their building and Ranran rushes into the smoke to save Mingzhe. When he wakes up in the hospital, she thanks him for being alive, saying she doesn’t know what she’d do without him. He tells her if her mother wanted to be found, they would have found her already. Meanwhile, Su Mo and Lin Xiang An are still in England, and apparently in a relationship. Lin Xiang An proposes, but Su Mo says she’s not ready. Unfazed, Lin Xiang An says he wants her to wear the ring while she decides.
Mingzhe leaves a note for Ranran inviting her to dinner to celebrate securing an investment for his company, but Ranran’s friend Dan Juan calls and tells her she needs to return immediately. Mingzhe is stood up at dinner and comes home to find Ranran’s room empty, except for the wall of article clippings about her family. (This is pretty rude of Ranran… she couldn’t send him a text message?!)
Dan Juan picks Ranran up at the airport and fills her in on what’s happened: Ranran’s father was in a car accident three years ago, but Peng Jing kept it out of the news. Now he’s in poor health, so his secretary Chen Luo and Peng Jing have been running the company. Ranran plots her return to her family and sets Dan Juan shows her a potential ally: Shao Kai, the son fo the president of Xia Ranran’s family’s company. Shao Kai has two hobbies: sports cars and models. Shao Kai witnesses Ranran yelling at a scumbag on the street, and it catches his attention, causing him to abandon the model he’s currently “dating.” Ranran and Dan Juan investigate what Peng Jing’s up to, and learn that there’s a sports center project their company is bidding for.
Shao Kai meets up with none other than Shao Mingzhe, who has returned as well, and it turns out they’re cousins. Shao Kai’s father orders him to attend Xia Hongyuan’s birthday banquet that evening, and Shao Kai explains the Xia family situation: Xia Hongyuan (Ranran’s father) married Han Yun against her family’s wishes, and his business has thrived since thanks to the help of her family. However, there’s no love between them and everyone in their business circles know that he has a mistress (Peng Jing) who gave birth to a son. Putting two-and-two together, Mingzhe asks if Hongyuan also has a daughter, and then offers to tag along to the banquet.
At the banquet, Hongyuan, with Peng Jing and his son at his side, makes a speech thanking everyone for their support of his company. He concludes his speech by thanking Peng Jing and announcing that he will marry her. And that’s when Xia Ranran makes her grand entrance (25:03 in Episode 3, if you want to watch this part!), stealing the spotlight from Peng Jing. Hongyuan is surprised but happy to see his daughter, because he hasn’t heard from her in years and had no idea where she was. Ranran makes a speech and says she brings well wishes from her mother and declares she will be returning soon. And to top it all off, she brings in her birthday gift for her father: a portrait she painted of the three of them. Afterward the banquet, Shao Kai approaches Ranran and asks her to meet him for brunch the next day. Hongyuan takes Ranran home and asks her how she’s been and where she’s staying; rejecting his offer to move home, she says she’ll continue to stay with her friend.
Ranran used to read to Mingzhe in England to help him fall asleep because he has insomnia. Apparently Mingzhe recorded it sometimes because as he goes to sleep, he listens to a recording of her voice. (This gives me hope for the two of them, maybe Ranran has helped heal some of the wounds that Su Mo left on his heart.)
As Ranran jogs the next morning, she’s surprised when Mingzhe appears and says hello to her, and twists her foot. Mingzhe tells her he found her by tracking her phone’s location (I think it’s something he set up in England, and how he was able to save her when she got into trouble with the creeps who said they had info about her mom. I must’ve skimmed over the part where he sets it up.) Mingzhe asks if the reason she rushed back was to seek revenge on her stepmother, and she’s surprised that he was present at the banquet. Mingzhe warns her that she made one mistake; while she was able to temporarily postpone her father marrying Peng Jing, they will investigate and discover that her mother is missing. Mingzhe must really love contracts, because he pulls one out of his pocket and asks Ranran to sign it to prove that she will be returning his money.
Peng Jing unexpectedly shows up at Ranran’s door, so Ranran shoves Mingzhe into her room and tells him to be quiet. Peng Jing shows Ranran a document of her mother’s exit record, which proves that her mother never left the country. Peng Jing tries to pay off Ranran with two or three million, but before Ranran can reply, Mingzhe comes out and says what Peng Jing says makes sense–and he asks for five hundred million, because given the value of Hongyuan Group and Ranran being the heir to the company, she’s worth at least that much. Peng Jing leaves unhappily, after reminding Ranran that her taste in men is poor and to choose wisely this time. (Yikes, what is she referencing?)
Shao Kai has been waiting for Ranran at a restaurant and calls her, but she says she knows he has a girlfriend and hangs up. Meanwhile, Mingzhe visits his grandfather, who orders him to work for the family company, the Shao Group. He then visits his apartment, but it brings him memories of Su Mo. Strangely though, he imagines Ranran intruding into his memory. (Yay, a good sign here!)
Chen Luo (Hongyuan’s secretary) visits Ranran, and she asks him whose side he’s on. He tells her that he’s her friend, he did search for her, and advises her not to try to carry her burdens alone. The next day, Mingzhe joins Shao Group but he still has Ranran’s family affairs on his mind. At Dan Juan’s store, Ranran regroups with Dan Juan about what she’s learned. Dan Juan reminds Ranran that when Peng Jing was pregnant and suffered a fall, Ranran helped her, but then Peng Jing accused her of pushing her and her father took Peng Jing’s side. Dan Juan has been Ranran’s friend since birth, growing up together their entire lives. Shao Kai’s model girlfriend comes to the store with her friends and accuses Ranran of stealing her fiance. Ranran says she has nothing to do with their relationship and advises the girlfriend to call Shao Kai, but he doesn’t pick up her calls.
Shao Kai visits Mingzhe in his office and warns him that this is just the first step to losing his independence. Mingzhe is distracted thinking about Ranran, but is instantly alert when Shao Kai picks up a call from Ranran. After the call, Mingzhe questions him and Shao Kai claims that Ranran fell in love with him at first sight, and then runs off to go meet Ranran. While Shao Kai deals with his “girlfriend”, Ranran and Dan Juan discuss using Shao Kai as Ranran’s ally, because at the very least, Shao Kai is harmless. Ranran invites Shao Kai to play pool, and he suggests they bet that if he wins, she’ll be his girlfriend and she counts that if she wins he has to do push-ups. Ranran wins every single time while Shao Kai just gets sweatier. During the last round, Ranran changes her condition to him coming to her family lunch.
Afterwards, Shao Kai calls Mingzhe over to meet him, and ends up needing to be taken to the hospital. He tells Mingzhe about Ranran’s last condition, because it feels strange to him. Mingzhe tells Shao Kai he’s known Ranran for a while and that she worked for him in England, but he hadn’t known her Chinese name, only that she’s desperate to get married. Shao Kai panics but Mingzhe tells him he’ll take care of it.
Peng Jing pays Chen Luo a visit and instructs him to give a file to Hongyuan. Before she leaves, she reminds him that she controls his future at Hongyuan Group and that she paid his mother’s medical bills. The next day (the day of the lunch), Peng Jing listens in when Chen Luo meets with Hongyuan, and later she questions him about why he didn’t give Hongyuan the file. Unable to get in touch with Shao Kai, Ranran heads to her father’s home alone, only to find Mingzhe already there. Ranran speaks to Mingzhe privately and tries to make him leave, but Mingzhe sees that the family’s helper is spying on them and deliberately hugs her. The helper sends the photo to Peng Jing. Mingzhe tells Ranran she needs an ally, so she lets him stay. At dinner, Mingzhe introduces himself as Ranran’s boyfriend. Mingzhe had reminded Ranran that attack is the best offense, so when the opportunity arises, he shares the story of Ranran’s drug possession arrest. Ranran talks about the mistakes she made and how when Peng Jing said her father cut her off financially, she realized she needed to get her act together. Ranran’s father asks Mingzhe if he’s related to the Shao Group, and Mingzhe says that the president is his uncle. Peng Jing goes to the bathroom and fumes over how Ranran is not only making her look bad, but also brought home a worthy boyfriend.
After the lunch, Hongyuan asks Chen Luo what he thinks about Mingzhe; Hongyuan isn’t naive and knows that Mingzhe’s wasn’t telling the whole truth. Hongyuan tells Chen Luo that the Shao family favored Mingzhe’s father Yunan, but Yunan resigned a couple years ago and Yunping (Shao Kai’s father) became president–meaning that Mingzhe may be the true heir to the company. Hongyuan tells Chen Luo to take Ranran to look at houses, and also that it’s rumored that a man named Lin Xiaodong is taking over an important position. Lin Xiaodong is Lin Xiang An’s father, and Peng Jing enters the room and joins the conversation to ask whether that’s the boy that Ranran had a fight over a few years ago.
Mingzhe and Ranran strategize together, and Mingzhe warns her that Peng Jing knows not to underestimate Ranran now. Peng Jing’s goal will still be to marry her father as soon as possible, and it’s possible that she’ll target Mingzhe. Ranran is salty (in an amused way) that all this time Mingzhe has been hounding her about paying him back when he comes from a wealthy family. But Mingzhe’s kindness towards Ranran triggers her memory of him warning her not to fall in love with him, so she gets out of his car angrily even though it’s raining very hard.
Like I mentioned before, there are some moments that really make me feel like perhaps Mingzhe is slowly letting Ranran into his heart, especially since he’s taken so much initiative to help Ranran in her efforts to find her mother and to go up against her stepmother. I’m worried for when Su Mo and Lin Xiang An come back into the picture though. It clearly felt like Su Mo hadn’t fully let go of Mingzhe in her heart, which is understandable since when she left him she fully thought they would get back together. Lin Xiang An had been one-sidedly loving Su Mo for a long time, and I felt bad for him.
One thing that I want to note is that I was really confused in the beginning about how old everyone is. I think at the beginning, Ranran (and Su Mo and Lin Xiang An) had just begun college. I believe Mingzhe is older than them, so I’m not sure about the timeline and how long Mingzhe and Su Mo dated for. I felt like they all looked older than the ages they’re supposed to be, but I guess the three-year time jump makes up for it somewhat.