Brother’s Keeper: The True Worth of Sam
Note: This critical commentary for episodes 31 and 32 of “Brother’s Keeper” is written by Funn Lim. Certain dialogue is reproduced with some creative license adopted.
Perhaps the title should be The Final Redemption Of Sam but the truth is I feel Sam need not redeem anything since he did no wrong to others, except maybe to the poor young girl in Episode 31. The last 2 episodes is more on the worth of Sam, how others view him and more importantly how he views himself.
I will say this at the very beginning of my commentary. I seriously doubted the series for the past 4 or 5 episodes, I disliked the change of characters and I definitely hated the whole tone and tune so to speak. But the last 2 episodes, especially the last 15 minutes or so of the last episode fully redeemed this series because to me that is the focus of this series; not Rachel, not Ying, not mom but Soon and Sam, which clearly illustrates the title Brother’s Keeper. Anyone who has lost faith in this series need only watch the last episode and enjoy the return of the Kiu Tin Sang we all know and his self worth. That is why to me the entire 2 episodes is all about the worth of Sam.
How much is he worth you ask? Plenty. Sam is a strong character, from episode 1, as a teenager he swam to HK and how he made his own way, stumbled and reemerged later as stronger, better and in a way, the Kiu Tin Sang who knows his true value. In Episode 31 you will see a dejected Sam. In fact you might even wonder why did he have to stick to those gangsters, why not find his own way, the proper way. So for me all those accusations of Sam losing his way, losing his worth and losing his self respect by turning into this… monster is only true in Episode 31. What he supposedly did wrong could never be compared to him quite almost losing his soul when in Episode 31 he witnessed a young teenager being viciously raped by his big boss and the girl subsequently killed herself that very night. That moment he acted in self preservation and in that lost his soul. So yes, Sam did turn into Vader, but like Darth Vader, in the end he found ways of redeeming himself. He became Mandy’s informer, even declaring he will sacrifice himself to bring down that big bad boss who rapes, sells Ketamine to teenagers and is an all round bag guy. Mandy many times urged him to save himself first, but Sam with steely determination declared “If I have to die, I will drag them to hell with me”. I know he will not die but for a moment I thought perhaps TVB might try to be funny.
At the same time Soon and Rachel both involved in the kidnapping did not emerge smelling like Roses.
At times I wonder does Soon believe his brother? Was Soon so naive to believe he could escape if Sam did not loosen the ropes used to tie Soon? For many episodes Soon has shown himself in very bad light, unintentionally. He’d rather listen to Ying than to fight for his brother’s honour; he’d rather buy a new shop than to pay for Sam’s defence; all in all he wanted to help Sam but he did not believe in Sam at all. He abandoned the very brother who never abandoned him. After the reconciliation at the hospital, Sam said it in a rather nice way “In your heart you knew I was trying to help you. How can you not? I am your big brother, I will always look out for you. In your heart you knew I will never bring harm to you”. And Soon near tears held his brother’s hand. Frankly I wasn’t quite convinced Soon knew and for the longest of time I wondered if Soon ever had any faith in his own big brother. But Episode 31 and 32 redeemed Soon in a big way by Soon asking a very simple question Rachel never asked. When confronted with evidence of his brother mixing with the bad guys doing bad things, Soon suspected Sam’s true intentions but did wondered aloud many times “But why? Why did brother do that? Why?”. This simple question of WHY tells me Soon had doubts; he doubted the veracity of what he heard about his brother. This shows deep inside in his heart he knew his brother could not be so bad, or as bad as anyone tells him. But he never quite fully redeemed himself at the start of Episode 32 when he stood by and did nothing when Ying informed the police Soon’s handphone number (the handphone was accidentally dropped into Sam’s bag and so police can GPS Sam which led to the unfortunate almost sorry end of Sam) nor did he scolded Rachel for calling the cops on Sam when Sam appeared at his mom’s birthday party. But then it fits doesn’t it? Rachel his goddess can do no wrong. Whatever my criticism of Soon may be, one thing is clear. In his own way he is loyal to Sam. He never even thought about wooing Rachel, he never even entertained that idea because he knew this will destroy Sam and of course, a huge reason is because Rachel is still in love with Sam.
But is Rachel still in love with Sam? For many episodes she has demonstrated herself as someone who thought the worst of Sam; she never gave him a chance to explain, she never fully confronted him or their breakup and she never asked the question “Why”. Whenever she heard something bad about Sam, her immediate reaction is “He can’t be helped anymore!”. Soon thinks she is still in love with Sam because she is not with anyone else. In the end when she found out about the truth of Sam, she regretted and stood by him, holding his hands as the ambulance took him to the hospital. When he was better, she clearly intimated that she wanted to go back with him, that her heart was his, especially when Sam said he wants to leave HK and with regret Rachel said “But you just came back, you have many people who still cares deeply for you”. Sam knew who she meant, she knew he knew but he made up his mind. He had to go. Rachel in her own way promised to wait. At this point I am still pissed off with Rachel and that moment confirms one thing; Rachel is that sort that is in love with a “hero”. Well who doesn’t? But when the “hero” lost his way, she was the first to abandon him. When the “hero” tried to explain, she didn’t bother to listen. She was deeply prejudiced against Sam and the pinnacle of that prejudice was when Sam dropped by to see his mom at her birthday bash, seeing Soon he rushed off and Soon ran after Sam and faraway Ying and Rachel saw Soon and Sam struggling against one another and Ying remarked “Is he trying to hurt Sam?”. Can’t blame Ying, she hardly knew Sam but Rachel had a decade long relationship with Sam, she even knew it was Sam who hugged her when she was blindfolded and yet she can’t see that it was Soon holding onto Sam who was struggling to get away. She immediately called the police. That to me was the pinnacle of her betrayal of Sam. When Sam found out she called the police, his stare was full of hurt and perhaps a little disbelief. At that point Sam should have realised Rachel will never stick by him. She is a “good time” girl. That is a person to have good times with but when bad time comes, she is the first to turn.
On paper Rachel sounds ideal. But on screen, Rachel has got to be one of the worst written and reasoned character of all time. She is a good girl but a terrible girlfriend at the worst of time. In her eyes Sam is worth zero. She is highly prejudiced, biased and uncompromising. All that because she sees Sam as a fallen hero. She is in love with the charming gallant brave and heroic Sam. When reality sets in, her love dissipates. When Sam returns as a hero that saved the day, her love returns. I will call that a conditional love; on the condition that Sam never disappoint her, remaining a hero is her eyes, her love still exists. The ending does nothing to dispel that sort of reasoning. It in fact reinforces it. So to me Rachel was never redeemed at all. She is as rainbow, unicorn, apple pies and all thing sweet and nice in her head as she was when Sam first met her.
So imagine my fear how the ending will be; how stupid it will be if Rachel so called accepts Sam again and Sam jumps into her embrace. Thank you the writers of TVB for giving Sam his last remnants of his worth in our eyes when it comes to Rachel. She clearly said she wants him back but Sam (thank you very much!!) rejected her in the most polite way with his own cryptic words that Rachel used to use on him. He said;
Perhaps timing is everything. Perhaps timing isn’t right, not right now. I want to find my way again in this world, to seek out my own path again, and when I come back, when I have found my path, perhaps then the timing may be right.
YES! Yessssssssssss!!!! I was so happy Sam got his balls back. However disappointed Rachel was, in the end the final scene was Soon happily seeing that bracelet that Sam gave her many years ago which she refused to wear and seeing her wearing that bracelet again. It means Rachel made a promise; she will wait for Sam. This time it will be Rachel doing the wondering, the pining, the waiting whilst Sam finds his own way.
I am not sure where Sam will go, probably to do some volunteering work. In one of the last scene of the 2 brothers together, Sam told Soon he will be leaving. Soon asks Sam to stay but Sam reminds Soon of Sam’s own promise when they first reached HK, that is to earn his first bar of gold or something like that. At that point Sam meant richness. But now, Sam meant his own path, his own true worth. I find that very encouraging. I find that sort of ends this series on a very positive note.
The positive note is Sam found his own true worth again. Of course he did it to redeem himself in the eyes of his family and of himself. But more importantly, for himself. He could hold his head up high and look into the eyes of his mother, Soon, Rachel and even his stepfather who he finally calls “Dad”. I don’t suppose he was a hard child to take care of, especially the old man himself isn’t an easy man to be with. But that one word “Dad” sort of promises a positive beginning between stepfather and stepson. Again that is something very positive.
Maybe I would have wished Sam ends up with Mandy who seems to be the only one who never doubted Sam. I like Mandy. She stood by Sam, she encourages him and finally she has a hand in helping Sam to find his own true worth. One of the most harrowing scene was the final scene of Sam’s redemption was when he was shot by the police who was investigating the kidnapping whilst Sam was busy punching that big bad gangster and Mandy ran forward and cried “Sammmmmmm! Stop! Stop! He is our own!!” and I am sure the police dude who shot Sam will be seriously traumatized because he shot a “colleague” as he cried “What… WHAT?!” That was such a scary and exciting scene, ruined only by Soon, Rachel and Ying arriving at the scene, they all knew Sam was shot, they were all fearful for his life and Rachel had to spoil it by again, what I call the final insult when she asked Mandy “Was he involved in some police shootout?”. The question is sickening because she means to ask did Sam bring this to himself by getting involved with bad guys and shooting at the police? It was Mandy who explained everything, and I wished she had shouted at Rachel instead of calmly like in a reassuring way saying “Sam is my informer. He wanted to prove he is not some garbage of society, he is the same good Sam, Rachel, he never changed”. It was said in a nice way but I wished Mandy had shook Rachel and shouted “RACHEL, SAM IS MY INFORMER! LISTEN! HE IS NOT SOME GARBAGE, HE IS A GOOD GUY! BITCH!”. Something like that. Of course it was very satisfying to let all that sink in and see Rachel going OMG and saying “I… I called the police.. I did not believe him…”. Yeah, the hero is back for Rachel but for me, Rachel is just a first class jerk. Which is why I was so happy when Sam rejected her, in the nicest possible way. It is time Sam prioritizes himself.
And that sums up up the entire series, Brother’s Keeper. Sam knew his worth, lost it, regained it and in the end found his own true worth. The last 2 episodes perhaps is the true reflection of what Brother’s Keeper is supposed to be, unfortunately the story is riddled with inconsistencies. The passage of time was supposed to show the change in characters, especially Sam but the only one who went through any change is truly Sam alone. The rest remained who they were with cynicism thrown in that made me quite simply hate them. The last episode gives to us the viewers a good closure for Sam. It is to me the perfect end, that Sam got his final say. But everyone else remains vague. Soon never married, no children and his character never did go through any big change. Rachel remains a character I hate the most in this series, even with that ending of her promise to wait for Sam because I feel she is in love with the idea of Sam the hero, not Sam the real person. There is no doubt Sam is brave and he finds his own path, he walks it and he admits it when he is wrong. He is at times heroic but Sam is not a hero. He is a human being, and Rachel has never been good with dealing with Sam the human being. To me Rachel remains an unconvincing good guy. Ying has a better ending in the sense she married Lung Fei and deeply in love although I would have wished for a bridge between the miscarriage scene and the reconciliation scene. And till the end no wedding and no children. How strange.
If you have not watched this series, I will recommend it for only one reason; Ruco Chan. Maybe you will dislike his Sam but I am sure somewhere towards the end you will feel the most sympathy for him. He faced total abandonment, total doubt, total everything but he fully redeemed his self worth in the end. It is quite a journey for this character even if in the middle it was badly written. If this was a tighter script, it would have been a classic of one man’s journey to forgiveness and redemption. That seems to be the original basis except Sam’s downfall was unconvincing until Episode 31. So many episodes wasted on what I couldn’t even remember and the real action, real theme is towards the last 2 episodes. It could have been a classic, but for the most part it was a dud. Not a total dud, but disappointingly isn’t as great as it could have been. The script for the most part is terrible. This is more so in the last scene, Rachel and Soon discussing the positivity of Sam going away, etc and Rachel and Soon remarked “He has lost everything now…” and I thought what a weird line to say at this point. If this was said in Episode 31, perhaps that is true. But to say it in the final scene is totally wrong and I can only surmise the writer got confused. Because everything that Sam has done prior to him leaving HK means he regained everything. He had his family back, he had Rachel again and also more importantly his self worth. So he may have lost everything THEN, but he has gained everything NOW. His going away is not to seek what he has lost but rather to seek a different path in life. What a weird line and shows both Soon and Rachel in a very bad light. Till the end, they never understood Sam.
Despite all these, I will say watch it for Ruco Chan’s chameleon-like performance. It is not his best performance but look at it this way; such a lousy script but he managed to rise above all those inadequacies and give us a memorable performance of a man we all feel is a good character. Maybe it is Ruco’s ability to retain the integrity of any character he plays but Sam to me never quite became as hopeless as Rachel declared him to be. This has a lot to do with the weak script and the unconvincing story about Sam and his downfall, the inability to fully make him a disgusting villain but perhaps, just perhaps it is also the actor’s inability to be vilified. I felt the same way for Ruco’s character in Three Kingdoms RPG (http://point2e-reviews.blogspot.com/2012/10/three-kingdoms-rpg-tvbe.html).
When I was about to watch Episode 31, I have thought about how I will write my commentary. I had wanted to dedicate a song to Sam, a classic from Danny Chan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Chan) that is the themesong from the best TVB modern day series ever, Looking Back In Anger (http://point2e-reviews.blogspot.com/2009/12/looking-back-in-anger-tvb.html). The chinese title is Ò»ÉúºÎÇó (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_H590e5KKw) which I translate as “My heart’s desire” but literally it means “All that I desire all my life”.
It is hauntingly beautiful and fits the series. It is from the perspective of Felix Wong’s character. In Sam’s context, it fits him too, prior to Episode 32. This series has a much happier ending that Looking Back In Anger but at some point, I can imagine Sam saying the lyrics as follows:-
I did not expect the loss I have suffered…
Is my all …
If you have never watched Looking Back In Anger you must. Because Brother’s Keeper is more like Looking Back In Anger’s alternate title. The difference is Deric Wan’s character was never redeemable from the beginning. He was always selfish, vain and he walked a very very wrong path destroying everything and even till the end his brother, Felix loved him even if he was disappointed in him and had to let Deric face the consequence of his actions. Brother’s Keeper never had that same level of intensity and will never have that same level of classic that Looking Back In Anger enjoyed. Brother’s Keeper had potential but was bulldozed by the lazy writing and the wrong emphasis. It didn’t go the way it should have and in the end was half way from nowhere. Episodes 31 and 32 showed the potential it had but it was a little too late to give Brother’s Keeper the credibility of a good series. It isn’t that terrible but it is those that you watch once and you can put aside and never return to it. It has no rewatch value and it is exciting only for that little while. It will create discussions but it will never have that level of discussions that a much better series will generate for years to come. It can never be timeless, as timeless as Danny Chan’s classic is or the series that it is a themesong to. But perhaps my expectation may be too high, after all Looking Back In Anger is the classic of classics.
Quite a pity because the performances were for the most of them wonderful. Actually, what a pity.
This commentary is written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.