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“The General’s Daughter” TV Review: Diverting, Compelling, and Politically Significant

A woman in a covert rescue mission gets shot, wakes up with no clear memory of who she is, and now battles with the thought that maybe she isn’t the good person people around her, believe she is, in ABS-CBN’s new action drama series.

There are a lot in common between the new TV series, The General’s Daughter, and the now 3-year-old primetime leader, FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano: both are from the production unit, Dreamscape, and are respectively topbilled (in titular roles) by two of the industry’s biggest stars, and are both delving into the chaotic world of terrorism, patriotic service, and law enforcement.

When the Coco Martin-starrer arrived three years ago, there were no strong indications that it would be the primetime king, much less stay on top for more than three years . Now, to be fair with The General’s Daughter, it doesn’t need to outlast Ang Probinsyano to earn the same success and respect the latter has been reaping in the past three years, as there is much more in the new action drama series that will earn itself the merit it deserves.

Four years, since the last TV series where she played a lead role (The Legal Wife), Angel Locsin remains the one and only action-drama queen. Non-linear storytelling normally doesn’t enjoy warm reception from the local audience as much as its linear counterpart, but it works wonders in the show’s favor, as it allows the audience to indulge in the heat and intensity of the pilot’s tense narrative, straight away.

The first few minutes, alone, engages Rhian Bonifacio, Locsin’s character, in an explosive rescue mission where her impressive stunt skills are impeccably showcased. Action sequences are carried out with sophistication that palpable tension is generated in Locsin’s every move. Deft camerawork also facilitated the flawless capture of her scenes, especially when she fell into the water to carry out her hairbreadth escape.

Arguably, when it comes to new series, it is almost always obligatory for showrunners to bend to what the general audience want to see. And when the network, itself, seems to project strict adherence toward the more established brand, the need to embrace a lingering formula, becomes inevitable. The similarities between the two primetime shows may be uncanny enough to not allow lazy observers come up with a reliable assessment, but the keener eyes won’t fall into the trap of making such a mistake.

For starters, FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, would easily fit to a procedural format, had its 5-day air schedule been squeezed to a once-in-a-week episode (although recently, the show has remarkably been focusing to character-building scheme, only stretched to a season-long engagement). If Dreamscape were to view such as an effective strategy (which it is, to be fair), it won’t be a surprise if the Angel Locsin-drama follows suit. It is likewise not surprising, if it turns out to be something more. Executing high-concept dramas like this one is no joke, as many in the past, have already failed in fulfilling their promises. It is easy to be swayed to believing the show will similarly fail, but there are enough hints in the pilot episode that make us convinced it will not.

Let’s go back to the nonlinear style. When the trailer came out a few months ago, there was a clear implication that the show will go linear and tell the story of Rhian starting from when she was young. It doesn’t happen in the pilot episode, as our already adult Rhian, immediately gets thrown into gripping action sequences. The choice to utilize such device, effectively expedites the building of a potent foundation for a compelling narrative.

Naturally, dramas of this nature, are embedded with questions, and in The General’s Daughter’s case, they come largely from the fact that the pilot episode showed just a small chunk of the complete storyline that the trailers seem to suggest.

We know for a fact, based on the trailers, that Rhian’s mission is to kill someone, who is yet to be revealed to her as her real father. But the events in the pilot episode leave several gaps to make forming a discernible picture, a real challenge. The amnesia arc which was immediately entertained during the very first few moments of the show, just makes it even muddier for the audience.

There are marvels in the 1-hr pilot worth mentioning. Arjo Atayde as the mentally-challenged, Elai, is a whole warm cup of irresistible charm. But the merit of his character does not solely come from its charisma, but the rich artistic performance Arjo presented to deliver the tight nuances of his character. Maricel Soriano as Nanang Sabel is convincing in her portrayal of a kind, loving woman whose faith in everyone’s humanity is strong enough not to lead her to believing otherwise; and she exerts little effort to appear so.

Still, the real gem of the episode remains Angel Locsin. There are obvious moral strains in her character which may potentially dictate her next decisions.

This is a story dealing with loyalty and patriotism, after all. It is interesting that the choice to go nonlinear, sort of adds up more mystery to her character. Locsin seemingly finds ease pulling off her stunts during the pilot, but her charismatic presence and dramatic restraint are what make Rhian even more invitingly enigmatic. When in emotionally-rich moments, her eyes are a separate actor. She just nails both her combat and dramatic scenes and she could not have done better.

In the end, forming a reliable assessment about a show that may possibly run for a couple of months, is a one hard job, as it requires a critical foresight of what may happen next. More characters are still to enter the picture, and hopefully will make this guessing game, easier. Or not.

Ultimately, The General’s Daughter is the most diverting and compelling pilot we have seen in a very long while, but it still has a long way to go to keep a loyal audience. There are glimmers of politically and culturally-significant motifs that seem to lurk beneath its surface, which makes this story of family, betrayal, and revenge, even more exciting. So don’t fail us, Dreamscape.

Also starring Paulo Avelino, JC de Vera, Ryza Cenon, Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte, Janice de Belen, Eula Valdes, Tirso Cruz III, and Albert Martinez, The General’s Daughter now airs weeknights on ABS-CBN Primetime Bida, after FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano

Watch the official trailer below:


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