“Kilala mo na kung sino ka?”
By the third episode, almost every major character in ABS-CBN’s new primetime drama, “The General’s Daughter,‘ is introduced. But nothing is ever more important than the unmasking of Rhian’s true identity.
Piece by piece, every revelation is a slap to every lie. But as pieces of truth fit the gaps in the puzzle, the picture only further expands and new empty spaces are revealed. That particular moment where Rhian finally realized she is not a good person, brims with visceral sentiments that make the character emotionally compelling.
To the character’s benefit, the non-linear storytelling makes it even more absorbingly mysterious. That is not the case for many previous attempts, as such device tend to move the narrative in a lazy progress, but it works massively for the show’s advantage.
Flashbacks turn audiences to detectives with little foresight of what to happen next, and viewers get compelled to engage in a guessing game, hoping for riddles to get solved before the show attempts to provide answers we all know will only get things even murkier.
The present has also its own ways of thickening the plot: it keeps the crisis in full scale, it confuses the viewers with the introduction of new fragments to an already confounding plot, but it keeps the audience looking on by selling enticing promises of tension and conundrum.
Looking closely at Rhian as a character is like an immersive study of Yin and Yang. When she saved a man from getting killed by one of his father’s henchmen, we all knew that her actions were not entirely volitional. She does not accept what and who she is, but she remains being so, under the control of someone else.
That someone is Heneral Tiago (Tirso Cruz III), whose approval is what she aspires the most. In a way, the deferment of such approval, enforces the contrasts in Rhian’s character, as it makes her more grounded and accessible. We get somewhat aware of her tendency to flip sides, and it keeps us on the edge of our seats until she finally decides to choose the more ‘interesting’ one. ‘Interesting’, in this sense, is not strictly her ultimately going to side with the good guys.
Maybe she gets consumed by her inner darkness, after all, and decides to fully embrace who she is. And as spectators, we all long for that one mind-blowing turn. We all want meaty twists to keep us glued on our television screens.
But then, an interesting character is futile without the maneuver of a capable actor
I’m talking about Angel Locsin. It is difficult to get convinced that someone else will fit the role as Locsin is perfect for it. How beautifully written her complex and rich character is, is one thing, but how convincingly powerful she delivers it, is totally something else.
Rhian Bonifacio is chaos and calm battling inside one body, making pulling off the nuances of the character utterly challenging. But Locsin manages to singularly crush it with ease and restraint.
It seems a good thing that the narrative has been investing in laying out the pieces of her story first, because it allows the momentum around her, build up in a more satisfying manner. The insertion of other characters is being done fraction by fraction, so as not to disturb the seamless integration of peripheral plot lines with that of Rhian.
It is an unusual device, given how ensemble dramas tend to get clattered by the almost obligatory introduction of almost every character. But it is a very attractive one, to the show runners’ credit. In spite of the obvious manipulations to delay Rhian’s past getting fully exposed, the choice to still put her on spotlight moves the proceedings forward at an incredibly engaging pace.
There are socio-political and cultural motivations that make this primetime drama even more arresting. There are subtle touches on those motifs that can potentially invite critical discussions, which is a good thing because it engages audience to a more productive experience.
This is a military drama, after all, and we know how such territory rarely gets explored—at least, in a deeper sense. It helps that the show’s intention to deliver the thrill and riddles are, in a way, balanced, for it makes the guessing game fun and addicting, at the same time.
Of course, we can expect lazy periods of back stories to give way for other important players in the plot, but they should only make us look forward to what may happen next, and how strong the storms they are going to bring in Rhian’s life, are going to be.
Viewers will be keen to keep their tabs on for this riveting primetime drama, but with the show’s progressively intriguing premise, it is difficult (let alone, embarrassing), really, to give the show just a half-full attention.
The General’s Daughter is airing weeknights on ABS-CBN’s Primetime Bida, right after FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano