REVIEW: “The Better Half” is a rare gem in afternoon dramas

As those initial scenes roll on the screens, we watch in bated breath as to how the story is pieced together and proceeds. And, judging from its pilot episode, “The Better Half” will surely become one eventful, compelling narrative people will get to follow each afternoon.

Camille (Shaina Magdayao) and Marco (Carlo Aquino) could not take their eyes off each other. They are lovers beyond compare and share that genuine and sincere love to the ultimate as both celebrate their altar date. After tying the knot, they symbolically danced the tango to emphasize how much they loved one another and made love in the heat of the moment.

Tragedy

It was a love they always dreamed of until tragedy struck. After deciding to seek greener pastures in the faraway metropolis, Marco had been lost at sea after a plane crash, leading Camille and her family to believe he had passed on. But, he actually survived and went ashore in Palawan without any memory of recent events in his life. Here he was “found” by Bianca (Denise Laurel), who led him to believe they were together.

Camille, devastated and grief-stricken, roamed around Manila in desolation. She could not contain her misery with the “loss” of Marco that she tried to end her life by jumping from the Manila Baywalk.

But someone was on the rescue, Rafael (JC De Vera), who leaped onto the bay to lift her fragile body and save her from drowning. Camille was rushed to a nearby clinic, wherein the doctor diagnosed anxiety attacks as the cause of her troubles. When she woke up, she realized the bracelet Marco made for her and was hysterical. Rafael’s aide, who kept the bracelet, returned it to her, making Camille relieved and comforted.

Rafael helped her regain her bearings and was able to contact Camille’s parents Edgar (Rommel Padilla) and Susan (Nadia Montenegro), who informed him that her uncle Julio had figured in an accident searching for her and was hospitalized.

Camille rushed to be at her family’s side and admitted she lost her wits over the loss of Marco. She apologized to Julio for the problem she had caused. While Julio was recovering, Susan told Camille he can’t be discharged because they don’t have enough money to pay the hospital bill.

Fully paid

After Camille tried to ask for financial help from relatives and friends in vain, she begged to the hospital cashier to allow the discharge his uncle, saying she would promise to pay the arrears in installments. To her surprise, the cashier told her the bill has been fully paid by a man in a blue shirt, who claimed he was a friend and has just left.

Camille searched for the person and saw Rafael, who was the man in the blue shirt, leaving the hospital in his car.

The next day, Camille had bumped into Rafael and thanked him for the help and promised she would pay him once she finds a job. But Rafael told her she could only pay for it if she works for him. While she initially declined, Camille was forced to accept given that Rafael only wanted that “mode of payment.”

Meanwhile, Marco has been blissfully living in the care of Bianca, who is madly in love with him. But one night, they also danced the tango, which led him to have streaks of scenes he vaguely remembered, wherein he also danced the same steps but with another woman. He saw Camille in those sudden reveries but wouldn’t know for sure who she was.

Prisoner

By this time, Camille felt she was a prisoner in Rafael’s care. Rafael wanted to keep Camille in his watch out of concern that she won’t repeat her suicidal tendencies. But when Camille wouldn’t have anyone stop her from leaving Rafael’s property and again walk away on her own, Rafael feared she would again try to take her own life. He rushed out and searched for Camille in a familiar place—the Manila Baywalk, where she again was standing on the edge of the breakwater.

As she dropped her bracelet, Rafael thought she was about to jump once more and tried to stop her. This infuriated Camille, who said Rafael’s tight watch made her want to leave. Rafael said he only wanted to prevent Camille from making another suicide attempt. And, after Camille angrily responded how difficult it was losing a husband to a tragedy, Rafael became sympathetic to her and embraced her.

At this point, while Marco and Bianca slept together, it seemed Marco was not at all interested In Bianca’s romantic overtures after his “visions.” She fears Marco is slowly remembering his past, which she is clearly aware of and is purposely trying to have Marco forget because of her obsession. By this time, it was clear she was willfully trying to snatch Marco away from his real love, Camille.

Indeed the plot is complex and audience appreciation would rely on deeper comprehension, understanding and analysis of the characters—where they come from and where they are headed. It’s definitely not a simple progression but a complicated whirlwind of sub-plots and back stories that must be discovered. Despite this, however, the pilot episode gives audiences a clear guide on what is given and what to expect.

Rare gem

This is a rare gem of a romance, a drama, and a suspense-thriller rolled into one. It surely provides a compelling reason for afternoon viewers to follow, thanks to acclaimed director Jeffrey Jeturian’s creative touch. He has gone to his momentous core, after his previous, successful attempts at feel-good light dramas. “The Better Half’s” visual glory is very much a splendid draw—with breathtaking seascape and landscape backdrops and spellbinding production design we can’t take our eyes off from.

Shaina Magdayao was so awesome in her portrayal of Camille that audiences felt so much about what she went through, leaving them understand how her thespic “mental state” came to be. It shows how much she understood and internalized the character Camille and provided the accurate performance we all needed to witness.

Denise Laurel also shows how an impeccable artist she has become with a real and believable portrayal of a woman obsessed. We see her portraying the character the most natural way possible, leaving the audience at awe. Carlo Aquino again showed much intensity with his deeply felt depiction while JC De Vera made hearts melt with his thorough portrayal of a prince to the rescue. We are truly excited with how the rest of the story materializes and become one of the biggest afternoon draws on television.

Netizens are also raving about the show.