Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In a move that strays from the usual teleserye pilot episodes, the new JaDine series “Till I Met You” already starts with a wedding. Contrary to what those who saw the first few teaser trailers might think, it isn't a wedding between Basti (James Reid) and Iris (Nadine Lustre), but rather, a wedding between Cassandra (Carmina Villaroel) and Oliver (Richard Yap).
The wedding isn’t even the main event. We'll go into more detail about that in a while, but first, a short explanation: fresh from the hype of the widely popular “On the Wings of Love” or OTWOL, love team of the moment JaDine is back and ready to reclaim their primetime TV titles. This month, Lustre and Reid star in “Till I Met You,” the newest teleserye produced by the same people behind OTWOL.
“Till I Met You” is a love story that promises comedy, romance, and a twist in the form of an LGBTQ angle. Directed by Antoinette Jadaone (OTWOL, and the indie sleeper hit “That Thing Called Tadhana”) and Andoy Ranay (“Talk Back and You’re Dead,” and “Diary ng Panget"), the story follows childhood best friends Iris and Ali (JC Santos) and their seemingly destined path to love. The path is threatened after they go on a trip to Greece, and Basti comes into the picture. In the first teaser trailer, it is revealed that the love triangle isn’t what most would expect it to be.
The series seems to ride on the expectations set by OTWOL, but the couple is in good company thanks to a solid cast of supporting characters. Carmina Villaroel plays Iris’ mother Cassandra, while Angel Aquino and Pokwang play Cassandra’s friends Val and Agnes. It’s very early in the game to say so, but this might be a sisterhood to watch out for. Newcomer JC Santos proves to be a likeable and worthy third party to complete the love triangle (though we're not sure whom he's going for at this point), but Villaroel’s acting chops makes her the clear winner in the pilot episode.
The episode starts with a look at the picturesque landmarks of Greece. In the background, Iris narrates her mom's sob story, interweaving the theme of finding true love within the narrative. This backstory takes only half of the episode to set up, which is a bonus considering the usual snail’s pace of most teleserye beginnings.
Within the episode’s first 20 minutes, Cassandra breaks up with her cheating boyfriend (Zoren Legazpi), befriends the two other women he cheated on (Pokwang and Aquino), meets Iris' father (Jay Manalo) and breaks up with him after finding out he has another girlfriend, gives birth to Iris, marries the love of her life (Richard Yap), and loses him after he falls ill and dies. Yes, all of these events were unpacked in typical, cheesy serye fashion, but props go to Jadaone for getting us to the meat of the plot and sparing us from an unnecessary week of JaDine-less drama.
As the show progresses, Cassandra rises up and manages to support her family. As a kid, Iris finds a playmate in Pokwang's son, Ali. Ali was raised by a soldier father (Robert Sena), and this upbringing is what pushes him to becomes Iris' "protector" and best friend — a title that he lives up to throughout the show.
Fast forward to the present — a heartfelt slow dance set at their graduation ball shows that the two friends might actually have feelings for each other. Well, at least it’s clear for Iris. Ali seems to have other plans. Earlier on, there is a seminal moment where Ali’s father lets his son pick from his collection of action star posters. The child version of Ali bypasses Sylvester Stallone and other popular stars before picking one of James Dean, to which his father replies, "Siya ang pipiliin mo? Gwapo lang siya." Ali looks at the poster, smiles, and says “Oo.” At the end of the episode, we see present-day Ali open his laptop to a page called the James Dean Fan Club. He flashes a wide grin after clicking on a video of a James Dean lookalike, who happens to be Basti (James Reid).
“Till I Met You”'s first episode manages to bring back the humor and kilig that made OTWOL a nationwide favorite. At the same time, it sets itself apart with a completely different premise. Though the first episode merely teases viewers on the #LoveWins premise, both Lustre and Reid have already stressed that their new project is going to shake up the minds of Filipino viewers.
All the emotion that the pilot episode built up wasn’t for nothing — the show's producers definitely played their cards right by developing a show worthy of JaDine’s television comeback. For now, just be thankful that Kyla’s rendition of “Till I Met You” isn’t stuck in your head yet. We’ll be savoring this as we impatiently wait for the episodes to come.