Tender Light Episode 1 Recap & Review: Is Tong Yao The Real Murderer?

Tender Light Episode 1 Review
  • Cast
  • Storyline
  • Rewatch Value
  • Cinematography
  • Music

Tender Light is a 2024 Chinese thriller drama set in a small town, Qingshui Town, and revolves around the killing of a town’s man who is beloved by everyone but hated by his wife, who coincidentally is the suspect in his murder.

This is one of those dramas you anticipate for the longest time, and I was very excited to start watching it – It has definitely not disappointed me yet.

For full disclosure, I have watched up to episode 10 before I finally decided to start recapping, which is why you might notice that I hold off on giving certain details and explaining certain things. But, I made sure to stick only to the first episode.

You can watch Tender Light on Youku’s YouTube channel or the Youku official app completely free of charge. I believe that if you are a paid member on YouTube or a premium subscriber on the app, you can have access to more episodes than the rest of us.

Tender Light Chinese Drama Episode 1 Recap 

The drama begins with Lin Fang Lu (played by Ye Zu Xin) being instructed to join a subordinate team in a suburban community. He isn’t happy about it, but his senior encourages him by promising a promotion if he bides his time there.

Almost immediately after becoming the new deputy chief in the town, he’s informed about a homicide case. A townswoman has been brought in for killing her husband. The victim, a local entrepreneur, had lived in the town for years, and the culprit, his wife Nan Ya (played by Tong Yao), submitted herself for investigation for killing him on New Year’s Eve.

During the investigation, we learn that her husband had been abusing her for years, and all she wanted was a divorce. But, he was determined to keep her with him forever and one night, during a struggle, she accidentally killed him.

It seems that after he threatened to take away her daughter, she told him that she had evidence to prove that he had used underhanded methods while constructing a bridge in their town. As she was ready to submit the evidence, the situation escalated.

Lin Fang Lu quickly launches into the investigation and learns that there was actually a witness to the whole scuffle: their teenage neighbor, Zhou Luo (played by Zhang Xin Cheng) who had come to drop off their daughter. We learn that it was normal for Nan Ya to drop her kid off with the neighbours to babysit, which happened that night.

The boy who witnessed the incident, Zhou Luo, is currently attending a cram school while preparing for university exams. The excitement after the investigation starts is overwhelming for the students because of all the information they’ve gathered about the case, and it’s even worse for Zhou Luo because everyone knows he was indirectly involved.

Zhou Luo then goes to an abandoned building and asks another teenager for something, but the other boy tells him that even if he had it, he wouldn’t give it to him. The other boy appears beat up, and tension is palpable between them.

We then learn that around the time of the deceased’s killing, his car was also found on fire which only raises more questions for our new transplant who is curious about the peculiarities surrounding the case. Unfortunately, he has to work with a combative colleague whose inferiority complex eclipses his requirement to find the true culprit. 

As with any other small town, there is a host of ordinary community members with totally varied personalities. We see this at play when Fang Lu goes into town to ask questions about the incarcerated Nan Ya. The answers range from outright calling her a prostitute to suggestions that she might have been incredibly vile in private, which is what must have motivated her husband to repeatedly hit her even though he was perfectly cordial with everyone else. 

The deceased’s family members visit the police station to berate them on how they haven’t moved forward with prosecuting the incarcerated female lead. When asked to take the grandchild, they refuse because they don’t want anything connected to the female lead. Lin Fang Lu then goes out to find someone to take care of her and lands on her neighbour, the only witness to the crime. He does this after a short conversation with Nan Ya where she tearfully begs him to hand over her daughter to her neighbors.

While at the house handing over the daughter to the neighbours, the witness’s friends come over and start talking upstairs, basically trading information about what happened. One of them mentions something about certain goods related to the burnt car, and everyone shushes her immediately.

Fang Lu then goes upstairs to ask the son and the friend some questions. After getting what he needs, he goes back downstairs. While exchanging contact information with the mother, he learns that she has a room for rent. After checking it out, he tells her that he’s interested in taking it. He checks the room and lets her know that he loves it and is ready to move in immediately because it’s close to his work and Nan Ya’s kid, whom he would like to supervise from time to time.

The witness’s friends are on their way back home when one of the girls suddenly turns back and rides back to the house. She then tells the witness that he gave a wrong testimony to the police because when he said he was at the house, she had come over that night to confess her feelings to him, but he wasn’t around. He appears a little floored but then takes her to a gamer cafe where he shows her proof that he had actually broken into the cafe that night to do something and that was where he had spent the time before going back home that night.

When Li Fang Lu gets back to the station, he finds out that the combative colleague he met earlier had taken the culprit into the investigation room and was rudely and violently questioning her. He matches to them immediately and puts a halt to it, which doesn’t go down well with his colleague, who genuinely feels that it’s a clear-cut case of a wife killing her husband and that this new young transplant is being unnecessarily pedantic about it.

Later that night, as Lin Fang Lu settles into his new apartment, the witness comes to give him some blankets and the former starts giving the young adult updates on the case. At this point, it’s evident that he is deeply suspicious because he once again asks Zhou Luo more questions about the case, and who replies honestly. He suggests that the boy attend counselling sessions to work through any trauma he suffered as a result of witnessing the event.

At the end of the episode, the witness flips through a poetry book until he finds a page with a paper tucked inside, which contains a handwritten note by the suspect of the crime, Nan Ya, and by the state of its preservation, you can tell it’s something he cherishes. 

Tender Light Chinese Drama Episode 1 Review 

I have an idea of the direction this drama has chosen to go, and it’s exciting because it adds dimension, but I’ll hold off on discussing it further to avoid spoilers. 

I love the tone of the drama—it’s dark, moody, and a little eerie, yet not overly heavy. So far, there isn’t a trace of warmth, which I find peculiar, but I anticipate it will be added as we progress. 

I also appreciate the way the narrative pans to different characters, which more than offers various points of view within one episode. This makes the plot feel more rounded, and viewers can easily situate themselves in the story.

Right now, I’m really excited for the next episode because this particular one raises a lot of questions. For one, when the witness is going to his crown school, his mother tells him to just stay at home since he has learned everything already. That was peculiar; why would she say he should stay at home? Also, what’s up with the burned car? Oddly, the in-law refused to take their granddaughter, and I would like to see more about that.

Either way, the drama is still very interesting, and I’d like to hear your opinion. Let me know in the comment section if you’ve been watching Tender Light, and we can talk about it.

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