A simplistic but well-executed political drama gives a historically male-dominated sphere a refreshingly feminine focus.
This review of the 2023 Netflix series Wave Makers Season 1 does not contain spoilers.
Wave Makers, while it might be an accurate title in some ways, doesn’t quite give the right impression of the star-studded Taiwanese election drama streaming on Netflix.
It’s a bit casual, isn’t it? It’s a little too redolent of sun, sea, and sand, of which there are none in this eight-hour series about a hotly contested presidential election in which the opposition party’s campaign staff are beset on all sides by stress, mudslinging, and a ceaselessly brutal 24-hour media cycle.
Wave Makers Season 1 review and plot summary
Our elected officials are subject to more scrutiny than perhaps any other people in public life, and yet we think very little about the very ordinary people who elevate them to their positions; both the electorate and the staffers who manage the ins and outs of their campaigns. This, more than anything, is what Wave Makers is about.
One-time political candidate Weng Wen-fang (Hsieh Ying-hsuan) forms the human center of the efforts to put Lin Yue-zhen (Tammy Lai Pei-hsia) in office, an effort to appease a fickle public that irreparably strains the personal and professional lives of all involved.
Wen-fang’s opposition team includes Chang Ya-ching (Gingle Wang Ching), whose years-ago relationship with the incumbent president’s new VP, the charismatic Chao Chang-ze (Leon Dai Li-jen), whose string of inappropriate liaisons form a plot point that speaks to the abuses of power and workplace sexual harassment.
This is one of many important themes raised by screenwriters Jian Li-ying and Yan Shi-ji. Among them are the ins and outs of political campaign strategy, the intense demands of civil service and public office, image, and, very notably, sexuality, especially since Wen-fang is homosexual which doesn’t go unnoticed or unleveraged throughout the campaign.
This ties into the female focus of Wave Makers, which reshapes a traditionally male-dominated field as the playground of strong women. The characters are easy to root for or become frustrated with, the demands of the job forcing them to compromise ethically and morally.
Is Wave Makers good or bad?
The issue of Wave Makers is that its underlying point about ordinariness and its importance in politics clashes somewhat with the need for more sensationalized drama to keep audiences invested across eight hour-long episodes.
Similarly, complex themes and ideas are condensed to make them more palatable or easily understood, undercutting some of their necessary complexity and importance.
Is Wave Makers worth watching?
Still, it’s hard to fault a drama for being too dramatic; television is, after all, expected to entertain, even in a show that is fundamentally about boiling away the exaggerated charade of a political race to expose the everyday people that run it and the everyday people whose support they need to earn in order to win.
It won’t appeal to everyone, but at the very least Wave Makers identifies the essential contradiction of populist politics, even if it necessarily succumbs to some of those same contradictions itself.
What did you think of Wave Makers Season 1? Comment below.
You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.