Over the past few decades, triads and romance have become two of Taiwanese television’s most quintessential elements. In its second Taiwanese original series made without local partners, Netflix plays it safe by combining the two facets. With its story about the daughter of a triad boss developing a relationship with her celebrity idol, Triad Princess (極道千金) traffics in cheesiness yet manages to keep viewers hooked with decent pacing and easy humor.
The Princess Non-Bride
Meet Triad Princess‘ titular character, Angie Ni (played by Eugiene Liu). The 25 year old daughter of a major triad gang’s boss, Angie has a fiery personality—and a taekwondo black belt to back it up. After Angie literally dumps her ex-boyfriend (off a bridge), her father initiates a plan to marry her off to a big Hong Kong triad boss’ son, against her will. “I promised your late mother I’d marry you off by age 25,” he retorts.
Angie will have none of this. She runs away from home and takes a job as a bodyguard for Ling Yun (played by Cecilia Choi), an actress who’s supposedly in a relationship with Angie’s celebrity idol Xu Yi-hang (played by heartthrob actor Jasper Liu). Saccharine happenstance occurs and, before we know it, Angie and Yi-hang not only bump into each other, but also hit it off.
Romantic Taiwanese Cheese
True to Taiwanese romance drama form, Triad Princess layers it thick with cheesiness. Angie and Yi-hang discover a shared loved for stuffed toy elephants, and flirt over a dancing video game. For the vast majority of the series, their relationship remains innocent, playful, and ridiculously cute—nevermind Angie’s past relationship failures. Even Angie’s relationship with her father seems remarkably wholesome. Despite the fact she’s run away from home and he has gangsters trying to chase her down, he takes the time to record a funny video beseeching her to return.
Besides this cheesiness, Triad Princess gives its main characters pretty standard struggles and interpersonal dynamics. Angie’s your classic adult child wanting to truly grow up, her dad is your classic overprotective-but-still-sweet father who doesn’t want to let his precious daughter go, and Yi-hang is the pretty boy actor who wants to do something more.
Triad Princess’ supporting characters steal the show though. Angie’s bumbling triad assistant Lin Gui provides ample comic relief, while Ling Yun and her manager Sophia Kwong both spark more serious subplots.
Charming and Reliable Triad Entertainment
While Triad Princess isn’t genre-bending nor particularly innovative, it is reliably entertaining. By sticking to established conventions, the show makes itself very easy for audiences to follow. Triad Princess also enjoys good pacing—none of the episodes drag on for too long (they’re all less than 45 minutes), and they all end in a way that makes you want to binge on to the next. Triad Princess’ production quality also feels higher than other Taiwanese dramas. The show’s camerawork is varied and generally meets the same bar as Netflix’s American productions’, and it generally makes Taiwan look like a clean, modern nation.
Accessible humor also pervades Triad Princess. The show takes every chance it has to crack a joke, yet doesn’t feel forced. Perhaps that’s due to the varieties of humor it deploys—from physical to observational, bodily to wordplay—and the accessibility of that humor. For example, there’s an endearing and hilarious scene where Angie bribes some kids to tell a triad search team she’s not at a playground, and an enterprising boy insists upon getting “a blue bill” ($1000 NT) instead of “a red bill” ($100 NT) because his Dad said “blue bills are better.” Even if you’re not familiar with Taiwanese currency, the idea of someone bribing supposedly innocent children with gangster money, only to have them be monetarily savvy in a kid-like way, will bring a chuckle.
With only six episodes, a simple premise, and approachable humor, Triad Princess is a perfect low-commitment series to binge on a lazy weekend. While saccharine, it doesn’t have the overwrought 16+ episode melodrama slog of other Taiwanese or Korean romance dramas, and generally keeps viewers on their toes with its pacing. Triad Princess might not push any artistic envelopes or offer much social commentary, but it’s charmingly entertaining.
• • •
Triad Princess is currently available for streaming on Netflix worldwide. The series premiered on December 6, 2019 and currently has six episodes.