The game of politics is a whirlwind, further amplified by the lightning-fast social media landscape. Any scandal – real or otherwise – blows up in a millisecond. On any political campaign trail, it’s up to the wave makers, the team that orchestrates every candidate’s path to success, to try to ride that wave or manipulate the outcome in their favor. If they can’t, then they are doomed to crash. We see this and more play out in Netflix’s latest Taiwanese political drama, Wave Makers.
Directed by Lin Chun-yang and written by screenwriters Jian Li-ying and Yan Shi-ji, Wave Makers stars Hsieh Ying-Hsuan, Jag Huang, and Gingle Wang. While set in Taiwan, the political chaos will feel familiar to international viewers, especially those familiar with the political game. Throughout the course of the series, we follow Weng Wen-fang (Hsieh Ying-Hsuan), Weng’s direct superior Chen Chia-ching (Jag Huang), and staffer Chang Ya-ching (Gingle Wang) navigate the ups and downs of presidential candidate Lin Yue-zhen’s (Tammy Lai Pei-hsia), campaign.
The presidential campaign is the primary focus, with Weng taking center stage as the driving force of Lin’s staff. Another storyline is revealed, however, centering around Chang Ya-ching. She didn’t join Lin Yue-zhen’s campaign for entirely pure reasons. No, she’s out for revenge against the opposing party’s vice presidential candidate, Chao Chang-ze (Leon Dai). While Weng is the focus, the drama of Chang Ya-ching’s storyline arguably is the draw of Wave Makers.
The series itself is one of triumph, with an underlying current of hope beneath the surface. In a global political landscape that feels progressively dark, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that there is some level of good that still exists out there. Even if it is a work of fiction.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that Wave Makers shies away from dark or serious topics. It tackles topics ranging from immigration, sexual coercion, blackmail, and homophobia. Where the series may stumble is how far it dives into these topics. The bulk are just explored enough to feel familiar to the viewer, but there is no deep exploration. Ironically, this reflects political debate topics in a way, with how we never truly get to the crux of the issues. We touch upon them and then move onto the next topic voters are interested in.
Aside from the drama that hits us from every direction, the real heart and soul of the series is in its characters. Hsieh Ying-Hsuan’s Weng Wen-fang has been raised in the political game since birth, but that doesn’t stop her from making mistakes. She’s fiery and full of conviction. Regardless of how her family or her colleagues want her to act or brush things under the rug, she stands true. This makes her a compelling protagonist. She’s not perfect, but she never loses her purpose for why she’s still sticking things out.
This steadfast conviction is what draws Gingle Wang’s Chang Ya-ching to Wen-fang. Wen-fang’s refusal to back down after Ya-ching faces sexual harassment within their team creates a natural mentor-mentee dynamic that carries through until the end. Wen-fang sees a version of herself in Chang Ya-ching and knows the turbulence that is waging war inside of the young woman. You can’t help but root for both of them.
The sexual harassment storyline for Chang Ya-ching also serves to highlight again how great of a performance Gingle Wang is. We saw her acting chops in Detention back in 2019, and Wave Makers reminds us once again that Gingle is one to continue to watch out for. There’s so much nuisance in her performance that you never quite know what she’s up to. Once the real extent of her trauma is shown, though, all of her actions make sense.
While Wave Makers features a predominantly female cast, likely to reinforce Lin Yue-zhen’s push to support and empower women along her campaign, Jag Haung’s Chen Chia-ching has a relatable storyline. Too overwhelmed by his work to focus on what really matters, we watch as he struggles to deal with the collapse of his marriage and family. In a society that has featured an upsurge in working mothers, Chia-ching’s storyline and its conclusion are refreshing. We know the sacrifice everyone’s personal lives take when on the road during a campaign, but Chia-ching’s storyline highlights the true extent of what they can lose along the way.
For a political drama, Wave Makers provides hope during a time when there doesn’t seem to be any, even when it reads more sentimental than desired. As the world increasingly feels out of control and ruled by chaos, the team behind Wave Makers reminds us that, with the right people and the right candidate, perhaps there is something to look forward to. All it takes is to catch the wave made at the right time, and the right candidate can get ahead with smooth sailing.
Wave Makers is now playing on Netflix.
Wave Makers Review
For a political drama, Wave Makers provides hope during a time when there doesn’t seem to be any, even if it reads more sentimental than desired.
Sarah is a writer and editor for BWT. When she’s not busy writing about KDramas, she’s working as the EIC over at horror entertainment site, Nightmarish Conjurings, where she has yet to hug the ghoulies that haunt our waking nightmares. She’s also a Rotten Tomatoes Certified critic and a published author of both fiction and non-fiction.