‘Nowhere Man’ is Netflix’s first Mandarin-original, and like all other language debutante shows of the streaming service, it presents the audience with a unique story. At the centre of it is a man named Ah Quan who is convicted for the crime he didn’t commit. After spending a decade in prison, he is forced to break out of it when someone kidnaps his son and demands Quan as ransom. As he traces down the kidnappers, the secrets from the past come to light and dreadful revelations are made. If you haven’t yet seen the show, head over the Netflix. You don’t want anything spoiled for this one. SPOILERS AHEAD
The Night of the Kidnapping
Everything that happens at the end of ‘Nowhere Man’ is a consequence of the night of the kidnapping. It is then that Ah Quan, Ah Gui, Xiao Sha and Fu Xing unwittingly become the part of something that has nothing to do with them, and yet, by the end of it, they are the ones who pay dearly for it. Being the members of the Chong He triad, they find themselves in a precarious position when their gang begins to dismantle.
In order to put a stop to the prevalent crime in the city, the police start attacking the gangs, which leads them to turn against each other. They think that by giving up another, they’ll be able to save themselves, which is what Wan plans to do with Qiu’s gang. The framing of the four men for kidnapping and murder just happens to be the final nail in the coffin of Wan’s rival gang, but that is not the only purpose that this act serves.
The owner of Simosa, one of the biggest corporations in the country, Chairman Lin had been in cohorts with the Triad. He would pay them to not only get some difficult jobs done but also to keep himself safe from their threats. In a similar manner, he had been associated with the government, becoming an essential part of it, which is what kept him away from the legal consequences of all the shady business he had been conducting with the Triad. But, with the police chasing them around and Simosa’s increasing wealth, Wan decided that it was time for him to get a better share of the earning. He plans to kidnap Lin’s only son and extort money in his stead.
However, his plan backfires when mistakenly, they kidnap his driver’s son. It is Wang Qing-Nian’s son, and the man realises that if Wan comes to know about the truth, he will kill the boy. Wang begs Lin to give the ransom money so he can get back his son. Afraid of the bad PR which would follow if someone got the whiff that he refused to help his employee, Lin decides to go forward with it. Wan wants Lin to deliver the money, but Wang goes instead of him. Everything would have gone smoothly had Lin’s greed not resurfaced. He realises that he doesn’t have to pay for someone else’s boy. He informs the cops, which he was asked not to do, and ultimately, it results in the death of Wang and leaves his son traumatised for the rest of his life.
Who Arranged Prison Break?
For people who have been imprisoned for a decade, it is understandable that they want to get out of there and have been planning to do so for quite a while. The only thing holding them back was Ah Quan’s repentance. Despite not being responsible for the crime that got him there, he believes that he deserves to be in jail for all the bad things he has done before. But then, everything aligns and it feels like the universe wants it to happen. Even Quan’s son’s kidnapping feels like god’s doing, but soon, it becomes clear that someone else was behind it.
At first, it feels like Xiao Sha’s work. He doesn’t want to wait for his execution day anymore. A few steps further, Gui takes the mantle of the instigator. After all, his brother is in there, and without Xiao Sha and Quan, Fu Xing wouldn’t last a day. Later, it comes to light that Bai Lan had asked Gui to kickstart the process. It looked like she felt guilty for her association with Wan and wanted to help Xiao Sha because she loved him.
Then suddenly, a completely different player enters the game- Lin Ji-Zi. He claims to be the bastard son of Chairman Lin and wants them to re-enact the kidnapping of his brother, who had been the victim all those years ago so that they can extort money from his father and make him pay for not showing up for his son back then.
But there is another secret in waiting. Lin Ji-Zi turns out to be Wang’s son and was adopted by Lin after his father’s death. It was Lin who had been kidnapped as a child, and he never forgave anyone who was involved with the incident that led to the death of his father. By the end, he decimates the reputation of Lin, kills his son, decapitates Wan, kills Bai Lan, as well as Gui and Xiao Sha. He gets his revenge, and it is for this that he planned the prison break. He wanted to get them out, so he could get all of them together and avenge his father’s death.
The Ending: Is Ah Quan Dead?
‘Nowhere Man’ begins as a simple prison break story, but takes a lot of twists and turns by the end, adding another layer with every episode. Crime and revenge come out as the major factors, but there are waves of other emotions that give more depth to the show. Every character’s motivation paints them in varied colours and we get a wide spectrum, allowing us to view their darkness individually as well as in comparison to others.
Even though the story isn’t limited to the cause and effect for one character, we can say that it is, for the most part, Quan’s story. He is the protagonist for most of it, the story begins with him and ends with him too. It is his thoughts and conflicts that are prominent than anyone else’s, and he is used as the device to push the plot forward.
The story is wound up around his guilt and redemption, and his visions not just make us privy his psychological tug-of-war, but also add a mystical nature to it. These visions had been scattered in the beginning. They came in occasional spurts, and we could let them go easily, considering them to be his afterthoughts. But as the story moves forward, they become more suggestive and override their philosophical nature. With every other vision, these thoughts inside Quan’s mind become more tangible, so convincing of their truth that in the end, we have to wait and give some thought to Quan’s fate.
In the final episode, as Quan, Gui and Xiao Sha try to bring all of this to an end and save Fu Xing and Tian You, the truth about the kidnappings comes out. Gui and Xiao Sha are killed by Ji-Zi and he leaves Quan to weep over his friend’s dead bodies, refusing to accept his pleas of death. Now that his revenge is had, Ji-Zi spends time with his captives and comes to terms with his situation. By then, Yan Wang-Li is already on the ship. He rescues Fu Xing and Tian You, and though we don’t see Ji-Zi in the end, it is obvious that he has been arrested. But this happy ending only resolves the story for other characters. Quan’s tale continues.
Since the beginning, he had been having visions of Wang Qing-Nian. The night of Ji-Zi’s kidnapping, Wang had been shot thrice, but he didn’t die instantly. Quan finds him and he could have helped him, but he panics and throws both Wang and his son into the car and drives away. Ultimately, the cops catch up to them, and in anger, Quan beats the hell out of Wang, and eventually, the man succumbs to his wounds.
Taking it a step further, Quan holds Ji-Zi on knifepoint and demands a phone call with his wife when the cops won’t leave him be. This guilt remains with him for the rest of his life. He has visions of Wang, where he is all bloodied and beaten up, asking about the child. But there is a slight detail we can notice in these visions.
The condition of Wang changes according to Quan’s situation. In the final vision, he sees Wang smiling and without any blood or wounds. Meanwhile, Tang is also a part of his visions. Quan sees his death, he sees him before the prison break, and the old man appears to him as the voice of reason. In the final vision, when all is said and done, he lets go of Tang and walks out with Wang. We see him on the ship, staring out into the ocean, while the other people walk out of it to reunite with their families. This means that Quan is finally free of his guilt. His son is out of danger now and he has a loving mother, as well as a protective father in the form of Yang. Quan had also felt responsible for Fu Xing, but he, too, is safe now.
Moreover, the kidnapping case has been reopened and they will be exonerated of all the crimes. So, everyone will live in peace. What does this mean for Quan? Is he dead? While we don’t actually see him die, there are a number of things that suggest it. First of all, walking out the door with Wang. Next, not getting off the ship. After this, we see his whole life in quick flashes. It is a common belief that in our final moments, our entire life flashes in front of our eyes!
The final thing that suggests that Quan is free of his earthly constraints and is in a better place now is the final scene. We see him in the movie theatre with Jing-fang, the night he had asked her to marry him. As he wakes up beside her and she repeats the things she had said to him the first time around, we see a change in his expressions. It is as if he is realising where he is, and then embracing the moment. He seems relieved.
When they walk out of the theatre, his friends are waiting for him. They go for a drive and hang out at an abandoned home. There, they come across a photo album where they see the picture of a couple and come to the conclusion that the man in the photo is his father. The episode ends with him, Jing-fang, and the rest of them having fun. This could mean two things. Either, it is a flashback, something that often happens throughout the series. Or, it could be Quan’s heaven, the best day of his life, his best memory. When all was well and none of them was tainted with blood on their hands and death sentences in the future.
Read More: Nowhere Man Review