The Bad Kids: The Hidden Clues to the True Ending

Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-22

Translator Notes
This is a translation of a Weibo compilation post of all the clues & hidden hints in "The Bad Kids" collected here by 请给我写封情书. Do you choose to believe the fairy tale?
Additional Notes
This contains heavy spoilers for the entire series and the ending! Do not read until you've watched the show in its entirely, including the post-credits extra scenes!

Did you truly see the “hidden corners” in The Hidden Corners (隐秘的角落 = Chinese title of The Bad Kids)?

Warning: ⚠️⚠️⚠️ Do not read this before you finish watching the drama in full.

There have been a lot of people saying that the end of the drama adaptation was horrible, that the awful changes were too significant, and that it didn’t retain the original novel’s tone. To which I’d like to say: these people had been deceived by the fairytale shown on the surface. Why didn’t they just directly act out the dark truth? One is the environment in the country (you understand); two is to protect a portion of the audience; and three is the title of the show, it’s the "hidden" corner, not the obvious corner.

Have you guys noticed why there was on episode that was 72 minutes long while another episode was 39 minutes long?

Next I'll analyze the hints written between the lines, and the true, dark ending.

The ending looks beautiful on the surface, full of happiness, but two of my three young children, Yan Liang and Pu Pu, are dead, and it’s possible that Lao Chen is no longer in this world either (In the final square dance scene, Lao Chen is dancing, but he's an extra 8th in his dance row whereas the others have 7 people).

1. In the opening animation, three little animals were killed, leaving behind only one who's hiding in the shadows. The skulls look like they're from two chickens and a mammal, implying that one of the chickens killed them and is "wearing" the wolf skin.

2. When Pupu had her asthma attack, Zhang Dongsheng’s brief moment of compassion disappeared when the hospital asked about his address, and he hung up the phone. Would someone like him, who didn’t want any links between himself and the kids, really send Pupu to the hospital? Not to mention, Pupu had already fainted at the time due to lack of oxygen. Even if she were sent to the hospital, it’s hard to say whether it would be too late or not. After that scene, she never appeared in the show again.

In one of the extras, there was a scene of Zhang Dongsheng eating three servings of KFC alone while crying. Before, he’d promised to order three servings for Pupu, which proves Pupu's death. This scene was deleted, though.

3. When Zhu Chaoyang read Pupu's letter to him, he was in tears. Throughout the entire drama, he only ever cried twice, the previous time being when he was humiliated by his step-mother. Why was he so emotional?

4. Yan Liang died when he fell off the ship. Lao Chen was previously hospitalized with serious abdominal injuries. Yet, despite the fact that he had trouble moving just a few days ago, he suddenly was able to jump into the water to save someone as though nothing was wrong. Not to mention, he was able to save Yan Liang just in time, isn’t it too much like the fairytale that Zhang Dongsheng and Zhu Chaoyang spoke about? If Pupu’s death is established, then Yan Liang and Lao Chen, who later say that Pupu found a successful match, are even less likely to be real.

5. The auditorium looked like the heavenly halls, the music is also called music of the underworld. Yan Liang, who was not a student from the school, walked into the school auditorium. Yet, all the teachers and students acted as though they couldn’t see him, only Zhu Chaoyang turned his head.

The gaze Yan Liang used to look at Zhu Chaoyang was clearly filled with discontent. As someone who could be considered a person with a sense of justice, he does not forgive Zhu Chaoyang at all. If this is the diary’s fairytale from Zhu Chaoyang’s fantasies, it still contains some hidden truths. That is the proof of the evil he did. His lie about copying the card, and his deliberately spreading that lie caused Pupu’s death. A warm picture is accompanied by unsettling music. A gaze filled with indifference meets a gaze filled with hatred. Amazing.

Even though Yan Liang was hanging onto the ship for such a long time, Zhu Chaoyang never reached out to pull him up, he simply watched as Yan Liang fell. By this point, it was already obvious, not sure why some people say that Zhu Chaoyang never appeared villainous.

6. As for Zhu Jingjing's death, it seems pretty clear to me. In the end, Pupu’s letter mentioned that she never told Yan Liang the truth. Compare this with the earlier episodes when she told Yan Liang that she saw Zhu Jingjing fall to her death, that’s enough to show that the true cause of Zhu Jingjing’s death was not accidental. In episode 3, Pupu said to Zhu Chaoyang "She fell down." In the last episode, Pupu said, "She's going to fall down."

Either Zhu Chaoyang pushed her down, or he watched her fall without trying to save her. My personal theory is that when he saw Zhu Jingjing hanging on outside (there's a piece of cloth hanging outside), he helped push her down. Otherwise, if he only watched coldly as a bystander, he would share the same responsibility as Pupu, and Pupu would not need to say in the letter that she hopes that Zhu Chaoyang would confess the truth and start over.

When Zhu Chaoyang unintentionally shouted that he regretted ever opening the door for them, it confirmed the complete 180 of his attitude towards his friends after he went bad. I think there were a few turning points that led to him becoming a villain. One is being suspected by his father; two is almost dying several times at his step-mother and her brother’s hands; and three is witnessing the scene of Zhang Dongsheng killing someone. Worried that Yan Liang would turn himself in and reveal everything after he finished dealing with Zhang Dongsheng, Zhu Chaoyang concealed Zhang Dongsheng's murder of Wang Li. This was both to garner his father’s goodwill, and to sow discord between his father and step-mother. It also drew Zhang Dongsheng closer, and allowed him to use Zhang Dongsheng as an executioner to get rid of the people he wanted to remove. This was when he began to have impure motivations and use unscrupulous tactics against his friends.

When Zhu Chaoyang lied again, the scene was covered in a bright soft light. Just like the later auditorium scene and the square dance scene, it looked like a dream, very unrealistic, representing Zhu Chaoyang's fairytale lies in his diary. The beautiful dream where the trio flew towards the moon on their boat ultimately transformed into a lonely sun rising in the east from the dark. Zhang Dongsheng and Zhu Chaoyang have many things in common. They both love math, both admire Descartes, and both believe in the inherent duplicity of things. They even both love wearing white shirts. Both their names contain references to sunlight, while their personalities are shadowy. In order to get the thing that is most important to them in their hearts, they were willing to ruthlessly hurt family members who have bad relationships with them. Later on, there was even a sympathetic sense of mentorship and camaraderie between the two. The handover on the ship, was also the point where the utterly defeated Zhang Dongsheng took this dark flag and gave it to the stronger version of himself, Zhu Chaoyang. Only Zhu Chaoyang did his work without revealing any of his feelings on the surface, successfully turning himself into a victim, so much so that he even convinced himself.

Additional details:

1. Many times in class, Zhang Dongsheng was seen bent over holding his waist. He suffered severe hair loss. And during the full moon celebration, his brother-in-law revealed that he’d been in Ningzhou for eight years. Eight years without any children is too unusual, isn’t it? Was that the lack of “blessings” that his father-in-law and mother-in-law repeatedly mentioned? Was the divorce due to infertility?

2. The extra post-credits scene in episode 11*, as well as the words “forget all this, just live well” that Zhu Yongping said to his son before his death. Is it implying that Zhu Yongping already knew it was his own son who killed his daughter?

* In the post-credits scene, Zhu Chaoyang's father heard the sound of the zipper in the audio recording when Zhu Chaoyang was putting the goggles in the bag. This indicated that Zhu Chaoyang was aware that he was being recorded (since the recording device was in the bag) when he answered his father's questions. Although Zhu Chaoyang's father already felt that Jingjing's death had some connections with Zhu Chaoyang, in order to protect his son, he deleted the recording. When he slapped himself, it wasn't guilt for recording his son and doubting him. It was facing the picture of his daughter.

3. Using the empty memory card, Zhu Chaoyang provoked a conflict between Yan Liang and Zhang Dongsheng. He knew that Zhang Dongsheng would follow them, yet he deliberately spoke loudly about a memory card he knew was empty in the bathroom. He clearly knew that Zhang Dongsheng cleared them, yet he still quietly allowed Yan Liang to go out alone with Zhang Dongsheng to “deposit money.” All that was to borrow Zhang Dongsheng’s hand to kill Yan Liang. In the show, he did copy it, thus the real card should be with him.

Agreed that the Red Light homicide scene was a key point in Zhu Chaoyang's transformation! There was a long shot from the back where the light kept flashing, while he kept staring forward without looking away. Afterward, he even very calmly said a “thank you” to Zhang Dongsheng.

4. We all know that Zhu Chaoyang is a pure villain, yet no shot directly showed that him doing anything bad. This is really the director's awesomeness. I won’t directly film him doing anything bad, but I can still film it in a way that everyone can see the truth. Even if I remove all the scenes of Zhu Chaoyang's crimes in order to pass censorship, I can use the other scenes in the light to let you know what Zhu Chaoyang did.

Such terrifyingly meticulous thinking makes one’s hair stand on end. The director is awesome. And that’s what what makes me think - this is the charm of only showing the light side.

What kind of respectable person actually writes diaries? Was the diary for yourself to see? Can the diary really contain the truth?

(Two diaries appeared in episode seven)

5. Once “Small White Boat” is sung, someone would die. This dark music is a smoking gun.

6. Wang Yao probably wasn’t completely dead when Zhang Dongsheng tried to kill her. At the beginning, Wang Yao’s posture was a bit like a deflated ball, giving the sense of being only temporarily blacked out. (Since he didn’t kill Zhu Chaoyang’s father, why would he specially change Wang Yao’s pose to kill her?)

In the later scenes, Wang Yao appeared lying on her side. Zhang Dongsheng couldn’t have posed her that way, because the fire could wipe out everything. So it’s reasonable to speculate that Zhu Chaoyang finished his injured stepmother off. At his stepmother’s side, there was an additional red tube.

After the police car arrived, the camera shot a close-up of Zhu Chaoyang’s hands, and it looked a lot like he was constantly rubbing off the red pigment stuck to his hands.

7. When booking a place on the boat to stay, Pupu spoke the Chaoshan dialect, and said that her mother was from Chaoshan. The patriarchal attitudes in Chaoshan have always been relatively strong. So for Pupu, who wants to take her younger brother’s place, understanding Chaoyang's hopes for his father is also natural. When Pupu saw her father and mother and younger brother, she called out "mom" and "dad" but not her brother. Then, Pupu began to sing. During the song, the motion of the shot was very unusual. As Pupu turned around to sing "Little White Boat," the shot moved from her side until she was in the centre. Gradually, Pupu completely blocked the view of her brother in between her father and mother, looking like a family of only three. That's why Pupu had such a terrifying look in her eyes when she first saw Jingjing, making me think she's not a very simple child. Pupu's attitude towards Jingjing shouldn't solely be because she bullied Zhu Chaoyang. In her, Pupu saw also the loss of her own family and happiness.

You can believe in fairytales now.

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Ohhhh, thank you for your analysis about these 'hidden corners'. I am a little upset with myself because I cant understand fully the ending hence I ended up in your blog.

I guess the lack of parent's attention brings this inner struggle in one's self however I also think the mental and psychological conditions of people are always depending on how they can adapt. There are really people that are stronger enough to develop into a better person and there are that are weaker that eventually prone to do bad things. Even in siblings, there will be those that are better and there will be average. I guess the good collaboration of nature and nurture in psychology in upbringing one's child is always correct.

One last thing, another one I love in the drama TBK is its cinematic color. It looks like a film.

Mei mei

Thanks for going into details as I was getting confused towards the end of the drama.