In the world of this drama, some people are born color blind. It is inexplicable color blindness, having nothing to do with traditional color blindness that involves genetics and cells in the eye’s retina. These unique people are called Monos. They see only in shades of gray.
Monos can be triggered into seeing color, however, if they find a person known as a Probe. Also incredibly rare, these individuals can activate (for lack of a better word) the eyes of Monos. The Monos then experience a color rush – as their eyes change to see color. It’s an overwhelming experience, causing fainting and blackouts. The Monos only experience color in the presence of their paired Probe.
Needless to say, this change in world view is very disorienting and compelling to the Monos. The experience causes obsessive tendencies and can even result in violence. The Monos desire to be always in the presence of the Probe leads many to stalking, kidnapping, and assault. There have even been cases of Monos eating their Probe partners.
So when our cute young Mono unexpectedly discovers his cute young Probe, all he wants to do is run away before the madness takes him. And all his Probe wants to do is flirt and invade his personal space, red flags of warning be damned. He strings along his color-rushed Mono, dolling out small doses of overwhelming color in carefully crafted (and surprisingly thoughtful) experiences. He drapes himself around this fainting, confused cutie and drags him into closets to see rainbows. Even when it’s obvious the experience is having an unsettling effect on the Mono, our slinkly Probe keeps pushing him along. Cause if you can see the world in color… why would you ever go back? Isn’t it worth the gamble of madness? Isn’t it worth turning your life upside down for? Isn’t it… the perfect metaphor for discovering you’re gay?
To say the premise of this series about all the colors of the rainbow is dark is the understatement of the year. It’s deliciously dark. My only complaint about this show is that it didn’t lean in harder to its obvious tonal values. It wanted to be both dark while also cuter than a basket of kittens… which is impossible to pull off under this plot line. I mean, we are told the color rush experience triggers cannibalism in the first episode. You can’t toss out information like that and not have it color, so to speak, the budding relationship.
Honestly, the entire show was just middle of the road for me – the actors, the locations, the cinematography, the side story (which was non existent but could have been awesome), and the romance. Not bad but not good either. Just a solid “eh.” BUT – the plotline elevated this show into a higher status by being so intriguing that every episode felt exciting. The “what if…?” and the “oh god, is he…?” and the “OH MY GOD, IS THAT-?” that you’ll be asking yourself throughout the run time were massively engaging. Ultimately a bit of a let down, too, but enough to propel you forward at an enjoyable speed through this shows short run time.
I’ve got more to say – but it skirts into spoilers, so let’s just drop a quick rating before we get into more. Though it really only deserved a 6 or 7, I’m gonna drop it in the top tier cause I doubt I’ll ever stop thinking about the BL story that tempted me with flesh eating insanity.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – You’ll See Colors and Cannibals Everywhere.
There is something very compelling about imagining the world in black and white and suddenly having it burst into color. In 1935, in The Wizard of Oz movie, the real world was a black and white film, but when they made it to the magical land of Oz, each pane of film was painstakingly colorized to present to the audience the full spectrum of being the rainbow. It was the first Technicolor film to be shown on the big screen. You have to imagine how exciting that must have been for the audience.
The idea presented in this drama is even more exciting – because the Monos have never known color. They know it exists. They’ve heard about it. But they can’t imagine it. They have no frame of reference. Even their dreams are in black and white. The grayscale world is reality.
Every scene in which our introspective Mono experiences color is perfection. This was so well done. The singular focus on an object, the way he ran his fingers over his own pant leg – as if the color would wipe away, as if confirming the reality of the thing he was seeing – the blue of it… the true of it… it was beautiful. The actor nailed it. The memorization, the surrealism of the experience, the disbelief mixed with wonder. Can you ever watch a black and white movie in the same way after seeing one in color? After your brain realizes that there ARE colors… that those shades of gray, though still defining and beautiful, are just a alteration of the bold reality. The world is in color – and until our Mono met his Probe, he’d never really known the world.
The poor boy had found visual crack and the Probe was his dealer.
The creepy plot device was what ended up saving this drama, in my opinion.
I wasn’t too sold on the chemistry between the boys. The Probe, who is extremely well suited to playing a vampire, was believably smitten with the Mono. He was handsy and arrogantly aggressive in that charming way that sexy twink string beans can be. But he also put real effort behind his courtship. More than I’ve seen in any show in a long time, gay or straight. He memorized the names dozens of colors, hues, and shades, went out of his way to make sure every color experience the Mono was having was both visually stunning and informative. He looked up fun facts about artwork and light refraction and pigments, memorized them, and then spit them out like a practiced art history teacher when around his crush. Someone please push this man into education – his real talents are in teaching.
I loved that though our Probe enjoyed stringing along his new hypnotized pet for a little while, he had a total paradigm shift when he wore dark glasses and attempted to experience the world as his Mono did. He realized the cruelty of the whole situation and that he might be abusing his power and even apologized. There is a similar scene in the drama Angel Eyes, where the young suitor of a blind girl attempts to walk home blindfolded and is so disoriented and overwhelmed by this small task that he collapses at her feet, crying and begging forgiveness for not being more understanding of her reality.
It was so nicely done. The Probe character could have easily been your typical pushy, predatory romantic lead, but instead he was sensitive and caring. He made real efforts to teach the Mono about color, and he also made real efforts to understand the Mono’s world. He let himself become the pupil. He asked his crush to explain his views, to teach him grayscale, to deepen his understanding. That’s surprisingly mature for a young person, honestly.
I also like that though our Probe made his romantic intentions clear pretty early in the show, he didn’t push physically beyond holding and draping himself over his Mono like a mink stole. It was obvious the Mono would let him do anything, most likely, if it meant he could see color. You wanna flirtatiously caress my hands – in school, in front of a bunch of teenage boys, even though we’ve barely met – sure. Sure, no problem. You wanna drag me into closets, hold my hand, press yourself against my body while we stand around in public? You got it. Whatever you want. Gimme that color.
The Mono would have easily become the Probe’s slave, but I think our slink vampire understood that to push him that far meant losing him to madness.
Speaking of madness, our Mono was not in the headspace for romance in this show until AFTER he tried to kill himself and ran away with the Probe. He was, very realistically, too obsessed with what was happening to him to even consider the oddly handsome boy who kept holding his hand. I wasn’t sure if it was intentional or not for a long time, but have decided to give the writers credit for this nice touch. For several episodes I thought the Mono might be asexual. He had zero response to his new friends – not the flirtatious guy who kept flattering him, not the two cuties with the couple vibes. But the actor really nailed it with his internal struggles. I felt his obsession, his descent into chaos. The one-track minded nature of his relationship with vampire boy, which was Probe=color=need need NEED him oh shit I should push him away but I neeeeeeed him oh god I’m losing it oh god but I need him.
The resignation on his face in this scene! Our boy was HOOKED and powerless to resist the siren call of his Probe. The flirty Probe could have told him to jump off the balcony at this point and our Mono knew he’d probably do it just to see the world in color as he was falling.
Thankfully, it was a rather pleasant world in which to have a nervous breakdown and slow gay awakening. Cause no one cared at all. The only intervention of any kind was – rightly – after our Mono tries to kill himself and the adults start to think perhaps these two should be separated in order to keep them both alive. That’s it. That’s the only voice of dissension or concern. Even the school nurse shrugged her shoulder over the whole business. “Try not to make him pass out every day, okay? Geesh. People have real ailments, ya know.”
The other boys in the classroom were also suspiciously silent and/or absent from the story line. They were merely bodies in the room, without reactions or interactions with the main cast. Unless it was an arts school, I’m hard pressed to think of an all boys school that wouldn’t have something to say about the quartet of gay dudes in the class.
But I’ll let it slide because this was the empty world of a global pandemic. No one in the school halls. No one outside. No one on the bus, the beach, the museum, the street. The extenuating circumstance of reality had a tendency to leak into the majority of dramas filmed during this time. The fact we got any dramas at all during the pandemic of 2020-2021 is a small miracle. So yeah, it’s a minimalist drama with a handful of characters roaming about large empty spaces.
They stuffed a lot of plot into the last two episodes – with the full breakdown of our Mono, his suicide attempt, and the boys running away together. Many confessions are made – I quit my job, my family is fancy, I never thought about you, I couldn’t stop thinking about you, I want to be with you, oh, and I have a totally rare and exceptional disability that miraculously only you can cure too so we’re even Steven now right? Let’s stay together forever and ever. It’s so much.
Mono boy finally notices that his vampire Probe his attractive and that he might be attracted to him.
Of course, you could also read this scene as our Mono finally figuring out that he could use his Probe’s attraction to him as leverage to keep him around. Depends on your head space. I tend to lean dark internally, so I saw the manipulation angle before I remembered they are sweet innocent boys in a cheesy BL show and not a Daphne du Maurier novel. It was adorable how vampire Probe proclaims them a couple after the Mono pushes him out of the bed. Again proving he’s really a nice and thoughtful kid, testing the waters, waiting to hear if the other boy will protest or contradict him, just letting the words sink in as he works to make it reality. And our Mono does not protest.
Unfortunately, we were only given a rather lackluster kiss between these two. No movement of the lips whatsoever. I’ll let it go, as theirs was not a very passionate romance story anyways.
But there is one thing that deeply annoyed me about Color Rush. For such a small scale show, it managed to drop two entire story threads! And there were only three threads to begin with! Thread 1: Would our Mono murder or marry our Probe? Thread 2: Will these two twink side character best friends fall in love? Thread 3: What happened to the Monos mother?
I believe these dangling threads are picked up in Season 2. But I haven’t watched it yet.
Anyhoo, fingers crossed we get more bizarre BL stories in the future. Cause I’ll watch them.