When the show opens, Mei Ashley (Katie Leung) is being dressed up by Qianyi, in order to prepare her to pull off Mr. Lin’s (Junix Inocian) plan. While Qianyo and Lin wait outside, Mei enters the complex alone. As soon as she enters, a gentleman approaches and questions her nationality, before admitting customers likes London girls. He leads her to a private room, where he requests her to strip. After initially refusing, Mei strips, in order to gain access. After she has finished, the man hands her a kimono, which she puts on. She attempts to obtain the evidence, but is caught by an older man and sent away.
Mei is left in an empty room, where she text messages Qianyi and Lin. Qianyi tells Lin that it isn’t working, but he insists she must follow through. Meanwhile, Mei is forced into intercourse with an older gentleman. After she has finished with the sex, she attempts to purchase cocaine from one of the dealers, who insists she use the drugs, before leaving, which she does. Afterwards, she returns to the car and insists Lin lied to her and that he better deliver on his promises. She also confirms that she has captured the evidence. She returns to Qianyi’s apartment, where she showers and sobs, before being comforted by Qianyi.
Katherine Ashley (Elizabeth Perkins) calls, but fails to get through to Mei. Jim Ashley (Donald Sumpter) suggests making contact with Anderson. Katherine grows worried that Mei will decide to stay in China. Lin, Mei and Qianyi confront Mr. Ojo and his dealing cousin with the video evidence. Mr. Lin suggests he will destroy the evidence, if the Nigerian witnesses change their statements. Ojo suggests that Guan Peng forced their statements using threats of deportation. Ojo’s cousin begs him to do the right thing and tell the truth. Mr. Ojo believes it will destroy the community, if they change their statements. He finally agrees to make the men change their statements, which they do one by one.
Afterwards, the Chinese men also change their statements, due to the blackmail. Afterwards, Mei and her birthmother, Li Ying (Mardy Ma), visit Ajun and provide him with the good news. Ajun and Mei make plans to take their mother to a new place and start a new life. Katherine and Jim finally receive a call from Mei, who confesses her gratefulness for them, their money and support. She provides them with the updates involving Ajun’s case. Still, Katherine and Jim urge Mei to make contact with Anderson. Jim tells Mei that they’re flying out to China, but she pleads with them to allow her to handle things herself.
Mei and Li Ying meet with the activist group, which suggests they go public with Guan Peng’s corruption, which will prevent him from forcing the witnesses to change their stories. They also suggest Mei go to the New York times with the story. Afterwards, Mei and Qianyi read the newspaper report regarding Guan Peng’s corruption. The women await for Ajun’s next court date. In the morning, Mei receives a text message, which reads, “God forgive us”.
Ajun is led into the courtroom, where Qianyi, Li and Mei await. The judge speaks about the case, before accusing the defense of tampering with evidence. She also confirms all witnesses have reverted back to their old statements. She re-sentences Ajun to death, while the activists are arrested. Mei confronts Qianyi and insists the journalist used her and knew that the court would rule against them. Mei meets with Li and discovers they’ll only have one more visit with Ajun, which will take place Tuesday, before his execution. Mei has not given up yet. Instead, she pays a visit to the residence of the man who actually killed the African, Guan Xiaopeng.
Mei speaks with Guan Xiaopeng and discusses her brother’s case with him. She tells him about her suspicions against him and his father and suggests he can help. Xiaopeng says he will speak with his father. Despite the appeal being rejected, he insists something can be done at the last minute. Xiaopeng admits to having a sister, which causes Mei to question the one-child policy. The couple go out to the club and party. The next day, Mei meets with Xiaopeng’s father, Guan Peng, who tells Mei that he respects her loyalty to her brother. He offers a deal, which will free her brother, but put his waiter friend on death row. Guan Peng gives her thirty minutes to consider his offer. Mei does not return to Peng, which means she refuses his offer.
Li Ying and Mei visit Ajun (Sebastian So), who suggests petitioning the judge of the Supreme Court. He tells them that the Judge suggested that the activists and his lawyer are corrupt. Ajun begs them to save him, but is forced out by the guards. After Mei returns to the hotel room, she finds her adoptive parents in the lobby, but attempts to ignore them. Jim tells Mei that the Chinese authorities will come after her, if she doesn’t flee China. Instead, she heads to Beijing in an effort to get the Supreme Court to give her brother a stay of execution.
While Ajun is led out of his cell, Li and Mei rush towards the Supreme Court. Ajun is led to an isolated cell, where he is given his last meal. His request to be with someone is denied. Li and Mei meet with an attorney, who is willing to work pro bono. He tells them he only writes petitions, which will be a waste of time. Of course, they realize they’re going to need someone with Supreme Court experience to argue their case.
Afterwards, Ajun is prepared for execution by being strapped to a gurney, before being loaded into a van. The doctor places the IV in his arm, before he begins pleading his innocence. The guards watch, as the medication is administered. Ajun dies in a matter of minutes. Afterwards, his body is covered and removed on a stretcher.
Li Ying and Mei meet with a top-dollar attorney in Beijing. He tells them he has called the courts, who informed him that they’ve already executed Ajun. Li Ying breaks down, before being comforted by Mei. Ajun’s body is cremated. Qianyi contacts Mei, after being freed and wishes to make contact. After they meet, she reveals she is the only one to be released. She reveals that she hoped to free Ajun, but also wanted to use Ajun’s case as an example to expose two of the most powerful men in the city.
Mei and Li head to the prison to pick up Ajun’s stuff. Li questions the guards about any final words from Ajun, but they insist he made none. Mother and daughter reminisce and attempt to memorialize Ajun. Mei tells her mother that she cannot return home and leave her, but Li suggests she must return and attend school. Mei reunites with her adoptive parents, before telling them that she only wanted to know that her birth mother loved her.
We flash forward a month and Qianyi is speaking with Mei, who tells her she is working with the New York Times to publish a story. She suggests sending stuff to give to her birth mother. Afterwards, Li Ying is shown wearing a shirt with her sons face and working at a small kiosk.
Well, One Child had some hits and misses, as well as a missed opportunity to develop the Ajun character much more. The story definitely picked up into the third hour, as Mei’s progress began to fall apart. Guan Peng’s offer was clever. The execution scene was definitely effective, but could have hit home more, if the writers had allowed Ajun to develop into more of a compelling character.
The majority of the acting was good and believable. Katie Leung and Mardy Ma were great. However, Sebastian So would’ve likely stolen the show, if he was given more screen time. The biggest downer? It definitely has to be Elizabeth Perkins. At times, her acting felt emotionless and flat. A veteran actress, with a long profile, should have performed better. I began to cringe every time it showed her character.
Overall, One Child is a truthful look at the criminal justice system, which could be related to many countries. In the end, it turned out to be bleak and depressing, but it could have been much more compelling, if the writers would have given Sebastian So more of an opportunity to connect with viewers. The mini-series deserves a 7 out of 10.