The Fangirl Verdict

Completely biased reviews and fangirling

Review: Prime Minister and I

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THE SHORT VERDICT:

A pretty standard rom-com that doesn’t re-invent the wheel, Prime Minister and I is a pleasant, frothy watch for the most part, marred only by an ending that, while happy, most viewers would find too muted.

Lee Bum Soo is dashing and Yoona is bubbly, and together they make an unexpectedly cute couple. The sparky chemistry between our leads overcomes their large age gap surprisingly well, and the writers serve up contract marriage, forced co-habitation hijinks that are often entertaining and squee-worthy.

Despite weaknesses in the writing and execution, Prime Minister and I makes for a relaxed leisurely watch for days when you just want to sit back and zone out, and don’t want to think too hard.

Prime Minister and I OST – 죽을 만큼 사랑하라 (I Love You To Death)

THE LONG VERDICT:

I confess that I liked Prime Minister and I more than I expected to.

There were 2 main reasons that I’d hesitated to watch this drama in the first place.

Firstly, the political setting for our rom-com didn’t appeal to me, since I have literally little to no interest in politics and how it all works. Imagining the political arena as the context for a 17-episode rom-com did not get my squee-glands at all excited.

Secondly, the 20-year real-life age gap between Lee Bum Soo and Yoona gave me pause. He’s literally old enough to be her father, and I wondered if they could actually make the romantic pairing work. OTP chemistry is high on my list of desirable traits a rom-com should have, and the last thing I wanted was to have a father-daughter vibe coming off my OTP. Now that would be squicky.

As I found out, I needn’t have worried over these 2 factors. The political context was not imposed in an overbearing manner, and was mild enough to remain palatable. Additionally, the OTP chemistry was fresh and sparky, especially when they were allowed in close proximity of each other.

A contract marriage is always in danger of being exposed under scrutiny, and this show takes that scrutiny to the highest level possible, by making the contract couple the Prime Minister and his wife. The whole nation is watching, and that ups the stakes while forcing proximity. I actually like the premise, even though it had to be sort of forced into place.

Of course, there are flaws and weak spots in this drama. For example, the wonderfully breezy pace that the drama manages for the initial stretch, with lots of energy and fun, eventually starts to flounder in the second half and then slows to an excruciating, painful crawl in the final episodes. Pity.

When I stack up the positives next to the negatives, though, the positives still manage to come out on top. Not by a lot, but still.

Here’s a quick run-down of what I liked in this drama, as well as what I didn’t like, plus some of the stuff in-between.

STUFF I LIKED

When I look at the stuff that I liked about this drama, there isn’t a whole lot in terms of number, but the positives that the show does have are pretty big, hefty pieces which pull more weight than is probably their fair share.

Lee Bum Soo as Kwon Yul

Lee Bum Soo as Yul is quite possibly my favorite thing of all in this drama.

First of all, even though I’ve always thought of Lee Bum Soo as an excellent actor, I’ve never actually thought of him as swoony or sexy. And now, thanks to his turn as Yul, I can totally see his dashing appeal. It’s partly the sharp suits (guh, I do love a man in a sharp suit, don’t I?), but it’s also the way he carries himself; with dignity and confidence. There’s a quiet gravitas about him that I really dig. Put that together with the sharp suits (and those crisp white shirts), and I’m toast, basically.

Secondly, I love that Lee Bum Soo delivers Yul with a restraint and nuance that makes him rounded and believable as a character. Lee Bum Soo makes Yul likable despite Yul’s sometimes prickly behavior. Yul is principled, honest and upright and that makes him a very appealing male lead (vs. a jerky cold chaebol that is oh-so-typical in dramaland). I love that Yul is the kind of man who does what’s right instead of what’s popular.

In line with that, Yul is also respectful to those around him, including his leading lady Da Jung (Yoona). I love that he is the kind of man who will give his leading lady the space that she wants, and who will seek her opinion and input even for big decisions that he faces. That respect shows most when Da Jung makes decisions that he doesn’t necessarily agree with. He doesn’t push his own opinions on her, but instead chooses to respect the choice she makes. That’s definitely the mark of a true gentleman.

Thirdly, I really like how Yul is fleshed out with flaws. He isn’t a perfect man, and he knows it. His big failing in his life thus far, is his inability to connect with his children. There’s a moment in episode 1 where Yul is confronted with that realization, that he doesn’t know his kids at all, and Yul’s response is restrained yet poignant. That restraint was so well-played, I felt. It hit the perfect note of making him appear vulnerable yet dignified.

All in all, I loved watching Lee Bum Soo in this role, donning the sharp suits with matter-of-fact charisma, while wearing his principles on his sleeve and doing leading man things.

[SPOILER ALERT]

There are so many Yul moments that I really enjoy, that it’s actually hard to narrow it down. Here are just a few of my favorite Yul moments.

I love the moment in episode 3 where Yul swoops in to save Da Jung, who’s being bullied by Madam Na (Yoon Hae Young) and the White Cafe ladies.

My favorite part of this scene is not just the fact that Yul appears as Da Jung’s knight in shining armor, but that he so smoothly manages to get back at the gossipy White Cafe ladies by donating 1000 more cabbages in support of their efforts to make kimchi. That’s freaking brilliant, that he manages to punish them while making it look like a gracious act of support. Wow. THIS is why he’s a good politician.

As things progress and the required pieces are shifted into place for their contract marriage, Yul and Da Jung experience high levels of bickering and frustration.

I love that in the quieter moments (such as this one above), Yul seems to look at Da Jung a little differently. It’s like he’s processing who she is, and not disliking what he sees. I really enjoyed the subtle nuances in Lee Bum Soo’s gaze, coz it gives us access to how Yul is softening towards Da Jung, even though he doesn’t say anything.

The deeper into our story we go, the more we see Yul’s gaze evolve, and it’s lovely to watch.

I love this moment in episode 10 where Yul looks super pleased to have made Da Jung’s day by anonymously buying up all the dolls she’d prepared for the charity fair.

How adorable is that pleased-as-punch face?? It’s so cute that he’s that pleased.

That his pleasure isn’t from what he’d done, but the effect that it was having on Da Jung? Just super sweet and so swoony.

Talking about swoony, one of my favorite Yul moments is this scene in episode 10, where Yul, desperate to stop Da Jung from saying anything damaging within earshot of eavesdropping ears, plants a kiss on her.

It’s not the kiss per se that gets me; you see the kiss coming from a mile away. Rather it’s how Lee Bum Soo makes it sexy with the way he mutters, “You talk too much,” with mild manly exasperation, before moving in for the kiss.

Augh. Swoon.

In episode 13, when Da Jung makes her love confession to Yul, he receives it in a way that’s realistic and in character. He doesn’t sweep her off her feet right after her confession, coz there’s much baggage to consider. But he softens towards her noticeably, and it’s sweet, the softer gaze he has for her.

And when he finally declares his feelings for her, it’s dignified yet swoony in one.

Standing before her, he speaks in measured tones of quiet decision, “Ms. Nam Da Jung. You told me last time… to… just stay still, where I am. But… I don’t think I’ll be able to keep that promise. Because… I like you, Ms. Nam Da Jung. Is that all right with you? If you’re fine with the way I am… Is it all right… if I like you?”

Yul gently reaches for Da Jung’s hand, promising solemnly, “This hand. I promise to never let it go.”

Melt. Who knew that quiet dignity could be this swoony??

Somehow Lee Bum Soo makes saying these rather subdued declarations of love very sexy.

Like in episode 14, when Da Jung thanks Yul for offering to have her dad (Lee Han Wie) come to live with them, Yul responds with mock sternness, “Isn’t it a given to have your father live with us? We’re… going to be a real family now.” Then his tone softens and he continues in his quiet, matter-of-fact way, “I would like… for you to become my real wife.”

Da Jung murmurs, “Prime Minister.”

Gently, thoughtfully, Yul officially proposes, “Let’s now… get married for real.”

Omona. The words themselves aren’t at all sexy, to be sure. But when he says them, the way he says them, swoon. And, rawr.

Seriously, when did Lee Bum Soo become this sexy?

[END SPOILER]

Yoona as Nam Da Jung

Considering how I wasn’t terribly impressed with Yoona as an actress after seeing her in Love Rain, I was pleasantly surprised to find how likable she is as Da Jung in Prime Minister and I.

Acting opposite a powerhouse like Lee Bum Soo, it’s inevitable that her relative limitations as an actress would show through. In my opinion, however, likability counts for a whole lot, and can make up for a multitude of shortcomings. And Yoona managed to get that likability bit down very nicely indeed.

And where likability failed to cover all, the earnestness that Yoona imbued Da Jung with, made up the balance.

I enjoyed the bright and cheerful vibe that Yoona gave Da Jung for most of the show’s run. And when the tears did flow as they are wont to do in any rom-com’s angsty stretch, they felt sincere and heartfelt, in spite of Yoona’s relatively unpolished performance.

[SPOILER ALERT]

One of my favorite things about Da Jung is her never-say-die attitude. From the moment we meet her in episode 1, when she’s chasing down stories for Scandal News, to her time adjusting to a multitude of demands as the Prime Minister’s wife, she remains cheerful and determined, bent on giving it her best shot even when the odds seem stacked against her.

As a matter of fact, this is the quality about Da Jung that affects every person that comes into contact with her. From Yul to In Ho (Yoon Si Yoon), to Yul’s kids, to the staff at the Prime Minister’s residence; they all get affected and infected by her sunny personality. She draws the good and the positive out of people.

Yes, Da Jung’s characterization as a result feels rather two-dimensional. She feels like the representation of everything good and lovely, despite also being given to bouts of clumsiness. Would a more skillful actress have given Da Jung more facets than what was on paper? Perhaps. But given what she had to work with, I’d say Yoona did a very decent job.

While Da Jung positively affects pretty much everyone around her, I particularly liked the scenes where Da Jung interacted with and affected Yul’s kids, particularly maknae Man Se.

It’s so sweet how Man Se takes to Da Jung and how much he wants to see her and spend time with her, from faking texts from Yul’s phone, to waiting outside in the cold for her when she goes out, to grumping at her when she doesn’t sleep in his room.

It’s adorable, and I love how gentle Da Jung is with him.

[END SPOILER]

OTP Moments

While our OTP’s relationship is marked more by handshakes and hand-holding than actual skinship, I’m happy that we did get a nice dose of up-close-and-personal moments between them.

Yes, not all the moments were set up in believable ways, but I would rather have them than not, so I shan’t complain too much.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Here’s a nice sampling of OTP skinship moments, ranging from the sweet to the rawr-inducing:

How about that shot of Yul straddling Da Jung, pinning her down in bed, eh? Sexay.

And how about this last screencap where Yul takes Da Jung hand as they run from the Scandal News team? No wrist grabbing here, only firm hand-holding. I approve.

In the midst of all the skinship, I love how everyone in their household, from the kids to the staff, swaps stories about our OTP’s displays of affection. I love how Man Se tells everyone about their “kiss” in episode 9, and housekeeper ahjumma sniffs that she’s seen much more, while the guards just lap it all up giddily. Hee. I love how everyone eats up every little hint that these 2 are super in love.

Through it all, though, it’s the way Yul looks at Da Jung that I find increasingly swoony. Like in episode 12, there are moments where I just want him to lean in and kiss her and.. let his passion, er, reign. Cough.

Rawr.

[END SPOILER]

Yoon Si Yoon as Kang In Ho

I have a good amount of affection for Yoon Si Yoon from his Barefoot Friends stint, and was a little wistful to hear that he’d recently enlisted for his mandatory military service, so it was really nice to have him on my screen as In Ho, Yul’s right-hand man.

Right from the get-go, I found Yoon Si Yoon nicely appealing as our second lead. Yoon Si Yoon plays In Ho with restraint, which is a very different feel than OTT Enrique in Flower Boy Next Door.

As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to find in episode 1 that Yoon Si Yoon’s spoken Mandarin is surprisingly decent, and his Japanese is actually pretty good too. Given what a book nerd he is in real life, though, I actually shouldn’t be surprised, heh.

In a nutshell, I found In Ho interesting, and Yoon Si Yoon portrays him with convincingly sharp intelligence, yet manages to color his nice guy appeal with just enough darkness, rooted in his hidden motives, to make him mysterious.

[SPOILER ALERT]

After motor-mouth Enrique, I really did relish the quiet control with which Yoon Si Yoon played In Ho. I also really enjoyed seeing him wear the sharp suits (yes, I know. I’m incorrigible that way), and do the sorts of melty things typical of rom-com second leads.

For example, I really enjoyed watching In Ho fall for Da Jung, even though I knew it was going to happen from the get-go. Somehow, Yoon Si Yoon makes it desirable. The way In Ho’s eyes react to Da Jung, you can practically see the emotions hit him and his brain trying to process it all, while maintaining decorum.

Very nicely played, Yoon Si Yoon-sshi.

I also really enjoyed watching In Ho be the silent hero to Da Jung, like he is in episode 5, when he feeds her lines in fluent Spanish.

Fluent in multiple languages and a clever techie as well? That’s swoony and sexy.

The thing that prevents me from thoroughly falling under In Ho’s spell, however, is his secret vendetta against Yul. Knowing that about him changes everything, and even moments that could’ve been swoony become disturbing instead.

Like the scene in episode 5 where In Ho comforts a crying Da Jung and pulls her into a hug. That would’ve been swoony but for the fact that it was a completely calculated move on his part, designed to be in Yul’s full view.

That just negates all the brownie points, y’know?

Additionally, something else that I couldn’t quite shake is In Ho’s resolute request of Joon Ki (Ryu Jin) in episode 8, to render Yul a vegetable. That is just seriously disturbing.

To In Ho’s credit, he changes his mind about Yul (ok, it’s convenient and not that convincingly set up, but at least In Ho as a character gets some sort of redemption) and continues to protect Da Jung with a selfless kind of love to the very end.

Overall, I felt that In Ho as a character is rather tragic, since he’s misguided for much of the drama, and then spends the remaining time feeling guilty and trying to make amends. On top of that, his being protective of Da Jung is a mix of sweet, sad and quite heartbreaking coz it’s so futile. But at least he didn’t actually do evil stuff like turn Yul into a vegetable. Eek.

[END SPOILER]

When the writing hits the heart

Although the show is not consistent with this all the way through, there are many moments in the drama that genuinely tugged at my heartstrings, whether it’s because they’re heartbreaking, heartwarming or both.

This show had me occasionally in tears, and that’s saying something, for a rom-com that doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel.

[SPOILER ALERT]

One of the big heartbreak moments that brought me to tears is in episode 4, when Da Jung’s dad doesn’t recognize her on the wedding day. It’s heartwrenching to see him in his muddled state, while Da Jung’s heart breaks. It’s all the more tragic because his deteriorating condition is the very reason that she suggested the contract marriage to begin with.

On the other end of the scale, there’s lots of warmth that’s built into the show as well. Many of these have to do with Yul’s kids warming up to Da Jung. But Da Jung doesn’t only care for Yul and his kids. One of the scenes that really warmed my heart is in episode 6, where Da Jung got Christmas gifts for everyone as the the lady of the house. I love that everyone loves their Christmas gifts; even the housekeeper with her new apron. And even the guards with their red bow-ties. So sweet and so cute.

[END SPOILER]

Prime Minister and I OST – 발걸음 (Steps)

STUFF I CAN’T DECIDE WHETHER I LIKE

There are a couple of things in this show that I sort of like – but not quite. Yes, it’s as confusing as it sounds.

Here’s them.

Flights of Fancy

This show uses imaginary scenarios a lot, most of them rooted in Da Jung’s imagination.

And Da Jung’s fits of imagination have a rather Ally McBeal quality to them, in that it always starts out just a little weird, so that you think it might be real, and then just gets more and more ridiculous until she snaps out of it.

On the one hand, it’s rather fun, once you get used to it.

On the other hand, it can be quite confusing, since it happens quite a lot, and it often takes a long moment before we can establish what’s real and what’s not. Generally, I only know that it’s imagined once things get really crazy, like the scene above where Da Jung imagines that she and Yul are placed under arrest for deceiving the nation with their fake marriage.

Besides the part where it confused me at times, I also grew tired of it when the device was used multiple times. It started to feel repetitive, and, well, a lot less fresh, y’know?

Cameos

There were a couple of cameos in this drama, and while I have nothing against a fun cameo or two, in at least one of these cases, I found it completely unbelievable and distracting.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Soo Ho from EXO makes several cameo appearances from episodes 10-12 as the church oppa who looks just like Soo Ho from EXO. Hur hur.

I thought his cameo was quite fun, as it gives Na Ra (Jeon Min Seo) some room for character development as she revels in her crush on Oppa. It’s cute when she starts going to church and studying hard coz she wants to make a good impression on Oppa, and it’s cute-sad when she bawls that Oppa is going to the seminary and therefore she can’t marry him.

I did wonder briefly if there was a meta message in there with Soo Ho going off to be a priest, but, nah.. I don’t think so. Right?

It’s the other cameo by Oh Man Suk in episode 12 that was hilarious but also disturbingly nonsensical.

Basically, when Yul is hospitalized, Madam Na and her White Cafe cronies decide that it’s only right that they pay him a visit. They end up barging their way into the room of mob boss Oh Man Suk, and because his back is turned to them, they turn on the simpering charm without even realizing that they’ve got the wrong guy.

Mob Boss decides he likes them and starts flirting outrageously with them, and it’s Hye Joo (Chae Jung Ahn) that has to come to the ladies’ rescue.

Um. It’s ridiculously funny. But it’s also downright ridiculous, and therefore quite distracting.

We could’ve totally done without this scene and it really wouldn’t have hurt our narrative in any way.

[END SPOILER]

Resurrection of the Dead Wife

Yes, I know that header is a spoiler in itself, but trust me, it’s better to know.

A lot of viewers who watched this live felt this plot development was completely out of left field, and were really upset by the turn that the show took as a result. I found that going into this show knowing that the dead wife gets resurrected helped me to manage my expectations and reactions better.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I can’t decide, really, whether or not I liked the fact that the writers brought Na Young (Jung Ae Yun) back to life.

On the one hand, I see where the writers are coming from. They want to show us that Yul chooses Da Jung, not as a replacement for his dead wife, but in spite of his dead wife not actually being dead. Even though Na Young is alive, it doesn’t change his choice.

On the other hand, I really don’t like Na Young much, coz she’s got a very needy vibe about her. But that’s what her character is supposed to be like, and she isn’t (supposed to be, anyway) capable of more. She’s basically allowing the consequences of her past bad decisions to hold her prisoner.

A lot of debate went on in the dramaverse among viewers about who is more deserving of Yul’s love or the “place” in that family.

In my opinion, there is no earning of that love or that place. As bad as Na Young’s decisions have been, nothing can change the fact that she is the kids’ mother, and that kids need their mother.

What I find more meaningful is that our lead characters make decisions which make them feel that they are being true to themselves. Da Jung is being true to herself in choosing to give the kids a chance to reunite with their mother. Yul is being true to himself by choosing Da Jung anyway. That’s the silver lining I take away from Na Young’s return.

Could we have spent less screentime on this? Oh yes. Regrettably, we spent way too much time lingering on Na Young’s tears and self-pity. But at least there is a silver lining?

[END SPOILER]

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

As I thought about what didn’t work for me in this drama, I realize that there are 4 main things that didn’t do it for me.

[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]

Believability is sometimes a problem 

There are a good number of times that the degree to which we had to suspend disbelief got uncomfortably high. And the number of times we had to suspend disbelief, all stacked up, also contributes to that general feeling that there’s a lot of unbelievable stuff going on in our drama.

Here’s a quick list:

  • Dad being suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor seemed extremely convenient, but it’s basically in service of facilitating the contract marriage, so I decided to close one eye.
  • Da Jung sticking her foot in her mouth at the banquet in episode 3 about Madam Na and her past scandal with Kang Ho Dong. I don’t quite buy that Da Jung would be that clueless. I mean, there’s oblivious, and there’s stupid. No matter how oblivious Da Jung is, I’m sure she’d know better than to describe in detail someone’s past scandal to their face.
  • Yul deciding to sleep in the same bedroom as Da Jung in episode 4. I couldn’t connect the dots on that one. It felt random and weird, and completely unrelated to what had transpired between them before. I didn’t buy his reasoning about starting to be a good husband before being a good father.
  • It’s a great moment in episode 7 when Yul rescues Da Jung from the oncoming truck, but really, what would a Prime Minister be doing there anyway? Would he really have gone to Woo Ri’s concert venue and followed them all the way to that crosswalk? Or had he been on his way to the concert venue? Did he even know where the concert was supposed to be? I wanted – and didn’t get – a reasonable explanation for why Yul was even there, coz then I would’ve been able to just enjoy the fact that he went all heroic and rescued Da Jung.
  • People on the street not recognizing the Prime Minister or his wife. That he can gain entry to a club by changing his clothes, and go unnoticed singing to his wife in a restaurant? R-i-g-h-t.

  • The guy who tries to hit on Da Jung not recognizing her as the Prime Minister’s wife, is also rather unbelievable, although one could rationalize that it’s dark and maybe he was tipsy.
  • Na Ra warming up to Da Jung. The show attempted to connect those dots, but it wasn’t very convincing. In episode 10, I enjoyed seeing Na Ra being on friendly terms with Da Jung, but it felt weird coz the drama hadn’t shown us how they got this close.
  • Madam Na and the White Cafe cronies visiting the mob boss by mistake. ’nuff said.
  • Revenge missions get quickly dropped, both by In Ho and Joon Ki, once Na Young appears, alive and well. That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially for In Ho, since his brother is still in a vegetative state.

That’s a pretty long list, isn’t it? And I wasn’t even being that thorough, even.

Continuity is also sometimes a problem

Aside from believability, continuity also proved to be a problem. Stuff adjusts – and often gets dropped – for what is convenient to our main characters and their story, and it often feels random and uneven. To put it mildly.

Here’s another quick list.

  • Da Jung’s Scandal News colleagues cease to be a nuisance when it’s convenient for the story.
  • In episode 10, the twist of having the ahjummas hiding in the closet is pretty good, except that at the end of the previous episode, there’s no coat peeking out from the cupboard.
  • Madam Na and her White Cafe cronies cease to give Da Jung a hard time when it’s convenient for the story. Essentially, Madam Na swings ridiculously to extremes. One moment she’s trying to curry Da Jung’s favor, and the next, she’s being mean to her, and then back again. Although Madam Na is meant to be a comic character, this was illogical and jarring.
  • Da Jung’s dad gets better or worse depending on what they need from him in the story. In episode 11, he suddenly gets better so that he can be the instrument orchestrating Da Jung’s return to the house. It’s sweet, but it also feels like Dad’s dementia got better suddenly, enough for him to do all the necessary things to push the OTP back together.

The effect of this general lack of continuity is a haphazard feel to the overall story. The narrative didn’t feel like it was being handled by assured hands. I learned to shrug it off as we progressed through the drama, but it was a pity that there were so many things to shrug off.

Noble Idiocy rears its head

There are times when noble idiocy feels plausible, and then there are times when it feels like noble idiocy is shoved in because someone said it needs to be there. Or else. Guess which side of the scale this drama falls into?

In the last stretch of the drama, Da Jung becomes our noble idiot and opts to leave so that Na Young can return to her rightful place with the kids.

On the positive side, I see that Da Jung understands what it means to grow up missing her mother, and she can’t bear to do that to the kids given the fact that their mother isn’t actually dead. In that sense, her decision to leave and to unveil the truth feels true to her character.

I also do love that Yul chases Da Jung down and grabs her hand, thereby keeping his earlier promise to her that he will never let go of her hand.

On the negative side, the noble idiocy made the last stretch of the show a serious drag to watch. By the time we hit episode 16, Da Jung is adamantly sticking to her nobly idiotic guns as stubbornly as she can, even though Yul is calling her out on it.

So very frustrating. And it just felt so unnecessary, really. I really couldn’t see why Da Jung had to leave, given that Na Young didn’t actually want to reclaim her place, nor did Yul want her to.

It felt like Da Jung was making a humongous mountain out of a molehill, basically. Argh.

The Ending

Honestly, I didn’t really like the final episode. Watching it, it felt like the writers were determinedly trying to fulfill several things in reaching their conclusion:

1. There’s a price that needs to be paid for faking a marriage.

2. Yul and Da Jung need a re-set, so that they can be shown to choose each other all over again, this time starting properly, without a fake marriage contract. And the start-over must include a handshake, because that’s a recurring motif between Yul and Da Jung all drama long.

3. There must be a time skip. Everyone needs to spend a year re-inventing themselves. Yul, Da Jung, Hye Joo.

While I (sort of) get what the writers were going for, the ending really felt unsatisfying to me.

Other than the part where Hye Joo forges her own path in politics and In Ho remains by Yul’s side as his right-hand man, I would’ve much preferred a final episode that went a little more like this:

  • Yul and Da Jung realize there’s really nothing stopping them from turning their fake marriage into a real one, and do just that.

  • They spend much of the episode doing for real all the things that they used to fake: official appearances, family time, time together as a couple. Dates.
  • The children get to build their relationship with Na Young as well as Da Jung, and they work out a way to genuinely embrace and love having both women in their lives.

  • We get to see skinship moments echoing earlier awkward up-close-and-personal encounters actually play out this time, with love, affection and tenderness.

  • We get to see Yul starting over and re-inventing himself politically, actually making headway in the areas that he was passionate about as Prime Minister but was prevented from acting on. And we get to see Da Jung supporting him through it all, while activating her Scandal News ex-colleagues to work with them for good this time.
  • Da Jung’s dad gets to witness his daughter being truly happy and settled, and gives them his blessings. If he does have to go while the camera is still rolling, then he’s remembered without the guilt this time, but with love and gratefulness.

Yes, my version of the ending leans cheesy, but I think the entire show was leaning cheesy from the beginning anyway, so why not keep it up all the way through instead of introducing missed opportunities, forced separation and distance and all that stuff?

It’s too bad that this version of the end wasn’t something we could see unfold on our screens. Coz I would’ve really dug that ending.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Whew. After wading through all the things I didn’t like so much in this show, it really doesn’t sound extremely encouraging, does it?

Let me just say that overall, it’s possible to enjoy this drama, if you’ve got the right lens on. And that lens is a blurry, soft-focus one that shrugs off logic fails and zooms in on OTP cute and dashing Lee Bum Soo squee. Plus, despite the noble idiocy late in the game, our OTP does share a relationship that is deeply marked by mutual respect, and that alone is quite a remarkable thing in dramaland.

Those few things alone make this a show that’s worth popping on your watch list, for a lazy, zoned-out day when your brain’s not on duty, but your heart is.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Flawed, but sweet enough to be a fun casual watch, if you dial down your expectations.

VISUAL TREATS:

A quick teaser that gives a feel for the generally light-hearted tone of the show:

Here’s a slightly longer, subbed trailer. Unfortunately, it’s not available in HD.

For those who don’t mind spoilers or who’ve seen the show, here’re a couple of breezy MVs that are only moderately spoilery:

Author: kfangurl

Proud to be a k-fangirl since 2007. Main diet of kdramas with movies and kpop on the side.

32 thoughts on “Review: Prime Minister and I

  1. I love your review! I share most of the same sentiments. And your ending is perfect!! I really felt the last few episodes were a PITA to watch. (That’s my acronym for…you can guess! LOL) I get so frustrated with Noble idiocy even though I understood her reasoning. They could have simply continued on in the marriage for REAL and all the lovely, cheesy things you said. Teehee.

    Lee Bum Soo is an amazing actor and I thought he was absolutely charming and sexy in this role. And I don’t know much of Yoona’s work, but I thought she was very good in this drama. You are right that it’s her character’s likability rather than deep talent that makes it work. I think I appreciate female leads I can like more than talent sometimes. Yoon Si Yoon was terrific, I liked his character, despite his dark motives. I think he struggled with his feelings all along, you can tell he liked the Prime Minister, or respected him, but his drive for revenge kept him going down the dark path until the annoying wife showed up. I suspected she wasn’t dead early into the drama.

    “Firstly, the political setting for our rom-com didn’t appeal to me, since I have literally little to no interest in politics and how it all works. Imagining the political arena as the context for a 17-episode rom-com did not get my squee-glands at all excited.”

    Same here. I tend to fall asleep. I know other people who enjoy watching it play out, and see it all as a big game. So I say no to political fueled stuff unless it’s a lighthearted story like this, or if you’ve ever seen the 90’s Kevin Kline movie ‘Dave.’ I really enjoyed that one.

    Your remark about ‘squee glands’ had me laughing so hard! That’s a fun way to put it.

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    • Thankies, Lady G!! :D I’m so glad you enjoyed the review! And yes, I did manage to guess what PITA stood for, heh. And you are so right, it was a royal PITA to watch the last couple of episodes. I dragged my feet through episode 16, and had to literally break it up into 3 or 4 different watches to get through it. :P

      Right?? I sort of got why the writers didn’t want to just turn the fake marriage real, and why they wanted a re-set for our OTP, but seriously, who really needs that?? We know their love turned real, and they know their love turned real. Why do they need to prove it to us and themselves all over again?? Just let the kisses run amuck, is what I say! :D (Giggle. I just had a mental image of a whole lot of out-of-control kissing taking over our OTP, who can’t keep it in check no matter how hard they try. Kinda like that Jim Carrey movie where he can’t tell a lie no matter how hard he tries; our OTP just can’t stop themselves from kissing each other, no matter how hard they try. HAHA. I’d watch that drama in a heartbeat! XD )

      That likability thing is true for the actresses, isn’t it? It’s been a long time coming, but I think we’ve finally distilled that thought right there. If I don’t find an actress likable, it’s really hard for me to appreciate her, whether she’s a skilled actress or not. Yoona was immensely likable in here, and that totally worked in her favor. I didn’t enjoy her as much in Love Rain, but I think it’s because Love Rain spends a lot of time being mopey and angsty, and she had to likewise spend a lot of time being teary and sad. It occurs to me that Na Young reminds me a little bit of Shin Min Ah, in terms of her features. But I don’t find her – or at least, her character – likable, and that puts her and Shin Min Ah at opposite ends of my mental actress scale, even though they look somewhat similar.

      Hee. Glad you enjoyed discovering squee-glands! Bet you didn’t know that’s what they’re called, right? It’s the scientific name. Really. ;) And no, I haven’t seen “Dave” – should I be looking for it?

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      • A kiss fest would be nice! :D I don’t know, this drama thought it could be edgy by pairing a couple with a huge age and status gap and actually making it work. Then they skimp out on the lovin.’ So, so annoying.

        I’m watching Shin Min Ah in My Girlfriend is a Gumiho and she’s adorable. As I’m watching I’m seriously thinking, dang! Why can’t K-fangurl’s Chuno sequel be real!!?? lol. Now I wish Jang Hyuk was in a new drama with Shin Min Ah, not this Fated to love you.

        It’s a fun drama, and my sis is enchanted by No Min Woo. LOL. I told her he enchants all his fans. haha. I like him lots, but he enchants me most when he plays those drums. Yowza!! Sorry, going off on tangents and just have to post.

        Well, if you’re ever bored on a lazy, rainy Sunday and want a break from Asian dramas, AND in the mood for a 90’s rom-com, I suggest ‘Dave.’ LOL. Dave and Green Card are 2 of my favorite 90’s romcoms. :)

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  2. I loved PMAI….a charming, little drama with endearing leads….I loved that our hero is such a gentleman and our heroine is a bubbly, sweet girl….LBS and Yoona has a surprisingly great chemistry….and Yoona was a real surprise….I do think that YSY didn’t have much to do though…also, I like d that for once, the second female lead was positive! And yes, I liked “Steps” — the song as well..

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    • Oh, it’s nice that you enjoyed this drama, snow! (I realize that calling you snow instead of snow_white feels chummier. I almost feel like we’ve just switched from jondae-mal to banmal, HAHA XD ) Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by the believable and cracky chemistry between LBS and Yoona. I appreciate what we did get, but I did wish for more of that lovely chemistry to shine through in our final episodes and we didn’t really get to see them together all that much in the final stretch. Sad.

      Great point about our female second lead – she wasn’t clingy or needy, but was a strong woman who managed to move beyond her one-sided love and start to think and act for herself. That’s a rarity in dramaland, and definitely deserves our appreciation ^^

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      • Awww….that’s cho chweet of you :D Actually I initially created snow_white without thinking that it would go for so long…and then, Ddee always called me snow, so I thought “okay, let’s make it smaller (and chummier)” and hence “snow”… :D

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  3. I agreed with you about the continuity issue but also that it was a funny, fluffy show that I could watch and not be outraged that the writing is so terrible. (I wasn’t outraged because it was terrible from the get go.) I also loved the leads and the second leads too actually. Lee Bum Soo and Yoona really work despite the age difference. I thought the wife coming back was the height of contrivance – honestly maybe it is because I’m American but i don’t get guilt strong enough to keep you watching your children but not in their life!!

    I LOVED your ending episode. Actually that is just the sort of episode I’d love to see cap off such a silly and fun series. One full of heart and banking on what made the show so watchable – the actors, the chemistry and the love.

    Cheers – I really enjoyed your review. I thought I was the only one who wrote posts that long! It’s nice to know I was wrong.

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    • Hah 5000+ words is nothin’ for her. Hv you seen her 15K-word theses? That’s devotion for you. Or mania. ;P

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      • Tee hee. I prefer to think of it as devotion, thank you ;) Mania sounds like I need an intervention. Which I might, but let’s stay in denial ok? XD

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        • I admire the level of detail and your methodical approach! That’s entirely devotional in my view. And your words always float by with such ease it’s a pleasure to read.

          But Chuno was a bit of both I think heh.

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    • Thanks yaykisspurr!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the review! :D And it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one churning out long posts around here ^^ Sometimes my posts are so long that I’m a little blown away that people still enjoy reading them, considering how we live in an internet age of fleeting attention spans and all.

      You’re absolutely right – having the right lens on totally helps. It would’ve been much harder to watch the show if we were putting it under a microscope and expecting every little detail to make sense. This show can’t take that kind of scrutiny; I shrugged off the logic fails like you did, but I couldn’t help noticing how often I had to do that XD

      “The height of contrivance” – what a great way to put it yaykisspurr!! :D That’s perfectly spot-on, really. Na Young’s character didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Thinking about it, though, it feels like the other characters couldn’t make sense of her either, so that helped me to accept her existence, ironically. In that way, it felt like it was just her being weird, and not that her way of thinking was accepted and normal in our drama’s world, if that makes sense.

      Yay that you enjoyed my ending episode!! That would’ve been such fun to watch, wouldn’t it? :D I’d have loved to see our OTP doing all of those things, just enjoying each other and savoring how it all felt when everything’s real and not fake. And that totally would’ve given us the opportunity to soak in more OTP chemistry and the related cute. Ah, the possibilities..

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  4. Yes! Your ending scenario was much better than the one in the show. How in the heck was their less skin ship in the final episode then there was in the rest of he series? The time skip was mainly a problem for me because Da Jung had built up a relationship with the kids, and 1 year is a long time in the life of a kid. And yeah, I was worried about the age gap too, but surprisingly it worked.

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    • That’s a great point, curlynoona! One year is a long time for a kid, especially a small one like Man Se. It’s almost like how one human year is seven years for a pup, right? Not that the kids are dogs or anything, even though Man Se is as cute as a puppy XD

      Yay that you liked my version of the ending! It’s too bad we can’t actually see it play out, but my fangirl imagination is strong enough for me to conjure up an alternative reality where this show ended the way we wanted it to! If only drama writers would consult us when writing their stories, we’d always enjoy how our dramas ended! Hee.

      My theory on the lack of skinship is that they got “feedback” that the early skinship was inappropriate, perhaps due to the age gap between the actors, and then had to backpedal and make it work as best as they could. Which landed us in handshake territory. Sigh. That handshake at the end, seriously. I mean, I know where they were coming from with the handshake motif, but really, they could’ve done better. Tsk.

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      • Those kids were great. Man Se was too adorable for words.

        Yeah, I’m gonna pretend your ending happened too. I mean fine, maybe some people disliked the age gap, but I would have taken a cute hug over that handshake!!!

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        • Gosh, I loved Man Se, he was so, so cute! XD I loved his scenes with Da Jung, especially when he got all grumpy when she didn’t come sleep with him. Aw.

          Oh yes, I would’ve taken a hug over that handshake. I mean, seriously, I would’ve taken basically anything over that handshake. Kisses! I wanted lots and lots of mad hawt kisses!! :D

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      • That handshake was corny and they knew it. Ughh! Frustrating. And hello, it’s not like the P.M is getting ANY YOUNGER waiting for her. They’re just making the age gap more significant.

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  5. hm, for me, this drama was a lighthearted illustration of Karl A. Menninger’s quote: “One does not fall in love; one grows into love, and love grows in him.” (applied to both main characters) … and it was interesting to watch them both “growing”, but not not “growing apart” while also avoiding the “meet in the middle” version (where the mature man starts acting/behaving like a boy). this also explains a lot: the age and experience gap they choose to go with when they selected the main actors, the awkwardness of many situations (as they would probably occur in real life too), Da Jung’s imaginary scenarios, the “Noble Idiocy”, a.s.o.

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    • Oh, that’s a lovely quote, INTJ! :D This definitely was a case of the OTP growing into love rather than falling in love. And definitely, I’m relieved we didn’t have to watch LBS start behaving like a boy. That would’ve been too weird. I much prefer how they did treat his character, with dignity and restraint. And LBS rocked it like the powerhouse that he is. ❤

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  6. I hv nothing to much to say since I didn’t watch this one and I hv no intention to do so, but that means I can actually read a review thoroughly! And now I don’t hv to watch it coz you’re so wonderfully detailed and descriptive it’s like watching it anyways :D. Lovely!

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  7. You summed it up perfectly, so nothing to add. :)

    Except… Lee Bum Soo! He’s great, isn’t he? Which is why I’m ever so sad that Triangle is not my cup of tea. :( Did you watch Giant btw? Can’t remember if you’ve ever mentioned it.

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    • Aw thanks Timescout! Glad you enjoyed the read! :D

      And yes, Lee Bum Soo is totally great! I have a soft spot for romances, so seeing him be the leading man definitely took my LBS appreciation to a whole new level ;) Triangle doesn’t sound like my kind of show either, but if it gets really good buzz, I’ll check it out. And no, I haven’t watched Giant. Should I?

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      • Tried Triangle and found it wanting.

        I loved Giant! It was a great family saga, set in an interesting timeperiod. At 60 epis it was maybe a tad too long but as it spans several decades, that’s understandable. I don’t recall it getting painfully draggy though. LBS (as Kang Mo) was wonderful as per usual but so were several other actors/actresses. The 2nd OTP (Joo Sang Wook/Hwang Jung Eum) got quite a cult following, ha. Several intersting characters, like Jung Bo Suk’s ‘Daddy Satan’, whom everyone just loooooved to hate. XD Young Kang Mo was played by Yeo Jin Goo and I remember writing that ‘this kid is going to be a heartbreaker when he grows up’. :) Didn’t take all that long for that to happen. So yeah, you should totally watch it. I think it would actually do well as a slow marathon. I watched it live and waiting for new episodes from week to week was so frustrating. I think I finally just started collecting epis and watching those as a chunk, LOL!

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      • Yes, you should try ‘Giant’. One of my favorite series. Brilliant melodrama. From the creators of ‘History of the Salaryman’, so we get many of the same cast too. ;)

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  8. This series has traumatized me more than any drama has before. It was so close to a perfect rom-com with a heart. And then they lost their nerve. For new viewers who know of these issues, perhaps still enjoyable. For those following it as it aired, who saw it collapse in front of our eyes? Well, I’ll never be able to watch it again, that’s for sure. As lovely as it is, seeing it mess up so badly by the end was painful.

    Great OTP, great chemistry and as a huge fan of Lee Beom Soo, Yool is one of my favorite characters and performances of his, so I do not regret watching or him taking up this role (he got many new swooning fans from it too), but at the same time, this just makes it more painful. But I guess Dramaland is not ready for certain changes yet.

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    • Oh yes, I can so imagine how traumatizing it must have been for you, Ori! I know how much you love LBS, and he is so lovely in this. To have it crumble before your eyes must’ve been a horrifying experience. It’ll probably be a long while yet before you even entertain that thought of watching this a second time!

      You’re absolutely right – dramaland chickened out of this one. I felt that they were purposefully keeping the skinship between our OTP to a bare minimum. It started out really nicely at first, with all those up-close-and-personal moments, and then petered out to mostly just handshakes and hand-holding by the end. It’s as if someone took them to task for allowing the earlier proximity and they had to about-face on it. It also felt like they were conjuring up detours in the story in order to prevent the OTP from spending too much time together and therefore avoiding potential skinship opportunities. Of course, I could be totally wrong, but that’s totally what it felt like to me :P

      Going in with my eyes open definitely helped me to enjoy the good in this one, but if I’d gone in spoiler-free, I’d probably have gotten much more upset, like everyone who watched it live.

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      • The fact that we got multiple shots of the first kiss and then when Lee planted a proper one on her, they edited it out and had him “air-kiss” her instead was pretty telling. I know you had to pause at the right moment and track it to get the shot of that kiss, because they cut the scene the minute their lips touched. The gradual lessening of the skinship made it obvious too.

        I guess since the core audience in Korea are older women, they love the idea of “them” dating younger hot men, but not the idea of young hot girls dating guys like their husbands. Ajeossi romances don’t get much love and the age gap here just killed the romance dead.

        It was a shame, because they managed to keep it good for so long and do so many wonderful things to tired old tropes. Not to mention the chemistry was wild. For two actors to match so well and give the age gap the middle finger and to have the potential there crushed, it’s sad. I frankly wish creators would abandon the main three stations and take such romances to cable, where they can be a bit more free to explore these taboos in romantic comedy.

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  9. Honestly, I enjoyed watching this drama. I was pretty surprised to see that Yoona’s acting chops improved on this one. It’s so much better than her acting in “Cinderella Man” and “Love Rain”. I loved the sweet moments between the two leads, like those stolen kisses. It’s not sleazy. I like it that there aren’t a lot of sleaze moments in this drama.

    Hmmm, my dad watched this with us and had a vehement reaction: “What, they’re married and they didn’t do the deed?!”

    Oh dad.

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    • Yes, Yoona really improved quite a bit since her Love Rain days, hasn’t she? I didn’t watch Cinderella Man so I can’t comment, but I did find myself liking her a whole lot more in this than in Love Rain. As for sleaze.. there generally isn’t a whole lot of sleaze in kdrama, is there? The cable dramas are getting a little more daring, but even then, it’s pretty clean by most standards, I think. :) And yes, the little romantic moments between our leads were very welcome indeed ^^

      Your dad sounds like a fun kinda guy. Not just that he’s got a sense of humor, but he watches kdrama with you! Wow~ ;)

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  10. I wonder why, despite the many flaws in writing, found this drama comfortable to watch? Perhaps its the warmth and earnestness of the cast.

    Let me give my two cents worth of what the…. (1) The official residence is a traditional house. How come the facade is that of a modern building? (2) If that piano gives the prime minister pain, why would he bring it to the official residence and have it in a locked room? (3) The official residence did not have a perimeter fence? How come people can come in very close proximity to the main entrance? (4) … I should stop. I still enjoyed it.

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    • Lol. Yes, there are so many flaws in this drama, especially when you start looking more carefully! XD I do have to agree that it was a rather pleasant watch.. The warmth and earnestness of the cast was definitely a big factor. The Lee Bum Soo quotient of dashing didn’t hurt either ;) Glad you managed to enjoy this one despite its shortcomings, kaiaraia! ^^

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