THE SHORT VERDICT:
One of the early hits that helped to launch the Hallyu wave, All About Eve is the kind of drama that’s so old that it actually feels new.
A fairly light, ultimately warm melo that doesn’t have too many of the classic kdrama tropes coz, well, they hadn’t been established yet, at the time.
There isn’t a jerky male lead, nor a damsel-in-distress female lead; in fact, for a good long stretch, I couldn’t even figure out the dynamics of the love square. That sure kept me on my toes. So refreshing, and mildly cracky in the best way too.
Plus, I totally see the Jang Dong Gun appeal now. Finally. Thank you.
THE LONG VERDICT:
In a sea of newer, shinier drama offerings, it’s easy to overlook a classic like All About Eve, especially if you boarded the drama train fairly recently. I almost overlooked this one myself, and man, am I glad I didn’t!
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
Reason To Watch #1
I’d had it at the back of my mind, to check out All About Eve, after watching A Gentleman’s Dignity and failing to fully comprehend the Jang Dong Gun appeal. I mean, the man did give us some impressive smoldering stares, like so:
But I knew there was still a big chunk of the puzzle that I was missing. There had to be a good reason that all of South Korea adores – like really, really ADORES – this man to bits, right?
His last drama, 10 whole years before A Gentleman’s Dignity came along, was All About Eve. I figured that if I checked out All About Eve, I’d find the treasure map to solving the puzzle. And I was right. More on that later!
Reason To Watch #2
I have to thank Lady G for providing me with the push that I needed, to finally pull out All About Eve from my collection and put it at the top of my watch list.
In November last year, after momentarily disappearing into the lurking closet, Lady G re-emerged on the blog to rave about this drama. Here’s a snippet of what Lady G said:
“I recently finished watching a fabulous ‘old’ drama- All about Eve, from 2000. and I was thunderstruck. It’s so refreshing to see a drama without all the over-dramatic pauses, stares, and stilted dialogue and miscommunications.
People actually talk to each other and work out their problems, and the story flows. They touch and hug right away w/o waiting for an hour with shaking hands or swelling music. Life happens realistically.
Some consider this the best Korean drama. What happened in 13 years since?”
Wow. High praise, right? I was intrigued. I knew I had to watch this drama.
So I pulled All About Eve out of my collection, plonked it on my iPad, and.. stalled on episode 1 several times.
Heh. Talk about déjà vu. This is exactly what happened to me when I first started watching A Gentleman’s Dignity.
There was a similar bump in my viewing journey there. It took me 4 tries before I got through episode 1 of AGD. And it also took me about 4 tries before I got through episode 1 of All About Eve.
Somehow, my mood and the show just couldn’t find a way to jive, so for the first little while, it felt a little like an awkward blind date. Each time, I would watch about 2 minutes of it before I clicked stop and moved on to other shows.
But! I pushed on. While pushing on in AGD gave me a pleasant but nowhere near satisfyingly cracky drama experience, with All About Eve, once I got over that initial bump, I was sucked in, and in the best way too.
It’s the little secret that so few people actually take advantage of.
When you go back far enough in time, all the firmly entrenched drama tropes – that have us rolling our eyes and wishing waves of fresh creativity on our drama writers – actually sort of disappear. Coz they just weren’t invented yet. (See, time travel is possible in dramaland!)
At a Year 2000 vintage, All About Eve is a prime example of a drama that came sufficiently before the tropes that we all know too well, that I was kept sufficiently guessing and felt quite nicely kept on my toes.
I found that I couldn’t quite predict plot points like I often can in many more recent dramas.
(Well, not all recent dramas, but you know what I mean. The less inventive ones.)
1. The Love Square
Even though I sort of knew that our leads were Jang Dong Dun and Chae Rim, I still couldn’t quite predict how the love square worked, and who was who in that love square, and for a fairly good stretch too.
I believe one of the major factors that made this love square feel different, was that the frenemy-ship between our female leads Jin Sun Mi (Chae Rim) and Suh Young Mi (Kim So Yeon) felt more the focal point of our story than the OTP.
From the very beginning in episode 1, Young Mi is jealous of Sun Mi’s seemingly perfect lot in life compared to her own hardship, and sets out to steal whatever Sun Mi has or wants.
It’s precisely because what Sun Mi has or wants changes over time, that the love square feels so different for much of the drama.
When we first meet Sun Mi, she’s crushing on Kim Woo Jin (Han Jae Suk), long-time Oppa and family friend. So of course that’s where Young Mi sets her sights too.
And for a good while in our initial episodes, the love triangle is squarely (hur) between those 3 players; Sun Mi, helplessly crushing on Woo Jin, while Young Mi slyly puts the moves on Woo Jin, who in turn wanders into Young Mi’s trap none the wiser.
Even though Sun Mi and Yoon Hyung Chul (Jang Dong Gun) cross paths fairly quickly in the show, they remain firmly platonic for a good stretch while Sun Mi continues to carry a silent, unrequited torch for Woo Jin.
In a drama climate where we’re so used to the general rhythm of the typical romance –
- an early episode OTP meet-cute,
- a solidification of the relationship by the halfway mark, often accompanied by the OTP’s first kiss,
- followed by an angsty stretch where misunderstanding &/or separation of the OTP is likely to occur, and
- some kind of resolution by the final episode
– it felt refreshingly different and somewhat unpredictable. It’s like I knew who my leads were, but had no idea how they were going to get from Point A to End Game.
This drama wasn’t a cookie-cutter kdrama romance. At least, not from the cookie cutters that I’d become familiar with, at any rate.
I really liked that feeling of freshness in the story-telling, and this factor ranked very high on my personal list of reasons of why I enjoyed this show.
2. Communication Patterns
In a drama climate where certain Reactions and Misunderstandings are stock, this was another particularly refreshing aspect of the drama for me.
People talked about things. Misunderstandings didn’t go on for extended periods of time. Characters confronted one another and hashed things out.
Just when you think, “Uh-oh, here comes a Big Misunderstanding,” characters will surprise you by actually facing it head-on with a matter-of-fact conversation aimed at clarification and understanding, rather than stew for episodes on end amid increasing suspicion plus lots of tears and gnashing of teeth.
An early example of this occurs in episode 2, where Sun Mi, growing quickly suspicious of Young Mi’s true intentions, finds out that Woo Jin has recommended Young Mi for a job at the broadcast station.
This, despite knowing that Sun Mi is dying for an opportunity to work there herself.
We get the set-up that we’ve come to know so well: Sun Mi finds out about the job from Young Mi, then sees Young Mi being cozy and flirty with Woo Jin as he walks her home. Sun Mi hides around the corner and watches and listens.
And just when you think, “Aha, this is where a Big Misunderstanding is going to happen,” Sun Mi seeks Woo Jin out and asks him plainly, to his face, “Oppa, how could you do this to me?”
How refreshing, that she doesn’t stew silently, but confronts the issue head-on, with candour and honesty.
At the end of the conversation, Sun Mi is unhappy but accepts Woo Jin’s explanation. And then they leave the cafe together, Woo Jin with his arm around Sun Mi’s shoulders.
I totally didn’t see that coming.
I love that I got a sense of the unexpected, all while getting scenes of actual healthy communication on my screen. It was like getting to have my cake and eat it too. Very cool.
I love that the writers didn’t feel the need to rely on Big Misunderstandings in order to drive the story forward. And yet, the pace of the story hummed along in a pretty zippy manner. Kudos, writer-nim, for not reaching for easy crutches.
3. Gender Stereotypes
I enjoyed the fact that both of our female leads had strong ambition, career-wise. They both wanted to be newscasters, and everything they both did was an effort towards that goal of becoming anchor-women.
Refreshingly, romance didn’t cause that ambition to disappear into thin air. Nor cause strong female characters to suddenly become helpless damsels in distress (vs. say, Heirs where our initially feisty female lead gets quickly tamed into a helpless, weak, crying damsel by her leading man).
In fact, both male leads in All About Eve were extremely supportive and understanding of the female leads’ career ambitions.
So supportive, in fact, that the notion of romance often felt like an almost-though-not-quite-screensaver in the background, while career concerns and ambitions occupied front-and-center of not only our screens, but our characters’ consciousness as well.
Thank you, Show, for demonstrating to us that romance isn’t all that matters; that a girl doesn’t have to choose between having a solid career and having romance in her life.
4. Treatment of Social Class Differences
After so many kdramas have convinced us that chaebol parents care Very, Very Much about social class, the way the different social classes of our leads is treated feels refreshingly matter-of-fact.
While not quite a chaebol, Young Chul is clearly in a different social class than Sun Mi. He’s the Director at the network by virtue of being the Chairman’s son, and Sun Mi’s your regular girl-next-door. Yet, Young Chul’s father (Han In Soo) never makes an issue of it.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT]
The introduction is made simply and in a very matter-of-fact manner in episode 10.
Young Chul simply introduces Sun Mi to his father at a company dinner, and Chairman Yoon smiles and asks if Sun Mi is the girl that Young Chul met while in England. No dramatics. And it never becomes an issue for the rest of the show either.
All we get is a scene in a later episode where Young Chul receives a call from his father, who enquires when Young Chul intends to bring Sun Mi home to officially meet him.
No Evil Father-in-Law, nor Bitchy Mother-in-Law either. How very refreshing, right?
[END MINOR SPOILER]
Besides Young Chul’s father, every other parent in this show is nice, too. Wow, right? I’ll just give you a minute to let that sink in. 😉
Sun Mi is the jewel of her father’s (Hyun Suk) eye, and we often see them teasing each other, smiling and laughing together, and just generally being the sweetest chums ever.
Woo Jin’s mother (Park Won Sook) is, likewise, a loving, pleasant lady who loves her son and only wants to see him happy.
Sure, we get some angst from her when Woo Jin makes some troubling choices, but we are always, always crystal clear on one fact: she would do anything for her son; she loves him that much. And no, I don’t mean that in a crazy-makjang way either.
Given that dramaland regularly serves up some really nasty parents, and in a drama climate where every drama has to have at least one Awful Parent, All About Eve is refreshingly devoid of dysfunctional parents.
Sure, there’s some angst, but only to the extent of what any normal, loving parent would experience along with their children’s growing pains.
I really appreciated that the characters in this show felt like real people. No one was all good or all bad. Everyone had specific backstories and motivations, and each of our characters had their strengths and their flaws.
Yes, the good guys were more inclined to kindness and forgiveness than most folks, but they were flawed enough to still feel real.
And even our resident trouble-stirrer had enough of a backstory and enough strengths to make her feel more like an actual person than a 2-dimensional villain.
Although there are likable secondary characters, I will only touch on our main characters in this review.
Chae Rim as Jin Sun Mi
I thought that Chae Rim was very well-cast as the sunny Sun Mi, who’s received lots of love in her life despite losing her mother at a young age, and therefore has a cheerful, kind disposition.
All in all, I found Sun Mi a very likable character. She smiles even when she’s hurting and always looks for the bright side, the right way of thinking. And yet she doesn’t come across as a typical Candy.
She’s no self-sacrificing noble idiot, and gets upset and angry when provoked. Sometimes she cries angry tears, and sometimes she gets jealous too.
I thought it was a nice touch that she’s actually not quite as good as Young Mi in terms of work stuff. She has her shortcomings, and she works hard to overcome them.
Besides her infectious, bright smile, perhaps my favorite thing about Sun Mi is her good-heartedness. She doesn’t harbor bitterness in her heart – well, never for long, anyway – and is quick to give kindness and love to those around her.
In episode 3, I really appreciated that when Sun Mi goes to England to get out of Young Mi’s way, that she doesn’t spend all her time moping.
She continues to smile and make the best of her days, even though she has moments where she sheds tears in solitude. She jokes with her aunt, and she makes friends, including with Hyung Chul.
On a side note, I’d like to mention that while her trip to England has a tinge of noble idiocy to it, that it felt acceptable to me because she had made her feelings for Woo Jin clear to him. She wasn’t just slinking away in silence. And she had no intention of staying away forever either.
Plus she felt indebted to Young Mi for saving her from thugs, and perceived that she owed it to Young Mi to give Young Mi and Woo Jin some space, at least for a little while.
The scene where Sun Mi left the deepest impression on me is in episode 7, where Sun Mi and Young Mi are walking together after a work dinner.
Sun Mi’s a little tipsy, and says a little sheepishly to Young Mi, “Since I’m a little drunk I’ll be honest. Sometimes there were times when I wanted to give you a hug. Even when I see you throwing tantrums like a kid, I felt sympathetic and wanted to hold you.”
Aw. Considering the terrible things Young Mi’s done to her up till this point, I was really quite blown away by the largeness of Sun Mi’s heart.
When Young Mi rebuffs Sun Mi’s words, informing her that she’s crossing the line, Sun Mi simply smiles and says, “OK, sorry, I’ll stop. Go get some rest.”
There’s no hint of self-righteousness about Sun Mi’s response; no “look here, I’m being the bigger person here, you should appreciate it.”
Instead, Sun Mi is calm and totally doesn’t press the issue.
They say when you’re drunk/tipsy you speak what’s really on your heart. And in this scene, Sun Mi bared for us a truly good heart. How can one not like this girl?
Kim So Yeon as Heo Young Mi
Kim So Yeon has always been a bit of a hit-or-miss for me. In some roles, she completely blows me away (like in Iris), and in some roles, she just rubs me the wrong way (like in Prosecutor Princess).
I like Kim So Yeon a lot better when she’s edgy, and I think All About Eve tapped into her strengths. Kim So Yeon got to portray many facets of her character, and often had to switch between two opposites in a matter of seconds.
One moment, she’d be a frail, simpering victim, and the next moment, she’d be a glowering, manipulative schemer who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
It’s her gaze, which can switch in a moment. And it’s also her voice. When she’s Scheming Witch, her voice is strong and confident. But when she’s Frail Victim, her voice is soft, breathy and manipulatively piteous, eventually to an annoying degree.
While she could have afforded to give Young Mi more depth and nuance, I thought Kim So Yeon did a pretty great job at portraying the two faces of Young Mi.
As a character, Young Mi stoops to appalling lows to get what she wants, including sleeping with Woo Jin, and then faking an abortion in order to always have him around her little finger.
And when she finds a new target in Hyung Chul, she promptly dumps Woo Jin, telling him that she never loved him. Granted, we see in Young Mi’s private moments that she sheds tears for Woo Jin, but it’s never enough to actually stop her from being cruel to him.
She is unable to overcome her own ambition, basically. She knows that she’s being awful and evil to Woo Jin, but she does it anyway, in order to advance on her chosen path.
Young Mi as a character managed to actually make my skin crawl. Yet, I couldn’t actually thoroughly hate her, coz over the course of the drama, we’re privy to several moments where she shows genuine private pain.
All in all a memorable character, even if not a likable one.
Han Jae Suk as Kim Woo Jin
Han Jae Suk does an acceptable job of portraying Woo Jin as a good-hearted man who’s ultimately too square and naive for his own good.
I admit I didn’t feel extremely interested in Woo Jin as a character. At times, he felt more like an object that the girls were fighting over, than a fully fledged person with thoughts and motivations of his own.
I definitely believed that Woo Jin loved Young Mi in his own way. But he always felt more interesting in terms of what his existence brought to the plot, than in and of himself as a character. This possibly also had something to do with Han Jae Suk’s fairly wooden delivery.
Overall, a decent effort towards fulfilling a necessary element of the story.
Jang Dong Gun as Yoon Hyung Chul
Ahhh. Jang Dong Gun as Yoon Hyung Chul.
Such a lovely leading man, played to subtle perfection. I wasn’t immediately taken with Hyung Chul, to be perfectly honest, but by series’ end, I was definitely pretty melty over him.
Hyung Chul isn’t written as a perfect character, and is presented early on as someone with attachment problems stemming from parental issues. He’s jovial and pleasant with his friends, but try to get too close and you’d come up against a firm – but honest – wall.
As a character, Hyung Chul certainly isn’t perfect. We see him struggle with challenges both at work and in love, and it is his struggle to make sense of both that makes him feel real.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Young Chul is that he consistently has a gaze that isn’t hard.
Even when he’s challenged in work or in love, his gaze is matter-of-fact, leaning a little soft. It’s really nice. I love how his first instinct towards Sun Mi is almost always amusement and affection.
It’s the almost always bit that makes it believable. Coz there are occasions when he doesn’t, particularly when Sun Mi is being unreasonable.
These are the details that makes Hyung Chul believable as a character; we know he isn’t some perfect patient saint. And that makes the times that he does regard her with affection all the more real. And melty.
Truth be told, his affectionate gazes had me very, very melty.
For the record, while All About Eve doesn’t feature the kind of ab-full shower scenes that have become a drama staple of sorts, it does boast possibly the most gorgeously shot shower scene I have ever seen.
There’s nothing fancy about the camera-work; no fancy lighting nor angles. Just a shot of Jang Dong Gun from the neck up, with rivulets of water running down his face and through his lashes. And it’s beautiful. He’s beautiful:
While this wasn’t the main reason that I found Hyung Chul melty in this drama, it certainly didn’t hurt. 😉
Hyung Chul was pretty awesome as a character, and I’d like to just highlight a few of my favorite things about him.
#1. His honesty
I really appreciated Hyung Chul’s honesty in general.
Importantly, he’s honest with Joo Hee (Kim Jung Eun), whom he knows nurses a deep-seated crush on him. He never leads her to believe that he reciprocates her romantic affections. At the same time, he never lets her crush get in the way of their long-standing friendship either.
When Joo Hee notices a change in Hyung Chul’s behavior and asks if there is a new girl in his life, he tells her the truth about his feelings for Sun Mi. He’s gentle with Joo Hee, but never sugar-coats anything for fear of hurting her feelings.
It just really appeals to me, that Hyung Chul treats Joo Hee like an adult who is capable of making her own choices and protecting her own feelings.
In so many other kdramas, the men are shown making I-know-better decisions for the women; Me Ah Ri’s crush on Choi Yoon in A Gentleman’s Dignity comes to mind.
Both Choi Yoon and her brother Tae San decided that her crush was a bad idea and treated her like an errant child, deciding that her crush needed to come to an end.
That was aggravating to watch, and to have Hyung Chul take such a completely different approach, where he couldn’t accept Joo Hee’s feelings, but could respect that she had them, was very refreshing indeed.
On a related note, I really liked that he was also honest with Young Mi. When Young Mi starts coming on to him, he simply tells her that he finds her scary.
#2. His instinct for affection – at least for Sun Mi
There are many instances in the show where Sun Mi messes up, and often in ways that might inspire aggravation in most people. But Young Chul consistently demonstrates that at least where Sun Mi is concerned, his first instinct leans more towards amusement and affection.
It isn’t that Hyung Chul is painted as being blind to her faults. Rather, I got the impression that he was fully aware of Sun Mi’s shortcomings, and he chose to believe that she would eventually grow and mature out of them.
Like in episode 9 when Sun Mi storms into his office, (wrongly) accusing him of making things difficult for her by sending her flowers.
He doesn’t say anything, and when her phone rings and she realizes the flowers had come from her father, Hyung Chul’s quiet, affectionate amusement is heart-melting to behold:
And then there’s the incident in episode 11, where Sun Mi reacts strongly to a story about kidnappers while live on-air.
Everyone else is scandalized, yet, as her boss watching the same thing in his office, Hyung Chul simply stops to chuckle aloud, with affection and mild exasperation, “Jin Sun Mi, where are you crying now?”
Aw. Where can I get one of you for myself?
I just love that Hyung Chul knows her that well, coz the very next scene shows us that Sun Mi’s crept into a darkened auditorium to cry by herself. Just like Hyung Chul predicted.
Hyung Chul then sends Sun Mi a card as her anonymous supporter “Y,” saying exactly what she needs to hear, “To Sun Mi, You did a great job today. You’re one of a kind. Keep up the good work.”
Sun Mi manages a tearful, rueful smile. And I melt, just a little more.
#3. His patience
One of the most moving things about Hyung Chul’s love for Sun Mi is how patient and giving he is, in loving her.
In a later episode, Hyung Chul says to Woo Jin that it’s because Sun Mi is the only one for him, that he has to let her do what she wants. I believe it is this clarity that he has – that no one else will do – that gives Hyung Chul the strength to be as patient with Sun Mi as he is.
In episode 9, when Sun Mi realizes Hyung Chul’s true identity and grapples with what that means in the context of his feelings for her, she tearfully pouts, “I hate you. Why are you doing this? This is too hard for me.“
Young Chul’s quiet answer is, “Let’s look at it this way. I’ll wait for you, but for now, you forget that I’m waiting for you. If you can’t love me that’s fine.” Melt.
And then Hyung Chul even jokes that now he doesn’t have to hide whenever he sees her at the office, and gives her his jacket so that she won’t feel cold as they walk. Melt some more.
A leading man who doesn’t try to force his feelings on his leading lady, and instead gives her time and space to figure out what she wants? You just can’t not swoon at that.
#4. He runs to her
I love too, that when Hyung Chul perceives that Sun Mi needs him, he literally runs to her. He never wastes a moment or stops to think. It’s clear as day that all he’s thinking about, in the moment, is getting to her. Because she needs him.
Hyung Chul runs to Sun Mi more than once in the drama, but I particularly love this instance in episode 12, when she calls him crying and leaves a message. All she says is, “Sunbae-nim, what should I do?”
The second Hyung Chul hears her message, he takes off, racing to be by her side. You can totally tell that he can’t and won’t think of anything else except finding her.
It’s moving and swoony.
And when he finds her, he doesn’t say a word. He just holds her.
#5. His sheepish faces
As swoony and steady as Hyung Chul is, I just love the sheepish look he gets on his face whenever he contemplates doing something romantic for Sun Mi.
Like in episode 13 when he’s browsing possible birthday presents for her:
Or in episode 20, when he contemplates how to propose to her:
You can just see what he’s thinking: I can’t believe I’m doing this. What have I gotten myself into? Aw, but I love her.
Ack. How does one resist that sheepish look?
What an adorable, swoony, melty man.
In episode 11, we get a cameo by a very young Song Il Gook, who plays a reporter. This was one of Song Il Gook’s earliest TV appearances, preceded only by Into The Sunlight, in 1999. Doesn’t he look super young and fresh-faced? 😉
While there are various relationships in this drama that we could talk about, I’d like to highlight just the two that were most interesting to me.
Young Mi & Sun Mi
The frenemy-ship between Young Mi and Sun Mi was often the focus of attention, and I found their relationship intriguing and quite compelling.
Young Mi totally plays dirty, all the time. She often baldly, without-batting-an-eyelash switches between Scheming Witch mode and Simpering Victim mode right in front of Sun Mi &/or Woo Jin’s mother, the two women she most wants victory over.
It was aggravating to watch, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but grudgingly admire Young Mi’s ballsy attitude and sometimes reckless audacity.
Like the time she adds acetone to Sun Mi’s toner and also lies about Sun Mi’s father being in a serious car accident coz she wants to prevent Sun Mi from hosting a show.
Or the time in episode 11 when Young Mi plants Sun Mi’s phone in the studio and calls her phone during a live broadcast. Shudder. I wouldn’t want her coming against me, that’s for sure.
But Sun Mi doesn’t ever get a choice in the matter; Young Mi chose Sun Mi as a target, just for being her. Young Mi wants to steal whatever it is that Sun Mi has, whether it’s Woo Jin or Hyung Chul; her happy family or her career.
Interestingly, Young Mi often ‘fesses up when Sun Mi confronts her, which happens more than a few times.
To me, what makes their frenemy-ship different is how baldly they confront each other, instead of hiding behind lots of smoke and curtains.
I love that Sun Mi stands up strong to Young Mi, and doesn’t cower in front of Scheming Witch. Sun Mi stands up strong enough that the match between them feels fairly even.
Tellingly, they each have occasion to slap the other in the course of the show. Sometimes Young Mi marches up to slap Sun Mi in the face. And satisfyingly, there are times when Sun Mi marches up to Young Mi and slaps her in the face.
The two even have an all-out, hair-pulling, screeching cat-fight fairly early in the show.
I love that Sun Mi doesn’t take Young Mi’s bullying sitting down, but fights back without stooping to Young Mi’s level of underhanded tactics.
In the end, the two women make peace, and it does feel a little contrived, the way Young Mi loses her memory and gets a start-over. But at least the show explains it in a way that fits.
Hyung Chul & Sun Mi
The development of our OTP’s relationship felt organic and believable, and I really enjoyed watching their scenes together. These scenes were a significant part of the reason why I marathoned this show in just a few days. I just wanted more of them on my screen.
I really enjoyed the fact that their romantic relationship grew out of a firmly platonic friendship. I loved that long before their relationship took a romantic turn, that they shared deep-reaching conversations and a genuine sense of closeness and affection.
I loved this little scene early in the series where Hyung Chul comes back to Korea and Sun Mi, seeing him for the first time in months, is so delighted that she runs up to him and hugs him. How cute is that?
This moment is so clearly platonic – Sun Mi’s still pining for Woo Jin at this point – that her overflowing happiness at seeing Hyung Chul feels particularly pure and unadulterated.
Over the course of Sun Mi’s time in university, and into her initial days on the job at the broadcast station, we see that she continues to share meaningful conversations with Hyung Chul, even in the midst of their banter and jokes.
Through it all, their interactions are marked by smiles, good conversation, and the occasional gesture of affection, which I found really cute.
Look at that bemused surprise on Hyung Chul’s face. It’s no wonder that he can’t help but fall for the happy, bubbly Sun Mi, in spite of himself.
Once their relationship starts taking a turn for the romantic, I loved how it is obvious that these two are good for each other.
Hyung Chul doesn’t stifle Sun Mi’s little acting-out tantrums, and neither does he pander to her either. He consistently feels like the solid, more mature half of the equation, led equally by common sense and affection.
And Sun Mi is the refreshing wind in Hyung Chul’s heretofore jaded life. She makes him smile. And that seems pretty priceless, considering that hardly anyone else in his life had been able to tease that kind of reaction out of him.
With Hyung Chul’s steady, self-sacrificing support for Sun Mi’s career ambitions, I really was wondering whether we would get a happy-ever-after.
After all, Sun Mi gets the opportunity to further her studies and career in England, and he tells her without hesitation that she can and should go.
In the end, the turnaround, where he tells her not to go, feels a tiny bit convenient, but it’s handled quite nicely.
Sun Mi tells Hyung Chul as she stifles tears, “I feel like this is something I have to do right now, or I won’t be able to. I’ll try to be strong and make my own way in London. I was grateful for everything. Goodbye.”
For an awful second, I think that Hyung Chul will really let her go. But he suddenly gets a look of resolve in his eyes and chases her down on the cross-walk.
In a nice echo of her earlier words, he tells her, “I feel like this is something I have to do right now, or I won’t be able to. Will you marry me? Don’t go. I love you, Sun Mi.”
Sun Mi nods, smiling, and he kisses her. Tenderly. And swoon-inducingly.
And perhaps this is how the kissing-in-the-middle-of-a-crosswalk kdrama trope was born. Heh.
Yes, the way we get our happy ending is a little bit of a convenient turnaround, but it’s still pretty believable. And I felt that deep down, Sun Mi kind of hoped that Hyung Chul would ask her to stay.
On a career note, I’d also like to think that even after the wedding, that Hyung Chul would continue to support Sun Mi’s career the way he always has.
All in all, an OTP that gave me the warm melty feels.
There’s a whole lot of retro fashion, thick-as-pancake make-up and teased hair to remind us of the vintage of this drama, but at its heart, this show feels fresh and engaging in a way that we don’t quite see in more recent dramas.
There are moments when we do see some recognizable kdrama tropes, but those are few in number and honestly, these probably weren’t tropes when this drama was made.
If anything, we might actually be witnessing the birth of those tropes. So when you do encounter those, just think of it as.. history in the making? 😉
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Retro drama crack at its best. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Highly recommend.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Here’s a trailer-esque MV set to the All About Eve theme song:
And the lilting, thoughtful ballad that sums up the show’s feel quite nicely:
To top it all off, here’s some Jang Dong Gun Pretty. You’ll get a sense of his Leading Man appeal, as well as another glimpse at his beautiful-as-art shower scene: