THE SHORT VERDICT:
A divorced-to-reunited rom-com that has flaws aplenty but manages to get the most important thing right: its heart.
If you wanted to count ’em, you’d easily find a whole bunch of flaws and imperfections in Cunning Single Lady. But if you’re willing to look past all of that, you’ll find a good dose of cute, an endearing spot of sweet, and a heartfelt rekindling of a sincere love that never did go away.
Lee Min Jung and Joo Sang Wook turn in quality performances as our lead couple, and are the key reasons to tune in to this unassuming little show that turned out to be quite a bit more heartwarming than I expected.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while reading the review.
THE LONG VERDICT:
To be perfectly honest, I usually steer way clear of shows about divorced couples getting back together.
The smattering of shows that I’ve seen from this category typically spend a whole lot of time portraying the ex-couple at each others’ throats, usually both figuratively and literally. The writers take the term “bickering romance” and amp it up to levels of serious animosity, so much so that I am left completely unconvinced of why I should root for the ex-couple to get back together again. I mean, if they can’t stand each other this much, maybe it’s better to let it alone? For their sakes and ours?
The writers of these types of shows often seem to think that extended stretches of hostility between the ex-couple is funny stuff, and as a result, we spend so many episodes watching the ex-couple scheming against each other that the eventual reconciliation feels hollow and unauthentic.
Which is a large part of the reason why I almost gave Cunning Single Lady a miss.
The other reason I wasn’t too keen on checking it out is the awful and terribly misleading title(s). That, and the completely inaccurate synopsis of the show that’s floating around the web.
On DramaWiki, the synopsis reads:
“A romantic comedy about Na Ae Ra who dreams of meeting a white knight after getting divorced from Cha Jung Woo when his business failed, but as soon as he becomes a successful venture businessman, she tries to seduce him back while the ex-husband Cha Jung Woo tries to date her again to get revenge.”
Which is so off the mark that it’s not even funny. Based on that description alone, I lost any remnants of interest I might have had in the show, coz it made the female lead character sound like such a materialistic, conniving person. And the premise sounded ripe for loads of the kind of scheming hostility that I just talked about.
Thankfully, the blogosphere helped me to realize that this show was worthy of a look. As the show progressed and as I heard more positive things about it than I expected, I decided to give it a whirl – and came away pleasantly surprised.
Let me set the record straight. The only real conniving we get in the show comes from secondary characters. Importantly, Na Ae Ra (Lee Min Jung) doesn’t set out to seduce her ex-husband Jung Woo (Joo Sang Wook) in order to get him back, and he doesn’t try to date her again to get revenge either.
Thank you, writer-nim, for not making it that kind of show.
Those of you who’ve been following my reviews might’ve noticed that in recent reviews I’ve been mentioning, with increasing regularity, the lens through which to view each drama. It’s something that I find helps to maximize my enjoyment of dramas in general.
Basically, not every drama needs to be dissected and taken apart. Some dramas benefit from the process of careful dissection, while other dramas fall apart. As a drama crumbles under our analytical lens, so does our enjoyment of it. And where’s the fun in that, right?
In my experience, selecting the right lens through which to view a drama can make or break your experience of it.
Granted, there are some dramas that are just plain bad no matter what lens you might choose (Dream High 2, I’m looking at you). But with many of dramaland’s recent offerings, the right lens can make the world of difference.
In the case of Cunning Single Lady, I recommend a soft-focus lens with some rosy filters.
Every time you encounter a lapse in logic, close one eye. Or both eyes. And every time a character (usually secondary, thankfully) starts to behave in aggravating ways, let it all bounce off you like water off a duck’s back. And when our lead characters get to display moments of sincere vulnerability, zoom in and savor the moment.
Coz when you do that, this is not a bad watch at all.
THE GOOD STUFF
You know that Pareto Principle which talks about identifying and focusing on the 20% of items that will give you 80% of the results? Well, if this show only gets 20% of its stuff right (and that may not be such a stretch of a statement, really), it really picks the right 20% to get right.
These few pieces that were on the mark were so well conceived and executed that they basically carried the rest of the show.
The Set-Up and Eventual OTP Arc
The thing that impressed me the most – and which I think was absolutely critical in making the rest of the story plausible and even believable – was the set-up.
In episode 1, it only takes the show 15 short minutes to show us the major milestones in Ae Ra’s and Jung Woo’s relationship. From their initial courtship, to their early days of marriage, to the eventual breakdown of the marriage. Impressively, we understand very quickly that these two really did love each other, and that they tried hard for each other, and that sadly, it still wasn’t enough. The pain and hurt is clearly communicated to us as viewers, and I’m impressed.
How the show does it is through smart choices in terms of key scenes to show us, combined with excellent music choices to bring out the mood of each stage of their relationship.
In terms of pacing, it feels a touch too fast, almost, but it’s very effective and efficient, and just 15 minutes in, I could already feel that this is a couple that didn’t really want to break up, and that should get back together if possible.
The added-on animosity that they feel towards each other in subsequent scenes is done less elegantly, I have to say. The flashbacks from their individual points of view and the accompanying disdain for the other person feels rather two-dimensional, especially when contrasted to the earnest and heartfelt portrayal of their early relationship.
However, with the foundation in place, of a sincere-feeling love relationship that caved under believable factors, stresses and circumstances, it’s quite easy to overlook the more campy characterizations of the resentful stage of their relationship arc where the bickering and one-upmanship goes in petty circles. Because we know that beneath the petty antics, there is a lot more heart than meets the eye.
This foundation stone ultimately helps to make our OTP’s eventual reconciliation feel believable and even appealing, because this was always set up as a relationship that was worth saving.
And any show that manages to make a believable transition from this:
is doing some key things very right.
[END MINOR SPOILERS]
Lee Min Jung as Na Ae Ra
I can be a little fickle as a viewer, and even though I enjoyed Lee Min Jung’s spunky, bubbly characters in Boys Over Flowers and Smile, You, I was extremely underwhelmed by her outing in Big. I was therefore cautiously skeptical about having her on my screen again, and as a “cunning single lady” in a rom-com, no less.
I’m happy to report that Lee Min Jung feels likable and fresh as Na Ae Ra, despite the stretch of the show that has her scheming to get into Jung Woo’s company.
For all the show’s comic and slightly campy bent, which is admittedly rather heavy-handed in the earlier episodes of the show post-setup, Ae Ra feels quite real. Even when Ae Ra’s making decisions which are questionable, she remains an interesting character. She’s hurt and angry and prideful, and that gives her dimension, which I dig.
It’s during Ae Ra’s moments of sadness &/or vulnerability that Lee Min Jung shines the most. Ae Ra’s brasher, fearless outer shell then gives way to reveal a woman who is more soft-hearted, more pensive and more wounded than most people know her to be. Ae Ra’s tears feel real and her hurts, raw, and I found myself growing to like her and root for her in increasing measure.
There are quite a few things that I like about Ae Ra. Here’re just a couple of ’em.
She’s principled and gutsy
In episode 2, Jung Woo asks Ae Ra to come see him at the office, and when she arrives, he smugly gives her an envelope of money as alimony. He also asks her to sign a contract stating that she won’t contact him again for the purpose of asking for alimony.
Ae Ra is livid at the insinuation that she’s after his money. Her eyes brimming with tears, she begins in a quivering voice, “Cha Jung Woo. You’ve really grown up. A contract?” Ae Ra laughs bitterly. She continues, her voice rising, “Why? You might as well have asked me to write an apology letter. Am I some kind of snake, that I’d sign this contact and take your money? I don’t know how much money you put in this envelope but no matter how much you put in, it’s not enough.”
Ae Ra stands to her feet, practically shouting now, “When I think about how you ruined my life, it’s more than this money. Do you know that?” She starts shredding the contract with her hands and sobs, “So don’t belittle me with this money” and she throws the shredded bits of contract at Jung Woo in a flourish before stalking out of his office.
Considering the strained financial situation that Ae Ra and her friend Min Young (Hwang Bo Ra) are in, I think it’s principled and gutsy of her to reject the offer without hesitation, and without looking at the amount of money involved.
I also appreciate how real she feels, not just in the moment, but also in a subsequent scene where she admits to Min Young that she has a little bit of regret because the money could’ve come in very useful for them in their situation.
She’s no pushover
I love that Ae Ra’s not a pushover and is perfectly capable of defending herself.
Yes, there are a number of occasions in the show where I wish Ae Ra would’ve stood up for herself and didn’t. When she does stand up for herself, though, she’s awesome.
Like in the scene above in episode 13, where Ae Ra is looked down upon by fellow interviewees vying for the same job at Shilla Hotel. When a particularly obnoxious fellow interviewee sneers at her in the ladies’ that someone with Ae Ra’s qualifications must have some kind of sponsor to even be invited to the interview, Ae Ra wastes no time soundly putting her in her place.
Pushing the bully up against the wall, Ae Ra bites out evenly, “Like I always say, even insults have their limits. I’m super sensitive in mind and spirit today. So don’t provoke me. Got it?” Ae Ra waves her fist at the woman, “Or I might make you regret it.”
The tables effectively turned, the woman scurries away in horror.
Gooo~, Ae Ra!
She takes responsibility for her decisions
One of my favorite things about Ae Ra, is how she takes responsibility for her decisions, in particular, her decision to marry Jung Woo.
Given all that transpired between them and all that she went through, it would be easy for her to throw the blame in Jung Woo’s direction and play the victim, but she doesn’t.
Yes, there is a stretch early in the show where she’s ranty and ravey about how ungrateful Jung Woo is after all that she’s done for him, but she never actually blames fate or whatever, for having married him.
And in episode 11, she takes responsibility for that decision with quiet grace, not once but twice.
The first instance is when Ae Ra goes home to spend the night with her mother (Kwon Ki Sun). As mother and daughter talk in bed, Mom tearfully expresses regret at having pushed Ae Ra to marry Jung Woo, thinking him a smart civil worker.
Holding tightly onto Mom, Ae Ra responds, “Marriage isn’t something that one can be pushed into doing. Marrying him and divorcing him were both my own decisions. I’ll take responsibility for it all, so don’t be upset about it anymore.”
Aw. I do think it’s sweet of Ae Ra to reassure Mom that way. And I also love how squarely she takes hold of the responsibility for her marriage and divorce.
Later in the episode, when Jung Woo and Ae Ra share a quiet moment on the roof, Jung Woo asks Ae Ra if she resents him.
With a small shake of the head, Ae Ra replies, “No. I made the decision to marry you. So I think that I must’ve figured that whatever the result was my responsibility too.” She gives Jung Woo a small smile.
I just really respect that in her, that ability not to blame anyone, and that she makes no excuses in the process of taking responsibility for her decisions.
She’s not just all about romance
Another one of my favorite things about Ae Ra is that she finds meaning in life, and doesn’t just place all her hope on romance like so many other heroines in dramaland.
At the beginning of episode 13, right after Jung Woo blurts out his love confession to her and sweeps her into a kiss, Ae Ra reminds him, “Don’t you remember what I told you? I told you that I liked me for who I am right now. That I feel like I’m finally living. The President of Shilla Hotel said he recognized my talent with my buffet deal.” Ae Ra pauses.
“I finally realize how fulfilling it is to do and accomplish something on my own. To stay up and work through the night to create something of my own.. I finally realize how happy that can make me. I was so excited that I couldn’t even fall asleep.”
She finishes by telling Jung Woo that she wants to take the Shilla Hotel interview.
I really like that Ae Ra’s new appreciation for working on something and being able to say it’s her achievement feels real and authentic. And good for her, that her appreciation for that runs deep enough to outweigh any and all romantic factors, despite the kind of scorn she has received from being a single, divorced woman.
A weaker person might be tempted to take whatever romantic opportunities that came her way just to mitigate the stigma of being alone. But not Ae Ra, and that’s part of what makes her awesome.
Joo Sang Wook as Cha Jung Woo
After 7 years of serious drama consumption, it baffles me somewhat that I’ve managed to avoid encountering Joo Sang Wook on my screen, practically all this time. This, despite his very long filmography too.
Well ok. I did see him in That Fool / The Accidental Couple (2009) where he played second lead, but does it really count if I don’t actually remember him or the show much?
Which means that going into this show, my impression of Joo Sang Wook was pretty much what little I’d seen of him in stills and photoshoots.
I’m not even sure what it is – is it his immaculate Ken-Doll-like bone structure? – but Joo Sang Wook is one of those actors that had always felt cold and inaccessible to me. That is, until this show.
I didn’t like Cold Jung Woo very much at all, who felt distant and icy whenever he made an appearance (in Joo Sang Wook’s defense, that coldness fit Jung Woo’s defensive state of mind). On the other hand, Joo Sang Wook is very warm and likable while playing Past Jung Woo, who’s goofy and a little square. And as our story progresses, we get to know Dorky Jung Woo too, who just might be my favorite version of Jung Woo of them all.
When I started the show, I also wondered to myself if it was possible for Jung Woo to be dashing and warm, instead of one or the other. Eventually, I got my answer. And happily, it’s a resounding yes.
Jung Woo’s not a perfect character by any means, and yes, I did question some of his methods of wooing back his ex-wife. But there are a couple of distinct versions of him that pleased me quite well. Here’s them:
Past Jung Woo
Past Jung Woo tickled me no end with his goofy ways, square personality and his bowl hair cut that made him look like an overgrown little boy.
Here’re a couple of shots of Past Jung Woo, who managed to make me smile just by showing up on my screen.
Dorky Jung Woo
Dorky Jung Woo is hands-down my favorite kind of Jung Woo. After the initial veneer of Cold & Cool Jung Woo starts to wear away, we start to get glimpses of the dork that is still very much alive underneath. Every time he peeked out, I liked him a little more.
When Jung Woo’s a funny dork, he’s hilarious.
Like this time, in episode 12 when he’s jealously imagining the potential skinship that might occur between Ae Ra and Seung Hyun (Seo Kang Joon) and contorts his face with worry and horror as he speaks aloud to the scene in his imagination.
When he imagines Ae Ra asking Seung Hyun for a towel, Jung Woo practically wails, “Don’t give it to her, don’t give it to her!” And when he imagines Seung Hyun then leaning in to kiss Ae Ra, Jung Woo yells in a panic, “Noooo!!”
Tee hee. I love watching jealous dorky Jung Woo.
And how about Jung Woo’s attempt in the same episode to ask Ae Ra to meet him that evening, only to be thwarted by locked glass doors and a reluctant Ae Ra who tells him she won’t be coming before walking away.
A desperate Jung Woo ends up pressing himself up against the glass, trying to yell while his breath fogs up around him, “I’m still going to wait until you come!”
Giggle. So undignified and so cute.
Ok, so not everything is cute in how Jung Woo starts to find his way back to Ae Ra. I didn’t dig his “torturing” in episode 10 where he insisted that Ae Ra stay back to submit work, knowing full well that it was her birthday. I actually thought that was mean, not sweet.
What I did like, though, was how Jung Woo’s gaze softens noticeably when looking at Ae Ra.
Like here in episode 8:
So refreshing and sweet to witness.
I love the moment in episode 12 too, when Jung Woo looks super proud of Ae Ra as she fields objections from the executives at the proposal presentation for Shilla Hotel.
There’s a tenderness, pleasure and wonder in his gaze which is just really nice to see.
And at the end of the episode, Jung Woo’s clumsy love confession is made all the sweeter coz of the dorky nerdy expression on his face when he blurts out to Ae Ra, “I like you.”
I love that he looks like a confused, lost, dorky little boy, even as he musters up the words to let Ae Ra know that he likes her and doesn’t want her to leave.
I do like him best when he’s being dorky.
Steadfast Jung Woo
A pretty strong contender against Dorky Jung Woo, though, is Steadfast Jung Woo.
Once Jung Woo’s regained his heart-footing, he doesn’t waver in the least, which in itself is pretty darn swoony.
I love the little beat in episode 14 when Jung Woo finds Ae Ra on the roof with Yeo Jin (Kim Kyu Ri). He sees them tussle for a bit and then watches as Yeo Jin collapses to the ground.
Jung Woo rushes forward to pick Yeo Jin up, but instead of jumping to conclusions and assuming Ae Ra’s to blame (like many other male leads in dramaland might’ve done), I love that he asks the neutral question instead, “Ae Ra, what happened?”
I love even more, that even when he gets no answers, Jung Woo never once appears to doubt Ae Ra after the incident.
We see Jung Woo’s steadfast side again at the end of the episode when Yeo Jin’s father (Lee Jung Gil) threatens that he will withdraw his (hefty) investment in Jung Woo’s company unless Jung Woo agrees to marry Yeo Jin.
I love that Jung Woo doesn’t once lose his cool, but steadfastly and without hesitation declines. And he does it respectfully too.
I love that even when the stakes appear to be really high and so much seems to be on the line, that Jung Woo remains unwaveringly clear on his choice. That’s a man of character, right there.
Another way that Steadfast Jung Woo shows himself is in how he won’t be deterred by Ae Ra’s efforts at noble idiocy in episode 15.
I just love that he won’t have any of it. No matter what Ae Ra says to cut things off between them, Jung Woo cheerily revels in the knowledge that Ae Ra loves him, which is just so darn sweet.
Steadfast Jung Woo rawks.
Favorite OTP Moments
There’re a good number of OTP moments that I really like, and this is just a quick spotlight on some of them.
Like all the times Past Jung Woo and Past Ae Ra showed up in happier times.
They are just so cute together.
Or the times when Jung Woo’s bumbling through working out his feelings for Ae Ra and makes awkward advances.
Like this time when he’s got ice cream on his lip and leans in, expecting Ae Ra to wipe it off romantically for him, but gets a rough wipe-down from a reluctant Ae Ra instead.
And how about that time when Jung Woo goes to see Ae Ra and sneaks up on her to give her a backhug, only to get his foot stomped on and his side swiftly elbowed by a startled and very self-sufficient Ae Ra.
I loved all the times Jung Woo gazed lovingly at Ae Ra. Like here, when he goes to the warehouse where Ae Ra is working, just so that he can grin goofily while watching her work.
So cute, and so sweet.
One of my favorite moments is this little beat in episode 14, where Ae Ra meets Jung Woo in the elevator while carrying two big cardboard boxes.
They ignore each other awkwardly for a while, and Jung Woo looks down despondently, until Ae Ra wordlessly thrusts the boxes at him.
Slightly startled, Jung Woo takes them from her. And as the implication starts to sink in, that she’s acknowledging him and allowing him nearer, Jung Woo breaks into a big goofy grin as he takes a ridiculously great amount of joy in the fact that he’s being allowed to carry these boxes, while Ae Ra smiles a little smile next to him.
It’s a quick little beat and nothing is even said at all, but it’s just so cute, and displays so much of Jung Woo’s characteristic dorkiness, that I can’t help but love this little scene.
OTHER BRIGHT(ish) SPARKS
I’ve hinted at the fact that aside from the OTP individually and together, there isn’t quite a whole lot that I love-love in this show. While that’s true, there are a couple of things that I found rather enjoyable.
L as Secretary Gil
I think I enjoyed L as Secretary Gil more in concept than in execution.
On the upside, L is a total cutie and Secretary Gil is written as a bit of a smartypants with a nice number of knowing, clever lines. Downside? L is cute but his acting leans towards the flat, wooden end of the scale.
Which means that there were moments when I found him adorable, and others when I cringed through his delivery.
Overall, though, I still found Secretary Gil a fairly bright spark in the show. And have I mentioned that L is a cutie?
Hwang Bo Ra as Min Young
Although a fairly minor secondary character without a whole lot of screen-time, I did enjoy having Hwang Bo Ra as Min Young. Hwang Bo Ra has a very pleasant, earthy warmth to her that I really like.
I love that Min Young is Ae Ra’s bestie and stands by Ae Ra through all her tough times.
I particularly liked the little beat in episode 2 when Ae Ra admits to Min Young that she’d turned down the alimony that Jung Woo had offered. Given their tight financial situation, Min Young’s understandably disappointed at the lost funds. But Min Young’s regret lasts only a moment, on principle, for her friend’s pride; and coz Ae Ra’s already regretting it, Min Young shoves aside her own disappointment and cheers Ae Ra on instead.
Aw. She’s a loyal bestie, isn’t she?
[END MINOR SPOILER]
I didn’t enjoy Min Young’s arc with Ae Ra’s brother Soo Chul (Kim Yong Hee) so much, but at least it was somewhat amusing.
The Bromance Between Jung Woo & Secretary Gil
The thing is, the bromance that this show tries to serve up between Jung Woo and Secretary Gil is cute, but lacks emotional depth. The lack of emotional resonance and potency in the bromance made it feel a little (ok, sometimes a lot) two-dimensional, unfortunately.
On the upside (see? I’m all about looking for the upside!), there are a nice number of cute moments between them. And I do enjoy the fact that Secretary Gil can see right through our hot-shot CEO and has no qualms about calling him out on stuff.
STUFF TO OVERLOOK
Since I mentioned the Pareto Principle earlier, I thought it’d be apt to keep in step with it.
Since it was a very specific 20% of the show that I really enjoyed, I’m going to make sure that a good 80% of this review is focused on that 20%. Which means that this section will be a quick one. Coz, no point harping on the negatives and the Could’ve-Beens, right?
Just remember, all this bad stuff is stuff that can and should be overlooked while watching this show.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
Plot Holes & Logic Lapses
1. So honestly, this show isn’t so great at connecting the dots sometimes, in terms of character motivation. Here’s a quick spotlight on a few of those instances.
- Why Ae Ra decides to join Jung Woo’s company in the first place. The reason presented to us never did make sense or ring true.
- Seung Hyun’s interest and affection for Ae Ra felt particularly hollow. Why he has any interest in her is not clear to us. He just does.
- Team Leader Wang (Im Ji Eun) vacillates between being nice and mean to Ae Ra, and I don’t know if I just missed the memo, but I often wasn’t even sure why she was being mean or nice.
2. Some things just plain don’t make sense, and the biggest, most glaring one is Yeo Jin’s lost leg.
When it’s revealed in episode 6, it’s positioned as a plot twist, but seriously. This was the Most. Unbelievable. Angle. they could’ve chosen, in the history of unbelievable angles.
Not only was it unbelievable, there were serious continuity problems related to it since Yeo Jin can be spotted wearing clear hosiery in the episodes prior. Also, I don’t care what kind of special hi-tech prosthetic leg you’ve got, there’s just no way Yeo Jin can be walking so normally. Which means the leg (its presence AND its supposed absence) became quite a distraction.
3. That strange tangent on Secretary Gil and his break-up in episode 10 is decidedly weird.
Not only does it feel out of character for Secretary Gil to behave in that manner, this entire arc feels completely unrelated to the rest of the story. The only connection I can make is that this is so Song Hee (Yoo Young) can gain the upper hand over Secretary Gil and eventually blackmail him for the confirmation that Ae Ra is indeed Jung Woo’s ex-wife.
If that’s the reason that it was written that way though, then it was poorly set up and the connection is half-hearted at best, coz there wasn’t a whole lot of follow-through on this arc.
Annoying Second Leads
Both of our second leads start out acceptably likable (sorry, I never did fall under Seo Kang Joon’s spell, for the record), but become increasingly manipulative and annoying as the show goes on.
The bigger culprit in this case, is Yeo Jin, since Seung Hyun spends more time being harmless (read: not manipulative).
Here’s a quick list of the moments that Yeo Jin got on my nerves and quickly lost any and all brownie points from being elegant and gracious in the earlier episodes:
- E8. Yeo Jin getting Ae Ra to choose the tie that she’s going to give Jung Woo.. that’s just mean. She could’ve picked out the tie herself and told Ae Ra the significance. But she’s using Ae Ra’s taste and knowledge of what would suit a man like Jung Woo to her advantage, while claiming credit.
- E12. Yeo Jin telling Ae Ra to basically stay away from Jung Woo, and planting doubt that what Jung Woo feels for her is guilt. Plus, she uses her disability as a sympathy card. Coz who would fight with a disabled person, right? Not cool. I lost whatever respect I had for her as a character, right there. Yeo Jin is being just like her father, manipulating Ae Ra and clinging onto Jung Woo.
- E13. Yeo Jin being willing to cover up the tampering = being willing to let Ae Ra take the blame. Not cool.
- E15. Yeo Jin totally pretended to be reasonable just to get Jung Woo into the meeting room, where she then coldly threw him under the bus. Cold, calculated and manipulative. Also not cool.
Over the course of the show, Yeo Jin just kept getting worse and worse. And she also developed a tendency to scream and lose herself in hysterics on an alarmingly regular basis.
And as we get into the later episodes, Seung Hyun sheds his nice-boy shell and shows his manipulative colors too.
Sigh. Not fun. At all.
Annoying Family Members
There are a lot of aggravating characters in this show, seriously.
Ae Ra’s family is aggravating, every single last member of ’em. From vain layabout Dad, to nagging (sometimes) hysterical Mom, to Poisonous – seriously. POISONOUS – Brother.
Jung Woo’s family isn’t quite as present, but when they make an appearance, they are a bitter, caustic lot (with the exception of Dead Dad, who seemed nice).
To top it all off, there’s Yeo Jin’s and Seung Hyun’s father, who is just awful. He’s an awful husband, an awful father, an awful employer, and an awful investor. Have I mentioned that he’s awful?
Geez. With family like this, who needs enemies, right?
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
The number of things that don’t make sense stack up pretty high as we get to the end of the show (Chairman Gook getting sick – wherever did that come from?), but the upside is that the show retains the most important thing: its heart.
Loose ends are quickly tied up; Yeo Jin’s and Seung Hyun’s mother comes back, Chairman Gook has a moment of clarity and sincerely thanks Director Oh (Lee Byung Joon), Jung Woo’s new venture goes into partnership with D&T and both companies are saved.
Most importantly, we get a cheesy, sweet ending for our OTP, with Jung Woo and Ae Ra back together again, and even contentedly suggesting baby names for their lil bun in the oven. Jung Woo first suggests the name Min Jung (hur), saying that he has a feeling she’ll be really pretty, and then if it’s a boy, Sang Wook. “Doesn’t the name sound really handsome, cool and intelligent?” (hur hur)
In the end, despite all its shortcomings, there’s one thing that the show does well, and that is to make the case that Jung Woo and Ae Ra belong together. By the time I say good-bye to these characters, I still believe that Jung Woo and Ae Ra should get back together, and that they will be successful at this second chance at love.
The thing that the show does right is setting it up so that it’s clear that Jung Woo and Ae Ra had something sincere to begin with, and showing us the things that believably eroded their marriage to the point of divorce. And then, the show dealt with each of the items at various points in the drama, until the issues are all out in the open and our leads are realistically in a place where they truly want to reconcile and start over.
That’s one of the big things that second-chance romance dramas need to get right, and from the handful of the ones that I’ve seen, it doesn’t happen as much as it should.
Big points to this show for getting that one thing right. For that, I can overlook allll the other things that didn’t get done so right.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Imperfect but sweet, with a big heart. Like the clumsy little kid brother who tramples all over your plants while picking you a rose for your birthday and melts your heart despite his trail of destruction.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Here’s a trailer for the show that gives a quick flavor for the show as well as a decent idea of the show’s set-up: