If you’ve been watching kdrama for a while, you’d probably know what I’m talking about when I say that there is a particular brand of drama that draws you in with a fun, light, completely innocent sort of premise, only to pull out the rug from under you without warning, by turning dark & weepy all of a sudden. And then you’re left wondering, Waaaiit. Who are you, Show, and what have you done with my sparkly fun rom-com???
The good news is, Oh My Ghostess isn’t that brand of split-personality drama. But I must admit that there were distinct times when this show went a lot darker than the zippy, entertaining rom-com I’d signed up for.
The other bit of good news, I suppose, is that in spite of its darker streaks, there’s still a lot to enjoy in this show.
STUFF I LOVED
I will admit that by the last stretch of the show, I was a lot less giddy and in love with Show than I was at the beginning, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s a lot of stuff that I genuinely enjoy about this show.
It also doesn’t take away the fact that for a good solid stretch from the very beginning of the show, I was, quite literally, giddily in love with this show. That, given that I’d started this show while in a bit of a drama slump too. That’s definitely Something, right?
So here’s a quick rundown of the things that I felt that Show did so, so right.
1. The Leads
In a word, this show’s leads are Wonderful.
Ok, so I don’t dig Im Joo Hwan‘s character as much, but I concede that he did a very solid job of his role. Whether he was channeling warm & helpful, or dark & mysterious, he was believable.
More up my alley, I have big love for Jo Jung Suk and Kim Seul Gi, both of whom I enjoy for their unique scene-stealing acting styles. They were both fantastic in their roles, and I honestly couldn’t have picked two more suitable actors to play grumpy-neurotic-but-lovable Chef Sun Woo and sassy-endearing-yet-lonely Ghost Soon Ae.
Quite possibly the most amazing of them all, is Park Bo Young, who got to display a seriously impressive acting range. Whether she was being Timid Bong Sun, or Possessed Bong Sun Who’s Really Soon Ae, she became the character. I was most impressed with Park Bo Young’s delivery of Soon Ae in Bong Sun’s body. Honestly, from her delivery of the lines, to her facial expressions and body language, I could practically see Kim Seul Gi in her. Which is nothing short of amazing. I would even believe that Kim Seul Gi was in there, controlling Park Bo Young’s body, she’s that good.
All this acting awesome not only did a lot to make Oh My Ghostess feel pleasurable to tune in to, it also made it feel like a cut above many other dramas.
2. Chemistry between the leads
Again, with the exception of Im Joo Hwan, whose character spent practically the entire show dancing the fine line between light and dark, and therefore never quite seemed to share a genuine chemistry with the other characters around him, all our leads shared sparky chemistry that sometimes felt like it was practically leaping off my screen to knock me over.
As our OTP, Jo Jung Suk and Park Bo Young share a fantastic chemistry that is at once electric to the point of almost feeling chemical (some of those kisses were hawt, y’all), and yet at the same time, also extremely comfortable. I mean, I really love that from her lying on top of him (rawr), to piggyback rides, to handholding and other more general skinship, I consistently got the sense that they were comfortable being in such close proximity to each other.
Additionally, I loved the chemistry between Park Bo Young and Kim Seul Gi. Although they shared limited screentime overall due to the fact that Soon Ae spent so much of our earlier episodes inhabiting Bong Sun’s body, I did find the two girls exceedingly cute together, when they were in the same frame. Not only are they equally tiny (so, so cute!), I love the sparky, easy chemistry they shared, and would’ve loved to have seen more of their friendship developing.
3. The Feels
From the very beginning, I loved how fun and zippy Show managed to be, while also being full of heart.
Although it’s marketed as a rom-com with a ghostly twist, Oh My Ghostess does so much more than just shine the spotlight on the OTP and their relationship milestones. I love that we also get many opportunities to understand our key characters more fully – from Sun Woo, to Bong Sun, to Soon Ae – and get a flavor for each of their inner pathos, beneath the broad strokes that we see on the surface.
Additionally, I also love Show’s care with teasing out and fleshing out the relationships between our characters. From Bong Sun’s budding friendship and sisterhood with Soon Ae, to Soon Ae’s unlikely bond with Shaman Seobinggo (Lee Jung Eun), to Seobinggo’s reluctant friendship with Sun Woo’s Mom (Shin Eun Kyung), to Bong Sun’s bond with Soon Ae’s Dad (Lee Dae Yeon), to the dynamics at work among the motley crew at Sun Restaurant (Kang Ki Young, Choi Min Chul, Kwak Shi Yang, Oh Ui Shik), we get a larger picture that’s carefully crafted from layering multiple smaller moments.
That textured fabric, of us being shown the relationships, instead of simply being told about them, made this drama world feel rich, like it was well-inhabited by real people in real relationships, ghostly twist notwithstanding, and I liked that a lot.
STUFF I DIDN’T LOVE
1. Uneven treatment of the body possession bit
I think it’s safe to say that I struggled less with the body possession stuff compared to many other viewers. When we spent a lot more time with Soon Ae than with Bong Sun in the early episodes, so much so that viewers started getting confused as to which female character was really the lead in this show, I took it all in stride, believing that:
(i) Show had a reason to be titled Oh My Ghostess, ie, Soon Ae was a lot more central to this story than a typical second lead normally would be, and
(ii) Show knew where it was going.
Even so, I do think that Show could’ve done a better job of balancing out the screen time we got with both female lead characters. Like, have Soon Ae possess Bong Sun’s body with more intervals in-between or something. Basically, just not let Bong Sun fade into the background as a character, like she did in the initial episodes. Coz that really did feel rather weird.
Additionally, I also would’ve liked Show to have been clearer about things like consent and appropriately decent boundaries.
I mean, I get that Bong Sun eventually is ok with Soon Ae borrowing her body, but there was a distinct point in episode 6 where I felt that Soon Ae really went too far.
I mean, I was ok with the original context of Soon Ae diving into Bong Sun and then getting stuck and then just making the best of it. And I was also ok with Soon Ae diving in again, in a moment of desperation to save her father.
BUT, the cutting up of Bong Sun’s blouse to make a sexier top, and the waxing of Bong Sun’s legs, which happens in episode 6, really feels like Soon Ae’s crossed the line between making the best of the situation, and taking advantage of the situation. I mean, there’s just a lack of respect in these actions, towards Bong Sun, whose blouse and legs it is, that Soon Ae is messing with, and it really bugged me. I kept thinking, Woah. *I* wouldn’t want to wake up to find that someone had cut up MY clothes and waxed MY legs!
2. Uneven tone
The plot detail of Soon Ae not remembering how she died has shades of Arang about it, which I consider a good thing. I liked that this show mixed the cute and funny with the poignant and the pathos, because it gave our story and our characters an overall feeling of depth, and engaged my heart in a very solid way. It made me really care about Soon Ae.
The unfortunate thing, though, is that Show’s shifting tones between sparkling rom-com and dark mystery-thriller weren’t handled in a very balanced nor smooth manner. Which meant that we spent large early stretches of the show in rom-com real estate, with the mystery-thriller barely blipping on our radars, and then large chunks of the later episodes in dark mystery-thriller-land, where all the fun and romance was nowhere to be found. It literally felt like I was watching two different shows, almost.
Not gonna lie, as much as I loved the earlier episodes of this drama, I found the later episodes rather hard to watch. I mean, I cared enough about our characters to keep watching (writer-nim had made sure of that), but while dragging my feet through all the darkness, I sorta resented writer-nim too, y’know?
I would’ve much preferred a more balanced approach, so that instead of morphing from one thing into another, Show could’ve shown me both sides of its personality throughout its run.
3. The evil spirit thing [SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
So I know this show is one with a supernatural theme, but I really didn’t enjoy the evil spirit arc too much.
Not only was it unnecessarily dark, thus dragging down the overall tone of the show, it also wasn’t very well explained nor well resolved. I basically had to infer that body possession by regular ghosts like Soon Ae, and body possession by an evil spirit, worked on different rules, and then, whenever I encountered something that didn’t make sense to me, I just had to shrug it off as working according to a set of unknown rules.
In terms of resolution, I would’ve much preferred if Shaman Seobinggo had been given the power to actually obliterate the evil spirit. As it is, we’re left to infer that the evil spirit is still somewhere out there, ready to possess someone else and keep doing evil things like kill innocent people, which does cast a shadow on the happy ending that we do get.
On a sort-of related tangent, I found it extremely convenient that Soon Ae’s “evil tendencies” which stemmed from her almost reaching the end of her 3 years, simply disappeared from the story. I mean, from almost hurting Bong Sun at one point, she goes back to completely normal by the last couple of episodes. Yes, it does make for a much more poignant and meaningful send-off for Soon Ae’s character, but the plot-hole did niggle at me.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
I must admit that this show’s finale left me feeling rather bittersweet, and also a touch underwhelmed.
The first part, which was all about Soon Ae and saying goodbye to her, was sad.
Yes, she resolved the mystery of her death, but as I mentioned earlier, thinking that the evil spirit was still running rampant in our drama world didn’t feel good to me. Also, even though non-evil-spirit Sung Jae was back in control of his own body, we’d been told that he’s always had a dark side (which is why the evil spirit found him a good match, right?), so Show making a big point about about Eun Hee (Shin Hye Sun) loving him forever disturbed me more than satisfied me, to be honest.
I did like that Soon Ae got to see her dad face to face, and that Dad comes out of the experience more peaceful than before, but it would’ve been nice if she hadn’t been so distraught during the encounter. Additionally, Soon Ae’s goodbye is a forever one, and that just makes me sad, coz it feels like she got a pretty sad deal, overall.
After Soon Ae’s send-off, the second half of the episode felt like a hodge-podge epilogue with a bit of an emphasis on Bong Sun’s growth and independence. It was.. nice, but it also felt tacked on, to be honest.
There were so many cliches swimming around in that second half of the finale, really. From Bong Sun winning a scholarship overseas, to her falling out of touch with Sun Woo in the last few months of her course, only to come back and surprise him, everything honestly felt rather forced, to me. It felt like writer-nim was rustling up as much dramatic tension as possible, out of basically nothing.
Still, I thought it was a nice touch for Bong Sun to step in and help Soon Ae’s dad get back on his feet with his eatery, and I appreciated the effort to show us that our characters had pretty much learned to soldier on and be happy in life. I also thought that Bong Sun’s final voiceover, acknowledging Soon Ae’s effect on all of their lives, was a nice poignant touch.
MY TOP HIGHLIGHTS
In the interest of ending this review on a lighter, happier note, here’s a handful of my top highlights in this drama.
Aegyo. I honestly have never quite seen the appeal of aegyo, until seeing Park Bo Young in action. She is adorable. It’s no wonder that Sun Woo can’t help but smile, when Soon Ae aegyos him.
E6. Soon Ae’s fantasy of Sun Woo propping her up on the counter and kissing her, is hawt. I had to rewind that to watch it again. Flail. Both Park Bo Young and Jo Jung Suk handle the kiss with gentle, unhurried nuance. The kiss is soft and gentle in movement, and totally hot.
E8. The towel kiss. Rawr. So hot, the way Sun Woo tugs on the towel to get within kissing distance, and then puts his arm behind her, to pull her even closer as they kiss. Swoooon.
E9. I love Sun Woo’s barely held-back smiles throughout the time that he’s around Bong Sun. He’s just so happy to be with her, that the smiles are just leaking out, and it’s adorable.
E9. Jo Jung Suk’s smitten face is great, especially when Sun Woo tries to go to bed after he and Bong Sun have made it official. His face is just exploding with smiles. Aw. Jo Jung Suk shines in particular, in Sun Woo’s nervous beats. The shifty eyes, the nervous swallows, the slight quivers in his voice, the nervous twitches. Fantastic stuff.
E13. The web of emotions that Sun Woo has to work through, and the heartache that Bong Sun has to endure, is built up to a wonderful payoff in the final scene. Jo Jung Suk is fantastic. All that nervous energy just melts away from Sun Woo the moment he and Bong Sun finally embrace. It’s like he’s finally home and he can finally relax. Aw.
E13. Kyung Mo (Lee Hak Joo) is hilariously misguided, poor chap. I find him quite hysterical.
E14. Sun Woo taking respite in Bong Sun’s arms is quite possibly my favorite thing ever. He really looks like he’s sinking into comfort, while all his troubles melt away, at least for the time being. Love.
WHAT I’D HAVE LOVED TO SEE:
You know what I would’ve preferred to see in the finale?
I’d have loved to see the original crew back together at Sun Restaurant, with Sun Woo still in charge, and Bong Sun back from her studies, rocking it as the tiniest and most aegyo-tastic chef ever. I just love seeing the boys fuss over Bong Sun and get excited for her when she does well. And I’d have loved to see Sun Woo continue to be the gruff star chef of his restaurant, all while leaking smiles and hearts around his beloved Bong Sun. <3
AND, I’d have love-love-loved to see Soon Ae find some kind of wormhole from the other side, so that she’d be able to come hang out with her friends and check in on her family every once in a while. I mean, what’s the point in being a ghost if you can’t have privileges, right?
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Uneven in tone, but still endearing overall. Heartwarming and sweet, with a side of poignance.
FINAL GRADE: B+