THE SHORT VERDICT:
A fun rom-com that, in-between the comedy and the laughs, manages to get under your skin in the best way, with its warmth.
Some of my favorite things about She Was Pretty are the heartfelt performances, the lovingly-drawn characters, and the relationships brimming with organic, sparky chemistry. On top of these, the breezy pace and the ear-wormy OST – not to mention the uplifting themes of self-worth and self-love – make this a satisfying, enjoyable watch indeed.
Not perfect by a long shot, but Show gets the important things so right, that it’s hard to be nit-picky.
THE LONG VERDICT:
In a manner of speaking, She Was Pretty is kinda like the unassuming little cafe on the corner that doesn’t look all that different from all the other cafes in the area, really. But when you step in, you find that the atmosphere is so cozy, you’re greeted so warmly, and the food is such simple, good, honest nosh, that you can’t help but want to come back again – and yet again.
Writer-nim does manage to serve up a surprise or two, but by and large, the plot points and narrative devices are obviously cut from pretty much the same cloth as many other rom-coms before it. If you’ve been in dramaland for a while, you’d likely be able to predict many of this show’s plot developments – fillers included – with a relatively high degree of accuracy.
Still, Show is put together so lovingly, and feels so heartfelt, that it’s gratifying to watch anyway. As a bonus, everything is very prettily shot. Clearly, a good amount of tender care was taken, from the overall composition of shots, to selection of the very lovely color palette, to the excellent application of the OST.
In spite of its flaws, I must admit that this show wasted no time in worming its way into my heart, and now that it’s over, I’m sincerely reluctant to let it go.
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.
STUFF THAT REQUIRES SOME LENS ADJUSTMENT
Although I enjoyed Show right from the beginning, there were definitely a couple of things that I needed to adjust my viewing lens for. Here’s the quick list.
1. Sung Joon is too mean
This one was a biggie, for me. I love Park Seo Joon, and found it hard to stomach his character being so unreasonable and mean to his colleagues – including our female lead – in the earlier episodes of the show.
Despite Show’s efforts to mitigate Sung Joon’s meanness with glimmers of softness and spots of clumsy, the explanations for his meanness didn’t ring true enough for me. I felt that his meanness was excessive, and it made me cringe, particularly when that meanness was turned on our female lead Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum). I felt that it made Hye Jin come across as quite pathetic in general, because his words cut her so deeply.
For a good chunk of Show’s early stretch, I just wasn’t feeling its treatment of Sung Joon’s character.
2. The exaggerated campy funny
The Funny in this show, as is often the case in kdramas, leans heavily on the side of campy. The comic arcs are almost always amplified and far from subtle. Coupled with Hwang Jung Eum’s gung-ho, all-in, almost manic delivery, it sometimes felt a bit trying to watch.
On the upside, most of Hye Jin’s odd ticks are written in as part of her character, so it’s (mostly) narratively cohesive. Another upside is that on the occasions when it all felt a bit much, those moments didn’t tend to last very long.
3. Logic gets stretched
On several occasions, in order to get our characters to behave in certain ways, or to get our narrative to a certain place, logic tends to get stretched, requiring a touch more suspension of disbelief than usual.
A small-ish example is in episode 6, where we see Hye Jin literally sneezing all over everyone at the office. As I watched the scene, I knew that writer-nim basically needed a reason for both Shin Hyuk and Sung Joon to pay attention to her, in their own ways. But, I did feel that the whole thing made no sense. I mean, how clueless can someone be, to blithely sneeze on all her colleagues? And how clueless can those colleagues be, to let their response simply be to cringe and avoid her as much as possible. Seriously, someone should’ve just handed her a mask and that would’ve solved it.
Another example is how Shin Hyuk’s Big Reveal as Ten is handled in episodes 14 & 15. Yes, the entire arc tugged at my heartstrings in a very real way. But I did wonder why it had to be all or nothing. I mean, originally, the intention was only to have an interview with Ten, not to reveal Ten’s identity. Which means that they could’ve published an interview exploring Ten’s personal thoughts, without revealing his identity, and then Shin Hyuk wouldn’t have had to leave. In fact, the Most team wouldn’t even need to know it’s Shin Hyuk. It could’ve been his little secret with Sung Joon.
In both cases, it’s clear that writer-nim just needed our plot to move in a particular direction. It’s a pity that more organic-feeling plot points weren’t used, but shrugging off the weaknesses in the logic allowed me to enjoy the good things that Show did have to offer, and to Show’s credit, there was quite a lot to like.
One of my favorite things in this show, is how our key characters all feel relatable and real, in spite of some minor flaws in characterization. On top of that, all 4 actors deliver such heartfelt performances that I couldn’t help growing to love their characters like they were real, living, breathing people.
Hwang Jung Eum as Kim Hye Jin
I must say that despite Hye Jin’s OTT tendencies, I really enjoyed Hwang Jung Eum in this role.
Even though Hye Jin’s OTT behavior could’ve made her more of a caricature than an actual character, she’s ultimately delivered as a relatable character with depth. Kudos to writer-nim for allowing the character that kind of breathing space, and to Hwang Jung Eum for bringing Hye Jin to life.
I found Hye Jin a likable, rather admirable character. A strong girl who’s not easily daunted, she’s been served a rather disappointing lot, in that her family went bankrupt, and her ugly genes came out, and she’s been jobless for years, but she doesn’t allow it to keep her down, even though there are moments where it gets her down.
There’s a layer of poignancy to Hye Jin that I really appreciate; a layer that we catch glimpses of, when she encounters a moment that stings. There’s often a bit of a pause, before she perks back up. That moment, is where we see Hye Jin willing herself to put her best cheery face forward, to face the world. I love those moments that hint at the hurt beneath her cheery surface, because they give her character a dimension and depth that make her feel real.
With that sense of Hye Jin’s inner pathos in place, it’s easy to like her, and root for her, and want good things for her. And that’s how I felt about Hye Jin, all series long.
Although it’s arguable that Hye Jin seemed a little too good to be true, I found her believable because Show made us privy to her private sadness. In those moments, her surface bravado and strength melt away, and we get to see her insecurities around her self-worth. That’s something so universal that I found her relatable right away.
One of my favorite Hye Jin moments in the show, is in episode 10, when Hye Jin chooses to give Ha Ri (Go Joon Hee) the benefit of the doubt and trust her, that Ha Ri must’ve had a good reason for pretending to be Hye Jin in front of Sung Joon. I love that moment because Hye Jin isn’t being stupid in trusting Ha Ri. She’s choosing to exercise grace and faith instead, and I find that admirable indeed.
I genuinely love the way Hye Jin loves Ha Ri. In episode 11, when Hye Jin holds back from going to Sung Joon’s waiting arms, it does appear to smack of noble idiocy for a while. I loved that the truth was that Hye Jin feels badly for Ha Ri’s broken heart and disappointment, and wouldn’t feel comfortable with herself, if she allowed herself to be close to Sung Joon.
In that sense, it was never about giving way to Ha Ri and letting Ha Ri be with Sung Joon and giving him away like a toy. It was always more about being sensitive to how her BFF felt, and I appreciate that sensitivity and care about Hye Jin a whole lot.
Park Seo Joon as Ji Sung Joon
I hafta say, in spite of Show’s misstep in making Early Sung Joon overly mean, and even though I feel like Sung Joon’s character could’ve benefited from a deeper, more detailed characterization, I really enjoyed Park Seo Joon in this role. (Have I mentioned that I love Park Seo Joon?)
To me, this is a case of Park Seo Joon’s nuanced delivery and natural onscreen warmth making up for weaknesses in the writing.
In the earlier episodes where Sung Joon is portrayed as being unfeeling and mean, even at Sung Joon’s most caustic, Park Seo Joon’s personal warmth helps to take the edge off Sung Joon’s mean behavior.
In the mid to late episodes, Park Seo Joon makes Sung Joon’s turnaround feel real and natural. We start to see Sung Joon coming to care for Hye Jin, almost against his own will. I love that dynamic, where we see Sung Joon practically fight himself, to try to reconcile what he knows in his head, with what he feels in his heart. Park Seo Joon manages to make it all quite amusing, yet at the same time, very sincere and heartfelt. Love.
Of course, Show didn’t fail to remind us that shirtless Park Seo Joon is extra hot (as if we needed reminding, right? But, not gonna complain!), as evidenced by this prolonged broody shower scene in episode 6:
Rawr. YUM. MOAR PLEASE.
In spite of the knee-buckling pretty (which I thoroughly enjoyed), and the wonderful onscreen warmth (which I eagerly soaked up), I maintain that Park Seo Joon shone most when he was given the chance to show off his acting range.
In episode 11, when Sung Joon finally realizes that Hye Jin is his Hye Jin, we get to witness Sung Joon’s entire spectrum of emotions, from shock, to realization, to grief, to self-blame, to confusion, to warm gratefulness. It’s just such a pleasure to watch.
Another scene where I particularly appreciated Park Seo Joon’s delivery, is this scene in episode 13.
This scene in the car park, when, as things fall apart around him, Sung Joon wells up with tears, and takes a moment, before sinking into Hye Jin’s arms, is so poignant and heartfelt.
I love her for being strong for him, and I love him for allowing himself to release some of that burden. And I love how Park Seo Joon delivers all of that, with, quite visibly, every fiber of his being. Wow.
Choi Si Won as Kim Shin Hyuk
One of the biggest surprises in this drama, for me, is just how wonderful Choi Si Won is, as Shin Hyuk.
I mean, I’d enjoyed him on my screen before (he was so funny in King of Dramas!), but he completely surpassed my expectations in this show, and basically clean blew me away, leaving me somewhat slack-jawed in the wake of the awesome. I kid you not.
Let me try to break down the components of awesome.
Edit: And here’s some extended Si Won awesome for ya, if you’re up for it. Si Won Pure Pretty post is here!
1. He’s hilariously hammy
Practically from beginning to end, Si Won is fabulously outrageous as Shin Hyuk, giving Shin Hyuk the widest, most elastic range of unabashedly flamboyant expressions. He makes Shin Hyuk really weird, and yet, also really likable. And he makes it all seem completely effortless too.
Check out this sampling of Shin Hyuk’s range of quirky expressions – dontcha just love how Si Won displays absolutely no vanity in contorting his face for the camera?
Hur hur. He just never seemed to run out of ridiculous expressions, which cracked me up So Much.
2. He’s so many shades of handsome
On a shallow note, Si Won is quite glorious to look at, and Show knows it.
I really rather liked the five o’clock shadow on him, which deepens over the episodes to take on shades of pirate, which I also thought pretty cool. Si Won wears the scruff well, is all I can say.
Additionally, Show thoughtfully also put Si Won’s glorious choco abs on display in episode 12, like so:
Mmm. Such lovely, clean-lined sculptedness, paired with that devil-may-care scruff. Delish.
I got so used to the scruff, that I honestly completely forgot that Si Won looks fabulous clean-shaven too. Which is why I literally did a double-take when, in a later episode, he showed up on my screen looking like this:
Woah. So. Handsome. Combined with the gentle sunlight on his face, and that Look in his eyes, he’s so beautiful it’s surreal.
3. He delivers with so much emotional resonance
As great as the first 2 points are, this is the one that blew me away.
Shin Hyuk starts out as a rather funny, almost clowny sort of character, but as we get deeper in the show, Shin Hyuk begins to show more and more shades of emotional depth and pathos.
Si Won delivers the different layers masterfully, and it’s all the more impressive because there are many times when those contrasting layers – surface silly belying private pain – are at play at the same time. Best of all, it all feels so real. I could easily believe that this wasn’t Si Won in character, but Shin Hyuk living out a partial truth while concealing his heartache. So, SO. GOOD.
In many lesser rom-coms, we don’t actually have a good sense of why the second male lead likes the female lead (or why any of the leads like each other, for that matter). Credit to writer-nim for building meaning into Shin Hyuk’s affection for Hye Jin, and to Si Won, for delivering with such depth and sincerity that I felt like I completely got why Shin Hyuk liked Hye Jin.
As a character, I love Shin Hyuk for seeing the pretty in Hye Jin, without any need for her to wear makeup or get a makeover. In the midst of her weirdness and the lack of style, he sees and appreciates the pretty. Swoon.
I love, too, that Shin Hyuk is the kind of guy who thinks Hye Jin is pretty just the way she is, and isn’t at all affected by Ha Ri’s beauty. He’s completely nonchalant in front of Ha Ri when most guys are falling over themselves for her. Outward pretty doesn’t do much for him, which, double swoon.
Seriously, I love Shin Hyuk so much, for the way he mourns the disappearance of Hye Jin’s freckles in episode 9. I mean, just the fact that he loves the freckles because they’re part of what make her, her, is such heart-melty stuff.
As we get deeper into the show, Si Won ups his game by imbuing Shin Hyuk with more and more emotional resonance. Layered on top of already endearing qualities, Shin Hyuk quickly and effectively stole my heart.
Yes, the fact that Shin Hyuk lets Hye Jin go, and even takes her to Sung Joon himself, is nothing new in second-lead territory. But the way Si Won plays it – stoic on the surface, but with glimmers of quiet sadness beneath – completely tugs at my heartstrings.
It’s at this point, that we begin to see and understand that at least a big chunk of Shin Hyuk’s flamboyance is there to mask the sadness and pain that he keeps private. It’s also right about this point, that my heart goes out to him, more than ever.
In episodes 14 and 15, when Shin Hyuk goes about saying goodbye to Hye Jin and the other people at Most, is when he moved me the most.
In episode 14, Shin Hyuk’s goodbye date with Hye Jin is OTT silly while he’s out and about with her, but then when the tears sheen in his eyes as he says goodbye, and then when he broods sadly and the tears leak out as he drives away, he grounds it completely. It’s so clear, that there is real emotion there, behind the jokes and pranks. There’s so much that’s left unspoken, and yet at the same time, there’s so much that still leaks out, in Shin Hyuk’s quiet moments alone.
Oof. Shin Hyuk’s quiet tears brought tears to my eyes.
In episode 15, I found Shin Hyuk’s goodbyes poignant and touching, and I love that he gives everyone a personal goodbye. Even more, I love that he gave Hye Jin a private goodbye that remained privy to only her. There are no colleagues listening in, and even we as the audience don’t get to hear it until much later, in flashback. I love the quiet, matter-of-fact, almost casual moment of seclusion that his whispered goodbye creates for them. It makes his goodbye to Hye Jin feel extra special.
I love the way Shin Hyuk pulls Hye Jin in for that quiet, long hug, then softly whispers his parting words. It’s so simple and so heartbreaking at the same time. And the poignance with which Siwon delivers is So Good. Shin Hyuk’s gaze and entire air about him, as he hugs Hye Jin and holds her for a long time, is mesmerizing, full of feeling, and so full of tenderness. It’s like he’s allowing all of the things that he can’t say to her, to seep slowly into her as he holds her.
Augh. This parting scene filled my heart and broke it, all at the same time. Chills.
Go Joon Hee as Min Ha Ri
I really, really appreciate Show for giving us a second female lead who’s not clingy or manipulative. Instead, Ha Ri possesses dimension and remains believable and interesting as a character, in spite of her flawed decisions.
I believed that she genuinely loves Hye Jin as a friend, and that she truly felt conflicted about her own actions and knew that she was behaving badly. Even at her worst, when I couldn’t condone her behavior, I felt like I could understand her.
Credit to writer-nim for making Ha Ri a faceted character worth rooting for, and to Go Joon Hee for making Ha Ri relatable through it all.
We can practically see Ha Ri’s arc with Sung Joon rise up to meet us; as second lead, she’s pretty much destined to fall for Sung Joon. At the same time, I really appreciate writer-nim for making it clear that Ha Ri never is malicious.
Instead, we can clearly see that her deception was the product of procrastination and situational factors, which resulted in her sinking deeper and deeper into her lie. In that way, I liked that Ha Ri’s journey into the deep, and then back into the light, is a universally relatable one that we can all empathize with, at least a little bit.
In episode 6, I felt that Ha Ri totally crossed the line, in offering up the missing puzzle piece to Sung Joon. It’s terrible behavior, absolutely, but at the same time, I get that a person can act in very stupid ways and make decisions that completely undervalue and overvalue all the wrong things, when deeply infatuated with someone. In that sense, I got Ha Ri.
I also appreciated Ha Ri’s stomach pains in episode 9, in that it shows how much her bad decision-making is actually stressing her out.
The arc in episode 10, when Ha Ri’s deception is found out by Sung Joon, is also another universally human thing. We’ve all had moments when we’ve hesitated, only to regret the hesitation. I do give Ha Ri credit for consistently plucking up the courage to do the right thing. Even though she misses her chance to confess her deception to Sung Joon, she makes sure to apologize properly to both Hye Jin and Sung Joon.
Ha Ri’s determination to do the right thing going forward, in spite of the mistakes of her past, is something that I think we can all identify with. We’ve all made mistakes and lived to regret them. What’s more important than regret, though, is choosing to live right and live different, going forward. And that’s exactly what Ha Ri does.
I love that when she realizes that she hasn’t been true to herself all this time, that she promptly applies herself – fully and properly – to starting over. Ha Ri’s earnestness and commitment towards turning her life around, and finding & pursuing her passion, made me root for her, so much.
This show sets itself apart from many of its cousins, by having not just one, but several meaningful relationships. I love that even though our story is romance-centric, that friendship also takes centerstage and gets a good solid chunk of screentime.
Even better, our key characters share an excellent amount of chemistry, almost any way you slice it. That’s a wonderful and rare thing indeed, in dramaland.
Hye Jin & Ha Ri
I love-love-love these two besties together. Particularly in a drama landscape where we don’t tend to see many strong female friendships, the lifelong, lovingly affectionate bond between Hye Jin and Ha Ri is definitely one for the record books. To me, they are the other OTP of this show.
It makes me smile to see just how happy Ha Ri and Hye Jin are, when they are together. It feels like they complete each other, and I love that they enjoy being together this much.
I also really appreciate how these two care enough about each other, and are secure enough in their friendship, to each challenge the other’s choices when they see a need. [MINOR SPOILER] I love how, in an early episode, when Hye Jin runs into difficulties fitting in at Most, Ha Ri chooses not to indulge Hye Jin’s whining, but challenges her to actually work hard to overcome her difficulties instead. SO much more useful than simply commiserating with Hye Jin. [END SPOILER]
I’m so glad (and relieved, actually) that despite some momentary missteps, the friendship and love between these two never does get compromised because of a boy.
Much as I loved being a fly on their wall as I watched their happy interactions with a big goofy grin on my face, it was their tearful times that truly stick with me.
In episode 12, when Hye Jin rushes to the airport thinking that Ha Ri has upped and left for good, I loved their reunion scene, so much.
The way Hye Jin cries and clings to Ha Ri totally made me tear up. Even when Ha Ri says she isn’t going away, Hye Jin continues to cling to her, like a child who can’t quite believe that the one thing she wants in the world is right there in her arms.
In a drama landscape where characters are more often shown doing things together rather than talking, I deeply appreciated that Show takes its time with Ha Ri’s apology to Hye Jin. I love that they talk it out properly.
I love that Ha Ri gets to apologize properly and specifically for how she’d wronged Hye Jin. Most of all, I love that it’s so tearful and heartfelt on both sides; on Ha Ri’s part as she offers it, and on Hye Jin’s part as she receives it. Ahh. So lovely.
Once things are set right between them, I love how full-on they are, as they proceed to love each other. Instead of allowing Ha Ri’s period of deception to drive a wedge between them and dilute their friendship, they choose to refresh their friendship and love each other more fiercely than before. There’s just something about that choice that moves me. It’s such a release for both of them, once the deception is talked over and straightened out, that it feels like they’re each pouring out in double or triple measure, all the love that they’d felt inhibited from giving each other, while their friendship had been cramped. Such a pleasure to see them love each other freely all over again.
I liked that Ha Ri is the one who practically shakes Hye Jin and helps her along towards her way to Sung Joon. Because Hye Jin hesitated in order to be sensitive to her bestie, it’s only Ha Ri herself, who can convince Hye Jin that going to Sung Joon is not only ok, but is going to help Ha Ri feel better about herself.
Even when change comes knocking, and both Hye Jin and Ha Ri need to move forward from their cozy arrangement of living together, I love that their friendship continues to grow and flourish. In episode 15, Hye Jin and Ha Ri tearfully cheer each other on in finding and pursuing their passions, even if it means not living together and not seeing each other as often. Their wistful, loving tears, as they hug it out, moved me deeply.
I simply love how they love each other. I love how they both dearly want to see the other person fulfilled, successful and happy. Ultimately, after all is said and done, they love each other with a selfless kind of love. And I dig that, very much.
Hye Jin & Sung Joon
In the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t say that Sung Joon and Hye Jin are the most exciting OTP in dramaland, but I thoroughly enjoyed them anyway.
Park Seo Joon and Hwang Jung Eum share a comfortable synergy that I appreciated very much. It’s clear to see, that they’re very much at ease with each other, and unafraid to share screentime – and skinship – as needed. Which made their shared scenes quite a pleasure to watch.
As our OTP, I love the focused and steadfast way Sung Joon and Hye Jin love each other; I love the warmth and friendship that is the foundation of their romance; I love how healthy their relationship is, for the most part. In a drama landscape littered with noble idiots and man-handling boyfriends, I found the supportive, understanding dynamic between Sung Joon and Hye Jin very refreshing indeed.
The set-up is a little cliched, in that it’s nothing new in dramaland. Hye Jin’s identity as Sung Joon’s childhood first love, is unknown to Sung Joon for a good stretch, but they find their connection anyway. In its essence, it sort of reminds me of 2004’s Save Your Last Dance For Me, where a similar set-up challenged the OTP.
Still, I like the concept a lot more than Hallyu’s oft-used First Love trope, where the OTP belongs together simply because they were first loves. Here, I really enjoyed watching Sung Joon and Hye Jin find meaningful ways to connect, outside of the context of their past friendship. I love the idea that they complement each other so well, that even when their shared history isn’t part of the equation, Sung Joon would choose her anyway.
I seriously love that in this drama world, characters show their care by each pushing the other to be their best. We see it with Ha Ri and Hye Jin, and we also see it with Sung Joon and Hye Jin.
In episode 9, when Sung Joon’s already awkwardly trying to come to terms with his growing affection for Hye Jin, I really liked how Sung Joon gives Hye Jin the indirect pep talk she needs, to be bold enough to take on the writing assignment. It just warms my heart, that Sung Joon’s intervention – talking to her about the god of opportunity (Caerus) – is about her reaching her full potential, and has nothing to do with himself.
Afterwards, upon Hye Jin accepting the assignment, I love that little hair-pulling signal moment they share, through the glass walls of his office. It makes sense only to them, which makes it so endearingly cool.
As Sung Joon and Hye Jin find their way to romance, there are moments that I loved, and there were also stretches that I didn’t like so much.
One moment that I loved, is the scene in episode 9, when Sung Joon tears through traffic and rain in his car, crazy with worry over Hye Jin. His focus while driving in the rain is so wholly on Hye Jin, that his tendency to freeze up in the rain doesn’t even factor in, he’s so focused. And when he finds her, that hug that he pulls her into, is so full of grateful, almost tearful relief.
On the downside, while I understood Hye Jin’s extreme skittishness around Sung Joon as their feelings grew for each other, I really didn’t find it funny. I also felt that Hye Jin’s OTT hypersensitivity to Sung Joon disappeared quite suddenly. I mean, I wanted it to go away, but Show didn’t create a believable transition for it, and as a result, it felt sudden and unexplained and random.
The silver lining was that, while Hye Jin is being self-consciously skittish, Sung Joon totally homes in on how he feels about her. I just find that focused intensity very melty indeed.
Also, once that shift was over and done with, I found so much to enjoy about our OTP.
In episode 12, Hye Jin finally plucks up the courage to go to Sung Joon at the hospital. As she hovers over an apparently sleeping Sung Joon, he suddenly grasps her wrist and pulls her into bed next to him. Sure, it’s completely unrealistic that Sung Joon would pull someone into the bed with him without knowing who it was, but I did very much appreciate the subdued, gentle vibe of the moment.
Somehow, it seems fitting that this OTP, in finally coming together, would do so without sparks and fireworks, but with quiet gentleness and tenderness.
I particularly love how Sung Joon seems so at home with Hye Jin. In an environment where he’s almost always tensed up and on guard, it’s really lovely to see him be able to be himself around her; relaxed, at peace, and at rest.
One thing I love about this OTP being together, is how Sung Joon starts to leak smiles all the time. Park Seo Joon’s warm, crinkly smile slays me, and he makes in-love Sung Joon adorable. It’s cute how Sung Joon thinks Hye Jin is adorable and regularly melts to himself after teasing her. And I love that Sung Joon smiles a lot, because of Hye Jin.
Augh. That adorable face. Melt.
Despite warmth and cuteness being the mainstay of this relationship, what a bonus it is, that this OTP does share sparky, sexy chemistry when the occasion calls for it. There’s no other word to describe it; the kiss in episode 15 is hawt.
The way Sung Joon pulls her in once he realizes what she’s saying, and the way he leans in to kiss her – it’s so focused, intent, and very tender.
Swoon. Flail. Puddle. This kiss legit gave me tummy twists.
What a treat, really, to have an OTP that feels equally real and believable, no matter the circumstance. I genuinely loved watching these two together.
Hye Jin & Shin Hyuk
While Shin Hyuk’s one-sided love for Hye Jin tugged at my heartstrings, I hafta say that I never wanted their connection to actually turn romantic. I loved their weird friendship too much.
I really love how these two weirdos ended up being friends. I found it so endearing, that Shin Hyuk always wanted to hang out with Hye Jin, even when everyone else found her awkward and odd. I felt like they were weird twins. I found them exceedingly amusing together, and wanted them to be weird friends who embrace each other’s weirdness, and amp up their total quotient of weird in the best way.
[SPOILER ALERT] Ultimately, I’m actually content with where they land, in their friendship. I love that even when Shin Hyuk strips away the lens of romantic love, that he genuinely likes Hye Jin as a person and tells her so. It makes their connection feel so pure, somehow. [END SPOILER]
Special shout-out to:
Sung Joon & Shin Hyuk
Even though theirs is a minor sort of arc, I was very amused by the reluctant bromance between Shin Hyuk and Sung Joon.
I love how Shin Hyuk delights in Sung Joon’s obvious discomfort, even as Shin Hyuk continually ribs Sung Joon, while threatening him with bromance and stealing his underwear. I could watch their antics all day long. Hee.
Han Seol & Joon Woo
Another minor arc that caught my fancy is the romance between Seol (Shin Hye Sun) and Joon Woo (Park Yoo Hwan). I thought they were very cute together, and perked up whenever we got a little screen time showing their growing relationship.
That, and I find Park Yoo Hwan exceedingly adorable. I think I might find him cuter than hyung Yoo Chun, even. I seriously just wanna squish him and put him in my pocket.
Throughout its run, Show asks the questions, What is beauty? Should it matter? And, To whom should it matter? Is our value tied to our appearance?
Ultimately, I’m satisfied with the answers that Show points us to; that it’s what’s on the inside that counts; that it really doesn’t matter what other people think; that what’s truly important is that we find ourselves beautiful.
What a gloriously uplifting message.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
I actually hadn’t wanted Hye Jin to cover up her freckles in a makeover. I felt that Show’s glorious message that an ordinary girl who doesn’t look like a model can still be beautiful in the eyes of not one but two very good men, shouldn’t get watered down.
But, I appreciated that ultimately, Hye Jin had done it for herself. She’s the one who’d made it happen. No one dragged her by the wrist and thrust her at a team of makeup artists and stylists. She’d decided that she wanted it, and had gone about getting it for herself. That self-empowerment is something that I can get behind, even though I’m with Shin Hyuk in mourning the “loss” of her freckles, which I thought were adorable.
Also, even though Sung Joon’s growing feelings for Hye Jin are timed to coincide quite closely with her makeover, I appreciate that when Sung Joon realizes that Hye Jin is his Hye Jin, that he says to her with satisfaction, that she’s exactly the same. I love that his words aren’t centered on her appearance in the least, but on her personality.
In episode 15, when Hye Jin chooses to pursue her passion in writing, for herself, in order to look pretty to herself, it’s pretty darn awesome. I love that feeling fulfilled is prized alongside romantic happiness, and I appreciate that message a lot.
After the time skip, it’s fantastic to see Hye Jin looking so radiant. She’s so happy and so full of joy, that her freckles and curly hair, which she’d hidden for a while, look as fabulous as she does. I love that the curls and freckles are back. Coz essentially, Show is demonstrating that she never needed to hide them to look great.
This final message that Show has for us – that inner fulfillment actually brings out our beauty – is one that I absolutely love.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
Ahh. The finale. What a warm, feel-good sort of ending. Sure, a lot of it qualifies as filler &/or fan-service, but I hafta say, what a pleasant hour it was.
Drama finales that are mostly feel-good epilogue can feel hodge-podge and patchy, like the writers are scrambling to fill up that hour of screen time, can’t think of what to do with themselves and the characters, and are just throwing things at us helter skelter without a real plan.
Not so She Was Pretty. Although Show didn’t have a whole lot of plot left by the final hour, the hour felt deliberate. It felt like we were tying up loose ends in a comfortable, satisfying sort of way. The hour didn’t feel rushed, nor did it feel like Show was trying to buy time. It just felt thoughtful, like Show was taking its time to gaze fondly at its characters and indulge in each one just a little, before tying up each character’s arc just enough, and then saying goodbye with gentle affection.
I enjoyed watching Sung Joon and Hye Jin come back together, get married and settle into married life. I love that we get to see that despite changes to their circumstances, Ha Ri and Hye Jin are still the best of friends. I love that Most comes back into the picture, and that Sung Joon gets to work with the Most team again.
I love that we get to see Shin Hyuk again, and that he’s still very much his cheeky self. Perhaps most of all, I love that he dedicates his new book to Hye Jin, addressing her as his best friend. Aw. That warms my heart so, that despite being out of touch, their emotional connection as friends is still so strong. They don’t need to see each other to care about each other, and think about each other. When he’d said goodbye, it wasn’t really goodbye.
Which is exactly how I feel about this show. I don’t want to say goodbye to these characters either, but, this isn’t really good-bye. It’s more of a See you later, in all of your curly-haired, freckled glory.
Thank you, Show, for reminding us that we’re beautiful just the way we are. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Sweet, warm & uplifting, with just a touch of pathos. Heart-grabby in the best way, in spite of minor missteps.
FINAL GRADE: A