Dropped: The Secret Message

I’m beginning to think that my fangirl love isn’t a very resilient thing, heh.

I had every intention of finishing web drama The Secret Message. To begin with, I didn’t expect very much from it, and therefore, to finish watching it seemed like a reasonable goal in my head; easy, even. I mean, we’re talking short little 15-minute episodes, which the teasers all indicated would be prettily shot, featuring the very handsome TOP in a cute romance. What could possibly be hard about that, right?


So here’s the thing. I made it about halfway into episode 10, and then realized that I really wasn’t having a good time. In fact, I have to admit that I hadn’t been having a good time, from the beginning.

I felt more like I was hanging in there – enduring the watch, even – and that really shouldn’t be how one watches drama, in my books.

Why was I hanging in there?

The things that kept me going were pretty much the same things I mentioned earlier:

  • The episodes were short, so whatever meh I felt while watching was short-lived and therefore relatively easy to bear.
  • TOP’s in this. I thought this show would be worth the eye candy alone.
  • Beyond the pretty, I was also very impressed with TOP in 71: Into The Fire. I hoped that he’d blow me away here too.
  • Yoo In Na and Lee Jae Yoon are in this too, and I like them both.
  • The cinematography is pretty good. At least some of the time, I found prettily-framed and -conceived shots to admire.

Why wasn’t I having a good time?

You know that initial portion of any drama, where set-up is in progress? That’s when stuff doesn’t make a lot of sense yet, when characters and relationships are still being established, and when we hang in there in good faith, waiting for everything to come together more cohesively.

We wait for that click, that moment, when we can begin to feel engaged with the characters and their stories.

10 episodes into this drama’s 18, I still hadn’t felt it.

It’s true that 10 episodes of this little web drama only make up two and a half regular hour-long episodes. Still, given that at 10 episodes, we’re past the show’s halfway mark, I would have expected the I-get-it-and-I-care-about-you moment to have long occurred by this point.

Unfortunately, 10 episodes in, everything still felt relatively random and fractured. The supposed OTP still barely knew each other, and hadn’t even been in the same place together at the same time. The constant PPL didn’t help either. In some ways, it felt like Show was purposefully keeping the OTP apart so that they’d have to keep contacting each other on LINE.

In case you were wondering, no, TOP’s acting wasn’t impressive like it was in 71: Into The Fire. In theory, that still left me with Pretty to hold on to, right? Sadly, I didn’t find TOP very dreamy in this show. I think it’s part styling, part characterization and part acting. It just didn’t work for me.

The breaking point for me, though, was when Show introduced weird ghostly hints (episode 9) and OTT gag-comedy-type touches (episode 10). Those jarring changes in tone basically ignited my Fast Forward reflex, which in turn woke me up to just how much I wasn’t feeling this show, to need to fast forward through such short little bite-sized episodes.

That’s when I decided that it was time for good-bye.

I realize that essentially, I was hanging in there because I was waiting for Show to get better. Instead of becoming more interesting, though, Show managed to make it such that each new episode actually left me feeling more bored. That really shouldn’t be how you do drama, Show. Just sayin’.

Let’s do better next time, ok?

22 thoughts on “Dropped: The Secret Message

  1. XV

    Thank you for your review!
    I was looking forward to watch this drama, since I’m a big fan of Ueno Juri but this drama doesn’t sound that exciting so I think I will save my time for other dramas 🙂 thank you!

    1. kfangurl

      I second that idea, XV.. This one isn’t quite worth the time, unless you’re into atypical, fractured type storytelling. I just couldn’t get into it, and I definitely think your drama hours would be better spent elsewhere! 🙂

  2. SOSsy

    Because I’m a completist I don’t torture myself with more than 20+ episode dramas. Ha
    Only one I watched was Dae Jang Geum, but who didn’t watch that..
    Main reason I hesitate hitting ‘play’ with CDramas. Only one so far is, Shan Shan Comes to Eat ~ couldn’t resist the cute

    1. kfangurl

      I used to be a completist too, and suffered through some terrible dramas as a result. I’m now much more open to dropping a drama if it’s not working for me, and sometimes I dip my toes into the last episode just to see what I missed. Maybe you won’t be a completist forever, and will then be able to try longer dramas? 😉

      While we’re on the topic, maybe I can tempt you with some long dramas that I swear by. Life Is Beautiful (overview review here) is my favorite family drama of all time. So lovely that I looked forward to every episode and was sad when I got to the end. Ojakgyo Brothers (review here) is my second-favorite family drama of all time, and features 4 lovelines, so it feels like a rom-com omnibus. Loved it all the way too, and was sorry to see it end. AND, most recently, C-drama Nirvana in Fire (overview review here) blew me away and ruined me for other dramas with its all-around magnificence. I’m pretty confident that these long dramas won’t upset the completist in you, so maybe you could consider them? 🙂

  3. SOSsy

    Aw, I should have read your review before I started.
    Could have saved me precious hours for other more worthy watches.
    I’m a completist by the way, have to finish what I start, even if I’m FF’ing all the way.

    1. kfangurl

      Oh my, you finished Secret Message? You definitely are a completist, SOSsy! XD On the upside, you used the FF button, AND, the show’s a short one! Imagine if this had been a 50-episode drama! Eek! XD

  4. Pingback: Flash Review: EXO Next Door | The Fangirl Verdict

  5. Pingback: Year In Review: 2015 | The Fangirl Verdict

  6. Gelai

    Since you dropped this one, I recommend a much shorter series. It is called 9 seconds – eternal time. Only 7 episodes. Maybe you’ll enjoy that better.

    1. kfangurl

      Hi there, Gelai! Thanks for the suggestion! 9 Seconds had totally slipped under my drama radar. I looked it up and it looks cute! I’ll definitely keep it in mind for when I next need a small shot of drama cuteness 🙂

  7. Kat

    I stopped watching after episode 3…I didn’t officially drop it, I just never quite got back to it … Sometimes with those dramas, I pick up again but often I don’t.

    1. kfangurl

      I’d say you didn’t miss much after E3, Kat! XD The whole thing was so weird and random, overall. I never could settle into this one, even though I really wanted to.

      And I TOTALLY know what you mean about petering off with a drama without meaning to drop it, but not going back to it afterwards. I’ve done that more times than I’d like to remember, coz I actually liked some of those shows! 😛

  8. Cherry

    um,I suppose I love your reviews,just because you are quite honest in them,and the same follows here.I mean,I get you,I perfectly do.You post everytime you leave a drama,and how it feels when you are literally trying to complete a drama just for the sake of it,but you can’t.I watched a drama,’Secret’ and I am only left with,I think one or two episodes to complete with it,but unfortunately I just lost interest in it.Just because ‘others’ have supposedly liked that show,does not mean that even you’ll.Plus,I haven’t tried any web dramas,so I have simply no idea with whats up with them.Thank you for such a ‘good’ review,because I loves this one,after your review of Goong.They both are your bestest reviews in my opinions.
    Love Always,

    1. kfangurl

      Aw, thanks Cherry. I don’t know if this really counts as one of my best posts, but I’m glad you’re enjoying the reviews! And, I’m so pleased that you like the Goong review too. I’ve got a huge soft spot for that show <3

      It's so true, that one person's crack drama can be another person's meh. So many of my dramaland friends loved Ho Gu’s Love, but I could never get into it, and ended up dropping it. I guess it all boils down to personal preference. But that just makes dramaland a much more textured, interesting place, which I dig. 🙂

    1. kfangurl

      They almost always are very beautiful, aren’t they? Ueno Juri has a whimsical sort of appeal in this, and Yoo In Na is adorably pretty as always 🙂

  9. 1sunnylady

    ” In some ways, it felt like Show was purposefully keeping the OTP apart so that they’d have to keep contacting each other on LINE.” THIS! The only show that I was fine with it was “Nine Time Travel”. I think they really needed the money to have so many scenes with characters using their phones to the point I found it funny because, usually, tv shows got character A driving all the way to character B to say something that could have been said over the phone. “Nine Times Travel” usually had character A meeting character B, we don’t see the discussion scene and character A then calls character C to tell him/her about the convo…

    Anyway, I wasn’t planning on watching this. Internet love story is actually one of my favorite trope as long as I get o see the characters be happy together in enough scenes to make up for the long wait. It’s the reward. I don’t even know what’s this comment is about. i’m tired lol. I just felt like commenting, just because ^^

    1. kfangurl

      Haha! I totally don’t remember the PPL in Nine.. Possibly because Show was keeping me on my toes so much, with all the twists and turns. I personally found it a bit of challenge keeping up with all the logic threads in that! 😛 But yes, a lot of PPL can be very distracting, and in Secret Message, the LINE PPL was constant, seriously. So much so that I got annoyed with the little “bing-bong” alerts their phones would give off every time a new LINE message arrived. XD

      Also, thanks to Lady G reminding me about it, I snuck a peek at the final episode, and found to my amazement that even in the first half of the finale, the OTP still hadn’t met in person yet!! So in that sense, this one possibly doesn’t qualify as having enough scenes of the characters happy together to justify the wait. Since, by the finale, you’d still be waiting! XD

  10. Lady G.

    Aw, bummer! Thanks for the review. I was interested, particularly because of TOP being so pretty and Lee Jae Yoon. When will they give LJY something substantial!! Okay, there’s Heart to Heart, which I actually got 3 episodes into, and he’s adorable. But i sense a pairing I’m going to hate, that of him with the psychiatrist’s sister. She turns me off and she’s barely in it yet. That’s on my slow burn watch list, I like it, but I’m not grabbed by the horns to keep watching non-stop in anticipation of the next episode.

    I guess this web series is promoting online dating? lol. I hate when the OTP doesn’t even meet until the end. That’s why I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sleepless in Seattle like everyone else was back in the day. hehe.

    1. kfangurl

      Ah, if you were going to check this out for Lee Jae Yoon, I can tell you that in the 10 episodes that I watched, he didn’t get much screen time at all. LJY’s very sweet in Heart to Heart, so that’s definitely one to keep watching, even on a slow burn basis. Also, the psychiatrist’s sister actually becomes quite likable towards the end, which was a pleasant surprise for me. I think that might help, in terms of motivating you to keep going with Heart to Heart. 😉 LJY’s less sweet in Heartless City, but had lots of screen time being a tough detective going head to head with Jung Kyung Ho. It’s a good one for when you’re in the mood for dark and gritty. 🙂

      And YES, I was bemused when I’d passed the halfway point of this show, but the leads hadn’t met yet. Maybe they WERE going for a Sleepless in Seattle concept, lol.

      1. Lady G.

        I’ve read a lot of comments that said the sister in HTH becomes likeable. I guess I can manage. lol. She just seems so…young, at the outset. Maybe because to me she’s one of those barbie doll idol types. Heartless City! I remember I couldn’t get passed the first ep. with all the killing. :p But I heard raves for that show. I saw his face on one of the posters with Jung Kyung Ho the other day so that was good sign he’s in it a lot.

        1. kfangurl

          I actually found her quite unlikable in the beginning. But somehow along the way she started to be quite endearing, and by the end, I was really happy with how they resolved the arc between her and LJY’s character 🙂

          LJY’s in A LOT of Heartless City, since he’s the main detective who’s after Jung Kyung Ho’s character. But yeah, you’d need a very particular mood for that show. It’s very bloody and dark. Amid all the raves, I actually felt mostly neutral towards the show and the characters until the very late episodes. Funny thing is, upon finishing the show, I realized that I now cared and wasn’t ready to say goodbye, and then I went right back to the beginning to rewatch a bunch of episodes! Very odd indeed. But that show definitely lingered with me in a way that I totally didn’t expect, that’s for sure!


Leave a Reply