You know how, when you drive past an accident on a highway, and your brain says not to waste time staring, since that’ll just slow down traffic even more, but as you crawl past in your car, the curious cat in you can’t help but stare in morbid fascination anyway?
Yep. That’s sorta what happened with me and Cheese In The Trap.
Because I wasn’t able to keep current with the episodes as they aired, I was only at episode 8 (ish?) when all the behind-the-scenes drama erupted and everyone got really upset with Park Hae Jin’s heavily reduced screen time in the last third of the drama.
A big part of my brain said then, that I ought to just drop the drama and look away while the going was good, but the curious cat in me was morbidly fascinated by it all. Was it as bad as everyone said, I wondered.
I guess there’s something to be said for spoilers, since I went into the finale stretch having had the ending quite thoroughly spoiled (I couldn’t help reading ending spoilers, even though I’m usually much more spoiler-phobic; not only was I morbidly fascinated, I was also – at times, anyway – trying to decide whether or not to keep watching).
That prepped me for the ending really well, and in the end, I didn’t actually hate it. Gasp!
STUFF I LIKED
Even though it feels like everyone’s talking about this show’s ending, almost to the exclusion of everything else, I feel like a quick section highlighting the stuff I liked about this show is warranted.
After all, even though it was never love at first sight with me and this show, my immediate reaction was something along the lines of, “I like it. It’s good. I don’t love it, but it’s clearly well-made.”
1. Creating the drama world & the use of narrators
From the indie-flavored background music, to the thoughtful details in set, costuming and styling, it’s clear that a lot of care went into the creation of this drama world.
Even though Cheese is manhwa-inspired, Cheese’s drama world feels lived-in and real, and the characters all feel like they’re dealing with very real and believable struggles, with the breezy tunes in the soundtrack adding just a touch of philosophical whimsy.
Show uses voiceovers a lot, which I liked. Very occasionally, we get a voiceover from Jung (Park Hae Jin), but by and large, our voiceovers are by Seol (Kim Go Eun).
Almost everything we see is from Seol’s perspective; this is, clearly, her story from her perspective, for the most part. I really enjoyed how her voiceovers gave me regular access to her thought processes, raw, unpolished and imperfect as they are.
I found her inner monologues realistic; exactly the kind of thought processes I can imagine a real person going through. Because of this, I felt drawn into her world, and I felt like I understood her decisions, even if her thoughts sometimes seemed to border on the neurotic.
2. Kim Go Eun as Seol
I found Seol highly relatable because for the most part, she’s quite a typical introvert (like me!). I fully understood her desire to live life minding her own business, with minimal interaction with others outside her small but tight circle of friends.
Her introversion is why she often seems like a deer in headlights when stuff happens.
An introvert often needs to process stuff before acting, and while she’s processing, stuff’s already happening, and she often gets caught in unfortunate circumstances because of her relative slowness to react.
Through it all, her voiceovers color in her world with everything that she’s thinking, and I found it easy to understand her and relate with where she’s coming from.
Her emotional issues feel real and believable, and I couldn’t help but empathize with Seol’s weariness from living so hard, and her sense of unfairness at the various circumstances present in her life.
I love Kim Go Eun’s delivery as Seol, coz she makes Seol adorably awkward. As Seol, she flails a lot, and I found her delicately elegant hands quite captivating even as she does so.
Best of all, Kim Go Eun delivers Seol with layered nuance that feels organic and restrained; Seol’s quiet inner conflicts are expressed delicately in every silent blink of her eyes, and every quiet sigh. Really good, I thought.
3. Eun Taek & Bo Ra
Even though Bo Ra and Eun Taek (Park Min Ji and Nam Joo Hyuk) are relatively minor characters, I really enjoyed having them on my screen.
As Seol’s friends, they bring positive energy to the screen to balance out Seol’s muted, subdued energy. Plus, with Seol facing so many situations and people that seemed pitted against her, I liked that these two besties always had her back.
Best of all, I love that these two cuties had their own little loveline. It never becomes a very large plot point, but I really enjoyed their little romantic arc. I found these two exceedingly cute together, and I would love for them to get their own little spin-off show or something.
4. Seo Kang Joon as Baek In Ho
Prior to Cheese, I’d seen Seo Kang Joon in Cunning Single Lady and Beauty Inside, and both times, I hadn’t been all that impressed with his acting.
What a happy surprise, then, to find that he’s really quite good in Cheese, as Baek In Ho. Seo Kang Joon in Cheese is literally the best I’ve seen him.
Not only does he make In Ho likable, I believe his emotions, as In Ho. I was particularly impressed with Seo Kang Joon’s delivery of some of In Ho’s quieter, more vulnerable moments.
He plays In Ho’s times of tentative thoughtfulness and his poignant emotional journey very well.
Really nicely done, and I’m happy to say that I find myself warming up to Seo Kang Joon as an actor.
STUFF THAT ADDED UP TO NEUTRAL
1. Treatment of Yoo Jung’s character
First off, let me just state for the record that Park Hae Jin is fantastic as Jung. His delivery of Jung’s mysterious character is muted, unreadable and yet, undeniably layered.
It’s Park Hae Jin’s delivery that made me curious to know more about Jung and what makes him tick.
The fact that I didn’t run screaming from a male lead whose behavior seemed so cruel and disturbing is also thanks to Park Hae Jin imbuing Jung’s cryptic expressions with a touch of pathos.
Show also does a good job of making Jung a more sympathetic character over the course of its episodes, so that I rooted for him even though he demonstrated few signs of growth. In fact, I found Show’s positioning of Jung’s behavior intriguing and quite thought-provoking.
Even though Jung’s often portrayed as the “bad guy” who causes bad things to happen to other people, it occurred to me that Jung’s modus operandi, a lot of the time, is to act as a facilitator of sorts.
He doesn’t get involved personally, but he sets the stage so that the people involved act on the catalyst he provides. In that way, he only provides the opportunity for people to show their true colors.
However, it’s his intent behind the facilitator sort of role that can be disturbing. When he does the whole facilitator thing with Young Gon (Ji Yoon Ho) and Young Gon’s crush on Seol, it’s with dark intent.
With Seol and Min Soo (Yoon Ji Won), he basically creates a catalyst that forced a confrontation, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there is still a distinct tinge of dark intent towards Min Soo.
At the same time, it also occurred to me that the way Jung dishes out his attention as power play (like with In Ho and the other pianist in high school) reminds me of how a king might do the same. And that includes the roundabout politics.
Like how Jung reports the guys, in order to get them to gang up against In Ho, who then beat up In Ho without Jung having to lift a finger himself.
It’s brilliant, and is the stuff of court politics and kings. But, it’s also disturbing, because out of the context of a royal court, it’s manipulative and creepy. Still, it did give me pause, to consider if Jung simply had been born in the wrong era.
The upside of having a male lead like Jung, is that it messes with your mind, at least a little bit.
When his cold tendencies show up, they are unmistakable and quite troubling. Yet, when he’s warm, my instinct is to try to rationalize everything negative that came prior, so that I can like him freely, as a character.
It’s that constant internal dissonance that makes watching this show feel a bit like it’s messing with your mind, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it keeps the watch experience interesting.
Where Show’s treatment of Jung didn’t work for me, is in how our screen time with him essentially doesn’t evolve very much. We spend many episodes observing how different he is from other people, and how disturbing that can be.
However, we don’t ever get true visibility into his character. Even in the later episodes when Jung achieves some kind of personal insight and realizes he needs to change, he remains largely a cipher to us.
As a viewer, I was curious to know more about what was really going on, with Jung. I wanted to understand him better, and I wanted to root for him as he made that journey of self-discovery, healing and growth.
Because I was denied the opportunity to do that, I came out of my watch still feeling disconnected from Jung as a character.
2. Treatment of the OTP [MODERATE SPOILERS]
It’s actually refreshing to have Jung, the cold, aloof male lead, show interest and be proactive in pursuing his leading lady early in the show. In fact, Seol is the one who’s suspicious and hedges about allowing him close.
Yet, just 3 episodes in, Jung’s proactively seeking her out, which definitely makes this OTP feel different than the OTPs in most other dramas.
Another upside is, Jung and Seol are sweet and quite adorable when they are together and in a happy place, as evidenced by the screenshot above.
My struggle to get fully on board with this OTP lies largely in the fact that Show keeps Jung cryptic and mysterious for almost its entire run.
There are peeks into Jung’s inner conflicts, but those are fleeting and short-lived, and we spend the entire show not quite getting to know him properly. By extension, since the show is mostly told from Seol’s perspective, I felt like Seol didn’t know Jung very well either.
I also felt like I wasn’t ever really clear on why she wanted to go out with him, when she seemed to feel awkward around him more than anything else. Also, all the times we see Jung being cold makes his moments of being nice feel like the niceness could be an act, in a way.
By the end stretch of the show, we do see that Jung and Seol sincerely care about each other.
However, their inability to really be comfortable and truthful with each other made it feel like they were going on good faith and not much else. What made it worse, was that this OTP actually doesn’t spend much screen time together at all, in the overall scheme of things.
In this sense, I feel like this couple liked each other, but really barely knew each other, and that made it hard for me to invest myself properly, in their loveline.
WHAT FELT WEIRD
1. So many weirdos in this drama world
When you stop to think about it, there really are a lot of crazy-esque people in this drama world.
There’s In Ha (Lee Sung Kyung), who just always seems to be one flip-out short of losing her marbles. And there’s Stalker Boy Young Gon, who consistently legit looks like he’s losing his mind. And there’s Min Soo, who appears increasingly unhinged as the episodes progress.
All that, on top of Jung himself, who seems to almost have a dual personality thing going on, with his dark side and sweet side existing in the same body.
I honestly wish Show had fewer crazies in its wings, because it feels jarring, considering Show’s everyday, lived-in sort of feel. It feels like two very different worlds trying to coexist, and not succeeding very well.
2. Show’s shifting emphasis
Soon after the midway point, Show’s emphasis starts to shift. There’s a lot less of Jung on our screens, and more and more of In Ho’s and In Ha’s stories. The narrative flow feels weird and the overall balance, off-kilter, because we spend so little time with our male lead.
While I had little to no interest in In Ha, who made my blood boil more than anything, I actually found In Ho a sympathetic character. In that sense, I didn’t have an issue with In Ho’s arc per se, because I found him an interesting character.
In fact, I thought Show did a good job of making the characters feel real and textured.
It’s just, the balance was really wonky. I got distracted wondering why there was so little movement on Jung’s arc.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Overall, I don’t hate the ending.
For the record, I do find not seeing much of Jung in the final episode, and Jung having his growth journey off-screen, rather strange. But I rationalize that Seol’s been our narrator this whole time, and so this is a story from Seol’s point of view.
She doesn’t get to see Jung’s growth arc either, and so it sorta makes sense that we don’t get to see it either, since we are experiencing this story from her point of view.
This story and how it ends, is about her grappling with life and coming to terms with it, and living it, in the best way she knows how, even when she doesn’t always have the answers. When I look at it that way, I find that I can embrace this show’s ending a lot better.
Additionally, Show’s spent its entire run convincing me that Jung’s an extreme case who has serious difficulty understanding why people feel the way they do.
Because of this, I feel like I can buy that it takes something seriously bad happening to Seol, who’s made it into his heart, and his dad, who’s just like him, to treat him the way he’s treated others, for Jung to have an aha moment.
And therefore, I take back any eye-rolling that I might’ve done, when Seol landed in that accident at the end of episode 15.
Admittedly, I found Show’s treatment of In Ha overly indulgent, since by the end, she’s still loud, screechy, and demanding, and yet, she gets a happy-ever-after of sorts, with a guy who is crazy about her in spite of her distinct brand of crazy.
I thought that was way too generous of Show, really. In the last stretch, In Ha did have her flashes of pathos, but I’d have rather seen her more noticeably mellowed out, in Show’s final minutes.
Once I get past Show’s, er, unconventional choices in terms of where we leave our characters, though, I actually liked the themes it leaves us with.
In episode 15, the theme of “you reap what you sow” shows up pretty strongly:
In Ha’s terrible behavior coming back to bite her, when she finally gets cut off; Jung’s manipulation coming back to bite him when In Ha pushes Seol into oncoming traffic; Jung’s father, eating the fruit of years of manipulation, with an alienated son; In Ho, suffering from an inflammation in his hand, for allowing his anger to get the better of him.
Like it or not, our decisions shape our lives, and this episode was a showcase of where our characters’ decisions have taken them.
In the final episode, there’s also a strong theme of living with your choices, and living without regrets. Of choosing to embrace your choices, even if they bring you pain along the way, and treating that as part of growing up.
All in all, the ending’s got an open-ended indie feel about it, with lashings of contemplative hope and sprinkles of spark. Importantly, I rather like the hopeful note on which we leave Seol, and that counts for a fair bit towards how I feel, leaving this show.
Certainly, this show could’ve been better in a lot of ways.
We could’ve seen Jung’s development. We could’ve had a proper happy, hopeful ending with Seol and Jung reuniting in the present on our screens, instead of via a flashback.
We could’ve spent less time on the second leads. Ultimately, though, this show chose what it wanted to be, for reasons that will probably remain a mystery to us.
The question, though, is, when all is said and done, can it stand on its own, as a vehicle for the story it wanted to tell?
In my estimation, I’d say Show did ok, even though its choices upset a lot of viewers. The silver lining is, for better or for worse, Show’s choosing to live with and embrace its choices, so at the very least, I give it props for walking its talk.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A solid if sometimes bemusing watch, if you’re able to keep a (very) open mind about Show’s narrative decisions.
FINAL GRADE: B-
This must be the first show in which I was really not on board with the OTP. I usually enjoy second lead syndrome, but take it for what it is: a way of making the female lead more shiny and the male lead express his love through some degree of jealousy. Here I just felt that the second lead was just always the better choice. He had more humour, more swagger, more spark…
The male lead’s journey was interesting, but as many have pointed out, it failed to be as nuanced as it should have been, making us feel somewhat unsatisfied with the final product. His manipulative tactics never ever felt justified, not even slightly, not even when the show wanted me to believe they were or that the male lead had a point…
The best thing of this show was Seo Kang Jun with his beautiful micro expressions and his incredible presence. I’m watching everything he’s in and I’m impressed. He’s definitely my latest crush 😍.
This show’s biggest problem was that the main guy (who was sociopathic, let’s be completely honest) just got to walk away without consequence so many freakin times. And the biggest and worst thing that happened to him DIDN’T EVEN HAPPEN TO HIM. It happened to his girlfriend. His bad actions were never corrected by anyone who loved him (gf or dad). He was forgiven and bailed out over and over again even though he caused so much pain. That’s enabling. It’s terrible.
In-Ha, on the other hand, fought back when people were deliberately causing her harm and then she was forcefully admitted to a psych ward and was separated from her brother. The ones who were manipulating and playing her got bored and decided to just throw her away. I’m very glad she found happiness at the end. She deserved it. And yes, maybe she was still acting spoiled and she was still loud, but that’s okay. She is finally getting genuine love for once in her life. And I really don’t think that guy she ended up with would just let her steamroll over him. It’s good.
Gosh..this is still active after four years? We all knew what happened. Soonki (the webtoon writer) said the production stop discussing with her for the second part of the drama. They did apologize after that, but the damage has been made. Jung’s character just turned into a psychopath and received so much hate. I honestly think no one can bring justice to the character better than Park Hae Jin. He did all the takes, and not absent as some speculated, but the director cuts his parts without informing him. This is the production’s problems not the actors. They have done a very good job for their parts. Seol never had any feeling towards In-ho in the first place but they tried so hard to push a love triangle cliche which made many fans of the webtoon angry and the Chinese media labeled this drama as Piano in the Trap. I wish in another parallel universe, they do follow the webtoon and bring justice to this masterpiece.
Like you, I watched the show knowing that there was a problem with the ending – although I had avoided spoilers enough so as not to know what that problem was.
The thing is, being spoiled and all, I really appreciated the show. It was well made, well directed, well directed, and well written for 2/3 of its episodes. And it really did manage to mess with our heads, like it intended. Shoud we love or hate Jeong? Was he a real sociopath or just someone lacking social skills? Did Seol see him for the crazy guy he really was or was she prejudiced by listening to people who really were no angels themselves (including Baek In Ho who was a real jerk back in the days…)?
In my view, Jeong (great acting by Park Hae Jin) had real issues and it is a good thing that he realises that and just goes away to deal with that (assuming that is what he did). He was not boyfriend material and Seol (I just loved her Kim Go Eun in this one) deserved better than that. And I wasn’t opposed to the ending either, assuming that the guy went out to get better and some years after presumably decided to give it a second chance or at least try?
The thing is that all that is assumption on our part, because in reality it feels that Park Hae Jin had something else to do or somewhere else to be when they were shooting the last 3-4episodes and just disappeared from the script. We saw him now and then but he was not really there. So this is why there was so much disappointment in this show. It kind of forgot who its first male lead was. Too bad, because otherwise it would have been a top show.
Hi Natalia, glad you managed to enjoy this one, despite the questionable ending. You’re so right; all the rationalization we can do to make the ending work better, is all assumption on our part. In effect, it does feel like Park Hae Jin was just unavailable – even though he was. Very strange narrative choices by the writer, and it does make one wonder at what really went on behind the scenes, to lead to such a weird neglect of Show’s male lead. 🤔😅
Can a woman who’s instincts are upped against a guy fall for him? As a believer in instincts, I felt this was highly improbable. I couldn’t help binge watch this series because of such an unusual plot. As a viewer, I watched out for Hong Seol and wished her to be safe and as the story developed, like Hong seol , I too believed Jung Yoo is bad at explaining himself but intends well. As Jung Yoo grew to be more and more magnetic and their bonding deepened, and Park Hae Jin made Jung Yoo likeable, the fact that Jung Yoo sent a stalker to her when he previously disliked her was truly disturbing. For a good number of starting episodes I couldn’t clearly make a distinction in Hong Seol’s feelings for Jung Yoo and Baek In ho as probably the story was intended. Given the unpredictability air around Jung Yoo, it wouldn’t have felt odd if she was still undecided inside her head.
As much you try to understand that it is unnerving if some stranger figures out your personality flaw, but to hold so much animosity about it was unreasonable. For that reason I was wishing Hong Seol ends up with Baek In ho who is much more understanding of her and protective of her.Same about Jung’s relationship with Baek In ho. Baek In ho’s tattling behind his back was unintentional and not betraying enough to hold so much grudge with no sign of guilt on Jung Yoo’s part or even a bit of compassion left for In Ho. It was too much that in the end Baek In ho had to profoundly apologize for his sister’s actions instead of expecting an apology. That reduced Baek In Ho’s character from Jung Yoo’s superior competitor to a nobody. I felt sorry for the gay couple too. What right Jung Yoo had to separate them? It almost felt he was secretly homophobic even though it wasn’t clear.
I couldn’t believe Seol is the Goblin Girl..She is a completely different person here. Also the annoying In Ha is our charming Weightlifting fairy!! They both acted geniously.
Between, anyone else find any similarity between these two actors, Seo Kang Joon and Jo Jung Suk? More than looks, I feel they have the same mannerism. I googled if they are related and I saw a clip from the movie, My love,my bride in which they are together in there for one scene. Together too, they seemed so alike.
The end episode did not give proper closure because even though Jung Yoo looked remorseful, he did not try to correct whom he had wronged. It ended up giving an uneasy feel. So much intense watching went unrewarded. A proper closure was needed for such an intriguing story.
I really love the drama and the lines of why, the open end was not as I thought. I believe they should’ve been reunited after 3 years.😪💔
It’s been a while since I watched this show, but if memory serves me right, I think the open end is for us as viewers to interpret as we like, which means to say that it’s completely plausible that they’re reunited after 3 years. The only thing, of course, is that they’re not reunited on our screens, played out for us to enjoy. That was a sneaky move on Show’s part, I do agree. 😛
I just finished this drama and loved it. As always, your review is spot on. The performances in this show were so good, and the bad stuff was unfortunate but always carried the story along. Excellent review, and looking for more dramas like this one.
Thanks for enjoying the review, momkhm! <3 Show's negatives did add up to a rather odd narrative journey, but it was still worth the watch, for the excellent performances and the way Show provoked thought. If you're looking for something a little unusual in its narrative journey (in that lots of people hated it but I liked it a lot), have you tried The Third Charm? 🙂
1. So many weirdos in this drama world
When you stop to think about it, there really are a lot of crazy-esque people in this drama world. There’s In Ha (Lee Sung Kyung), who just always seems to be one flip-out short of losing her marbles. And there’s Stalker Boy Young Gon, who consistently legit looks like he’s losing his mind. And there’s Min Soo, who appears increasingly unhinged as the episodes progress…..
As for the cast,
In my reading of this one of the reasons this show works at all is this story structure. Birds of a feather DO flock together. There is not a large volume of mal-adjusted people in this series. There are two families with similar trust and communication/honesty issues colliding here. She is pulled to him by the dysfunctional lifestyle of Jung’s family being familiar to her because of the similar lifestyle she was reared in. The peripheral characters all expressed difficulty communicating with the two leads at about a similar level.
The story for me is a masterpiece carefully rafted and works like a swiss watch. One piece more, one piece less and nothing fits together.
As to the ending,
True to life, a person must leave all contact with these surroundings to attain more maturity, and each of the major characters did this. In a way this is a medieval European “morality Play” brought into the 21st century dealing with recently recognized conditions. People like these do not change until they withdraw from the contacts which reaffirm their life rolls and, after suitable time has passed, reach out and reconnect with the world. I see this with both of the In family as well as the main couple. They all grew in the direction of Bo-ra and her significant other who seemed to exist to foreshadow a happiest possible ending. Will they all stay together? Possibly, probably not if the only connection was their shared dysfunctionality. Love is hard to find, and cannot be held, only enjoyed.
Thanks for sharing your insights, Lionel.. very refreshing to read, and you present some very interesting perspectives indeed. I agree that if the only connection between our characters is their shared dysfunction, then it’s unlikely that they will stay together. I love your last sentence about love being something that one cannot hold, but can only enjoy. How poetic, and how wise. <3
Dear Kfangirl, your perception is astounding. I am a poet.[not really published anywhere major] LOL I started UNI as premed but fell in live with the written and spoken word. Mind you language studies lead nowhere and folklore even less so. I followed my heart Love of anything is hard to find.
I actually really started to hate this show towards the end. His behavior is in fact socio/psychopathic. As someone who dated someone with this personality I was really disappointed at how this show makes such a person endearing and appealing. Being in relationship with someone who cannot show and/or feel emotion is truly awful. They do things without understanding or caring how it affects you or others. Some of them are actually incapable of empathy. Having studied such people for my profession, it is saddening to me to think that women would think this kind of guy is appealing. And rationalizing his behavior is in fact part of being in an abusive manipulative relationship. I was so hoping Seol ended up with Inho because even if he was rebellious, he had true emotions and empathy. Super disappointed in this show. Least favorite of the kdramas I’ve watch so far.
There were obviously great things in the show like you mentioned, but gosh…I just hate that his behavior was rationalized and excused despite its unhealthiness.
You’re so right, Sophie. Jung’s behavior was not at all healthy, and it’s troubling that a drama would rationalize his behavior and make him an appealing love interest. It’s like the amped up version of all the domineering-jerks-who-get-reformed-by-love trope, just much worse, because we don’t see him being transformed at all, really. As a story, this was uneven as well. I didn’t hate it when I watched it, but now, with a more discerning lens available to me, I’m thinking I’d be a lot less patient with this one, as well. :/
So, apparently I like watching controversial shows, because I watched this soon after The Smile Has Left Your Eyes! I knew it was kind of controversial but I didn’t know the details of the controversy nor have I read the content of the actual webtoon. I came in just knowing that 1) the plot sounded interesting, that this previously mean and cold senior was suddenly nice to our female lead and 2) somewhere along the way our male lead would have lesser screen time.
So, my thoughts on this show is purely based on its own merits, putting aside the Park Hae-jin controversy and the webtoon content:
– Technically, it was very, very, very, very well done. Props to the cinematographer, costume designer, writer (in the beginning!) and the music director or whoever selected the soundtrack. There were so many gorgeous scenes (especially with the fallen leaves?? and a couple of scenes where Yoo-jung was looking threatening in the first few episodes) The outfits were perfect. I want all their clothes, haha. The writing was so thoughtful in the beginning. I also generally like slice-of-life shows, so that worked well for me. And the OST – I love it. I love it. I love it. I didn’t expect an indie-ish OST, so many dramas have the typical big ballads or the chirpy upbeat songs, but the music really set the mood and tone for the show and undergirded the thoughtful writing. I’ve been listening to it during my workday (it actually works very well as office workday background music!)
– The acting was good throughout, I would say. Even our love-to-hate Baek In-ha was very well acted by Lee Sun Kyung, in the quieter moments when she showed her vulnerable side. The 4 main characters were generally nuanced very well by the actors. Also, YES to Kim Go Eun’s delicate hands with the thin thumb/ finger rings. I’ve only seen her in Goblin and I didn’t like her that much in that show, but she was amazing in this.
– Bo-ra and Eun-taek were so cute. I really enjoyed seeing them together.
– The beginning, when Jung was chasing Seol, was quite cracky.
– I was actually ok with the midway switch to focus on Baek In-ho and his journey. Perhaps it helped that when I watched it on netflix, the poster was of the Yoo Jung, Seol and In-ho together, so it subconsciously showed me that he would be a key player in the show. He had a compelling journey to take, and I liked his easy camaraderie with Seol. Sometimes I even rooted for him and Seol, since they had such a nice chemistry while she and Jung were awkward and he was so…mysterious, unreadable and honestly not there at all. If Seol was my friend, I would not encourage her to be with Jung and tell her to consider In-ho! BUT, it became a bit too much. Towards the end I fast-forwarded through the piano playing bits – yes, Show, I know his hand is injured and he may not be able to play during the concert and will not be able to pay off his debt. You don’t have to show it over and over again.
– There were WAY TOO MANY CRAZIES. I totally agree with you on that. For a slice-of-life show, that was… too drama for me. So unrealistic. But honestly Jung’s manipulation was quite fun to watch, because these characters were just too crazy and I couldn’t wait to get rid of them.
– Really did not like the car accident. But I can understand that it is to service Jung’s growth, when he saw how cold his father was and how he was becoming like that. I just wish there was a better way to do it rather than having a car accident. What a shame. I thought showing his backstory, the past with the Baek siblings and growing up with such a cold father, was really good and helped me to understand Jung. Just that it was shoehorned in all towards the back and was not properly paced.
– Seol facing bad colleagues in her job – irritating, but realistic. I wanted her to have a happier life! But this is reality, so I was ok with it.
– The ending (the email being read and the flashback) – irritating, because we wanted to see them reunite, but I was still ok with it. This show, at its best, was subtle. This was a nice nod to that subtlety. Just that I really missed seeing them together!
– My major issue with this show #1: I wish they had shown Jung’s growth throughout the show rather than dropping him midway, suddenly bringing him back and giving him an epiphany during the last episode. And then he goes off to grow offstage????!!!! That is terrible writing!!! Probably due to all the behind-the-scenes drama but STILL. Where is the nuanced, beautiful writing and characterisation I was given in the beginning?!!?!?
– My major issue with this show #2: the sudden “reconciliation” between Jung and In-ho. Suddenly Jung packs his house and decides to give In-ho the autographed score, they thanked each other, In-ho even apologised, Jung gets his lawyer to clear In-ho’s debt? WHERE DID THAT COME FROM???? Jung’s growth, Seol’s growth were not done very well but at least there was a little bit of that. This reconciliation (or beginnings of reconciliation), to me, came out of nowhere. They were so ready to fight and almost kill each other and … Huh?? I thought they still hated each other.
The pacing and plotting is the key issue for me. It tried to promise a love story of a couple growing together, showed their flaws and issues (and kept going round and round), then suddenly switched to another character’s growth, then suddenly switched back to the couple but threw in some deux-ex-machina plot, suddenly remembering “hey we need Jung to grow!” and then showing a little bit of growth on screen, but the throwing the bulk of it offscreen. Sigh.
Honestly, I really really liked this show. I can see why CiTT fans hated the show because it did such a disservice to Yoo Jung’s character. Oh well. What a shame, it was so well done.
Heh. You DO seem to like checking out controversial shows, my dear! 😆
Overall, it sounds like you had a fairly smooth watch, since the things that made most viewers mad didn’t make you mad. 😉 I absolutely agree with your 2 big beefs with this show.. it was narratively a cop-out to have so much happen to Jung offscreen, and my only rationalization is that since it’s a story from Seol’s point of view, she wouldn’t have known what was going on with Jung. But that’s a pretty lame defense, honestly. Show could’ve done A LOT better. The sudden reconciliation was as out of nowhere as Jung’s offscreen growth, so I feel you on that one! I’m realizing that good writing is important to me, and the overall story did not smack of good writing to me, unfortunately. 😛
If you’re up for another controversial show, you might want to consider The Third Charm (have you seen that? I can’t recall). Most folks HATE the show with a passion, but I liked it a lot. And I’m curious to see if you’ll love it or hate it. 😉
Yes! I can tell you’re on a clearing comments spree! I will simplify it by just replying to one so it’s easier for you, thought I assure you I’ve read (and appreciate) all your replies!
Haha yes I was into controversial shows then! But now I’m watching In Time With You – it seems universally loved so I should be safe? I am now 3 episodes into it and I’m loving it. Li Da Ren is the sweetest friend and guy alive! ❤️❤️❤️❤️! Though I’ll probably say more when I am done with the show. Thanks too for all the recommendations! I love thoughtfully written shows (as you can tell, good writing is probably the most important thing to me) so Be Melo Miss Granny My Beautiful Life and all your other recommendations are on my list of shows to watch. I haven’t watched The Third Charm! I will let you know what I think of it. I have watched Your Name (twice!) and love it to bits both times.
OSTs – I don’t imagine you need very technical music knowledge (though I’m sure it helps). It would certainly be an interesting post though!
Thanks for all your hard work writing and replying to the many many comments! We (this community of commenters) love you!! ❤️❤️❤️
Eee!! YAY that you’re loving In Time With You, MC! I had a feeling you’d like it! 😀 And YES, Li Da Ren is the sweetest darling alive. ❤😍
Hi5 my dear.. I’ve also realized that good writing is probably the most important thing to me too.. Even if an actor or actress I like is in a show, I can’t get myself to the finish line if the writing isn’t solid. I used to be able to watch crap for a bias (see Heirs and Kim Woo Bin), but that ended abruptly (with Uncontrollably Fond and Kim Woo Bin, ha!), and now I just can’t do it anymore. Story now comes first for me; a well-written story is so important, and I wish more productions understood that.
YAY that you’re putting all the shows on your list! I’m just happy to know that you’ll be giving them a chance to win you over. Pro tip on The Third Charm: don’t be misled by the title or the cutesy teasers. It’s more of a coming-of-age melo than a rom-com. 😉
MWAH! Love ya back! ❤
Haha! I can NOT watch a show for a bias. I’ve tried a few, for example Blood for Ahn Jae Hyun but I could barely finish ep 1 before dropping. Hahah I read your Uncontrollably Fond review so I understand. And YES I have finished In Time With You and have left a majorly long comment as usual! Love youuuu!
HAHA! I love that you’ve learned this lesson early, MC! It took me a long time (and several bias casualties, boo) for me to finally realize that I just don’t have it in me to watch a bad show for a bias. 😝😆
thanks for sharing your reviews..:)
Glad you’re enjoying them! 🙂
Oh you poor dear. In the real world, we don’t call Jung a king; we call him a sociopath.
This series glamorizes manipulative men so they become appealing to girls. “I can change him with true love” Yeeech!
Yes, Jung is not a king in the real world. Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear. I meant that his behavior in a sageuk would appear shrewd; it’s the stuff that we see in sagueks, of courts and kings. But you’re right, it sociopathic in the real world.
I just finished this, and was feeling a little disturbed. Hurried in to read the review that I avoided until I finished it. *phew* I feel better just knowing you felt the same way about the turns in this. It had a sort of strange taste, with this silent stress level all the way through, and a different sort of psychosis for how characters dealt with their feelings. I felt like Kim Go Eun actually had better chemistry with Seo Kang Joon, it was more natural and warm in terms of chemistry, but still hoped Seol would make it work with Jeong. The last tidbit felt like a dangling line, and why weren’t the other emails read? They should have done a special, but I guess that would have been too straightforward and traditional and not matched the mood of the drama. oh well, hmph 🙂 It was still worth the watch. Seo Kang Joon definitely improved his acting skill, since I saw him in Cunning Single Lady. As for Park Hae Jin, I was trying to remember where I’d seen him before, I didn’t even remember him in My Love From Another Star, either. Turns out he was co-male-lead with LJS in Doctor Stranger, no wonder! Very respectable acting 🙂 Lee Sung Kyung was over the top for most of the show, but I saw some really good moments. Having seen WFKBJ first, it took some getting used to. Nam Joo Hyuk had a smaller role here, but he was still endearing, though not super memorable. As for Kim Go Eun, she had more character depth built into this character, compared to her role in Goblin. I think her acting is very honest. Overall, enjoyed the show well enough. Thanks for a great review!
Glad you enjoyed the review, lyricalpeach!! And glad to know that we felt similarly about this show – it always helps to know we’re not alone!
Totally agree that Seo Kang Joon was much better in this than in Cunning Single Lady. I felt quite indifferent to him in CSL, but found him more engaging in this. I feel kind of bad for him, because lots of CITT fans were upset with the narrative focus on his character. I agree the narrative felt lopsided, but that’s a writing issue and not a delivery one, so I feel that he did the best he could with what he was given.
I found Lee Sung Kyung very OTT in this too, so I am sure it took some serious getting used to, if you were coming in from Weightlifting Fairy!! I’m glad for her that she had the chance to do WF, despite the low ratings. It showed us a much more real, relatable side to her, which we don’t get to see with these kind of psychotic side characters that she’s played. 🙂
Yoo Jung: I don’t get mad, I get even. In psychology, this is called passive aggresive behaviour.
I liked watching this drama. The actors were cast perfectly. They were able to portray their characters to a tee.
Overall, for me it was In-ho that was the real victim in all this. Because of Seol and her family, he strived to be better and live well but he got caught up in between everybody else’s problems. I was glad that in the end, Seol’s family was understanding of him. That was the most touching part for me.
Thanks as always for your insightful review.
You know what, boink, it’s possible that your relatively new kdrama eyes helped you enjoy this drama more than the average viewer. As a relative newbie, you had fewer expectations and fewer ingrained kdrama instincts, so to speak, and that probably helped you keep a more open mind with the way the story developed and flowed. I’ve been told by some, that they liked this drama a lot more on their second viewing. While I’m not about to watch this one again to test the theory, it does tell me that there may be more to this drama than first meets the eye. Glad you enjoyed this one the first time around! 🙂
Watched the show for Hae Jin. Though I enjoyed his acting, I kept thinking he was old for the role. The best thing that happened to me here is Seo Kang Joon. Love his treatment of In Ho, so believable. I thought I’ve never seen him before but a look at his filmography reveals I’ve seen him here and there. This must be the break he needed. Hope he gets more good projects. On a side note, is it only me or does he really share that vibe Lee Min Ki had in Shut up Flower Boy Band?
Park Hae Jin does lean a little old to be playing a college student, but I thought he did a good job of the role, all things considered. I also thought Seo Kang Joon did a solid job. I wasn’t overly impressed when I first saw him in Cunning Single Lady, but I thought he did much better in CITT. I loved Lee Min Ki’s intensity in Shut Up – and I don’t think Seo Kang Joon is quite there yet. But he’s doing well, and definitely up and coming! 🙂
Oh yes Hae Jin did a good job. Read a summary of the webtoon and his counterpart was more mysterious there. No clues as whether he did things or not. That would be a boring character I guess and thanks to Hae Jin he allowed us a little peek into the character’s views and feelings. I think it’s because of that that I’m not complaining bout the latter part.
“It’s brilliant, and is the stuff of court politics and kings. But, it’s also disturbing, because out of the context of a royal court, it’s manipulative and creepy”
With regards to jung, I belive that he actually learn it from his father, somehow. His father is a successful in his business and I don’t believe it’s not entirely by luck. In the end, the way how his father treat In ha so that his company wouldn’t get affected says something about him too. Jung did mentioned that he is in many way similar to his father.
Only when Jung grow older and take over his father’s business his manipulative characteristic will be useful.
Also, Jung wants to show his fathe rhis good side, he wants compliment. However, Jung knew that he wouldn’t get it unless he hide his personality. As such he has been putting on that facade since young. Also, he knows that if he get angry with anything, his father will disapprove it. Therefore, he has to release his anger in his own way.
To add on, Jung is really smart since young. He just need to be put into the right path.
The above is dedicated to Jung.
About the OTP
I feel that the flow of how Jung falls in love with seol is not well clarified. It’s definitely not a love at first sight. It’s obvious that her text message is less important than the game he is playing. Afterwards, he said that he thought that the both of them are the same but they are not. They are the opposite of each other. So, how does he fall in love with her afterwards? I have been pondering that question as I was watching the drama.
There are a lot of small things that seol has been doing to show the relationship she has with Jung. Something to point out is in most scenes where Jung is waiting for seol to finish her lesson or as such, seol would run to him. It shows how anticipated seol is and how also that seol has always been the one making the move, to get closer to him and understand him. No matter what he has done, she has always been trying to understand him and relate it to how he was treated since young(most people around him are with motive).
However, Jung makes little effort to understand seol or to make himself a better person for seol.
What Jung has been doing throughout the show is to manipulate people that harm seol. Even till the end, he didn’t really share his emotion or feeling with seol or tell her anything about himself. (In one of the episode where they fought and seol went to his house telling him that she wants him to tell her what he is thinking about or his real emotion eg. he hates it that she is close with in ho etc.)
Even though there are improvement for Jung from the start to the end of the show but he might need more time or to be more involve in everything to grow. (as he was having internship so it’s hard for him to get involve in things that has been happening to seol)
Only if they cut down on the second male lead parts … (I believe that they totally don need to feature him and the piano all the time). There are other ways which is also shorter to bring across the Second Male lead character.
The writers can actually portray more of Jung and let him grow even before the finale so that the ending can be much better.
Many say the ending is not bad since he did read the email in the end. However, time has changed. I believe that seol will somehow change too (Even if they did try to bring in seol best friend and her colleagues, trying to say/prove that seol is still the same. She will still reject any set-up/blind dates. She will still stay up all night to help her colleagues with their stuff. She is still the same seol.)
But she is now 3 years older than before. Things will definitely change. Also, Jung will change too. He wants to be better so that he can love her properly. But how is he going to do that? He will have to be different from before. While he is changing to be a different man and go back to seol, Seol will have to go thru another round of torture and time to adapt to the new him. No? Seol might try her best (most likely seol will give it a try since she has been so diligent since young) and fail or succeed in the end. I would believe that they might break up again. Since they have fail their relationship once, who says that it wouldn’t happen twice.
I definitely see your points on the OTP as well, Elaine. In fact, I won’t even attempt to defend CITT, in the face of your points. 🙂
I didn’t love the show, even from the beginning, but perhaps because of that, I didn’t hate the ending either. I guess the important thing, for me, is to know that CITT isn’t a showcase of what an ideal romance or healthy romance should look like. It’s clearly about a bunch of very flawed, very damaged people trying to figure out their way in life. Some of the decisions they make will inevitably be unwise and far from ideal. Looking at it from that perspective, I am able to accept CITT as a narrative that tells the story of these people, but that doesn’t attempt to make a judgment about whether their actions are an ideal standard, if that makes sense. Most kdramas (though not all) tend to portray what is perceived to be some sort of ideal – ideal loyalty, ideal romance – and it’s clear that the shows themselves are making some kind of judgment, if you will, in terms of what is desirable and what is not.
In the case of CITT, I felt that that judgment of right and wrong was purposefully avoided. Looking at it that way, I was much more able to accept the story for what it was. Just sharing my perspective, in case it helps 🙂
Yes, I think you’re right, Elaine.. Jung probably learned a lot of his behaviors from his father. Also, if memory serves, the show also indicates that his father noticed Jung taking after him in significant ways, which is why he thought to bring Jung new siblings by adopting In Ho and In Ha. So yes, Jung clearly took after his father too much, and didn’t get the guidance that he needed.
Amazingly how so many folks find In ho’s interruptions and feeding of negative info about Jung to Seol cute. He was annoying at best and one dimensional. He did not have any interest in Seol as a person until he found her in a relationship with Jung and then it became his obsession to break them up. Fortunately, Seol did not fall for his antics. He was indeed selfish to the point that he did not care for his sister; why leave your sister in a situation that you yourself find uncomfortable and hopeless.
He finally got a good ending when he wasn’t even supposed to be so focused. The drama was not independent because it was based on a manga and borrowed extensively from it; therefore, In ho’s behavior was an interruption to the OTP’s growth and development because his minor issue received more focus that the OTP. I hated the drama for that although it was a good drama until then.
Oh, I get what you mean! I didn’t think In Ho’s interruptions etc were cute either. And the sudden shift of the story to focus so much time on In Ho did feel rather odd. I thought more time could’ve been spent on the main characters – especially Jung. Or at least Seol, since she was our main narrator.
You spoke my mind. the show started to go wrong with In Ho taking the key scenes and In Ho’s character becoming less violent, more soft and likeable and In Ho and his (frankly juvenile) problems taking centre stage right after the holiday break. Turned cheese in the trap into a trash
I found that I WANTED to hate this show, but didn’t. I finished it and almost threw my computer out of the window in anger, then spent the next few days telling everyone how much I hated it. But. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I thought and I thought and I thought some more, until eventually a long weekend came around and I just sat down to rewatch it. Then, wow. The rewatch was incredible. Seeing the whole thing again after understanding the truth of the past between In Ho and Yoo Jung was mindblowing. Just being able to see the tiny nuances in Yoo Jung’s expression or the way that he altered his body language shows that he understood his character right from the start.
I actually love that you don’t get to understand him fully, and that neither does Seol. He is complex, and there is a distance about him that needs to be fixed before they can truely be together. That’s the main reason why I believed their relationship, too. She is equal parts fascinated by and terrified of him. Such an obsession can only and inevitably lead to a spiral of destruction, which is why the ending had to happen the way that it did. I hated the final episode, but after turning it over in the back of my mind for several weeks, I now have to admit that while it may not have been the ending I wanted for the characters, it was the one that they deserved, and the one that they needed.
Seol needed to remove herself from a relationship that was, in essence, unhealthy. She went for Yoo Jung in the end because he is charismatic, handsome, kept her off balance and, most importantly, because there is something hard to resist about a man who’s pursuing you (provided that he doesn’t cross over into stalker territory). She had revised her initial opinion of him, then re-revised it, then excused stuff to herself, then confused herself with pseudo-logic, and was finally just holding on because he was there, and he loved her, and no matter how awkward their interactions could be she was just drawn to him. So, she needed that time away from him, to get over her addiction and to be able to start again in a more healthy manner. Because he is coming back! The last few seconds of the last episode show that. And as angry as I initially was, I later realised that that was exactly the right way to end that show. Jung was messed up, Seol is tired, their relationship was confusing and they are both coming into this with intense baggage in their pasts. But the show leaves us with hope. There is potential, there are possibilities, and in the end, that’s exactly what the characters and we the audience deserve.
I understand that some people would have instantly loved this show, just as others would have instantly hated it, but I’d recommend a rewatch to anyone who’s unsure of their feelings. This is definitely a show that you get more out of on the second time round.
Exactly my thought! There are times that I got confused if I love or hate Yoo Jung’s personality , though I hate Seol getting all these attention from him, haha! For once I want to be in Seol’s place. But yeah, this drama is worth watching.
Thanks for sharing your very interesting experience with this show, Rachel!! I’ve had similar experiences before, where I disliked a show on my first watch, but loved it on my second watch. Of course, it’s highly unusual for anyone to go back for a second viewing after not loving a show the first time, but in your case, I can totally see why you decided to give this one another chance.
I agree that Park Hae Jin’s performance is excellent in Cheese. I don’t have the benefit of a full rewatch like you did, but in writing this review, I did revisit earlier episodes, and I get the nuance and shades of meaning you’re referring to. Impressive stuff indeed. Your experience is further proof that context truly is everything. 🙂
I hate the ending! 🙁
Aw. You’re not alone, rizz! Lots of fans disliked the ending of the show. I happened to not mind the ending, but that probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was behind everyone else on this one, and therefore had the time to adjust my expectations before I got to the end. Hugs. Maybe the movie will be better? 🙂
I really do not know where to begin. You know when you want to travel but you do not want to take a big bag so you are forced to squeeze everything in one small bag? Yah that was CITT for me. I kept screaming in my head where are they hurrying to? I mean we have seen much longer dramas to the end. It was too many stories too little projection. So much so that they never really allowed us to enjoy jung and seol or give them solid space to grow. This drama despite it flaws is still one of my best k dramas ever *gasp* I know!.I loved how they portrayed people and having your own identity and wanting to be understood by others, the desire for true friendship.i loved a lot of the relationships like I could relate with seol and her family because been from Africa boys are generally seen as the ones who have to rep family and obsess about success. also yoo jung and his dad relationship was so realistic with his father’s strictness and high expectation of him even as a child his inability to be as loud,playful and expressive as other normal children due to his father’s strictness with him forced to device another channel of expressing his anger and dissatisfaction. this showed how our parents actions really had a huge part in our lives. PHJ was amazing. a lot of times I got myself thinking is this guy a psycho or not. Jung for me was a bit of a narcissist he liked to play ‘god’ and yes I felt he saw himself as better than everyone else. with people always treating Yung like a prince plus his I am better than you syndrome Seol continuing disdain was one of the things that made him start to chase her since she wasn’t sucking up to him. The early start in seol n Jungs relationship was definitely a highlight. Even if seol was uncomfortable around Jung I found it quite nice that seol said yes immediately he asked out,for me it made her feel like a regular girl (I mean do you see the Yoo Jung package) I mean he is a very handy boyfriend material he fine, he smart, he rich and lecturers actually love him as a college student I know that’s handy plus he was now been real nice to her. For me I saw the couple get a little closer after every fight which was cool. I loved Bora and Eun Teak. Inho not so much. This drama although not similar gave me a kind of Love Rain and Mary stayed out all night feel. I just wish they kinda showed Yung and Seol reconciliation I mean the dude dumped her for 3 years. For me this dramas good outweigh the bad by far.
Aw, I can totally feel your love-but-hate-but-love for this show, raspberry! XD I’m glad you still retain so much love for the show in spite of how it ultimately was disappointing in some major ways.
I agree that it manages to bring out the real-ness of its characters, and it has a bit of that indie feel that Love Rain and Mary Stayed Out All Night. If I’m comparing to those shows, then I do think CITT is the most solid show of the three. I’m with you on wishing the show had made time to show us Jung and Seol’s reconciliation. Not only that, I do wish they’d shown us Jung’s journey of growth, even if it had been in the form of a highlight reel. To have all of his growth happen off-screen was an odd choice, I thought. Still a solid show, even though we all mourn the could’ve-beens..
I started watching Cheese in the trap, because I read so many good reviews about it. So I’m surprised when you mention bad reviews. It’s a few months since I watched. i think It was the first episode, and maybe the second or just some of it. Now the reviews I had read, mostly on a particular website, what a great show it was. I can’t remember what I thought of it, but I certainly think it was
a great show. It wasn’t even one of those, where I just had to next episode straight away.
But I thiink was was more interesting stuff, not from asia at the time.
Hi there Martin! I feel like lots and lots of people loved Cheese in the Trap in its earlier stretch. Many of my drama friends loved it enough to rewatch episodes while waiting for new episodes to come out. It’s just that the show’s focus took an unusual turn which threw a lot of people, particularly fans of the webtoon. But, I do think that watching it without any preconceived expectations that it needs to fit into a certain storytelling mold, would help a viewer to enjoy the story more, unusual narrative choices notwithstanding. I was able to manage my expectations so that I didn’t hate the ending, but from what I know, most folks were upset with this one. Maybe I just happen to hang out in different corners of the interwebs than you? XD
These would be reviews I’d read on mydrama list some months ago.
I see different views now.
Ah yes, that does make sense. A lot of people very much loved Cheese in the Trap in its earlier episodes. Which probably explains why the upset reaction towards its later episodes is so intense. I guess when you really love something, the disappointment and anger that arises due to spoilage of the awesome naturally tends to be as intent as the love that preceded it. 😛
Is that something to with the source material.
Apparently not, as I’ve read that the show doesn’t really follow the source material. Also, the source webtoon hasn’t even been completed yet, from what I understand.
Ok, Thank’s Kf.
Anytime, Martin! 🙂
It’s so odd to think of this show now after all the furor has died down. I absolutely loved the first 8 episodes and really liked through episode 12. I watched as it aired and looked forward to it. I thought a cable drama 50% pre-produced is totally the way to go….and then….. and then. So exactly when we were supposed to start peeling back the layers of PHJ’s character, it goes to the cliched love triangle and watching someone play the piano way too much. I think that much of the problem from the comments I saw is that, unlike a lot of other adaptations, many international fans had actually read this webtoon so I was always kept apprised of exactly when things went sideways. Almost all comments from people who had read the webtoon started to turn bad at the mid-way point. Before that, the webtoon fans would note the differences or the change in timeline but it was always respectful and with a “we get it’s not gonna be the same” vibe”. I just think the story started going wacky like so many k-dramas do, but I just wasn’t expecting it because the first half was so solid so, yeah, I’m a little bitter.
I would still recommend this for a watch because it is overall solid, but what could have been a favorite of mine for the year ended up leaving me unsatisfied and shaking my head at the k-drama industry. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but something definitely happened and it wasn’t pretty. You mention Misaeng and the irony of all ironies for me is that the writer passed on the big 3 networks because they wanted a love line added and he refused. So where does he end up…TvN; the same station that aired CITT so I just don’t know where/why it went wrong but it did. It all makes me want to re-watch King of Dramas and think about how Anthony would have dealt with it !
Awww.. Hugs. I’m sorry CITT has left you bitter, Kat. I think it’s natural for anyone in your shoes to feel bitter; to have a show you love and which shows so much promise, to then take multiple side steps in bemusing directions is any drama fan’s nightmare. I’m not familiar with the source material, and I studiously avoided finding out more about the webtoon, so that I’d be able to see CITT as a standalone work. Even then, I felt there were problems, so I can imagine how upset the webtoon fans were. 😛
I do certainly wonder what went on behind the scenes, and what Anthony might’ve done! It feels like THAT might make a pretty good sequel to King of Dramas! Oh, the meta that would riddle THAT show! XD
The most balanced series review I’ve seen, thank you! I loved it although I do admit the blood on the road when she got hit by the car made me laugh. In retrospect, I think that reaction was completely influenced by the bts drama which, imho; did the series and the cast a massive disservice, especially Kim Go Eun, who’s been absolutely battered.
I loved the show and thought that Seol’s character was especially nuanced. She had a fragility in her that was relatable because it was tempered. She was definitely not one dimensional. In Ho also came across to me in this way, as did Eun Taek & Bo Ra.
In general, I found that the show did a much better job presenting layered characters in a real world that were palpable & tangible.
Where the show had problems, was with the ‘darker’ characters. The writing could not develop those story arcs within the pace of the show and this was evident far before ‘screen time’ issues. Imho, that’s when the dissonance began for everyone who is a completionist with leads / second leads / otps. Personally I didn’t care as there was more goodness in the overall story than those things; but it’s also true that it was a narrative error if we are to see resolutions of the questions asked. Jung kept repeating his behavior over and over, without growth. That does happen in real life, but it’s not necessarily interesting within a show; especially when the viewers are supposed to be invested in the character. In Ha’s character had the same problem and she was even less 2 dimensional than Jung. Neither of them had much growth.
In general I think the show had a cool, western indie vibe about it that I liked, but couldn’t resolve it’s dark arcs. It was still better than most k-drama fare, and I really enjoyed Seol’s character. A rare performance.
THIS: “That does happen in real life, but it’s not necessarily interesting within a show.” You are SPOT ON, chingu! EXACTLY THAT. In real life, people do stay the same and go in the same circles over and over, but when you train the spotlight on that, what is the point? Every show needs to have a point, and in presenting Jung’s behavior without growth, it felt like Show had missed the part where it was supposed to make a point.
I completely agree that the darker characters were problematic. I felt like the dark characters were like aliens in this drama world, and our characters had to learn how to deal with these aliens. Which totally took away from the show’s sense of realism, I feel. How often do we need to deal with aliens in real life, right? XD
When all is said and done, though, this show wasn’t terrible, and like you, I thought it was pretty solid in spite of its shortcomings. Also, yes, Kim Go Eun really was wonderful in this; I found her a treat to watch. 🙂
That photo at the top of the review startled me. I wonder if it was the intent of the photographer to mimic The Last Supper, with Seol in the Jesus role. I’m not particularly religious, but turning her into a Christ-like martyr strikes me as odd.
Oh, I hadn’t made that connection until you mentioned it, Brenda! Good spotting! And, now that I think about it, it sort of works.. In the sense that Seol does behave like a martyr a lot of the time, especially when we first meet her, and all the people around her impose on her whether they do so knowingly or not. And through it all, Seol obliges, but she’s actually unhappy – hence the sad frowny expression she’s wearing, while in the midst of the people around her.. Does that make sense? 🙂
ahhhhh, cheese… this goes to the ‘what could have been’ kdrama bin. started out great, nuanced portrayal of PHJ & KGE, then got derailed w/ lots of crazies plus no justification on PHJ’s character (until the end, gahhhhhhh). i bought them together as the OTP coz they looked happy together, they were actually good for each other, KGE’s character was speaking out more for herself, then reverted to her old self again:( i just wished the drama could have concentrated more on them as a couple, or maybe i just really like PHJ, hahahhahaa…
Hahaha! Naw, I think we all felt Cheese should’ve spent more time developing the OTP relationship, so I don’t think it’s just you liking PHJ, bugs_bunny! XD You’re right that Jung and Seol were good for each other.. He helped her feel more able to stand up for herself, while she helped him to engage more with the people around him. If only they’d gotten to know each other better, and if only they’d reached a place where they could truly bear each other’s burdens and grow together. That would’ve made a much more satisfying story, at least in my books. And, I’m totally with you on having a big soft spot for Park Hae Jin! 😉
Your review helped make perfect sense out of this drama and why I loved watching it. The acting was amazing, the cast endearing, the story relatable, the angst palpable. I too liked the voice over, being able to hear Seol’s thinking. (Oh, wouldn’t having a voice over for Yoo Jung been enlightening).
But, seriously when you put a guy like Park Hae-jin in a drama doesn’t everyone want to see a lot of him? I just missed not finding out more about him ~ sorta felt like when you put together a puzzle and end up with one piece missing, frustrating but the puzzle that remains is still pretty. May not be the best analogy, but that’s how I felt. Still, I enjoyed “Cheese in the Trap” and can let my imagination create that last piece of the puzzle, right?
Aww, I’m glad you found this review helpful, DracoMama!! 😀 And yes, I would’ve loved to have had more voiceovers from Jung. I think we had maybe one or two voiceovers from him, but mostly, he remained mysterious, and we experienced him mainly from Seol’s perspective.
Your analogy is great, actually – it’s a pity that we didn’t get more visibility into Jung, and in that sense, it was a pretty large piece of the puzzle that was missing, but the rest of the show’s very solid, all things considered. Glad you managed to enjoy this one in spite of the missing puzzle piece! 🙂
Thank you for liking this drama! I was on the verge of dropping the show (as you know I never like to drop one) and I out-talked myself to not to drop it. As my inner mind, heart and soul always say, I must treat Cheese as fair as I possibly could. I’m so glad that I finished it. Despite the ending, I think it is relatable to our everyday life. I had fun watching this show. Of course, Seo Kang Joon stole my heart. This is my first time watching him and I thought he did well as Baek In Ho. I really, really enjoy his character. And Seo Kang Joon was not shy to show his vulnerability, so he gets a thumb’s up from me. Sorry, I’m a bit biased *giggle*. And I adore Kim Go Eun as Seol. Her quirky reminds me of…. me!!!!
I gave it a 7.5/10 and thought it wasn’t bad at all. Thanks for yet another awesome review. I couldn’t agree more and you said what I wanted to say 🙂 Bravo!
Ah, I know you tend to persevere with your dramas, so I’m not surprised you stuck with this one, Nelly! 🙂 And you’re absolutely right, this show’s everyday sort of flavor makes it feel quite relatable – except for all the stalker stuff, which felt quite out of place to me! 😉 Seo Kang Joon is the best I’ve seen him, here. He was pretty meh for me in the other shows I’ve seen him in, so I was a little skeptical when I first heard he was cast as 2nd lead in this, actually. Happily, he did great, and I can totally see why you’d have a soft spot for him ^^ Yay that you enjoyed this review! Smooches! <3
It’s always good to see someone else liked this drama. I’m in the minority of people that was pretty satisfied with it, and my review is similar to yours with me rating it 7.5/10. A lot of people did seem to enjoy it through about episode 12 and then hated the last few.
In general, a less than stellar ending or last couple episodes won’t ruin 99% of dramas for me. I just want to enjoy myself for as long as possible. But I really wasn’t bothered by the last episodes of Cheese in the Trap. While it is noticeable for a couple episodes that Yoo Jung has decreased screen time as we explored In Ho and In Ha more, it really didn’t affect the overall story much.
The biggest issue was that the drama didn’t properly create empathy for Yoo Jung, but even that was early on. He stayed a little too mysterious. But Park Hae Jin made the character not feel like a psycho. And of course I knew that he wasn’t and just created my own empathy for him, lol.
I loved the feel of the drama and all of its quirky characters. Overall, I found it to be very enjoyable 🙂
You’re so right, Kay – Jung was definitely kept too mysterious. I personally think that that lack of connection with Jung as a character then affected everything else: his relationship with Seol felt unbalanced and unhealthy all the way through, and his personal growth, hard to connect with. That it happened off-screen made it all the harder, of course. It’s one of those things that, if they’d just adjusted that early enough, could’ve saved the whole show, I think.
Although I don’t think the show was ruined by its narrative choices, I do think that, thanks to those unusual choices, many people would find this a frustrating watch. It fits the indie vibe perfectly though, ending and all. In that sense, it’s able to stand properly as a story, and that’s always a positive thing in my books 🙂
I watched 3 episodes of the show, but decided it wasn’t for me. And I tend to like mysterious, manipulative male leads and drama crack. I guess it’s a certain brand. And I’ve had my share of flailing, somewhat naive female leads. But she was cute, it was interesting to get her thought process. But I usually don’t like that. So I tuned out. But you wrote a great review as always. And like I’ve said before, you have a way of making people want to see a drama they wouldn’t have before. I don’t know what the BTS drama was that changed the direction of the show. Its a shame that happens. They do that in American shows ever so subtlety. In Kdrama it feels jarring.
Tee hee, when you say that you like manipulative male leads, it does make you sound a bit like a sucker for punishment! XD I guess it was a good thing this show didn’t grab your heart in those first 3 episodes, since that would’ve probably made the eventual change in narrative direction really frustrating for you. Guess this is what they call a blessing in disguise? 😉
Maybe the reason that the change in narrative direction feels more jarring in kdramas is coz the kdramas tend to be much shorter? I suppose in multi-season American shows, changes can be introduced in less sudden ways? Just stabbing the dark! 😉
LOL. I don’t like to be manipulated really…I think I mean, I tend to like the more Alpha male leads that go through the motions of softening and changing for their beloved over the course of the drama. 😀 Yes, in good American shows the changes are less sudden. One particular show that had me on my toes with every character was “LOST.” That was a rollercoaster. For me it turned out that 3 of my most favorite characters were the biggest Southern (American) jerk, the stern, bitter Korean husband, and the supposed “evil” Iraqi Soldier! lol. They really utilized flashbacks in that show to help us put the pieces together over the course of the seasons.
Ahhh! Heh, thanks for clearing that up, coz otherwise, your taste in male leads did look a bit, er, unusual there, for a while! XD Alpha males changing in the name of love is definitely something I can get on board with! 😀 In fact, that could possibly be my favorite trope of all, since I like my male leads more Alpha than Beta, most of the time. ^^
I am a complete LOST noob, and have never watched a single episode. 😛 That’s how out of it I am, with Western television! But, I’ve heard good things, and my sister and brother-in-law are fans, so I’m not surprised that you find it a good show! 🙂
LOST was really good, though I’m iffy about the last season. Haha, I should say, from my original comment- I don’t like to be manipulated EVER. But with the alpha male dramas you see it comes with the territory, they tend to think they got one over on the woman but she gobsmacks him with her kindness and love.
That’s so true. I like the Alpha male bit, but it does often come with a side of manipulation. I now appreciate a writer who’s able to show an Alpha male who’s nice – one of the reasons I loved TW drama Bromance so much. The male lead is an Alpha male through and through, but he’s so decent and loyal and nice. LOVE. <3 If you're in the mood for fun fluff, that's a good one to check out! ^^
Another fantastic review. I once again could not agree with you more. You touched on everything that I would have and came to the same conclusion. I hope the best for all of these actors. I wish to see much more from the actress playing Seol as she was a revelation to me. I felt the actor playing In Ho was cute in Cunning Single Lady though not a vey good actor so I am pleased to see him having grown so much. In all I enjoyed the show but do feel a little sorry for what could have been if they had maintained the quality of the first half in second half.
Aw, high-five, Amy! 😀 We really do see our shows similarly! 😀 Like you, Kim Go Eun was a revelation to me too, coz this was the first I’d seen of her. She’s so natural and relatable. Plus, I’m so taken with her hands, which are so delicately elegant ^^ I hope to see more of her on my screen, and I now feel like I can more readily watch Seo Kang Joon in something too. 😉 I used to find him pretty limited as an actor, but he really impressed me in this! It’s sad that Cheese made those odd narrative choices, but at least the story still made narrative sense overall. At least, that’s the silver lining I’m choosing to focus on! 🙂
Oh, I was hoping you’d touch on Cheese in the Trap! My experience was a duplicate of Drawde 2000 as I probably clocked around 4-6 viewings of each episode (for the first twelve). I was completely hooked-my job depends on my ability to assess people in all their infinite variety so I was mesmerized with the show and its effect on me; how my impressions of what actually happened depended upon each layer of gradual reveal as the show progressed.
Cheese in the Trap was a perfect work of art until the narrative Wipeout, and I agree that show recovered and finished as well as it could. I firmly believe that PHJ stepped up to rescue show, and that’s what helped it to eventually restore its narrative thread.
Digression!! I was left feeling bereft after Cheese, so I followed with Misaeng, and I’m reading up on all the verbiage surrounding it, and what struck me is that the creator of the Misaeng webtoon carefully shopped for a network as he wanted to avoid the addition of a traditional loveline. I think that there was a lot of trust placed in the Cheese director, who is fabulous, but she was unable to withstand the pressure to turn InHo into the second lead/love interest and I am wondering if all the furor over the ship wars for Answer me, 1988 played into that pressure? Just a thought!
Anyway, I loved, loved, loved the show, flaws and all.
Wow, Mary!! 4-6 viewings of each episode?!? That’s dedication!! But given what you said about your job, I can see why you’d be intrigued.. This show’s characters came across as layered and complex, compared to many other kdramas where characters can feel stock and characterization, broad-stroked. With Cheese, we get to see the characters unveil their layers bit by bit, and I can see why you’d find if fascinating enough to warrant several watches per episode! 🙂
I don’t know if PHJ could have stepped in to save the show, actually, since he spoke about feeling confused and bemused about the final treatment of the show. He also mentioned having filmed scenes that never made it to air. In that sense, I didn’t get the sense that he had enough control nor influence over the end product, to have saved the show. Perhaps all the online furor over PHJ’s reduced screen time gave the PD pressure to give us a more balanced finale. It’s hard to say, really; all we can do is speculate. It’s a pity that the show suffered narratively for what looks to be BTS politics, but all things considered, I thought we got a decent ending.
I actually hadn’t heard that about Misaeng, really – thanks for sharing. 🙂 I personally thought the love triangle was pretty clear even in Cheese’s earlier stretch. In Ho, for all intents and purposes, looked poised to be the typical 2nd lead dealing with unrequited love, and I think that was apparent even before E12? What I did think was unconventional, was how early Jung and Seol began their relationship – which did give the writers lots of room to explore their lack of real understanding of each other, and how that affected their relationship. What was missing was Jung’s growth and development, which to me was a huge missed opportunity.
Still, it’s great that you’re able to embrace this show, flaws and all. That’s Big Love, in my books! 😉
I agree that In Ho was placed as a typical second lead early on. Also, I believe Jung grew with him opening up to Seol albeit too little and too slow. I, too, love how the misunderstandings between them cause it’s just like so early on in a relationship specially so without the foundation of friendship.
I was a fan of the webtoon before Cheese and know that I firmly believe in creative license when it comes to adaptation- but it has to make sense. Cheese began as the story of a deepening relationship between two flawed characters and then suddenly veered into stock drama land. For me- the kdrama veered from the webtoon in two significant ways; the almost complete demonization of Jung, and the glorification and elevation of Inho to second lead status, rather than as a secondary character that offers insight into Jung’s character.
Once the dust settled, there seems to be a general agreement that there were strong disagreements during production over whether to have a fluid interpretation of the source, or accurately follow the webtoon, and Park Hye Jin lobbied for remaining true to the original.
Honestly, I am OK with the show as a whole, but like W-Two Worlds , the potential of what it could have been……….sigh
Indeed, to W….sigh…
You’ve already said the stuff I didn’t like as well, so I will concentrate with the positive. The first 12 episodes of this drama, for me, was 100% pure crack. My routine was watched the odd episodes on Mondays. I will watch it again the next day then finished up the even episodes that same day. I normally don’t do that, but this drama had offered more to us than most romantic dramas. It was beautifully filmed — there was the hug on Episode 11, I believe, where they were surrounded by dried leaves, it was gorgeous. It had great cast specially from the two leads. Just like Seol, I struggled with what to do with Jung. I love him when he is with me, but then I don’t want to be manipulated. Those emotions they feel showed on screen very well thanks to both actors. The characters were alive and the situations are real. The music was fantastic. The PD also brought something different to the genre, and I loved her for that.
My favorite scenes are the walks between Seol and In Ho. It was done in long takes with no cuts. I just love their conversations; it’s so natural and comfortable. Seol and Jung also had that type of scene as well, at later episode, where Jung was comfortable enough to be open with Seol. There is just something about a couple walking on the street conversing, listening to each other. That’s romantic to me. These moments are what I tried to remember about this drama. Because Cheese in the Trap did have these great moments.
Thank you, kfangirl, for another fantastic review. I know I could count on you with dissecting a drama, especially this one.
Hi there, Drawde2000!!! Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond – I left for an intense work trip right after posting this review, and am only just now getting back into the swing of things 🙂
I have to agree that for all of its faults, this show was very well-made, particularly in the early episodes. Characterizations were meticulously and subtly done, and the drama world, lovingly created. I can see why you’d invest the extra time to rewatch the odd-numbered episodes! I also enjoyed watching Seol’s interactions with In Ho.. their conversations felt natural and they appeared comfortably honest with each other. Which was a quality that felt lacking in the OTP relationship. I never shipped Seol with In Ho, coz their relationship always felt platonic to me (in spite of In Ho’s crush), but I did appreciate their friendship and how much they genuinely cared about each other. Their friendship definitely qualifies as one of this show’s positive highlights! 🙂