You know how someone might sweep you breathlessly off your feet in the early stages of your courtship – it’s all gloriously giddy and everything seems quite perfect – until you actually start dating seriously, and then, slowly but surely, the illusion of perfection cracks to reveal his or her flaws?
Heh. SO MUCH like my experience with this show y’all. I loved this show in the beginning, but as the episodes progressed, the initial giddy shine wore off, and Show’s flaws came to the fore and made it a pretty uneven watch, overall.
BUT. Like that dating/relationship analogy, just because something’s not as perfect as it first seems, doesn’t discount the possibility of finding nuggets of substance, in the midst of the flaws, right?
STUFF I LIKED
To be honest, I started this drama while feeling like I was in a mild drama slump. I was watching shows, but none of them were really grabbing me. And then I dipped my toes into this one. Ahh. Just 10 minutes in, I was surprised by how quickly I was feeling engaged with these characters and this drama world.
It’s too bad that Show didn’t manage to sustain its initial fabulous streak, but in spite of the flaws that surfaced later in the show, there were definitely things that I liked about this show. Here’s a quick list.
1. The fabulous early stretch
I freaking loved the early stretch of this show.
It was a pitch-perfect mix of nonsensical screwball comedic cheesy, capably anchored by emotions that felt real, raw and poignant. Which means that even though there was a whole lotta blithe comedy on our screens, that emotional weightiness balanced it all out really nicely, and worked to ground the show and make it heart-hitting instead of purely fluffy. Our characters felt like real people instead of clowny caricatures, and that made them easy to root for. In a very good way, this reminded me of Marriage Not Dating, a show that is full of wacky, and full of heart.
The best part is, I actually found the Intended Funny genuinely amusing. Which, if you’ve known me for a while, doesn’t happen all that often, given k-ent’s tendency for broad comedy and my usual difficulty in appreciating it.
What a promising, fabulous combination of good stuff, right?
I loved the whole drunken marriage thing, which was flagrantly outrageous and very, very funny. Post-wedding, I love that the flashbacks to the happy-drunk wedding were sprinkled nicely among OMG-what-did-I-do-when-I-was-drunk current timeline freakouts, coz both leads are equally awesome at both drunken, liberated glee and horrified panic. That combination just amped up the funny to a whole new level, and I was very tickled indeed.
At the same time, Show did well teasing out the underlying emotions. When Mi Mo (Jang Na Ra) teared up at having been humiliated by the man she’d loved, I felt for her, so much. And Soo Hyuk’s (Jung Kyung Ho) quiet pensiveness when watching said humiliation felt very real too. Show was consistent in grounding The Funny with somber touches, like when each of our leads was deep in thought, over the states of their lives, or over painful memories of the past. Because Show did so well on this front, both Mi Mo and Soo Hyuk had me genuinely feeling for them and rooting for them, from the get-go.
Very impressive indeed.
2. Jung Kyung Ho & Jang Na Ra
I honestly think that Jung Kyung Ho and Jang Na Ra lifted this show.
When the writing was awesome, these two lifted the awesome to a whole other level, with their fantastic deliveries. [SPOILERS] Whether they were acting all drunk and desperate to get married, or freaking out at the drunken marriage, once sober, or having quiet, honest conversations, they were equally compelling. [END SPOILERS] They just made everything extra good, basically.
When the writing faltered and eventually started to sometimes not make a lot of sense, Jung Kyung Ho and Jang Na Ra still sold it. Their heartfelt deliveries made me feel like their characters believed in the moment, even if many things about the moment might not have made sense to me.
Separately or together, Jung Kyung Ho and Jang Na Ra were wonderful on my screen – I loved their sparky chemistry, so much – and I loved the depth of emotion that each of them brought to their characters.
3. The Angel friends
This band of ex-Angels totally grew on me, over the course of the show.
First of all, I find it kitschy and hilarious that they’re friends from their 90s girl-group days; extra points to everyone, for even going so far as to make a real MV featuring them actually singing their hit song (featured at the end of the review, coz it’s so awesome).
Secondly, I like that each of the ex-Angels – minus Seul Ah (Sandara Park), who’s no longer on speaking terms with these 4 – are all so different, and that each of them gets a different plotline representing a love-related dilemma different from the rest.
Finally, I like that the friendship between the girls gets screen time; that they talk to one another and listen to and console and challenge one another – all despite their very different personalities and situations. That unity in the midst of diversity – even if it was sometimes grudging – appealed to me a lot.
4. Da Jung & Geun Hak’s arc
Among the various secondary plotlines, my favorite was the one between Da Jung (Yoo Da In) and her estranged husband Geun Hak (Kim Tae Hoon). Depending on where we were in the show, sometimes, I felt more engaged with these two, than I did with the OTP.
I found the story of this estranged couple, sincerely working to rekindle their connection, and willing to fight for it – whether it was fighting external demands or their own doubts – very moving indeed. Every little step they made in the right direction felt worthy of celebration, particularly since they were up against a pretty monumental amount of emotional baggage.
I love how writer-nim treated this couple; their nervous, awkward interactions and their little progress milestones all felt meaningful and true, and very organic. I very much enjoyed rooting for this couple to find their way back into each other’s arms, and reach their well-earned happy ending.
5. Soo Hyuk & Min Woo
Pretty much every scene between Soo Hyuk and son Min Woo (Kim Dan Yool) was sweet to watch.
Soo Hyuk’s such a loving father, and Min Woo’s such a well-adjusted, understanding and supportive son, that I can’t help but love these two together. In particular, I love the running joke with these two, of Soo Hyuk wanting hugs, but Min Woo rebuffing Dad’s advances. Coz mostly, Min Woo ends up giving Dad the hugs anyway.
[SPOILER] The most touching scene for me, with this sweet father-son pair, is in episode 11. When Soo Hyuk admits to Min Woo that he’s having a really hard time, Min Woo offers Dad a hug, and agrees immediately to go to the US with Dad, with no thought to what leaving Korea would mean to him personally. So much love. Oof. [END SPOILER]
Special shout-out to: Ppoppo the Pug
If you’ve known me for a while, or poked around the site a bit, you’ll know that I have a super soft spot for pugs.
I was bummed that Ppoppo was relegated to mostly being a prop, and I was also disappointed that Show started dubbing him over so that we couldn’t hear the adorable signature pug heavy-breathing in later episodes. I also felt sorry for him coz he looked rather stunned and uncomfortable in almost every scene.
But still. PUGGGG! He gets all the points just for being a pug. Seriously. <3
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Even though I’ve divvied up this section into just 2 main items, I felt it was important to point out that this section carries just as much weight as the previous section – and, in the later stretch of the show, a little more, even.
1. Kwon Yool as Hae Joon
Show does an odd thing, in positioning second male lead Hae Joon (Kwon Yool) as an extraordinarily handsome and charming man, who’s always had no lack of female attention – and then making Hae Joon quite unlikable and far from charming.
Putting aside the fact that I personally don’t find Hae Joon all that handsome, I found his characterization strangely cold. It just didn’t make sense to me, that a character this cold and this unlikable would supposedly attract a lot of female attention.
Right away, I disliked Hae Joon’s roundabout way of reaching out to Mi Mo to date her. Essentially, he plays her – to the extent of confusing and even insulting her – to get her attention, which I found very aggravating.
When they do start dating, he consistently toys with her for his own amusement, without taking her feelings into account. It’s sadistic and cruel, and I really don’t care for Hae Joon’s manipulative amusement. I don’t like that he finds Mi Mo’s discomfort &/or discombobulation &/or efforts to turn the tide amusing. Plus, he appears so condescending, through it all. Ugh.
Through most of the show, Hae Joon consistently shows himself to be completely lacking in empathy and consideration, to the extent that he doesn’t even seem fully engaged in his own life and relationship. He doesn’t seem to actually like Mi Mo all that much, considering his general lack of interest in her. When he does get jealous-angry about Mi Mo showing interest in Soo Hyuk, it always feels more like his pride is hurt rather than his feelings.
Whether it was about Mi Mo, or about bestie Soo Hyuk, or about ex-wife Yeon Soo (Hwang Sun Hee), Hae Joon remained consistently self-centered almost all the way through to Show’s end.
It’s true that Show makes efforts to give Hae Joon more self-awareness and compassion in its later episodes, but that “growth” didn’t feel very organic nor convincing to me. In spite of Show’s efforts, Hae Joon never endeared himself to me, and by Show’s end, I felt indifferent towards him, at best.
2. Show seems to lose its footing [SPOILERS]
I think the problem is – and I do feel this is Show’s major downfall – Show stopped making consistently good decisions around how to split its time. There are 4 main areas I want to highlight.
1. Mi Mo spends more time dating Hae Joon than with Soo Hyuk, period. Show spends way too much time (literally half the show!) on Mi Mo trying to make things work with a disinterested Hae Joon. Which is problematic, when Mi Mo’s supposed to be half of the OTP – with Soo Hyuk.
2. With this big thing in the way of our OTP actually getting together, things eventually started getting weepy. Gone was the sparkling, wacky, fun rom-com that greeted us in episode 1. Instead, we spend far too much time watching either or both sides of our OTP being sad. Tonally, this shift was relatively slow, in the sense that we didn’t just jump from wacky to weepy, and I could still understand (mostly, anyway) why the characters behaved in the way they did. But it didn’t make it any less of a drag when we got to Cryalot City. We should’ve totally spent less time on crying and angst, and more time on bringing back Show’s initial fizz.
3. As we got deeper into the show, I became more interested in the stories of our secondary characters, and sometimes, I found myself wishing that we could spend more time with these characters. In this respect, I feel like Show could have spent more time developing our secondary characters’ arcs, since each of them represented a different path to a happy ending and all.
4. Towards the end of the show, we get a whole lot of manufactured angst, which feels like a complete waste of time. Episode 15, for example, was an entire episode dedicated to a tiny molehill that was talked up as if it was some kind of insurmountable mountain.
Clearly, this was to fill screen time before the finale. My point is, though, couldn’t we have spent the time more meaningfully, instead of stringing Mi Mo along for an entire episode, and having her in the throes of consternation and heartbreak, believing that her ex-husband (Kim Sa Kwon) was about to marry Soo Hyuk’s “sister” Si Ah (Jang Joon Yoo)? We could’ve spent that time on the secondary characters instead, no?
A quick tangent on logic
While we’re on the subject, let me just say that narrative logic became pretty weak, particularly during the angsty stretch. Like this example in episode 15. When Soo Hyuk sees that Mi Mo is in a great deal of turmoil over her Ex dating Soo Hyuk’s sister, Soo Hyuk chooses not to tell her the truth, but instead just comforts her and tells her not to cry, and then goes to confront said Ex. I mean, really. If he cared so deeply about Mi Mo’s feelings, surely he would’ve chosen to ‘fess up, to save her several more hours of heartbreak? It just seemed like such an odd choice, to me.
The combined effect on me
The silver lining to all of this is, Jung Kyung Ho and Jang Na Ra continued to deliver their roles with so much heart that even in the most frustrating stretches, when I didn’t agree with the direction the story was taking, I believed how distraught or conflicted either of them was feeling.
On the other hand, with the watch becoming increasingly less fun and more problematic, I did start to give Show the side-eye.
The fun and silly that Show did try to introduce in several of the later episodes now felt oddly out of place after all that crying and angst, rather than organic to this drama world.
By the end of episode 15, I was actually looking forward to getting to the end of the show – not a good sign.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Considering that Show felt so flawed in its second half, I’d say that it didn’t do too bad of a job with the finale.
Show remembers that there is a lesson to be learned from each of the girls’ arcs, and I liked those lessons quite well.
Dong Mi (Yoo In Na) and her younger boyfriend show us that there needs to be some kind of balance between loving in the moment, and planning for the future. Da Jung and Geun Hak show us that love is a decision, not just a feeling. And that with effort, perseverance and open minds and hearts, even a wilted love can be rekindled and given a fresh start. Ae Ran (Seo In Young) and Dong Bae (Park Eun Suk) show us that it’s possible to put past mistakes behind you, and start over. Ae Ran also shows us that holding onto the past isn’t sustainable, and it’s important to nurture yourself for your happiness, satisfaction, and your future.
As a bonus, Hae Joon and Yeon Soo show us that it’s possible to move on from a lingering past relationship, and start over. And that it’s possible to stay cordial with your Ex, while you do that.
All good stuff.
I didn’t like the treatment of our OTP’s arc. Essentially, Mi Mo realizes that it’s important for Soo Hyuk and her to spend time getting to really know each other, before getting married. And Show turns this into its stab at reintroducing the outrageous sort of funny from its early episodes, by making Soo Hyuk comically adamant about marrying Mi Mo.
This didn’t work for me, on so many levels.
First of all, the shift between sweetly meaningful to Strongly Comic was very sudden and therefore quite jarring, to me.
Secondly, Soo Hyuk’s behavior felt out of character, to me. From someone who consistently put Mi Mo first, he was suddenly acting like he was going to marry Mi Mo, whether she liked it or not. Which felt really weird and dissonant to me, coz the Soo Hyuk that I’d come to know was the caring, loving sort of guy who would understand where Mi Mo was coming from with this request, and respect it. Which made all the Intended Funny feel forced, rather than blithely outrageous, like it was in the earlier episodes.
Thirdly and possibly most importantly, the so-called friendly competition between Soo Hyuk and Mi Mo felt all wrong. It made them feel like they were on opposite sides, which was exactly what they shouldn’t be, going into a marriage. Even though it was played for laughs, it just didn’t work for me. It made Soo Hyuk look childish and unreasonable for belligerently not respecting Mi Mo’s wishes to take more time, and it made the whole path to marriage feel like a petty competition rather than a heartfelt co-journey.
I feel like the entire thing about making Soo Hyuk so antsy about getting Mi Mo to say yes, is so that we could have that finale moment where Soo Hyuk was surprised by Mi Mo’s proposal, and got to reprise his line of “Abso-f***ing-lutely!” from their drunk wedding. While I get that this is a nice callback, I don’t think Soo Hyuk’s arc necessarily had to be treated that way, in order to get us here.
I would’ve much rather seen Soo Hyuk agree to Mi Mo’s request for some time to get to know each other better, since Mi Mo’s request was consistently well-articulated and very reasonable, and then have the screwball comedy ensue around their everyday annoyances at each other, as they spent that extra time. That way, we’d get the screwball comedy touches, while having them on the same side. And at the end of it all, Mi Mo could still propose, when she was good and ready, and Soo Hyuk could still deliver that line – with joy, with tenderness, and conviction.
That would’ve worked much better, dontcha think?
When all is said and done, it’s hard not to mourn the could’ve beens, since this show started off so promisingly. It’s also hard to ignore Show’s missteps, since those missteps resulted in so much angst and narrative drag.
In the end, though, Show did deliver a heartwarming message about second chances and how it’s never too late to love yourself and others, and that’s not a bad note to go out on.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Uneven in tone, & draggy in spots, but heartfelt at its core.
FINAL GRADE: B-