Sometimes being a curious cat and following the buzz of a show pays off, and you end up finding – and loving – a gem of a show that you might not have bothered to check out otherwise.
And sometimes, being a curious cat.. well, doesn’t pay off.
I know lots of folks loved this show right from the start, and I even saw enthusiastic endorsements of it from some of my most trusted drama friends. Sadly, try as I might, I never managed to really love this one.
WHAT WAS CUTE
Even though Show’s not particularly well-written, and its taste for comedy is broader and more low-brow than I generally prefer, there were definitely some things that I liked about it.
Here’s a quick list:
1. Min Ah is wonderfully quirky as Gong Shim. I love her all-in, unself-conscious take on the character, and I love her husky voice to go with. Gong Shim really does make a lot of sense at times, but at other times, I feel like she’s truly a weirdo. And I like that Show allows her to be that weirdo, without trying to “normalize” her in order to make her more attractive to the boys in her life. Plus, I love that she’s got many unexpected skills and is far from being a damsel in distress.
2. Nam Goong Min is also quirky and weird as Dan Tae, and it’s nice in the sense that this character allows him to show more personality than most of his previous second-lead roles, and it doesn’t require him to be a serial killer either.
3. Ohn Joo Wan is cute and likable as the reluctant chaebol prince Jun Su, and I like that he’s drawn to Gong Shim, and is completely undaunted by her unconventional appearance and quirks.
4. The mutual OTP crush is cute, even though it feels somewhat randomly inserted. Once I got past the lack of context around the mutual crush, the OTP was quite amusing together, especially in the moments where Show dialed down the broad comedy a little. I liked the weirdo + weirdo = a whole lotta weird dynamic of it all.
5. For a reasonably good stretch, Show is a pretty light and easy watch, if you ignore the birth secret and corporate shenanigans. I particularly liked seeing Gong Shim, Dan Tae and Jun Su becoming friends with one another.
For the first 9 episodes at least, I found Show watchable and entertaining enough, as long as I ignored the above-mentioned flaws.
Another thing that needs to be ignored, is the large age gap between Min Ah and Nam Goong Min. It seems to me that how well people are likely to enjoy this show (at least, this part of the show that I enjoyed) depends on 1, whether the age gap between Nam Goong Min & Min Ah is an issue to them, and 2, whether they like quirky Dan Tae. Coz quirky Gong Shim is, I think, universally lovable. But Dan Tae might not be your cup of tea, especially if you feel he’s too old for Gong Shim and shouldn’t be mooning over her.
Personally, I found it relatively easy to overlook the large age gap, and found the OTP chemistry to be pretty good, as a general rule.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Broadly speaking, I was able to enjoy the show in spite of its affinity for birth secrets and corporate politics. I didn’t even mind so much, the antics of Gong Shim’s annoying, entitled, scheming sister Gong Mi (Seo Hyo Rim), even though I know people who were, at various points, ready to tear Gong Mi’s hair out. It’s not that I’m extra saintly; I just figured the scheming sister was a necessary evil – at least in this drama world. Plus, I honestly couldn’t be bothered to hate her.
For me, the slippery slope towards bidding this show goodbye had a bit of a three-step structure.
Step 1: When it’s NOT romantic
Even though the OTP moments were generally cute, and there were moments of genuine heart between these two, it niggled at me that Dan Tae would regularly manhandle Gong Shim during the dramatic &/or romantic moments. I didn’t like the forceful wrist-grabs or the overbearing invasion of personal space, so that spoiled it for me, a little.
I also found some of Dan Tae’s smitten behavior downright annoying instead of amusing.
Like the time in episode 5, when Dan Tae calls Gong Shim repeatedly while she’s on a movie date with Jun Su. So annoyingly needy, I thought.
Additionally, I think writer-nim’s idea of romance doesn’t sit well with me. Like in episode 8, when Dan Tae asks Gong Shim not to go to Jeju Island, the scene is positioned as a confession of sorts. But, when you listen to the words that come out of Dan Tae’s mouth, the words are essentially self-centered.
“I understand that you have to go to Jeju Island. But I’m going to be selfish from this moment on… and talk only for myself. I don’t want you to leave… Since we live in the same building, I could see you whenever I opened my door. I could see you going to work every time I had breakfast. When water floods all over the house, that’s when I get lucky. Because I could go over to your house and see you. I… I liked that so much. But… if you go to Jeju Island, that means… I can’t see you from now on. So please don’t go to Jeju Island… If you leave, I don’t know how I’ll cope. Don’t think too hard. And tomorrow, tell me that you won’t leave.”
First of all, can’t he say he likes her? Why does he have to make it about him? Nam Goong Min manages to give the moment heart, and Dan Tae’s weirdness gives me an excuse to give him the benefit of the doubt for the somewhat odd choice of words, but the words themselves still niggle at me.
Second of all, I can’t help but bristle at the choice of words right at the end, in particular. Instead of saying, “tell me your decision” he says, “tell me you won’t leave.” Uh. Domineering much?
Step 2: When character motivations don’t really make sense
The episode 9 mark is about the point that the writing, pacing and direction seem to get into a bit of a mess. From everything escalating way too quickly, to not allowing the audience insight into Dan Tae’s thoughts and feelings, it all results in the plot points feeling like they were randomly strung together.
It literally feels like we suddenly crossed from a world made up of real-but-weird people, to a manhwa world with caricatures instead.
I mean, Dan Tae faints from realizing his identity, then plunges right into undercover mode at Star Group, in order to uncover his kidnapper’s identity, with cheshire grin in place? I don’t know. I guess it would’ve made more sense to me if we’d had more visibility into Dan Tae’s thoughts and feelings about his identity as Joon Pyo. Coz, if you’ve just discovered your family’s not your real family AND you’re really the missing chaebol prince you’ve been searching for, then surely we should see more reaction / internal conflict, right?
At the same time, Dan Tae starts behaving like a melancholic sad sack, loses most of his quirks, and starts to actively and protractedly avoid Gong Shim, when just a few (very) short plot points ago, he’d made his Big Request for her not to go to Jeju Island.
I rationalized (heavily) that Dan Tae was probably confused about his newly discovered identity, and wasn’t sure what to tell Gong Shim, and that’s why he was avoiding her, and that sorta helped. But really, Show could’ve
done attempted a better job of making Dan Tae’s change in behavior make more sense.
Step 3: When there’s just too much birth secret stuff going on
From the end of episode 9 through most of episode 13, I felt like Show completely lost its grip on what made it (somewhat) charming to begin with. Almost all our screen time was spent on birth secrets and corporate stuff, and it felt excruciatingly boring.
Random-feeling arcs – like the poisoned water arc – took up way too much screen time, and felt like nothing more than filler. Seriously, did we even need the poisoned water arc?
WHEN I KNEW IT WAS TIME FOR GOODBYE
Through all of the birth secret stuff, I figured – in a broad, general sort of way – that it was the Cute that was missing. Yet, when Show started back-pedaling in episode 13 to bring the Cute back, it actually fell flat for me.
Essentially, there’s no discernible causal agent, so the cute that does get served up feels completely random. [SPOILER] Like, why is Dan Tae now suddenly moony-eyed over Gong Shim again, when in the last few episodes, he’d looked so troubled and distant? Other than to facilitate the cute, I don’t see why there’s a sudden change in his behavior. Are we supposed to believe that it’s just because Gong Shim’s father asks him the favor of going with Gong Shim on her work trip? That’s not reason enough to explain his change in attitude. Which is why the cute all feels hollow instead of meaningful, to me. [END SPOILER]
With way too much time focused on boring birth secrets, and Cute that now didn’t feel very cute anymore, I literally felt like I was hanging onto this show just to see what happened. When I started on episode 14, which actually began with OTP cute, I realized that I didn’t actually care what happened anymore, whether it was about the birth secret, or about the OTP.
That’s when I knew it was time to drop this one. And I felt relieved at the thought too. 😛
It was only as I sat down to write this post, that I realized that not only had Show lost its grip on the Cute, it had also lost sight of what made it charming in the first place, in spite of its flaws. All the little quirks that had felt unique and special to our characters, like Dan Tae’s super reflexes, and Gong Shim’s trusty bicycle bell, had fallen to the wayside, and, at this point of the show (14 episodes in), appear to be forgotten.
Which is a pity, coz I do think Gong Shim’s matter-of-fact bicycle bell habit is one of the things that made her a unique and pretty awesome heroine.