You know that thing that kdrama heroines often do, where they choose to walk right into a bad situation, knowing that they will end up hurt or disadvantaged in some way, but they do it anyway, all for love?
Well. Applying that logic, it seems that I must have a lot of love for Ryu Joon Yeol, heh.
Coz I knew going into this show, that it was probably not going to be a drama that would be particularly amazing or satisfying (I was late to the party and had already heard that this show was a pretty typical rom-com that wasn’t very remarkable) but I still dived in, and even stayed through to the end – all for Ryu Joon Yeol.
I thought I’d tackle this review in a slightly different format than my usual, because I responded to this show with 3 distinct reactions in 3 different phases. So it made sense to me, to split it up the same way to talk about it here.
THE INITIAL STRETCH (E1 – E5ish)
To be honest, I wasn’t too taken with this show in its initial stretch. Well, except for Ryu Joon Yeol, that is. But you guys already knew that. 😉
1. I found the initial episodes largely unremarkable and, to be honest, quite boring, even though Bo Nui’s (Hwang Jung Eum) obsession with superstition is supposed to be this show’s special quirk. It just didn’t feel very quirky, or different, or in any way special, to me. Rather, it all felt mostly predictable and formulaic.
2. I found the comedic touches to be on the lame side. [SPOILER] Like Bo Nui waking up in episode 2 appearing to be naked in bed, and thinking that the stuffed toy next to her is the sunbae that she’d met the night before. I found that entire sequence really lame. Especially when she shed the blanket and revealed that she was pretty much fully dressed underneath. [END SPOILER]
3. I felt uninterested in our second lead characters Gary (Lee Soo Hyuk) and Amy (Lee Chung Ah). [SPOILER] I didn’t really feel interested in Gary’s search for his father, and I found Amy rather annoying in general; I just didn’t like her pretty act, and the way she clipped her speech. Her presumptuous attitude in general didn’t help either. It also made no sense to me why both Gary and Amy felt it was their right to demand romantic attention from Bo Nui and Su Ho (Ryu Joon Yeol) respectively. [END SPOILER]
Ryu Joon Yeol as Su Ho
Ryu Joon Yeol is fantastic as Su Ho, and alone is THE reason to check out this show, seriously.
I love Ryu Joon Yeol as Su Ho. He just makes Su Ho come to life. And weirdly, I particularly appreciate how he looks like a regular guy, for the most part. As in, he’s lanky, and has got very attractive calves (ahem), but he’s not spectacularly buff, and the way he basically lopes, shuffles and skulks around with his long legs (vs. walking like he’s walking down a runway, for example) makes him feel so real and approachable and normal. I love it. Shout-out to his lovely voice, gorgeously sensuous lips and expressive eyes. I flail. Especially at the lips. Mmmm. <3
Most importantly, Ryu Joon Yeol delivers Su Ho with depth and dimension, and the best part is, he doesn’t even look like he’s trying. He looks like he just is this way, and that just makes Su Ho come alive in his perfectly nuanced, wonderfully geeky glory.
I loved Ryu Joon Yeol’s brand of distant, nerdy, impatient genius; it always felt so faceted. Even in a moment when Su Ho is just stunned and staring, even though he holds his gaze steady (vs. letting his eyes dart about to indicate he’s thinking something), I feel like there is so much going on, on the inside of him. In this sense, I feel that Ryu Joon Yeol’s delivery actually added meaning to Su Ho as a character. Very nicely done indeed.
Here are just a handful of Su Ho moments in the early stretch of the show that I found particularly adorable.
1. In episode 4, the setup of Su Ho misunderstanding Bo Nui’s request as indicative of her suffering from a terminal illness is funny because of the way Ryu Joon Yeol plays Su Ho’s reaction. He mostly deadpans it, but there’s a strickenness about his gaze that is very endearing.
2. In episode 5, even though he’s incredulous at Bo Nui’s request, I love that Su Ho (1), doesn’t take advantage of the fact that she’s asking to sleep with him, and (2), says outright that he has no right to judge her if she wants to lead that kind of lifestyle, but (3), doesn’t want to lead that kind of lifestyle himself. He’s really a decent guy who believes in not judging others for choices that might be different from his own, and that’s just something that appeals to me a lot.
Plus, Su Ho’s consequent consternation is very endearing and amusing, from shifty-eyed disbelief, to troubled puzzlement, to nervous terror. It’s hilarious and super cute.
3. I love the sprinkle of dorky funny, like in episode 5 when Su Ho fails spectacularly at acting natural around Bo Nui after her proposition, but congratulates himself for acting natural anyway, and with a dorky smile to himself, no less. So cute!
4. On top of the cute, there is a layer of pathos to Su Ho that made my heart go out to him. Every time he panicked and huddled in a corner to mutter multiplication tables to himself in a bid to calm down, I wanted to reach into my screen and hug him and tell him everything was going to be ok.
Hwang Jung Eum as Bo Nui
While I found Bo Nui rather cringeworthy in the broader comic moments, I really believed her fear and sadness. [SPOILER] Like in episode 3, when Bo Nui rushes to the hospital thinking something’s happened to her sister Bo Ra (Kim Ji Min), and she keeps swiping at her eyes coz she’s tearing up. In that moment, I really believed her sadness and how much her sister means to her. [END SPOILER]
Mostly, I didn’t find Bo Nui’s character very well-written, and the treatment of her superstitions was rather patchy and uneven. Yet, I found that I could feel Bo Nui’s struggle, and that’s credit to Hwang Jung Eum’s heartfelt delivery.
THE CRACKY STRETCH (E6-E12ish)
Happily, at around the episode 6 mark, Show ramps into pretty cracky territory. Even though it was still far from perfect, I found myself enjoying each episode with a giddy sort of fangirl delight. Good times.
1. I still found Amy annoying. Not only did I find her delicate simpering manner rubbed me the wrong way, her better-than-thou sort of vibe also annoyed me. [SPOILER] Also, she doesn’t seem to have felt very bad about leaving Su Ho previously without explanation. When she tried to wrangle that “free pass” out of Dal Nim (Lee Cho Hee), I was so pleased that she failed. [END SPOILER]
2. Ryang Ha (Jung Sang Hoon) teasing Dal Nim is mildly amusing for a short bit, before becoming annoying. I wanted to strangle &/or slap him, in her place.
3. Bo Nui’s stubborn recklessness really does become a bit trying to me, even as a relatively casual viewer.
4. Show is not very consistent with some things. [SPOILER] Like Bo Nui resisting hugs because she feels like she will infect other people with her bad luck – she sometimes does, and sometimes doesn’t. She resists the hug from Dal Nim, but doesn’t resist the one from Gary. Also, when did the fortune teller ever say that Su Ho was Bo Nui’s talisman? That’s convenient, but inaccurate. [END SPOILER]
The stretch of OTP cute
The entire ramp-up of the OTP relationship is cracky, heady stuff. A lot of it has to do with Ryu Joon Yeol’s delivery of Su Ho’s nervous, dorky-nerdy, adorable reactions at each courtship milestone, but credit goes to Hwang Jung Eum too, for being a great foil.
Plus, these two share excellent chemistry, which really comes to the fore as our OTP finally comes together as a couple.
Adorable nervous geek
I think my favorite stretch has got to be when Su Ho starts to develop an awareness of his feelings for Bo Nui. All of the little moments really add up to make the episodes such a fun watch that I often found myself wearing a silly goofy grin while watching.
For one thing, Su Ho is hysterically funny every time he’s discombobulated. Like the time in episode 6, when he leaps for his phone, thinking that the incoming text is from Bo Nui. His flailing arms and legs and subsequent peevish disappointment is freaking adorable.
For another thing, as his awareness for his feelings towards Bo Nui increases, there’s a nervous, rather stricken quality about Su Ho’s stoic, rapid-fire logical spiels, which makes it all extra cute. It’s clear that he can’t help but care about Bo Nui and be curious about her, and it’s adorable that he’s fighting so hard to hide it.
As Su Ho starts to care more for Bo Nui, the extent that Su Ho is willing to go to, to help Bo Nui, is really telling of how much he cares about her. Like how he researches all the mystic stuff so thoroughly, and how he’s willing to spend his Saturday – in the lead-up to D-Day, no less – taking her to various fortune tellers in the hope that he’ll be able to prove to her that it’s not scientific. Or how he hovers and trails after her, to make sure that she’s not being taken advantage of by weirdos.
Plus, gotta love how, in perfect geek fashion, Su Ho needs an internet quiz to inform him that he likes Bo Nui. So funny!
Ryu Joon Yeol’s voice is lovely, and sometimes, in those moments when Su Ho speaks to Bo Nui in a particularly raw & throaty tone, it’s downright alluring. Like in episode 7, that time in the rain, when he asks her if they can go home. And that time in episode 8, when he holds her and tells her he’ll come with her anytime, to see Bo Ra, because he’s her talisman.
Also, I do love his gentle delivery of the kiss in episode 10. The words that he mutters, gently, and in low, throaty tones, “Is this what I’m supposed to do?” before he leans in for another gentle kiss. Augh.
Just. So. Melty. <3
Beyond the squee, there’s a lovely note of compassion and empathy between our OTP that I really liked. I love that each of them is able to express a simple, deep empathy for what the other has gone through in the past.
On top of that, the mirrored quality of the moment is a nice touch too. The long thoughtful gaze, followed by a simple sentence: “It must’ve been lonely.” “It must’ve been tough.” Such a small number of words, but carrying the weight of the depth of understanding of the speaker.
It was these moments that made me believe in the strength and depth of their love and care for each other. Likey.
A tangent in Bo Nui’s defense
I came across some viewer displeasure at Bo Nui, first for jumping to the conclusion that she needed to have sex with a tiger and therefore needlessly putting herself in danger, and also, for giving up “just because” she didn’t meet the deadline.
In Bo Nui’s defense, the phrasing of the instruction did imply she was supposed to have sex with a tiger. Also in Bo Nui’s defense, the fortune teller had told her that if she did not fulfill the instruction by the deadline, that Bo Ra would die.
Bo Nui doesn’t give up “just because” she didn’t meet the deadline. She gave up because she fully believed that that deadline was her last chance at changing Bo Ra’s fate. And once that last chance had been missed (in her understanding), there was no other hope to reach for, but to wait for the inevitable.
I think she planned to die after as well, because she just could not see herself living on without Bo Ra, and also because she generally sees herself as supremely unlucky, and bringing bad luck to the people around her. So in a sense, this is her effort to protect the people around her. In her head, if she’s not there to jinx them, they’d be safer.
For the record, I do think that the way the whole “sleep with a tiger” issue eventually worked out was sweet.
Spots of Funny
I’m happy to say that during this cracky stretch, I found a lot of the Intended Funny genuinely amusing, and there were more than a few moments when I laughed out loud. Fun!
Like in episode 6 when Su Ho skulks around in his masked ahjumma disguise. The entire scene is laugh-out-loud embarrassingly hilarious, and there’s a distinct sheepishness to his posture which I love.
Or the time in episode 8 when Su Ho fusses over whether he should call Bo Nui, then practically dislocates something while flailing in mortification when he realizes the call had gone through. Ha!
Or when Su Ho acts as Gary’s date in the virtual mapping in the same episode. Ryu Joon Yeol deadpans it AND hams it up, at the same time, and it’s painfully, gloriously funny.
THE FINAL STRETCH (E13-E16)
Sadly, Show’s cracky flavor didn’t sustain itself through to the end, and I found the final stretch of the show aggravating and boring in turn. I still loved Ryu Joon Yeol as Su Ho, but even that wasn’t enough to save this show’s final stretch, for me.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
1. I often wondered where Show was going with Bo Nui’s supposed curse of bad luck. It’s implied that there is truth in what (supremely unhelpful) Fortune Teller Guy says, but there’s no sliver of hope provided. All the predictions are doom and gloom for Bo Nui, and Show implies that the curse thing is real.
2. In episode 15, I understood why Bo Nui runs away, and I got why Su Ho decides to break up with her, but narratively, I was unimpressed. Even all the drama around Zeze’s project being sabotaged felt boring to me.
3. I freaking hate that Bo Nui was written to run away from the scene of the accident in episode 15. Such a very bemusing choice, honestly. How could she do that to Su Ho, who’s lying bleeding on the road? If you’re going to leave him for his own safety, surely you’d call him an ambulance first? Check that he’s still breathing? Headdesk. Headdesk. Headdesk.
1. Ryu Joon Yeol is still fab. But watching Su Ho trying to act overly bright to Bo Nui pained me. Like in episode 15, when he’s trying to sound bright on the phone while leaving a voice message, and in his eyes, there is only bewilderment, fear and a sense of lostness. Really well-delivered, but that’s cold comfort in the face of a degenerating narrative.
2. Suddenly, I found both Amy and Gary surprisingly more likable than in earlier episodes. Again, small comfort, and it doesn’t feel all that organic either.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
I hate to say it, but I was really, really bored by the ending.
Not only did I find it uninventive and predictable, I actively cringed in spots. Particularly at the overly cutesy, highly unnatural aegyo between Dal Nim and Ryang Ha, which got inexplicably served up in spades.
Given that this is a rom-com, I expected Show to give us a happy ending, so that in itself was no surprise. The way we got there, though, felt like an odd combination of deeply formulaic and completely random.
The callbacks to the beginning of the show, where Bo Nui and Su Ho first cross paths – at a game design competition – were extremely predictable, as was the beat of everyone descending on Bo Nui and Bo Ra for an impromptu housewarming party. Su Ho waiting patiently for Bo Nui through it all, while they each designed a game inspired by their individual journeys, which were both so warmly received that the games would be released together as a set, was clichéd and, the execution, overly sentimental to the point of being hokey.
The bigger issue to me, though, was that the whole issue of Bo Nui’s bad luck seemed to have been poofed away without any explanation. Up till almost the very last moment, Show had been pretty much laying it on, that Bo Nui’s bad luck was really a Thing, and that there was truth in Fortune Teller Guy’s ominous warnings. And now, in the finale, without any explanation whatsoever, Bo Nui is magically able to get over that belief, while spending all her days with Bo Ra, whom she’d used to stay away from for fear of infecting her with her bad luck, and Fortune Teller Guy packs his bags, presumably either out of business, or off to start anew elsewhere. And therefore, Bo Nui and Su Ho are now able to get their happy-ever-after.
Not that I’m expecting anything akin to brilliance in terms of the writing, but this sudden unexplained leap felt like a cop-out. It feels like some major things were skipped over, in order to fast-track us to the happy ending. I mean, I can rationalize heavily, that Bo Nui spent the year working through her beliefs, and was eventually able to change the way she saw her world, but it’s a huge stretch, especially since Show specifically kept the audience in the dark about this part of her emotional journey, while offering glimpses into her everyday life.
The unfortunate effect this had on me, is that whatever cute the finale served up felt hollow and meaningless. Sure, seeing Su Ho whoop with glee over Bo Nui’s proposal was cute, but I was underwhelmed enough by this finale that I was glad – relieved, even – to see this show end.
In the end, perhaps my disappointment with this show stems from the fact that it managed to raise my expectations and give me hope in its middle stretch with its cracky cute and giddy adorable.
…Only to then crush that hope to smithereens with its cop-out of an ending. Sigh.
If I could turn back time, would I pick this show all over again, knowing what I know now? Well.. that’s a hard question to answer. After all, Ryu Joon Yeol’s brand of cute is truly one of the best things evar.
Perhaps I would do it all again, for this face.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Largely underwhelming and occasionally aggravating, but in possession of some bright spots – the shiniest and most endearing of which is Ryu Joon Yeol.
FINAL GRADE: C+