So it looks like I ought to have my “Woob Fangirl” license revoked, you guys. Coz try as I might (and I really, really, really tried), I just could not get into Uncontrollably Fond. I trudged through 14 episodes of this one, trying – and consistently failing – to see the light with this show. At this point, I feel it’s time to admit defeat: I just don’t have it in me to sit through another 6 episodes of this one. Not even for Woob (gasp!).
I acknowledge that this show has its fans, who legit love this show. To which I can only say, I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.
STUFF THAT WASN’T BAD
I honestly can’t think of stuff that I really loved – or even seriously liked – in this show, but these are the things that made what I consider my Silver Lining List:
1. Woob’s not bad as our main character Joon Young, even though I feel like there’s a certain x-factor that’s missing from his performance in this drama. At least it’s nice to have him on my screen. I was duly impressed with his delivery of the pain scenes in particular.
On a tangent, for the record (and for the curious), I do feel like he’s bulked up too much here. I prefer the amount of bulk he showed in Heirs; that felt just right, to me.
2. Im Joo Hwan is quite riveting when his character Ji Tae gets angry. He also cleans up nice in a suit.
3. Im Joo Eun is also quite compelling as Jung Eun. Mostly, I just find Im Joo Eun’s screen presence compelling, rather than Jung Eun the character herself.
4. Occasionally, some themes come into play, and sometimes, they seem to be trying to make a meaningful statement. Like in episode 2, where it’s about power and the powerless, and how those with power basically screw up the lives of the powerless, in order to preserve themselves.
5. Some of the music on the OST is pretty catchy. Specifically, I like both versions of 밀지마 (Don’t Push Me) by Wendy and Seulgi of Red Velvet.
…And that’s about it, unfortunately.
A BREAKDOWN OF ALL THE THINGS THAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
Frankly, there are so many things that don’t work for me in this drama. But because I don’t want this section to turn into a really long rant, I’m gonna try to distill it as much as possible.
Just so we’re clear, this is absolutely my personal perspective, and not truth that’s cast in stone.
1. Suzy as Noh Eul
I had problems with Noh Eul as a character, and this is mostly due to her bemusing characterization by writer-nim. I didn’t feel like Eul was a very believable nor well-drawn character, and when you layer Suzy’s limited acting chops on top of that, it just compounds the problem. To Suzy’s credit, she clearly gives the role her all, and approaches it without vanity. However, even though I do think she’s improved since her acting debut in Dream High, her acting range is still pretty limited.
I found Eul annoying when she was supposed to be bubbly-cheery, and I also found her annoying when she was supposed to be an amusing drunk. Even more annoyingly, writer-nim inexplicably makes Eul a pretty screamy character in general who tends to have random loud outbursts. I flat-out cringed whenever Suzy screamed, so whether Eul was scream-singing at the noraebang, or screaming at a bunch of guys for picking on a girl, I winced.
When you add on other character quirks which are supposed to be endearing, like Eul’s tendency to try to drown herself in a plate of water whenever she’s upset, it just didn’t sit well with me – to put it mildly.
2. Characters generally behave in bemusing ways
Honestly, a lot of the time while watching this show, I didn’t really understand why characters behaved the way they did.
I get that this show is supposed to be about a group of flawed people behaving in very flawed ways, but I really had to work at it sometimes, to rationalize why they were behaving the way they were. And even then, I didn’t feel fully convinced by the conclusions of my rationalization. When you have to work this hard to try to understand character motivations, it’s even harder to engage with the characters. I never felt truly on board with these characters, frankly.
There’s a lot of lying that goes on between characters. When you think about it, Joon Young is lying to everyone about his condition, Ji Tae is lying to Eul and her friends about his identity, Eul regularly lies to brother Jik (Lee Seo Won) and bestie Na Ri (Kim Min Young), Joon Young’s mother (Jin Kyung) has lied to him his whole life about his dad, and the list goes on. Most importantly, I found it disturbing that we spend so much time with both male leads lying big time to the woman they profess to love, while both working to win her affection. That’s.. not cool.
On a slight tangent, I couldn’t help feeling impatient with the characters as a result. All the lying leads to a whole lot of back-and-forthing among the characters, and as I was watching it unfold on my screen, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a huge waste of time because Joon Young is supposedly critically ill, with a maximum of 3 months left to live.
There were many times when I felt bemused and confused by these characters, but here’s a quick spotlight on episode 14.
I could understand why Eul took the money that Ji Tae’s mother offered, but I couldn’t understand why she’d choose to flippantly splurge on clothes and shoes for her friends, when that money could’ve been put to much better use, both for her own debt and her friend’s tight money situation. And then when she started crying, drinking and drunk-yelling, it just annoyed me coz she put herself in that situation by being flippant about the money. I totally get why Na Ri got mad at her, and I had no sympathy for Eul for passing out drunk in a pile of shopping.
I could sort of understand that Joon Young wanted to get close to Jung Eun to get her to own up to being the driver who’d knocked down Eul’s father, but it was still bemusing to watch him put on the romantic moves on Jung Eun when he could barely hold it together health-wise.
I got that Jung Eun would probably have an axe to grind with Eul, but her violent hissy fit did feel like it came out of nowhere.
Haru’s (Ryu Won) obsession with Jik also felt like it came out of nowhere. I liked Jik, but I didn’t care for Haru, so it was annoying to see that he seemed to like Haru back. His affection definitely felt out of the blue.
3. Angst, angst, angst
I want to say that this show is in the vein of classic Hallyu melos, but I feel like it is, and it also isn’t. For one thing, old-school melo usually starts out bright and happy, and with this show, we don’t even get that. We dive right into the angst, and then flashback to more angst – and then even more angst. There are hints of cute and potential happy, but those are consistently snatched away before they get to really reach fruition.
The college-age flashback we get in episode 3 is helpful in shedding more light on the backstory of the characters, but it does feel like way too much misfortune to befall a small, way-too-interconnected group of people.
I get that this is (probably) supposed to be Very Dramatic Makjang, and if I worked hard enough, I found that I could rationalize most things. But none of it felt organic to me, somehow. It all felt strung together for the sake of maximizing the Drama, and I just couldn’t feel it.
4. Rushed cliffhangers with overly skimpy (or non-existent) context
This show does a weird thing of showing certain events in its cliffhangers without showing how we get to those events, and then taking its time to fill in the gaps in the following episode. I get that this is what many kdramas do these days, in order to create the “wow” factor in their cliffhangers, but really, there is a limit to how well this can work. Consistently, I’ve felt like this show oversteps that limit.
It tends to show events stripped of so much context that I just go “Huh???” at the end of an episode. And, while Show tends to fill in (most of) the gaps in the following episode, I’d venture to say that a good chunk of your audience may run out of patience before the show’s run is over and just stop tuning in to find out the context.
It’s like that “push and pull” that is used often to describe romance in kdramas – when you go too far, the other person gets put off and fed up, and your “push/pull” gamble doesn’t pay off. I felt the same way with Show’s efforts to “push/pull” and I grew tired of it and stopped caring what happened in this drama world because everything ended up feeling so random.
Just as an example, here’s what watching the end of episode 12 felt like.
Suddenly Joon Young is seeking out the lawyer who handled Eul’s father’s case. Suddenly he’s hanging around Jung Eun and saving her from drunk-drowning. Suddenly he’s appearing on her movie set.
On the other hand, suddenly Eul’s asking Ji Tae to date her, coz she’s decided that that’s the best revenge to wreak on his parents. Suddenly Eul’s dressing up for her new job when she’s never cared before. Suddenly Ji Tae’s standing up his own engagement, against which he’d never before shown inclination of rebelling. Suddenly Jung Eun’s walking around drunk and decides to throw herself into the very shallow pool. (On a side note, it was completely unnecessary for Joon Young to dive into the pool. He could’ve just stepped in and pulled her out; it was that shallow.)
Like, pretty much everything seems to have happened, just so that that last scene could happen. But, there are so many odd, unexplained things. Why is Joon Young even showing up at Jung Eun’s movie set, let alone saving her? Why is Jung Eun conveniently drunk-walking near a pool? Why is Ji Tae even at the same place, and piggybacking Eul, no less?
To be fair, the beginning of episode 13 fills in most of the blanks, but I was very bemused watching episode 12’s cliffhanger.
5. Overly-delayed reactions
The delayed reaction is a total Thing in this show. I get that certain moments are given the Dramatic Slo-Mo treatment in order to amplify the way the scene lands with the audience, but I personally think Show overstepped the fine line that divides Dramatic Slo-Mo and Laughable Slo-Mo.
One big example of this is in episode 10, when Eul moves to drive a van into Choi Hyun Joon. The way it’s presented, there is so much reaction time in the almost-accident that I feel like the characters are unnaturally retarded in their ability to react quickly to their surroundings.
Same thing when Joon Young carries Eul into the hospital and shouts for a doctor. That bit, and variations of it, is played for so long, and so over-dramatically, that it looks super strange that the hospital staff are completely ignoring this screaming mad man for so long.
I know it’s supposed to up the drama, but it does the opposite thing and takes me out of the drama even more. Not good.
I started this show convinced that if I could watch all of Heirs for Woob, that I’d be able to watch anything for Woob.
…Guess I was wrong.
Again, I know there are people who legit love this show. It’s just, I am definitely not one of them. I felt completely impassive most of the time I spent watching this show, and the emotions that I did feel were mostly not of the positive variety.
The only reason I even made it as far as episode 14 was that my mostly dormant completist streak decided to have a case of bad timing, and reared its head. I stubbornly hung on, even though I never truly cared about any of the characters and never quite understood why they behaved the way they did.
The breaking point came when episodes 15 and 16 became available and I found myself filled with a sense of bummed dread at the thought of having to watch more of this show. That’s when I knew it was time to beat that completist streak into submission and drop this one.
밀지마 (Don’t Push Me) – Wendy and Seulgi of Red Velvet
Just coz I really do like the groove of this song.