Considering how little I knew about Thumping Spike (essentially, only that it exists, and that Song Jae Rim is in it), I was, to say the least, surprised to find myself actually watching Season 2 of this show.
I guess chancing on someone’s positive comment on this, plus the fact that I’m an incorrigibly curious cat, plus the fact that I dig Lee Won Geun’s eye-smiles, meant that I really had no choice but to check this out.
For the first few episodes, I even thought I might really like it, too.
In case you’re anything like me, and hadn’t heard about this little web series, here’s what it’s about.
Shy & studious Da Woon (Kim So Eun) enters Dae Han University where she (a) encounters volleyball captain Yi Ra (Sun Woong) and quickly starts to nurse a one-sided crush on him, and (b) meets volleyball pro superstar Hae Sung (Lee Won Geun), who’s decided to give up his pro career to pursue his studies, and agrees to tutor him.
Love triangle type things ensue. Volleyball type things also happen – although not quite as often as you’d expect, from a volleyball-themed show.
For the first little while, I actually found myself rather enjoying this show.
I mean, sure, there were the usual web drama limitations, like short screen time and therefore underdeveloped characters, relationships and narrative arcs, and a general sense of predictability.
On top of that, I wasn’t overly keen on Show’s broad comedic sensibility. But, I did find a bunch of things to like about this show, at least in the first few episodes.
Here’s a quick list:
1. The short 15-20 minute episodes are very convenient for when you’re too busy for a full-length drama, or feeling too fickle to commit to a whole hour of drama.
2. It’s light and breezy, with hints of heart.
3. Kim So Eun is sweet as Da Woon, and also gets to show some spunk as Da Woon’s twin Ah Reum.
4. Lee Won Geun is very adorable with his crinkly smiles.
THE DOWNHILL TRAJECTORY
By about the episode 5 mark, though, I started to find myself enjoying this show markedly less than in the beginning.
To be brutally honest, the biggest problem in this show is the writing.
By the episode 5 mark, it feels like this show is written for tweens, even though this show’s setting is college and the characters are in their twenties.
Which, I suppose, isn’t the most terrible thing; I could’ve-might’ve stuck with this one if it’d just stayed consistent with that. The thing is, it gets worse.
By the episode 12 mark, this show feels like it’s being strung together by a bunch of (possibly drunk) tweens who’ve been fed a diet consisting solely of kdrama tropes, and are just imagining what college – and general human relationships – will be like, without the benefit of experience and the reality checks that come with.
Character logic is paper-thin, and sometimes severely lacking, as is logic in general.
There are so many things that I could cite as examples of bad writing in this section, but I’ll highlight just 3 things.
1. Da Woon as a character.
From being simply a sweet girl in the earlier episodes, Da Woon becomes a highly frustrating character to watch. She is overly timid to the point that I don’t even understand why the boys both like her.
She consistently doesn’t speak up for herself, even if it means being dragged willy-nilly into a dating relationship by Yi Ra, when she no longer actually likes him.
Worse, instead of telling him that she doesn’t want to date him anymore, she chooses to play along, and even forces herself to be artificially bright and cheerful when she’s with him. But, why??
2. Things happen lightning-fast and with very little supporting logic.
Like in episode 12. In a short span of a few minutes, Hae Sung’s dad applies for him to drop out of school without his knowledge; the news of Hae Sung dropping out travels quickly but very clumsily to Da Woon; Da Woon suddenly confesses her feelings for Hae Sung, saying that if he’s not there in school, she doesn’t want to be either, and she hugs him, not realizing that her so-called boyfriend Yi Ra is in plain sight.
It’s enough to give you a case of drama whiplash, right?
3. The OTP.
As we get deeper into the show, Show unleashes an onslaught of sudden dating relationships and accompanying uncool behaviors.
In episode 14, it’s bad enough that the story jumps from Da Woon’s blurted out confession, to Hae Sung’s lack of one, to them suddenly dating and holding hands and kissing; all giant leaps that have no logical context to hold it all up, and all within a few short minutes too.
To make matters worse, Da Woon ends up having dating relationships with both boys at the same time.
Even if Yi Ra had been boorish and hadn’t let her speak, she needs to have set the record straight and broken up with him before dating Hae Sung.
And Hae Sung going ahead to date her, after Yi Ra has stated that he wants this whole thing to be settled after the competition, is just supremely uncool.
To sum up, I had 3 main problems with this OTP:
(a) they got together too suddenly and with hardly any context.
(b) both of them were being unfair and untruthful to Yi Ra, who trusted them both. Very uncool.
(c) I didn’t think the chemistry between Kim So Eun and Lee Won Geun was very good, unfortunately.
This means that I basically couldn’t quite root for the OTP, and that, as many a drama fan would know, is a real killer.
THE SILVER LINING
The one single thing that kept me going for as long as I did, was – you guessed it – Lee Won Geun’s crinkly smiles.
The rest of the show was swiftly going to pot for me on a quick downward spiral, and even though my brain was quickly growing disgruntled and demanding that I drop this show, my heart wobbled and my resolve, well, dissolved every time Lee Won Geun flashed his trademark melty eye-smiles – and he flashed them pretty gosh-darn often.
..Which is how I made it all the way to episode 16 of this
hot mess show. That’s some Potently Powerful eye-smiles right there.
DECIDING ON GOODBYE [SPOILERS]
Given the profound power of Lee Won Geun’s eye-smiles over me, it says A Lot that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the last 4 episodes of this one, even though each episode is really only about a quarter of a regular-length episode of drama.
Basically, by episodes 15 and 16, I was starting to think that this show might just be the worst-written show I have seen, ever.
The whole stabbed-by-a-crazed-fan thing is already nuts, and Hae Sung could’ve reacted in so many ways – seriously, so many! – but he just had to block the stab with his precious volleyball-playing hand. Okayyy.
Even more nuts, is the aftermath of the stabbing. The stabber begging for mercy at the police station gets played for comedy, and Yi Ra readily sends Da Woon to Hae Sung’s side at the hospital, with barely a scowl, because “he can’t hit a patient.”
And then, Hae Sung refuses a second surgery despite the risk of paralysis, which is so stupid I can’t even.
Then Hae Sung’s dad begs the doc on his knees to save his son’s hand, even if he can’t play volleyball again, and suddenly, Hae Sung’s relationship with Dad gets magically mended, amid voice-over thoughts that perhaps Hae Sung was the one pushing himself all along – never mind that not so long ago, Dad was the one who was fighting with Hae Sung and trying to get him dropped out of school without his knowledge.
Headdesk. Just, SO little sense-making, seriously.
That’s when I knew that it was time for goodbye, melty Lee Won Geun eye-smiles or no. I just couldn’t take the bad writing anymore.
It wasn’t that the eye-smiles lost their power; rather, it’s that the badness of the writing just got too big to overcome, even for the best of eye-smiles.
I’m sorry your eye-smiles weren’t enough for me, Lee Won Geun-sshi.