The experience of watching this show is similar to what I imagine it would be like, to be on an exceptional winning streak in your favorite computer game: you are in disbelief as you clear round after round, trouncing the system in ways that you didn’t think possible.
You start to wonder if you will – gasp! – actually be able to pull off a perfect game – a feat that is only rumored to be possible. You make it to the final rounds – OMG am I almost there?! – ..only for the system to beat you in the end, after all. *sadface*
And then you console yourself that, yes, you didn’t make it all the way through this time, but you still did really well – and maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it next time.
Sigh. That’s how I feel about this show, you guys. There was so much to love in this one, and it felt so surprisingly fresh in so many ways, that I thought we might actually have a thoroughly amazing drama on our hands.
Alas, Show wobbled a fair bit in its final episodes, to my eyes. I’m disappointed about that, but just like in the analogy of the computer game, I’m consoling myself that being awesome for 14 episodes is still head and shoulders above most other dramas. Right?
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
FOR THE RECORD
Before diving into the review itself, I wanted to weigh in, a little bit, on the plagiarism scandal, that this show allegedly used J-drama We Got Married As A Job as its source material, without giving credit.
Thanks to my recent exploration of new and different drama pastures, I happen to have watched We Got Married As A Job (review here!), and now that I have also watched Because This Is My First Life, I just wanted to say, I don’t think one could really call it plagiarism, in all fairness.
One could possibly argue that Because This Is My First Life was inspired by We Got Married As A Job, in that there are a couple of similar elements between the 2 shows: both share a contract marriage, a socially awkward male lead who works in IT, and a quirky heroine.
Broadly speaking, these details do make the two shows appear similar.
In fleshing out its story and characters and relationships, though, I feel that Because This Is My First Life feels different enough from We Married As A Job, to stand on its own merit.
..And that’s all I’m gonna say about that, in this review, mostly coz it would require delving into a lot of spoilery territory in both shows, in order to elaborate in more detail.
I feel like the best way to put the question of potential plagiarism to rest, is to watch both shows in full. And since both shows are pretty great in their own ways, I don’t consider either endeavor a loss. 😉
STUFF THAT WORKED FOR ME
Alright, so I started this review on a slightly regretful note, since I didn’t love Show’s final two episodes. But, that doesn’t negate the fact that for its first 14 episodes, Show hit a lot of right notes, for me.
Here’s a spotlight on some of my favorite things in this show – at least for the first 14 episodes. We’ll take about the last two episodes later.
1. The thoughtful writing
Generally speaking, I loved the execution in this show. From camera angles to sound editing (those Cat sounds! <3 ), and color palette to OST, everything comes together in a lovely, cohesive way to create this drama world. I’d say the biggest hero in all of this, though, is the writing.
Nowadays, as the production of kdramas becomes more and more skewed towards being a commercial endeavor than an artistic one, the thoughtfully-written kdrama has become quite the rarity. This show definitely skews thoughtful in its writing, and I liked that a lot.
Here are my favorite things about the writing.
1. It feels nicely balanced
I really enjoyed this show’s touch of quirk. It’s not manic quirky like other kdramas I’ve seen; that’s a style I personally don’t do well with. This one is just gently quirky, which is perfect for my tastes.
There’s enough understated personal quirk about this story, to make it all feel plausibly real despite the odd circumstances. And there’s just enough drama convention about it – contract marriage and forced cohabitation – to make it feel accessible.
At the same time, I like that there’s enough in our story, about pursuing your dreams, so that this doesn’t feel like it’s only all about the romance.
2. It remembers to create a thread of reason
One thing I really appreciate about the writing in this show, is that it doesn’t tend to leave things unanswered. I’ve watched too many shows where a “Ta-da!” moment of surprise is reached, but it’s never really explained how we got there.
So the fact that Show actually takes the time to go back and answer some keys questions surrounding its “Ta-da!” moment, earned it extra brownie points, in my books.
At the end of episode 8, Se Hee (Lee Min Ki) is shown coming to Ji Ho’s (Jung So Min) rescue from a potential attacker.
It’s surprising and swoony in the moment, especially since he takes her by the hand (squee!) but I did wonder how Se Hee had known where to look for Ji Ho, and I just couldn’t think of anything.
And when Show didn’t give us an answer soon after we opened episode 9, I thought that – sigh – writer-nim had probably pulled another ta-da!-plot-twist!-never-mind-how-we-got-here thing, BUT! Show explains it! AND, it makes sense! Huzzah!
3. It feels brave and sensitive, at the same time
Sometimes, dramas are written as if the writer is on autopilot, just throwing in tropes and clichés to fill screen time. This show doesn’t do that.
Instead of relying on tropes and clichés, writer-nim approaches apparently tropey material with a fresh and thoughtful touch.
Case in point: the introduction of the ex-girlfriend, which is done in episode 13. In most kdramas, this is shorthand for a love triangle situation, where the returning ex-girlfriend is clingy, and determined to fight dirty for the male lead’s affections.
In this show, however, the introduction of ex-girlfriend Jung Min (Lee Chung Ah) is sensitively and organically done.
Instead of being the typical Clingy Ex, Jung Min is shown to have clearly moved on in life, and is a pretty awesome individual all by herself.
Yet, she is critical to the development of our story and our characters.
She is introduced as a way for Se Hee to face his Room 19 – the unresolved blight in Se Hee’s life which he doesn’t like to talk or think about – and I like it extra, that this is introduced in such a thoughtful manner, in Ji Ho’s voice.
In this way, we see that Ji Ho doesn’t seem to see Jung Min as a threat to her relationship with Se Hee. Rather, she seems to see it as a necessary step for Se Hee, for his own sake. And that feels magnanimous, understanding and healthy. How very refreshing.
This is definitely one time where I was not against the introduction of the ex-girlfriend.
4. It feels deeply organic
As I watched this show, it occured to me that this show feels very personally written, like writer-nim is drawing on thoughts that she has been brewing in her heart and mind for years, and is only now giving voice to them as she pens her conclusions into this drama.
There are multiple references to books, movies and poems in our story, and all the thoughts and impressions drawn from them feel real and properly chewed through, and the conclusions don’t feel like they were easily reached nor understood.
I feel like writer-nim earned those conclusions with real engagement of the heart. To me, it just didn’t sound like this was something that you could gain simply from research.
I particularly love the conclusion about words and the effect they have on the heart in episode 14. How hurtful words can kill a heart; how warm and thoughtful words can bring healing and life to that same heart.
It’s so true, and this conclusion beautifully ties together everything that we have been witnessing on our screens prior, with regards to Se Hee, Ji Ho and Jung Min.
In this way, I feel like this story and this gradual unveiling, was conceived long beforehand, and all this while, writer-nim has been carefully cultivating her characters and story, to fulfill the design for which they were born. I truly love it.
2. Lee Min Ki as Se Hee
I really, really love Lee Min Ki as Se Hee. <3
He makes Se Hee so perfectly quirky, yet so perfectly expressive, in his own way. Because Se Hee is often portrayed as wearing a rather deadpan expression, Lee Min Ki’s micro-expressions really come into play, and he is so good.
Even without Se Hee saying anything, or really changing his expression, we can often see the emotions pass through him, in the blink of his eyes, the flicker in his gaze, and the twitch in his lip.
I never felt like Se Hee’s feelings were an enigma to me, as a viewer, and that’s thanks in large part to Lee Min Ki’s wonderful delivery.
The more I saw of Se Hee, the more I liked him as a person. He’s strict and sees things plainly, but he’s not unkind.
The way he reacts to Ji Ho outside the restaurant in episode 1 says a lot.
He clearly doesn’t enjoy the company of strangers, but talks to her about soccer anyway. And when she rambles about the guy that she likes, he says that he’s handsome.
And, he even gives her a fresh perspective while she’s despondent at the bus-stop, so much so that she feels comforted.
He’s always so logical and calm, but there’s also a thoughtfulness and compassion in him that shines through.
When he explains his compassionate train of thought in that logical tone of voice – [SPOILER] like in episode 9, when he says he didn’t want to burden Ji Ho coz she would likely be hurt more by their divorce [END SPOILER] – it somehow makes his compassion even more precious.
Like, to him, that compassion is the most logical, natural thing in the world.
As a bonus, Se Hee’s deadpan, unfiltered, logical honesty comes across as sweet at the most unexpected times. [SPOILER] Like, the way he tells Ji Ho in episode 5 that the wedding dress suits her more than he’d expected. Squee! [END SPOILER]
One of my favorite Se Hee scenes is in episode 8, when he arrives to rescue Ji Ho from potential predator Bok Nam (Kim Min Gyu), and defiantly kicks Bok Nam where it really hurts – his fancy motorbike, ha.
Se Hee’s grand gesture of running up the hill to save Ji Ho, and kicking Bok Nam’s fancy bike down, knowing that it would cost him big money, means so much more, and feels so much more precious, in the light of his earlier actions, where he’d hurt himself trying to avoid causing damage to the very same bike.
He cares! A lot! Squee!
3. Jung So Min as Ji Ho
I love Jung So Min and felt that she was perfectly cast as Ji Ho. Her sweet warmth is pitch perfect for her character, and I loved her right away.
Ji Ho is portrayed as being warm, yet lonely; innocent and naive, yet strong and principled; crazy and quirky, yet earthy and compassionate.
I enjoyed all of these apparent contradictions in Ji Ho, and kudos to Jung So Min, for making all of these seemingly disparate pieces come together in what feels like an organic, believable whole.
I could believe that Ji Ho was a real person with a real dream, searching for her place in the world through thoughtful introspection and cautious yet curious experimentation.
One of my favorite Ji Ho scenes is in episode 3, where she stands her ground and doesn’t cave in to the pressure from the senior writer and director to sweep the attempted assault she experienced, under the carpet.
A less courageous person would have given in to the pressure; these were senior people, and they were influential, and they outnumbered her.
But, Ji Ho doesn’t. She questions their motives and morals, and maintains her stance; she was attacked and it is not okay. She would rather quit her writing dream than sweep it under the carpet, and she literally does just that.
That takes serious guts, and I admired her so freaking much, in that moment.
4. Se Hee and Ji Ho together
Show does a pretty good job of convincing me that Ji Ho’s crazy enough, and Se Hee eccentric enough, to enter into this marriage contract. As a bonus, the more I find out about Ji Ho, the more I feel like she just might be weird enough to match Se Hee.
I loved that even though Ji Ho and Se Hee might be very different on the surface – she’s soft & warm, he’s cool & distant – that they connect where it matters.
In episode 2, they talk about why she kissed him at the bus-stop in episode 1. He understands her convoluted logic about why she kissed him, and is able to break it down in his own logic, and they agree.
When she tells him that she showed up at the apartment complex looking like a wreck because she took a walk after having a bad dream, he doesn’t ask further questions.
Literal or metaphor, it doesn’t matter to him; only the crux matters, which is that it was something bad.
These two just seem to work together. Plus, they’re able to bond over beer and soccer, which is cute.
A lot of the appeal of watching this loveline, is seeing them grapple with the tension between the guidelines Se Hee and Ji Ho have laid out for themselves – or rather, that Se Hee has laid out for them – and the desire of each of them, to connect with the other.
It creates all kinds of awkward, tentative attempts to bond, and gives rise to a kinship, almost against their will. It’s great stuff.
A great little example is in episode 7, when we see Se Hee being wistful when he doesn’t see Ji Ho at the bus stop.
He’s the one who tells Ji Ho that they should avoid situations where they need to act as husband and wife, and yet, there is clearly a part of him that wants to ride the bus with Ji Ho, and that gets jealous when he sees her with Bok Nam. Fun.
Here are a couple of my favorite OTP highlights:
1. The seaside kiss
I love the way Show intersplices the lead-up to the kiss scene with the conversation between Sang Gu and Soo Ji, clueing us in that Se Hee may actually have feelings for Ji Ho already, even as Show sets up the kiss.
I love, too, the thoughtful nugget of wisdom that Ji Ho speaks, “It’s not like you know all about today just because you lived yesterday.” So true, and so wise.
Ji Ho may not have experienced many things, but in this moment, she speaks wisdom that even someone who’s lived through many things may not have, and it resonates with Se Hee, enough to galvanize him into initiating the kiss, telling Ji Ho that the way she had kissed him at the bus stop only qualified as a peck.
“This is how you kiss,” he states, as he holds her face in his hands, before leaning in and kissing her.
And the kiss itself is perfect. Se Hee is still his own quirky, analytical bot-like self, which makes the moment feel authentic and momentous at the same time.
It feels like all the little conversations Se Hee and Ji Ho have ever had, created all these little puzzle pieces, and in this moment, all the pieces just glided into place – naturally and seamlessly.
These two cleave together so naturally, and witnessing this first (proper) kiss, I feel like they truly belong together.
2. The date
I love the way Se Hee seeks Ji Ho out in episode 12, and takes her out on a date. Se Hee wanting to win the stuffed snail for Ji Ho is super cute and adorkable. Se Hee giving Ji Ho pretty earrings is very awkwardly, adorably sweet.
Ji Ho getting all twisted up through it all, because she couldn’t stop thinking about – and wanting (ahem) – Se Hee, after their first kiss together, is adorable and cute. She’s literally more interested in the skinship, than in the date itself.
Hee. There’s just enough secondhand embarrassment in the mix to be funny, but not painful.
3. “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?”
In episode 12, Se Hee, deciding to pursue his right to be happy, and asking Ji Ho if she wanted to sleep with him, is intent and sexy. Rawr.
And the way that Show treats their first night together, in episode 13, is just perfect.
Them spending time talking honestly and a bit awkwardly, Ji Ho getting all flustered and pretending to be asleep, only to give herself away when she answers Se Hee, Ji Ho opening her eyes to see Se Hee gazing intently at her, Se Hee asking if he can hold her (flail), Se Hee pulling her close, Ji Ho asking if she can kiss him, the two adorable lovebirds drowning in kisses as the scene fades out.
Ahh. So good. <3
Of course, it’s also in complete keeping with their quirky characters, that Ji Ho promptly falls into a deep, snoring asleep the moment Se Hee excuses himself to get a beer. Heh.
5. Soo Ji and Sang Gu’s loveline
I didn’t think I would, but I ended up really enjoying this couple’s loveline.
I love that Soo Ji (Esom) is such a strong, independent woman, and I love even more, that Sang Gu (Park Byung Eun) loves her as she is, prickly outer shell and all. It was sweet to watch Sang Gu basically win her over with his sincerity, even if it was sometimes against his better judgment.
I thought it was so poignant yet adorable, that Sang Gu cried so hard in episode 9, because he had taken Soo Ji’s ultimatum to heart – essentially, that she would date him if he gave up his company – and genuinely believed that because he couldn’t bear to give up his company, that he wouldn’t be able to see her anymore.
It’s so sweet that he’s so hurt by the thought of not seeing her anymore, really.
Aw. It’s no wonder Soo Ji can’t resist kissing him.
I love that through all the ups and downs, through all of Soo Ji’s prickly words and defensive attempts to keep him at bay, that Sang Gu continues to love her, and tries to embrace every part of her, including the parts of her life that she’s ashamed to show the world.
Even though Soo Ji often tries to intimidate him into retreat, he just doesn’t give up on wanting to be there for her, in spite of it all, and that’s seriously awesome of him.
The more this couple found a way to be together, the happier Soo Ji looked around Sang Gu – and the more I enjoyed having them on my screen.
Special shout-out: Ji Ho’s mom and Se Hee
I have a special soft spot for Ji Ho’s mom (Kim Sun Young). Even though she tends to be a woman of few words, there’s just something very caring about her, and I love when she extends that care towards Se Hee.
In episode 6, I found it sweetly heartwarming to see Mom reach out to bond with her new son-in-law. I wanted her to melt Se Hee into a puddle, with kindness, heh.
When Se Hee went to observe kimjang with Ji Ho’s family in episode 11, Mom looking so affectionately at her son-in-law, and protecting him from the other ahjummas, was lovely to see. It’s clear that she thinks Ji Ho’s married well. Aw.
Se Hee’s tiny smile leaking out when Mom protected him, was pretty priceless too. I’d like to think think that this mom-in-law and son-in-law are going to become an adorable, inseparable pair in the years to come.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
1. Ho Rang and Won Seok’s loveline
Among the three featured lovelines in this show, this couple’s story grabbed me the least, which is why it’s in this section. Not to say that their story wasn’t worth telling.
Far from it; I felt that their arc was treated in a sensitive and organic way that felt true to life, for the most part.
I felt sorry for both Won Seok (Kim Min Suk) and Ho Rang (Kim Ga Eun), for different reasons.
I felt sorry for Ho Rang, in that she’s in this long-term relationship with a guy she seems to really love and wants to marry, but he’s not even sure if he wants marriage.
And when he eventually proposes marriage, he doesn’t feel ready to actually get married for another 5 years.
After 7 years, the emotional investment is deep, so it’s a big decision for Ho Rang. She needs to decide if this is a deal breaker, and she has to figure out how important her own ideals of marriage are, in the context of all of this.
I felt sorry for Won Seok, because he does love Ho Rang, but he feels ill-equipped to take care of her the way she expects.
His career isn’t taking off the way he had hoped, and even after taking the job at Sang Gu’s company, he doesn’t foresee having enough money for the wedding and other marriage expenses, for quite a long while.
The pain of giving up his career dream of running his own app company, combined with the pressure of actually becoming a viable financial provider, is enough to crush him, and I can see why he would think that letting Ho Rang go would be better for her.
Through it all, I never doubted that these two loved each other deeply. It’s just that they had different expectations, hopes and goals, and unfortunately, they didn’t match.
When they broke up in episode 12, I found it a really sad thing. But what do you do when your desires for the future don’t match up? And what do you do, when there is so much weariness in your relationship, after trying hard for each other, for 7 years?
When they break up in episode 13, the pain feels real, and the wounds, raw. Given their circumstances, though, I did feel that some time apart would help each of them gain some much-needed clarity and perspective, on what they really want.
2. The girls’ friendship
For the record, I liked the friendship among the three girls.
On the surface, the girls sometimes – or oftentimes – bicker, but underneath it all, they do really care about one another.
Like in episode 5, when Ho Rang and Soo Ji abruptly stop their petty cold war once they realize that something’s up with Ji Ho.
All the animosity seems to be forgotten, as they face Ji Ho and try to understand what she’s telling them about why she’s getting married. I liked that.
The reason this 3-way friendship is in this section is because I found the friendship a touch muted in this show.
Perhaps it’s because I watched this at the same time as 20th Century Boy And Girl, which also featured a 3-way gal-pal gang, and in that show, the friendship is given more screen time, and the love among the friends is expressed more overtly.
I guess I just wanted even more, from this friendship. I guess I’m kinda greedy that way, heh.
3. The thing with Bok Nam [SPOILERS]
The way that Show set Bok Nam up to appear to be a stalker felt a little clichéd, basically because there have been a fair number of stalkers in dramaland of late.
It was definitely a relief when Show revealed that Bok Nam wasn’t actually the stalker that we had been set up to believe him to be.
And while I appreciate that writer-nim works to explain how he would know so much about Se Hee and Ji Ho without actually being a stalker, I found the explanation too far-fetched.
The key thing is, if Bok Nam had gone so far as to interact with the wedding party during the festivities, and even take the lead in getting a special photo taken for the wedding couple, it’s hard to believe that neither Se Hee, nor Ji Ho, nor any of Se Hee’s colleagues, most of whom had been helping out at the wedding, had any memory of him.
It would’ve made a lot more sense if Bok Nam had been written to have simply waited tables at the wedding, without actually interacting with the wedding couple.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK SO WELL FOR ME
The penultimate stretch
While I did say that I didn’t really enjoy Show’s last two episodes, it wasn’t all bad. There were some things that I thought were done very well too. So here’s the breakdown.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
The good stuff
I thought that the fallout from Ho Rang and Won Seok’s separation was handled in a very insightful fashion.
The Awkward Breakfast scene in episode 15, when Won Seok reflexively moves to prevent potential suitor Young Hyo from putting perilla seed powder in Ho Rang’s food, it’s so poignantly sad.
How painful, to care so deeply for someone, and yet find yourself not in the position to actually demonstrate that care.
Won Seok’s desire to prevent perilla seed powder from spoiling Ho Rang’s meal ends in such an awkward silence, because he’s no longer her boyfriend, and therefore, that same care is now uncomfortable and inappropriate.
The phone call between Ho Rang and Won Seok later in the episode, is so painful yet beautiful. There is no blame, only care.
They still love each other, but are now cognizant that being together doesn’t help either person right now.
And so, they say things to comfort the other person, even though it likely hurts with each word. Ho Rang telling Won Seok that she was glad she spent the best years of her life with him; Won Seok telling her to be happy. So much sincerity and love, and so much pain, at the same time.
We also get a couple of painfully honest conversations between parents and their children; Se Hee and his dad, Soo Ji and her mom. It’s stuff they’ve avoided talking about for years, but it’s finally coming out now. It’s kind of liberating, but also, hard and painful at the same time.
In terms of Se Hee’s and Ji Ho’s journeys, I can see how and why each of them would reach the points that they did; Ji Ho realizing that she wanted more than a marriage of convenience, and Se Hee realizing that he needed to give Ji Ho more than the implicit understanding that he cared for her.
It’s heartbreaking to see Ji Ho feel so sad, and it’s also heartbreaking to see Se Hee’s stunned expression at Ji Ho’s request to end the contract, but I also feel like this is a necessary step for them, because they need to have the chance to choose each other all over again.
The not-so-good stuff
All of episode 15, I have to admit to feeling somewhat confused at what was going on with Ji Ho and Se Hee.
I found myself wondering how we got here, to this state of affairs. How did they become so uncommunicative and distant from each other, so suddenly?
It wasn’t that long ago that Ji Ho and Se Hee were sharing the same bed, and if that doesn’t say something about this being more than just a marriage contract, then I’m not sure what it says.
I understood that Ji Ho wanted more than a marriage of convenience, and that she felt stuck because she felt that she was living a lie.
But. In the way that she handled things with Se Hee, she gave no hint that she was open to continuing their relationship. And, before she dropped the news that she wanted a divorce, things had been going reasonably well between them, with them having night-time bedroom visits, and him going out to meet her on her way in at night.
That seemed to establish that they were liking each other for real, mutually, and that this was more than a marriage contract. So to have this much distance and lack of communication between them, suddenly, I felt very confused.
Plus, it was just really, really hard to see Se Hee feel so sad and broken. Sniffle.
I had hopes that Show would shed some light on this for me, in the finale. But.. that didn’t work out so well.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
Do you guys remember how I felt about the ending of Fight My Way? I kinda feel similarly about this show’s ending, albeit from a different angle.
One thing the two endings have in common, is that Show sacrificed character interactions that felt raw and real, in service of something else. In Fight My Way, it was in service of popping neat happy bows on everything and everyone.
Here, it was in service of the neat narrative circle. And I am so disappointed in writer-nim for making that choice.
I get that it’s narratively clever to have Ji Ho and Se Hee end up housemates again, by accident, at the end of the show. It echoes the very similar circumstances that started this story in the first place.
But, the narrative hoops that had to be jumped through, in order to set up that situation in our story, was just not worth it, in my opinion.
Ji Ho as a character suffered the most, because of this decision.
I understand her desire for more than a contract marriage, and I understand that she feels uncertain about the relationship that she and Se Hee share.
I understand – and even endorse – her desire for some distance and time, so that she can figure out what she feels, and so that Se Hee can figure out how he feels.
BUT. To have her do so, without actually attempting to have a conversation with him about it, feels so out of character.
If I think about the Ji Ho that we have come to know in the first 14 episodes of our story, I feel like she would at least try to talk to Se Hee about it; that she wouldn’t shy away from asking the hard questions.
And when I think about the Se Hee that we have come to know, I feel like he wouldn’t shy away from answering those hard questions either.
The conversation would likely be shorter and more robotic than most couple conversations, but I feel like these two characters would have talked honestly.
Instead, Ji Ho is written to leave without an explanation.
Worse, she is shown to harbor premeditated intentions to reconcile with Se Hee. She mentions it in passing to Jung Min, and she even signs up for a baking class, in order to bake that cake, in order to have a fresh start with Se Hee.
When she finds that he’s no longer at the apartment, she is disappointed, thinking to herself, this was supposed to be our new first day together.
Worse, the next morning, after Se Hee wakes up from his drunken slumber, she acts like nothing’s happened, despite the fact that he had drunkenly cried about how bad she was, and how miserable he was.
At breakfast, when he asks her how she can eat spicy crab like that, she appears to not understand his confusion and bemusement, and asks if he’d prefer she leaves.
That, to me, is SO out of character for Ji Ho.
It is a disservice to Ji Ho the character, for writer-nim to do this to her, making her look like a thoughtless, self-centered person who would first smile at Se Hee’s emotional outburst because it was the first time she’d seen him angry, rather than respond first, to the pain shining out of his eyes.
The Ji Ho that I felt I had come to know, would not have smiled at Se Hee’s pain. I feel that she would have responded to his pain first, with compassion and gentleness, and then, later, tell him (alright, maybe with a smile), that she was happy that he would show his anger to her.
In this stretch, it felt like Show had lost a bit of its soul, which had previously been raw, tender and thoughtful. The Ji Ho that I felt I had come to know, might have been crazy and quirky in her way of thinking, but she was also tenderhearted and compassionate.
This all just didn’t feel like her, truly. It almost felt like some kind of alien had invaded Ji Ho’s body in the last 2 episodes of this show, and was controlling her actions and speech for the last two hours of our story; it kinda-sorta felt like Ji Ho on my screen, but it also didn’t.
It all just felt very strange, to me.
Aside from this, I concede that in Show’s last 20 minutes or so, Ji Ho and Se Hee return to a more believable dynamic that feels true to their characters.
I thought the yearly contract renewal an unusual choice, but it felt quirky and odd enough, to be something that this quirky couple would choose for themselves.
I wasn’t surprised by Won Seok and Ho Rang’s reconciliation, and appreciated the sentiment that they needed time apart from each other, to figure out what they really wanted in life.
I thought the misunderstanding over the sofa was more clichéd than what I had expected of this show, but whatever, it got these two back together again.
The thing is, though, I didn’t like what Ho Rang said, about having discussed her marriage with Won Seok’s mom, before they’d actually reconciled.
It’s an almost throwaway line, but it doesn’t make sense to me. If that is true, then Ho Rang would have done so presuming that Won Seok was willing to reconcile with her. I didn’t like that so much.
I did love Soo Ji’s big motorbike entrance moment though. That was so stylish and so badass. I cheered on the inside, coz she looked so free and so empowered.
I love that Sang Gu is so supportive of her new business venture, and would even trail her into lingerie shops; something that most men seem uncomfortable with.
And, I thought it was cute and very much in character, that Soo Ji would be the one to propose to Sang Gu, on the pretext of it being purely to share their frequent flier mileage points, heh.
All in all, I am more disappointed by this show’s finale than I had expected to be. But, to give credit where it’s due, when Show was at its best, it was truly wonderful.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Would’ve been near perfect, if Show had remained consistent to the end. Thoughtful, quirky and charming for the most part.
FINAL GRADE: A-
I only have one episode left so I didn’t read about the ending BUT I have to say this is by far my favorite K-drama. I cried so much. It was therapeutic in a way, as I can really relate to the characters. It stirred a deep place in my heart, I couldn’t help but binge watch. The only other K-drama that has sucked me in and taken me on an emotional roller coaster from day one is “The Red Sleeve”. Loved this review.
Wow – didn’t see the polarizing view of the last 2 episodes. Personally I don’t see why people had so many issues with it. They were after all planning to get divorced after 2 years – let that sink in. This was already agreed to and planned. So why Ji Ho wanted to get out of this early should not be (really) questioned. But certainly we can discuss a few points. During the time Ji Ho’s brother has his baby, she realizes the marriage she entered into with Se Hee was not respectful of marriage – though she did not think marriage is really for her, yet she knows now that she should divorce – period. What she is very clear about is about finding love. So she decides to end the contract (marriage) early. Yes, she is falling for Se Hee. But there is little indication from Se Hee he is doing the same. Yes, they shared a bed. But if you remember Ji Ho says No the next time around. Hmm – maybe a double Hmm. Time to get your crap together Se Hee. And I’m sure Ji Ho hasn’t forgotten early on Se Hee telling Ji Ho not to come to the office so they don’t have to be seen as a couple. And time after time, Se Hee has trouble expressing (verbal and non-verbal) his true feelings for Ji Ho – she doesn’t really know if he likes or even loves her. Hence, she will divorce him and try to start from the beginning. Why not tell Se Hee this? Because it puts him in a bind – that’s a lot of pressure to go from a contract (fake marriage) to love. After all, he was more than happy with the extra rent money and contract marriage. I guess Se Hee’s drunken stupor the night they meet again in the apartment is as close as he gets to expressing his feelings. First thing in the morning he should have told her is that he loves her and always felt this way for awhile. I don’t understand why Se Hee isn’t getting more scrutiny here. Anyway, someone mentioned in the replies “marriage ruins love” story line – this was NOT part of any story line. It was about Ji Ho finding love. I could write a few pages here, but not likely to change peoples’ minds. I guess you’ll fall into one of two camps – but you really don’t need to. Just enjoy it.
One part that needed some work on Seok and Rang’s relationship a few more scenes on the reckoning, awakening, and reconciliation – I would have been ok if they ended that relationship in an unknown state – perhaps restarting their relationship. But as we saw early on in the show, there are rewrites to Ji Jo’s script so maybe there was some foretelling by this show writers – hey, this could happen here. For example, maybe the producers want Rang/Seok married regardless of what the writers or characters should do – double psych.
I have to say all three of the leading ladies pulled this show off, and special props to Ji Ho’s character – truly amazing and inspiring acting and to see where she started – as an obediant daughter, sister, contract wife, daughter-in-law to telling her in-laws she’s not baby sitting their son – you go girl! Se Hee did well even though he was pretty stiff the first 6-7 episodes. Special shout out to Bomi – she gets Rang and Seok back together again. Bomi also gives the show that extra attitude – telling it like it is when others are afraid to state the obvious. There are several amazing scenes in this show and well worth watching so A+ for me.
A- for me. But I also had no problems with FL’s actions
Enjoyed the review – show was great for most of it’s run. I loved that it dared to venture into complex topics such as marriage, tradition and gender roles, highlighting real, pertinent issues whilst challenging some of our preconceived notions. I loved how it touched on Ji Ho’s struggles as an aspiring drama writer and her being forced to adapt to survive in the industry. I also loved the strong characters, their interactions, and the show’s humor.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stick the landing. I share most of your opinions regarding how the Ji Ho / Se Hee arc was handled, so I won’t repeat those. Soo Ji / Sang Hu was written well for the most part, though one thing that I felt might have improved the show was Soo Ji’s boss reaction to her confronting him. Him using that opportunity to realize how his actions had hurt Soo Ji for years would have been a good opportunity for growth for a minor character – and also highlight how sometimes, a little awareness can go a long way. Of course, his reaction is also very reasonable, so this is a very minor nitpick.
Besides Ji Ho / Se Hee, the main issues that I had were with the Ho Rang / Wong Seok story. I really, really liked their arc. Both parties clearly cared deeply for each other, but also clearly had very different priorities in life – priorities which they unfortunately never clearly communicated in their seven years together. It’s heartbreaking that they had to reach this stage before they realized that they had to talk about this, but it’s also realistic, considering that they were young and that it was their first relationship (and honestly, Ho Rang’s communication style of going in circles would have driven me nuts).
What I really didn’t like was how this entire mess was resolved. They essentially spend a few months apart, realize that they still love each other, and decide to get back together – but none of the underlying issues are solved! There’s some throwaway lines that show that Ho Rang is more willing to compromise at the end of the show, but the resolution feels hollow and unearned, in a fairytale ‘Love will conquer all’ sort of manner, which completely goes against the messages that the show has been portraying throughout it’s run.
In my opinion, the show should have either had the guts to leave the couple split up (but not necessarily pairing them off with other parties that quickly, they obviously need some time to move on), or showed us in more detail the couple working together to actually resolve their conflicts. Another point was the ending showing the couple with a baby – again, something that could and should have been written in as a discussion point instead of being waved away as baby = greatest gift. It’s kind of similar to what happened with Ji Ho. The writers just had her disappear instead of taking the effort to write how Ji Ho and Se Hee could overcome their issues, together as a couple.
All in all, it’s just really disappointing when a show you really like doesn’t stick the ending. They journey is important, and I still love it for it’s thoughtfulness and humor through most of it’s run. Unfortunately, a good ending is ultimately what makes or breaks the show for me, and this one didn’t quite hit the mark.
There are other reasons (mention in the movie) but one reason Ji-ho left Se-hee was that Ji-ho thought Se-hee still had feeling for his old flame.
I just finished this, watching it after Lovestruck in the City, and I just have to think of this as a better version of that (even though it was made years earlier). It’s not just that Kim Min Seok plays the same character in both, it’s the dynamic of having three couples which just works so much better here. Character motivations are a little unclear at the end, but still such a great drama. Thanks for the review!
When we watched Lovestruck it did occur to us that he was reprising his role from Because This Is My First Life: “established couple that seems safe until the GF realizes her BF has gotten too comfortable to see her clearly.” Because of that memory of the same actor, I even predicted this would be the couple that would face the most serious problems in the show. But I had totally forgotten any of this until I read your comment.
I see it’s not the same writer(s) nor the same director. But perhaps the makers of Lovestruck had seen him in First Life and cast him for that reason.
This was very deep and a profound show!
Immediately after watching the first episode I knew it would enter my “hall of fame” list.
Having said that. I do have to agree that Episode 15 was super uncomfortable to watch!
And I do get that it was intended to be like that but seriously I was Honestly so messed up.
And You’re right that the whole thing is all because Ji Ho decides to not clarify the meaning behind the move she made. And yet, I still can’t blame the show completely for doing that.
She needed to do it so that Sehee opens his Room 19.
Was it out of character for her to do that? Maybe. But that’s maybe intended too. Since even she’s going through changes. She’s going through fear.
Fear of not loving. Fear of uncertainty. And watching something beautiful getting torn apart was.. Well, Painful..
I guess I can simply justify episode 15 as its a good episode which is really disliked watching!
Lastly, I Really want to give a special shoutout to the dream scene in the finale. It was so sad, beautiful and poignant (also VERY relatable!)
If anyone’s been through a heartbreak, they go thru that phase of dreaming that -everything is okay. Or, Maybe they are forgiven.
And when you realise it’s just a dream… Its the saddest moment ever and you don’t want to wake up. Ever.
I really want to commend them on dealing the entire scene so well!
I feel like other shows could have used the same setting for some simple hack-y shock factor but these guys didn’t.
They let the scene play itself out. And it was beautiful!
Watching this one right after “father is strange” is well.. strange, since both show dealt with contract marriages. Both shows had Jung Somin and also both shows had a cast member from “Hello my Twenties”
And that’s the best kinda “Happy little Accidents”😉
Wow, KFG. We loved this show. Including the last two episodes.
Although maybe we would have experienced the twist near the end differently if we weren’t already expecting something off-putting/upsetting. If so, thanks for your “danger ahead” lens!
As it was, it felt perfectly in character for Ji Ho to make that call.
One, she’s a bit eccentric, which is easy to forget because she’s so nice and mostly quiet. But, in fact, she’s quite a willful character.
Two, it appeared that she was intending for them to get back together all along. (The first clue being her odd question to him as she walked out the door, wondering what soccer players do during their break time between periods.)
She wanted a clean reset, with love coming first and marriage merely the result, not the other way around.
What I didn’t understand is why she didn’t explain any of that to him. She appeared to understand that what seemed, for most of the show, to be Asperger’s syndrome was actual him not having recovered from longstanding emotional damage. So was she anticipating that not telling him would initiate the grieving process he needed to heal? So they could restart from a solid foundation? That’s what happened, but, honestly, how the heck could she have anticipated that?
That said, unlike the last quarter of Something In The Rain or the final episode of Chocolate, this twist felt organic to her character as we’d experienced up till that moment.
This is a really great show, easily on our top tier list!
Another thing I love about shows like this: a good writer doesn’t need villains to create dramatic tension. Other than the troll-like manager who sexually harassers her friend Soo Ji, all these people were good or at least not bad. And even he was merely a jerk.
Their goodness was especially apparent in the gentle way the two romantic “also-rans” got the boot in the final episode. Those two rejections were as kind as any person could hope for.
My only regret is that I wish Ji Ho had signed with his ex-‘s production company. There’s no way she’d find someone else as simpatico to build a career with as that woman.
And btw, wasn’t it a welcome surprise for his ex- to show up unexpected and . . . it turned out to be perfectly lovely that she did? Especially given the pain and drama of their failed romance years prior? How many writers would go with a development like that, instead of exploiting the opportunity for melodrama and angst?
Instead, it turns out that to heal from that long-ago failed relationship, he needed to hear that she didn’t really expect him to never love anyone else again. She merely wrote in the heat of her despair. But he was so reliable, he took it as a commitment to her he needed to honor.
@merij1 – I’m so glad you felt the same way I did about the last two episodes. I felt show ended better than most Kdramas, especially those that are not based on some outlandish premise but are just about regular everyday people.
Although, I wouldn’t consider Lee Min ki’s character “regular”. I think of him as a bit less eccentric than Sheldon from Big Bang theory but with that same honesty, practical logic, and lack of deception. 😆
(Disclaimer, I haven’t watched Big Bang theory since a little after Sheldon got a girlfriend so if his character changed a lot after them, I wouldn’t know.)
We started this one tonight. So far, it’s excellent. I haven’t reading your full review, obviously, but I did read enough to know the ending will be disappointing. So I proposed that we watch most of it but skip that last two episodes. So far so good!
The FL occasionally reminds me of Jun Ji-hyun. Visually, that is.
@merij1 – My advice would be to not skip the last couple of episodes. I enjoyed them unlike kfangirl and a few others. But then again, my pov might be polar opposite of yours too because, I don’t think Jung So-Min and Gianna Gunn look anything alike. Not anywhere, not at all!
We’ll finish episode 14 this evening and will then need to decide whether to watch the last two . . . or quit while we’re still ahead! Most likely, we’ll watch them…
@merij1 👍 No spoilers – kfg and many others felt certain things were out of character for the characters but I felt that people sometimes do things out of character where loved is involved and besides shows need something to fill up the last couple of episodes 😄 and wrap things up 😄 The good thing is its not a stupid time jump, noble idiocy, or amnesia so I think you’re safe. 👍
See my comments above. I totally agree, Beez.
I just finished watching this show today. Unlike kfg and few others I didnt mind the last two episodes and I get why she did what she did. the last two episodes makes this drama even better in my opinion.
Hello kfangurl !!😊
–As much as I loved this show, and your subsequent review, there was something about this show that made me chew on my contemplative afterthoughts, and the only way to go about it was your way: a re-watch! And I ended up making a few observations myself!🙈
–I figured the only way to accept certain actions that called for ‘table-flipping’ reaction from us, (aka JiHo’s noble idiocy, but also not quite?) …is to adopt a very indie lens, much like its very indie soundtrack, in order to view the story & the characters (at least its lead couple). Once I did that, Jiho’s actions no longer frustrated me. Maybe it was the whole part, where stupid decisions conveyed a character’s human flaws. 😒
–Nonetheless, the show frustrated me two other levels. One was the decision to insert monologues into non-linear, offshoot dialogues towards the latter episodes. The frustration got exacerbated, because Jiho spoke in a drugged-drawl. As an international audience, I had to juggle subs, a parallel conversation, BGM lyrics, and also sometimes flashbacks or split-screens; and that became a sensory overload for me, and I constantly had the fear of missing out on some deeper meanings. (I mean, clearly if the ML doesn’t get the FL & her talking in circles, who are we to blame?)🤦♀️
–Healthy relationships bring out the best in both the partners. While SeHee was healing slowly, I couldn’t help but think the relationship became toxic at some point, because the sunny & carefree Jiho (from ep1) disappeared and increasingly looked depressed & morose as the episodes went on. SeHee’s constant rebuffs, and the pendulum-like dynamics between the two felt quite sad…..the tragedy of misplaced expectations (JiHo) & the fear of vulnerability (SeHee). I wasn’t a fan of it (because a woman’s responsibility is not to fix a broken man, esp. at the cost of her own sanity), but I learnt to accept it….🙈
— As someone unfamiliar with both actors, I did not have a bias towards either SeHee or Jiho. What endears Sehee to us, and the reason why our hearts go out to him is because we see him do all the sweet stuff for Jiho behind the scenes. But that also means Jiho isn’t a direct witness to any of it, and her needing to exit (the apartment & the relationship) for a fresh start because her ‘star pocket was empty’…. I see her as a victim too, and I am convinced of this angle from my re-watch! 😬
–JiHo’s decision to leave, in hindsight, also mirrors her decision to take break from scriptwriting (and not saying a permanent goodbye). I thought that was quite neat, and consistent with her character! 👌Honestly, there was no way out, after SeHee utters ‘it’s enough to have loved someone once’, & struggles to confess to JiHo even after she comes across the mother of his unborn child. 😒 However, the whole (unnecessary) suspense (to him) if ‘she’s coming back or has she left for good?’ is done in part, I believe, to arrive at the happy little coincidence of them sharing the rooftop apartment again. Makes me think the pre-finale episodes were reverse-engineered by the writers, and my right- brain is okay at this creative-license, but my logical left-brain is SCREAMING! ¯_(ツ)_/¯ The saving grace was they toned down on the long metaphors in the last episode…hehe!😒😒
–I echo others’ thoughts that there weren’t enough answers/details as to what exactly went down in SeHee’s previous relationship to turn him into a Bot. I also have a suspicion, it is due to the writer being a secret puritan with a disdain for makjang, and thus, her refusal to show the crazy/ ugly bits. Afterall, we see JiHo (a semi-autobiographical stand-in for writer-nim herself) condescendingly call-out the senior-writer lady for injecting makjang tropes into her script!🙄
–Overall, I am quite happy with most of the stuff the show has done, and really thankful to have picked it up based on your rec! No regrets!… I rarely find shows good enough that don’t make me run for the hills, much less be good enough to inspire ‘afterthoughts’. Despite its elaborate shortcomings, I agree with each of the things you mentioned the show did nicely! It is one of those rare well-written shows that respects viewer’s maturity & intelligence (uptil ep 14 atleast!) Not one character is exempt from imperfections/ flaws & each raise hard-hitting questions one should honestly answer to oneself! It had a healthy dose of sage-wisdom, and life-lessons. I am genuinely going to miss this show and the sunny, indie soundtracks. SeHee has gone down as my favorite mildly-autistic ML (after Healer of course)!😉 And I am seriously bitter about having watched Secretary Kim before this, and missing the fan service/ cameo appearance of the main SeHee/JiHo with their 3 little girls, playing at the beach! 😭
Good point that while he was slowing healing due to their relationship, she was becoming depressed.
However, I wouldn’t describe him as mildly autistic. That would be a lifetime condition. For most of the show I too thought he was Asperger’s, but that turned out not to be the case. He was merely trapped in the odd notion that he owed to his ex- never to love again.
Having watched this again (and will watch again). I enjoyed it maybe even more than the first time.
I actually find the Boknam arc extremely hilarious. I was looking for him in scenes like Easter Eggs. Seeing him in scenes well before introducing him made me giggle.
The last 2 episodes didn’t bother me as much as most of the comments. My mind goes back to when they talk about how Ji-ho will “Smack you in the back of the head” when you least expect it. Like how she took off for Seoul for school when her father objected.
To be honest, the whole smiling thing when See-he gets angry is in line with my experiences as a Korean guy dealing with Korean girls/women.
My guess about the last two episodes is that it’s not the way the writer originally had intended. It seems a bit compressed and forced. Maybe it written as a 20 episode show but was cut to 16?
Also, i believe what others have said about the writer Yoon Nan-Joong drawing from her experiences. One of her earlier works was ‘Snail Study Dorms’
Fun fact: 5 actors were also on Let’s Eat. And there is a poster of Let’s Eat 2 at a bus stop. The Director likes to pay homage to previous works. He also directed ‘What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’ which pays homage to ‘Because this is my First Life’ in Episode 10. Even plays Shelter from OST.
yup, as a person who went and re-watched this like you, I totally agree with everything you mentioned here…a 100-times yes! 😀
Forgot to mention the outstanding OST! Perfect for the drama. This Life and Shelter are my favorites.
I just marathoned this drama while waiting for new episodes of Flower of Evil. I did read your review first, so I was prepared for the events in the last 2 episodes. As a result, I was able to go with the flow and not be too perplexed by them. I was very pleased with the show, and willing to forgive the slight deviation off course in the last 2 episodes.
The character of Se Hee is now one of my favorite male characters in a Korean drama, and that says a lot! There is just something about those introverted male leads…
I agree with you about the writing. It felt very real and confessional. I watched Be Melodramatic earlier this year, which was another show about a drama writer. I have to say that sometimes I found the voice overs of the writer character in Melodramatic slightly annoying, but I never thought the same thing about the voice overs in Because This is My First Life. Like you, I felt that the writer (both the character and the actual writer) was sharing wisdom gained from personal experience. I certainly could relate to the story, even though my own story is different than Ji Ho’s.
Aw, that’s great that you enjoyed this one, Snow Flower! 😀 I do think that knowing ahead of time, that Show wobbles in the last bit, helps. At least you can manage your expectations and brace yourself for when you need to roll with weird narrative turns. 😉😅
YES. The writing in this feels so raw and real, doesn’t it?? I would believe that these are all thoughts and insights that writer-nim has gleaned from living life, and is only now just giving voice to. It felt.. almost voyeuristic, listening in. Really good. <3 And Se Hee really is lovely; there really does seem to be something special about those introverted male leads..! 😍❤️
PS: The music is great, I agree it was perfectly suited to the drama, and worked so nicely to bring the show to life! 😀
Thank you for your thoughtful review! I just finished watching the series and absolutely agree with your assessment. I don’t typically comment but I need therapy after those last 2 episodes!
I thoroughly enjoyed the first 14 episodes. They were a balm for all the moral injury my soul has suffered of late. I loved the characters and their struggles, I loved how the relationship unfolded. I loved the literal poetry and the poetic dialogue. There was very little, if anything, that I didn’t like. And then episode 15 happened. WHY? Zero explanation for why she would suddenly want to part ways and why she would disappear without a trace. Out of nowhere came a “marriage ruins love” storyline and a request for divorce. I probably could accept her leaving (and leaving him dumbfounded and devastated) if it had been to go on a journey of self-discovery or if there had been a true conflict. But she left to inflict pain and to force him to express his pain, which is about the furthest thing from the true definition of love. It also was not true to her character. While she may be “crazy” and capable of doing the unpredictable, she was also – for the entire first 14 episodes – warm and considerate and honest and brave. And then in the last 2 episodes, the writers turned her into someone manipulative and cruel, which is a total disservice. I feel so betrayed. That twist isn’t worth the otherwise lovely ending.
Hi there Francesca, thanks for putting the disconnect so well! I absolutely felt the same way about the sudden change in Ji Ho’s characterization in the last 2 eps, and struggled to rationalize it the way other viewers had advised: that she was supposed to be “crazy” anyway. You put it so succinctly, and I completely agree; she was also warm and considerate and honest and brave. I do wish Show had stayed the course, and been true to Ji Ho’s characterization (the way I saw Ji Ho anyway) through to the end. 😅
I’m actually in the middle of this series right now, but for some reason I was starting to get a bad feeling about it. I think it’s similar to your video game metaphor…I was starting the question show for being too good. So I ended up checking out your review, telling myself I wasn’t going to read the spoiler parts. Spoiler alert: I did. But I’m glad! Now I can pick the show back up knowing that the ending is off and I won’t feel so disappointed because I already know what’s coming. Thanks for the review!
Aw, glad the review came in useful, even though it’s to temper expectations around a dip in Show’s quality! 😝😅
Hello! I just finished the drama, and I really enjoyed it!Until the end that is. I had this unpleasant feeling throughout the last two episodes that I really couldn’t put my finger on until the credits started rolling.
Wasn’t Ji-ho, leaving suddenly so she could force See-Hee to open up to her, kind of manipulative?
When she explained her reasons for leaving him, it didn’t feel good enough. And when she smiled at him breaking down in front of her, I felt let down by her character, cheated almost. I was actually waiting until the very end in hopes of them having a more proper talk, a more satisfying explanation from her, but I got zip.
I actually enjoyed everything else about the last episode, how the other relationships turned out (maybe we should have gotten a glimpse at Bok-nam and Bo-mi too) and the new marriage agreement that Ji-Ho and See-Hee enters, it fits with them very well. The only thing that bothers me is how Ji-ho leaving See-hee, and coming back as if nothing had happened, as if she had no responsibility to bear, how all of that was handled.
So I couldn’t help but search up the finale to find if anyone else had felt the same way and tada, I found your review. I agree, it was very out of character for her, the sudden selfishness and almost indifferent attitude came out of left field and had left a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the episode.
Besides that, I really liked this drama and I really liked your review. I’ll be reading around for some recommendations.
Hi there Maliha, thanks for enjoying the review, and welcome to the blog! 🙂 And yes, I felt just the same way you did, about Ji Ho leaving, and how that didn’t feel like her character at all. Others have pointed out that the show has informed us that she’s crazy, but.. it just doesn’t work for me, somehow. It didn’t feel organic from where I was sitting. So you’re definitely not alone! 🙂
If you’d like more drama recommendations, you might like to browse my Full List here. It’s all the dramas I’ve written about on the site, with their corresponding grades. I hope that helps, and I hope your next drama is satisfying right to the end! <3
Your review is wonderful to read; better, I found it therapeutic. The last 2 episodes left me confused and frustrated (and angry??!!) as well. Why didn’t Ji Ho and Se Hee have the TALK to help them navigate what appeared to be minor issues at that point? grrrrr!!!
(Chocolate is similar. I’d love to read your writing on that drama if you get the chance. fingers crossed)
Hi there JoelS, thanks for enjoying this review! And yes, those last 2 episodes felt quite bemusing to watch; I personally felt like Ji Ho didn’t behave like herself, though others disagree. It felt like Show had evolved into a different creature, almost. :/ But I’m glad you found the review therapeutic, I hope you don’t feel too aggravated by the ending!
I tried 1 ep of Chocolate and haven’t decided whether to go back to it. I’ve heard that it’s quite lovely, once the set-up is done. But, if it’s like you said, that Show goes a bit wonky at the end like this one did, then I’m not so sure if I want to spend time on it..! 😝😅
To be clear, in Chocolate this issue only affected the final episode.
The writers completed the main story arc in the penultimate episode — culminating with that wonderful romantic epiphany I’m always mentioning — but then still had another hour to fill. So half the OTP flees the country for months, for no apparent reason. And then they reconcile at the end, again with no apparent discussion of why the one person fled.
It was a flaw, for sure, but nothing on the order of Something In The Rain.
I just finished watching this and some things left me a bit unresolved…
– why did the writer not allow Ji Ho to know how Se Hee beat up the assistant director? I felt that would’ve been a good opportunity for her to realise how he felt as he got so angry – even his ex-gf was shocked that he even hit somebody
– the cake! why did she not get the cake so they could have a “racoon” for breakfast?! lol poor cake was just left there out in the cold – so random too that she’d go out of her way to bake a cake
– what was with her in English school… was that to further her writing career? It didn’t really expand on that… or maybe I missed something?
– I felt the breakup between Se Hee and his ex weren’t explored enough – the circumstances of why she left, did he fail to stand up for her? But didn’t he leave home after being kicked out? Or was that not enough for her?
any insights anybody?
My college-age daughter has gotten me hooked on K-dramas, and so I was really glad to find your site. I enjoy reading your thoughtful and thorough reviews after watching the shows.
I just finished watching this series last night. It’s probably the 5th or 6th one I’ve completed since January (yeah, it’s become a thing). I thought it was great. As you pointed out, the writing is excellent — truly poetic at times — and for the most part the narrative flows extremely well. The main pairing is so fun to watch, and there are plenty of genuine, sweet moments. “Fresh” is a good word to describe it.
I get your issue with the final two episodes, but to be honest, having watched a few series now I’ve come to expect at least some degree of out-of-nowhere plot contrivance to separate our OTP just before the end. The first series I watched was Something in the Rain, which had me ready to throw the remote at the screen with the way it separated the couple (the angst in that one was off the charts). Likewise, the couple separation twists in One Spring Night and Chocolate don’t withstand very much scrutiny. So, to be honest, I felt like the separation chapter of this series was handled in a comparatively gentle way, which was pretty consistent with what I felt to be the light touch employed throughout the series.
Lastly, to your point about Ji Ho leaving without an explanation, my take is that the writer dropped a couple of bread crumbs along the way — specifically the “what happens during halftime?” question she asks as they part, and the “what will I find when I return?” question she poses at the end of the letter she hides for him to find. But, I agree that the viewer probably has to work a little too hard to follow the trail.
In any event, I really enjoyed this series! And, thanks again for your reviews.
Hi there BC, welcome to the blog, and to the wonderful world of kdramas! 😀 You’re unfortunately quite right that many shows suffer from late-stretch ungainly writing &/or handling. I still take issue with it, though, because not all shows suffer from it, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect us as viewers to accept a lackluster final stretch as par for the course. :/ I agree the writer dropped a few hints, but – you hit the nail on the head – those were mere breadcrumbs, and this being the mainstream fare that it is (versus, say, an art film that’s meant to be obtuse and mysterious), I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect viewers to have to work so hard to rationalize things, using mere breadcrumbs. 😒 Still, this one was lovely for the first 14 eps, and Show does get brownie points for that! 🙂
If you’d like to explore my other rated shows, you might find this Full List useful. 🙂 Happy drama watching! <3
I’ve come to accept the Kdrama poor endings as just something to expect. I just take it as the price I pay for the first 1-14 (or 1-18, or 1-22 etc.) really good episodes. I wonder how these writers can write brilliant, witty scripts, often on the fly, but then miss putting a good endcap on these shows. Especially when we, as the viewer, can see something from what they’ve written that’s obvious and staring us in the face that could’ve made for an excellent ending. I mean they wrote it but they missed it. Every once in a while we get a satisfactory ending, but it’s rare.
That’s unfortunately true, that it’s quite common for a show to go off the rails in the last act. I still hold it against Show, though (as in, I dock their final grade), since there are shows that manage to give their story a solid, cohesive ending. I do sympathize with the writers for having to wrestle with all the pressures that come with writing a drama while it airs. That’s really a pretty insane system. Sometimes it feels like some VIP higher up the food chain gave instructions for Certain Events to take place in the finale, and the poor writer has no choice but to comply. But that could just be my overactive drama imagination at work! 😆 Also, there’s that thing where we just don’t see so clearly anymore, after staring at our own work for the longest time. Fresh eyes can spot possibilities much more easily, sometimes, while the person who’s been working on the material for a long time often can’t see the forest for the trees.
That’s so true. In the Last Empress for example: SPOILER
SPOILER SO DON’T READ OF YOU’RE EVER PLANNING TO WATCH
Choi Jin-Hyuk’s character started out being played by another someone obese actor. Through circumstances in the story he lost weight and became the hunk we know and love. The writer even gave him lines throughout the drama of refusing cake and sweets because he had a weight/food problem and has to maintain. But in the last episode (due to an extension), because the actor had commitments he had to honor, they choose to kill him off! Which would’ve been ok if they wrote it in a logical way but it made no sense to kill him in relation to his character arc. But the solution was in front of their face – they could’ve had the character gain his weight back and let the obese actor finish out the 2 extended episodes or are least the last one.
Ah! That’s true!! That would’ve been a very entertaining way to end off the show too, keeping in line with the show’s generally ridiculously makjang tone. They could’ve shown him stress-eating too, to show how affected he’d been, by all the plot developments! I would’ve been down with that wrap-up! 😂😂 You’re a genius!
Thanks for the compliment. I swear if I had your energy, I would start a blog of nothing but “better” endings for the ones with dud endings. And I’d invite others to post their endings if I couldn’t come up with good ones for certain shows.
Hm.. That’s an idea for a future post! I’ll keep it in mind as something we can all exchange ideas on! 😉
It went off the rail in the last 2 episodes.. left me quite confused. Se-Hee was straight up played by Ji ho.
Ok I watched and I loved it until the last 2 episodes. The fifteenth episode felt like a meteor. It just came from nowhere. Like why did she want to leave?! And why on earth did she go to all that trouble of informing parents etc if she wanted to be with him anyway? It made zero sense and made her out to be this drama queen that wasn’t Ji Ho at all. She’s not a real housewife of atlanta!
I could not understand why she would leave someone whom she supposedly loved to languish in pain like that. And that part where she smiles at him when he’s justifiably mad about selling his precious house, not hearing from her etc, is just stupid. It’s like she wanted to elicit this reaction and make him suffer. Episode 15 was simply unnecessary drama and totally out of character.
But omg…. the kisses were SO good! Squeee!! 🤩
I initially thought San Hee was weird looking but at the end I was like damn… this guy does a good kissing scene… thank GOD! Nothing more off putting than seeing the supposed hero kissing with all the passion of me kissing a distant relative who says she carried me as a baby.
I felt the same way about the last 2 episode, Hana! Hi5? 😆 I agree that it didn’t feel organic to the story, though there are others who feel differently. 🤷🏻♀ And oh yes, the kisses were quite excellent, I have to agree. 😉
The weirdest hero and the most off putting kisser is that awful guy in Romance is a Bonus Book. Eeek
Ahahaha! I think it’s all very subjective. I know lots of people who loved Romance is a Bonus Book. I personally liked Lee Jong Suk in that. 😉
I feel she wanted to leave to give him the option to back out of the contract if he wanted to. At this stage, she might’ve been sure about her feelings towards but she felt he still had a long way to go with his, confirmed by the fact that she told his ex-gf that she’d wait for him and that a heart is not something to be grabbed, it just comes to you. I felt that she felt if she stayed with him due to the contract, they’d never be sure whether they’re together because they want to or because of the contract.
She smiled when he got angry because she could finally see him expressing emotions – anger, frustration etc – she wanted that, she wanted them to start together again but this time, being free to be themselves, for him to finally show his true self outside of his Room 19.
I want to watch this with such a good rating, but I dont want to invest time and emotion on something that falls off the rails in the last few episodes!! 🙁 Do you think it’s worth it? I’m still annoyed about wasting my time with ridiculous Pretty Noona. To this day, I can’t watch anything else with that terrible woman.
Can’t believe that this kdrama has made me cried over and over. I found pieces of my self in each main characters.
writer is indeed amazing.
But to share my thoughts why some character has suddenly shifted their way of response or personalities were merely because people change in real life. some journeys in life can instantly change someones view of life and decisions for their future.
Yes, writer-nim did have a way of teasing out the feels with this show. As for your take on people changing, I agree people change in real life, but in a story like this, I do expect the writers to somehow communicate this to viewers in a way that feels understandable and cohesive. It didn’t feel like either, to my eyes, unfortunately, which tainted the ending of what was, otherwise, a beautifully written story.
Wonderful review as always! At the risk of sounding creepy, I always see if you’ve reviewed a drama or not – before I start watching! I feel like your reviews often increase my enjoyment because you notice things that I don’t – which causes me to notice them while watching (if that makes sense).
Coming to the drama – I also really enjoyed it! I especially liked the way the writer fleshed out the relationship between Ji Oh and Se Hee. They had this relationship that from their point of view, looked so normal and wonderful. But as an outsider, it was so weird because they seem like two different people. I loved see it – along with the progression of their feelings for each other.
The only thing that has left me confused are the last two episodes. I did like in the ending how both of them were actually in a legit relationship because of love (and not housing issues) and actually shared the lease of their house. Their relationship felt really balanced at great. I’m just confused over how I feel about how the show got there.
I sorta get Ji Oh’s reasoning for wanting the divorce – i.e. she felt the relationship between them was constrained by the fact that they were married. But the whole Se Hee never releasing his emotions in front of her and her not liking thing was a bit odd. I feel like it came out of nowhere? Or maybe I misunderstood Se Hee? I thought that he was just generally a stoic person. But apparently he wasn’t a stoic person until his failed relationship with his first girlfriend? I feel like the writer kind of dropped the ball on that. Or maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention. I wish it was communicated better because Ji Oh’s desire for Se Hee to be more communicative just felt weird. Se Hee was always honest with her – even about his feelings (i.e. him not liking her wanting to rename the cat in the beginning). So where did the whole communication angle even come from?
And I also really disliked the resolution given to Ho-Rang and Won-Seok. Those two should’ve just broken up. Their ending actually felt like such a cop-out. The writer could’ve pushed boundaries by showing how sometimes you can love someone but still want different things and not end up with them. Idk.
All that said, I do like how this show ruminated on what exactly marriage was. It made for an interesting thing to think about while watching the show.
I wish we could’ve gotten a season 2 with them!
Hi there jisaab! Thanks for enjoying the reviews, that makes me feel very Important and Influential indeed! 😆 Yeah, I’m with you in the confused camp regarding the last two episodes.. It somehow didn’t feel organic to me, in terms of character and story development. To my eyes, it felt kinda like writer-nim ran out of time and inspiration, and dug into a bag of tropes to bring the story to a close. Also, YES, I agree that Ho Rang and Won Seok didn’t need to get back together. That felt out of step with Show’s previous sensitivity and ability to portray feelings in a way that felt real.
As for a season 2, I’m not sure I would want that, to be honest. I felt that the portrayal of their marriage relationship was unrealistic, with the way they split things between families so cleanly, and with the regular renewal of their contract. That didn’t resonate with me, coz that’s not how real life works. So if Show would’ve shown their marriage relationship in this way for a season 2, I doubt I would’ve enjoyed watching that, to be honest! 😜
This is exactly how we felt. What had been one of the sweetest, most thoughtful shows my wife and I had ever seen went completely off the rails in episode 15. Ji Ho was not that selfish, willful, or inconsiderate.
I felt the same way, Sam. Although others have pointed out to me that Ji Ho was supposed to be a crazy type, she just didn’t strike me as that selfish or inconsiderate, to behave the way she did, in the final 2 episodes. It’s too bad that writer-nim didn’t feel the same. :/
Hope there will be a better movie(like “cheese in trap”) with a more correct ending.
Aw, that would be nice! One can only hope. 🙂
Oh my gosh, Exactly my thoughts about lee min ki as Se hee.. thats exactly how i see his acting. It’s like his really blank but expressive at the same time, all those little movements and expressions really got me plus i really like min ki in the first place.. your review is the one that i felt like it’s exactly what i felt about the show. So i really like it..
Thanks for enjoying the review, Mean! And hi5, that we view Lee Min Ki’s performance here so similarly! 😀
Thank you, thank you so very much for such a detailed and wonderfully written review. I just finished watching this as my first K drama after more than 10 years (the first was I’m Sorry I Love You), and what you wrote couldn’t be any more spot on.
Just a couple of thoughts :
1) Did Soo Ji buy Bok Nam’s bike?? 🏍️
2) I understand your POV on Ji Ho not being Ji Ho in the last 2 episodes. My own thoughts on that is Ji Ho is set to make Se Hee want her, so she makes him suffer through the divorce, which was quite the irony as Se Hee did say Ji Ho would end up suffering more if they divorced. I guess it’s just myself reasoning, but we all know Ji Ho is a brave girl, so she took a risk by going in this direction. By doing this, she becomes the word/thing that survived in Se Hee’s heart. I couldn’t help but imagine of that conversation, the hard questions that should’ve taken place after the decision was made. My wife thinks Se Hee has a bit of a pride being a guy – I don’t think that’s way off in some sense.
Once again, thank you – I’ve truly enjoyed reading your thoughtfully written review. I can’t wait to rewatch it for the first time 🙂
Aw, thanks for the kind words, azmir, I’m so glad you enjoyed the review. 🙂
I giggled out loud at the idea of Soo Ji buying over Bok Nam’s bike, ha. 😆 Perhaps she did.. Or perhaps, Bok Nam might’ve linked her up with the guy who sold him his bike? 😆 As for Ji Ho.. I’ve tried rationalizing her choices in the last 2 eps, but I’m sorry to say that the connection is tenuous at best, for me. If I try very hard, I can sorta-maybe-kinda see some kind of sense in what played out on our screens, but to be honest, that isn’t my natural reaction to the last 2 eps. Doesn’t make me enjoy the first 14 eps any less tho!
Also, congrats on finding your way back to kdramas after a long break! The good news is, there are so many great dramas you can now choose from. I mean, the cream of the crop, gathered over 10 years! You could be busy with only the very best, for a long time 😉 On that note, might I recommend My Mister, from this year’s offerings? It’s really one of the best kdramas I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Aside from that, you might enjoy exploring the A-rated shows on my Full List here. I hope you enjoy being back in dramaland! 😀
I totally agree with you about the last two episodes! Once I read your review I was glad I was not the only one that thought the show went off track for a bit. Overall it was well done and definitely in my top 10 (although very new to the k-dramas) it is still up there!
Aw, hi5, Mel! It’s always nice to know that we’re not alone, and yes, this show did distinctly go off-track in the last 2 eps, for me. Still an excellent show overall, nonetheless, and one that I don’t regret watching! 🙂
Thank you so much for your review. I agree with everything you mentioned. Loved the show. I have noticed many dramas don’t know how to end things right. Instead of going abroad she stayed home, hinding:)
Thanks for enjoying this review, Allan! And hi5, that we feel so similarly about this show! There are viewers who sincerely felt the ending of this show was solidly handled, but unfortunately, I just didn’t feel the same way, while I was watching it. But it was a very good show, nonetheless! 🙂
I just finished the show and Im actually looking for a similar show now! I felt at first when /i had it in my To/watch list that it was going to be a bit like Marriage not Dating so I give it a chance but I soon realized I was wrong. Instead of feeling dissatisfied, I was grateful Ive found one of the best dramas of 2017. Se Hee -or should I say Lee Min Ki?- was my favorite thing about it because it was amusing that Mr. Robot with his deadpan way of speaking that mostly made you want to roll your eyes -Ji Ho actually did a couple of times lol- at his out of this world logical-to-a-tee rants/speeches, uttered the most humane , honest and caring things Ive heard a male lead say in ages. Ji Ho tried to understand him every time and tell him what she liked even when she was mad because he always listened. He was clearly eager to get his part of the deal but he wasn’t selfish at all because he always considered what Ji Ho had to say.
Following this train of thought, I don’t get why Ji Ho would have just dropped her “I want to divorce” using work as an excuse instead of talking about what she felt and asking him how he felt about his past trauma and Jung Min. And its not like she needed more explanation since she read the book and could tell from the kiss, their date and their first night together that he was trying to be happy with her and move on. Even Jung Min knew he was in love and was trying to be happy, why wouldn’t the person that was asked to sleep with him notice this active attempt to get closer? I guess she needed to hear it and yes, she indeed asked him if he had something to say before leaving but apparently she forgot the promise he made of not getting on her way on whatever she decided.
Thinking how JM’s and SH’s breakup affected both of them, you could expect Ji Ho to realize being dumped twice could break him but nope, the writer decided it was best to leave the poor puppy in the dark and alone crying the saddest tears on Earth -seriously, it affected me so much I cried too-.
I think the writer screwed up here and the cherry on top was Ji Ho’s return with apparent amnesia. Really? I almost flipped a table with that because I really thought she would return with an explanation worthy of Se Hee’s tears but again, that didn’t happen. It was actually sad that such a fresh show used a wore out drama troupe. Even though it got better with the whole yearly contract revision scene, where they seemed open about everything but it still left the impression that the writer wasted the precious time of the couple with the separation.
Ji Ho is absolutely one of my favorite female leads in kdramaland and just like you, I felt taken aback when the writer took away Ji Ho’s greatest traits to make her look like a heartless amnesic woman in the blink of an eye.
Hi there Goldeng, thanks for sharing your experience of this show – I feel like we responded in very similar ways, to the way Show handled Ji Ho and the forced separation. It felt out of character and unnecessary, to me. But like you, I still very much enjoyed the rest of the show, and Ji Ho and Se Hee as our main characters. So well done, in general. Pity about the ending, of course. 🙂
Just finished the show yesterday and I definitely agree it’s a wonderful ride.
With regards to the ending, I actually thought it was smart of Ji Ho to step away from everything without telling Se Hee. The way I saw it, they couldn’t be together because of 2 things: the contract and Se Hee’s inability to show all of himself to her due to his old wounds. The contract is easy to dissolve, but despite Se Hee being so much in love with Ji Ho, he was still deep within his Room 19 and did not show signs of emerging.
If she had told him, he would have just waited for her to come back to him and nothing would have changed.
But because he didn’t know if she was coming back to him, he had to breakout of his mental/psychological jail in order to cope with the loss.
I also think Ji Ho was deliberately acting nonchalant to provoke Se Hee into reflecting his real emotions (anger!!!) during the morning after scene. I interpreted the smile to be the kind I have when I see a kid throw a spur-of-the-moment tantrum. The tantrum is short-lived and the kid almost always feels sheepish after. It’s not a gloat of a smile, but the smile is because of what comes after the tantrum – a realization that we have all been waiting for.
I most definitely agree with you that Ho Rang’s 5-year plan and the speaking to Won Seok’s mum part is a bit OTT and would have been better without.
But all in all, I quite like the quirky and crazy people in this show ha!
Thanks for enjoying this review, and thanks for sharing your perspective on the ending too. 🙂 That’s definitely one interpretation that makes the treatment of the ending much easier to accept. I’ll keep your interpretation in mind if I do ever rewatch this show – it’s entirely possible that you’ll make my rewatch a completely different experience, at least with regard to the ending episodes. 😉 Despite my bemusement at the way Show approached the ending, I must agree that the characters in this drama world were quirky and endearing 🙂
I read this rationale for Ji-ho’s behavior on Dramabeans today and I immediately remembered this blog post.
Thanks for sharing that – and for thinking of me! I concede that Ji Ho tends to be rash and kind of crazy. I can accept her decision to end the contract, with that context. At the same time, I still can’t accept the way her subsequent reaction to Se Hee was written. It just felt way more insensitive than I had come to peg Ji Ho to be. In fact, the way she reacted to Se Hee, and laughed happily in reaction to his pain, felt pretty cruel to me, and not at all like the Ji Ho I thought I had come to know.
I guess it all boils down to the question of whether Ji Ho was really written in character, in the final stretch. If I accept that Ji Ho was written still in character by the last 2 episodes, it means that Ji Ho was created to be a much more unlikable and cruel female lead than I’d thought. My instinctive reaction is that it was the writing that changed in the last 2 eps, and not the character, but.. that’s just my take 🙂
I was not as highly invested in character Ji ho because I don’t care for the actress and so I really just braced myself to accept her performance without analyzing it the way that I did Lee Min ki’s character. But reading your review did make me think more about that final scene. Otherwise, I just thought “Good drana and LMK’s character was something new and interesting. Happy K-dtama The End”.
The first time I’d seen this actress’ work was Father Is Strange and she just annoyed me (although, her character got better as it went along). Her character’s need to seem over eager and exuberant upon getting a job just came across as yelling (to me) and I cringed every time she was at her job in the first half of the series.
Please forgive my typos (on my phone, as usual)
Ah, that does explain our different reactions to the show! 🙂 I was definitely more invested in Ji Ho’s character than you were, and that made all the difference. I’ve had affection for Jung So Min for some time, and that made it much easier for me to want to understand and like Ji Ho as a character.
In defense of her character in Father Is Strange, I’ve noticed that the enthusiastic shouting by newbies at work seems to be a cultural thing. I’ve noticed it in numerous other dramas, so I don’t think it was the fault of the character or the actress. If anything at all, I guess she had to seem a little bit more enthusiastic than average, since it’d been so hard for her to find a job – and being that the average level of enthusiasm was already pegged at a very high level, that could’ve tipped you over the edge, with her character?
No worries about typos at all! I understood you just fine, so no harm done 😉
Jung So min. Got it. (I do struggle remembering the Korean names unless it’s a very hot guy (or excellent actor) who will be added to my “bias” list. lol)
Jung So min did do away with a lot of what I disliked about her in Father Is Strange so I’ll be watching for her in future projects. As much as she annoyed me in FIS, I must admit, she was more likeable that most S.K. actresses are to me. Most of them, I pay almost zero attention to as they are all cookie cutters of each other by way of looks and acting. I have a VERY short list of my favorite K- actresses. So short I can list them here: Ha ji won; Go Ah-Sung; Lee Mi-Sook; and the ever-watchable-likeable-no-matter-what-she-plays – Shin Hye sun. (Honorable mention for Song Yoon-Ah, the older actress from The K2 – extraordinary actress but I’ve never seen her in anything else. )
Like you, I have fewer favorite actresses than favorite actors.. I do find more actresses interesting now than I used to, so I take that as a good sign. Maybe I’m becoming less fangirly 😉 and maybe there are more interesting roles for women now than before. I personally haven’t quite managed to appreciate Ha Ji Won the way so many people do, but I do agree that Lee Mi Sook is fantastic. Song Yoon Ya is great too – if you’d like to see more of her, she was very good in Mama (2014). I also liked Hotelier, a 2001 drama in which she was the female lead. That was also the drama that clued me in to the Bae Yong Jun appeal 😉 Good for a bit of retro Hallyu.
Just added both dramas to my watchlist. I had to Google “Bae Yong Jun”. As soon as I saw his picture I thought “Oh! It’s the guy they say is a Hallyu legend”. I don’t see the appeal. And although I’ve watched Autumn Tale and Summer Scent, that was because of my Song Seung heon fetish. I just can’t bring myself to watch Winter Sonata. I’m sure it’s a tear-fest.
Maybe when I get around to Hotelier, it’ll change my opinion too.
Lol. Yes, Bae Yong Jun is a Hallyu legend, but it’s understandable that you had to google him – he hasn’t done any acting for quite a while now. He was pretty charismatic in Hotelier, so I think you just might change your mind about him, after your watch.
As for Winter Sonata, it’s not as much of a cryfest as one might expect, actually. At least, it’s way less of a cryfest than Stairway To Heaven. THAT was a cryfest that I kinda wish I never attempted. 😛 Winter Sonata is what I would call Classic Hallyu at its prime. It’s melodramatic but isn’t a pointless sobfest; it’s tropey (amnesia, forbidden love, clingy second leads) but can be pretty addictive, given the right mood. I actually liked it more on my second watch than my first. So maybe, if Bae Yong Jun manages to float your boat in Hotelier, you might change your mind about Winter Sonata 😉
Finished! The sudden leaving was out of character, all dressed up to leave and ignored him for a few months?? Ick. I was angry with how that all went down. It did give more reason for Se Hee to actually show his feelings, being a bit more abrupt (absence makes the heart grow fonder put to an extreme measure, I mean she even left in a winter jacket and hat as if she were going to backpack into the mountains going out the door.) I suppose having them just have a good sit down talk and confess would be weird, they needed to have a relationship without the strange marriage pretext, but I guess the house swap thing would need time, so they extended this bridge for that. The ending got a little compressed after that, too.
Aside from that, it was a very honest kind of show, and I liked the emphasis on clarity being important to making relationships work. Nice to read it recapped beautifully, as always 🙂
Thanks for enjoying the review, lyricalpeach!! <3 And we are SO on the same page, regarding the ending. You're absolutely right, the winter jacket was so misleading and quite unnecessary, I thought. It all felt so manipulative, on the part of the character, and therefore by extension, the writer, coz Ji Ho as a character was never presented as manipulative. The last 2 episodes just didn't feel organic to me. Which is a pity, because as you said, the rest of the show felt refreshingly honest and real. Ah well. The could've beens, eh?
Totally agree on the ending part. I couldn’t understand how jiho reached to that conclusion so suddenly…that she decided to end the contract without any discussion with Sehi and especially when they were so lovey dovey at that point of time (and she already knew he used to love someone).
In that last scene though..i think jiho was just joking when she said should she go (during the breakfast) and hence I didn’t mind that. And one of the reasons she reacted thst way after the outburst was because she always mentioned that she has never seen sehi’s emotional reactions. So she smiled.
Yes, the ending was a bit of a letdown, wasn’t it? Show was so good otherwise! As for her smiling.. I understood why she smiled, but I thought it was selfish of her to have smiled, because he was in so much pain in front of her. It felt very self-centered to me. I wanted her to tend to his pain first, before thinking about her own desire to see his emotions. Oh well. The could’ve beens, eh? 😝
Even I was not satisfied with with the ending because I want more of Se Hee and Ji Ho. I love Sominki couple. I want Season 2. Please Tvn.
Another spot-on review! Thank you!
One thing I liked about this show was that I found all three stories interesting. So often, the secondary story is something you want to fast-forward through so you can get back to the main couple. Sometimes it’s even the main couple you want to fast-forward through to get back to the secondary couple. (Fantastic, anyone?)
But here I liked all three stories, although I suspect that I am the only one here who was more enthralled with Soo Ji and Sang Gu than with our main couple. I just felt like I understood the motives and actions of them better than the other two couples. And I was rooting for Soo Ji all the way–not just for a successful romance, but a successful new career, and a future free of worry/guilt about her mother. It was an empowering story, but also a beautiful story on the redemptive power of love…all kinds of love.
As for the ending…WTH was that? Why is it so hard to end these things in a way that is both logical and satisfying? It’s getting to the point that you feel like you should stop watching around episode 14 because you know something is coming that’s going to leave you frustrated, angry, and sad.
Early on, there is a scene where the senior writer and director, etc. take our heroine’s lovely and different story and immediately try to turn it into something akin to every other cliche-ridden, recycled kdrama. I wonder if this isn’t what happened to the writer of THIS story?
Glad you enjoyed this review, Blenny!! 😀 I do agree that this is a rare case where all the key stories were interesting. Even though I wasn’t exactly enthralled by Won Seok and Ho Rang’s story, I felt it was well-told, and worth telling. I was late on the Soo Ji and Sang Gu train, but you are absolutely right, Soo Ji is awesome and easy to root for. I love that she ended up enjoying success in every area of life that mattered to her, including her growing bra empire. 😉 Even better, as you so eloquently pointed out, all of that success was powered by love; love of her mother, love of Sang Gu, love of her friends, and finally, love for herself as well. <3
Yep, that ending wasn't what I expected, after seeing how well-handled everything else was. Perhaps you're onto something, with your ending theory. If that's true, then that early scene of the senior writer and PD twisting Ji Ho's story into something completely different, would've been a prophetic piece of meta! 😛
Hello kfangurl! Thank you for your review. It is always a pleasure to read your reviews as I think we have similar sentiments towards dramas and men (GONG YOO hehe). I was very excited to see your thoughts and insights for this drama because this drama swept me off my feet and stirred emotions/feelings in me that I have not felt for awhile in dramaland. Overall, this show was so fresh and different.
The chemistry between our OTP Se Hee and Ji Ho was SO good. My heart fluttered when they were together. When they hugged or kiss, I could feel the emotions of the characters. I totally agree with you “As a bonus, the more I find out about Ji Ho, the more I feel like she just might be weird enough to match Se He”. They seemed so different on the surface, yet the show was able to convince us that they actually do fit well once you learn more about them, and their awkwardness and quirkiness as a couple was what made them so charming and fun to watch.
Following Jo-Ho’s character and journey, I would also agree that it felt a bit out of character for her to just leave and leave a note in her room for Sehee to find later. From prior episodes, Ji-ho always wore her heart on her sleeve and confronted her feelings quickly and head on. For example, how she deliberately didn’t share the crab breakfast right after Sehee drew the lines, or when she asked him to make kimchi with her family after she got upset with him for paying her. So I feel like the Ji-ho I got to know, would have dished it out with a hard conversation with Se-hee upon terminating the contract. I think time apart and terminating the contract was a good idea, but I wish we could see them starting fresh as a real couple and going on a few more awkward dates!
How great was Se-hee/LMK right? Did you fall for him like I did? LMK nailed it as Se-hee. I love Se-hee and love Se-hee with Ji-ho. I watched the BTS and LMK was always smiling and giggling during their romantic scenes. It was very cute. And the lingering hug between LMK and JSM after the final scene was very endearing. Anyhow, thank you for your review. I feel like I can finally say goodbye to this drama now and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
MellaYella! Great to see ya! 😘 And, yes, it does look like we have very similar taste in dramas in men! 😂 This drama definitely felt fresh and new, in a drama landscape where some dramas feel literally like cookie-cutter versions of each other. I loved the chemistry between LMK & JSM as well, I thought it felt super natural and organic, and the kiss scene particularly felt almost voyeuristic, coz it felt so real. 😍 I absolutely agree that the Ji Ho I felt I knew, would not have shied away from having a talk with Se Hee. And yes, seeing them starting over, and getting to see what that looked and felt like, would have been so much better than the sudden flash forward that we got, of their married life.
I don’t know if I fell for LMK, but I definitely found LMK very appealing as Se Hee. So quirky, yet still so strong and assertive and manly, in his own way. LMK totally nailed it, as Se Hee. I didn’t watch any BTS of this show (I rarely seek it out), but what you described sounds adorable! <3 Maybe I should look up some of those BTS vids after all 😉
I have to butt in here to say – while I usually like to see the guy be the one so passionately into the kiss, Ji ho becoming so passionately lost that Se Hee had to tell her, against her puckered and busy lips, to answer her phone. lol
Hahaha!! Yes, that was a great touch. Hilarious! Made it feel extra real, too, which is always great. <3
Haha. I was very satisfied with the kissing in this drama, slightly open mouth and all.
Off topic, while lots of people in the forum is wanting a second second, I think rather than a second season, I’d love to see a spin off of Lee-Chung-Ah’s ex girlfriend character…cool accomplished woman in her 30s finding love again after letting her first love go.
That would be a good show. But now that MellaYella reminds me, did they ever show what exactly happened with Se hee’s ex and him? I mean yes, we were told Se hee’s dad put up a big disapproving stink (which what did he think would happen to his grandchild if they didn’t get married?) but since Se hee would have stood by her (as proven by his ongoing non- relationship with his dad because of her), then why did the two break up? Did I miss something? (I tend to fall asleep unexpectedly and sometimes miss things.)
Hm. I didn’t sleep through any of this one, and I don’t think that they were ever explicit about what happened to cause the break-up between Se Hee and Jung Min. I think we are left to infer that Jung Min left Se Hee because she was so hurt by the disapproving stink, and probably also because Se Hee wasn’t able to express the love and comfort she needed, not only in the light of the parental disapproval, but also, the grief of losing her baby.
I didn’t sleep because this show was boring or had slow parts – I have a condition (not narcolepsy) but sometimes I can’t help but nod off. It’s fine when I realize it and wake up mid episode and rewind; or realize it the next day and rewatch the entire episode (or if I can find the spot where I last remember) . The problem is when I have little nods and never realize it. So my snoozing is no reflection on any show.
Ah, I’m sorry if I implied otherwise, beez! I certainly didn’t think that your snoozing was a judgment on any show.. we all get tired, and I myself have fallen asleep on shows that were perfectly serviceable. I meant to say, I am sure I didn’t miss any scenes in the show, and yet, don’t remember that Show was conclusive in any way, about what ultimately caused Se Hee and Jung Min’s breakup. 🙂
@kfangurl – I wasn’t offended at all! I just wanted to explain why I ask… a LOT…of questions. That’s why reviews, recaps, and comments on blogs help me so much.
And I forgot to add (so typical) that I have short term memory issues so if you ever see me post similar comments or ask the same question…
Although, I do try to glance back through the already read comments to try not to do that.
Aw, no worries about that, beez! We drama fans gotta help one another out. <3 No worries at all, about asking similar questions.. I sometimes get confused about what I've said to whom, and end up giving similar answers to the same people! 😆
Oh, that’s an idea that I could get behind! I actually really enjoyed Lee Chung Ah’s character. Dramaland needs more women like her, who are strong, independent, successful, and who, although battle-scarred in love, have healed well, and aren’t pining for their first loves. I’d watch a spin-off for her, any day! 😉
I’m really happy that I read this review, because you perfectly summed up how I felt about this drama. I liked the last two episodes, and I thought JiHo’s ACTIONS were true to her…trying to give him time to say what she wanted to hear, leaving when he didn’t, finding her way back to him, etc. But they made her cruel in the process, which was just exactly the opposite of her character for the entire rest of the show. It’s like she was body snatched by aliens for a half hour or so.
Thanks for enjoying the review, Sally! And, hi5, looks like we feel very similarly about the ending of this show! 🙂 Yes, you hit the nail on the head. Ji Ho’s actions felt true to her, in a macro sense, but in the micro-level actual behavior, the cruelty and selfishness didn’t feel like her at all. That bothered me quite a lot.
Just read your first paragraph or two because I still have 4 episodes left. Went away for Thanksgiving and got behind and read some comments here and there upon my return and now afraid to kill my pure love for this drama. Soon though I will rip the bandaid off.
I know you feel, Kat! I dragged my feet on the last 2 eps as well. I didn’t know how E15 and 16 were going to go, and I really loved the first 14 eps, and didn’t know if I was ready to face the final 2 eps. I eventually did, and it was a rather disappointing experience, as you would’ve gathered from my initial paragraphs. When you do get around to it, I’m curious to see how you feel about the ending! 🙂
My sentiments as well, when I heard about the plagiarism issues I was like people, have you watched both shows? They are sooo different. If anything, then loose inspiration…
I wasn’t fan of the last two episodes as well. Yes, I did read about some logical explanations for Jiho’s behaviour….. but even then the pace and emotial impact just were not the same as the rest of the episodes. Plus Rang and Soek shouldn’t have gone back together. At least not in the manner the show played it.
I also didn’t get the room 19 references, from the snippets I read about the original book and as a mom of 4, I more understood it as a place of peace, where one is alone, undisturbed, finally having time for oneself… and not as some dark Pandora’s box… And the purpose of that room is NOT to allow anybody in…
I still loved this show though, definitely the first 14 episodes. And Soo Ji and CEO Ma was the best couple with the best written story.
@Dorotka The subtitles that I watched actually had Ji ho give a darker explanation of Room #19 to her friend – she said the mom in the book was suspected of having an affair, and rather than reveal her Room #19, she’d rather allow peoole to think that she was having an affair. That’s how precious, but personally secretive the room was. Ji ho wanted in to Se hee’s room.
Yay that we feel similarly about this show and its ending, Dorotka! 🙂 You’re exactly right. In an effort to understand Ji Ho’s actions, I also talked with a friend, who supplied me with some explanations of Ji Ho’s behavior. But try as I might, it just didn’t work for me. I always feel like if I have to rationalize a character’s behavior too hard, then Show isn’t doing a good enough job of taking me on the journey. After a lot of rationalization, the ending still didn’t feel organic to me, and even with the rationalization, I still had issues with how Ji Ho was written to behave. It just wasn’t the same, as you said.
And yes, the fact that Room 19 is supposed to be a place of solace gets turned on its head, because Ji Ho wants to know more of Se Hee, and wants to gain entry into his Room 19. While I can understand her motivation in wanting to enter his Room 19, it also feels invasive, in that she doesn’t seem to consider that everyone could use some Room 19 privacy.
Also, yes to a better handling of Won Seok and Ho Rang’s arc. And yes indeed, Soo Ji and Sang Gu were pretty great together after all. 🙂
Hi! Just read your review about this show and thank you for a very detailed and precise review of the show. As a viewer, I was really hooked with the show. I love everything from casting to heart warming voice overs. And yeah, as the show goes i felt like im riding a see saw, one episode your hppy then the next would be sad and disappointing. And reading your post I came to realize that yeah , Ji Ho’s character is so honest and innocent that she wouldnt care to ask those difficult questions that need to be discussed. The ending could have been “more of the character” if they continued what they were and how they were. But then, i would still suggest this show to anyone looking for something light and heartwarming at the same time unexpectedly laughable (because of see he’s character hehe)
Again Thank you so much for your review. 😀
Thanks for enjoying the review, ailyn! 🙂 Yes, the ending could have been more in character, for Ji Ho, but overall, it was still a good drama. 🙂
I love that you go in depth with your reviews, give examples and details. That takes a ton of work and time, so thank ya!
Aw, thanks cathy, that’s really kind of you to say! Thank YOU, for reading! 🙂
I felt exactly the same as you. I cannot understand why they did this. Ji Ho and Se Hee had even slept together already and seemed to be in the path to start dating for real. Then she decides to leave him, but without a word. So while he is in pain she is planning to come back at some point and start again with him, but all this without sharing her intentions with him. And the scene at the rooftop studio, where she was smiling at him being angry also got in my nerves. She came across as totally insensitive and at that moment I would have understood if Se Hee had decided to pass on her forever.
I also was unable to understand why so much drama from Ji Ho’s side. I mean, it is clear that she was not comfortable with the fake marriage. But one thing is to marry for the wrong reasons, and a different thing is to fake a marriage with your roommate to get mutual benefits. Then you start liking your roommie, it is understandable that you might want to stop the masquerade in order to not mess things up, but I don’t see the reasons to take it so seriously and drown in drama while you actively share your ramblings with your roommie’s parents. All those final monologues from Ji Ho felt empty and boring.
I would have preferred if they had focused on the last episodes on the professional issues that the couple were facing. So we could have seen them fighting for their dreams while their relationship progresses in a natural way. That would have been 100 times better than creating a forced romantic conflict in order to end the show with that.
As for the other love lines, I adored Soo Ji and the CEO from day 1. They had amazing chemistry. He was always so respectful and loving, I think he was totally swoon-worthy…and she looked strong and cold but in reality was vulnerable and carrying a burden. These two finding happiness together was so satisfying to watch.
On the other hand, I was never a fan of Ho Rang and Won Seok relationship. Too much angst due to different life goals. And when they broke up, I hoped that both would be able to move on and live the life they wanted with someone else.
In the end, the last episodes kind of ruined it for me, or maybe it is that I just never liked it that much. Ah, there was one thing that was consistently good here: Kitty 🙂 He didn’t get the screen time he deserved in the last episode either.
Looks like we are in deep agreement about the ending of this show, Mary! While reading your comment, I kept thinking, EXACTLY. I understood Ji Ho wanting to leave and figure herself out, and let Se Hee figure himself out. I understood the need to stop the contract. I just couldn’t understand all the silence and drama. Why tell OTHER PEOPLE that this isn’t the end for her and Se Hee, and then NOT TELL HIM?? That just didn’t make sense to me. And I HATED that she smiled at his pain.
Your version of the ending sounds SO much better. I would’ve happily watched them fighting for their dreams, while navigating new and interesting territory as a newly minted couple.
Yes to the other lovelines.. Sang Gu turned out to be such an awesome boyfriend, and it was great to see him and Soo Ji being happy together. I had similar feelings about Won Seok and Ho Rang. I didn’t think they were ready for new people in their lives, but I did feel that it wasn’t absolutely necessary to have them back together again either. I think I might’ve liked it quite well, if they’d decided to start over – but as best friends. And YES, I would’ve loved to have more Cat on my screen. 😍
I commented before reading FanGurl’s Thoughts On The Ending section (I have short -term memory issues and didn’t want to forget what the first part made me want to say) – But Fangurl, indeed, addressed JiHo’s wanting to invoke a response from SeHee. And the way she describes how out of character it is, is true. I think I’ll go back and watch those last two episodes again. (I didn’t like the way Jiho left things either and thought she waited far too long to come back. Even the note she left was designed for him not to find until he had some reason to move her bed, which could’ve been years.)
Heh. Thanks for coming back and commenting again, beez. 😉 Yes, I got the principle of why Ji Ho left; I just had issues with how it was all handled. And yes, that letter – I couldn’t understand the thinking behind it. If she wanted to leave a letter, why would she put it under her bed? It just didn’t make sense to me. And the hiding the letter bit smelled quite melodramatic to me, like Ji Ho had watched too many tv dramas and was channeling her inner long-suffering sobfest heroine.
I’m curious to know what you feel about the finale, after your rewatch of the last 2 episodes.
And yes, kudos LMK indeed. He was just wonderful as Se Hee. So much so that I literally cannot imagine anyone else in the role. <3
“…Lee Min Ki’s micro-expressions really come into play…” THIS. Exactly this. Kudos LMK!
Se Hee reminds me so much of Sheldon (Big Bang Theory), if Sheldon would apply his logic to being considerate and compassionate (and passionate, in private).
As to Ji Ho’s reasoning for ending things without a hint that she was not really ending things – my impression is she wanted to stir a reaction in Se Hee. Recall that she told his Friend-CEO that Sehee had yet to reveal his Room 19 and his tears to her and she didn’t consider it a real relationship until he could do that.
This was a really good review although, I was satisfied with the last 2 episodes. Apparently it’s really hard to end Kdramas well, as so many of them disappoint but I felt as if this show said what it came to say and there wasn’t much more they could’ve done (other than let Sehee and Jiho pick up where they left off before he got so thirsty he just had to have a beer. *Thirst regrets* lol)
Lee Min Ki’s micro expressions. And when his shell breaks and starts crying…
It’s enough to make a grown man cry!
And Also it’s a lesson on the difference between not acting at all and acting well (emoting without expressions)
I guess when life gives you Leemin, be a ‘ki’ and not a ‘ho’. Lol.
I’m so glad your review is out! I do agree with a lot of it, especially as things started to tail off.
I mean, Se-hee was literally Jumin Han come to life who I adore, so it was always going to be a good start. I also liked the little nods to Mystic Messenger throughout the show. And any show with a cute cat is going to keep me interested 😀 Also I mentioned before but CEO Ma and Soo Ji were awesome. I LOVED her. What a hero of mine she now is.
As I mentioned before, my major issue was Ji Ho. I couldn’t understand her at all and I found her exceedingly unlikable by the end. One minute she’d be doing amazing things like standing up to a would-be rapist, and then the next she’d be throwing a strop because her husband who she married without love, wasn’t showing her the attention she wanted. It was like watching a seventeen year old in her first relationship. Which I get was kind of the point, but it was all very much at odds with each other.
The thing that frustrated me the most, however, was her complete lack of consideration for boundaries. I mean, why would you just go and do all the in-law stuff and speak to them without discussing it with him first? It was dreadful. This was particularly sensitive for me because I think they wrote him with some form of autism. For her to come into his space and his life and start barging around like a bull in a china shop would have been incredibly distressing for him. And yet, she shows no remorse for that, just gets petty and mean in retaliation rather than looking at her own behaviour.
The whole forcing Se-hee out of room 19 was really badly handled. The first response is not to smile in triumph when someone’s in front of you? and then for him to go from such despair to snogging her senseless was really bizarre. Also the whole leaving the marriage to bake a cake and then call it day 1 was ridiculous. More and more throughout the show I felt Ji Ho was living some kind of romance novel she’d written in her head. The whole thing started so very well, but ended with such randomness.
Finally, I mean for all that they were ‘so honest’ with each other, she never once shared her emotions. Like, have a conversation about it all rather than continually be a drama queen? I understand why she didn’t want the marriage she had, and to get Se-hee to open up but that was not the way to do it whatsoever. The guy continually demonstrated his commitment and interest, but that was never enough. It all felt one-sided.
Ugh anyway hehehe glad to have that off my chest 😀 I did enjoy it overall and the first 10-12 episodes or so were great. But overall, yeah, not really that impressed.
Can I get a definition for “snogging”?
It’s a British English word for kissing, but a bit more full on than just a kiss. Snog is the verb.
Haha, yes, it does feel like you needed to get that off your chest! 😆 I think I didn’t feel as strongly as you did, about Ji Ho. But you have a point about her being very contrary. She knew that Se Hee was extremely reserved, but couldn’t help wanting more, the more she liked him. I think I can understand this, in that, when you’re dealing with romantic feelings, it’s hard to always behave in a logical manner. It’s much easier for us as bystanders to point out that she was being contrary, but for her, in the moment, with her feelings all mixed up inside, agreeing to one thing, but then wanting another, and then not being able to differentiate the two anymore, after a while; that feels pretty human, to me. I can accept that, even though I agree that this must have felt very invasive and possibly distressing for Se Hee.
What an interesting idea, that Se Hee might’ve been written with some form of autism. That hadn’t occurred to me, but when I look at his tendencies, and his social awkwardness, it does seem plausible. I wonder whether writer-nim did actually mean to write him as having a degree of autism.
And, yes, absolutely, I thought Ji Ho could’ve had more of a conversation with Se Hee. And YES, Cat was lovely, and YES, Soo Ji was pretty awesome. 🙂
Thank you for the thoughtful review of BTLIOF! I was so hoping this would be one on your list.
First, I completely agree with your call on the plagiarism charge for this show. I have seen both, and I felt they had little in common, once you looked beyond the surface of the contract cohabitation trope. BTLIOF was a beautifully-written show with greater depth of character development and broader applications of philosophical ‘life lessons’…..much more weighty than We Married as a Job.
I am in the minority on the last two episodes (and it might be because of the lens I bring) because I feel Ji Ho’s decisions to be completely understandable and to be within the context of her character. She made the difficult decision to terminate the contract because it could no longer be used to represent their relationship. It was up to SeHee to decide what he wanted to do at that point, and he was unable to take the risk of being emotionally vulnerable by owning up to his feelings (thereby creating a new contract) and he let her go. It takes two to have a relationship, two to state their feelings and two to commit to each other. We as viewers could infer Se Hee’s feelings from the drama, but he needed to take the risk and own up to them verbally, to her. Otherwise, the balance of power in the relationship would continue to be unequal. I am also surprised by the near universal condemnation of her for cruelty….she gave him the freedom to determine what he wanted….she may have hoped he’d see the light, but she had no guarantee that he would need her. In fact, I felt SeHee to be far crueler in the earlier episodes, when he redrew the line on ‘woori’.
If there was a flaw for me, I would have to choose the overuse of metaphors toward the end, I think a lot of the misinterpretation is due to meta confusion between Mongolia, star pockets and room 19’s. Using one would have resulted in a stronger message for the show. Otherwise, it really was a special unicorn of a show!
I’m grateful, Mary D, to see someone else was okay with Ji ho’s actions. But I’m still going to watch the last two episodes again now and really analyze what’s going on with the characters and how I feel about them. No matter what, it was a great show and I’m glad I decided to binge watch it (at the last minute, when 8 episodes had already aired).
Like beez, I’m thankful that someone like you have somehow understand JiHo’s actions in the last two episodes. I’m with you in the minority of understanding. It might be because if I put myself into her place, I would probably do the same. Though this is really nothing against others perception of her actions tho. I’m currently watching again. Maybe to have a better judgement of the situation on somehow understand others sentiments too. 🙂
Thanks for looking forward to this review, Mary D! 🙂
You’re right, this show definitely felt weightier than We Married As A Job.. more thoughtful and contemplative in general, I thought.
Also, to clarify, I actually agree with Ji Ho’s decision to terminate the marriage contract. It made sense, because it was muddying the situation for both her and Se Hee, now that real feelings were in the mix. What I didn’t like was the way she didn’t talk to him about it, before leaving. Yes, he didn’t volunteer the words to articulate how he felt. But, she could have asked. The other thing I had issue with, is her reaction upon their rooftop reunion. Even in the face of his pain, she acted like nothing was wrong. I couldn’t understand that. Why didn’t she address the pain? Why did she act as if nothing had happened? I didn’t get that.
In terms of Se Hee being cruel in the earlier episodes.. I feel that that’s not necessarily the case. At the time, there was little emotional investment on both sides, and things between them were supposed to be strictly professional and contractual. In drawing the line with “woori,” he was enforcing a guideline that they had both agreed to. Contextually, he wasn’t being cruel. Whereas, in the final episode, when Ji Ho acted like she couldn’t see his pain, given the context of the feelings that had grown between them, that felt more cruel to me.
I absolutely agree that there were too many metaphors in the final stretch. I often found myself feeling confused while listening to the convoluted voiceovers.
Maybe Ji Ho acted that way because she wanted to see Se Hee’s raw, unfiltered reaction? I mean if she hadn’t pretended not to know what was going on Se Hee probably wouldn’t show his full emotion, whereas he actually did because of Ji Ho’s nonchalant response, don’t you think? But I agree, even if Ji Ho wanted Se Hee to show her his feelings she shouldn’t have smiled in response to his pain.
One thing I’m pissed about is their old apartment that’s no longer theirs LOL I love that place so much, if only Ji Ho hadn’t left…
Also I’m wondering, if it were up to you how would you want the ending to be? Because the ending (specifically Ji Ho’s decision to leave him without any explanation) doesn’t really sit well with me, so I’m trying to make my new alternate ending lol because other than that, this show is so precious to me.
Hm.. that’s a good question, flores. I guess I would’ve preferred an ending that felt more true to their characters. And over the course of time that passed in our story, Ji Ho and Se Hee had always talked honestly, in their own reserved, slightly robotic style. I thought it would’ve made more sense for Ji Ho to request a meeting, and for her to have asked the questions that she wanted to ask, and for Se Hee to have maybe surprised her – and maybe himself – by being much more open about his feelings. After all, he was all ready to confess his love, before she requested for an end to the contract.
So, if they’d talked honestly and gotten enough into the open, then perhaps instead of breaking up, they could’ve ended the contract by going together, to register their marriage for real. I would’ve loved seeing the two of them navigate the now-murky waters of what it’s like to be in a real relationship and marriage with each other, now that real feelings are powering their relationship, instead of a rental/fake marriage contract. 🙂
Remember that she knew he was going to confess the night that she broke the contract. She let him speak first. She waited for him to say what he was going to say, and then he didn’t. It was a confirmation that he wasn’t able to face his emotions with her. Then she waits around for another day or two, and gives him lots of chances to say SOMETHING, anything, and he still doesn’t.
Meanwhile, she explains herself to all the people who are involved in his pain. She tells the ex that divorcing him is not a sad ending, because their happiness doesn’t depend on a marriage continuing. She tells his mother that to her love, not marriage, is sacred. When she leaves, she tells him it’s an intermission. And she leaves him a note that says she’s coming back.
I’ll grant you that she doesn’t spell this stuff out super clearly, but I can totally see why her character would think he understood that she’d be back and his thought she was gone for ever. I think their interpretations fit for both characters. Which is why showing up with the cake was totally within character with her, but also felt really odd and out of the blue when viewed through the lens of “normal.”
But if you think about what we’ve been told about her character all along, we know that: she makes decisions that are wildly shocking and out of the blue to the people around her; that she agonizes over her choices, but works actively on creating her own happiness; that her biggest dream is to have a single love in her life; and that she has a dry sense of humour where she messes with people by provoking certain emotional reactions and then teasing them.
Given all that, I don’t think the reunion was out of character, or mean. I think that she thought he knew she was going to return. She was shocked that he had moved. I think she heard his drunk confession and that was the confirmation she was looking for, but then the next day she teasingly pushed him to anger, in part so that he wouldn’t retreat and in part so that he could see that their relationship wasn’t so fragile that he couldn’t get mad at her. Having him get angry and then sticking around wasn’t just so she could see his anger, but so he could see that she accepted all of him, even the parts that have the potential to give hurt.
Yes!! I agree😀
Hi there mehitable, thanks for sharing 🙂 When you lay it out like that, it does make a lot more sense. For some reason, though, it just didn’t ring true for me while I watched it.. I guess this is going to be one of those times when a show’s intent and its execution just doesn’t match up for me. 😅
I read this review 4 episodes before finishing the drama, and I thought I was gonna hate Ji Ho at the end. But I didnt. I totally undertood the way she acted. Even at the end she asked See Hee if he wanted to say something. He didnt gave her a single hint of his feelings, It was like he was totally fine with her leaving. For me that was really sad… but later, he was crying because he missed her…He was shy and everything but come on!! the woman you love is leaving.
When he got mad, he yelled at her because she didnt visit and she didnt call, but he didnt call her either. If she doesnt decide to come back to him, nothing would have happened.
Also the part when she smiled seeing him mad, It was not a smile with bad feelings, she wasnt trying to make fun of him. And even though she smiled for me it was obvious that she was sorry for making him have a bad time.
I watch these episodes again just in case I was missing something but my opnion is the same.
I read this review 4 episodes before finishing the drama, and I thought I was gonna hate Ji Ho at the end. But I didnt. I totally undertood the way she acted. Even at the end she asked See Hee if he wanted to say something. He didnt gave her a single hint of his feelings, It was like he was totally fine with her leaving. For me that was really sad… but later, he was crying because he missed her…He was shy and everything but come on!! the woman you love is leaving.
When he got mad, he yelled at her because she didnt visit and she didnt call, but he didnt call her either. If she doesnt decide to come back to him, nothing would have happened.
Also the part when she smiled seeing him mad, It was not a smile with bad feelings, she wasnt trying to make fun of him. And even though she smiled for me it was obvious that she was sorry for making him have a bad time.
I watch these episodes again just in case I was missing something but my opnion is the same.
Ah, and that’s what makes life so interesting! I’m fascinated by how we interpret the same scenes so differently and therefore react so differently. I sincerely wanted to like the ending, but it just didn’t resonate with me the way it made sense to you. Thanks for sharing, Libni! 🙂
Thank you for putting into words how I felt about this drama. Especially this –
“making her look like a thoughtless, self-centered person who would first smile at Se Hee’s emotional outburst because it was the first time she’d seen him angry, rather than respond first, to the pain shining out of his eyes..”
“it felt like Show had lost a bit of its soul, which had previously been raw, tender and thoughtful. The Ji Ho that I felt I had come to know, might have been crazy and quirky in her way of thinking, but she was also tenderhearted and compassionate. This all just didn’t feel like her, truly. It almost felt like some kind of alien had invaded Ji Ho’s body in the last 2 episodes of this show, and was controlling her actions and speech for the last two hours of our story; it kinda-sorta felt like Ji Ho on my screen, but it also didn’t. It all just felt very strange, to me.”
In the end, I couldn’t give it the nine I wanted to give it. Those last two episodes weren’t consistent with the rest of the show.
Looks like we feel very similarly about this show, Kellyflower – especially Show’s ending. Like you, I docked points for Show’s ending too. If the ending had been consistent with its earlier episodes, I would’ve given this one an A+.
Okay, this was not on my list, but once again, your thoughtful reviews made me feel like i watched the whole thing. When I read your expectations and disappointments – like with the out-of-character issues in the end, it helps me understand what NOT to do with my own writing. Sometimes writers use their characters like robots and they become tools for whatever the scene calls for and viewers definitely catch on to that. It frustrates them.
It seems like the writer was trying to create some pat ending, like Ji Ho behaving sort of selfishly at the end, not understanding his feelings. It’s like the writer is saying – we’ve been through all these conflicting emotions, and I don’t have the time to draw out or create any more. So lets brush aside issues with a smile to fit the episode time. It happens when a writer gets tired, and so they leave it up to “all the conversations, etc. took place off screen.” The viewer has to assume things by this point.
I could be totally wrong, because I haven’t actually seen the show, but your description of the scene and the character’s behavior before the end is vivid.
Aw, thanks for taking the time to read a review for a show that you not only haven’t seen, but don’t even plan to watch! You are so sweet! <3 And that's so great, that you're even taking it as food for thought, for when you write your own characters and stories.
Yes, it did feel like the writer was working to create something clever and pat for the ending, and decided that having them accidentally become housemates again would be a good thing. I'm all for starting over and finding a new, more power-neutral space, but it just didn't have to go down this way. I feel like Ji Ho was sacrificed as a character, and I can understand fans getting upset at Ji Ho, for hurting Se Hee in such a needless and selfish way. Plus, Se Hee endeared himself to me so much – like a proverbial precious cinnamon roll – that I just couldn't bear to see him so hurt and broken, and for those terrible reasons, no less. For me, though, it's clearly not Ji Ho would ought to shoulder the blame; it's writer-nim. 😛