Flash Review: Because This Is My First Life

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.

[SPOILER] 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! [END SPOILER]

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.

[SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER]

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.

[SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER]

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. [SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER]

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]

[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! [END SPOILER]

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.

[SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER]

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. [SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER] 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. [SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER]

[SPOILER ALERT]

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.

[END SPOILER]

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.

[SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER]

[VAGUE SPOILERS] 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. [END SPOILERS]

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.

[SPOILERS] 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. [END SPOILERS]

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.

[SPOILER ALERT]

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.

[END SPOILERS]

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. [SPOILER] 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. [END SPOILER]

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-

TEASER:

MVs:

138 thoughts on “Flash Review: Because This Is My First Life

  1. T

    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.

    Reply
  2. Dannii

    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!

    Reply
    1. merij1

      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.

      Reply

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