THE SHORT VERDICT:
Show starts out pretty adorable, with an excellently delivered cloud of cute around the birth of a noona romance. Show then switches gears in the middle stretch, into melo and angst territory.
In principle, it all feels warranted, with things like societal norms, family expectations, and even workplace harassment taking the spotlight. The problem, for me anyway, is, most of these things aren’t resolved in a manner that feels satisfying, by the time the final credits roll.
The writing does not feel assured, unfortunately, and is, I think, one of the main reasons this show suffered. Also, the background music becomes terribly grating, from overuse.
To be fair, Show does have its fans. So just because it didn’t work so great for me, doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you?
THE LONG VERDICT:
You know how some parents get their kids to eat their vegetables by hiding them in more appealing foods? Like, grinding up broccoli to bake into brownies?
Watching this show feels kinda like that. Except, in this case, it turns out that dressing up the broccoli doesn’t quite work in the end, because the brownie ends up tasting really weird and a lot of the kids ended up spitting out the brownie after working their way through the frosting.
Also, in this analogy, it turns out that the broccoli wasn’t actually that nutritious anyway.
This show’s basically an angsty melo, dressed up to look like a rom-com on steroids. It sashayed onto our dance floor, dangling all kinds of pretty bites at viewers, and then, very quickly, completely crushed all of The Cute, without much warning. Viewer beware, I say.
THE INITIAL CUTE
I have to confess that when Show first came out, I was quickly smitten by the deluge of Cute that Show served up.
And while my crystal-clear hindsight doesn’t quite see Show with the same rose-tinted glasses as before, I thought I shouldn’t ignore the initial stretch of Cute that Show did serve up.
Here’s a quick spotlight on the things that I did enjoy, in Show’s early episodes.
I found our leads pretty likable in the beginning, and thought their interactions were cute.
I liked that Jin Ah (Son Ye Jin) and Joon Hee (Jung Hae In) are very much platonic, in the beginning of our story. He teases her about being old, and is matter-of-fact about why he knows about the shortcut – because he’d been looking for a place to make out.
The care and friendship goes back a long time, and I felt like I could see lasers of fierce loyalty shooting out of Joon Hee’s eyes, when he sees Jin Ah arguing with her ex-boyfriend Gyu Min (Oh Ryong), in episode 1. The way he purposefully swoops in to rescue her, is sweet.
The way Show ramps up the OTP loveline in the beginning is fast, efficient, and littered with seemingly endless showers of puppies, rainbows, and oodles and oodles of cotton candy.
The way Jin Ah and Joon Hee grow more and more hyper-aware of each other is demonstrated to us really well in the minutiae of Jin Ah and Joon Hee’s interactions.
Their reactions are muted and quashed, but it’s noticeable, and watching them, I felt so pulled into their burgeoning feelings for each other.
The way Joon Hee feels uncomfortable and sorry, and tells Jin Ah that she’s prettier than Se Young (Jung Yoo Jin), and the way Jin Ah, not saying anything, averts her eyes and tugs at the wisps of hair that have fallen around her ears.
And then there’s the way they make excuses to keep walking together, with his arm around her shoulder, under the umbrella, in the rain. And the way she turns around for a last peek at him, and bounces lightly on her heels as she does so.
And then there’s the way he looks at the photo of her in his phone and smiles to himself, as he lies in bed; the way he’s so tickled by her while texting her, that his toes are literally wriggling under the covers.
It’s all vicariously thrilling, and super cute, and I couldn’t wipe the goofy grin off my face. Guh.
And just coz I can, here’s a revisit of my favorite OTP scene.
The under-table hand-hold
In episode 3, with Joon Hee and Jin Ah’s unacknowledged mutual attraction coming to a boil, Joon Hee faces pressure at a work gathering, where everyone teases him about the woman that he allegedly likes – who hasn’t indicated reciprocity.
Just as Joon Hee looks like he’s about to cave under pressure and possibly agree to date Se Young, who’s very interested in him, and has made it clear that she is very available, Jin Ah takes matters into her own hands (literally!) and reaches for Joon Hee’s hand under the table.
I love that she takes a swig of her beer while she’s at it, without batting an eyelash.
I just love how that immediately turns Joon Hee into a hiccuping blushing ball of bashful wonder. Ha.
In that moment, I felt that Jin Ah didn’t reach for Joon Hee’s hand to stake her claim, so much as she was assuring him that he wasn’t liking her in vain.
He’d been put on the spot by everyone at the table, and even his feelings were put in question. He’d even admitted that he was sure of his feelings, but was just being cautious.
How much it must’ve made him feel uncomfortable and hurt his pride, to have everyone present tease him about being desperately into the girl – and the woman in question was right there.
So, to me, it was really a tender, caring thing to do, to put her own pride and ego aside, and take that risk, and reach for his hand, simultaneously assuring him that he wasn’t liking her in vain; that she liked him too; that he didn’t have to feel awkward or embarrassed; that she was right there, liking him right back.
I did love that very much.
Show doesn’t miss a beat, and Joon Hee then promptly turns the tables and reaches for her hand as she tries to take it away, and then takes control by interlacing his fingers through hers. He’s not letting her go.
Eee!! I also love the amused, pleased expression that takes over his face, as he processes everything in his head, and as she now gets a case of surprised hiccups. LOVE.
Afterwards, the two make awkward excuses to their colleagues outside the bar, just so that they can get some time together.
At that moment, I loved the mix of nervous awkwardness and little-boy hopeful wonder and smooth operator that Joon Hee’s got going on, as he talks with Jin Ah, trying to get answers for why she held his hand, and whether that means they’re in a relationship.
The shy excited bashful-gleeful vibe of these two, as they make their way to their first official coffee date, is adorable and infectious. They literally look like they’re about to burst, and watching them, I felt like I was about to burst too.
Well played, Show. Well played.
Jin Ah’s friendship with Gyung Sun
Right away, I loved Jin Ah’s friendship with Joon Hee’s sister Gyung Sun (Jang So Yun).
They are truly the cutest besties. I love how Gyung Sun mothers Jin Ah when she’s all drunk in episode 1, and and I love how Jin Ah keeps drunk-kissing Gyung Sun in response.
I felt like these two would be besties for life, literally.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE FROM THE START
The thing with Gyu Min
I really didn’t enjoy the arc around Jin Ah’s ex-boyfriend Gyu Min. Not only is he self-centered and egotistical, he’s abusive too. Worse, Jin Ah’s parents – her mom in particular – seem to think that he’s the best thing for Jin Ah.
I found that I had great difficulty understanding Gyu Min.
1. After breaking up with Jin Ah, he suddenly gets fixated on getting her back. It’s really the strangest thing. He was the one who cheated on Jin Ah and then broke up with her. And the only ostensible reason he even tries to get her back is because the other girl dumped him.
Which means that all of his theatrics is for the simple reason that his ego can’t take the fact that she seems to like someone else.
2. Gyu Min kicks up a fuss about Jin Ah dating Joon Hee, even though he’s cognizant that he’s the one who cheated on her first. That is such a crazy double standard. So he expects Jin Ah to stay faithful to him, even though he cheated on her, and even though they’ve broken up? What?
3. Gyu Min turns into a psycho who would rather die with Jin Ah than see her date someone else. Considering that he hadn’t been that into her, and that’s why he cheated on her and then broke up with her, his behavior makes no sense whatsoever.
His logic, that he’s doing this to clear his name, even though he admits that he cheated on her, is plain crazy.
Just for the record, I was so put off by the whole psycho Gyu Min arc that I took a 3 week break from Show after the episode 7 cliffhanger.
I guess Show was trying to say something about societal double standards and relationship abuse, but it also felt like this statement didn’t quite go anywhere, in the end.
REALITY BITES, AFTER THE INITIAL FLUSH OF CUTE [SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
I’ll be brutally honest; after the early-episode shine wore off, I found myself experiencing a complete turnaround where our leads and our OTP were concerned.
Warning: strong feelings ahead.
Son Ye Jin as Jin Ah
At around the episode 12 mark, I started to realize that I had distinct difficulty liking Jin Ah.
Here’s my attempt to break down why.
1. I find her wishy-washy, and weak, and that annoys me.
On the one hand, I think that if Joon Hee and Jin Ah existed in a different, more forgiving world, then this relationship, with just a 4-year age gap, between long-time family friends, would be nothing out of the ordinary, and readily accepted.
On the other hand, this is not a different world, and in Korea, in this drama world, all of these complications exist. And Jin Ah knew that, going into this relationship with Joon Hee.
She was the one who made the critical move, to hold Joon Hee’s hand under that table, and therefore, it was because of her boldness in that moment, that this relationship began.
Since that time, though, she’s been more wishy-washy than she’s been strong, and you need to be strong, to stand for what you believe in, in this world that she lives in.
In episode 12, I found her stricken, teary expressions particularly hard to swallow, because this is the time where she needs to be strong the most, and instead, she attends that blind date, stricken, teary and tearful.
Every time she runs her hands through her hair and blinks her tears away, I wanted to shake her and tell her this isn’t the time to be drowning in her emotions.
She needs to be faster on her feet, and stronger in her heart, to walk this path that she’s effectively chosen for herself. But she doesn’t. And that is part of my struggle with Jin Ah. I dislike that she’s like this.
2. She’s self-righteous, and that annoys me too.
Exhibit A: Jin Ah’s meeting with Gyung Sun and Joon Hee’s dad
In episode 12, Jin Ah promises to meet Gyung Sun and Joon Hee’s dad, without their knowledge and against their wishes, pledging to tell him about his children – the very children who don’t want to see him. I know she means well, but it’s not her place.
And to top it all off, she lies to Joon Hee, in order to meet his father behind his back. I hate all the lying, but I’ll talk more about that later.
When Joon Hee gets all upset and argues with Jin Ah over this, she tells Joon Hee not to behave like a child. Ooh. Low blow. That’s probably the worst thing she could say to the younger man that she’s dating.
Also, it’s not her place to tell him how he should feel, about his estranged father. I found this extremely presumptuous and unwise.
Not only is Jin Ah presumptuous and insensitive in moving to meet with Joon Hee’s dad, she then has the gall to act like she’s got the righteous upper hand, when she and Joon Hee finally are face to face again, in episode 13.
He’s still upset, and she’s the one stiffly insisting they talk on the roof. The entire way she leads him to the roof and then makes him talk, shows that she thinks she has a right to be angry. But she doesn’t.
She should be apologizing for overstepping her boundaries, and for saying that he acted like a child.
Instead, she gets upset with him, for telling her not to behave like the more mature one. Her teary expression in that moment tells me that she isn’t sorry for what she’s done; she’s sorry for herself. At this moment, I suddenly wanted Joon Hee to break up with her.
To make things even worse, in episode 13, Jin Ah tells Gyung Sun that she only met with their dad because he had bought gifts for his children and had no other way of giving the gifts to them. That is a lie.
The reason Jin Ah met him is because she had promised to tell him about his children, without their knowledge. I hate that Jin Ah tells that lie, with tears in her eyes, like she is a saint who’s being wronged for her saintly actions.
That is so not true, and I hate that Joon Hee now looks guilty for being angry at Jin Ah, after hearing that lie told to him secondhand, by his sister.
Exhibit B: Jin Ah’s breakup outburst
In episode 13, in the midst of the drunken chaos of Gyung Sun and Joon Hee’s dad visiting Jin Ah’s home, Jin Ah tells everyone to be quiet, and announces that she will break up with Joon Hee.
Now, I don’t begrudge Jin Ah the right to break up with Joon Hee, but the way Jin Ah bursts out that she’ll break up with Joon Hee, sounds self-righteous, and almost tantrumy, like (and I paraphrase), “since you think what I’m doing is SOO wrong, then fine, I’ll break up with him, happy now?”
I found this very distasteful.
In the next episode, Jin Ah admits that she did it in a fit of pique, and didn’t mean it. Which proves my point; she was throwing a tantrum more than actually choosing to break up with Joon Hee.
3. She consistently acts helpless, and that annoys me too.
Whenever Joon Hee’s mad at her, she always looks at him helplessly and says, “Then what can I do to make you feel better?” and then she’ll proceed to list useless examples, like, should I get down on my knees? Should I let you hit me? Would that make you feel better?
Jin Ah is that frustrating person. Every time she does that, I wanted to throttle her. Why can’t she give him the time that he needs, to process his emotions?
Why does she portray herself as the victim, who is suffering because there is nothing that she can do, to make him feel better, when she is the one who gave him reason to be angry in the first place?
I honestly always felt so amazed that Joon Hee kept being so patient with her.
Jung Hae In as Joon Hee
Generally speaking, I found that I didn’t dislike Joon Hee as much as I disliked Jin Ah, but my initial hearts-in-eyes response to Joon Hee definitely faded, and I noticed several things about him, which I felt contributed to the OTP’s ensuing problems.
Here, in a nutshell, is what I eventually felt about Joon Hee.
1. He’s too intense
As early as episode 2, we see glimpses of how intense Joon Hee is. I’ll admit that when I first watched episode 2, and saw how Joon Hee seethed when he saw Gyu Min at Jin Ah’s parents’ apartment, and then ordered Gyu Min to let go of her hand, before dragging Gyu Min out of the apartment by the tie, I found it all quite swoony.
My bad. That was not swoony. Now when I revisit that scene, I find that instead, to be the first troubling signs of Joon Hee’s intense and impulsive nature.
In episode 5, Joon Hee gets so enraged at Gyu Min for sending flowers to Jin Ah, along with photographic evidence of their past intimacy, that he hunts Gyu Min down at his apartment, beats him up, and trashes his computer.
I get that Joon Hee is protective of Jin Ah, and very upset at Gyu Min’s actions, but in this scene, Joon Hee’s behavior felt a touch borderline psychotic, to me. In that moment, I kept wondering if Show was going to turn around and become a psychological thriller instead.
Joon Hee’s intense level of brash impulsiveness felt problematic, to me.
2. He’s too immature
For all of his efforts to be brave and strong, there are a number of times when Joon Hee’s behavior seems immature to me.
A simple, early example is in episode 5, when Joon Hee gets all jealous and upset at the very idea of his sister setting Jin Ah up with someone.
At the time, I thought it was pretty cute that he was jealous, but on further thought, and further observation of Joon Hee, I feel that this was an example of his immaturity. He can’t handle the very idea of the blind date, and Jin Ah has to coach him through it, so that he will settle down.
We see that immaturity later in the show as well, when Joon Hee resolutely refuses to go on work assignment to China, even if it’s just for three months. He even threatens to quit, if the company insists on giving him the assignment.
The fact that he can tell his boss that he won’t go to China because he can’t bear to be apart from his girlfriend, is highly unprofessional, and also, immature.
Despite his efforts, I do think that Joon Hee’s relative immaturity also contributed to this couple’s problems.
3. He’s young and powerless
It was at around the episode 6 mark that I started to feel that for all of his intensity and bravado, that Joon Hee comes across as very young, and rather powerless to do what he dearly wants to do, which is to protect the woman that he loves.
All of his promises to Jin Ah, to make it such that she will never have to hide again, sound like wishful big talk to my ears.
The more I watched Show, the more I was convinced that Joon Hee had absolutely no idea of the magnitude of the battle he would have to fight, by choosing to act on his attraction to Jin Ah.
After Jin Ah’s mom goes ballistic and ignores him at the realization that he and Jin Ah are dating, he’s shaken enough that it looks like he just wants to get away.
Through most of the show, I felt that Joon Hee was trying hard to be strong, but found himself drowning in a situation that was way more daunting and difficult than he’d bargained for.
I have.. a lot of thoughts about the OTP relationship, and I’m honestly not sure of the best way to organize those thoughts in a coherent way to share with you guys.
So here’s a handful of sections, each one focusing on one aspect of the OTP, that I’d like to talk about.
The issue of context
When all their context – in this case, specifically family expectations and societal norms – is stripped away and Jin Ah and Joon Hee are alone together, in a world of their own creation, they have a lot of fun, their love is sparkly and adorable, and they clearly enjoy each other.
But once context is layered on, the discomfort, awkwardness and tense feelings rise to the surface all too quickly.
By the episode 4 mark, the context starts to set in for Jin Ah and Joon Hee. The fact that they feel they have to hide; the way Jin Ah’s mom (Gil Hae Yun) tells Gyung Sun and Joon Hee that they are as good as her own children. It’s uncomfortable and uneasy.
The moment Jin Ah and Joon Hee attempt to mesh their context with their relationship, is when the hearts-in-eyes giddiness of their relationship comes face-to-face with the cold hard reality of an unaccepting community.
And as cute as this couple is while they are alone together, there doesn’t seem to be much of a foundation to their relationship besides giggles, kisses, and chemistry. Throughout my watch, I wondered if there was enough substance to this couple’s relationship, to weather it all.
Intra-relationship signs of trouble
The more I watched Joon Hee and Jin Ah as a couple, the more I realized that they did not have a healthy relationship. I will talk more about the specifics of what I felt were damaging habits in their relationship in a later section.
In this section, I’d like to talk about the initial signs of trouble that I noticed, before all the fall-out from the people around them coming to know about their relationship.
One arc I’d like to single out here, is the period of time immediately after Jin Ah is safely discharged from the hospital, in episode 8.
Remembering that the context of this, is that Jin Ah has just survived a car crash while being held against her will by her possibly psychotic ex-boyfriend who was bent on a double suicide, it bugged me that Jin Ah’s all beat up from the accident, and yet, Joon Hee’s angry with her.
AND THEN, the moment she says that she’s told her parents she won’t be home that night, he switches gears and starts to hurry home.
In that moment, I hoped that he didn’t mean to hurry home for sexytimes, coz someone’s who’s just been in a near-death situation probably needs some time to recover.
Another part of my brain rationalized that it can also be argued that sex is life-affirming, so.. I basically felt conflicted about this.
Regardless, though, him switching gears from being angry, to suddenly being hand-holdy and apparently, in happy anticipation, while presumably driving them somewhere they can get cozy, while she’s recovering from an accident, AND while the stupid refrain “stand by your man” plays in the background, just all comes together to leave ALL the wrong impressions on me.
Is Show saying that she’s supposed to stand by her man by giving him sex even though she’s just been through a horrific abduction and accident? I sure hope not. But that’s what it looked like.
In the end, Show treats the post-accident thing pretty lightly, and we’re supposed to believe that Jin Ah bounces right back, with just a small cut on her forehead, and enough spunk left in her to horse around with Joon Hee. Okayy.
Aside from the different way Show and I viewed suitable.. post-accident activities, we do see some hints of strain in their relationship this episode, in the conversation in Joon Hee’s apartment.
It becomes more apparent that they have different ways of looking at things, and of communicating, and it’s not matching up.
At this stage, I felt like I was watching teenagers in love, and not exactly in the best way. Joon Hee refusing to take on a work assignment because of his relationship with Jin Ah, makes him look way more boy than man.
And Jin Ah sneaking around and lying to her parents when she’s a full-grown adult woman of 35 years old feels strange, and gives me the feeling that Jin Ah basically never quite grew up.
Altogether, these earlier clues did not give me a great deal of confidence about the strength of this OTP relationship.
A tangential comparison to SLA
I usually make a conscious effort to consider a show purely on its own merit, and therefore I wouldn’t usually make a comparison to another show, in a review.
But today, I’d like to make a quick detour, to talk about how this OTP relationship compares to the one in Secret Love Affair.
It’s a reasonably natural association, since Secret Love Affair is a fairly recent drama also directed by Ahn Pan Seok PD, and also features a noona romance as its main loveline.
If you’ve been around this site for a while, you probably know that I absolutely loved Secret Love Affair and consider it a masterpiece in its own right.
One of the reasons I felt so absorbed by SLA, is because of how the intensity of the OTP relationship felt deep-rooted and profound, right from the beginning.
In SLA, it was clear that Sun Jae and Hye Won were soulmates; there was something much deeper that drew them together than just mere attraction. They felt whole with each other, and deeply understood each other’s relationship with music and their literal need for it.
When things came to a head, Sun Jae’s love for Hye Won felt deep and strong, even though he himself was in many ways powerless to protect the woman he loved. I never for a moment doubted that he was in it for the long haul, and would not run away.
I alluded to it earlier in this review as well; I felt like Joon Hee’s love for Jin Ah doesn’t have as strong a foundation, and eventually, with enough familial pressure exerted on him, Joon Hee does cave.
Not because he wants to, but because he can’t withstand it, in spite of his best efforts. Which is how he eventually decides to run away to the US, with or without Jin Ah.
At the same time, I also can’t help but compare Jin Ah to Hye Won. Hye Won was a much stronger woman than Jin Ah is, and I think that makes a difference too.
To my eyes, Jin Ah often behaves like an overgrown teenager who’s rebelling against her parents, instead of a mature adult woman of 35 – which she’s supposed to be.
When I stacked the 2 OTPs side by side in my head, I felt like I could see why Sun Jae and Hye Won’s relationship managed to weather the storm, and why Joon Hee and Jin Ah’s relationship ends up being uprooted before long.
And I could also see why Sun Jae and Hye Won’s relationship stole my heart so deeply, while Joon Hee and Jin Ah’s relationship.. doesn’t.
What I really think of this relationship, after the initial flush of cute
By around the episode 12 mark, I started to feel like this romance actually felt quite random (he just was suddenly attracted to her when he saw her walking in the distance, after all), and essentially, feels like the equivalent of plucking two very average people out of a crowd, and throwing them into difficult challenges, to see if they’d survive – or get eaten by sharks.
Which sounds like every disaster movie ever, except maybe Show didn’t happen to pick the most resilient random people to be its stars.
The biggest problem in Joon Hee and Jin Ah’s relationship, is that they don’t communicate enough, AND they keep lying to each other.
In episode 14, Joon Hee should have discussed it with Jin Ah first, before asking for a posting to the US.
After all, he’s expecting her to quit her job in order to leave with him. And with the renting of an apartment being a big decision, Jin Ah could’ve at least called Joon Hee, before agreeing to rent the place.
In the end, it’s this lack of communication – the lack of respect for each other, really – that really broke them up.
Additionally, through their entire relationship before and after that break-up, Jin Ah and Joon Hee keep lying to each other. They keep things from each other, in the interest of protecting the other person, but it creates distance between them.
From early on, I wondered, if they can’t be honest with each other, then what chance do they have, of surviving this relationship apocalypse together?
And that lying habit is exactly what eventually drove them apart. In episode 15, once Jin Ah had agreed to sign the lease, and Joon Hee happened to call, she should’ve told him, instead of lying.
Because these two people didn’t talk honestly when it mattered the most, I confess that I felt like they deserved all the problems they had in their relationship, because their behavior was causing most of their problems.
Even if we take away the parental pressure from the equation, we aren’t left with a healthy relationship; we’re left with a pair of people whose relationship seems to be built mostly on giggles and kisses, but who lie to each other habitually, and don’t ever talk honestly when they most need to.
Even if Mom hadn’t ended up being the thing to tear them apart, I believe it would’ve been only a matter of time, before other pressures would have forced these issues to the surface as serious problems.
The thing with Mom
This might be a bit controversial, but I don’t think of Jin Ah’s mom as Evil Mom.
Even though her behavior was far from exemplary, her words, caustic, and her tantrums, high on the screech scale, I did not see her as a bad person.
All the way through to the end, I do feel like Mom sincerely believes that Jin Ah dating Joon Hee is a bad idea. She sincerely believes that marrying well is the way for Jin Ah and Jin Ah’s future children to have better lives.
She also sincerely believes that she knows better than her daughter, and that it is her duty to prevent her daughter from making a mistake that would ruin her life.
This is a very Asian Parent way of thinking, and my own mother has shown in many different ways, that she shares this sentiment of parental duty (though thankfully not these methods).
In this sense, I did not feel that Jin Ah’s mom unreasonably overstepped her boundaries as a parent in Korea, in principle.
Yes, her methods were extreme, but I rationalize that the woman was desperate. And a desperate mother would quite literally do almost anything, if she believes that she’s doing it for the sake of her child.
For all of the bad behavior that we saw from Jin Ah’s mother, here are 3 examples of when I felt we could see that her intentions were not bad ones, and that she genuinely cared.
1. In episode 11, when Mom discovers that Jin Ah is not in her room, she rushes out of the house in the middle of the night, gets in a taxi, and instructs the driver to take her to Joon Hee’s address.
In the beginning of her trip, she asks the taxi driver to go fast, and then later, she changes her mind and asks him to go slow. When she arrives at her destination, she also hesitates for a bit, in the elevator.
All of these tell me that she’s not keen to barge in on her daughter, that’s one thing, but more like, I felt that she was afraid that her worst fears would come true.
2. In the same episode, Mom kneels in front of Joon Hee and asks him to understand why she’s being like this. Given how proud Mom is as a person, the very fact that she would kneel – in front of Joon Hee, no less – shows how much this means to her.
3. Eventually, in episode 15, Mom effectively kicks Jin Ah out of the house, and Jin Ah finally moves out.
The way Mom mopes in bed even when nobody’s looking, says a lot about how she really feels. She doesn’t just feel disappointed in Jin Ah, she likely feels like she’s failed her duty as a parent.
The thing with Gyung Sun
Overall, I hafta say that Gyung Sun turned out to be one of my favorite characters in this drama world. I love that she has so much love to give, and pours it out so generously on her brother and her best friend.
This, despite having had a tough childhood, and also, having had to mother Joon Hee for most of her own life.
I really appreciated Show’s spotlight on Gyung Sun in episode 9, which focused on her reaction to stumbling on the knowledge that there was definitely something going on between her baby brother and her best friend.
She doesn’t confront them immediately; instead, she takes time to process; to think; to reflect on what her mother would have said, if her mother had been alive.
And then, even though her protective noona hackles come up for a bit, when her baby brother begs her to understand, she cries, and then does just that.
That must have taken so much sacrificial love, on her part. She had to put aside her own feelings, to do what she needed to do, to respect her brother’s feelings.
Yes, there was a beating and half that she had to get out of her system, but my goodness, she dug so deep and turned around in such a short time, I just can’t begrudge her the right to beat her brother a little bit.
Afterwards, I felt acutely for Gyung Sun, every time she was faced with Jin Ah’s mom’s disapproving comments of Joon Hee. In episode 10, I felt so sorry for Gyung Sun.
The stricken look in her eyes, as Jin Ah’s mom talked to her about how they should split up Joon Hee and Jin Ah; the way she cooked a feast for Joon Hee, because she felt so hurt on his behalf, that he was looked down upon; the disappointment and soul-crushing grief that she felt, when she tried to reach out to a father who wasn’t interested in connecting.
Poor dear. She’s got so much love to give, and yet, finds herself stuck between a rock and a hard place, for a decision that she had no part in making.
Suddenly, her entire life is turned upside down because her baby brother and best friend decided to date.
Not only is she faced with the indignity of Joon Hee being pronounced not good enough, she also faces the very real risk of losing the two people most precious to her, if this relationship doesn’t work out.
In episode 11, I felt like I could sort of understand why Gyung Sun would get so upset and tell Jin Ah to end it with Joon Hee. She’s barely keeping it together, and is under a lot of stress, not just about Joon Hee and Jin Ah’s relationship, but about her estranged dad (Kim Chang Wan) coming to Korea.
So, just one thing that makes it look like Jin Ah is being unfair to Joon Hee, is enough to make her lash out.
In the end, Gyung Sun demonstrates just how uncalculated and forgiving her love is, when she basically shoves Jin Ah and Joon Hee the opportunity to talk it out, in the finale, never mind everything that has happened. How can one not like Gyung Sun, right?
The workplace sexual harassment thing
At first, I thought Show had something potentially interesting to say about workplace harassment, given how much screen time is dedicated to Jin Ah’s workplace situation where it’s a nightmare for the women, who are expected to put up with regular harassment from their male supervisors.
For a while, it seemed like this arc would actually go somewhere, but to quote a dear friend of the blog, seankfletcher, who recently said this memorable line on my My Husband Oh Jak Doo review, this just felt like the wave you wait for at the beach that never arrives. (What a great line, eh?)
Honestly, by episode 14, I felt so bored by the harassment case stuff, that I literally almost fell asleep. Still, I had hopes that something meaningful would result from this arc. But no. Writer-nim had other ideas, which I’ll talk about in a little bit.
The background music
When I started the show, I found the background music serviceable and inoffensive. By episode 6, though, the songs had started to wear thin on me.
Not only were the songs applied with a heavy hand and therefore quickly at the point of wearing out their welcome, there were many occasions when the songs felt strangely irrelevant to the scene at hand.
I soon could not bear the sound of “Sometimes it hard.. to be a woh-mahn..” and every time the opening strains came on, I found myself literally bracing for impact.
At around the episode 13 mark, it occurred to me that all this use of Western music in the background, was maybe a metaphor for how Joon Hee and Jin Ah are trying to be Western in sensibility – age isn’t a barrier, love conquers all etc – but, it just doesn’t quite fit right.
Like, try as they might, they can’t escape the fact that their context matters, and for as long as they choose to live in this context, they can’t quite fully embrace that Western outlook like they want to.
And perhaps, just as those songs were grating on my nerves more and more, the longer Show went on, perhaps Joon Hee and Jin Ah’s attempt to live that Western outlook is grating on them too, the longer they go on.
Heh. That indulgent benefit of the doubt didn’t last long, though.
I don’t know what the music PD was thinking, but those English songs were overdone, overused, and just plain annoying. They basically drove my eyeballs to involuntary rolling fits, and made me wish that my player had an option to mute any and all background music.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
To be honest, I found this finale distinctly underwhelming. And the reason that I found this finale so underwhelming, is because if you think about it, nothing really changes, and nothing actually gets solved.
First, here’s a summary of what happened:
Joon Hee comes back to Korea, and finds that Jin Ah is unhappily dating a parent-approved man. Joon Hee and Jin Ah have two conversations.
One is stilted and awkward. The other is honest, but he sounds like a defensive brat while she sounds like a self-righteous, self-sacrificing saint. They part ways.
Jin Ah loses her patience being her busy beau’s last priority and walks out on him. Joon Hee thinks about settling down in the US. Jin Ah quits her job.
Apparently, she won the case against Director Nam, but nothing’s changed, and she’s done enduring her exile-disguised-as-a-promotion.
She informs her parents that she’s moving to Jeju Island. Mom suddenly feels bad coz her daughter is moving away. She apologizes, and they make peace.
Jin Ah settles into life on Jeju Island, helping out at Bo Ra’s (Joo Min Kyung) cool cafe. Joon Hee chances on Jin Ah’s old love confession recording, and, his feelings stirred, seeks her out at the cafe – where he demands his umbrella back from Jin Ah.
Jin Ah says he’s crazy, and so he forces skinship on her, picking her up and plonking her on his shoulder. Afterwards all her defenses crumble, and they kiss happily ever after.
Despite feeling disengaged from this show as early as episode 10, I eventually came back, and stayed till the end, because I wanted to give Show the benefit of the doubt.
Like, sure, I may not be feeling the way you’re telling your story, but you seem to want to make a point. So let me stay, so that I can hear you out; let’s see what that point is, that you’re working to make.
Now that I’ve seen this show in its entirety, though, I can’t say I’m getting anything in terms of a solid point.
In terms of the workplace harassment, we see that nothing’s changed. Jin Ah won the case, sure, but is effectively living in exile, while the perpetrators continue to keep their jobs at head office.
So.. it feels like Show is trying to say, the problem is systemic, and standing up for what you believe in is unlikely to get you anywhere.
In terms of parental expectations, to my eyes, nothing has changed. Mom maintains that she’s got Jin Ah’s best interests at heart, and her apology feels like an emotional response to Jin Ah’s departure, rather than a promise to change her behavior.
My reading of the situation is that Dad and Mom are ok with Jin Ah moving to Jeju Island to find her way in life – but that doesn’t automatically include approval of a potential reunion with Joon Hee. On this one, it feels like Show is saying, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
In terms of Jin Ah and Joon Hee’s reunion, I feel like nothing has changed as well. They had one honest outburst with each other, yes, but does that really change anything?
When Joon Hee shows up at the cafe, Jin Ah still uses the same defensive, helpless tone with him, “What is it? What do you want? Do you still have something left to say?” while Joon Hee hides behind a defensive-sounding excuse of wanting his umbrella back.
Sure, there are hugs and kisses, but to me, those were fueled by a recording of a happier time, that Joon Hee happened to listen to again, and while that’s fine and good, there’s nothing to indicate that these two are going to make changes to their relationship that will help them relate in a more honest and healthy way.
That final happy shot, to me, is a snapshot of one happy moment, and only that. And the reason that happy moment could happen at all, is because they removed themselves from their context.
I feel like the moment these two try again, to have a relationship within the context of family and society, that a lot of old problems will surface again.
Mom will object, again. There will be tears and gnashing of teeth, again. And Jin Ah and Joon Hee’s relationship will be put to the test, again.
If I had to articulate a takeaway from all of this, it would be this: Context really is everything, after all; you can’t exist out of context. A happy bubble devoid of context, will eventually burst.
But, if you can’t be happy in the context that you’re in, you still have the option of changing your context.
Bo Ra’s the coolest one of them all, quitting the job she didn’t like, and finding a way to make a living where she could live on beautiful Jeju Island, and sip wine at the end of a work day, while she listens to the crashing waves.
When her context stopped working for her, and she saw that there wasn’t any point in trying to make changes at the office, she changed her context, and stuck to her guns about it.
To Joon Hee and Jin Ah, I say, be like Bo Ra. And fix your bad relationship habits too, while you’re at it.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Starts promising, but is ultimately underwhelming and quite pointless.
FINAL GRADE: C
It’s true that the music in this show eventually almost drove me up the wall, but here’s a track which I liked better than the others.
Congratulations on an excellent review. This is the 3rd Kdrama I’ve seen after Mr Sunshine and CLOY and I found this very underwhelming. The first half has all the elements of a successful rom-com, the second half a terrible melodrama. I found the acting overall quite good but the blame for the unsatisfying experience rests with the director and writer.
I am not familiar with Korean society but I found this show to be a bitter indictment of:
1. Korean family values
2. Korean societal values
3. Korean Business practices
4. Relationships between immature individuals, whose immaturity is a consequence and reflection of Korean society
But all is not well in the west either, the one western character, Joon Hee’s Dad, shows the respect for individual responsibilities and freedom and blesses the realtionship yet he is a tremendously flawed character who has been married several times and abandoned his children from his first marriage. So western values? Not so good either.
What is the message from the director and writer? Life sucks and you can never win so don’t bother. It’s a cynical take that shows up in the way the characters are developed so that in the end, you come away feeling little respect or love for any of the characters, including the two leads.
Is there any redeeming character in this series? No, the director and writer seem to be aiming for a very negative realism by immediately undermining any character who shows some redeeming values. Jin-A’s Dad shows understanding for her situation and defends her but crumbles before the withering attack of his battle-ax wife. Has there ever been a more unsympathetic character than the Mother? Have there been more bipolar or schizophrenic characters?
At the end of the day, each character is revealed to be deeply flawed, situations are developed that don’t seem to be ever resolved and I think the director and writer must have been forced to create a happy ending which seems totally contradictory to the last half of the series and which, as you say, is deeply unsatisfying.
Hi there Geo, congrats on finishing your 3rd kdrama, and my sympathies, that it did not go very well at all, for you. 😛😛 That was my exact question too, while I was watching: what message are they trying to bring across? Because it surely isn’t an uplifting or hopeful one. 😬
I was so annoyed by this show, that I swore not to check out One Spring Night, which is by the same writer-director team, and they even get back the same male lead (they originally wanted the female lead back too, but scheduling conflicts meant she couldn’t take it up, which I think worked out well). Long story short, I was shocked that I enjoyed One Spring Night. It was as if the writer-director team set out to tell an opposite story. It felt like they took all my grouses in this show, and fixed ’em all, in One Spring Night. I wonder if this was a deliberate thing? Like, let’s make a pair of shows, with the same actors, and let’s make one the example of “what not to do” and the other one, and example of “what to do for a healthy relationship.” 🤷🏻♀️ That said, when you feel up to it, I do suggest giving One Spring Night a try. I found it a great way to wash away the disappointment of this show. MUCH healthier OTP interactions, and actual growth for characters! 🤩
I started watching Kdramas with the forced isolation and a friend recommended Mr Sunshine and CLOY, both of which I found very good, Mr Sunshine more so. But because of Son Ye Jin’s performance in CLOY, her incredible chemistry with Hyun Bin, I started watching SITR. I had not read your review before, having only recently discovered your website, but if I had, I would have saved myself some lost time I can never recover. Having said that, the first half of the show was fairly entertaining.
Your review matches so much of what I felt about this show that I’ll give One Spring Night a chance on your recommendation.
Keep up the good work.
Aw, thanks for allowing me to persuade you to give One Spring Night a try, Geo! 😀 It never does reach the same giddy heights that this show managed in the early episodes of attraction, but it wins hands-down, in every other way. The characters are also written as flawed, but they are much more likable and I found it much easier to root for them. 🙂 I hope you’ll enjoy it, and that it’ll wash away the blah taste that this show left behind! 🙂
I’ve watched the first two episodes of One Spring Night and it looks promising, doesn’t start as strongly as SITR (but you know how that turned out) but I’ll continue with it. Not sure how I’m going to juggle all the shows I’m watching. I think you have a preference for Han Ji-Min vs Son Ye Jin but I would vote for SYJ as my first exposure to her was in CLOY and I was impressed by her comedic and emotional range in that show, very expressive eyes and face. I don’t blame her for SITR, I think the actors did their best with what they were given.
With respect to flawed characters, I think they can be central to an excellent show. A deeply flawed character redeemed by an action or deed, a tragic hero laid low by a fatal flaw or an everyday person rising to challenges despite their flaws are common themes that appeal to the human spirit and reflect the human experience but SITR has none of these.
Hi Geo, happy to hear that you find One Spring Night promising! I do think you’ll be quite pleased with it, as you go. 🙂 I saw SITR before CLOY, so I think my experience of Son Ye Jin is quite different in effect than yours, even though we watched the same 2 shows. I was very aggravated by Jin Ah in this, and that did rub off on my feelings for Son Ye Jin as an actress. BUT, her performance in CLOY did a lot to wash the residual negative feelings away! 😀 On the other hand, your affection for her in CLOY sustained you through SITR, despite the show’s flaws, which I think is interesting. 🙂
I agree, flawed characters can be central to a great show indeed. But it’s critical that the show in question does SOMETHING with it, rather than just say, hey look, here are some flawed characters. Nothing changes. THE END. 😆😆
I loved this South Korean Romance story. I am a Canadian, I am a mother, grandmother, and once was a young romantic. During this COVID-19 crisis, I have had the opportunity to watch other Korean shows and like them very much……Crash Landing on you, Memories of the Alhambra. Looking forward to more.
Hi there Leona, I’m glad to hear that you’ve been enjoying kdramas! If you liked Crash Landing on You, there’s a good chance you’d also like You From Another Star (My Love From The Stars) which is by the same writer. 🙂 I also highly recommend Romance is a Bonus Book. Sweet and thoughtful story of a mature woman rediscovering her identity, with a romance on the side. I hope you enjoy! <3
I’m not alone in this. It’s a first for me to see a kdrama that has a lot of kissing hugging and very touchy. Although it was not exciting. Honestly it fell flat. Communication was their problem and hiding things from each other. Would’ve been better if they were stuck by each other against it all. Was really hard to watch and finish. The office scenes would’ve been better if there’s like a point to it. There were also a looooot of soundtrack playing with nothing happening. No convo and just characters thinking 😩
Aw, I feel you, Tin! This was disappointing for me too. 😝 When you’re up to another drama, this same team did One Spring Night, which feels like the exact opposite of this OTP. I was doubtful, but I ended up enjoying One Spring Night a lot, and my negative feelings from this show were quite nicely washed away. 🙂
So I’m obviously late to the party but wanted to add my perspective since I just completed this drama yesterday. I agree with so much of your review. It really was spot on. Even with the frustration of how the story line played out, this drama wasn’t entirely unrealistic for me.
Similar to the two main characters, I too fell in love with the best friend of one of my older brothers (I have 4). There was an 8 yr difference in age between us and although we had grown up together with him giving me piggyback rides when we were kids, we never saw each other “that way” until we went our separate ways in life and ran into each other again when I was 21 and he was 28. We hadn’t seen each other in nearly 10 years since he had left to join the military, and were instantly attracted to one another. We decided to “catch up” as old friends and found ourselves talking for hours on end over the phone multiple days a week. When we finally decided to date, and were public about it, all hell broke loose. Similar to the characters in the drama. My brother and the now love of my life quarreled badly, almost coming to blows, and their 25 year friendship came to an end. My brother thought he was protecting me as a big brother should (they knew everything about each other and had both been playboys in the past). I understood, but he was out of line. To be honest, he had already confessed to me everything about his past, including how he had run through other women in his past and his reasoning for doing it, but he always treated me like the most important thing in his world. Our parents also had less than enthusiastic feelings about our relationship and expressed as much, although they didn’t try to intervene or anything.
It was a crazy and wonderful ride for the 6 yrs that we dated. I truly believe I was the love of his life just as much as he was mine. We even got engaged around the 4th yr, but I still had some growing up to do and the outside pressure was real and intense at times. Love doesn’t always conquer all. We parted ways, tearfully, and have checked on each other over the years but are both now married to other people (with varying degrees of marital happiness/regret).
I shared this to say that, although there were definitely frustrating and annoying moments in Something In the Rain (namely that gawd awful music), I still unexpectedly saw myself in a lot of it and how things unfolded. I think the writer actually did a good job of portraying the fallout from family and friends that a couple might receive, depending on the history. My husband, who is not a fan of kdrama, could not understand why I was so emotionally involved in the show at times, but what he didn’t realize was that it was bringing up a lot of memories and emotions in me that I wasn’t expecting.
Hi Cherry, thanks so much for sharing your story. <3 I can imagine how this show would bring up a lot of memories for you.. what a huge life experience that must have been; it literally changed both of your lives. And it sounds like it was as world-tilting for you both, as it was for Joon Hee and Jin Ah in this story. Reading your story, and imagining how things unfolded, and then considering how your story ended, I do agree that this show presents a realistic story, even if it's narratively unsatisfying (in that, with stories, we expect characters to experience more personal growth than these characters demonstrated). But perhaps that's what Show set out to be; not an aspirational story of personal growth and victory, but just a snapshot of how earth-shattering and messy a real life inconvenient Big Love can be. It's great food for thought. Thanks again for sharing. <3
Yep, agree 110%
KFangirl, I will read all of your reviews.
Aw, thanks ASohn, I hope you’ll enjoy other reviews on the site too! <3
loovvee and totally agree with your review! I’m new to kdramas and had watched One Spring Night before this and I was so frustrated with the female need from Pretty Noona. I found her to be exactly what you thought to the point that I was ashamed of her behaviour and wasn’t rooting for this relationship at all. The redeeming thing I found was what the sister said to her, something along the lines of she couldn’t really stand her, that’s exactly what I wanted to say to her myself!!!
Like you, my wife and I watched this one because we were so happy with One Spring Night. And had exactly the same reaction, as explained in detail in an earlier comment. (Note: there are two pages of comments for this show.) At some point I decided it would be a terrible thing when the couple ended up together, because clearly they should not.
Watch “Crash Landing On You” if you want an anecdote to the negative feelings you now have for the actress who played Jin Ah (Son Ye Jin). Great show!
Right now, we’re watching Familiar Wife, because we loved Han Ji-min so much in One Spring Night. Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t carry it, so we expanded our K-drama options via the streaming service Viki.com. We live in the US.
We’re also fairly new to this, btw. If you only have Netflix, watch Love Is A Bonus Book. The first ep is not as engaging, but by ep 2 you’ll be in love. If you have access to more shows via Viki or a service like that, Healer is another sure thing. You can’t go wrong with those three excellent shows — Crash Landing, Bonus Book and Healer.
Correction: “Crash Landing on You” streams on Netflix too. So watch that and “Love Is A Bonus Book”!
About Vilki… signed up for basic paid plan, as commercials were annoying. The android app works very well on my Sony Android TV. Viewing using PC is a pain, low picture quality on gigabit network. Some of the shows cannot be watched in the US. Are there other services that I can try to watch K-Dramas?
There was a recent thread on this recently. Use this link, then scroll up slightly:
Totally agreed with your review. Ended up reading your review instead of watching last 30 minutes of the finale. I feel vindicated knowing someone else noted the same things I did. Like you I would roll my eyes every time the same 3 songs would play. Hope you keep writing more reviews.
I think your review of this show is very accurate. I also felt that Jin Ah and Joon Hee’s relationship was immature and that the indifference by the people around Jin Ah (and even Jin Ah herself) with regard to the sexual harassment (at work) and assault (by her ex-boyfriend) was deeply frustrating.
That being said, I felt very connected to Jin Ah’s experience through out the show. You mention that the show never talks about the negative effects that sexual harassment has on society and women in general. But I do not feel that that was the purpose of the show. It is told from Jin Ah’s point of vue. In that sense they got a lot of things right that many shows do not capture. I saw a lot of my personal experience and a lot of my past emotions and actions portrayed by Jin Ah. The slow realization that you have allowed yourself to be degraded by many people in your life and the powerlessness to do anything about it. Admittedly, it is frustrating to watch but her reactions felt so real to me.
I understand why you do not like the ending. I think we watch this show from a different perspective because I knew from the first episode that she would have to quit her job. Unfortunately, it is a realistic ending, but it is also, to me, a powerful one. She eventually realizes that she deserves to be treated with respect and she changes her life so that she can get it.
I enjoyed your review of this show. I just recently found your blog and I always find your opinions nuanced and very interesting. Thanks!
Hi there Lyra, thanks for sharing your insights from your personal experience.. I think my frustration, if I had to pick just one thing, is that so little seemed to have changed, if at all, by the time we get to the final episode. I know that Jin Ah made a change with regard to her work because of the harassment, but in the end, it did not feel like a victory, because the perpetrators continued without having to face any consequences, while she ends up in an exile of her own choosing, on Jeju Island. That might be realistic, but it’s discouraging as well. It felt like so little had been achieved, after following her on that journey. I guess I was hoping for more. 😝 Expectations count for so much when it comes to our ability to enjoy a drama, and I think in this case, your expectations were more realistic than mine. 😉 I wanted more significant progress, both on the work and relationship fronts, and my expectations were far from met, unfortunately. Still, thanks so much for enjoying the review, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the other reviews on the site! PS: I’m glad you found me! WELCOME! <3
Who the heck write this resume? I love it!
Thanks for the veryyy detailed review. I just finished the drama and felt a bit disappointed with it, so I have been looking around to see if anyone has the same thinking with me. Overall, I stayed until the very end because Jung Haein himself is way too cute lol. I wish that they could fight for their relationship by taking real actions rather than just saying, to make all people believe that they can live happily years after as a couple. At least they could have focused more on their career to strengthen financial and social status, especially for Joon hee. Joon hee has a good potential and I believe he can grow more in his career. He can even start pursuing again his dream to be an artist. He needs to prove that he is not inferior than a lawyer or a businessman. He can manage to make the mom see him with different eyes. I wish that drama could have followed this path. It’s of course more difficult to do than to say, but it’s not unachievable (at least in a K-drama). And he can start doing that by stop being unprofessional at work such as walking out of the meeting room, denying a business trip with unsound reasons, or chit chat too much with girlfriend during work time lol. I was happy when Jin ah said that she has changed, that she realized that she needs to value herself more. But I feel that she lost the chance to use that momentum to become a better person. She was brave enough to stand up against the sexual harassment which is a good thing. But if that issue could not be solved completely at that time, I don’t think that it can be solved later even if she stays. A better solution I think is that she could have left earlier and started again like Bora and live happily alone, stay away from the politics and gossip. I wonder why she ends up dating another guy in the last episode. After all, she surrendered the social pressure? In short, both of them for sure needs to tear apart for a while, but not to be stuck in the past like what they did, but rather do constructive things to improve themselves day by day. And when they meet each other once again, they will be worry-free because both can stand still now, and give each other a peaceful smile, which will make more sense as an ending.
Ha. You are definitely not alone on this. I really enjoyed those two as a couple. Right up until the moment I really hated them. (Jin-ah in particular, but I certainly agree with kfangurl’s observations about Joon-hee as well.) kfangurl nailed all the reasons this show was so suddenly disappointing, so I won’t belabor them.
Except to say, yeah. Jin-ah thinks she’s matured enough to make better decisions. Decisions such as continuing to give her mother waaay too much power over her love life, prioritizing her career with an employer that treats her despicably over a relationship that is supposedly her OTP. And flat out lying to the man she supposedly loves as a first impulse, over and over.
All that said, if I’d known it would be like that, I might have appreciated it as a realistic story about fully human — i.e., deeply flawed — characters fumbling to find love and self-awareness.
Even then, however, the resolution was far too abrupt and facile to suggest these two learned anything from their earlier fail. It felt more like a magical do-over spell had been cast.
kfangurl: fyi, I did finally watch the last two episodes. Or rather, I skimmed through to find the parts where any of the characters I care about interacted with each other. I literally couldn’t have done so if I had been warned what would happen and also hadn’t given myself several weeks to calm down. But in the end, I’m glad I did. Annoying or not, those two still matter to me.
lilyvuong95: If you haven’t seen One Spring Night or Crashing Landing On You, many of us commenting here would urge you to do so. These are the shows the two lead actors appeared in next. One Spring Night is more similar to Something in theRain/Noona, but it’s executed far better. CLOY has an entirely different feel, but my wife and I loved it as well. These two shows will wash away any lingering bad feelings you might otherwise retain about the two actors. (If you want to know more, kfangurl has reviewed both of them.)
s/b: if I HADN’T been warned what would happen
Hi there MeriJ! Kudos to you, for going back and making it through the last 2 episodes, especially considering how aggravated this show made you! 😅 I’m glad that you found it worth the exercise! 🙂
Hi there lily! You are absolutely not alone in feeling that way about this show. Some fans argue that Jin Ah did change a lot by the end, but – no disrespect meant to them – I just couldn’t see it. I prefer your version of events much better! That would have given me a much greater sense of progress and closure, rather than the feeling that nothing’s really changed, which is how I felt when I finished.
I agree with MeriJ; I do think One Spring Night is a great antidote to this show, because it takes all the things that frustrate us here, and fixes it. And Jung Hae In is just as cute, in One Spring Night. For a change of pace, Crash Landing On You stretches logic a great deal, but really knows how to bring the feels. And, it miraculously made me feel much better about Son Ye Jin as an actress, which I didn’t think was possible, after I disliked Jin Ah so much in Something in the Rain. 😉
your review is very detailed and concise. I must confess I enjoyed the drama despite the shortcomings you rightly pointed out. I am a new K-Drama fan..I was warned by friends not to start but I got addicted after watching my first K-drama “Crash Landing on you”!
Hi there Roz, thanks for enjoying the review, and I’m glad this show worked for you, even though it didn’t work for me. 🙂 If you’re looking to explore more kdramas, I think you might find my Full List (here) useful. It’s not a comprehensive list of all the dramas out there, but just a list of dramas that I’ve written about on this site. I hope it helps! 🙂
I like your analysis of the drama. Despite the bleak overview, i love the show till the end. Jin Ah is annoying, weak and annoying. Joon is a bit self aggrandizing and immature. Their cute at the beginning relationship got me through the dark times, and I am glad i watched the tv show. I was impressed, mad, screaming at times, empathizing, annoyed, skipped a bit.
I disagree with the opinion about the ending, Jin Ah left a comfortable career, a relationship and all the obstacles that came between her and Joon: that is growth that I think you overlooked on her part.
Overall this show portrays relationships in their imperfection and the journey to realizing what is vital (love, happiness as opposed to status, obedience to parents, and grinding at a job you hate just to be employed). The characters are flawed but their growth and chemistry got me through the movie. It could have been better tho!
Hi there Gigi, thanks for enjoying this review! 🙂 It sounds like you managed to enjoy this one more than I did, which is great. I’m fully supportive of the idea that we all have the right to like and enjoy different things, because we’re all different and unique and therefore come to the shows with different backgrounds, experiences and viewing lenses. 🙂
I guess we can agree to disagree where Jin Ah’s growth is concerned.. I agree that she left her job when it stopped working for her, but to my eyes, as far as Show was able to demonstrate to us her emotional landscape, I didn’t see anything to indicate that she would be able to build a healthy relationship with Joon Hee this time around. Again, this is my personal takeaway, and it doesn’t mean that it has to be yours; thanks for sharing your perspective! 🙂
I did think that One Spring Night did a much better job of portraying the ingredients of a healthy relationship, so if you haven’t seen that one yet, I do highly recommend it! 🙂
hi Gigi! watch this after CLOY. Son Ye Jin convert that is why watch this show. agree on your appreciation of the show! indeed Jin Ah has conquered her initial weaknesses & came out a better person. though kfangurl is right that its storytelling could have been more tighter & well-though of.
Oh man. Spot on. I have this problem where I know these aren’t real people, yet after living with them for sixteen hours, they become real in my head and heart. And when their choices become truly terrible, I get really upset. In this case, I could not stand my dislike of Jin Ah’s incessant lying and her choosing to put a career with a company that treats her like dirt ahead of her relationship with a guy who would do anything for her. (But thanks for pointing out his flaws as well, which were exactly as you wrote.) I had to ask my wife to watch episode 15 without me so I could decide whether to continue. She revealed that all my fears were realized, so I’ve not seen episodes 15-16 and almost certainly never will. Maybe I’ll watch the last ten minutes, just for closure. We watched this one, btw, because we were so enthralled by One Spring Night. Fom the amazingly annoying soundtrack alone, we should have known better. (Maybe it works better if you’re Korean and think Americana music is cute or authentic, but for us there was zero thematic connection; we ended up turning off the volume each time the music started.
Oh man.. Coming to this after One Spring Night must’ve been a rude shock. 😖 I had the better trajectory, of being frustrated with this show first, then feeling mollified via One Spring Night. 😛
I think it’s fine to drop a drama even if you’re very close to the finish line. After all, that’s at least a couple of drama hours gained that you can spend on something more worthwhile? 🙂 Might I suggest one of these excellent shows to cleanse your drama palate: My Mister, Answer Me 1988, Secret Love Affair, Prison Playbook. You can browse for their reviews here.. I hope that helps! 🙂
PS: I wish I’d thought to turn off the volume each time the music started.. I just suffered through the whole thing! 😆
Turning off the volume during an annoying song is less risky when you’re “hearing” the dialogue via subtitles!
Btw, I read your entire review out loud to my wife and she thought it was perfect. I still have fond memories of the show based on the earlier parts, but instead of that clumsy ending they should have “complexified” the romance several episodes sooner and then taken the time to resolve it meaningfully.
Chocolate is another show we liked a lot that fizzled a bit at the end. Except in that case the problem was they resolved all the important stuff — extremely well — in the second-to-last episode, leaving little to do at the very end.
Thanks for the recommendations, which we’ll definitely check out. We followed Son Ye-jin to “Crash Landing On You” and are currently at episode 10. Usually we go for more realistic romance stories, but Crash is a wonderful mash-up of so many styles — romance, humor, Telenovela campiness, James Bond and the subtle juxtaposition of culture in North vs. South Korea. How regular people are different and yet just the same.
That is true, that muting the show is more workable with subtitles! Although, I wouldn’t rewatch this show even on mute, ha! 😆 It just aggravated me that much. Many thanks to you and your wife for your kind words on this review! <3 It's great to know that we feel so similarly about the show, and I agree with you that they should have found a way to examine the relationship complexities and then resolve it in some way. That would've given us a more satisfying watch experience, I think.
I've tried one episode of Chocolate, but am so far undecided on whether to continue. It hasn't grabbed me much yet, but I do have good intentions about going back to check out E2, at least. 😅 Crash Landing on You is definitely not a realistic romance story, but it's been a worthwhile ride so far. I'm still a few episodes away from the end, so I can't speak for the show as a whole. I do enjoy the snippets of North Korean life though, I thought that was nicely done. 🙂 More opinions to follow, when I actually finish the show and start work on the review! 😉
We def liked Chocolate. However it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Virtually every lead character has been damaged by circumstance and is filled with angst. For pretty much the entire show.
That they eventually figure out how to support one another is what made it special for us. Most of it plays out in a hospice facility, so there’s also a series of beautiful encounters where the primary and secondary characters find humanity and renewed appreciation for life via other people’s final moments.
But 16 hours is a long time to wait if you prefer a faster pace. In One Spring Night the OTP starts right away but then gets stuck in repeated loops up to and back from the precipice. Whereas in Chocolate the guy is caught up in his own troubles and doesn’t fully wise up to the romance until quite late in the show. More like Another Miss Oh.
The other problem is that we tend to prefer strong female leads. Ha Ji-won is totally endearing, but her character in Chocolate is written as traditionally submissive. Whereas Han Ji-min in One Spring Night and Lee Na-Young in Romance is a Bonus Book are more our style.
On another topic that I’m surprised you don’t cover in your top level posts: We’d like to check out shows like Coffee Prince, The Light In Your Eyes [aka Radiant] and Familiar Wife, but they don’t stream on Amazon, Netflix or Hulu. Is Viki your preferred service or are there other options we just consider?
Thanks for the insight into Chocolate, MeriJ! 😀 That’s very helpful indeed! I might have to defer any further attempt at watching Chocolate, because I am not a big fan of Ha Ji Won, and a traditionally submissive female lead is also not something I’m in a good mind space for. Like you guys, I’m more drawn to stronger female leads. Have you watched Search WWW? I loved all 3 female leads in that; they were all strong and fabulous in their own ways. <3
In terms of streaming services, this is a topic that is difficult for me to cover, because every country has different geo-restrictions. Many of the shows available to viewers in the US on Viki, are not availably in my region (Singapore), for example. You might want to check out Kocowa, which is another streaming service available in the US. From what I can gather, Coffee Prince is available on there. Viki carries Radiant and Familiar Wife. I hope that helps! 🙂
My guess is you would like Chocolate. The OTP is always in play — slowly evolving from one-sided to mutual — but for most of the show it’s not actually the central focus. Mostly it’s about people healing from trauma. And the way they finally do resolve the OTP was pretty darn amazing, exploiting investments they’d made but never resolved from the very first episode.
In fact, I’d say the OTP resolution near the end might be the most gripping romantic epiphany we’ve seen yet on any show.
Well, now. You do certainly have a way of making the OTP resolution in Chocolate sound very intriguing, MeriJ! 😆 I will keep your insights in mind for later, when I find myself in the mood to give Chocolate another go. 🙂
FYI, I finally created a WordPress account, which is why I’m suddenly “liking” old comments.
That’s great! I find that it just makes everything so much easier, when engaging with blogs running on WordPress. 😀
First of all, Thank you so much for writing this review, cuz after watching this drama I was soooo…. frustrated with it so I went online to check the reviews what others think about it
and everyone was so impressed with this drama that I felt like beating them up, but after reading your review it calmed me down,I can’t explain the relaxed feeling you gave me with your review so thank you once again.. and I m also amazed that how can u say exact same thing WORD by WORD from the start of the drama till the very end of how I felt for it. It’s like my feeling were given words.
Aw, I feel your frustration with this show, Suzane – I felt the same way! I, too, found it hard to understand the large amounts of love that this show was getting from viewers. Mine was the more unpopular opinion, I’m sure. But it’s great to know that I am not alone in feeling frustrated about this show and what it did with our characters and their relationships. 😛 I’m glad that reading this review helped you feel better and less alone! If I may, I’d like to recommend One Spring Night as a remedy. It’s by the same writer and PD and even stars the same male lead (so I almost didn’t watch it), but it turned out to be the perfect antithesis to this show. Everything I hated in this show, I felt like the team fixed, in One Spring Night. If you haven’t watched it, I’d like to suggest you give it a try. 🙂
My wife and I would like to second that nomination for One Spring Night. It’s the kind of series a couple feels compelled to re-watch multiple times over the years. (It’s also an interesting counter-example of how an incessantly repetitive soundtrack featuring only 3 or so songs can grow on you, working to mostly good effect.)
Wow, I can’t agree with you more. Especially about the music! “Stand by Your Man” and “Save the Last Dance” need to go. Rather than choose to think that the music director had any intention with the music, I actually think that the only explanation is either financial (couldn’t afford more than 4 songs) or is due to there being no actual qualified music director. Like it was an afterthought: oh, we need music. We’ll have a theme for her, a theme for him, and two other songs mixed in. I do have to admit that “Something in the Rain” by Racheal Yamagata has to be the most romantic song in the universe.
The ending was just not enough to make up for the amount of pain we were dragged through. You are right that it feels like nothing has changed. So, is this just going to be a romantic weekend? We needed to see “two years later” or something to feel assured that everything does in fact get worked out. I convince myself that mom and sister have come to the realization that there isn’t anything better out there for their loved one, so just let them be happy- it’s pretty much the best we can hope for. I so loved the first handful of episodes.
Hi there Stephanie, thanks for enjoying this review! <3 That's an interesting take, that the production couldn't afford more than 4 songs. That would certainly make me feel better, lol. But, I'm honestly not very convinced that they couldn't afford more songs. After all, the production boasts A-listers in terms of PD and female lead, at least. Plus, my impression is that PD Ahn is the type to pay strong attention to details, and he doesn't strike me as the type who would knowingly allow shoddy music direction on his project. I don't know. I just find it hard to convince myself. 😅
I was very disappointed with how this show ended (especially since I was quite smitten with the early episodes), but PD Ahn's follow-up project One Spring Night has washed away a lot of the bad feelings, for me. Personally, it felt like One Spring Night was the Dramaverse taking all the stuff I hated about Something in the Rain, and turning it around and making it right. If you haven't watched One Spring Night, you might find it a comforting follow-up to Something in the Rain. 🙂
I am coming late to this conversation because I’m new to watching Kdrama. My youngest daughter encouraged me to watch Boys over Flowers when I was visiting her, and I got hooked. My second Kdrama, which I chose and watched on my own, was Something in the Rain. So I’m no expert. But I wanted to share some of my perspectives on this series as a mom of two girls in their 30s who are navigating life and love while I stand on the sidelines, watching. I am white, from a Western background; my husband is Chinese, but grew up in Calcutta, India. We recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.
I stuck all the way through with Something in the Rain, perhaps because I’m a neophyte. Yes, a number of things in the show bothered me, top of the list my being subjected to “Stand by Your Man” every episode. In contrast, I found Rachael Yamagata’s music welcome, although I did think its use misplaced in a few scenes: I could accept it as background music in a scene between Joon-Hee and his sister Keong-Seo, because there was exceptionally deep familial love between them; in any scene with Keong-Seo and Joon-Hee’s deadbeat father (for instance, the uncomfortable car ride to the airport, with Joon-Hee driving under duress) it cheapened the sentiment of the lyrics. The constant use of lying to diffuse difficult situations made me wonder if my lack of understanding of Korean culture made me judge too harshly. Yes, the main couple got themselves into more trouble than necessary by resorting too often to lying, but it seemed everyone was lying or withholding truth: Yoon Jin-Ah’s father to her mother; Ms. Yoon’s supervisor, Mr. Nam, about not having received the request for promotional materials for a store, shredding the evidence and throwing all responsibility, even economic, on Jin-Ah; Keong-Seo to Jin-Ah’s coworker (and presumptive romantic rival) Kang Se-Yeong, about the high expectations of her and Joon-Hee’s parents for potential spouses (with her mother long dead, and her father having abdicated his role as a parent); Jin-Ah’s boyfriend at the beginning of the series, Lee Gyu-Min, about being unfaithful to her while they were dating. Do people in real life lie? Yes. Do people who don’t usually lie, who usually live by a strong moral code, sometimes lie when they deem it a necessity? Yes. What bothered me is that no-one seemed to learn that truth has a way of coming out, sometimes sooner than later, and that situations in which untruths or truth unspoken is used as a defense will become worse once the truth is revealed. Yes, it especially bothered me that even in later episodes, after all Jin-Ah and Joon-Hee had endured as a couple, the lies tripped off Jin-Ah’s tongue too easily. Some of the most truthful characters in this show were the least likeable: Jin-Ah’s mother never minced words about her thoughts, intents, or motivations; Kang Se-Yeong was upfront about wanting to snag Joon-Hee for herself; once his deceit and unfaithfulness was uncovered, Jin-Ah’s ex-boyfriend, Lee Gyu-Min, was brutally honest and unrepentant about it.
I disagree with some reviewers here that Yoon Jin-Ah, in her story arc, did not grow as a person. She was a complex person with some intractable faults like resorting to lies to smooth things over (at the moment, but paying dearly for it later), redirecting conversation to avoid hard subjects, or resorting to being cutsie to sooth another’s anger. But she went from being a doormat girlfriend to learning what is most important to her in a relationship, and finally living by that realization even if it meant she disappointed the expectations of her parents, Korean society in general, and her post-Joon-Hee boyfriend. She went from being Ms. Tambourine at work to standing up for her rights as a female worker, even when she was abandoned by the other women in her workplace. The show did not depict a huge victory for her and all women in Korea, but (fictional) CoffeeBay top boss Mr. Jo stated that she’d won her verdict, and company personnel liaison Ms. Jung said that she’d become famous for it (admittedly, to the point of probably being deemed unemployable by other corporations). That take on the sexual harassment subplot is probably too true, at present, but small steps added together add up to larger results, so there is hope offered in this ending despite in this show the perpetrators of the sexual harassment retained their jobs and did not seem to have learned a good lesson from the whole experience. If I were to cry “unreal” about the ending of this particular story line, it would be about CoffeeBay keeping on troublesome employees after Jin-Ah won the verdit. If she gained infamy because of this case, so did the company, and it would not reflect well on an international corporation in the MeToo age to seem complicit.
As for the love that developed between Joon-Hee and Jin-Ah, I found it charming at first and frustrating as it developed (or, rather, lacked development). Could I believe that romantic love can grow between a young man and a somewhat older woman? Yes. The older we get, the less a few years’ difference makes. Were these two actors believable as lovers? I certainly thought so. What I didn’t understand, and thus was frustrated by, was why they had so much difficulty communicating if they had past history as childhood friends. It was repeatedly stated that Keong-seo and Joon-Hee were frequent visitors to the Yoon household, and that Jin-Ah’s mother provided support for them as she could once their mother had died and their father abandoned them. She gave them a safe place to come to for food and for friendship. Can I believe that three years’ absence, in the instance of Joon-Hee’s first work assignment in the USA, might make Jin-Ah view him differently than she had when he was just her younger brother’s best friend? Yes. There was more than three years separation between them, if you count the time Joon-Hee spent doing his Korean military service, which is mentioned in the show. I would assume any young man would change a lot when living through military service and a long-term assignment in a foreign country, for better or for worse. So I suppose he might feel like a stranger, at first, to Jin-Ah after a long separation during critical years of physical and emotional development, but the deep history would still be there and it wasn’t shown at all in their relationship. And it is my theory that it was that deep history that made Joon-Hee, a noted womanizer, fall so deeply for Jin-Ah. It is not likely any other woman he met would have known his parents as she did. Joon-Hee and Keong-Seo both had gaping holes torn in their hearts by the death of their mother, and it is fully understandable they’d emotionally lean on Jin-Ah, who knew them before and after their family blew apart. She and her brother, being lifetime best friends of Keong-Seo and Joon Hee, more than any other of their peers would understand the core of their being that was that love and loss, but between the two Yoon siblings, Jin-Ah was more emotionally available. During the show, whenever anyone asked Joon-Hee “Why, of all people, Jin-Ah?” all he could answer was “Because she’s Jin-Ah.” I don’t think even he knew why he was so strongly drawn to Jin-Ah, other than his initial impression that she was pretty. In contrast, on several occasions Jin-Ah was able to clearly outline mature reasons why she appreciated the attentions of, and loved, Joon-Hee.
Was Joon-Hee looking for someone other than his sister to fill that mother-shaped hole in his heart? Perhaps, but the writer of this series made it clear Joon-Hee thought he was Jin-Ah’s protector. Although that viewpoint didn’t sit right with me, I can imagine a young man of his background having such thoughts. As is common with someone who’s suffered the loss of a loved one, he may have blamed himself (no matter how wrongly or illogically), and wanted to prove to himself that he could protect this loved one. He hated his father for abandoning him and his sister, and wanted to assure others he wasn’t that kind of man. His unrealistic promises of always being there to keep Jin-Ah from hurt, his inability to accept her autonomy, are signs of an unhealthy mindset. His frequent claims that he’d stay with Jin-Ah–no matter what–lasted only until he decided, without consulting her, to flee to the USA. If she had agreed to go with him, living an isolated existence without any other family, friends, and no job, it would effectively have been like he locked her away in a castle tower. She was wise to see the personal cost of her going to the USA for his sake, and resist it; this was the decision of a mature person, no matter how painful the decision was for her to make and stick to. And I don’t understand why Joon-Hee decided to bring them to such a choice at that time in their relationship: his best friend, her younger brother, grudgingly supported the relationship; her best friend, his older sister, chose to look past her objections for Joon-Hee’s sake; Jin-Ah’s father was okay with the relationship; Joon-Hee’s father was pleased about the pairing; Jin-Ah’s mother still vehemently opposed the relationship, but everyone else saw her as being unfair, and Jin-Ah had finally gotten out from under her mother’s roof and direct control. So why flee just when most obstacles to their relationship had been neutralized? I think Joon-Hee couldn’t deal with the concept of Jin-Ah developing independence, rather than dependence on him. Even though he’d set in motion his return to the USA before he learned of her signing an apartment lease, Joon-Hee knew Jin-Ah would be moving; he did not accept her reasons for not wanting to move in with him directly from her parents’ home. He could not support her wish to try being independent, during which time they would have been free to visit each other at their separate homes as much as they wished. His ego was hurt, and he turned that into rejection instead of choosing to support her in her desire to grow as an adult. And his following through on his hasty commitment to move to the USA didn’t have to be the end of the relationship, in these days of video chat and air travel. A reasonable, committed, patient couple would have worked out a timeline for visiting and testing the waters for her possible move to follow him, instead of laying down an ultimatum. But that would have been a different, less dramatic story…and in real life people do make rash mistakes in their relationships based on bad feelings of the moment. So yes, even though I hated that they broke up after all, I applauded Jin-Ah being strong and believing in herself, and saw him as inflicting unnecessary pain on himself.
As to the issue of Jin-Ah inserting herself into the broken Seo family dynamic, she did step over the line, but I think she was being wise. Was it no business of hers? I disagree. Joon-Hee was bringing a lot of emotional baggage into their relationship with his unresolved issues in regard to his father. Whether or not she did it graciously, Jin-Ah ripped the bandage off the unhealed wound of his father’s abandonment, forcing Joon-Hee to confront it, and presenting opportunity for defusing what would likely later become a time bomb in his relationship with Jin-ah. Such an elemental issue as parental abandonment cannot be ignored without affecting a person’s ability to interact with others. An instinct about this may have been part of what drove Jin-Ah’s mother to oppose the relationship, although it did appear her overriding desire was to have her children marry to improve their place in Korean society, no matter whether it was accompanied by happiness.
If a work of art makes me think, even if it makes me uncomfortable, I believe that work of art has successfully done its job. Watching this show, even when I was squirming and/or yelling at the characters on the screen, I was invested and entertained. The production values of this series were beautiful, except for the music track (and one song in particular). I will recommend to my friends that they watch Something in the Rain.
I want to add, that in the Finale, I found it believable that it took Joon-Hee’s reappearance to attend his former best friend’s wedding to awaken Jin-Ah to the fact that she’d fallen back into a farce of a relationship. She’d spent a lifetime trying to please others, including her parents, at the expense of her own feelings and aspirations. That kind of pattern–the inertia–is hard to break, without some other force to change the trajectory. Joon-Hee’s love for Jin-Ah, and hers for him, was the force that changed her life three years prior, and was the force again when he came back into her orbit. And can relationships that end without proper resolution be rekindled? You betcha. I’ve known of marriages that ended, and old/new relationships started after meetings between old flames that occurred at school reunions. Would Jin-Ah and Joon-Hee be successful as a couple once they got together again in the Finale? That depends on their commitment to communication and transparency in their relationship. I’d like to think they’ve learned a thing or two in the intervening years since they parted. But couples therapy might be a big help… That could be another series!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, ellriss. You’re right to say that couples therapy might help Jin Ah and Joon Hee. I guess I was looking for their journey within the show to show at least some kind of progress on the communication front, because failing a sequel (which are few in kdramaland, and therefore not likely in this case), the main couple’s chance of success has not moved much at all, to my eyes. This was one my main beefs with the show, because with a story, I’m looking for a point to the story, and I didn’t feel like Show made much of a point, unfortunately.
Having said that, I strongly believe that we all receive and perceive our dramas differently, since we all have different backgrounds, contexts and mindsets that shape our viewing lenses. So just because this show did not work for me, doesn’t dilute your very positive experience of it. 🙂
honestly, I was so torn halfway through because as you said nothing did change. BUT maybe thats exactly the point, life sometimes doesn’t change and people don’t grow in character and do the same stupid ass mistakes over and over again. I think the show was quite a realistical take on relationships in a traditional society.
Gosh, if that’s what the writer intended, then they made a very depressing statement indeed: that people don’t grow, or learn from their mistakes, and that’s life. 😓😝
I guess you could take it that way too, amina.. which then makes me question why write this story in the first place? Coz aren’t stories meant to show a journey? If nothing changes.. why would it be worth my while to follow you on your journey – to nowhere? 😝
Insightful review, but must counter you about Mother. She was disrespectful, cruel, and self-righteous to anyone who disagreed with her. She allowed no discussion and never tried understand or empathize with others. Her unwavering emphasis on status over character was disgusting, as was her obsequious attitude toward men who hurt her daughter. If I were to parent my child that way I hope he has the guts to kick me to the curb – I’d deserve it.
I know my opinion on Mom is not a popular one, so it’s perfectly understandable that you disagree with me. 🙂 Just to be clear, I don’t condone her methods, at all. It’s just that I felt like she was not coming from a place of actual evil, but of wanting the “best thing” for her child, as she understood it. For that, I saw her as more misguided than evil.
Heh. I did say that mine was an unpopular opinion! 😆 I don’t agree with her parenting methods for sure, but set in the context of a deeply traditional society, I felt like I could understand why she felt she was doing her parental duty.
You are so awesome! I know you wrote this a while ago but I just finished watching this show. I haven’t watched that many Korean dramas, but none of them made me feel this way. I love your insight about context! It also my rendering of the show. To me as an American, I found Jin a’s mom’s behavior abusive and the kind of thing that causes many American children to completely cut off their parents – I think people here have cut off their parents for much less offenses. However, I liked that you pointed out that she was in reality a ‘desperate woman.’ That gives her more humanity for me.
I think the problem with the story was also the premise didn’t have much life, there was only so long until the parents would find out. Then the only way they were able to get it to keep going was to have the two lovers tell confusing lies and generally treat each other like shit.
Jin A was deplorable. I seriously wanted to jump through the screen with a baseball bat and wack her with it. I found her to be such a horrible person. Moreover, forcing someone to befriend an estranged parent is itself abusive as well.
The message about workplace harassment seemed straight-up anti-feminist.
Whatever message this show was trying to convey was dark and sad. Also I don’t really take delight in watching shows about characters who are so damaged. Like you the only people who got me through it were Gyung Sun and Bo-Ra
Hi there Alexandra! I’m sorry to reply your comment so late, but thank you for enjoying this review! And I’m glad that this review resonated with you on so many points. I personally did not like Mom’s manipulative ways, but I think I saw her as more human than most. 😛 But yes, Jin Ah was awful, to my eyes. I concede that she has her fans, in that I’ve heard of viewers who actually resonated with Jin Ah and found her journey meaningful. That really does bring home the point of how subjective drama viewing is, though!
If you liked the general feel of the show’s execution, but just wished for healthier dynamics to be on your screen, might I suggest checking out One Spring Night? It’s by the same director, and features the same male lead. It was supposed to have been a three-way reunion, with Sohn Ye Jin taking the female lead role, but I think it worked out well that she didn’t, because that helped make it feel like a different drama world. I found One Spring Night to be much better than Something in the Rain, as if Show took all my complaints about Something in the Rain, and set out to right them. Worth a look, imo. 😉
This is one of those kdrama that made an impression on me enough to watch it the 2nd time around.
A complex plot in a very traditional atmosphere, that one can feel only bouts of sunshine.
If this story happens in real life, I would like to believe that the ending will be a good one.
Yes, there are still the “old” issues with age, family, and society, with them living in Jeju Island, it will give them the time and opportunity to be together, grow and be themselves without the pressure breathing down their necks every minute of the day.
They may live in their own bubble, and may not want to live outside of it.. but what the heck, that is where they are happy the most.
They are not really ignoring their family and they didn’t stop living with society. They just needed to live in their own terms.
Well I’m glad this show worked for you lani, because it sure didn’t end up working for me. 😅 I personally felt that Show wasn’t very clear about the OTP living together in Jeju in their own bubble. I guess that means it’s open for interpretation. My gut reaction, though, wasn’t that they would live together on Jeju, since Joon Hee didn’t have a job there or anything like that. I also didn’t feel that any of their relationship issues had been dealt with, and so their reunion didn’t feel very solid to my eyes. But again, that’s just me. I’m sincerely glad this show worked for you, because we should all be entitled to love the shows we love. 🙂
I’m on episode 13 and I’ve absolutely lost patience with Jin Ah. I’m her age, my brother is around Jun Hui’s age so somehow the situation is relatable. I’m south asian so i get the whole OTT parental disapproval thing, but I’m beginning to despise her. You’re absolutely right. She has no backbone, weak, ridiculous and treats Jun Hui with zero respect by constantly lying to him. And she’s 35 years old for heavens sake! Your parents don’t approve? Get a damn apartment, move the hell out and actually stand by your man instead of acting helpless. And that lying about his dad thing? I would have drop kicked her. How dare she interfere like that? She treats him with such an I Know Better attitude, refuses to take responsibility and appears addicted to drama.
I grew frustrated with Jun Hui as well. Why does he allow her to keep treating him so badly? Neither of them has any self respect. He should have treated his sister way better.
I thought I was the only one who thought the music director should be flogged in public. I don’t think I can listen to Stand By Your Man once more without wanting to beat my tv with an umbrella. I thought maybe it was a cost thing, but seriously, free classical music would have been better than that earache on repeat.
It started out so well, i had high hopes. That under the table hand hold was on fire! But weak, immature, drama addicted women with no backbone don’t do it for me. Like really? 35 years old and you can’t say no to your mom and go on a blind date after everything your boyfriend has done for you??
I can feel your frustration with Jin Ah through my screen, Hana! 😆 Hi5, coz I felt pretty much exactly as you do.. I just found Jin Ah more and more entitled and childish and pouty, which I found very unappealing indeed. I know folks who like her, and who feel that this story is all about her learning to put herself first, but.. I found all that hard to see, given her terrible behavior. I found Show’s finale completely underwhelming, and unlike some others, I did not feel at all convinced that Jin Ah had grown significantly at all, nor Joon Hee either. :/ So, I think it’s best that you’re dropping out now while you can. 😅
Omg I cannot agree with you more about the music. Everytime the grating music came on I wanted to scream. And most of the time the music didn’t fit the scene, especially when Jin-a was with her ex in the beginning. I enjoyed the show more than you did, but the music was the worst ever! Love your analogy to western love, but highly doubt the music director put that much thought into it!
Hi there Leana, sorry for this late response, but I really wanted to say, hi5 on hating the music! 😛 At first, I found the music quite alright, as in, I didn’t love it, but I found it serviceable. Who knew that by Show’s mid-stretch I would already be bracing myself for impact, every time I heard the opening strains of almost every song?!? 😭 That made the show just so much harder to watch, and that didn’t have to be the case. They could’ve just used the music less often. Like, not every significant moment needs to be scored by music, right? 🤪 Sometimes I seriously wondered if ANY thought was put into matching lyrics to scene, because you’re so right, sometimes it just made no sense, and that was dissonant and distracting.
Each and every line of yours felt like, You said it! It was a frustrating watch, especially, because of a good start and risened expectations. I just did not agree with your ‘mom’ assessment. More than caring, it is about having her last word. She doesn’t know a thing about her daughter going through sexual harassment at her workplace or her ex who nearly killed her.
The workplace sexual harassment episodes are big let down. It misses the point that reporting sexual harassment is about making society listen to them. Not her parents, brother, her best friend knows what Jin-ah is going through at office and her boyfriend is not there for her in her ultimate peak phase fight.
Thank you for such on point review. Loved it!
Thanks for enjoying this review, it sounds like we have very similar feelings and responses to this show! I certainly don’t condone Mom’s behavior; a lot of what she did was extreme and invasive. I’m just saying that she didn’t mean to be actually evil. To me, there’s a difference between having good intentions (yes, she did want to be proven right as well, but she did have concern for her daughter mixed in there too) and being actually evil and wanting to hurt someone for the sake of hurting them. So, because I was encountering a lot of hate for “Evil Mom” I thought I’d put a balancing word in for her, even though I still don’t condone her behavior. I hope that helps to clarify 🙂
Thank you so much for replying. You have so many comments on your posts and you still take time out to reply all. Really appreciate your zeal. Your elaboration does make me think about not putting her in the evil basket. I agree on that. Also identify with. We, in India too have too many parents who burden their kids to give in to their community/family rules. They too have best interests in their heart. I just felt that the concern was as they say an immature friend who causes more harm than an enemy.
Aw, thank you! I do try to reply to every comment, as far as possible, but sometimes I don’t manage. It was much easier when I first started blogging and there were fewer comments on the blog, and as the blog grew and got more comments, it just became a habit that I try to keep up. It’s also really nice to chat with and get to know everyone here on the blog. 🙂 That’s a very apt saying, that the concern of an immature friend can cause more harm than an enemy! Yes, I think that’s where I’d place Mom, on the spectrum. Thanks for allowing me to shift your perspective on Mom, just a little bit! <3
I’m in love with jin ah! Joon hee just wasn’t mature enough for her. Girl like jin ah needed mature guy regardless of his age. Having said that main problem was nil build up to romance. Zilch. None. Didn’t give them chance to appreciate togetherness. Nevertheless I forgive everything cos I’m in love with jin ah!
Just finished watching myself and was just looking online to see what people had to say. I find your assessments of the characters to be very true. The series started strong and for me derailed on the “filler” episode with gyumin and then fizzled out a few episodes later. From a cultural standpoint as a westerner, I found her mother’s outlook to be genuinely toxic and destructive – and the physical actions that accompanied it just made her cartoon-like. Wanting her to go back to gyumin just really hammered home how dissociated parenting can be in Korea. The harassment plotline turned out to be one big farce. The writing overall was cowardly and shallow.
Hi there Wet noodles, thanks for enjoying this review. 🙂 Yes, that whole Gyu Min thing really was more filler than anything else, since it didn’t add a whole lot to the main plot. Well, except to show us that Joon Hee was more intense and violent than was healthy, I suppose. 😛 Also, I suppose I should clarify a little, that I, too, found Jin Ah’s mother’s actions destructive. I did understand where she was coming from, though, and so I didn’t think of her as Evil Mom, in that sense. As for the writing.. I’ve heard people describe the writing as very good. However, I’m unable to see that, so I’ll have to agree with you that the writing could’ve been better on this one 🙂
Goodness, this was a really good review. It’s sad that I’ve noticed many of these things throughout the show but decided to turn a blind eye instead. I agree with one comment that said that they tried really hard to like the show because that’s how I ended up feeling too. I finished it until the end since I hoped that they would redeem themselves for the things you’ve mentioned like the lying. Additionally, I’m just a fan of Jung Hae-In after While You Were Sleeping so that’s a big factor to why I kept watching. I don’t really regret finishing it though as overall I enjoyed it. Despite its multiple flaws as posted here, I can’t help but enjoy it. This definitely could’ve been better, but so with many things in life. As for the OST, I completely 100% agree with you. It was getting so repetitive!!! At first, I really liked the songs like “Stand by your man” and etc. Eventually, it got so annoying that I started skipping the ‘stagnant’ scenes (only music and slow-mo scenes of Jin-Ah walking for 30 seconds or something).
Anyway, thanks for the very detailed and well-done review. Your review helped me the flaws and other things that I either ignored or didn’t notice. I look forward to reading more of your reviews in the future 🙂
Hi there aj, welcome to the blog! 🙂 I’m glad you found me! Thanks for enjoying the review.. this was the result of a whole lot of thoughts and feelings accumulated over my watch. I’d loved the initial episodes and the under-table handhold left me giddily grinning a mile-wide goofy grin. Unfortunately, I was less able to look past all of the weaknesses of this OTP and this story as you did. I hung on till the end – and yes, I did try hard to like this show – hoping that Show had something solid to say at the end, but found myself unable to buy into the happy ending that was served up, because it felt hollow and not at all sustainable. :/
Exactly!! You basically solidified the thoughts I had during the show. This is what I did to shows like Hwarang and such. Despite knowing that the story has fallen flat, I continue to watch it for the actors and the fact that I’m in too deep. With that said, whenever I’ll start something, I’ll make sure to stop by here to hear your thoughts so I know what I’m watching is good and worth it.
P.S: I was looking through your list to see what u thought about some of the shows I’ve watched (which is not a lot) and I saw that we had similar ratings like with Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bon Joo, which I completely adored. So now, I’m more intrigued to look into your recommendations. So far, I’m interested in the show ‘My Mister’ with IU that u rated A+. Can’t wait to start it 😀
Oh my, I really loved My Mister. <3 It really feels quite special; different, I’d say, from most of the other kdramas that I’ve watched. I’d say, go in with an open mind, and temper any expectations you might have, for romance. It’s more of a human drama, rather than the typical romances that dramaland tends to produce. I think with that in mind, you’d be well positioned to love this one like so many others have <3 Can't wait to hear how you find it, when you do get to it! 🙂
Just finished watching it second time(jumped over to favorite parts) and then your review kind of ruined it for me :).
Agree the characters are flawed but felt real and relatable.
About ending it reminds me of Joel and clementine in “ethernal sunshine of spotless mind”, with all the flaws they can take second chance and it will be worth the happy memories created in those initial episodes 🙂
Thanks for your detailed review. Your understanding of characters and story is amazing.
Thanks for enjoying the review, sm.. and I’m sorry I ruined it for you. 😛 It wasn’t my intention to ruin it for people who like the show.. I only wanted to share why this show didn’t work for me. So, big thank you, for enjoying this review, despite our very different experiences of this show! <3
kfangurl, thanks for this great review! I’m so glad that I stumbled across it online because you had pretty much exactly the same complaints that I have with the series.
I’m a pretty typical American guy, no real knowledge of Korean culture, but I work in the TV biz in LA, and I did a lot of critical media studies in college so I’m always fascinated to peak into a culture by examining its media. But not having any first-hand knowledge of Korean culture I was wondering if those flaws I was seeing were really flaws, or if there were cultural differences that I just didn’t get. Reading your review I now feel like all of my complaints with the series were legit.
Despite all the flaws in the show there were a few things I really liked:
First, I felt that the actors were terrific, absolutely terrific. In fact I was feeling a bit envious and wishing I could see them employed in American television.
Second, I very much appreciated that the characters were just ordinary people with ordinary jobs. I loved that about the show. As the show is very much trying to root itself in everyday reality I really didn’t mind that the two characters had flaws and problems in their relationship, ordinary people do make mistakes and stumble through their early relationships. And the show really put me in mind of some of the giddy romances that I had when I was in my 20s, as well as the mistakes I made in those same relationships. So it didn’t necessarily bother me….
But you’re absolutely right, for this to be a meaningful story the two characters need to grow and evolve, start being honest with each other, and face their problems head on. Without that growth the story ends up being unsatisfying.
This seems to be the difference between Korean television writing and American television writing — writers in American television are obsessed with the character arcs and often push those arcs to ridiculous extremes. Still, arcs do matter and this show could have used more attention paid to strengthening and shaping them.
I also grew to hate those damn songs. My god! Every time they started playing that damn country tune I wanted to smack the showrunner. It was such a waste as well because their actors are so strong I felt that they could have played a lot of those scenes with very minimal music and instead let the talent of the actors do the heavy lifting.
Anyway, thanks for your review. Let me know if you think there are other good kdramas with English subs that I should check out.
Hi there Dennis! I’m glad you found me! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the review – and hi5 that we seem to feel similarly, about this show. This one definitely treated the character arcs quite differently than I’m used to. With most kdramas, we do tend to see a good amount of character development, at least with the leads, and that was my big beef with this show. Both lead characters didn’t seem to chart much growth at all, after all was said and done. Some have suggested that the writer did this deliberately, but, I find that hard to swallow, because, why would someone want to tell such a depressing story, where nothing changes, no matter how hard you try? And why would anyone dedicate so much time and effort crafting a story for such uninspiring leads? I didn’t get that.
Since you seem to like stories featuring ordinary folks, I would like to recommend Misaeng and My Mister. (The all-around alliteration is purely coincidence, I swear! 😆) Both should be available with English subs, and both tell stories of ordinary folks living ordinary lives – and yet, somehow both shows bring out the beauty of that ordinariness. You can find my reviews of both shows here and here.
For some intense romance in an art-film sort of flavor, you might want to check out Secret Love Affair, which is by the same director as this show. I loved that one, it is truly excellent. You can find my review of that here. I hope that helps! 🙂
Thanks for the recommendation on SLA — the way you talked about it in your review of Something in the Rain intrigued me, and it was on Netflix, so I thought I would check out the first episode. I’ve now watched the entire series.
I was stunned by how good it was.
It was everything you said it was in your analysis, and more. Again, the acting is fantastic. Kim Hee-ae. Damn. What a performance.
That scene from Episode 11 that you mentioned in your essay, with Hye Won and Ji Soo in the car, was just astonishing. It’s a 6 minute dialogue scene shot in a one-er. The director just lets it play, no singles or OTS shots, and his actors are so strong that it’s the perfect choice. He just puts the camera on them and lets them go. When Hye Won starts to lose it, her lower lip starts to tremble, like the first cracks in the dam, and then there are the first halting tears, until finally it all just breaks loose and she’s wracked with sobbing. It’s like a master class on acting because not only does the actor have to make themselves cry, to do it with emotional honesty they have to make it look like they’re trying their best NOT to cry. It’s really impressive work. [God, but I would love to get a look at the raw dailies from that scene!]
So my next question is, how in the hell is this the same director that made the ham-fisted Something in the Rain?
Ok, as much as I like the show I have to ask something and I hope you won’t take offense… what’s the deal with the guy, Yoo Ah-in? Apparently Korean women find this guy attractive but to me he looks like such a baby-faced child. He didn’t seem manly at all, like the best he can expect is to have his hair tousled and his cheek pinched. Not like Lee Byung-hun from Mr. Sunshine — I totally get why women swoon over that guy — but what’s the deal with Yoo Ah-in?
I’ll probably never understand. 🙂
So thanks again for the recommendation. I’m going to check out those other shows you mentioned.
Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed SLA, Dennis! I feel like with your background in film, you’d be able to appreciate so much more. I never went to film school, just took a couple of film modules in college, so I appreciate your sharing! I love your observation of how that scene in the car was done in a single take. I’d been so absorbed in the scene that I never noticed that! Thanks for clueing me in – it helps me appreciate even more, what a masterpiece SLA is, from the directing, to the acting, to the music, everything. <3
Yes, it's hard to imagine that it's by the same director as Something in the Rain! I think his reputation and credibility played a part in why I stuck it out all the way through, with Something in the Rain. I wanted to see if there was a point that the show as going to make. But.. if it did, it was lost on me. 😛
As for Yoo Ah In.. I think there are several factors in play. One of the big ones is, the standards of attractiveness in Korea are very different than in the US. In the US, generally speaking, to be considered attractive, the man in question needs to exhibit very strong manly attributes, like be very tall and strong, have a deep voice, that kind of (very generalized) thing. In Korea, I feel like generally speaking, men don't necessarily need to display those same traits in order to be perceived as attractive. So a traditionally less manly look, say something more boyish, or even more androgynous, can be perceived as very attractive. Case in point, GDragon, whom many in the west would consider more androgynous or even effeminate, but who has a huge following in Korea, with many women finding him extremely attractive.
Another factor at play, I believe, is Yoo Ah In’s talent as an actor. He’s been knocking it out of the park for a wide variety of roles, and many women find his talent very attractive. Also, he’s played manly scruffy types before, and that definitely helped to take away some of the “boy” image. For example, this is him in Sungkyunkwan Scandal, a very fun period piece that I enjoyed very much:
Another factor to consider, is that Yoo Ah In has demonstrated a rather blunt, speak-his-mind sort of personality in interviews, and this is considered highly unusual in Korean entertainment, where celebs tend to be very politically correct in their comments, for fear of backlash. But he just goes rogue and speaks his mind like nobody’s watching, and in spite of it, he continues to snag excellent roles on the big screen and small screen. I do think that this contributes to his appeal.
I don’t know if I’ve done this explanation justice since I’m not what one would consider a rabid fan, but I hope this helps to some degree! Also, I do hope you’ll enjoy the other shows I suggested. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts! 🙂
I think it’s necessary to realise that this Drama is trying to portray the reality happening in the society today. From having Asian parents who constantly think that everything they do is right, to having sexual harassment in a workplace and they way it is being resolved may just be the PD-nim’s intention to highlight all that’s happening. Or even the way both the protagonists face their problems (being immature or making themselves the victim) and the mental issue suffered by the ex-boyfriend. Whatever it is, I respect all your reviews and comments as we all have different opinions.
Hi there cherryblossom! 🙂 Yes, I do understand that this drama is portraying the realities in society. My struggle was that I found that I didn’t end up even liking our lead characters very much. That’s something that I find very important; I need to feel like I want to root for the lead characters, even if they are flawed. I struggled because I found myself actively disliking both leads – in particular Jin Ah – by the time I got to the final stretch of the show. That made for a very bemusing and frustrating watch experience. In fact, I would’ve been very interested to see how a character with more courage and more hope would have handled the exact same circumstances. Or how a weak character like Jin Ah might have developed more spine and more strength and independence over the course of the show. In this sense, I didn’t feel like I made good use of my time, watching a weak character become weaker and more frustrating, with no satisfactory ending either.
Of course, that is merely my personal experience with the show, and I know that this show has its fans. Absolutely no offense to fans of the show, and just like you said, we all do have different opinions. 🙂
Hiii! Actually I do agree with you that Jin Ah didn’t show much courage and hope in handling the circumstances (especially in her romantic relationship with Joon Hee, where instead of solving their problems, she tries to be cute/angry/make herself the victim just to dissolve the problem). However, in terms of her courage to fight for the women in her company (even if it means to lose her job) and her passion for her job (even if it means to lose the love of her life), it is quite positive.
P.S. : I’m not a super fan of this Drama but I felt that this is probably one of the most realistic K-Drama as it encompasses the issues that happen around us almost all the time (romantic relationships, family relationships, sexual harassment, societal norms, etc.)
That’s true. She did demonstrate a good amount of courage with the work harassment issue. Frustratingly, we see that that really goes nowhere, though. Which makes me wonder what message the writer is trying to send? That being brave will get you nowhere in this dark, horrible world, but if you stay weak and wait long enough, sometimes you’ll reunite with the boyfriend you thought you lost? 🤔 Gah. This show frustrates me, clearly. 😛 For a drama that feels realistic, I much prefer My Mister. Now THAT is sensitive, serious drama done right. <3
I stopped watching this Drama after it was clear in which direction it was going to to go and after I read your Review I was absolutely right – I wouldn’t have liked the rest of the Show so I’m happy I stopped when I still liked the OTP. I knew as soon as the Ex and Mom started to be incredibly stupid what would happen and instead watched Lawless Lawyer (im really happy with that decision 😂)
Smart of you to drop this one early, I say! I stayed because I hoped that Show would handle it differently, but sadly, it wasn’t to be. Glad you enjoyed Lawless Lawyer tho! 😉
I’m very conflicted. Since Netflix jumped into the K-drama train, my friends started binge watching just about every K-drama. Tbqh I’m really amazed about how far we’ve come in just about 10 years in our k-drama viewers experience… I feel like looking for subs, waiting a week or two for an episode, reading recaps and commenting gave us a viewing experience totally different from what people now experience. It’s like they’re stepping into K-Dramaland with no filter and no key to understand it all and they don’t get the time to figure out how this land works.
Anyway, my friends absolutely loved that one… but something never clicked with me in all their comments on why they liked it. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with the same opinion as yours xD but I’ll still watch it anyway. Sometimes, you just gotta see it for yourself to defend your POV.
You’re so right, my dear Sunny.. the drama-watching landscape has evolved a lot in the last 10 years! I do remember having to wait for subs – and that sometimes took weeks or even months! 😛 I’m not complaining that we get subs fast, of course, but I do feel like there’s an overwhelming amount of content out there, and sometimes it feels like we’re just stuffing our faces with dramas, and hardly stopping to appreciate the good ones properly.
I’m really curious.. what did your friends say that they liked about this one? Coz I really tried to like this one, but it ended up rubbing me the wrong way, in so many ways. 😝 And yes, sometimes you do have to see for yourself to defend your POV.. that’s part of the reason I watched all of this one even though it was not an enjoyable second half. I wanted to know how I would respond to it personally, regardless of everyone else’s experience with it. So I’m really curious what your response will be, when you do finish this one! 🙂
So my friends describe it as something so good, so cute, so “it makes you fuzzy inside I can’t handle all these feels”… I can only assume the fluffy of the first episodes might have influenced heavily their vision on the later episodes…. I’ll come back to let you know how my viewing experience went. Ha !
Oh wow, that’s really interesting!! 😱 Those are very different words than what I’ve used to describe the show! 😆 But I definitely thought the earlier episodes brought the feels, and I can rationalize that someone who’s new to kdramas is likely to be a lot more forgiving and accepting of a show’s flaws.. Yes please, do let me know how your watch of this show goes (and whether you manage to get to the end!), I’m curious to see what you think! 😀
So to motivate myself to actually watch it because more and more friends keep saying it’s such a good drama, I started live tweeting it to keep watching. XD we’ll see how it goes but while I see how Jun Hee is an attractive character and Jin Ah is a strong yet relatable female lead, I’m not sold on why they should be together. Like I feel I’m at a point in my viewer life in which I need solid reasons to root for a couple, other than “they’re lead so they’ll be together b/c that’s the way it’s supposed to be”. And the male lead needs to bring IT. I’m past the puppy love phase.
Oh dear. Um.. I think you’re probably NOT going to be happy with where Show goes later, then. 😛 [SPOILER! Don’t read if you don’t want to!] Because.. Joon Hee’s puppy love is the cutest he ever gets, and he doesn’t quite manage to bring it, as it were. He tries, but I feel like he just was never prepared for how overwhelming everything would become, and so he fails partway through. As for Jin Ah being a strong yet relatable female lead.. uh, that lasts for about 2 seconds, basically, because she’s frustratingly weak by the later stretch of the show.. [END SPOILER]
I actually went on Twitter to look for your live tweets but then realized that you were probably talking about a different account. 😅 I will wait for your further verdict as you get deeper into the show!
PS: I totally agree about needing a reason as to why they were supposed to be together. We got that in Ahn PD’s SLA, but I just never felt it in this one. :/
lol I don’t mind the spoilers. I read your review anyway. I forget when I’m watching.
Yeah, I tweet on another account and it’s in French anyway. ^^”
Ahh! Well I don’t know French, sadly, so I’ll just wait for your later updates! Also, I’m so happy to be chatting dramas with you again! <3
Me too ♥♥. Did you watch Nirvana 2? And what about the reboot or Meteor Garden? And I’ve had Netflix for about a year now. It turns out that my little sister finally got around to use the account about six months ago and what does she watch? K-dramas of course. She binge watches everything she can. I had to make sure Misaeng be on her watch list. She absolutely loved it. My job here is done. (Oh and Healer is on Netflix France now. I’m SO SO gonna watch and LT it this fall). I miss me some Ji Chang Wook and Yoo Ji Tae * blush *
I’m watching NIF2 now! I’m entering the final stretch, and now I’m kinda sad that I’ll be finishing it soon. Twas a slow burn for me, but now I’m enjoying it properly. Not as amazing as NIF, but very solid. 🙂
Yay that you’ve got Netflix and double yay that your sis is watching kdramas too! How fun! Misaeng is absolutely worth the watch – and Healer is absolutely worth the re-watch, imo. I watched Healer twice, and loved it just as much the 2nd time around! Maybe loved it more, even. <3 Btw, do add My Mister (My Ahjusshi) on your list. It's wonderful, and a little bit like Misaeng, in that it feels very real. Lee Sun Gyun is fantastic in it. 😍😍
Oh and I recommanded your blog to 2 friends of mine who just got into k-dramas. They had their fair share of idol and teen love romance hyped in every French forum/reviews, so now they want more mature in-depth reviews, so of course I had to direct them to your blog 🙂
D’aw!! Thank you for sending your friends over! I hope they’ll enjoy it here. 🙂 I’m not always mature and in-depth, but sometimes I manage! 😉
I really like your observations here.
I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix. It is very interesting in how Netflix has quickly changed the viewing experience. So much so, that it has moved from a viewing platform to one that spends $6B annually on producing and purchasing new viewing content. The first Kdrama I ever watched was on Netflix: Falling for Innocence (Beating Again). And, yes it ended up being a binge watch. It is, apart from My Mister (Ahjussi), still my all time favourite Kdrama. Despite Netflix using its clever algorithm to stick other Kdramas under my nose, I relatively discerning in what I watch. As new content is released, and if I have watched it, I will rate it accordingly. That way, the clever little algorithm will continue to put under my nose the type of show I like. Over here, Netflix is releasing past Kdrama content enbloc. However, new shows such as Pretty Noona and Mr Sunshine were/are released weekly.
Does this mean Netflix will continue to throw money at Kdramas and other Asian dramas and promote “Netflixing”? Yes, it will. In terms of new content that it is producing, we are now getting a whole range of shows and movies that one would consider from the very good to the very woeful (yes, and I like some of them, but some are even too bad for me). But, they are doing this due to the massive feedback Netflix is receiving from its viewers. A case in point is where we watched a mainstream movie the other night that Universal had shelved earlier this year, but Netflix picked it up due to the viewing demographic it has. The end result, well it was a very, very good movie in my opinion (which doesn’t mean much as my choices are often criticised by family members, but I managed to pull one back in the family viewing stakes for a change, so a good outcome). Also on the upside, Netflix has also saved many shows from extinction. In some instances, this has allowed such shows to have proper closure with the viewer.
Before I watch anything, I still do as much reviewing as I can. There are of course a couple of really good sites out there, and we know we have an excellent blog and resource here in Fangul. One show I have stumbled across now is Showbiz Korea as it provides such a good background on Kdramas and everything associated with them. It only deals with two or three issues per show, so it promotes an in-depth analysis on things (and thus leaves the American review shows for dead which flit from one thing to another). Also, the major South Korean tv channels have become very good at uploading snippets on YouTube.
Will I watch every show to the end if I end up not liking it along the way? Not necessarily. In fact, very few. Some of the exceptions to date are: Are You Human (I was prepared to drop this by episode 14 (7), but suddenly it hit its straps, so I have kept watching and it has generated so much comment out there and it’s ratings are starting to climb back up), The Undateables (a happy mess) and I’m a Mother Too (you wouldn’t watch this without a very stiff drink because it is woeful in many respects, but I’m still watching it! and interestingly enough it is achieving goodish ratings).
Never shy away from your approach to things. Having a POV is very important and how you inform that even more so. “Fighting” as they say…
Just butting in to say, I’m enjoying Are You Human too! 😀 Also, have you watched King of Dramas, Sean? I found it very good, and also, very illuminating, in terms of pointing out issues in the kdrama industry. You can find my review of that here, in case that helps! 🙂
Until tonight, I had only read a synopsis along the way re King of Dramas and thought perhaps one day I might get to it. Given that I am 276kms (yes, the irony re the distance) away from home this week and not feeling like watching what is on my current drama list, your comment and link to your review is very timely. I watched the first episode during dinner and loved it. I will never look at orange juice the same way again. What a cast! So I can see myself working my way through this show during the week – thank you🍊🍊🍊
Oh, YAY that you loved the first episode! 😀 What an irony indeed, that you are 276km away from home! 😆 That show really does change the way you perceive things that pop up in dramas, doesn’t it? That’s why I gave fair warning at the end of the review, that it’s a show that might change your view of dramas, forever. 😝 But it’s still enough of a modern kdrama classic, and quite the fun ride, that I recommend it anyway. 🙂 I hope this turns out to be a fun drama companion for you this week while you’re on the road! 🙂
I wish Netflix algorithm would catch on on what I’m interested in b/c I swear it keeps recommanding me the same shows I have no plan to watch over and over again. I need to go back and check my preferences and see if it can change something.
Thanks for your encouragements. 😀
I knew it! I knew I missed something in this drama, and Dame Holly Has A Hat just spread it all out on the table! I always trusted, and enjoyed, your reviews here on every single drama that you watched, and I still do even when you gave a C for SitR as your verdict. However, I strongly believe that there is something more to this drama than meet the eye, and Dame Holly Has A Hat just pointed out the most crucial one: we want to see Through the Looking Glass when we watch TV, but SitR just gave the grim reality of life reflected back to us like a stark Mirror. Awesome point. And Dame Holly made all your REALITY BITES to be exactly her point of departure for that argument. This show is too real, it hurts in places we never knew existed. Everybody agreed that the initial cuteness reminded them of their own love stories. I did, too. Watching Rachel Yamagata’s MV that was embedded in full in episode 3 gave us the tingling sensation of our very first almost-skinship with the love of our lives in the stage of courting. Unfortunately, everything else were also real, like the sexual harassment thing and what Jin Ah had to go through because of it (and how it ended just like that in REAL and in REEL life here) , not to mention the parental thingy and to have a boyfriend that has so many flaws but you cannot stop loving any way you tried. And as if life has lost its sense of humor, they were also to have a toxic relationship that chew at their flesh every time they tried to give it a go. I could go on, but as I said, you had already written about it eloquently. And you also had given a very proper heading for it: REALITY BITES. It is exactly that. Bites are painful, they left a mark, and they required time to heal. If they are to heal at all.
Again, I would quote Holly Dame words that ring a very loud bell for me: “I don’t think I’ve ever watched a drama before where I can say the writing, directing, cinematography and acting were all top-notch but somehow I don’t want to recommend that anyone else watch it”. That is also exactly how I feel about Show. It was an amazing drama. The sort of drama you could expect from someone of Ahn Pan Seok PD’s caliber. But it is so very painful to watch because it was also a harsh reminder that life shall never be fair. And for women, it can’t get any truer than that.
Oh well, I will just put Ahn PD on a higher pedestal than any other PD I know. Kudos for such an awesome artwork! i think I have to see his other works as well. Somebody mentioned Heard it through the grapevine, I believe? And did he directed Behind the White Tower, didn’t he? I shall seek for them ASAP!
PS: aside from the strong feeling that kfangurl showed throughout her REALITY BITES, I cannot help but notice that, in a peculiar way, you did LOVE Show! Just look at the devotion you made in pointing out everything that bothered you in Show! I also notice a hint of frustration that only love can deliver, the kind of disappointment that only manifested out of care. Again, kfangurl rocks! Hahaha…..
Hi there Widya, great to see you. 🙂
Yes, it is possible that that was the dark and depressing message that Show was trying to bring across. I thought about it, and the thing is, I don’t begrudge the writer that dark message. It’s just, couldn’t we have a stronger, more appealing heroine to walk with and root for? By the later episodes, I found Jin Ah infuriatingly weak and self-destructive, not to mention petty and annoying. I get that she is supposed to be a product of her upbringing, but you know, not every person who’s brought up a certain way by their parents turns out exactly as a result of that upbringing. I know of people with sheltered upbringings who actively chose to be stronger, more independent and better than what their upbringing would have dictated.
I wanted a heroine like that. I wanted to walk with a heroine like that, in the face of everything the world threw at her: societal norms, parental expectations, workplace harassment, the works. I wanted to root for someone that was better than Jin Ah turned out to be, and the fact that we spent so many hours with such a weak character frustrates and annoys me. I can’t say that I loved Show, although I was taken with its initial cute. I guess I expected Show – specifically this writer – to make some different choices at least with regards to the kind of person our female lead was, at the very minimum.
I am agreeing with @mywebfoot and need to copy this last paragraph the way it is!…..exactly how I felt after finishing the drama! “Saddest part is the awful storyline has tainted both Jung Hae In and Sohn Ye Jin for me. Maybe one day I can look at them again without feeling the ick factor. I hope so!”…..I feel awkwardly embarrassed reading all the comments here. A month ago, I am squeeing over this otp and even promoted the drama to you.
After watching about 4 episodes, I instantly fell in love with Jin Ah and Joon Hee and I thought then it’s been awhile since the last couple from DotS had my heart fluttered. But after watching half of the drama and seeing how the story-line got twisted to the point of having a nonsensical turnaround I got so disappointed.
Nonetheless, I finished the 16 episode drama, it tormented me more on some characters that were in it.
*On how the writernim made the mother so inconsiderate and pointless in treating her old enough daughter Jin Ah. I cringe every time the mother shows good intimacy with Joon Hee and Kyun Sun and then have hard feelings at the same time?
*why must the boyfriend is a lawyer and from a good family and yet he’s not acting like one?…
I just love the 1st half of this drama and the other half made me so and so…and soo………….****sigh****
Thankfully there is an admirable character that helped me finish this drama. Jin Ah’s colleague Geum Bora is so positive and stand out Her friendship with Jin Ah developed into a beautiful one. Seeing her being upright most of the times and showing her good virtue in this drama has somehow comforted me to finish this drama.
Hello my dear Evez! It’s so lovely to see you on the blog! ❤
No need to feel bad for recommending this drama to me, my dear! It really was as cute as you said, in the earlier episodes. And, when it stopped being fun to watch, I always had the option to drop the show. I just didn’t choose to drop it, and that decision is mine to bear. Basically, it’s my own fault for deciding to watch this whole thing! 😉
Yes, there were definitely many frustrating elements to this drama, and I feel like the writer was trying to make a point about societal norms and pressures in Korea, especially for women, but it wasn’t a very uplifting nor encouraging message, in the end. But yes, Bo Ra did turn out to be awesome, and I liked her a whole lot, by the final episode. I think more of our characters should’ve taken a lesson from Bo Ra and learned to live their best life the way she ultimately chose to. 😉
I haven’t watched Secret Love Affairs (only clips of it) and consider it too heavy as I’m more into rom-com. But reading your review here made me wanted to re-watch What’s Up Fox. At least there we have strong and funny leads.
I really like What’s Up Fox? I think it is too bad many won’t watch it because they consider it an “old” drama.
Ah, if you’re more into rom-com, I can totally see why you wouldn’t be drawn to SLA. That’s absolutely NOT a rom-com! 😅 I did watch What’s Up Fox years ago, but I remember not getting super into it, somehow. I know lots of folks loved that one, so I did feel like the odd one out 😉
Ditto feeling about the grating song – I laughed out aloud reading your comments about it 🤣
Lol. Hi5? 😆 Yes, that music really turned into the most grating, annoying thing. I could physically feel my ears tense up by the later episodes, every time it came on!
So I’m a lucky gal because illegal sites have oodles of viruses so I refuse to go on them and because in the US the only legal way to watch this was to wait until it completed its run in Korea when Netflix then released the whole drama at once. So by the time this happened, the wrath of viewers had reached my ears. I like the noona romance genre though it is getting a bit old at this point. Someone commented that they think the director was trying to get to the difficulty of a woman’s life in Korea with work situations and family expectations but it just didn’t gel.
I agree with you about Secret Love Affair though it did lose a bit of steam for me there for a bit. This is a drama people generally love or hate. I think I missed out on a lot because it was when I was newer to Korean dramas, and I didn’t get a lot of the cultural stuff.
Heh. Yes, I do think you didn’t miss much with this one, Kat! 😆 I mean, the earlier episodes were full of cute, but I found the second half of the show so hard to get through that now, on hindsight, I’d willingly miss all the cute, if I could unsee this show, ha! I personally like the noona romance genre too, but I have to agree that it’s also getting a bit old for me as well.
Yes, SLA is a show that people either love or hate. I personally loved it a whole lot, and I regularly recommend it to others. If you do decide to give it another chance, perhaps watch it while reading recaps? I think there were quite a few thorough recaps available for it, which might help lift your watch. 🙂
I have nothing to add. You all said it.
I loved first 4-6 episodes… and then it was pain to finish episode 11 (I think, don’t remember anymore)… and I stopped watching and just read the recaps on DB.
Sometimes it’s hard to be a viewer… 😉
Lol. Sometimes it’s hard to be a viewer indeed! You were smart to stop watching.. I personally didn’t find the extra investment of time and brain cells very fruitful after all. 😛
I am usually pretty sanguine about messy kdramas. I can usually just shrug off the crazy and watch a cracky OTP. (Confession: I watched all of Lie to Me, which was as pointlessly messy as you can get).
Did not happen here. Like you, I squeed aallll the way to the confession and hand-under-table scene. They totally nailed that scene and Jung Hae In was the best puppy that ever puppied right there. Their expressions were perfect, with so many shades and nuances. Looking back, I would have been happy if show had ended there.
And then … and then… I stopped rooting for the OTP. They went from a sweet relationship to a toxic, unhealthy one, full of lies, avoidance, passive aggressive behavior and nothing more to sell it than physical attraction. Maybe we need to coin a word for negative crack, which is what this was.
Such a waste.
Saddest part is the awful storyline has tainted both Jung Hae In and Sohn Ye Jin for me. Maybe one day I can look at them again without feeling the ick factor. I hope so!
You are so right, Webby. I didn’t articulate it until now, but this show HAS tainted Jung Hae In for me. I was never big on Son Ye Jin anyway, so that was not an issue for me, but I did love Jung Hae In in Show’s early episodes. But, the rest of the show has effectively tainted Jung Hae In for me, and I now don’t have a particularly strong desire to see him in anything. Even rewatching the earlier puppy bits (which I did do, for this review) doesn’t quite have the same effect on me. Case in point: that tie-grab scene where he seethed at Gyu Min, in E2. I found that quite swoony and badass the first time I saw it. But revisiting it after finishing the show, to try to get a screenshot, I found myself recoiling from the scene, and from Joon Hee in that scene. All the signs of his troubling impulsive nature were there, but I was blinded by fangirl squee. And now that the scales have fallen from my eyes, I just don’t find myself looking at him the same way anymore. I guess I should be thankful that I watched Prison Playbook before I watched this one! 😅
And yes, that OTP relationship was just so unhealthy, it vexed me to watch it. I just couldn’t bring myself to root for these two people to be together, or come back together, given how unhealthy their relationship was. By Show’s end, I wanted them broken up, for good. Which, I don’t know if that was what writer-nim was aiming for, ha. 😛
This was by far the biggest disappointment of a drama in a long time. I thought I was going to watch an adorable couple, full of hot blooded chemistry, persevere and make it work through ups and downs and most importantly the age gap. I was cheering for them. I was excited for them. But like you, the dread started to set in. Then the annoyance. And by the end, I just didn’t care if they made it or not. To me, that was the biggest tragedy.
Thanks for comin’ on out to comment, KLnoona! <3 I know what you mean; I was expecting to see how this couple would make it work, but instead, ended up watching a blow-by-blow account of just how society norms in the form of parental pressure broke them up. Granted, it was also a layer-by-layer unveiling of just how flawed these people were, and how unhealthy their relationship was. If Show was saying anything meaningful at all, it was something very depressing. That's the conclusion I'm coming to, the more I think about it. This definitely was not the drama I hoped it would be. 😛
Another home run review.
I had to keep my remote close by to have access to the mute button. I used it often. The music made me cringe – especially Stand by Your Man. I personally dislike this song and exactly for the reason that Dame Holly points out in her post. I always love how you throw the OST music links throughout your reviews but this time I am so very glad you did not – thank you Fangurl!
Even Jung Hae In’s adorable face and Gyung Sun’s inner beauty were not enough to keep me in this game. I dropped this right at the WTH blind date episode.
If you’d told me a week before this started airing that I’d be muting the soundtrack on a PD Ahn drama I wouldn’t have believed you. After Secret Love Affair I was actually *looking forward to this for the music*. One week in I was muting it. The only other drama I’ve done that for is Healer where they made awful use of the mediocre Eternal Love – and even then I was only driven to mute on rewatch.
Thanks for the enjoying the review, phl! <3 I feel you about the music in this one – that's actually precisely the reason I opted not to include music in this review! Hi5! 😆You were smart to drop out. I was probably too curious for my own good, and wanted to see exactly how this one would pan out.
I couldn’t agree with you more. If only I had stopped watching after the hand grab! It did serve to ping my radar about Jung Hae In, though. He’s the reason I’m currently watching “While You Were Sleeping.” Well, him and Lee Jong Suk, who is a hero with flaws in this one. I’m on Episode 4 and it’s very enjoyable. I also now understand the fuss about Bae Suzy. I think you might like WYWS. 🙂
The hand grab WOULD have been a great place to stop watching! Except, who would stop watching right after such a cute scene, right? 😆 I thought Jung Hae In did very nicely in Prison Playbook – which I highly recommend, if you haven’t yet seen it! I did try WYWS, but somehow, wasn’t feeling it, and dropped it at E1 😛
Man I’ve written so many words about this show. So many! You know what I’m like, once I get a bone I keep gnawing away. So I could write a book here about it. But all I’ll say in the end in this: after reading every word of your review I actually think you did nail the point of the drama. It’s just that it’s so unusual as a kdrama story that you didn’t realise it. As a viewer live-watching it with the rest of the world, I was struck by how difficult people found its subversion of standard Korean storytelling strictures. They couldn’t find a hand hold in it because it was so iconoclastic.
Jin-ah is the most every woman I’ve seen on TV. Ever. Told her job is to compromise, to keep the peace, to slide through without conflict. Basically raised to be this way and then simultaneously judged for being this way. In that respect, this was initially one of the most feminist pieces of television I’ve ever seen. Jin-ah would only be happy and the people around her would only be happy if Jin-ah stopped trying to make everyone happy. It played out through the drama in her personal and professional life in precisely the same way and it’s the lived experience of a good chunk of the world’s female population.
But in the end, the point of this show is that it is a man’s world and as a woman Jin-ah couldn’t win. All she could do was carve out a piece of happiness for herself within it, even if that meant jettisoning everything she was “supposed” to have – her family, her career and a “good” marriage. Depressing, huh? I thought so. You compared it to Secret Love Affair and I couldn’t help doing that as well.
About halfway through its run, I had a conversation with somebody in another forum where they said everything would end up back where it was at the beginning with no change. I argued that to do so would be saying that for women there’s no way out of this sexist and misogynistic culture.
“The show was very much about how women are forced to compromise and put up with abuse because of hierarchy, age and social status and that they are then judged harshly for exactly that. That is, that women are forced to be complicit in their own mistreatment. One of the main messages of the drama is that continuing to compromise is not the solution. if Jin-ah doesn’t come through this ascendant then the drama will be saying that woman have no way out of this sexist and misogynistic culture. I find it hard to believe this PD would head a show with that message. Like with Secret Love Affair, his female characters only win by fighting back – even if that means they have to lose first.”
Well I had to eat my words because that’s exactly where we ended up.
This has got to be the most depressing thing I’ve seen since Misty told us a woman can only have success if she destroys men and she won’t be happy anyway when she does it. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a drama before where I can say the writing, directing, cinematography and acting were all top-notch but somehow I don’t want to recommend that anyone else watch it.
PS: I could add a comment about why the PD chose a song about female submission drawn from a culture that celebrates female submission but I honestly hate Stand By Your Man so much and have had it stuck in my head for so long that I can’t be bothered.
The OST sucked. That’s all I got.
Ahn Pan Seok dramas are known to highlight these black spots on Korean society, which is probably why they are not huge hits, despite of being so well put together. No matter how much shit the protagonists have to wade through, there’s always been a glimmer of hope and an ending with a postive note (at least in those of his dramas I’ve seen). But what if Ahn PD has finally thrown the towel in, resignedly saying that nope, nothing changes, no matter what? What a throughly depressing thought.
Actually it was this comment I wanted to like and reply to. Sorry!
That IS a thoroughly depressing thought! 😩 I sure hope that’s not true, because think of the kind of dramas we’d expect going forward, from Ahn PD! 😳
Maybe I should re-watch ‘Heard Through the Grapevine’ to clense my palate and feel less depressed over a Ahn PD drama. Lee Joon’s In Sang also had awful parents who, I swear, though they lived in Joseon. The father especially was a pompious, overbearing ass but the show did make fun of him every now and then. Go Ah Sung’s Seo Bom on the other hand had lovely, supportive and loving parents. Guess which of the protagonists was the stronger one? 🙂 I also loved how they wrapped it up. I don’t remember if you’ve seen Grapevine but I do recommend it if you haven’t. Looking back, I had quite a bit to say/squee about it, ummm… worth 9 posts, no less. 😀
9 posts!! That says A LOT about how much you liked Heard It Through The Grapevine! 😀 I’ve had that on my list for a long time, but just never got around to it, because there’s always something newer and shinier to distract me 😛 I must bump it up my list! 😀
Gosh, put that way, that really is a very depressing message indeed – although you put it across so eloquently! Is that what the writer and PD were consciously and actively going for, I wonder? Because, it ends up being such a discouraging message, in the end. Usually, even if the show paints a picture of a bitter, dark, and depressing world, there is a thread of hope within it, and the characters are shown finding a way to have hope, even in the midst of their dark surroundings.
In this show, there doesn’t seem to be that thread of hope. The only thing that even hints at hope for having a different life than what society dictates, is if one were to ditch society and choose the more hermit-like life, like what Bo Ra did. Yet, somehow, I did not come away from my watch convinced that Jin Ah was about to do the same.. 🤔