A phrase that’s sometimes said around the dramaverse – and maybe you’ve said something similar yourself, at some point – is, “I could literally just watch these two be cute for sixteen hours.”
Well. Except for a backstory involving childhood trauma (kidnapping trigger alert, coz some folks might be sensitive to that), this show pretty much gives us exactly that: Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young being cute together, pretty much all of the time, for 16 episodes.
Yep. It’s as fluffy and angst-lite as it sounds. So if you’re up for something that’s light on plot but heavy on cute, this just might be the show for you.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim OST – Love Virus
ADJUSTING THE VIEWING LENS
Despite my affection for both Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young, I enjoyed this show in quite a moderate fashion. I didn’t dislike it, and I enjoyed each episode reasonably well for the fluffy cute that it served up, but this one never truly hooked me. I sometimes even found myself dragging my feet to start on the next episode.
I guess this is the part where I realize that even though I’ve said before, that I can watch a cute OTP just be adorable for 16 hours, I do actually need a plot that’s more than paper-thin, before I’m able to get good-and-proper sucked into a show and serve my heart up to it on a platter.
That’s not to say that this show isn’t enjoyable, though. In fact, if you happen to be feeling under the weather and just want something sweet to slurp up, or if your brain is so frazzled from dealing with Real Life all day and you just want something light and mindless to unwind to, this show should do the trick quite nicely.
Therefore, I’d say the best viewing lens to wear with this show, is the one where you switch off the critical analyst part of your brain, and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
STUFF THAT I DIDN’T ENJOY SO MUCH
Given that I decided to basically switch off the ol’ brain for this watch, there are certainly a lot of things that I’m willing to overlook. But, for the record, here are two things that didn’t work to Show’s advantage, that stood out to me extra.
1. The childhood kidnapping arc
To be honest, it took me many episodes to actually become more interested in the childhood kidnapping arc. I think it was at around the episode 9 point that I found myself thinking, “Ah, I don’t mind the kidnapping arc so much now.” Considering that Show teases us with information fragments related to the childhood kidnapping pretty much from the get-go, that’s a pretty long time to feel like I was watching two separate shows: one full of puppies and rainbows, and one full of kidnapping trauma.
Still, the kidnapping arc is Show’s key source of dramatic tension, and the moment that this storyline is fully resolved at around the episode 13 mark, I felt it keenly. Suddenly, everything on my screen – and by this, I mean literally everything – felt like pure filler and fanservice, for the remainder of Show’s run. I found my interest in the last few episodes to be distinctly reduced, even though I knew in my head that there were meaningful relationship nuggets that were being served up.
I’m not sure what I would’ve preferred for Show to do differently, to be honest. Maybe do away with the kidnapping arc altogether, and put more effort into teasing out drama and tension from more everyday things.
2. Uneven characterization
To be fair, this show did have a writer switch at around the episode 4 mark, with episode 4 being the collaborative episode co-written by the original and new writers, so my perception of a change in writing tone could be due to this. To the writers’ credit, I felt that Show’s overall tone was pretty well maintained across the writer switch-up. The one thing that didn’t work for me so well, is the treatment of Park Seo Joon’s character Young Joon.
[SPOILER] In Show’s very early episodes, he’s portrayed as a serious and total egomaniac, who is only able to love himself. We are given examples of his extreme self-centeredness and we also see how Mi So (Park Min Young) suffers because of this. Yet, later in the show, we are to believe that all this time, Young Joon has known Mi So’s identity, and has loved her through it all. While I like the concept, my brain can’t reconcile his selfish behavior in the early episodes, with a man who sincerely loves the woman that he’s clearly shown taking for granted. I suppose that by the later episodes, the writers assumed (or hoped) that we’d forget that Young Joon was ever that selfish and self-centered to begin with. The problem is, I remembered.
Oh well. At least Show did take some time to soften Young Joon’s edges in the middle episodes, and therefore make the transition easier to swallow. Also, to be fair to Show, other dramas have done similar things too. [END SPOILER]
STUFF I ENJOYED
1. Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young as our leads
I feel like if you’re a fan of Park Seo Joon &/or Park Min Young, then you’d probably have a higher chance of enjoying this drama. Because, amid a plot that is a lightweight among lightweights, our leads do a lot to make this work. Both of them display excellent comic timing, and despite Show’s style leaning more theatrical than subtle, both of them manage to infuse their characters with heart. Plus, both of them possess a great deal of personal charm, which does not hurt, at all. 🙂
Admittedly, I found myself thinking that I’ve enjoyed both of them more, in some of their other projects. For example, I enjoyed Park Seo Joon more in Fight My Way, and I still count Park Min Young’s role in Healer as my favorite outing of hers. After puzzling over the whys of this for a while, I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that this is because of Secretary Kim’s overall style, which tends to lean a touch more exaggerated than down-to-earth. I’m thinking that that could be why I felt like I was connecting less with these characters than with our leads’ other characters in other dramas.
Despite that, Park Seo Joon and Park Min Young are undoubtedly this show’s strengths, and I enjoyed having them on my screen a great deal.
I liked the fact that Mi So as a character is someone who is so good at her job. She’s hardworking, professional, polished, and pleasant about it to boot, which I found a refreshing departure from other hardworking female leads, who either tend to be Candy types working a multitude of part-time jobs to make ends meet, or hardened female professionals who’ve lost touch with their emotions. Not Mi So, who’s badass-good at her job, and commands respect from all the other secretaries in the company, while being all-around cordial to everyone. I loved that.
As for Young Joon, I appreciated that the writers eventually rubbed down his sharp edges and made him a bit of a dork, while revealing more of his heart. Yes, he’s still rather pompous, but underneath it all, there’s also a shyness that I found very appealing. That did a lot to endear Young Joon to me as a character. Of course, Park Seo Joon’s dreamy soft gazes did a lot too. Every time Young Joon leveled that gaze in Mi So’s direction, I melted a little.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim OST – It’s You
2. Our OTP
Like I mentioned before, this show isn’t very inventive, and uses a lot of tropes, but the OTP makes it work. I found that I didn’t have to think too hard – or much at all – while watching this show. I didn’t feel the need to piece clues together about the childhood backstory. I could just sit back and enjoy the cute of this OTP, and boy, does Show know how to capitalize on its strengths.
One of my favorite things in the early stretch of the show, was the growing hyper-awareness on both sides of our OTP. Show dutifully teases us with multiple instances of accidental skinship and almost-embraces, which I equally dutifully lapped up.
One of my favorites among these almost-embraces is at the end of episode 3, when, as a result of a falling wrist-grab, Mi So ends up falling on top of Young Joon, on his couch. Beyond the accidental skinship, it’s the look he’s got on his face in the scene, that gets me. He literally looks like he’s about to kiss her till his drowning last breath, and I swoon.
Beyond the crackly skinship, I really liked the automatic care and concern that these two show each other, when their guards are down. The way Young Joon and Mi So bicker when their guard is down, is exactly like a long-time couple, like in episode 3 when she got upset with him for hurting himself. Aw.
Once these two actually start dating, I also liked that Show explores the awkward nitty-gritties of him being her boss, and lets our lead couple trip up a little, and work to figure it out. That feels so everyday and relatable – not that I’ve ever romanced a boss, y’know.
On the downside, I confess I felt a tad puzzled as to why Young Joon and Mi So spend most of their time together in work mode even when they aren’t at work. That didn’t feel very natural to me, but I suppose(?) Show was driving home the point that this is pretty much the only way they know how to be, around each other.
Here are a few of my favorite OTP highlights. It’s a coincidence that all of them have to do with OTP kisses, I swears!
The first kiss
By episode 8, Young Joon has attempted – and failed – to kiss Mi So twice, both times to her mortification. Most women would be too horrified to risk further embarrassment, but I love that Mi So instinctively looks deeper to figure out the issue, rather than blame Young Joon for the failed kisses. I felt drawn in, by her compassion.
In episode 8, Young Joon attempts a third time to kiss her, and still fails. I really liked the way Mi So reacted. Instead of responding in an embarrassed manner, she takes courage and gently reaches for him, so that she can kiss him instead. So gentle, so accepting, and so healing. Lovely. ❤ Of course, the fact that Young Joon, phobia overcome, reaches for her to kiss her again, and then again, is bonus.
After having an honest, cathartic conversation with his brother Sung Yeon (Lee Tae Hwan), Young Joon and Mi So spend some time chatting in his living room, and they agree that being honest is best. Which is when Young Joon asks Mi So if he can be honest about how he’s feeling right at that moment, and starts to lean in to kiss her.
Compared to all the cutesy dodging of the issue earlier in the episode, this romantic seduction scene finally feels full and true to my eyes, like there’s real emotion and context driving this scene, rather than it just being plonked there for audience squee. The way he kisses her feels gentle and unhurried, yet focused and purposeful, at the same time. It’s quite mesmerizing to behold; Mi So herself can’t look away, and neither can I.
Show’s treatment of the OTP consummation
I just wanna say, I really, really liked Show’s treatment of this OTP’s consummation of their relationship.
On the surface, episode 13 is cute, fluffy and a little naughty, with Young Joon obsessing about wanting to sleep with Mi So, and I have to admit, I did roll my eyes a little bit, through it all. But then, that sweet conversation happened, where Young Joon apologizes for not controlling his speed, and explains that it just felt like all the 9 years of emotions just burst at the same time, and I wavered, as Mi So did.
I also appreciated that when Mi So shows up at his house that night, he doesn’t jump to conclusions, even when she states that she intends to spend the night. How restrained and respectful. ❤ He wants to make sure that he’s not misunderstanding her, nor forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to; he makes it clear that if she enters his house, he won’t be able to control his speed at all. And with that understanding, she walks in, her lips smiling, and her expression open.
I do like Show’s choice to linger on the intimate moments they spend together, even as they ready to consummate their relationship. Not just because we get lovely kisses and a rawr-worthy glimpse of shirtless Park Seo Joon (seriously. Rawrr), but because of the unhurried, wonderful, loving eye contact that our couple shares, in that moment. Mi So’s no longer shying away; she’s gazing into the eyes of the man she loves, and he’s gazing right back at her, and they’re fully open and fully cognizant of their love for each other. So lovely, that I swoon. ❤
More flail. More puddle. Sigh~ ❤
An aside on Mi So’s decision to stay
I came across some audience dissatisfaction over Mi So’s decision to retract her resignation and stay on in her job as Young Joon’s secretary. Essentially, I think these viewers felt wronged on Mi So’s behalf, that she didn’t get to do the things that she missed out on, like going to college, exploring the world, and finding herself.
When I watched this scene in episode 14, though, I found that I actually felt fine with Mi So’s decision.
On further thought, it occurred to me that this OTP has been pretty consistent in wanting to do things their own way. When everyone is saying that they should change the way they address each other, they try it for about two seconds, before deciding that they’ll figure it out in their own time, on their own terms. So even though I feel like it’s kind of weird that they mostly still use official terms to address each other during their dates, I recognize that that’s what works for them.
In a similar way, even though there are viewers who are upset that Mi So chooses to stay as Young Joon’s secretary instead of going off to find her own path and maybe get the college degree she never had a chance to get, I do recognize that she’s making a conscious choice that makes her happy. If being a secretary – and a darn good one, at that – gives Mi So fulfillment and satisfaction, who am I to say that her life is incomplete if she chooses to keep on doing just that?
Plus, I do appreciate that Young Joon becomes so cognizant of just how amazing Mi So is, at her job, and articulates his thanks to her, this episode. That felt very heartfelt, and I loved it.
Similarly, I like how Show emphasizes Mi So’s brilliance at her job, by having her colleagues literally get into a fight with other gossiping colleagues, who assume that Mi So basically slept her way to the top. It’s like, if people believe in her so strongly that they would literally get up in arms over it, it must be worth believing in. And therefore, she is probably right, that she’s found the job that is right for her.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim OST – A Little More
3. The office gang and their side romances
The office gang is basically a lot of exaggerated comic filler, but they did eventually endear themselves to me. I especially enjoyed the little lovelines that developed within the office gang.
[VAGUE MODERATE SPOILERS] I loved Superhero Secretary Yang (Kang Hong Suk) – who made me swoon a little, I’m pretty sure – and his little loveline with the very breathy, affectatious Se Ra (Hwang Bo Ra). I also found the late-game developing loveline between Ji Ah and Gwi Nam (Pyo Ye Jin and Chansung) pretty cute. [END SPOILER]
4. Mi So’s sisters
In a dramaverse where antagonistic siblings are more common than supportive ones, I found Mi So’s sisters (Heo Soon Mi and Baek Eun Hye) pretty refreshing. It’s true that Big Sis spends a fair bit of time nagging and fussing, but it’s clear that both sisters care about Mi So a great deal.
Additionally, I loved how 2nd Sis is so cheerful, good-natured and jolly all the time. Also, props to Show for not poking fun at 2nd Sis for her size. In fact, 2nd Sis seems to love herself just the way she is, and I love it.
[MINOR SPOILER] I loved the little throwaway moment in episode 10, when Big Sis, in an attempt to change the subject, turns to 2nd Sis and asks if she’s lost weight, coz she looks slimmer. Beaming, 2nd Sis replies that she’s, in fact, put on 2kg. 2nd Sis then stands up and does a mini-twirl, cheerfully declaring that it must be because she’s wearing black. Gosh, how adorable and cute is she? ❤ [END SPOILER]
5. Nice chaebol parents [SPOILER]
Given that this show is fairly fond of tropes, and given how it’s almost a given that any pair of chaebol parents in dramaland is practically obligated to object when their offspring expresses a wish to marry a non-chaebol, it came as a very pleasant surprise that Young Joon’s parents (Kim Byung Ok and Kim Hye Ok) not only do not object to his marriage to Mi So, but demonstrate that they truly like Mi So. Shocking indeed. Enough to make one shook, as it were. 😉
As a bonus, Mom even shows a great deal of grace and understanding, when Mi So objects to the scale and extent of bridal gifts that are offered. I found that quite refreshing and rather pleasing. Could we have more nice chaebol parents in dramaland, pretty please?
1. The kidlets [SPOILERS]
In episode 11, we finally get the full backstory of what happened when Young Joon and Mi So were kids, and I enjoyed watching the kids (Moon Woo Jin and Kim Ji Yoo) together so much, that I actually felt sorry to leave the flashback behind to come back to the present.
I found the two kids together very heartwarming and sweet, and I was especially taken with Mi So’s innocent adoration of Oppa. I found young Mi So’s artless, simple devotion and attachment completely adorable. ❤
2. The abundance of shirtless Park Seo Joon
I was highly amused that Show served up so much shirtless Park Seo Joon in its initial episodes. In episodes 1 through 3, we get a glimpse of shirtless Park Seo Joon in each episode. This tickled me a great deal. It felt like Show knew it didn’t have a lot of substance, and was trying to distract us with his pecs and abs.
..And what a glorious distraction it was, to be sure. 😉
So, on a completely fangirly note, here’s a spasm of shirtless Park Seo Joon. I just want to say that I very much dig Park Seo Joon’s brand of shirtless. He doesn’t look like he worked out in the gym just to look good. Those muscles appear very functional to me, like he really is strong and capable, and doesn’t just look the part. In particular, I’m very taken with the last shot in this set. Those abs. And those very defined obliques. Me likey muchey. *hearts in eyes*
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
In the end, Show serves up a finale that’s full of sweet and fluffy, which is just the stuff that I’d come to expect from this drama.
Ultimately, it felt like an hour and some, of fanservice and cutesies. Although it felt rather pat, I did appreciate the way Show flipped stuff around, this finale. First, we have the role reversal of the groom being the one left feeling like his bride is too busy to care about the wedding. And then of course, we have the parents. In kdrama tradition, it would be the chaebol family that would object to the wedding, but in this show, we have the ordinary single-parent family objecting to the wedding – if only for funsies.
I also love that all our other lovelines get happy endings this hour. Yoo Shik (Kang Ki Young) and his ex-wife (Seo Hyo Rim) make up over a box of chocolates, a good shot of honesty, and some very ardent kisses, while our passionate pair, Se Ra and Secretary Yang, finally go public about their relationship, and Gwi Nam finally realizes that he really shouldn’t put off loving someone, especially when that someone is Ji Ah. Aw.
All in all, even though this show didn’t rock my world, it was a very agreeable, unobjectionable watch. And it’s kind of icing on the cake, that our wedding this finale, is technically a childhood earnest promise, finally come to fruition. Somehow, this little detail makes me smile a great deal. Sweetness. ❤
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Light, fluffy and sweet – just like cotton candy.
FINAL GRADE: B