THE SHORT VERDICT:
Thirty But Seventeen is a pretty special snowflake of a drama, whichever way I look at it.
I mean, it manages to be sweet, fluffy and cute, yet extremely heartfelt, while dishing out occasional deep nuggets of wisdom, and dealing with our main characters’ trauma-related anxiety in a pretty meaningful manner, to boot.
Plus, no one in this drama world is an actual villain either. On top of that, the drama doesn’t even get boring, despite the absence of a villain. Say, what?
No, this show isn’t perfect, but then again, no show ever is, and this one did so many things right, that I feel like I can’t quibble too much, in the overall scheme of things. Totes recommend.
THE LONG VERDICT:
It’s a rare, rare thing indeed, when I take to a show right away, like, in the first few minutes of the first episode. But that’s exactly what happened for me, with this show.
I was enchanted within minutes of starting my watch, because of how cute it is, and immediately, I found myself thinking, this show knows how to do cute right. That’s No Small Deal, as any drama-watching geek would know. 😉
I loved the warm nostalgia and bashful innocence that our younger actors bring out in the high-school timeline, and felt sucked in and engaged right away. I found the younger actors really, really good, and very likable right away.
I also marveled at how the younger actors and their adult versions basically feel like the same people.
Credit to the actors themselves as well as the casting director, I never felt a sense of disjointedness when watching the younger set of actors, compared to the present-day cast, through the entire run of this drama.
Yes, a big accident occurs early on in the show, but I was prepared for it because I knew it was part of Show’s premise, and because Show had demonstrated by that point, that it’s perfectly capable of bringing the cute, I had faith that Show would bring the cute back, and bring it good.
At the same time, I quickly got the sense that Show knew how to manage its emotional beats well too. Right away in our first hour, we see Seo Ri’s (Shin Hye Sun) confusion and despair at waking up a 30-year-old woman, against her will, and it’s so well brought out, that I felt for her right away.
Best of all? Show actually lives up to its early promise, and continues to dish out the cute and the deeper feels, all the way to the end. So satisfying.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
STUFF I ENJOYED
Shin Hye Sun as Seo Ri
Shin Hye Sun is truly fantastic in this show, and I feel that she deserves a lot of credit, for making this show as believable and as engaging as it is.
First of all, in the transition from the past timeline to the present, I found Shin Hye Sun so good at channeling her younger counterpart (played by Park Shi Eun), that I literally believed within minutes, that this was the same girl, trapped in a body that she didn’t know.
Despite Seo Ri’s adult appearance, she comes across as very childlike and pure, and her emotional whiplash as she tries to figure out what happened, is so accessible and feels so real. Serious kudos to Shin Hye Sun, who makes it all feel so natural and effortless.
Second of all, I’ve come to realize that Shin Hye Sun is really good at physical comedy. Her flailing limbs and elastic expressions do a lot to make Show’s physical gags work.
I mean, the physical gags generally landed well with me – the person who almost always doesn’t take well to physical gags. That’s skillz.
Seo Ri is so earnest and simple and pure, that I quickly found that I couldn’t help but want to root for her.
From the get-go, I felt invested in Seo Ri’s journey in finding herself again, and I didn’t even really care about her supposed loveline with Woo Jin (Yang Se Jong). Which turned out to be a good thing, because the loveline was pretty slow in developing.
Yes, I felt the development of the loveline was worth the wait, but, since I actually felt more interested in Seo Ri’s personal journey than the main loveline, it happily became a non-issue for me, that the OTP arc was taking the slow and scenic route to happiness.
I love that Seo Ri doesn’t hold a grudge even when Woo Jin is brusque with her like he is in episodes 5 & 6, and she sincerely is so happy to have a job even though it’s temporary, that she stays up late to rehearse.
Plus, I really appreciate how she looks for the good in people. Even though Woo Jin is so prickly with her, and she’s kind of scared of him, she is quick to notice things that tell her he’s a good person.
It’s so endearing how Seo Ri jumps to Woo Jin’s defense in episodes 9 & 10, even though that puts her up against two gangstery looking big dudes. She still fiercely defends him and manages to get them to leave, even if it’s because they think she’s crazy.
Over and above everything else, I was most struck by Seo Ri’s deep sense of gratitude, despite her personal tragedy.
A great example is in episodes 15 & 16. Seo Ri’s heartfelt gratitude at being able to live in her childhood home for one last month before it’s sold, is so pure. There’s no unhappiness that the time is limited, or that the house will be sold.
She’s truly grateful that she got to live there one last time, and genuinely sees that one month as a precious gift. It’s so pure, and I love it. <3
Yang Se Jong as Woo Jin
Not gonna lie; it took me a fair while to warm to Yang Se Jong’s character Woo Jin. Mainly, it’s because he comes across as a stiff, aloof and prickly stick in the mud for a good stretch in Show’s early episodes, and we get limited access to his inner workings and feelings.
Even though it was clear that Woo jin was masking hurt from the past, I did not like his apparent lack of compassion, especially when that was directed at Seo Ri, on whose side I’d firmly planted myself.
Happily, by episode 11, my perception of Woo Jin had shifted quite a bit, and for the better. This is thanks in part to the writing unveiling more of Woo Jin’s pain and feelings of lostness, and also thanks to Yang Se Jong’s delivery.
After seeing his tears while he was talking to his therapist friend in episode 11, and that lost-little-boy look in his eyes, I couldn’t not feel sorry for him.
And then there’s the time in episodes 19 & 20, when all the little instances of the present day mirroring the past culminates in Woo Jin experiencing a panic attack relapse.
Yang Se Jong’s delivery sucks me right in, and I feel so sorry for Woo Jin, who just can’t seem to shake the pain of his past, and continues to be paralyzed by the horror that he’d lived through 13 years ago.
Even though it was slow in the coming, I was fully on board and rooting for Woo Jin as a character, by Show’s second half.
Since his progress is most marked by his relationships with other people, I’ll talk more about Woo Jin’s progress in other sections.
Ahn Hyo Seop as Chan
I loved – like, really, really loved – Ahn Hyo Seop as Chan.
I’ll admit that I was a touch slow to take to Chan, because I felt his adorably dim persona was a bit try-hard and not very natural in Show’s initial episodes.
That soon changed, though, because I quickly found myself melting into a goofy grinning puddle, every time Chan showed up on my screen in his earnest happy puppy way. For the record, Chan really is a puppy in human form.
The way he prances around with his easy happy grin never far from his face, is just like a happy puppy, and it’s a-dor-able. <3
Aside from his earnest puppy appeal, I loved Chan for often being the voice of reason and the heart of compassion that everyone else needs. He’s guileless and sweet, and feels so intensely, that he often looks like he just can’t contain all of his feelings and needs to find an outlet, or burst.
Here’s a small handful of Chan highlights, which I really enjoyed.
E3-4. Chan really feels for Seo Ri, and I find his guileless cheer endearing.
E5-6. Chan’s simple-minded earnest ways are growing on me in a big way, and I giggled out loud at how dorky he was, getting so worried about Seo Ri when she got a cramp in her leg.
E7-8. Chan starting to “see” Seo Ri around.. that’s so cute. He’s thinking about her and worrying about her, until he defaults to seeing her around.
E7-8. It’s really sweet to see Chan caring about Woo Jin and going to visit his uncle with pork belly. He might be a little dim at times, but he feels, and so intensely. It’s like he feels in 3D.
E22. Chan trying so hard to look like an adult, so that he can be a better match for Seo Ri, is the cutest, saddest thing.
The way he practically bursts with joy when the kid addresses him as “Ahjusshi” and then deflates again and again, when the ahjumma calls him “student” in front of Seo Ri, and then asks if the card belongs to his “noona” or maybe his “aunt.” Poor dear, I feel for him, so bad.
On a more aesthetic note, I do enjoy Ahn Hyo Seop’s dedication to the role. He’s clearly been working out for the role, and he’s showing off a physique that I can believe belongs to a rower, rather than, say, a bodybuilder.
He’s muscular, but also very, very lean and compact, and that’s exactly what I think a rower’s body should look like. Really nice job.
Ye Ji Won as Jennifer
Similar to my trajectory with Woo Jin, I was slow to embrace Jennifer as a character, even though I love Ye Ji Won a great deal.
Right from when we are introduced to her, I found Jennifer’s robotic vibe very strange. Show doesn’t offer any explanation for her odd behavior upfront, and I wondered whether she was written this way just because robots are tending in dramaland at the moment.
In my head, it felt like the writers had had a pow-wow to decide on how to keep up with the trend without actually having permission to make this a robot drama.
Happily, I grew to love Jennifer more and more as I got to know her, and by drama’s end, she was genuinely one of my favorite characters in this drama world.
I grew to appreciate her random-sounding nuggets of wisdom, and once I gained some insight into the reason for the oddly wooden way she carried herself, I couldn’t help but feel for her.
We don’t get the full details of her backstory until very late into our story, but just from the bits that Show unveils, I found myself seeing Jennifer in a whole new – and much more sympathetic – light.
Here are just a few Jennifer moments that I wanted to highlight.
E11. Twas sweet of Jennifer to get a present for Seo Ri to congratulate her on her new job. And I especially liked the words of wisdom she spoke to Woo Jin out in the garden, about the passage of time.
E14. That sudden flashback and context to Jennifer and what she went through in the past, suddenly gives Jennifer a sheen of pathos in everything she does.
E19-20. Jennifer’s story is played with a lot of restraint, and we’re not told a lot.
But Show gives us enough to know that Jennifer’s been through some rough times, and there’s estrangement from her family. And the tears that come to her eyes say so much, especially since she’s usually so composed and even.
I feel like the lack of insight isn’t so much to tease the audience; rather, the vibe I get is that this is to respect Jennifer’s privacy. The loving camera angles capturing the elegance of her tears makes me feel like the omission is done out of consideration.
E25-26. The way Jennifer states, so sadly & matter-of-factly, that she doesn’t deserve to express her emotions by smiling or crying, is so heartbreaking. Even though I don’t know the full details of her story, I already feel for her, intensely.
Seo Ri and Woo Jin
I saw some viewer discomfort that Woo Jin is a grown 30-year-old man who is entertaining romantic feelings for a woman who is mentally still 17. Having seen the whole show, I can safely say that I don’t feel the same way.
To my eyes, Woo Jin’s emotional growth got stunted after the accident, and while his body continued to mature into adulthood, in his heart, he’s continued to be that terrified, guilty 17-year-old who thinks that he caused the death of the girl that he liked.
And so, I feel like Seo Ri and Woo Jin are, each in their own way, still 17-ish on the inside.
Rather than seeing this as a loveline between a 30-year-old man and a woman who’s mentally still 17, I see this as a loveline between two adults who have, one way or another, been stunted in their emotional and mental growth, and are now helping each other to break through their individual obstacles and difficulties.
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, this loveline was slow to grow on me. That said, this did grow on me, and very well.
Mainly, I loved watching Woo Jin soften towards Seo Ri, in spite of himself, and eventually even leaking smiles, when he’d been so stony and icy prior.
Also, I loved the conversations that this OTP started to have, in that the conversations felt honest and healing, despite a lack of detail, which I’ll talk about later.
Here are handful of OTP moments that I wanted to highlight.
E12. The onion scene of Woo Jin wiping Seo Ri’s tears away with his bare hands, while his voiceover states that he’s terrified when he’s with Seo Ri, but those are also the times when he feels most comfortable and happy. OMO.
E15-16. It’s sweet that Woo Jin wants to ask Seo Ri to stay. And it’s possibly even sweeter that he chooses not to ask her to stay, once he realizes that it’s important to her, to work to stand on her own two feet.
That’s respectful, and that’s making her preference more important than his own, and I appreciate that a lot.
E15-16. The conversation that Seo Ri and Woo Jin have by the beach is so honest, even though many details are left vague.
It feels cathartic for the both of them, and seeing their tears, and the way they comforted and supported each other even without knowing the details, moved me to tears too.
E17. Woo Jin going out of his way to keep the house, is a really sweet beat this episode.
I love the flashback that shows us how he sat down with Dad and talked about how he’d really come to enjoy the house, and how he would not be spending half his time away again. More than that, though, I loved everyone’s individual reactions to the news.
It’s such a relief and a joy to them all; Chan is delighted, and even Jennifer seems pleased with the news. More than anything, though, I felt so happy for Seo Ri, who is so happy she could literally burst. The fact that she grabs Woo Jin for a grateful hug, is just bonus.
E17. Woo Jin is really softening around Seo Ri. The way he is around her, is distinctly gentle and welcoming. And that moment when she started sewing on the loose button on his shirt, and he just studies her, as she steps into his personal space, is quite.. pregnant with meaning.
This was quite a heady moment, I felt.
E18. Woo Jin and Seo Ri getting so antsy being apart from each other when she gets stuck on the island due to bad weather, is amusing and quite sweet.
It feels sudden in a way, because the emotions suddenly feel so pressing, but it’s also the first time they’ve been apart after becoming closer, and they’ve been used to the comfort of being together at work and at home, so it makes sense that it’s a forced separation like this that draws their bond to the surface.
Woo Jin desperately trying to crawl under his bed to get to his phone when Seo Ri called, is just funny icing on the cake.
E21. The sentiment that Woo Jin expresses to his therapist is a very sweet one. He’s sure about his feelings for Seo Ri, and he feels finally liberated, by Seo Ri, and he wants to be with her and tell her everything, but he’s going to take it slow, for her sake.
He knows that she has a lot of stuff to work through, and he recognizes that she needs time. And so, he’s willing to wait, because it’s more important that she gets the time that she needs, and his desire to be her boyfriend can wait.
I mean. How considerate and sweet is that?
E22. Woo Jin trying so hard to protect Seo Ri from being used for promotion of the music festival, and then potentially being cast aside, is understandable and sweet. Seo Ri’s reaction is understandable too.
She loves the violin, and this is her chance to play again. And, the publicity might even alert her uncle and aunt to reconnect with her again.
What a raw and emotional scene, though. I could fully empathize with both sides. Also, a blurted out confession from Woo Jin, who refers to Seo Ri as the woman that he likes. Ooh!
E23-24. The confession and kiss that our OTP shares is really so understated and so sweet. “I like you.” “Me too.” Aw. Lovely.
E23-24. It’s also really lovely that Woo Jin is intent on being open and honest with Seo Ri. It’s a huge, huge step for someone who’s been emotionally closed off for so long, and it’s just very heartwarming to see him take the fences down and lay his heart bare, to Seo Ri.
Seo Ri and Chan
Basically, the more endearing I found Chan, the more I felt like I needed to brace myself for Chan’s inevitable heartbreak.
It didn’t help that I found Seo Ri and Chan really adorable – and funny! – together, and it all just felt so comfortable and easy, because they clearly connected on the same wavelength.
I’m happy to say that despite the obvious heartbreak on the cards for Chan, Show did a wonderful job of fleshing out the bond between these characters, and we end up leaving Seo Ri and Chan in the best possible place. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Here are some of my favorite highlights of these unwitting soulmates.
E9-10. Chan suddenly feeling that he absolutely needs to defend his single-ness in front of Seo Ri, is very cute. He’s totally falling for her, and it’s very adorable.
E11. The way Chan watches over drunk Seo Ri while she wobbles her way home, is so sweet.
E11. I laughed out loud at Chan sweating bullets and yelping desperately, as Seo Ri, riding pillion behind him on his bicycle, clings onto his shorts just as desperately, hurting his groin. Ha.
And also, how endearing and sweet, that Chan still offers to take Seo Ri to work the next day, just as enthusiastically as if he hadn’t had his balls busted the previous day. Aw. Sweet boy.
E12. Poor sweet Chan, running around in the rain like a madman, trying to buy medicine for Seo Ri because he can’t stand the thought of her hurting her hand.
E12. Awww. The tired, resigned look on Chan’s face, as he tells Chick Junior that to him, Chicky and Seo Ri ARE different.
E13. Chan pledging to win at the individual race, and then confess to Seo Ri, is very cute. Poor dear. He’s so smitten that even the color of his cream pasta makes him think about Seo Ri’s new outfits. Which, pfft.
E14. How sweet, that Chan insists on pulling Seo Ri in the cart coz he knows she’s tired, and frames it as her helping him get a workout, so that she won’t feel bad. Aw.
E18. Poor Chan. He’s piecing everything together and is starting to become cognizant of his dear uncle’s feelings for his precious ahjumma. I feel so bad to see his poor innocent heart starting to break. Guh.
E19-20. I love the scene where Chan and Seo Ri sit together in the garden and swap stories to catch up. They really feel like best friends, and I love that they cheer each other on in their respective goals and passions. So much sincerity, care, enthusiasm and support. Love. <3
E29. Chan and Seo Ri hanging out and having fun is lovely to see, even though there’s a poignant undercurrent running through it, coz now Chan knows that he doesn’t have a romantic future with Seo Ri.
But their connection is so genuine that I can totally see them as best friends, and not even feel like it’s a cop out.
E30. OMG. Channn. His confession to Seo Ri is the sweetest thing ever. He speaks in simple heartfelt words that make so much sense, and that analogy of calluses on his heart just made me want to cry.
And he’s smiling to make Seo Ri feel better, when he really is crying inside. I want to reach into my screen and hug him. He’s so earnest and childlike and innocent, and yet so mature and wise where it really counts. I love him. <3
The hodgepodge found-family household
This found family is truly one of my favoritest things in this show, I luff them so much. <3
I loved watching this group of mostly unfamiliar strangers come together and slowly become family to one another.
It’s all the more poignant because for some of these characters, they literally have no other family to count on, so it means so much more, when they find acceptance, support and love in the most unlikely place of all.
Here are some of my favorite moments, with this new-found family.
E15-16. The earnest and heartfelt goodbyes all-around at Seo Ri’s departure made me cry. It just goes to show what a difference these people have made to one another, and how grateful they are for one another. I love it.
I especially love Jennifer’s gaze softening with a wistful sheen of tears as Seo Ri hugs her.
And Chan’s desperate advice to Seo Ri to take care of herself, as he’s literally physically removed from the house, is sweet too. All of Seo Ri’s notes and gifts to her found family and friends is really thoughtful and sweet as well.
E17. Woo Jin going out of his way to keep the house, is a really sweet beat this episode.
I love the flashback that shows us how he sat down with Dad and talked about how he’d really come to enjoy the house, and how he would not be spending half his time away again.
More than that, though, I loved everyone’s individual reactions to the news. It’s such a relief and a joy to them all; Chan is delighted, and even Jennifer seems pleased with the news.
More than anything, though, I felt so happy for Seo Ri, who is so happy she could literally burst. The fact that she grabs Woo Jin for a grateful hug, is just bonus.
E19-20. It’s heartwarming to see the concept of family taking root in Woo Jin, with him referring to the people in the house – the very strangers that he’d hated the thought of – as family.
And he’s buying them food, and being considerate, like how he phones Chan just to ask him to call Jennifer to greet her and ask after her day off the day before. It’s really sweet, and I like it a lot.
E21. Jennifer coming up with a meal plan to help Chan win his medal, is such a sweet touch. No one asked her to do that, but she knows that Chan really wants to win, and so she’s doing it to help him. That’s so familial and nice.
E25-26. I like the repeated use of the word “family” by the members of our rag-tag found family. Seo Ri refers to them as family, and then so does Jennifer. I love that they’ve started to seriously adopt the term, after Woo Jin used it before.
E25-26. I do love that Woo Jin feels so much empathy and compassion for Jennifer, that he yells out to her, that he thought he’d never be able to smile again too, but he can now, and he believes that one day she will, too. Aw.
The three goofy musketeers
In spite of myself, I found myself growing a soft spot for Chan and his two rowing friends Duk Soo and Hae Bum (Jo Hyun Shik and Lee Do Hyun).
In my head, I totally started thinking of them as the three goofy good-natured musketeers. Not only are they enthusiastic when it comes to helping others, their earnest loyalty to one another is endearing too, and by series’ end, I realized that I’d become genuinely affectionate of these boys.
I found it very cute how the boys enthusiastically pitch in to help Seo Ri with her odd jobs, even if it means that they need to peel a mountain of onions while wearing Halloween masks. Heh.
In Show’s later stretch, I was amused at how Chan and his buddies took to living together and even dressing alike, to increase their teamwork leading up to the competition. Cute.
And, yay that they fulfilled their promise to one another, to win a medal together before graduation. And even though it’s played for laughs, I found the boys’ habit of wearing their medals everywhere quite a sweet touch; it clearly means so much to them. Aw.
Woo Jin’s Noona
We barely meet Woo Jin’s noona (Lee Ah Hyun), but I wanted to give her a quick shout-out because I really liked what we did see of her.
Upon her quick return in episode 17, she observes the change in her little brother, and notices the changes in the house, which are all due to Seo Ri’s presence.
When Woo Jin later confesses that Seo Ri isn’t the housekeeper like they’d said she was, I really appreciate how Noona keeps her focus on the positive changes in Woo Jin, rather than the lie that was told.
Basically, as long as her little brother is happy, she is more than happy to forgive the ruse. I liked that a lot.
STUFF I FELT NEUTRAL ABOUT
The thing with Rin [SPOILER]
I wasn’t super interested in the arc around Rin (Wang Ji Won), but it’s an arc that I can understand the value of.
Some folks probably felt that Rin’s jealousy of Seo Ri made no sense, and that she should’ve just gotten over it already, given her personal success, and Seo Ri’s difficult situation.
I do agree that the discomfort that Rin feels around and about Seo Ri is not logical, and is disproportionate because of her current position and stature, but because it’s such a visceral, deep-seated insecurity, I can buy it.
I can understand not being able to control your feelings. Because of what happened in their formative years, Seo Ri has a visceral effect on Rin, and I can believe that no matter how much Rin tries to shake it, that she still feels insecure around Seo Ri.
I do think that it would have been better if Show could have shown us more of Rin trying to shake these feelings, so that we can see her emotional journey more clearly, rather than hypothesize.
That said, I’m happy with how Show resolves this tension. I thought the way Seo Ri was given a chance to perform on stage in episodes 23 & 24 was quite perfect.
Without any pressure to excel at the violin, her only focus is to love and enjoy the music. I’m glad that Rin was the one who gave her that chance; what a timely, suitable way to repay Seo Ri for setting her free from being blinded by comparison and competition.
Also, good on Rin for basically shaking herself out of her jealous funk, and even building bridges with Seo Ri, asking that they play a duet together, when they meet again after her studies abroad.
I like that she’s tackling the root of the problem, and looking for her own enjoyment in music now.
WHAT I LIKED LESS: Show having the OTP skirt their previous connection for so long [SPOILERS]
While I genuinely enjoyed watching Seo Ri and Woo Jin becoming closer, Show’s repeated use of the near-miss, in terms of Woo Jin realizing Seo Ri’s identity as the girl he thought he’d killed, did wear me down somewhat.
It made me roll my eyes a little, that Seo Ri consistently says something vague-ish about her personal situation, but when Woo Jin moves to clarify what she means, the subject is always changed.
That said, I concede that I do like the idea of Woo Jin falling for Seo Ri before finding out. I like that he likes her for who she is now, without being hampered by any guilt that he might feel, once he realizes that she is the very girl that he’d thought died.
Basically, I get why Show did what it did with this prolonged non-reveal, and I appreciate the significance, but the execution did make me antsy.
SPOTLIGHT: IT HURTS SO GOOD [SPOILERS]
Episodes 27 & 28 turned out to be such a good example of what it means when a show hurts so good, that I wanted to give it its own little spotlight.
It was hard to watch Woo Jin’s agony at the conclusion that he’d been the cause of Seo Ri’s loss of everything; her future, her time, her uncle and aunt, her violin dreams.
And it was hard to watch him cry, just as hard as it was, to watch him try so hard to pretend that everything was ok.
His instinct to hide and run away is understandable, given the magnitude of the blow that this news is to him, as everything falls into place in his head, and he begins to realize just how much his actions have affected Seo Ri’s life.
It’s how he’s coped in the past, and when something this big hits him, it’s understandable that that’s how he instinctively tries to cope.
Chan being on tenterhooks around him, was pretty much how my heart felt, waiting for what Woo Jin would do, in the wake of his conclusion.
Chan really is sweet and earnest, though. He’s carried Woo Jin’s hurt to heart, from the time he was 6. He couldn’t understand it, but he felt it, and he was afraid that Woo Jin would feel that way again. Aw.
Jennifer’s painful past, also to do with the same accident, is so sad. To have lost her husband in the crash, and then to be so distraught that she miscarried. Oof. It’s no wonder she grasped at a way to cope – by shutting off her feelings and replacing her thoughts with information from books.
Woo Jin’s heartfelt confession letter to Seo Ri is so heartrending. It contains so much emotion; remorse and guilt, for what he feels he’s done to Seo Ri, yet also, gratitude that she’s alive, and also, shame. He can’t face her, and it’s just all too much for him. Oof. This made me tear up.
But, phew that Woo Jin decided just in time, that he couldn’t live apart from Seo Ri, and that he needed to keep his promise to her, to not disappear.
That reunion on the bridge, is so emotional. It’s really become the place where these two find each other, when they don’t know where else to look.
And what a twist, that Seo Ri had nursed a crush on Woo Jin back in the day, too. That means she approached him on the bus, not randomly, but to speak with the boy whom she’d christened her crescendo. Ahh!
The strong refrain this hour, is “if only.” Everyone seems slave to the “what if” and the guilt associated with it. That’s tragic, but so real, and we all need to be freed from the slavery of the “what ifs” and the “if onlys.”
This episode hit me in many ways, and on several levels, and my heart felt like it had been pummeled – in a good way! – when I got to the end of the hour. Really good.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Ahh. I really didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters, you guys. But say goodbye we must, and to me, Show gave us an all-around satisfying ending, even if there’s a touch of bittersweet in the mix.
I was really saddened to learn the truth behind Uncle’s disappearance, that he’d died while trying to protect the house and while doing his best to stand by Seo Ri. Sob.
But I was also relieved that Seo Ri could finally be set free from the torture of not knowing; of wondering what happened to the uncle whom she treasured so dearly.
I also found it realistic that Seo Ri’s aunt would feel awkward around her and not really want to connect; to her, Seo Ri is a stark reminder of happier times which are now gone, and unpleasant things which she would rather forget.
But I do like where we leave this relationship, with Seo Ri reaching out and spending a little bit of time with her aunt and her nephew, at least once a year when they visited her uncle’s grave. This felt like the perfect mix of realistic and hopeful, to me.
I thought the roundabout road that Seo Ri took, in deciding her future, was a bit of a tease for us as an audience, but I could believe that this decision-making process was organic to Seo Ri as a character.
And in the end, I very much liked the idea that she chose the thing that would make her happy, rather than the thing that everyone thought was a great opportunity for her.
In that decision alone, I felt that Show emphasized an important idea that we should all take to heart: that we should all feel free to walk to the beat of our own drum, and enjoy that journey, even if it’s a journey that is different from most, and even if it’s a journey that will take a longer time.
I really liked that this idea was echoed in Chan’s own decision, about whether to sign on with a pro sailing team, or attend the College of Physical Education.
In the end, he, inspired by Seo Ri’s decision, also chooses the thing that makes him happy. I really liked the idea that Chan’s no longer rushing to grow up, but is wise enough to savor the journey. Plus, I just loved the idea that he’d be with his best buddies in college, just like before.
I felt distinctly wistful at the little hodgepodge family that I’d come to love, would separate, as Chan and Jennifer moved out. I just wanted them all to live under the same roof always, and enjoy being family to one another, like they’d come to be.
But, I acknowledge and respect Jennifer’s desire to start over on her own, and also recognize that she needs that space to figure things out and begin again.
I very much wish that we could have seen more of Jennifer’s journey after her departure from the household, but I am content to know that she’s happy as the boss of her own restaurant, that she’s made peace with her sister-in-law, and that she’s allowing herself to feel freely enough, that there’s even an item on the menu dictated by her mood for the day.
Very nice indeed.
As Show serves up the time skips at the end of the hour, I feel like we’re getting an epilogue, where we get to peek at how these characters are doing – and how they will therefore likely continue to be, even after the credits stop rolling.
I love the matter-of-fact, understated way we are informed of Seo Ri and Woo Jin’s marriage.
And I love, love, love the idea that our hodgepodge family – Jennifer included, YES! – continues to hang out together in the very house where the familial bonds were cemented in the first place. Just, lovely. <3
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Sweet, earnest and heartfelt. Feel-good, warming soup for the soul.
FINAL GRADE: A-