Imma be honest; the reason I started this show was because I have a huge soft spot for Doo Joon playing Goo Dae Young, and my unreasonable desire to be loyal to Dae Young, is why I stayed till the very end.
If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’d likely know that I really enjoyed Let’s Eat and Let’s Eat 2. Sigh. I’m sorry to say that Let’s Eat 3 wasn’t quite the heartfelt foodie romp that I was hoping for, and I’m feeling generally quite underwhelmed, now that I’ve finished my watch.
I have a few thoughts about this one, so let’s break it all down a little bit, shall we? I’ll be brief(ish). I promise.
STUFF I LIKED
1. I liked the chance to revisit Dae Young as a character, even though I thought Doo Joon – and the writers – could’ve done more with his character (more on that later).
2. I liked the concept of this season, where Dae Young and Ji Woo (Baek Jin Hee) help each other find their passion again. I also liked the concept of the backstory, that she’s the one who initiated Dae Young into the world of delicious eating, and now he’s moving next door to her, to find his inspiration in life again. Which means, she can help him find his passion for life, while he helps her find her passion for food. That’s quite a sweet sentiment, and a potentially cute set-up.
3. This season does feel like a more robust story than the previous seasons, in that there’s no murder-thriller angle, and there’s no new apartment complex of random characters that need to get to know one another. It’s just Dae Young reconnecting with his past, with a few key characters. That’s a refreshing change.
4. The eating this season isn’t frenzied like it was in Season 2, where people looked like they were shoveling food into their mouths like their lives depended on it. This season, our characters look like they’re actually pausing to appreciate the taste of the food. That is a very good change indeed.
5. The regular scenes from Dae Young’s college days were quite fun to watch, or at least, I personally enjoyed those more than the present-day scenes. I also liked the realism of having old dramas regularly playing on their TV screens during the college scenes. It’s also like a knowing nod to long-time drama fans; like, yeah, you know you were nuts about this one.
6. Dae Young’s bunch of knucklehead friends in college grew on me over time, and I found them reasonably amusing.
7. I liked the healing concept of Ji Woo’s sisterhood with Seo Yeon (Lee Joo Woo), even though I was iffy about the execution.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T QUITE WORK FOR ME
1. I remained ambivalent towards Baek Jin Hee for much of my watch. I’m not sure why, but I found myself struggling to warm to her as an actress, and to connect with her character.
2. I feel like Doo Joon is a little less enthusiastic in Dae Young’s skin this season, compared to previous seasons. And while it can be argued that this was necessary for present-day Dae Young who’s in a slump, I felt like I saw the lack of enthusiasm through the entire season, across both timelines. As a result, it often looked to me as if Dae Young didn’t really want to be in this drama world.
Additionally, Show often has Dae Young in an observing sort of role. He looks on, while others argue, or get upset, or blurt out love confessions. Through those scenes, he’s almost always wearing a very particular bemused reaction face. When that happens, I almost feel like he’s not quite the main character, but more of an accessory to other main characters. Which feels really quite odd, given that he’s our protagonist.
3. I don’t know what it is, but I feel as if the performances in this show aren’t really grabbing me. To my eyes, it feels like everyone is somewhat half-hearted about their deliveries, and as a result, none of the other characters except for Dae Young actually feels real to me, and that, only because I’d already connected with Dae Young as a character over two previous seasons.
4. I didn’t have much interest in the loveline between Sun (Ahn Woo Yeon) and Seo Yeon. I didn’t find either character that likable until very, very late in the game, and I also found the loveline itself rather try-hard, particularly in the beginning. On a shallow note, I also thought Ahn Woo Yeon almost always looked kind of.. greasy, in his styling. That didn’t help.
5. Because of the long flashbacks to our characters’ college days, it often feels like not a lot happens in the present-day. Sometimes it was also hard to remember where we were supposed to be, in the present-day timeline. For example, in episode 3, we only get to where we left off the present timeline in the previous episode, about two-thirds of the way into the episode. I found that rather confusing.
6. The potential loveline between Dae Young and Ji Woo is not very promising. Disregarding how slowly it moves – like crippled molasses, really – there is so little honest communication between these two, that I never found myself actually rooting for them to get together.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Considering how this show was sliced down to 14 episodes because of Doo Joon’s sudden enlistment, this finale was.. not as bad as it could’ve been. Yes, it’s not great, but it’s not completely terrible.
For one thing, the storytelling didn’t feel noticeably choppier than earlier episodes. Although, that could be because the handling all felt a little choppy to me anyway, and I maybe just got used to it? For another thing, Show didn’t really have a chance to throw filler at us, since they literally didn’t have any screen time to spare.
So the big question is, how do I feel about Ji Woo’s confession scene? It’s just ok, for me. But again, it could’ve been worse. On the upside, I like the emphasis on the liberation of making the confession itself, rather than the expectation of a positive answer. That felt fairly well built into the narrative this hour, with Sun coming to a similar conclusion about his feelings for Seo Yeon. I also like that Show acknowledges Dae Young’s deep love for Soo Ji (Seo Hyun Jin) and his lingering grief over her death. It would’ve been weird to have him just jump from that, to being madly in love with Ji Woo. So to have the answer ultimately be, “Can you give me some time?” feels reasonably organic.
On the downside, I’m frustrated that with this final, overdue burst of honesty between Dae Young and Ji Woo, they still don’t actually talk about what happened when they were last parted. They don’t actually talk about the mutual feelings they had for each other back in college, nor do they talk about what happened, that they would go from longing for each other and writing letters, to losing contact with each other completely. It bothers me that these two keys things are still hanging in the air between Dae Young and Ji Woo, even as she agrees to give him time. And with this, we – and Ji Woo – don’t actually get any proper acknowledgement of Dae Young’s feelings for Ji Woo. I thought talking about the past would’ve been a great way to segue into how he feels about her now, complicated background and all. To my eyes, that was a huge missed opportunity, and the ending felt rather hollow because of it.
While I don’t begrudge Sun and Seo Yeon their budding romance, I’m also disappointed that we never do find out how Dae Young’s college buddies are doing, in the present timeline, particularly Byeong Sam (Kim Dong Young) our hidden chaebol heir. Of course, it’s possible that that reunion had been in the works, but then had to be scrapped due to Show suddenly getting 2 episodes of screen time sliced off.
Ultimately, am I sorry that I watched this installment of Let’s Eat? Well, no, I can’t say that exactly, because I do appreciate the chance to see Siksya-nim’s origin story. But I kind of also wonder whether we could’ve just made this a prequel instead, and kept our entire story in Dae Young’s twenties. That would’ve been more fun to watch, I think, and also, that would’ve let me imagine that Dae Young and Soo Ji are still enjoying life together in their thirties, romping through every mat-jib in Korea and beyond, enjoying food and enjoying love together, for a long time to come.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Rather uneven and lukewarm. A little underwhelming, in spite of its bright spots.
FINAL GRADE: C+