THE SHORT VERDICT:
This is a show that pretty much lives and dies by the combined charm of and chemistry between its OTP. Park Min Young is lovely and manages to come across as both relatable and aspirational, while Kim Jae Wook shines in his first romantic leading man role, which just happens to be that of the Perfect Boyfriend with the power to melt you into a puddle on a regular basis. The interactions between our OTP are a big highlight, from the very organic skinship – ranging from sexy sizzle to absentmindedly agreeable – to the wonderfully healthy conversations that they regularly share; a precious rarity in Dramaland.
Everything else is pretty much set-dressing for the main romance, but Show does a very solid job of making that set dressing generally pleasant and appealing, with a nice handful of likable secondary characters, a very pretty collection of OST tracks, and a keen spotlight on the fangirl experience.
Yes, Show does have its flaws, but that usually poofs away quite nicely, whenever the OTP shows up onscreen. It’s like magic fairy dust.
THE LONG VERDICT:
I pretty much felt peer-pressured into checking this show early, you guys. See, from the time this show first started airing, my Twitter feed was so flooded with screenshots, gifs and all sorts of associated spazz over The Cute and The Swoony, that I literally couldn’t dodge them fast enough.
To save myself from being overly spoiled, I decided to dive in to check out this show earlier than I usually would, just to be able to browse my Twitter feed without feeling the need to ninja through everything (and not even successfully at that, heh).
Now that I’ve emerged from the other side, I’m happy to say that diving in early to soak in the feels was an Excellent Decision.
Yes, there is some lens adjustment that’s necessary, and Show does have its share of shortcomings, but overall, this one was a very pleasant watch indeed.
ADJUSTING THE LENS
My personal experience with this show does lean on the slightly patchy side, which is why I think some lens adjustment would be helpful.
Show feels fun and zippy right away in episode 1, and a little cheeky as well. Plus, Deok Mi’s character (Park Min Young) resonates with the fangirl in most of us. Many of us have jobs where we need to appear professional, and we do that, and then fangirl in the privacy of our own time. Deok Mi’s kinda like our inner super fangirl, and to have a classic rom-com story revolve around someone that we see as a representation of ourselves, is just too juicy to pass up.
However, it soon became clear to me that Show is really most interesting when the spotlight is on the OTP. And the burgeoning OTP connection doesn’t get going in earnest until about the episode 4 mark, when because of situational demands, Deok Mi and Ryan (Kim Jae Wook) are thrown into close proximity and their chemistry starts to show some sizzle.
Which means to say, hang in there for the first few episodes at least, to see if you’ll like this one. And then if you stick around, just know that Show can sometimes lean flat and uninteresting when the spotlight isn’t on the OTP. On the upside, when the spotlight is on our OTP, things sparkle and baby unicorns dance in the clouds. Happily, Show knows to play to its strengths, and therefore we get quite lot of that OTP sparkle, on a regular basis.
STUFF I LIKED
Kim Jae Wook as Ryan Gold
Kim Jae Wook is pitch perfect as Ryan Gold, who is a strong contender for possibly the most perfect boyfriend that Dramaland has ever served up.
Ryan does come across as cocky and aloof when we first meet him in episode 1, but it soon becomes clear that he does have reasons to not be super happy in general. Additionally, we also soon see that Ryan is a good and decent person despite not being chipper and friendly. That did a lot to endear him to me, early on.
The deeper we get into our story, the more Kim Jae Wook’s personal charm comes into play, and his brand of tender smolder is so sensuous, and the way he handles all the skinship is just so deft yet gentle, that it’s really quite mesmerizing to behold. For the record, I couldn’t help flailing on a regular basis, and melting into giant puddles of breathy squee. *hearts in eyes*
Ryan as a character, Kim Jae Wook’s delivery of him, and the part Ryan plays to make this story’s OTP relationship special, were all absolutely big highlights of my watch.
There are a lot of things that I enjoyed about Ryan, and here are some of my personal highlights.
E1. Ryan’s reaction when he thought that Sun Joo wanted the suite for a forbidden tryst with her lesbian lover, and the way he berated himself for being discriminatory, and then approached her to let her have the room, really shows the kind of person he is – or at least, wants to be. I like that a lot.
E1. The terror in Ryan’s eyes when he sees the fangirls and fanboys stampeding towards him at the airport is pretty great. Poor guy.
E3. I really appreciate Ryan’s honesty. He could have easily kept quiet about his conversation with Director Eom (Kim Sun Young), and avoided apologizing to Deok Mi, but he brings it up and apologizes, out of a sense of responsibility. Respect.
E6. The moments when we see the appreciative glee with which Ryan secretly observes Deok Mi’s fangirl moments are my favorite things this episode. I love the idea that he’s just delighting in her. He finds her cute and amusing and he just enjoys seeing her be her secret self, lip syncing to her favorite song while working, or quietly responding to messages to her fangirl SNS, or secretly trying not to implode in the presence of her idol.
There’s something so pure about that. He doesn’t judge her for being a fangirl, nor deride it as something that’s beneath her dignity. Instead, he’s gently amused by her, and even cracks some of the broadest smiles we’ve seen from him in the entire show, while reacting to her just being her fangirl self, and that just melts me on the inside.
E6. The way Ryan runs after Deok Mi to apologize, chasing her down via SNS to the club, and then finally catching up to her at her house – that’s a lot of determination to apologize. Most people would try for a bit, and then postpone the sentiment if they can’t catch the person. But Ryan is so determined to apologize to Deok Mi, that he would go out of his way, and even literally run up the stairs until he’s out of breath, just to be able to apologize to her. Wow.
E7. I love the way Ryan looks at Deok Mi when no one else is looking, when she’s just doing her fangirl thing. That look on his face, as he stands above the event, just looking down at her in her fangirl clothes, taking pictures, is so gently appreciative and affectionate, with a touch of amusement playing at his lips. He just seems to enjoy watching her be herself, and that just gets me in the heart.
E7. Ryan gets pretty excited about becoming a VIP member of the fan club. That’s so cute. He’s just doing this to spy on Deok Mi, but his excitement is real, and it’s very cute.
E7. Ryan actively stopping Cindy (Kim Bo Ra) from catching up to Deok Mi at the fansign event, is proof that he’s protective of Deok Mi’s fangirl activities. He wants to let her continue enjoying her fangirl life. How sweet is that?
E8. The way Ryan looks at Deok Mi is really special. His gaze is gentle, a little lingering, a little affectionate, and then he looks away, because it was a stolen glance. Flail into a puddle of squee.
E10. I am actually touched at how Ryan pieces together that Deok Mi is really in bad shape. He remembers fragments of what she’s said in the past, including while in fan site manager mode, and realizes that if being around her idol is doing nothing to bring a smile to her face, that it’s really serious. That’s what makes him rush to her, never mind about the meeting.
I just love that 1, he remembers. He doesn’t hear something and forget; he takes it to heart and commits it to memory. That’s how important she is to him, and more than that, that’s how present he is. And 2, he puts her well-being first. If she’s not ok, then work can wait, even if it’s about a key exhibition that’s coming up. I like that a lot.
Park Min Young as Deok Mi
I really enjoyed Park Min Young’s turn as Deok Mi, our resident fangirl representative extraordinaire. I found Deok Mi likable, relatable, and really quite cute. I also really liked her kind and understanding streak, the more I got to know her.
On a visual note, I prefer Park Min Young’s vibe in this show compared to her styling in Secretary Kim. When we first meet her, she wears sleek pantsuits and an effortless-looking, elegantly low chignon. There’s something boss-lady about that that I dig; a bit of a masculine aura mixed in with the feminine, which I think is cool. Although Deok Mi wears her hair down and more skirts and dresses later on in the show, the pantsuits never actually go away, and I appreciate that little detail.
I love that Deok Mi is very competent at her job, and that it’s not a role which is traditionally viewed as female, like Park Min Young’s secretary role in Secretary Kim, for example. This curator job feels more gender-neutral, and I love that Deok Mi is kickass good at her job.
Somehow, I like that representation, of all the career professionals in our midst who are also fangirls. We’ve got doctors, lawyers, professors, and all manner of highly competent career women among our fangirl community, and I just like that shout-out, to prove that just because you have a demanding job, doesn’t mean you can’t also be a fangirl.
I like that Deok Mi is a strong woman with her own opinions, though that does get her into trouble sometimes, but more than that, I love that at her core, she’s very empathetic and kind. The more I saw of her, the more I could understand why Ryan would find himself falling for her. Very nice.
E2. I did think Deok Mi crossed the line while at work, coming up against her new boss the way she did. But, I also admire her for sticking to her guns and not accepting her job back, even after accepting his apology at the cafe. I like that she’s able to separate the two things.
E6. Drunk Ryan is the cutest thing; he’s so smiley and affectionate, all snuggly and handsy, trying to cleave to Deok Mi. Importantly, it doesn’t feel lecherous. He’s not coming on to her; he’s reaching out and opening up, and I love that Deok Mi instinctively understands this. She knows that he’s reaching out and being vulnerable, and she holds his hands and treats him with gentleness. How lovely. ❤
E6. Some people would lord it over someone else who’s just apologized to them, but not Deok Mi. I love that after accepting Ryan’s apology, Deok Mi apologizes too, because she realizes that she shouldn’t have entered his house without his permission.
E7. I find it amusing that Deok Mi is a fangirl through and through. She doesn’t even realize that she is nursing feelings for Ryan, until she finds herself applying fangirl behavior to photographs of Ryan. How apt!
E10. It amuses me that Deok Mi’s fangirl lenses are consistently at play, during the most important moments of her life. She wants to screencap, photoshop and gif all her romantic moments with Ryan. How quintessentially fangirly! But she doesn’t have to worry, the rest of the internet’s got that done for her already, hur. My Twitter feed has exploded with all the screenshots and gifs of all of their romantic moments that Deok Mi could ever want, lol.
E12. The moment when Deok Mi helps Ryan to make art, even though he’s struggling with the very act of putting pen to paper, is really sweet. She knows his struggle, but she doesn’t confront him with it. She just eases him into it, helping him enjoy it, helping him see that it doesn’t have to be that hard, all while being a ray of sunshine in general. My heart wobbled in Ryan’s place, for her gentle touch on this very delicate matter.
It’s no wonder that Ryan finally opens up to Deok Mi later in the episode, telling her about his struggle to draw, and his relationship with Lee Sol’s paintings. It’s significant to me that he tells her everything without holding back, and she didn’t even have to ask. Her actions have demonstrated to him that he can trust her, and that she cares, and that’s enough to gain her access to his deepest secrets. That’s literally one of my favorite things about Deok Mi.
E14. I like that Deok Mi supports Ryan through all of the Mom angst, and gives him the space when she sees that he needs it, but also seeks him out when she perceives that he needs her. It’s wonderfully healthy, and feels so refreshing to witness. Her approach with Ryan when it comes to the issue of his mom, is also distinctly space-giving. She brings him the paintings and invites him to piece together a larger meaning, instead of pointing it out to him herself.
She’s a natural encourager. She never pushes; instead, she’s gentle and patient in giving the other person space and time, while providing small nudges along the way. I love that about her. ❤
The portrayal of our OTP relationship
Watching this couple together was THE highlight of this show, for me.
Kim Jae Wook and Park Min Young share a chemistry that is wonderfully sparky, whether Ryan and Deok Mi are at loggerheads, or getting up close and personal (and kissy!). Beyond that, I love that the skinship they bring to the table feels so organic and real. No awkward manner hands here; this couple touches each other like they mean it, and that results in an OTP connection that feels real and lived-in, even during the times when writer-nim makes their interactions a little too healthy to be true.
Yes, you do need to get past the initial misunderstandings and resulting mutual resentment to get to The Cute, but the good news is, it doesn’t take very long to get there, and once you get there, The Cute really isn’t ever very far away.
It’s true that sometimes the OTP interactions are so healthy that they lean unbelievable, but in a drama landscape so full of dysfunction, I found our healthy OTP interactions refreshing and very welcome indeed.
Here’s more than a few personal favorite moments of mine, related to this very lovely OTP.
E2. I like the even though both Ryan and Deok Mi are opinionated and strong-willed, they both apologize when they realize they are wrong. That’s something that I really appreciate. After the big fall-out where Ryan fires Deok Mi, he goes to the cafe to apologize when he realizes that she wasn’t in the wrong. And after she nearly kills him after butting heads at the cafe, she sincerely apologizes when she realizes that it was much more dangerous to him than a mere prank.
I love that they both possess the courage and grace it takes, to admit it when they are wrong. There’s something so lovely and so refreshing about an OTP that doesn’t hesitate to apologize to each other. Healthy relationship dynamics for the win!
E4. I really liked the amusement park date, where Ryan and Deok Mi are hanging out together without Sun Joo (Park Jin Joo) tailing them. The real moments of camaraderie that they share feel precious, especially since Ryan appears closed-off to people otherwise.
E6. The mutual ribbing and one-upmanship between our OTP, as they hurriedly patch together an enhanced version of how they met, is quite funny. He’s amused and revels in making her cringe, while she accepts everything he says, her face struggling to hide her chagrin. Importantly, it all doesn’t feel malicious; instead it feels like amused testing and teasing, which I can get behind.
E7. I like that Ryan asks Deok Mi the questions that he needs to ask someone, but hasn’t. “Are you ok not living as an artist?”…”What did you do, when you couldn’t draw?” And her answers always seem to make him stop and think. It’s like she’s got stuff figured out that he’s still figuring out, and he regards her easily given answers, with deep thought. In this way, Ryan is opening a hidden part of himself to Deok Mi, without being explicit about it, and I like it.
E8. The fake kiss was annoyingly fake, but it is beautifully done, even though it’s all in her head. Slow, gentle, and sensuous, with her fingers touching his skin as her hands cradle his face, and his hands, slowly coming down from their surprised position, to undo the blindfold, so that he can gaze into her eyes. Flail.
E8. I love that Ryan’s already decided that he is very interested in Deok Mi beyond their fake relationship, and isn’t afraid to admit it when Eun Gi (Ahn Bo Hyun) presses him for clarification. And, Deok Mi is also clear about how she feels about him, and is even considering confessing her feelings to him. How nice, that they both have their feelings figured out early! If only Eun Gi and Da In (Hong Seo Young) weren’t so meddlesome, planting inconvenient fake thoughts into their heads.
E9. Deok Mi: “About being in a fake relationship with me,” … “Did you hate it that much?” … “Was it that hard and stressful to you? I was so excited and happy. What was so…”
Ryan: “Because it was fake. I hated it since it was fake.” … “I wanted to date you for real.”
Gentle, sensuous, swoony kisses. Flail. Puddle.
E10. O.mo.na. The way Ryan looks at her, so studied and so tender, just melts my insides. And the kisses. So gentle and tender, yet so hungry and persistent, like he could never get enough of kissing her. Augh.
And then, when they are interrupted by the sounds of the deliveryman, at a moment when almost every other male lead I can recall would be more likely to stop, startled, and awkwardly deal with the delivery, Ryan pauses, considers his options, decides that nothing is important enough to make him stop kissing Deok Mi, and looking playfully – and meaningfully – into her eyes, takes her out of sight, where he buries himself in kissing her, leaning into her like every fiber of his being craves her closeness. My insides. They have melted into a molten puddle.
E10. The way he touches her is so assured, like she can trust those hands to carry her, and to hold her, and to touch her. Flail. The casual and yet so natural way that he puts his arm around her in the bus, to pull her closer to himself, is so melty to me. And he touches and handles Deok Mi preciously, too. I love the way he tends to kiss her on the forehead when saying goodbye to her. It feels so sweet and pure.
E10. I love the sweet and playful vibe that we immediately see between our newly minted couple. There’s bashfulness too, but mostly, there’s a distinct air of ease between Ryan and Deok Mi, even as she cutely pouts and denies that the rumble they just heard had been because she was hungry.
E10. The kiss on her hand, then the kiss on the inside of her wrist. Arsgkjhlskjdh skhsdfjh. So quick and playful, but at the same time, so sensuous and alluring. My nerve ends have all been electrocuted.
E10. Aside from the skinship, I must admit that I like the way both Ryan and Deok Mi handled the sensitive topic of Eun Gi and Da In this episode. Ryan highlights to Deok Mi that Eun Gi might not feel the same way about her and she does about him, without specifying anything that he’s already heard from Eun Gi, and Deok Mi does the same with Da In’s position with Ryan. It’s thoughtful and respectful, and handled with a light touch, which implies trust that the other person possesses the wisdom and sensitivity to know what to do with that gentle heads-up. I liked that.
E11. I liked the mutual confessions at Ryan’s apartment, because even though it all starts a little ominously with both parties wearing dark expressions, it soon lightens up with candid confessions, honesty and OTP cuteness.
Ryan teasing Deok Mi about how Shi An’s thighs make her life better, and how Shi An’s clavicles are sexy is such a riot, made especially ironic by the fact that Ryan’s own very sexy clavicles end up on display. Rawr. Also, cuddles! I do like that when Ryan holds Deok Mi, there’s always an all-in, unreserved quality about it. His arms go all the way around as he pulls her close to himself. There’s no courtesy gaps or arms’ lengths about this, and I dig it.
E11. That final scene, of Ryan going to see Deok Mi in the middle of the night, and Deok Mi goes after him with a back hug, telling him it’s ok to cry, is quite lovely. The way Ryan sinks into her arms, wrapping his arms around her, and burying his face in her shoulder, as the tears fall, is so poignant. He really needed to hear that, and to hear that from Deok Mi, who is so ready to hold him, is clearly a balm for his hurting soul.
E12. I enjoyed watching Ryan and Deok Mi hang out together through the night, as Deok Mi’s way of helping Ryan feel better after his bad dream. I like that she makes him laugh, and that the vibe between them is so casual and playful, with just the right light touch of tenderness from time to time, like when Deok Mi kisses Ryan’s wrist because he complains that it hurts too much to be hit, and when Ryan gently puts the covers over a sleeping Deok Mi.
E13. While I am not a huge fan of the arc regarding Ryan’s lost mother, I do appreciate that writer-nim gives it the same refreshingly honest treatment as we’ve seen in the OTP arc. Not only does Ryan share his angst with Deok Mi, they have open and honest conversations about it, and she agrees to give him space to think. Plus, they even sincerely thank each other, for being open and for being supportive, respectively.
On top of that, there’s an affection and a cozy vibe that flows between them, even through the conversations about personal angst. I mean, it just feels so refreshingly wonderful, to see a couple talk in such a healthy manner, because kdrama tradition would have the OTP hiding all of this from each other and not talking about it, and being nobly idiotic about it, to boot.
E13. Similarly, I’m just quite ecstatic, that with Deok Mi’s encouragement, Ryan goes right to Mom (Lee Il Hwa), and reveals his identity to her, in the most thoughtful, non-confrontational way. He shows her the paintings of hers that he’s acquired, and then asks, haltingly, if she might remember the name Yoon Jae. Oof. The tears in his eyes, and the tears in her eyes, speak so eloquently of just how much emotion is in each of them, regarding this thing. So bittersweet.
E14. That moment in the beginning of the episode, where Deok Mi plays with Ryan’s hair while he lies on her lap, feels very organic and believable. That’s the kind of small detail that makes me believe that this couple has spent a lot of time together and is very comfortable expressing affection for each other.
E14. I very much appreciate how Deok Mi encourages Ryan to push past his mental block with painting, with invitations to make baby steps. First, the tracing of hands, and now, the tracing of her profile. She makes it simple and much easier for him to take those baby steps, and she’s encouraging and gentle all the way. Her understanding and care is so clear, it’s no wonder that Ryan is moved to express his love for her. The consummation of the relationship feels like a natural next step, after such a momentous, vulnerable milestone.
Park Jin Joo as Sun Joo
I’ve had a soft spot for Park Jin Joo for some time now, and I really enjoyed her as Deok Mi’s bestie Sun Joo. I love that Sun Joo is a strong, sassy woman. She cares deeply, but also clearly knows where to draw the line, and has no qualms drawing it. Like the way she knows in episode 2 that she can’t do anything more to help Deok Mi, except to spend time and money on her.
I also appreciated that Sun Joo represents the fangirls in our midst who’ve had to moderate their fangirling due to family responsibilities. I liked that even though Sun Joo’s a mom now and therefore can’t fangirl as much anymore, that she is still a diehard fangirl at heart.
[MINOR SPOILER] I found it amusing, but so true-to-life, when Sun Joo becomes a Joo Hyuk (Yoo Yong Min) fangirl when she sees him onstage with his guitar. It’s true, and we all know it: you don’t choose to fangirl someone; the moment just hits you like a ton of bricks and you get sucked in against your own will. [END SPOILER]
Deok Mi’s friendship with Sun Joo
From the get-go, I loved Deok Mi’s friendship with Sun Joo.
I love that they are so close and share their fangirl love for their idol. And I love that even though Sun Joo’s married and has a child, it doesn’t change their friendship. Even better, I love that while Sun Joo gets envious of Deok Mi’s fangirl adventures, she doesn’t begrudge Deok Mi the fangirl experience even though she herself can’t partake in them. Instead, she chooses to live vicariously through Deok Mi, which is quite lovely, I think.
Through thick and thin, these two are always there for each other, and I shipped these besties with all my heart. ❤
[SPOILER] In particular, I love the time in episode 2, when Sun Joo drops everything and goes out of her way to take Deok Mi on an idol pilgrimage to cheer her up. That is really sweet. These two are so close that I can believe that Ryan would mistake the two for lovers. [END SPOILER]
Kim Mi Kyung as Deok Mi’s mom
Kim Mi Kyung is always wonderful, and I loved her as Deok Mi’s mom. Even though Mom is a secondary character, she is shown in such a sweet and caring light that I couldn’t help but love her.
E9. The way Ryan blossoms when Mom showers her love and care on him is very touching. It feels like Mom’s warmth is just melting away all the loneliness that Ryan’s accumulated over the years. Which is lovely.
E11. Mom arriving at Deok Mi’s apartment and beating her up for still being a fangirl, and Ryan stepping in to save her, is rather amusing. I do love that Ryan outs himself as Deok Mi’s boyfriend, and assures Mom that he knows about Deok Mi’s fangirling life and likes her just as she is. Mom attempting to explain away Deok Mi’s fangirl memorabilia as hers, just after beating Deok Mi for it, is so funny, and also, so sweet and motherly.
E11. I really appreciate how Mom just takes in Hyo Jin as if she’s a lost duckling, and treats her like some kind of surrogate daughter, even thought they’ve only just met. How very kind and compassionate and loving. ❤
Kim Sun Young as Director Eom
Kim Sun Young is another favorite of mine, and probably because she’s mostly cast in more serious, down-to-earth roles, I found it a complete riot to watch her as drama queen Director Eom. Kim Sun Young really hams it up in this role, and I just found it hilarious to see her act all snooty and extravagant, when she so often plays the opposite type of roles. Very nicely done!
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Like I mentioned earlier in this review, Show isn’t perfect by any means, and there are a number of things that I didn’t enjoy so much, during my watch.
Here they are, for the record. That said, whatever missteps I might feel Show makes, the moment the spotlight turns to our OTP and showcases their adorable and healthy interactions, I can’t wipe the goofy grin off my face, so these things didn’t negatively impact my experience of this show too much.
Some of the Intended Funny didn’t work so well, for me
Show has a comic bent, which I’m not opposed to. There were occasions when I felt suitably amused. But, there were also times when Show’s Intended Funny just didn’t work for me.
This was not a huge downer, but here’re a couple of examples, just for the record:
E3. As cute and funny as it’s supposed to be, I couldn’t help cringing at how Deok Mi basically implodes and has an internal meltdown while visiting Shi An (One, aka Jung Jae Won), and then proceeds to talk lovingly to his bathroom fixtures, saying that they’re so lucky to see Shi An everyday. Uh. That was just too much for me, honestly.
E6. Ryan grabbing Shi An’s face in desperation, to get his final answer about Shi An’s mole to pass the fan site VIP members’ test, is hilarious, but also, so awkward to watch. Eep.
Sometimes, things feel a little off, to me
Specifically, there’s one narrative arc early on in our story when a lot of things felt, well, not quite right, to me.
Deok Mi basically has a really bad couple of days this episode, and it wasn’t fun watching her suffer. I get that we’re supposed to be wowed by Deok Mi’s grace and empathy when she lets the fans go after they attack her, but man, they were really quite vicious. And to have Deok Mi say that she understands why they would feel like they had no other option but to behave that way, I just.. can’t. There’s a difference between understanding why people behave a certain way, and condoning bad behavior. I feel like those fangirls should’ve suffered more for their attack on Deok Mi. That, or have done more to clear the air for her, after meeting her and realizing that they’ve been mistaken about her.
There’s something off-kilter that niggles at me this episode, and I think it has to do with how bad fan behavior is normalized. The way the netizens pounce on Deok Mi, both virtually and in real life, is lightning-fast, vicious, and ruthless. And to have that normalized as an expression of broken hearts because of perceived broken promises between them and Oppa, is just disturbing to me. Especially when that comes from Deok Mi, who’s the victim.
While I get that Deok Mi is supposed to come across as long-suffering and resilient, I have to say, she does come across as a bit of a Candy this episode, with so many bad things happening to her, and her just.. taking it. It was too saintly of her to be that gracious to her attackers, and it was also too saintly of her to pretend that she wasn’t bothered by the slap she received from Director Eom, and it was kind of too Candy-ish for her to put on a smile in spite of it all. And the foolhardiness of walking alone at night when she already knows that upset fans are targeting her, just adds to the Candy flavor.
Added up, this narrative arc just didn’t work very well, for me.
The time Show made me uncomfortable [SPOILER]
Specifically, I didn’t like the idea of Sun Joo making Joo Hyuk wear flower garlands and bunny ears while he works, in episode 7. Yes, she means it as harmless fun, but it makes him uncomfortable, and I think people wouldn’t be as amused with this, if the genders of these characters were reversed.
Some narrative arcs feel unnecessary &/or tropey
I get that dramatic tension is necessary in order to make our story more engaging, but even after adjusting my viewing lens for tropes, there were some things that felt quite unnecessary.
Specifically, the fake relationship breakup in episode 8 feels unnecessary. Of all people, I thought Deok Mi would clue in to Ryan’s different intentions, the moment he grabbed her hand, because she understands what hand-holding means to him. This arc felt like filler, put in just to create some angst, so that the OTP reunion would feel elevated.
I also didn’t care for the Strong Childhood Connection trope. In episode 12, the quick scene of Deok Mi having a forgotten memory flash into her mind, gave me Secretary Kim vibes, where her character also dealt with forgotten memories. While I’m grateful that this doesn’t end up becoming too big a piece of our story, it did make me wonder if this gave Park Min Young déjà vu, and whether she actually has specific rehearsals for remembering forgotten memories, like, “this is my remembering forgotten memories face,” ha.
QUICK SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Because kdramas just seem to have some deep-seated need for childhood connections and childhood trauma, it all rears its head in this show too. But, I very much appreciate that the angst is not dragged out across multiple episodes. Instead, the angst is short-lived, AND, it’s dealt with by our characters with grace and forgiveness.
This episode, I feel like I watched multiple examples of healthy conversations, modeled for us to learn from. And while this might lean treacly for some, I can’t say I’m upset by it. In a drama landscape where we see so much dysfunction and angst, it actually feels refreshing to have healthy conversation, grace and forgiveness take centerstage and remind us all, that we can choose to live that way too.
Ryan arranging for Deok Mi to have her own private fan meeting with Shi An on her birthday, takes the cake for understanding and supportive boyfriend of the year.
I also really enjoyed the tentative steps that Ryan and his mom take towards rebuilding their relationship. I love that they lean into the awkwardness and embrace addressing each other as mother and son, instead of avoiding the issue.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Unsurprisingly, Show stays true to itself and keeps the finale hour mostly dedicated to fanservice. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Even though my interest in this show had mellowed by the last stretch, I’d developed an affection for this cast of characters, and I was a little sorry to say goodbye. The finale hour was an easy, sweet watch that eased the wistfulness of saying goodbye, while also managing to tie just about everything up in neat, happy bows, before the final credits.
The exhibition that our team has been working on all series long finally launches, and Ryan and Deok Mi are shown enjoying the fruit of their labor, while reminiscing via flashbacks to key scenes, the key milestones of pulling the exhibition together, which also coincide with key milestones in their growing connection. It feels like a lovely note on which to bring everything full circle, and, I think, also makes the writing appear that much more purposeful, because it feels like everything that came before, were seeds mindfully planted, for this moment.
One of my favorite highlights of the exhibition, was finally seeing Lee Sol’s paintings put together as a whole, and having Ryan enjoy the momentous occasion with his mom and brother. To have Deok Mi, secret paparazzi-level photographer extraordinaire, capture the moment for them, feels like icing on the cake.
Another moment I really liked, was the conversation between the mothers. Deok Mi’s mom is ever sorry for having abandoned Ryan back in the day, but Ryan’s mom is ever grateful to her, for caring for Ryan as she did. It’s a lovely, poignant moment where both mothers choose together, to forget the bitter, and focus on the sweet, and I liked that a lot.
Just as Ryan starts to paint seriously again, Deok Mi receives an offer to work in New York for a year. She decides to leave for New York, and requests that Ryan go with her, so that he can make a proper comeback as an artist. Ryan agrees, and soon after, gets down on bended knee to propose, which Deok Mi gladly accepts.
One year time-skip later, Deok Mi returns to Korea as Cheum Gallery’s Vice Director. We also learn that Sun Joo’s expecting another baby, and that Eun Gi’s maybe-kinda dating Hyo Jin, both of which are cute and happy things.
Ryan surprises Deok Mi back at the little alleyway where they’d first posed for paparazzi couple pictures, and tender, unhurried kisses ensue. All in all, a very sweet note on which to leave the sweet couple that’s been at the center of this drama all along.
While some viewers have articulated that they would’ve liked a Big Reveal, where Deok Mi comes out as the super fangirl that she is, I’m ok with Show choosing not to go that route. After all, this show is titled Her Private Life, and while Deok Mi’s certainly grown more comfortable in her fangirl skin over the course of our story, and would very likely own her fangirl identity with pride now if push were to come to shove, I rather like the idea that she can choose to still keep that part of herself private, if she wants to.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Sweet and fluffy, like cotton candy.
FINAL GRADE: B++