THE SHORT VERDICT:
A dark horse of a show that took a tiny bit of getting used to, but eventually surprised me by sneaking under my skin to grab my heart in a big way.
Search: WWW truly is a rarity in Dramaland. First of all, it’s women-centric and puts the spotlight on the relationships among our main female characters, which in itself is a big plus. But even more surprising than that, is that while each of our 3 main ladies has her own loveline with a perfectly matched love interest, those romance arcs never take centerstage in our narrative, even at their most melty. Instead, the romances are positioned as just one aspect of our women’s very full lives. Seriously, how refreshing and cool is that?
Thoughtfully written, solidly directed, and brimming with consummate performances by the cast, this is one drama that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
THE LONG VERDICT:
When this show was first announced, I have to confess that I didn’t find the description immediately compelling. I mean, thirtysomething career woman who works at a web portal meets a gifted composer, who falls for her? ..It just all sounded rather.. pedestrian, y’know?
Well, whaddya know. This show turned out to be anything but pedestrian, and I’m very pleased about that indeed.
Show’s biggest strength, I think, is its portrayal of strong female characters, which isn’t done quite enough in Dramaland. That alone made me a very happy camper during my watch.
As a secondary bonus, I found that I felt a sense of familiarity to the topic of web portals, web searches and all the ethics around it, kinda-sorta how I felt a sense of familiarity with Her Private Life. With Her Private Life, it was because I recognized the spotlight on the fangirl experience, which is so central to our community. In Search WWW, it’s because so many of us spend so much time online. This entire blog is an online endeavor of mine, after all. And I do spend a lot of time googling things, both for work, for the blog, and for personal interest. So I found the exploration of our drama world’s context an interesting and relatable endeavor, which was a nice bonus.
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 LIKED
Like I just mentioned, one of my favorite things about this show, was its habit of shining the spotlight on our female characters. In a similar vein, Show also takes the trouble to flesh out supporting characters in meaningful ways, which in turn also gives some of these supporting characters their moment in the spotlight. It’s all very heartwarming and uplifting at its core, and I like it a lot.
[SPOILER] As an example, I love how Show gives the hero slo-mo strut to characters who would be unlikely to receive similar treatment in a different, more traditional drama world. In episode 13, first, we have Brian (Kwon Hae Hyo) making his re-entrance as CEO, all hero-esque and badass, despite him being more of a fuddy-duddy amiable ajusshi than a dashing demigod. And then we have our 3 key female characters, all strutting like badasses in their own right. Ta Mi and Hyun (Im Soo Jung and Lee Da Hee) as Brian’s wing-women, and Ga Gyeong (Jeon Hye Jin), making her entrance as Unicon’s new CEO. So fearless and badass. So. many. hearts. in my eyes, y’all. [END SPOILER]
Honestly, because Show does such a nice job of fleshing out our characters, it’s quite impossible for me to cover them all in a single review. Instead, here’s my best attempt at a fairly sprawling spotlight on the main players in our drama world.
OUR THREE MAIN PLAYERS
Im Soo Jung as Ta Mi
If you guys read my fairly recent review of Chicago Typewriter, you might remember that I didn’t enjoy Im Soo Jung very much in that show. In fact, I felt so meh about her character and her delivery in Chicago Typewriter, that I started out quasi-avoiding Search WWW because of that spillover meh-ness, combined with the knowledge that Im Soo Jung is pretty much headlining this drama.
I’m happy to report that that meh feeling towards Im Soo Jung or her character Ta Mi did not surface for me during my watch of this show. I never felt opposed to Ta Mi as a character, even when I saw her doing things that I might not suggest myself. Instead, I always had a measure of respect for her, for her competence at work, and her strong beliefs in and outside of work.
I think that’s one of the key things I like about this show, actually. Even when our key characters are presented as imperfect, and sometimes (or oftentimes, depending on the character) display unlikable behaviors, there was always something I could respect about them, and that something almost always had to do with competence and guts.
During my watch, I very much enjoyed getting to know and understand Ta Mi as an individual, and I found to my happy surprise, that I even liked her quite well, by the time I got to Show’s end. And I found myself rooting easily for Ta Mi, as she learned to rely and depend on others, and let go of her self-imposed loneliness.
E1. I haven’t developed a liking for Ta Mi, but I do appreciate that she’s competent and bold when it comes to work. She doesn’t hesitate to sharp shoot with her sunbae Ga Gyeong when she believes that the wrong thing has been done. At the same time, she is quick to stand in solidarity with Ga Gyeong against an outsider. She is clear that they need to present a united front to the outside world, and she does that, and effectively too. That takes a very clear sense of values, I think.
E2. I do like that Ta Mi is more likely to come back with a sharp, straight-shooting line of cutting dialogue, than to cower in front of an aggressor. She’s able to think clearly on her feet, and it’s very satisfying to watch. When Assemblyman Joo (Choi Jin Ho) faces off with her in the hallway and taunts her about her greed, she owns the greed, and then points out that his lust is illegal, before informing him that she wishes that he will not enjoy a single day of happiness. She might as well have exited with guns blazing; that was so sharply sliced and diced.
E2. I also like that Ta Mi’s more likely to stand up and face a tough situation than turn away from it. When Cha Hyun puts her foot down and refuses to work with Ta Mi, Ta Mi simply gets up, chases her down, and talks it out with her, doing whatever it takes to get things moving, even if it means accepting a dare to achieve #1 for Barro within 6 months, or quit. Ta Mi’s quite the ballsy, grab-the-bull-by-the-horns kinda woman, and I hafta admire her for that.
E3. Ta Mi’s statement that she was at her worst that night, and the only other person who shares that memory is Mo Gun (Jang Ki Yong), rings true-to-life, for me. She wants to run away from that memory which she disdains, but she can’t, if Mo Gun’s always around her.
E5. I knew in my gut that Ta Mi wouldn’t give herself special treatment just because she could, and girl proved me right. The way she allows herself to be given the same treatment that she’d argued for, for Han Min Kyu (Byeon Woo Seok), and just leave her name as trending on the search ranking, even though the gossip isn’t true, really shows that she is genuine in championing her core values. And you can see the respect rise in Hyun’s eyes too, as she realizes this.
E5. Ta Mi sure isn’t one to take things lying down. When Jin Woo (Ji Seung Hyun) gives her money and patronizingly declines to apologize and tells her not to be a prude and just take it, she takes things into her own hands. Yes, it’s illegal for her to destroy his car, but he’s done something just as illegal to her too, arguably more so. It’s clear that Jin Woo won’t report her to the police since that would just implicate his own crime, but I have a feeling that Ta Mi might’ve chosen to destroy his car even if she had to risk a criminal record for it.
E6. I like how Ta Mi defends Ah Ra (Oh Ah Yeon) in front of the snooty Count Kim, and then gives Ah Ra her own bag, to encourage her and console her.
E6. I appreciate that to Ta Mi, this romantic diversion with Mo Gun is not the be all and end all of her existence. She’s more interested in work and the consistent returns that it gives. She’s also wary of getting her heart broken. But just because Mo Gun is melty and just because things get swoony when they are in close proximity of each other, this loveline still isn’t the central arc of this story, just like her love life isn’t the main arc of Ta Mi’s life. I rather like that.
E7. Ta Mi’s taking some real steps to let people closer, this episode. First, officially accepting Mo Gun into her “fish tank” and agreeing to adjust her behavior and treatment of him accordingly – and then actually making efforts toward it, by looking him up when she’s feeling down, and telling him how she feels. And then second, taking Hyun’s opinion seriously and respecting Hyun’s wishes even though Ta Mi herself would rather poach Count Kim because that would reap more results. That’s nice to see.
Jeon Hye Jin as Ga Gyeong
I wasn’t familiar with Jeon Hye Jin as an actress before Search WWW, and now that I’ve seen her in action, I am duly impressed. I mean, when I looked her up and realized that I’d seen her before in Misty, I was floored, because what I saw of her character in Misty (I never did end up finishing Misty) is so different from her character here, that I would’ve never placed her on my own.
I really enjoyed Jeon Hye Jin in the role of Ga Gyeong, and I really appreciated the character of Ga Gyeong as well.
I loved Jeon Hye Jin’s very subtle and nuanced delivery of Ga Gyeong. Ga Gyeong is presented as a woman of few words, and a woman who holds her cards and her true feelings very close to her chest, not revealing them easily to the people around her. Jeon Hye Jin’s skill in her faceted delivery made me feel like I was able to at least catch glimpses of any internal conflict that Ga Gyeong might have been feeling, at any given moment.
As a character, Ga Gyeong is not immediately likable, and through most of our story, Ga Gyeong regularly does things that are, shall we say, not nice. Yet, I always found her compelling, and even when I didn’t agree with her actions, I had to respect her gutsiness. Also, by the end of my watch, I found that I had actually grown to like Ga Gyeong, which is no small deal, considering that Ga Gyeong’s the kind of character who doesn’t seem to actually care whether people like her or not.
Here are some of my observations about Ga Gyeong.
E5. I also have to give it to Ga Gyeong. She’s ballsy. When her CEO (Yoo Seo Jin) asks if the rumor about Ta Mi is true, Ga Gyeong flatly says that it isn’t – because it’s about her. And without batting an eyelash, too. The woman has balls.
E6. Ga Gyeong seems pretty miserable even in her own closed-off aloof world. She’s being cornered by her mother-in-law (Ye Soo Jung), she’s always worried for her parents, and she’s in a marriage of convenience in which she seems to have no interest. I feel like she doesn’t quite like this version of herself either, and so I’m just waiting for something to change, for her.
E7. Ga Gyeong naming Hyun as her condition – ooh, that’s a low blow. She knows that this will put Ta Mi in a difficult position, and she goes for it, even though she knows that she’s also toying with Hyun’s feelings in the process. I feel like Hyun’s had something of a girl crush on Ga Gyeong all these years, and Ga Gyeong’s not above using it to her advantage. That’s cruel, and Ga Gyeong engages in all of the cruelty in such a languidly casual manner. But Ga Gyeong has one saving grace: she doesn’t pretend to be nice. She owns that she’s bad; worse than Ta Mi, and is unapologetic about it. There’s something very ballsy about that.
E8. I love that Ga Gyeong’s finally standing up to her mother-in-law. I have no idea where she thinks this will end, but I love that she’s not groveling, but standing her ground and speaking her case evenly.
E9. Ga Gyeong making a stand and refusing to kneel, telling her father to just accept his bankruptcy, and then announcing her decision to divorce Jin Woo, feels like the cusp of a whole new beginning for Ga Gyeong. It feels like she’s slowly lost herself over the years, bending to the whims and demands of her mother-in-law, and now, it feels like she’s finally taking a step towards finding herself again. I’m intrigued.
E10. Ga Gyeong getting all up in her CEO’s face is also very interesting. I want to say she’s being refreshingly fierce, but Ga Gyeong’s always seemed fierce, come to think of it. She’s just been more reticent about it, and now, she’s speaking up and ready to reach out and overtly kick some ass, even if it’s her CEO’s ass, and I’m waiting with bated breath, to see what she’ll do. She can be so intimidating when she wants to be. The way she stared down her CEO and walked her into a wall, felt almost masculine in vibe, like a man cornering a woman.
Lee Da Hee as Hyun
I have to tell you guys, I freaking love Lee Da Hee in this role. I have never seen her look so healthy, strong, and vibrant, and as Hyun, Lee Da Hee is, in a word, wonderful. Every time Hyun showed up on my screen and was her fabulous self, I found myself growing hearts in my eyes.
I love that Hyun is such a strong woman who is as much to contend with in personality, as she is in a physical fight. And I love that she’s never afraid to voice an unpopular opinion. I also love that she feels everything with such great intensity, and will throw her entire being into backing those feelings, even if no one else agrees with her. I found that explicit lack of need for approval very appealing indeed.
On top of that, Hyun also has her adorable, feminine side, which is as incongruous as it is fantastic. It’s wonderful that Hyun is such a multi-faceted character, and I am ever grateful that a strong woman like her is presented in such a positive light.
In short, I luff Lee Da Hee in this role, and desperately want more of her on my screen, preferably in Hyun’s skin, headlining her own spinoff drama.
E3. I have to give props to Hyun. She’s a woman who will not hesitate to stand up for herself, even if it means beating a groper to a pulp and then being charged for assault. She’d rather have a criminal record than let the groper get off with less than what she thinks he deserves, for daring to grope her butt. Fierce.
E4. Tee hee. I love that Hyun’s so addicted to and invested in that makjang drama that she literally yells at her screen on a regular basis. Plus, that makjang drama looks very entertaining. Makes me wanna watch it, ha.
E6. The way Hyun gets all upset that her favorite show is canceled is very cute. It’s every drama fan, represented. Heh.
E8. I love Lee Da Hee in this. I love that she looks strong and vibrant. I love that even though it’s clear that she’s got a bigger build than most of the other women in this drama world, she’s confident in her own skin, is fashionable and beautiful, and even a little bit scary to others because she can be passionate to the point of being aggressive. And underneath all of that, run endearing streaks like being a dedicated drama fan who really feels for her shows, and also, sometimes being shy in front of certain people, like the way she gets blushy and uncertain in front of Ga Gyeong. How fantastically faceted is she? <3
E11. Random note: I love that Lee Da Hee looks so healthy and fabulous in this show. She looks strong and healthy, and I love that they show her eating heartily. She’s wonderfully girly, fabulously womanly, but also, unflinchingly aggressive and masculine, when she wants to be. I love her.
E12. The message that Hyun composes for the shutdown of My Homepage is beautiful. So heartfelt, sincere and poignant, and so clearly and genuinely coming straight from the heart. If I was a user, Barro would have my whole heart, right there. I love that this messages showcases just how much heart Hyun puts into her work, and I love that even when it’s time to close a chapter like this, she’s able to express it in such a poignant, appreciative manner.
“My Homepage will be terminating its service as of September 1, 2019. It’ll become a part of history along with all your precious memories. During the remaining time, save all your precious data in your own private storage space. Don’t forget about all the amazing moments in life and cherish them with all your heart. We’re sorry that it cannot continue to be your lifetime companion. However.. We hope My Homepage will be a part of your memory when you look back and reminisce of the past. We are sincerely happy and honored My Homepage was able to be a part of your lives. We sincerely thank you for all the love you’ve shown.”
THE FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS
Strong female friendships have been showing up more in dramas in recent years, which is an excellent trend indeed. I’ve enjoyed female friendships in shows like Age Of Youth, Age Of Youth 2, and 20th Century Boy and Girl, for example. The strong friendship between the female leads in Chinese drama The First Half Of My Life is another firm favorite of mine.
I must say, though, that the portrayal of the female friendships in Search WWW takes it to a whole new level of intensity that feels new to me. The most similar platonic intensity I can think of, is the potent bromance in School 2013, where the sparks between Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Seok were so electrifying that to me, it rivaled – and surpassed – many a romantic loveline.
This treatment of the female friendships in Search WWW did take a little getting used to, for me, but it is absolutely a welcome thing in my books, that we get heady, electrifying female friendships on our screens.
Here are just a few general observations that I had, about female friendships in this show, before I deep dive a little bit, into the various woman-to-woman connections among our 3 main characters.
E11. It’s quite cliched that our main characters have childhood connections binding them together, but it is rather refreshing that this is between our female characters, and not between romantically involved characters. In this way, it feels like Show is using a drama trope to give significance to the relationships between these women, which are usually reserved for the OTP. Additionally, it was a nice 180, to have Hyun now take Ta Mi’s hand and walk with her, away from Ga Gyeong. That felt quite poetic.
E11. I love how all 3 of our female leads are beautiful women, and yet they each have certain ways of channeling their masculine power. The way Ga Gyeong walked the Unicon CEO into a wall. The way Ta Mi often wears the pants in her relationship with Mo Gun, while he’s the one afraid that she’ll abandon him. And the one I love most of all: the way Hyun seems to be consistently doing all the wrist-grabbing and swooping in to save the day.
E12. There’s a thing that Show does, which suggests romantic shades to the connections between our female leads. It’s the female equivalent of what I felt between Woob and Lee Jong Suk in School 2013. It’s platonic – technically – but it carries a lot of crackling tension that is very reminiscent of romantic or sexual tension. Here, it’s amplified even more because that connection crisscrosses among 3 women, and not 2. It’s a little amusing to me now coz I recognize it, but it’s no less heady and absorbing.
E12. Hyun dragging Ta Mi by the wrist, then ranting at her for allowing Ga Gyeong to treat her like that; that no one else but Hyun herself can beat down Ta Mi. But by episode’s end, we have Ga Gyeong approaching Hyun to ask if saying hello is ok, and to find out how much Hyun had liked her before, so that she can understand how much Hyun hates her now. And Hyun awkwardly tells Ga Gyeong that she’d never hated her, before scuttling away in embarrassment. In between, we have Ta Mi carrying a drunk Hyun home on her back, and then Hyun whines until Ta Mi agrees to sleep on the same bed with her. And when Hyun slurs that Ta Mi should sign the email release papers for Ga Gyeong, Ta Mi sniffs at the fact that Hyun is talking about another woman while lying in bed with her. There are shades of innuendo everywhere, but I’m not complaining, coz I really enjoy the intensity with which Show treats these relationships among our female characters.
Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong
I found the connection between Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong a fascinating one; in some ways they seem similar, and then at other times, they appear to be at complete opposites on the same matter. Through it all, the most compelling thing to me, is the reluctant bond between them.
More than once, they felt like estranged lovers to me; people who had gotten along really well, once upon a time, but who now have so much history and bitterness between them, that they can barely stand to be in close proximity of each other. But yet, they can’t seem to cut each other out of their lives either.
Every interaction between Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong is loaded with tension and unspoken meaning, and I never got tired of watching these two women spark off each other.
E2. Ta Mi coming face to face with Ga Gyeong feels more like the meeting of a show’s OTP, than Ta Mi’s actual meeting with Mo Gun. There’s a tension in the air, as they look at each other, that is decidedly more electric and dramatic than what we see between Ta Mi and Mo Gun. The energy between her and Mo Gun feels more casual and incidental with a touch of spark, maybe. The energy between Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong is terse and laden with emotional baggage and meaning. “I came because I thought you’d ignore my call.” That’s exactly the kind of thing that an ex-lover or estranged significant other says, when they show up your doorstep. But this is said by Ga Gyeong to Ta Mi. It’s no wonder I feel like I need to sit up and pay attention to this relationship.
E4. Both Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong have moments of regret, of having rejected the chance to change the search rankings, when Han Min Kyu attempts suicide. This feels somewhat like a moment of kinship, almost, for Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong, because in this moment, they both feel similar emotions in response to the same event.
And of course, the whole question of whether you feel the same, when it’s your name in the search rankings, will come up. But, I do agree with the principle of non-tampering. And we also see that there was a positive outcome of the kidnapping case that was trending; it was because of widespread public interest that the child was recovered.
E9. The confrontation this episode between Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong feels momentous and cutting, and this feels more important than just about any other confrontation we’ve seen in this show. Ta Mi practically slices out her words with a knife; she will find a better way to win and she will not stoop to Ga Gyeong’s level, and she vows to do it so well that Ga Gyeong will be ashamed of what she’s done this time. That is so badass, even though we can see that Ta Mi’s been hurt, and is still hurting. I do feel that her words rattle Ga Gyeong to some extent, even though Ga Gyeong continues to keep her even expression.
Ta Mi and Hyun
If the connection between Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong is like that of ex-lovers, then the interactions between Ta Mi and Hyun are like that of the typical rom-com OTP. There’s a meet-cute followed by bickering and conflict, but these two slowly come around to each other’s positive traits, and before too long, actual affection grows between these women, though they’d be more likely to deny it, heh.
I very much enjoyed watching this OTP-esque dynamic play out between Ta Mi and Hyun, and at every indication of closeness or acceptance on either side, my heart would do a little dance in celebration.
Here’s a small collection of Ta Mi-Hyun observations.
E3. While I appreciate Hyun positioning herself as the voice of reason to Ta Mi’s proposals, I don’t like her decision to oppose just for the sake of it. That doesn’t sound impartial or rational; that sounds prejudiced. Hm.
E4. I like that in this drama world, we do see people working. And in the course of the work that they do, we see personalities clashing, and different mindsets and world views coming into play. Ta Mi and Hyun clash over whether to remove Han Min Kyu’s name from the top trending list, and their differing reasons tell us a lot about them as individuals. For all her toughness, Hyun cares about individual rights and wants to protect the individual from being destroyed by the system. Even though Ta Mi appears softer, she’s able to look at things very rationally, and she is very clear on what the search ranking does or does not do.
I do understand where Ta Mi is coming from, though. It’s like how photographers and videographers who capture wildlife make it a principle not to interfere with the course of nature. If an animal gets hunted by another and dies, they don’t intervene to save the hunted; they only make it their job to capture it on film. They position themselves only as observers, so as not to disturb the workings of the ecosystem. I think Ta Mi’s position is similar. She sees that neutral stance of the search engine. They’re not there to save people or interfere; their search rankings only reflect the happenings of society – our ecosystem.
E5. I do love how impartial both Ta Mi and Hyun are; Ta Mi, in not excusing herself from the scathing spotlight of topping the search rankings, and Hyun, in not allowing her personal dissatisfaction with Ta Mi, to prevent her from telling Ta Mi that she doesn’t need to apologize coz it’s not her fault. I love that both women are women that I can respect.
E5. One of the biggest highlights this hour, is the way Hyun rises to the occasion and becomes Ta Mi’s wingwoman, chasing down the guy who faked the search rankings, threatening him, twisting his arm – well, his leg – and then showing up to destroy the car that belongs to the instigator. I love their slo-mo backlit badass couple walk. It’s totally inspired by Goblin, but this is even better; they’re waving weapons, instead of groceries. Ha.
E7. I did like watching Hyun and Ta Mi be a team this episode, with Ta Mi being Hyun’s wing woman when she went to see Dong Joo (Cho Hye Joo). The way they stop each other from getting too upset by the younger woman really makes me feel that they’re on the same side. Likey.
Ga Gyeong and Hyun
Still with the romantic analogies, the relationship between Hyun and Ga Gyeong fell somewhat into one-sided love territory for me. Much of the time, Hyun being so much in awe of Ga Gyeong made it feel like she was nursing a longstanding girl-crush on Ga Gyeong, who in turn nursed a large soft spot for Hyun.
I will say that this relationship was the one where I preferred it in concept more than in execution. Generally speaking, Show would do this thing, where we would be regularly served loaded crackling moments between our female leads. The thing is, the loaded moments between Hyun and Ga Gyeong didn’t land as well for me, as they did between Ta Mi and Ga Gyeong, and Ta Mi and Hyun.
[SPOILER ALERT] For example, in episode 3, having Hyun save Ga Gyeong from an oncoming motorbike, and then having both women stare into each others’ eyes is obviously gunning for a romantic spark sort of effect, but I found this more distracting than organic. In contrast, I’d found it more subtle and interesting when Ga Gyeong simply showed up outside Ta Mi’s apartment to talk with her. This felt too.. obvious and akin to a cheap shot? Farcical, almost. I didn’t like that so much.
However, I very much appreciate how Hyun’s regard and loyalty is shown to have a profound effect on Ga Gyeong, which we see play out in later episodes. [END SPOILER]
THE THREE LOVE INTERESTS
As I mentioned earlier in this review, each of our female leads has her own loveline. Given that this is a kdrama, this isn’t surprising at all. What is surprising, though, is how Show consistently demonstrates that romance is not the be all and end all of everyone’s lives.
Even when there are significant happenings in each of our relationships in an episode, it never actually feels like these romances are the Main Event. The episode’s main focus always still feels like the women themselves, and their individual journeys, which have so much more to do with self-discovery and self-realization and ambition and values, than it has to do with the men whom they have feelings for. How very refreshing, for a kdrama.
For example episode 14 is an emotionally challenging episode for a good number of our characters. But again, while the emotional challenges take full centerstage in the moment, I’m always clear that this is not the be all or end all for any of our women.
That is one of the things that makes these women feel real to me. We all go through emotional turmoil and heartbreak, but still, life goes on, and we live and learn, and that emotional turmoil becomes part of what makes us the people that we are. This feels true to that, and I like that a lot.
Because this story world is built in a way where our women are the key characters, it’s not unexpected that each of their love interests falls more into the realm of supporting rather than primary character. This took a little getting used to, for me, since the usual dynamic in kdramas, is for character rankings (of importance to the main story) to happen in loveline pairs. I’m absolutely not complaining though, coz it was really a refreshing experience to watch the story unfold in a way where our women were always the center of their own stories, regardless of how swoony or affecting the developments in their love lives were.
I’ll be talking more about each of the love interests in a later section where I explore the various lovelines in our story, but I thought I’d give the quickish spotlight to each of the love interests first, in this section.
Jang Ki Yong as Mo Gun
Before I started on my watch, I’d seen a great deal of, er, appreciation for Jang Ki Yong in his role as Mo Gun. Essentially, my Twitter pals mostly felt that Jang Ki Yong is very lovely to look at in this show, and also, that this role doesn’t demand much more from him than just showing up for a few minutes each episode to fulfill Show’s need for that hour’s eye candy.
I.. can’t say I disagree with that assessment too much, heh.
For a good chunk of our story, Mo Gun really does seem like an almost peripheral sexy character (and he does do sexy very nicely, ahem). However, to Show’s credit, Mo Gun does get more time in the spotlight as we get deeper into our story, and I found myself growing to understand him and sympathize with him, over the course of my watch.
Here are just a sprinkling of my observations of Mo Gun, over the course of my watch.
E1. Omo. Jang Ki Yong’s voice sounds really nice in this. Has his voice always been this nice? It’s deep and gentle. I like.
E1. Ha. I get what people mean by Jang Ki Yong’s role appearing to be that of a flower vase. He only appears for a few minutes this episode, and doesn’t do much except appear dreamy and flirt with Ta Mi. Not that I’m complaining. He does do dreamy and flirty very well.
E3. Ta Mi’s statement that she was at her worst that night, and the only other person who shares that memory is Mo Gun, rings true-to-life, for me. She wants to run away from that memory which she disdains, but she can’t, if Mo Gun’s always around her.
I do appreciate Mo Gun’s response. He’s disappointed but respectful. He doesn’t push the issue, and respects her decision. He even sincerely wishes her well, before they part ways. That’s gentlemanly and considerate, and I appreciate him in this moment, very much.
E4. I do like how straightforward and ballsy Mo Gun is. He cuts to the chase with Ga Gyeong and basically invites her to hire him back – and then offers plant advice. Plus there’s the thing where he refuses to take on a job that was given to him unfairly at the expense of another company. That’s principled, and I have to admire him for that.
E7. I like that Mo Gun openly tells Ta Mi that he’s upset that she’s been ignoring his texts for the last two days. I love that he’s so not playing games with her; he’s honestly being himself, and the cute pouty-ness is merely a side effect.
E8. Mo Gun is basically served up in a sensual, oiled-up, delicious and ready-to-be-eaten light each episode, and I love that he’s fully aware of it, and playing along – not out of vanity, but out of consideration for Ta Mi’s reservations about dating him.
E8. Can’t blame Ta Mi for oogling and drooling; Mo Gun really does look, uh, tantalizingly inviting, even as he stands around in her office, reading. I’m oogling and drooling a little bit myself, heh.
E10. Jang Ki Yong is great at playing a husky-voiced slightly sick but very endearing man-baby. He just feels so natural and so real; I can really believe that Mo Gun’s feeling a bit sick and down, and really just needs a snuggle and a hug.
Ji Seung Hyun as Jin Woo
No lie; I felt intrigued by Jin Woo from the minute I laid eyes on him.
First of all, he’s played by Ji Seung Hyun, who was the North Korean soldier in Descendants of the Sun, who managed to ooze so much screen presence and charisma in his relatively small supporting role, that I wanted to watch the North Korean soldier’s story in his own drama. The fact that Jin Woo is played by Ji Seung Hyun was an immediate brownie point in Jin Woo’s favor, in my eyes.
Second, it’s clear from the get-go, that Jin Woo seems genuinely interested in his wife, even though this clearly is a marriage of convenience, and Ga Gyeong seems to treat it as purely business. But it’s clear to see from his gaze and micro-expressions, that Jin Woo seems to long for a real connection with his aloof and distant wife.
Color me very intrigued indeed. Plus, I just couldn’t say no to the idea of the hot North Korean soldier man carrying a torch for his own wife, ha.
I’ll talk more about Jin Woo in conjunction with Ga Gyeong in a later section, but for now, here’s a small collection of my thoughts on Jin Woo.
E5. Jin Woo’s strong desire to protect Ga Gyeong, even if it means hurting an innocent bystander, is by turn despicable and compelling. It’s despicable that he doesn’t blink at hurting Ta Mi. And it’s compelling that he feels so strongly about Ga Gyeong, despite their frosty relationship, that morals don’t even seem to matter to him anymore.
E6. I’m very curious about Jin Woo holding a torch for his wife. Why is he so in love with her, if she’s never reciprocated? Does he just like aloof powerful women?
E7. Jin Woo telling Min Kyu that he’s doing all this out of pity for Ga Gyeong does give us some insight into what’s driving his actions. Although, I have to admit that his smoldering gaze whenever Ga Gyeong’s in the room tells me that there’s definitely more to this than just pity. Rawr?
Lee Jae Wook as Ji Hwan
Going in fairly blind (except for knowing that Jang Ki Yong was showing up in a mostly “flower vase” sort of way, I didn’t know much about how the other characters were supposed to match up), I was actually legit taken by surprise, when Ji Hwan turned out to be Hyun’s love interest in our story. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. I love how naturally random this loveline comes about, which I’ll talk more about later.
For now, I’d just like to applaud Lee Jae Wook for a very convincing, natural performance as Ji Hwan. I mean, he made Ji Hwan feel so real, in his unassuming, gentle, just-a-touch awkward glory. I would’ve never placed him on my own, as the very intense, slightly unhinged Marco from Memories of the Alhambra. Wowza. Talk about being a chameleon! And coming from a relative newcomer to the industry at that. I am suitably impressed.
I enjoyed Ji Hwan very much for his gentle hesitance and quiet patience, a far cry from the character he plays in the delicious-looking makjang drama-within-a-drama.
For all his quiet unassuming deference though, there’s definitely something more forward and daring within him, as we glimpse in my favorite Ji Hwan moment, which occurs in episode 10 when Hyun calls him in desperation and asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend in front of Ta Mi and her boyfriend.
Despite some desperate coaching by Hyun on what to say about their fake relationship, Ji Hwan chooses to go off-script and tells a version of events that’s much closer to the truth, much to Hyun’s surprise. I loved the shy honesty in his words, and I loved even more, that he tells it all with a wry sort of knowing smile playing at his lips. Sneaky and cheeky! In this moment, he doesn’t seem so intimidated by Hyun anymore, and it feels like he’s stepping up to claim the space opposite her as her romantic equal. I found that all rather swoony, to be honest.
THE THREE LOVELINES
Now that I’ve seen all three lovelines play out, I just wanted to say that I felt all three love interests were perfectly cast, and in the way they were each written, perfectly matched with each of our main ladies. I enjoyed all three lovelines for different reasons, and I very much appreciated that writer-nim took the trouble to flesh out all three of these, each in their own unique fashion.
Ta Mi and Mo Gun
If I had to categorize the loveline between Ta Mi and Mo Gun, I would say that this is the mature noona romance, where, beyond the initial heady attraction, our lovebirds realize that they have some very fundamental differences that need to be addressed, if they want to be together.
For a loveline that technically never takes centerstage (because, as we’ve established, the ladies themselves always are the ones in the main spotlight), this relationship manages to bring a great deal of feels with it. From the initial attraction, to the development of stronger, more enduring feelings, and every shade of chemical attraction in between, I found the interactions between Ta Mi and Mo Gun suitably engaging and absorbing.
Here’s a somewhat sprawling revisit of my observations of the development of this loveline.
E3. Ta Mi declining to get further involved with Mo Gun may seem harsh, but she makes a lot of sense. There’s not much room for growth for a relationship between them – in the traditional manner of speaking. Of course, we do see that beyond the rationality of her decision, her heart still leans in Mo Gun’s direction, with her thinking of him even in the midst of Barro’s all-important ad campaign. But she continues to exercise her head over her heart. The fact that she makes those choices, while being fully aware of how she feels, somehow makes me admire her.
E4. Although we get a lot of screen time between Ta Mi and Mo Gun, you can tell that in Ta Mi’s world, the emphasis is not on Mo Gun, no matter how heart fluttery his behavior is. Her focus is always more on work; the love interest is there, but he’s secondary. I rather like that, because, for a change, a drama is showing us that romance doesn’t have the be the center of a heroine’s world.
E4. Mo Gun and his interest in Ta Mi feels very much like a fairytale. He feels almost unreal in how sweet and gentlemanly and conveniently present he is. Plus, a 28-year-old man being that intently interested in a 38-year-old woman, is, honestly, quite unrealistic. But that doesn’t stop Ta Mi from not being much swayed by him, and it also doesn’t stop me from appreciating his perfectness and his sexiness, ha.
E4. The filling in of the run in Ta Mi’s pantyhose, which turns into a heart tattoo is cute and sexy. He’s so very flirty. “Don’t shower tonight either.” Pwahaha!
E5. We don’t get an explanation for how Mo Gun is able to reach Ta Mi in the network blindspot, but I get the message loud and clear: in a world where Ta Mi feels disconnected and alienated from everyone, it’s Mo Gun who’s able to break through the walls and reach her.
E5. I do appreciate that at Mo Gun’s house, during that very charged, electric moment, he chooses to seek her consent, instead of just moving in for the kiss, as many other men would. Also important, is that when Ta Mi declines his sexy invitation, he respects her decision and doesn’t press the issue.
E6. The way Ta Mi and Mo Gun circle each other is loaded with crackly tension. There’s always interest on his part, and a sort of cautious hesitation on her part; there’s also always a great deal of attraction on both parts. More often than not, I feel like Mo Gun could resolve the scene by moving in for the kiss, but he doesn’t. How refreshing.
E6. This episode, Ta Mi’s rattled enough to seek Mo Gun out, but I have a feeling that even after things become romantic between them, she’s still not going to allow her life to revolve around him.
E7. I sniggered aloud when Mo Gun got caught having primped himself to fake waking up fresh and handsome as a daisy, hur. That’s such a gender flip, since it’s usually the woman who’s portrayed as primping to show that “I woke up like this.” I love it. And I love that Mo Gun gets all peeved at Ta Mi for calling him out on it, instead of pretending not to notice, ha.
E7. Ooh, I do love that Mo Gun goes with Ta Mi in her car even though he’s tired and quite sleep-deprived, and even manages to hear most of what she has to say, before falling asleep. And when he wakes up, I love how he honestly tells her why he fells asleep, and then manages to prove that he was listening to her, almost all of the time that she was talking. My favorite part of this scene, though, is the way he asks her if she can drive with one hand, and then reaches for her hand. The way he takes her hand, intertwines his fingers with hers, and then gently rubs his thumb on the back of her hand, is just so cozy and intimate. Swoon. His languid joke, telling her not to get too excited coz he’s just consoling her, is just a gently sardonic cherry on top.
E8. I also love that Mo Gun’s honest, playful confession that it took a lot of effort not to hold her hand, has the inadvertent effect of getting Ta Mi’s heart into even more of a twist, heh.
E8. The conundrum that Ta Mi and Mo Gun wrestle with this episode, that they have different views on marriage – he wants it, she doesn’t – is an important discussion that I think not enough couples have. I prefer that they talk about it instead of glossing it over, and I like that they make every effort to do the right thing – she doesn’t want to waste his time; he wants to respect her wishes – and do the break up thing. It feels like the responsible thing to do.
But I have to confess, the way Ta Mi realizes she doesn’t want to let him go, and runs after him; the way they gaze, transfixed, at each other at the elevator door; the way he looks like he’s in some kind of wondrous, sensuous trance laced with caution and uncertainty and a little bit of fear; the way he finally asks if she’d like him to stay; the way she tells him yes, monosyllabic and a little undone by her emotions; the way he swiftly strides out of the elevator, takes her face in his hands, and kisses her. Augh. It’s all too much.
E9. It’s so breathlessly refreshing, to see Mo Gun holding back, uncertain and cautious, unwilling to move further with Ta Mi until he receives her assurance that she won’t abandon him the following day. Only when she tells him that she won’t change her mind about him the next day, does he release the tension that’s holding him back, and practically leap forward to take her face in his hands and kiss her. That emotional investment, coupled with that simmering sexual tension of him holding himself back, is a potent combination indeed. Swoon.
E9. It’s nice to see Ta Mi and Mo Gun enjoy the simplicity of time together, just hanging out at home and watching the rain, and chatting idly. It’s so simple, but so cozy. It really does feel like he’s part of her everyday life now.
E10. Aw, I had no idea Mo Gun’s nursing some old wounds. It makes a lot of sense now, why he’d have abandonment issues, if he’d been abandoned by his parents as a child. I can see why he’d be so adamant that Ta Mi not abandon him. In fact, a lot of things he’s said in the past now make sense, and Ta Mi sees that too. I do love that her reaction is to want to protect him more. And even though she did so while tipsy, I’m glad that she brought it up and talked to him about it.
E11. Mo Gun’s always been the source of release for Ta Mi, with him providing her a safe place to rant and be herself. Now, Ta Mi’s becoming his safe place too, with his family backstory coming to light. He doesn’t show it much, but he still has a lot of wounds related to be being abandoned, and it must have been quite a blow to see that his birth mom has another son, and not only that, but has saved him on her phone as a student. Ouch. I do appreciate that Ta Mi is able to discern that this not only upset him, but also wounded him further. I like that she wants to protect Mo Gun, in her own way. This makes the relationship feel more balanced and mutual.
E12. Hhnng. The way Mo Gun secretly kisses Ta Mi in the pantry – slowly, tenderly, deliciously – actually makes my insides tingle. Swoon.
E13. I understand why Ta Mi is holding back from her relationship with Mo Gun. She isn’t sure where this is going, and beyond the intoxicating feelings in the moment, lies the fact that he wants to get married and have kids while she does not. I can understand why she feels that she’s holding him back. Yet, he doesn’t want to let go. In a way, I feel that he’s refusing to seriously consider the future. He says that he just wants to know for certain that he will be with her tomorrow. Well.. what about several years from now, though?
E14. Mo Gun finally understands why Ta Mi’s been holding back in their relationship. I thought Ta Mi put it quite perfectly when they spoke about it, “The present might be most important to you, but the future is important to me… and your future is a part of mine now. Love doesn’t solve everything. Sometimes, it can ruin the life you’ve drawn for yourself. Your love might end up destroying the life of a loved one. Are you really okay with that? As the destroyer in this scenario, I’m not.”
Mo Gun’s been overly focused on the present, while Ta Mi’s been focused on the future. Yet, even though I think she put it so clearly here, it’s only when Mo Gun hears about why his mom left him at the orphanage does he truly comprehend where Ta Mi is coming from. In this sense, I feel like writer-nim really put a lot of thought into crafting this narrative. The very structure of Mo Gun’s existence was taken into consideration, to lead up to this point. Because of this, his conversation with his mom and the realization he takes from it, feels completely natural and organic, while being key to bringing Mo Gun and Ta Mi to the same page, finally. Finally, he understands her hesitation, and finally, he understands that even if he’s ok with it, it’s not ok that she’s not ok with it. Very nicely done.
The tears and sadness that both Ta Mi and Mo Gun express feels so real. The wistfulness, so palpable. Oof.
Ga Gyeong and Jin Woo
If I had to describe the loveline between Ga Gyeong and Jin Woo in the vein of categorizing it, it would be something like: contract marriage with a gritty, sardonic twist.
I found the connection between Ga Gyeong and Jin Woo very compelling indeed. Their marriage is all business on the surface, and things are kept so cleanly distant, aloof and business-cordial between them. Yet, there are definitely undercurrents of stronger emotions on both sides, more observably so on Jin Woo’s side.
Perhaps because they seemed to have been trapped in this marriage of convenience against their wills, I desperately wanted for them to break free from the family shackles that bound them. At the same time, because of the glimpses of genuine emotion for each other that we get peeks of from time to time, I wanted, equally desperately, for them to find happiness with each other.
That conundrum and tension between opposing interests kept me invested in this loveline all the way to the very end.
Here’s a collection of my thoughts on this loveline, as I watched the show.
E8. The fact that Ga Gyeong shows up at the race because she feels grateful to Jin Woo, tells me that she has some measure of affection for him, even if this is a marriage of convenience. I think, anyway.
E9. Ga Gyeong going to confront her new cousin-in-law, to the extent of pulling her hair, is all to protect her husband. Despite their very businesslike structure to their relationship, these two are fiercely protective of each other. That intrigues me. What do they really feel for each other?
E10. With the divorce issue on the table, things between Ga Gyeong and Jin Woo, oddly, seem to be amping up. He’s protecting her even more fiercely than before, and she’s being more vulnerable in front of him than before too. He’s also doing more personal things for her – bringing her to his private apartment, bringing her clothes, bringing her food, eating with her, and even joking a little bit, with her. It’s incongruous, but it’s also very heady. Finally, more of their real feelings are bubbling to the surface, and even though Ga Gyeong seems not to particularly wish it, Jin Woo is ingratiating himself into her everyday life right now, and I dig it. He looks happy to be around her, and she looks reluctantly pleased too.
E11. There’s a haunting sense of wistfulness in the air, even as Jin Woo tells Ga Gyeong that he got her flowers because it’s probably their last wedding anniversary. There’s so much history between these two, and yet, there’s also so little in the way of an actual relationship between them. They really feel like star-crossed lovers of some sort, unable to love each other because of the time and place in which they’ve been placed, but yet still sensing the deep connection that binds them together. It reminds me of Japanese stories of time-slips and parallel universes. Your Name comes to mind.
E12. How significant, that Ga Gyeong not just agrees to let Jin Woo sleep on the bed with her, but actually invites him into the room, when she sees that he’s uncomfortable on the couch. That’s significant, and their ruefully honest conversations just make me want these two to have a second shot at happiness with each other.
E13. Ga Gyeong crying at how her marriage is ending, and wondering if they really couldn’t have had a better ending, is the saddest moment this episode. I love the incongruity of how Jin Woo – the one whom she’s divorcing – is also the one holding her comfortingly, as she cries into his shoulder. These two care about each other in a way that seems to go beyond romance; there’s a kinship between them that I think they both treasure. I hope this isn’t the end for them.
E14. The way Ga Gyeong and Jin Woo stand united in the throes of divorce is incongruous and compelling. When he looks at her, there is an intensity in his gaze that speaks of a passion that’s never been given voice, and the way Ga Gyeong’s gaze consistently turn shifty under the heat of that gaze, tells me that at some level, she feels it too. When Jin Woo remarks that she doesn’t love him, Ga Gyeong doesn’t answer, but her gaze once again turns shifty; I feel like there are deeply felt emotions that she has for him, that also have never been given voice.
Hyun and Ji Hwan
I gotta say, this loveline is the cutest among the three lovelines in this show. This loveline leans closest to that of the conventional rom-com OTP, complete with meet-cute, awkward denial of feelings, and swoony-melty confessions.
Hyun and Ji Hwan make an adorable pair, and once Show introduced the idea of them being a possible couple, I could not get enough of them on my screen.
I loved following their journey, and sharing in all the heart flutters and confusion. This was a romance that I wanted to eat up with a spoon; it was just so charming.
E7. Hyun’s unexpected encounter with her regular makjang male lead is so cute. He turns out to be the opposite of his shitty screen personality, and is the most humble, endearing, gentle ball of warm sunshine. I can just feel Hyun becoming more protective of him, and I foresee more fun interactions between these two.
E8. Hyun’s connection with Ji Hwan is shaping up to be really amusing and cute. I love that the drama fan in her is able to concoct a script out of thin air, that would allow Ji Hwan to be written back into the show – and with an upgrade to male lead, no less. Just, so great. Hee.
E9. Hyun and Ji Hwan are very cute together. She gets all excited, passionate and earnest when it comes to the matters that have to do with him because her inner fangirl is activated, and all he sees is this very girly, enthusiastic version of her, and I can totally see him falling for her.
E10. Ha. I continue to love the makjang show within a show. Every time we see a scene from it, I feel like I want to watch that drama.
E11. Aw, the hesitant uncertainty between Hyun and Ji Hwan right now is very adorable. She thinks she’s getting the wrong idea; he thinks he’s getting the wrong idea; both of them reluctantly trying to stay in their lanes, when both of their hearts are wobbling seriously for the other person. Umph. I would love to see these two together.
That reflexive hug he gave her, because he was afraid that his acting out his evil twin role had startled her. That’s so caring, and also, it speaks of a closeness that he holds for her in his heart. In his heart, they are close, that’s why he was able to just reach out and hug her like that. But.. now that Ji Hwan is becoming a bigger star, wouldn’t this be scandal-worthy and thus get in the way of them actually being together, even after they’ve figured out that their feelings are mutual?
E12. It’s sweet that Ji Hwan knows right away that the coffee truck and the billboard are from Hyun. He’s so hopeful about her feelings for him, and she’s so unaware of that. She’s only thinking of what’s appropriate and what’s uncomfortable for him. I just want these two to adorkably date, they are adorable and awkward and so endearing together.
E13. What crummy timing, for Hyun and Ji Hwan. They haven’t even gotten to the point of confessing their feelings for each other, and Hyun’s being hauled off to the military. Even if they commit to a relationship now, they don’t have enough time to even really build a foundation for the relationship, before they have to part. That’s so sad. The wistfulness is palpable in both of them, as they consider the situation before them, and say goodbye. The saddest thing, I think, is, neither of them actually realizes that their feelings are mutual. Ack.
E14. Hyun is adorable, bursting into tears and bawling, “Don’t go!! Don’t go!!” after seeing Ji Hwan on TV. Their eventual confrontation in the subway lost-and-found is quite perfect, with Ji Hwan finally making his feelings known. He names all the things he does with and for her, and keeps asking, who does that for a fan? Yess.
E14. Hyun darting forward and planting a kiss on his lips, then getting all awkward and embarrassed about it, is adorkable, and the way Ji Hwan moves to kiss her back, is quite breathtakingly melty. The way his lips sensuously move on hers; the way his hand gently grasps her wrist and guides her hand, still holding his phone. Swoonn.
Kwon Hae Hyo as Brian
I really enjoyed Kwon Hae Hyo as Brian, Barro’s easygoing CEO. I was legit surprised by how much affection I’d accumulated for Brian, by the time I reached the end of my watch, considering the fact that Brian is a relatively small supporting character. But he turned out to be such a good, caring boss, that I couldn’t help but grow a big ol’ soft spot for him.
Here are a few of my favorite Brian moments.
E5. I like that Brian is a protective yet fair boss. When Ta Mi’s name gets raked through the mud, Brian stubbornly chooses to protect her under the shield of Barro’s name despite pressure from other members of the committee to disentangle the company’s name from the scandal. With that decision, Brian brought Ta Mi a good amount of comfort and protection.
At the same time, he’s clear about what hurts the company, so when Ta Mi says that she is going after the person who falsified the search rankings, he’s clear that this is where the company’s support ends. He is firm and fair, with a big heaping dose of compassion guiding his actions, and I like that.
E9. Brian taking the fall and resigning as CEO was a very responsible thing to do. That he did so with so much sincerity, personal ownership and humanity just took it to a whole other level. He’s so real about it all.
E13. I’m growing more and more affectionate of Brian. The way he nonchalantly admits that he knew that Ta Mi and Mo Gun were an item because they kept holding hands under the table when they met him, is so endearing and good-natured.
I love that he gets his suave hero moment at the end of the episode, when he announces that he will be reinstated as Barro’s CEO that day. The look on Kevin’s face is priceless, but more than that, I want to see the looks of happiness on the faces of the thousands of Barro employees who petitioned for Brian’s return.
The Barro office gang
I found myself also growing very fond of the Barro office gang. From a hodgepodge group of people brought together rather reluctantly, they became a dedicated team that worked hard to achieve a goal that they all believed in.
Considering that many other kdramas create office teams only to rarely ever show them working at all, this team at Barro comes across as a fresh breath of air. Not only do we see them working on a regular basis, over the course of our story, we see them incrementally working towards a larger goal, so much so that by story’s end, the moment they face their biggest milestone feels well-earned and true.
Here are just a few thoughts centered on this team.
E4. High school Jenny wants to walk with her crush, and so, she hacks into the traffic system and causes a colossal jam so that the bus won’t come and she has a perfectly legit excuse to suggest it? OMG, what a boss.
E8. One of the things I find refreshing about this show, is that our characters regularly engage in debate and discussion over matters of values and principles. What’s right and what’s wrong. Why one would make a particular choice, and the considerations and gains associated with the decision. We see it episode after episode.
This episode, it was whether or not Barro was responsible to compensate the man whose face was accidentally revealed, while he was standing outside a motel with his mistress, and whose marriage therefore ended. Side note: I not only enjoyed the discussion around this, coz as with the other discussions, it ended up having a thought-provoking effect, but I loved the outcome of this one in particular, because Ta Mi managed the situation in such a way that Barro gained publicity, and then she took it another notch, by offering compensation – to the man’s ex-wife. Yess.
E10. Alex gets an offer from Unicon. First of all, I don’t think it’s very honorable of Ga Gyeong to do this with the sole intention of rattling Ta Mi. She doesn’t actually have interest in Alex, and that’s just wrong, to play with him like that.
On the other hand, I do like how this teased out Ta Mi’s desire for him to stay, and how this resulted in a team drinking session that felt like a gathering of a really tight group of people. Plus, this is a team outing where everyone is present, even Hyun. No wonder Brian had to smile at the drunk we-fie. Aw.
Ye Soo Jung as Chairwoman Jang
I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Chairwoman Jang, because not only have I never seen Ye Soo Jung play such a strong personality, she does it like a boss. Yes, Chairwoman Jang is not a likable character, but I had to admit that she was fierce.
In a drama landscape where older women are mostly relegated to playing mothers and grandmothers who are peripheral to the story, it was just refreshing to see an older woman be an unapologetic badass, and Ye Soo Jung bossed her way through it so well.
The background music [SOME LATE-EPISODE SPOILERS]
It was at around the episode 14 mark that I suddenly became cognizant of the effectiveness of the background music in this show, particularly in relation to the three different couples in our drama world.
Each couple has their own signature background track, and each track has been created to draw out the essence of what they are about. The connection between Ga Gyeong and Jin Woo is oddly dissonant yet intriguing, and just like them, part of their track is a jazzy progression of dissonant chords. They do sound a bit clashy on the ears, but overall, they create a sophisticated, beautiful kind of sound; the kind of music that doesn’t have to be like the rest, to be special and noticed.
The music for Hyun and Ji Hwan is completely different. These two are awkward and adorable, now finally in the official early stages of romance, and everything feels bright and young and sweet – and that’s exactly what their music sounds like. The music is a touch cutesy, with a lot of sweet, just like these two lovebirds are.
The music for Ta Mi and Mo Gun is sweeping and epic, and if I’m not mistaken, is the same music that he first let her listen to, when they first met. And that mirrors the emotions that they feel for each other; the love that they feel for each other is big enough to sweep them off their feet, and make each of them waver over deeply-held values that they each have. At the same time, it’s also thoughtful and gentle, just like the way they eventually break up.
How thoughtfully and effectively done. I like.
STUFF I LIKED LESS
Sometimes the directing can be a touch distracting
There isn’t a lot that I dislike in this show, but I will admit that in the beginning especially, I found the directing to be on the distracting side of things.
For example, in episode 1, the dreamy filters and lens flares are applied in quite a heavy-handed manner; a choice which I found a little odd, given our rather hard and gritty main story.
And then in episode 2, we get more of the consistently over-exposed, light-in-your-eyes kind of dreamy filter that pops up every time Jang Ki Yong is in the picture. Additionally, I was also distracted by the weird angle and blurred side regions that are used during Ta Mi’s disciplinary meeting that turns into a dismissal that turns into a resignation.
To PD-nim’s credit, these effects did make more sense to me by the time I got deeper into my watch. I concluded that these effects were all applied to mimic various characters’ states of mind in the moment. With this in mind, the effects that used to be distracting became more meaningful.
Still, I can’t deny that these were a big distraction in the beginning, which is why this is in this section.
THEMES / IDEAS [MODERATE SPOILERS]
I feel like if you were to dig a little more intentionally, that you’d find lots of meaty themes and ideas to mine, in this show. Here are just a few that stood out to me, during my watch.
E2. It occurs to me that this show is saying something about choices. The things with Mo Gun that are happening to Ta Mi is the stuff of romcom dreams – immediate connection and bonding conversations, coincidental meeting after meeting, a flirty handsome younger man who seems genuinely attracted to the older woman – but instead of reacting like a romcom heroine, Ta Mi chooses other things. She appears genuinely more interested in her own goals, and career, and well-being, than in being courted by a handsome younger man. That’s.. ballsy, and different, and really rather cool. You don’t have to choose the handsome young man as your world, just because he shows up and is willing.
E10. There’s a note of thoughtful pensiveness at the end of the episode, as the members of the team all fo their separate ways afterwards. There’s something so poignant and bittersweet about this, especially since it’s right after a happy session of laughter and drinks. It feels like Show is saying that at our core, we are all a little sad and alone.
E12. The idea that just because you understand, doesn’t mean that you don’t get hurt. Ta Mi and Mo Gun at an impasse over the issue of marriage. They both have their points, but.. are their points more important than having the other person in their lives?
A QUICK SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Altogether, this is a very solidly satisfying penultimate episode that doesn’t simply feel like a filler episode ramping up to the big finale, but possesses meaty developments that feel important and meaningful to our characters.
Barro officially overtakes Unicon to be the market leader, and it’s a momentous moment that makes me choke up a little. I think it’s because Show’s taken the time to show us this team working hard towards their goal, and battling through various obstacles, and getting tired and frustrated and stressed, but at the same time, we’ve also seen them grow closer to one another, and as individuals, in the process. Right now, as they rejoice together in unity, exchanging affirming looks with one another, I can literally feel the charged emotion of the moment. So good.
I love that Hyun can immediately see through Ta Mi’s happy act, to the tears burgeoning under the surface. I also love that she won’t let Ta Mi carry on with it, and takes her aside, and insists that Ta Mi tell her what’s going on. My heart leaps at the facts that 1, Hyun pulls Ta Mi in for a hug, because she just knows how miserable Ta Mi feels, and 2, Hyun immediately demands to know who made Ta Mi this miserable, coz she’s going to beat them up for it.
Later in the episode, when Hyun comes to work after bawling her eyes out over Ji Hwan’s impending enlistment, Ta Mi can tell immediately that Hyun is out of sorts and has just had a cry. It’s so endearing that these two have become so close that they know instinctively if the other person is not alright, and that they care enough to want to reach out.
Their alcohol-fueled heart-to-heart through the night, sprawled on two office tables, is just so iconic. When Hyun rejects the idea of still working with Ta Mi many years in the future, saying that it would be too annoying, I don’t believe it for a minute.
Hyun has this innocent childlike streak that I adore. The way she bawls and asks Ji Hwan not to go, is uninhibited and so charmingly disarming, even though she’s flat-out ugly-crying at the table. It’s no wonder Ji Hwan is so enamored of her.
There’s something so sad and poignant about the way Hyun tells Ji Hwan that she doesn’t think she can wait for him. Ji Hwan’s responding gentle smile, as he tells her that she can date someone else if someone nice comes along, and that he’ll do the waiting, just makes everything feel even sadder.
Hyun is such a fiercely loyal person, I love her. Even though things have been awkward between her and Ga Gyeong, she doesn’t hesitate at all to jump into the fray to rescue Ga Gyeong from aggressive reporters and take her home with her. Hyun is so wholehearted about it too, cussing at the reporters and threatening to run them over.
That’s quite something, for Chairwoman Jang to marvel that there are parents more cruel than her. Ga Gyeong’s parents really don’t care about her at all, do they?
Augh. There is so much underlying emotion between Jin Woo and Ga Gyeong. The way he asks her to accept the apartment as a divorce gift, and promises to stop coming over since it makes things difficult for her, and then pauses to ask her what he ought to do when he misses her. This is so messed up, but at the same time, it’s heartening in a backwards sort of way, that their bond is not something to be defined by labels like marriage or divorce. The way Ga Gyeong tells him to make something up, with the tiniest smile tugging at her lips, and the small smile that this brings to his face, is also heartening. She isn’t closing the door to future communication and contact, and I know he’s going to absolutely take her up on that implicit permission to connect.
Poor Mo Gun, losing the mother that he’s reunited with after years of being disconnected from her. I appreciate that Ta Mi goes to him without a second thought about their current broken up status. Again, this connection, at least in this moment, goes beyond labels. It doesn’t matter whether they’re dating or broken up; she knows that he needs her in this moment, and she is there for him, to encourage him to see his mom, to stand with him before the family that his mom left behind, to hold him and comfort him, to drive him home. There’s something very beautiful about that.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
What a thoroughly satisfying ending this turned out to be, you guys.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure whether Show would be able to serve up an adequately solid ending, since it feels like there are so many moving pieces in our story world, and at the end of our penultimate episode, it had still felt to me, like there was much to resolve, on multiple fronts.
Well, Show did not disappoint. I feel like Show pulled out all the stops in this finale, and served up more than I expected, or could have asked for. Nicely done indeed, Show.
I love that we get resolution on multiple fronts.
In the beginning of the finale, we see that all 3 of our main ladies are either separated or estranged from their men in some way. Ta Mi and Mo Gun are broken up and have pretty much ceased communication (though what a nice thing for Mo Gun to have done, to have come by to give Ta Mi the gift that his late mother had picked out for her); Hyun has sent Ji Hwan off to the army (how sweet and melty and poignant is that goodbye kiss though?); Ga Gyeong and Jin Woo are divorced (augh, these two: how considerate of Ga Gyeong to check with Jin Woo, before she puts things in motion that would entangle his family, and how very selfless of Jin Woo, to encourage Ga Gyeong to do what she needs to do, without allowing him to get in her way).
They each feel the sting, and it’s apparent in varying degrees. But what makes my heart swell, is the fact that none of these women let the state of their love lives get in the way of them going forth to save the world. Or well, if not exactly to save the world, then to do Big, Badass Things that basically save all the netizens in the country from being subject to unfair and illegal scrutiny by their government.
I loved that scene above, of each of them facing the media and reading out the code of ethics for internet web portals, with so much conviction and dignity. Listening to each of them, stating the code line by line, I felt my heart rise to my throat; it felt like such a significant, powerful moment.
On the personal front, my favorite scene has to be the one where Chairwoman Jang offers Ga Gyeong an air ticket to leave, packaging it as her giving her ex-daughter-in-law a final chance to fulfill her dream, instead of becoming Chairwoman Jang’s target of destruction.
I freaking love that Ga Gyeong rips the ticket up without batting an eyelash, and evenly informs Chairwoman Jang that she will fulfill her dream when she deems it right. When Chairwoman Jang raises her hand to hit her, Ga Gyeong grabs her hand and basically throws it down, as she looks Chairwoman Jang dead in the eye, and informs her that they have no more business to conduct, except for the matter of alimony; that Chairwoman Jang should make a suitable offer, before something really scary happens. Ooh. How fierce and badass is Ga Gyeong here? Seeing Ga Gyeong stand up to the woman who’d terrorized her and abused her all these years felt so vicariously cathartic, to me.
Later, I found Jin Woo and Ga Gyeong’s dinner date distinctly bittersweet, as he tells her that the dinner is to celebrate the finalization of their divorce. At first, my heart leaps when Jin Woo asks Ga Gyeong if she’d date him, and she hesitates. But she tells him that she can’t because she intends to disappear, and Jin Woo – bless his heart – smiles ruefully and quietly states that he’ll have to settle for being in a one-sided love, in that case. Egad. What a rollercoaster of a love confession; my heart leaped, then fell, and then dissolved into a state of achey-ness that feels like a mix of relief (that the truth is finally out there), sympathy and sadness (coz he’s now stuck adoring her and missing her from afar). Ack.
My other favorite highlight on the personal front, is how Hyun faithfully goes to see Ji Hwan’s movie, over and over, just so that she can catch a quick glimpse of him in his cameo. I squeed so hard, when Ji Hwan showed up at the otherwise empty movie screening to surprise Hyun on early furlough, and I freaking love – love! – how spazzy-delighted and squealy Hyun becomes, so happy that she can’t stop bouncing on her heels and beaming from ear to ear. Ji Hwan’s bashful-dignified welcoming arms are the perfect counterpoint to her imploding-exploding joy, and I cannot help but grin at these two lovebirds, my heart full for them.
As for Ta Mi and Mo Gun, they both hold themselves back from reaching out to reconcile, and Mo Gun returns to Australia, while Ta Mi takes up judo (from Hyun, eee!) in order to keep herself occupied. She falls into the habit of calling Mo Gun’s number from time to time, for the sliver of hope that he’s possibly back in Korea, though she doesn’t seem to actually have much hope at all. Mo Gun does come back, though, on the eve of his birthday, and Ta Mi calls him just as he arrives at the airport.
He goes to meet her immediately, and when Mo Gun realizes that Ta Mi hasn’t thrown out his stuff because she can’t bear to take that final step towards a break-up, he wastes no time in pulling her into a hungry embrace. Ta Mi haltingly reminds Mo Gun that they haven’t resolved any of their issues and that they’d likely fight over the same things again, and Mo Gun acknowledges all of it, and states that he wants to try anyway. Cue smiles, tears, long happy hugs. Aw.
..I find that I’m more ok with this outcome for Ta Mi and Mo Gun, than I was with the outcome of Something in the Rain, where the OTP also reconciled without having resolved any of their issues. (Bear with me on this small tangent, or alternatively, just skip to the next paragraph, heh.) I think the difference for me is, Ta Mi and Mo Gun have had many honest and deep-reaching conversations about their issues, and are now making a conscious decision to give this relationship their best shot in spite of the obstacles they will face. In contrast, the OTP in Something in the Rain jumped back into their relationship and into Show’s version of a happy ending, without having similar meaningful conversations. I find this much healthier, and find that I can get behind this reunion more, because of it.
Last but not least, I love how dignified and badass Ga Gyeong is, making a surprise appearance at Unicon’s trial via live telecast, to go on record about how Unicon had manipulated keyword rankings in the past under the instruction of Chairwoman Jang, for political gains. When pressed for evidence, Ga Gyeong coolly instructs everyone watching the telecast to type in the search term “WWW” into a net portal, to gain access to all of the evidence. That effectively turns everything into a state of chaos, and Chairwoman Jang’s chagrin is written all over her face, as she grasps at straws, trying to smooth things over with her political allies.
Ga Gyeong is greeted by Jin Woo’s fancy new sports car outside the news station, and gets in. Just as I, heart ready to wobble, think that it’s Jin Woo who’s come to pick her up, Show pulls down the car’s top, to reveal that it’s Hyun and Ta Mi who’ve come to whisk her away. Ooh! Eee!!! How perfect!!!
I love that everything’s come down to this: a time when our 3 strong women are finally in a place where they can sit in the same car, and smile about it, and it’s Ta Mi and Hyun swooping in to be Ga Gyeong’s knights in shining armor. I loves it.
I’m extra pleased that Jin Woo gets a mention; that he sent this car knowing Ga Gyeong would like it, and that he’s still doing what he promised. Ack! A secret coded confession, reminding Ga Gyeong that he loves her? No wonder Ga Gyeong leaks a pleased little smile. Mini squee!
Finally, I love that when Ga Gyeong asks the others where they’re going, that Ta Mi answers with a knowing smile, “Where there are no stop lights.” It’s not subtle, I admit, but I love the symbolism there, that these 3 are going forward together into the future, and they will be a force to be reckoned with, and they will not be stopped. Yass.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Interesting, thought-provoking and compelling, but more than that, thoroughly exhilarating and empowering.
FINAL GRADE: A