THE SHORT VERDICT:
Be Melodramatic feels like a more grown-up version of Age Of Youth, in the best way.
Here are Show’s pros, in a nutshell. First of all, Show’s got a slice-of-life, quirky, imperfect feel, and possesses an off-the-wall sense of humor to go with. Secondly, Show boasts an ensemble cast of characters where everyone feels real and three-dimensional in all of their flawed, idiosyncratic glory. Third and best of all, the writing feels deft and insightful, as Show takes us on a journey with our characters, and at the same time, gives us a multi-lensed look at this unpredictable, tiring, messy yet hopeful thing that we call Life.
A refreshing, underrated gem of a show that’s funny and quirky, yet real and relatable, that often hits you with the feels when you least expect it.
THE LONG VERDICT:
It seems like dramas featuring three female leads instead of the usual one, might be my new favorite thing.
I mean, I recently loved Search: WWW, which featured three female leads, and now, I’ve decided that I also love Be Melodramatic, which – you guessed it – also features three female leads. Looks like Dramaland is doing the right thing, putting more female characters in the spotlight. I likey.
I went into this drama relatively blind. I’d seen a fair number of positive reactions to this one, and that was about all, really. AND, just a couple of minutes into episode 1, I already felt in my gut that I was going to like this one, and that I was going to like it a lot. Considering how I hadn’t quite been in the mood to start a new drama for a while, this was Very Promising.
The best thing? Show lived up to that early promise, and gave me a lovely, funny, witty, piognant watch experience that I won’t be forgetting for a good while.
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
There’re quite a few things that I liked in this show, and nothing that I truly disliked, really. Here’s a quickish spotlight on some of the things I liked about Show generally, before I get into exploring our key characters and relationships.
The writing feels deft and skilled
I’d say that the writing is the true star of this show. It feels smart and well thought-through. There’s variety in terms of pacing, narrative devices and narrative voices. Yet, through it all, the writing remains engaging, absorbing, and – dare I say – fresh.
It never feels like writer-nim is rehashing tired tropes in order to build this story. Instead, this story feels well-marinated in thought, and the overall development feels organic at its core. I liked this a lot, and I often ended an episode looking forward to the next.
I didn’t always have an idea of where Show was going with a particular plot point, but I found that I enjoyed just going with the flow and watching everything unfold on my screen, at their appointed time.
Here’s a bit of a breakdown, in terms of what I enjoyed about the writing.
1. It’s absorbing while being well-paced [MINOR INITIAL SPOILERS]
E1. The thing that impresses me the most about this drama, is that within the first hour alone, I start to feel for these characters, and quite intensely. That’s some serious skillz. I feel for Jin Joo’s (Chun Woo Hee) dreary reality that is supposed to be her life, and I feel even more for Han Joo (Han Ji Eun), who basically got scammed of her heart and is now struggling to be a single mom, and I think I feel most for Eun Jung (Jeon Yeo Bin), who, even though she’s successful in her career, has suffered the greatest loss. How tragic, that she found the love of her life, only to lose him to sickness. Sob.
These characters immediately feel real and fleshed out. We don’t know all of the details, but we know the important stuff. Like, we don’t know what illness Eun Jung’s boyfriend Hong Dae (Han Joon Woo) died of, but that isn’t important. What’s important is that he died, and she’s broken, and her little brother Hyo Bong (Yoon Ji On) and her friends continue to rally round her and be there for her, and take care of her, as you do, when you love someone. And the love here is strong and vibrant and alive, even in the midst of their personal dysfunction. That’s quite beautiful.
2. It brings out real-life feels
Show does this thing, where we’re served up funny, amusing stuff one minute, and then hit with a bunch of poignant feels, the next. It’s quite remarkable and hard to do, in my opinion. That takes talent, and it seems like writer-nim is in possession of an impressive amount of it.
E2. It’s quite funny, the way Jin Joo deadpans all her answers to Writer Jung (Baek Ji Won), who gets more and more infuriated at Jin Joo’s inability to keep quiet and lay low. It’s odd that Jin Joo sees herself as a shy person, because she certainly doesn’t hold back from speaking up.
That note, though, about the Writer Jung being insecure and wary of Jin Joo’s writing ability, feels true-to-life and real.
E7. Amid the everyday routines and the everyday smiles and foibles, there are scattered moments of pathos. We see Han Joo remembering how her ex-husband (Lee Hak Joo) had courted her and made her laugh, and then we see her cursing a little, with tears sheening in her eyes, before pulling the covers over herself, in a bid to forget. And we see Eun Jung thinking back to when her boyfriend had been alive, and they’d been on the cusp of dating. Her sober expression, as she fingers the light switch, post-reverie, tells us that she’s harboring a lot of sadness on the inside.
E13. This episode we spend a lot of time on Jin Joo accidentally farting in front of Beom Soo (Ahn Jae Hong) just as they start dating, and it’s such an unexpected combination of things: off-the-wall and quirky, but also, real and poignant, and even a little sweet. How does Show do this?
I thought the song about making up over a dump in the toilet was so out there, but in the end, it was executed in such a way that I could even convince myself that it was kinda sweet. And Jin Joo asking her mother (Kang Ae Shim) to fart in front of her father (Seo Sang Won), and that turning out to have put stoic Dad into a depressed funk thinking Mom was going to die, was just so poignant. In the end, I do love that Jin Joo ultimately chooses to be matter-of-fact about it with Beom Soo, and they’re even able to talk and joke about it. That’s growth and progress, I’d say.
3. It pays attention to detail
There is attention to detail in this show that I probably don’t always notice, but when I do, it gives me an added layer of satisfaction.
Here are just two examples.
E2. I like the little detail, that all 3 girls eat so differently for breakfast. It communicates so effectively, how different they are, in many ways. And the fact that they are such close friends in spite of that, is sweet.
E6. This episode, Writer Jung muses that her drama will be like a satisfying cooked meal, while Jin Joo’s will be raw. This, while Writer Jung eats a meal of raw fish, while Jin Joo feasts on a hearty cooked meal of pork belly. All this, while everything seamlessly comes together for Jin Joo’s drama, with Han Joo and Eun Jung both stepping in to connect the missing dots, in a moment of very nice serendipity. I do enjoy the irony.
4. It feels deliberate, thoughtful and quite clever
Generally, I thought the writing had an interesting, clever vibe to it, and here are a couple of examples.
E2. That’s a matter-of-fact twist for a kdrama, to make the little brother gay, and in a long-term relationship. Not bad.
E8. It’s an interesting narrative device, to have Jin Joo and Beom Soo discuss philosophy and human motivation in the name of analyzing the characters in their dramas. It not only thinly disguises their own feelings, which are mirrored, and also, it provides a springboard from which Show explores our other characters, like it did today, with Eun Jung.
E10. The so-called plagiarism case turning out to be both Jin Joo and Hwan Dong (Lee You Jin) dipping into their couple memories for inspiration, is a plausible yet creative twist. I like it.
5. There are bonuses for the seasoned drama fan
As a seasoned drama fan who enjoys her OSTs, I felt extra tickled when Show served up various throwback drama OSTs during my watch. It was a bit of a thrill, too, trying to place each of the iconic songs. The random insertion of the Goong OST was one of my favorite surprises, because Goong was my gateway into dramas, and I’ll always have a soft spot for it.
The housemates concept and the friendship appeals to me
There’s something about the idea of friends living together that really appeals to me. I think it’s because in my mind, these friends must be close enough to be like family to one another. So when I saw by the end of episode 1, that these friends were moved in and living together, it just made my heart smile, y’know? And, Show does not disappoint; over the course of my watch, my idea of this firm friendship was affirmed again and again. These friends really do love one another, and it shows, and I love it.
E1. Just the four friends sitting around watching TV, snacking, drinking, and chatting, is enough to pull me into this drama world. There’s something cozy about it that I dig.
E1. I love the casual, offhanded way that Eun Jung’s friends arrive at the apartment with suitcases, like coming over to hang out with her is the most natural, of-course thing in the world. And I kinda love that they end up living together, as an extension of that.
E4. It’s heartwarming to see everyone around Eun Jung keeping an eye on her to make sure she’s ok. Her old friend calling Hyo Bong because she notices Eun Jung talking to her not-there dead boyfriend, is a good example.
E7. The synergistic humor that these flatmates have is pretty cool. I like that when the others see Jin Joo “kissing” Beom Soo, they all fall into sync in terms of alternating between ignoring her and then teasing her. It makes me really feel how much time they’ve spent together, to be able to cultivate that wordless synergy.
E9. Eun Jung coming out to her friends and telling them that she’s having a hard time, is such a quietly momentous, emotional moment. That she had to repeat herself, telling them she was talking to them (versus talking to her dead boyfriend), was such a painful beat. But, how they all rose to their feet, one by one, and cleaved together in a group hug, and then thanked her, one by one, is just so touching. They’ve waited quietly for two whole years, even though they’ve been worried and anxious, because they knew that it had to be when she was ready. Tears. My heart.
Show’s drama-within-a-drama gives me new perspective
This is a secondary thing, and other shows have given us insights into the drama-making industry before (like King Of Dramas, for example), but I just really appreciated the insider type of glimpse that Show gives us, into what goes into the making of our beloved dramas.
E2. Han Joo’s job makes me look at PPL with a renewed perspective. What a tough job, trying to please sponsors, while working to satisfy fussy directors and actors.
E13. I actually find it quite enlightening to see how detailed production discussions go, as our drama-within-a-drama gets made. Conceptualizing of characters’ rooms, and passing of fight sequences for a non-action show, are things that I hadn’t considered much, before this show.
SPOTLIGHT ON OUR MAIN CHARACTERS
Show has a pretty big ensemble cast of characters, and while I don’t have the fortitude to attempt to talk about them all, I just wanted to say upfront, that the characters in this drama world really pop; each one feels so real to me, not only in the writing, but in the delivery as well. Kudos to the writers and the entire cast; I enjoyed every character, and I really found it refreshing that no single character was truly unlikable.
Chun Woo Hee as Im Jin Joo
Although we also get voice-overs from other characters, we hear from Jin Joo most often. Combined with the fact that Show makes it clear that the drama we’re watching is a mirror of the drama that she’s writing in the story, it feels like Jin Joo’s voice and point-of-view is front-and-center a lot of the time. Therefore, the extent to which I find Show itself quirky, different and refreshing, is the extent to which I feel the same, about Jin Joo.
Jin Joo is quirky to the point of sometimes coming across as weird, while at the same time being deeply thoughtful and introspective. She chews on her thoughts without being bridled by societal norms or expectations, and this often results in quirky nuggets of wisdom that, even though they’re sometimes unorthodox, often ring of truth.
I love how matter-of-fact Jin Joo is, as a general rule. She speaks her mind even in the face of authority, and is unabashedly candid as she does so. Sometimes, she doesn’t seem to realize her own peculiarity, and I feel like that genuine innocence adds to her charm.
Chun Woo Hee is pitch perfect as Jin Joo, in all of her deadpan, quirky, gleeful ways, and I literally can’t imagine another actress in the role.
Here are just a handful of Jin Joo highlights.
E11. I like the tipsy-yet-honest conversation that Jin Joo and Writer Jung have. Jin Joo acknowledges how nasty she’s perceived Writer Jung to be, while Writer Jung acknowledges that she was jealous of Jin Joo’s writing abilities.
Finally, when Jin Joo agrees to be not overly successful, but just successful enough not to bring shame to her teacher Writer Jung, it feels like a breakthrough in honesty and peacemaking. And I kinda love that Writer Jung agrees to sound out her assistants about Jin Joo’s request, to have one of them work for her. Seriously, only Jin Joo could be that brutally honest about someone’s shortcomings, and still have it work out to a happy compromise.
E12. I like the scene where Hwan Dong attempts to wine and dine Jin Joo because they couldn’t afford it in the past. First of all, I like that Jin Joo first asks what the dinner is for, and when she understands Hwan Dong’s intention, declines gently and respectfully. I like how she explains it; that she now has someone that she’d like to do these things with, and that he’d be hurt if he knew that she was sitting there with Hwan Dong; that declining was a way of being considerate to him, as well as to Hwan Dong.
Secondly, I really like that Hwan Dong respects Jin Joo’s decision, and even acknowledges to himself that she’s a really cool person. There’s no animosity or regret, just a touch of wistfulness for the past, which, as Jin Joo positioned it, they are going to lay to rest, naturally. Very nice indeed.
Jeon Yeo Bin as Lee Eun Jung
Eun Jung is quite possibly my favorite among our three friends. She’s smart, strong and talented, and incredibly loyal to her friends, which are all good things. But perhaps my favorite thing about her, is how unapologetic she is, for being herself.
As a general rule, Eun Jung wears a pretty deadpan expression, often gives monosyllabic answers, and can be aloof to the point of coming across as unfriendly. On top of that, she can be confrontational when the occasion calls for it, and I just love that Eun Jung is as weird and unfriendly and confrontational as she wants to be, and doesn’t give two hoots about what people think about her. There’s just something quite admirable about how she doesn’t need other people’s approval, and I love her for it. I aspire to be as unapologetic for being myself, as Eun Jung is.
Because of Eun Jung’s heartbreaking backstory, and the fact that she’s still not healed properly from the pain, I felt most invested in her story.
Jun Yeo Bin does an amazing job of delivering all of Eun Jung’s facets. From the most confrontational badass moments, to the times when Eun Jung is quietly in pain from the overwhelming sorrow of it all, to all the deadpan stretches of normalcy in between, Jun Yeo Bin embodies Eun Jung perfectly.
Here’re my observations of Eun Jung, with extra attention on her struggle to heal.
E1. It’s rather sad and disturbing that Eun Jung literally still sees her late boyfriend around her and has actual conversations with him, but there’s also something quite sweet and moving about it too. Like, he’s so much a part of her life that he’s still always there, even in death.
E3. Once again, I kinda love Eun Jung. She really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what people think of her, which is why So Min’s (Lee Joo Bin) efforts to embarrass her and deride her, fall flat and end up making So Min storm off instead. I also can’t help but love that in the wake of the storming off, Eun Jung smiles serenely – if only at the image of her dead boyfriend.
E7. I feel like Eun Jung can’t have properly mourned the death of her boyfriend, if she continues to see him and converse with him, because this means that she hasn’t yet dealt with what it means to fully lose him. Her coping mechanism allows her to see him, almost as if he were there in the flesh, and she walks and talks with him as such. I just don’t know how she will cope, if she were to stop seeing and hearing him, as she does now.
E11. The arc that hits me deepest this episode, is around Eun Jung going to see the psychiatrist. First, the hesitation that Hyo Bong experiences around suggesting it to her, which stems from love, and a fear of dislodging her from her quasi-safe state, and also, quite possibly, a fear of offending her. I love how he plucks up the courage to do it anyway, and I love how Eun Jung agrees. She doesn’t hang back or try to argue; she simply sees that he’s coming from a place of deep love and concern, and agrees, hugging him. Such a beautiful moment between these siblings, who really are the world to each other.
And then when Eun Jung goes to see the psychiatrist, I’m touched by how gentle and sincere the psychiatrist is. She’s not only professional, but her entire manner makes me feel that she’s genuinely interested and concerned for Eun Jung as a fellow human being, and I liked that a lot. I also felt quite impressed and moved, by how Eun Jung digs deep and sincerely answers the questions asked, even when the answers aren’t clear to her. She’s thoughtful and unflinchingly honest, even when the tears come. Poor Eun Jung. I feel for her, so much, and I really hope she’s able to reach some kind of catharsis and resolution through this counseling.
I’m also very curious about what happened to her mother that day, that she took Eun Jung to the amusement park and spend money on her, and seemed so sad and withdrawn while doing so. This feels like the kind of thing a person would do before saying goodbye; was she planning on killing herself or something? Regardless, I feel like it affected Eun Jung deeply; like she felt that she wasn’t allowed to be happy even when good things came her way.
E12. The dream that Eun Jung had, of Hong Dae trying to strangle her so that she could be with him in death, is really quite disturbing. The fact that Eun Jung’s hallucinations of Hong Dae are turning from sweet to hostile is really telling of how disturbed her emotional state is, and how much guilt she’s feeling towards Hong Dae. If her hallucinations of Hong Dae are purely an expression of her emotional state, then she clearly feels guilty about even being alive, and that is so sad and tragic.
I mean, even in the midst of being attacked by aggressive drunks, Eun Jung’s hallucination of Hong Dae walks away from her, with anger and disgust on his face. Deep down, does Eun Jung believe that this is what Hong Dae would feel toward her? That he would leave her to the dogs, so to speak, even in a moment of need? That’s heartbreaking.
E13. Each time we see Eun Jung hallucinating about Hong Dae now, it makes me a little apprehensive, because her state of mind seems rather fragile and unstable to me. It’s unsettling to me, that the last time we see her see him, he’s walking away from her while she’s getting assaulted, and now, suddenly, he’s just sitting on her couch, talking to her about work. When she hedges, he seems to get upset at how she doesn’t trust him anymore. If this is reflective of how she’s processing his memory, and what he represents to her right now, it seems more harmful emotional blackmail than anything else.
E14. Eun Jung being able to articulate her complicated feelings around Hong Dae is a great milestone. Being able to pinpoint that she feels that she’s using him, because she still needs him, and that’s why she feels guilty, is great insight, and I hope this helps her heal.
That last scene of her looking through Hong Dae’s online diary, which he’d told her he was saving for after their wedding, was really poignant. That must have made her feel so many feelings afresh, as she remembered specific experiences with Hong Dae afresh. That, coupled with reading his final entry, asking her to protect herself, must have been so overwhelming. But this does feel like the beginning of catharsis; the fact that she’s able to cry, and the fact she’s now got a firm direction from Hong Dae, to protect and take care of herself.
Han Ji Eun as Hwang Han Joo
Among the three friends, Han Joo comes across as the most fragile, with her relatively more timid personality, giving nature, and small physical frame. Over the course of my watch, though, I learned that Han Joo is far from fragile, and is as strong and resilient as they come.
I’m glad that Show gives the spotlight to the struggle of the single mom through Han Joo’s experience. We see how hard she has to work to provide for herself and her son, what a struggle it is, trying to be both Mom and Dad to a child, and how lonely it can get.
As it is in real life, there are no easy solutions for Han Joo, but it is nonetheless vicariously cathartic and empowering, to see her make steps forward, overcoming one obstacle at a time.
Han Ji Eun imbues Han Joo with a mix of youthful innocence and jaded weariness, which I found interesting and very apt. I couldn’t help but want to root for Han Joo to conquer the world, even though the odds were often stacked against her.
E4. In Gook’s acting up, and kids know just what to say, to hurt you the most, don’t they? That remark that Han Joo doesn’t have a husband, and that he barely ever sees his dad, cuts her so deep that she has to stop walking, right there. But so does he, and it’s really sad, that they’re both carrying this pain that’s literally weighing them down.
E6. The men being asshats and telling Han Joo to use some aegyo to get them to cooperate with her, is so aggravating. I appreciate that Jae Hoon is as disgusted with them as Han Joo.
But, OMG. Han Joo weaponizing her aegyo is pretty darn awesome. Sure, it’s Eun Jung’s idea to begin with, and I shouldn’t expect anything less from someone so sardonic and ballsy, but it’s Han Joo who takes it and runs with it, and basically intimidates all the arrogant men until they are cowed into submission. That takes serious guts and resilience, and she does it like a champ.
There’s definitely a strong undercurrent of pathos in it, though, because they have forced her hand, and she has to put aside her dignity to do this. But, what a perfect bookend, to have Jae Hoon cheer her up with some hard aegyo; a nice way to turn the tables indeed. I like it.
E8. Aw. Han Joo really is a good friend. Even though Jin Joo is likely going to drop the offer from Han Joo’s company, she doesn’t give Jin Joo a hard time, and is sincerely happy for her that she’s got such an opportunity, from a big production company.
E8. Han Joo looking up to CEO Lee (Kim Young Ah) and wanting to be like her, strikes a chord in me. I love that she has a female role model to look up to, and I love that what she looked up to, was her boss’s strength and precision and competence.
E10. Han Joo is too nice, allowing her ex-mother-in-law to walk all over her. The woman is basically bullying Han Joo, and it’s hard to watch. I don’t think she’s being fair at all. But Han Joo’s perspective is gracious, that she’s giving the old lady a chance to go out to dinner coz she rarely gets the chance, and she’s also giving her someone to bully, while she’s at it. It’s not a healthy pastime for sure, but at least Han Joo doesn’t let it get to her. I like that she’s able to talk about it so matter-of-factly.
Ahn Jae Hong as Son Beom Soo
I honestly can’t think of another actor who could have done as good a job of making Beom Soo come to life, as a character.
When we meet him, Beom Soo is a truly annoying character, but in a mostly harmless sort of way. I mean, he makes me want to strangle him, but not to the point of actual injury.
Beom Soo is proud and egotistical, yet earnest and sincere; completely logical, yet also unreasonably emotional at the same time; ultra competent, but also, occasionally mind-numbingly stupid. He is a big ol’ bundle of contradictions, and Ahn Jae Hong delivers him in a way that feels rounded and natural. In other words, he nails it.
I became fond of Beom Soo, in spite of my initial skepticism, and I’m dutifully impressed with Show, and with Ahn Jae Hong, for making that possible.
Here are just two Beom Soo moments that I wanted to highlight.
E4. Beom Soo is turning out to be as good of a director as he claims to be. When Writer Jung threatens not to work with the network if he proceeds with Jin Joo’s script, he makes a strong stand for it. I like what he says, that JBC shouldn’t let a writer’s pride prevent them from putting out a meaningful project, because JBC has its pride too.
E10. Beom Soo can be really off-the-wall, like when he puts on his thug persona at Jin Joo’s mention that she’s drawn to bad boys. But, the way he comforts Jin Joo when she’s down, while insisting that she work, is, as she put it so perfectly, warm and cruel at the same time. So dissonant, but so perfect, at the same time.
Gong Myung as Choo Jae Hoon
To be honest, I wasn’t much impressed nor taken with Jae Hoon from the beginning. He just seemed like such a sad sack character, who didn’t seem to do much for our story, in the grand scheme of things.
However, as Jae Hoon’s bond with Han Joo grows (more on that later), I found myself growing fond of Jae Hoon, despite the murky state of his personal life.
To be honest, I wasn’t ever sure (until I got to the finale, that is), where Show was going with Jae Hoon’s on-again, off-again relationship with Ha Yoon (Mi Ram).
On the one hand, Show presents things in a way that imply that Jae Hoon likes Han Joo romantically (again, more on that later), yet on the other hand, things never seem to clear up with Ha Yoon.
Jae Hoon’s relationship with Ha Yoon is unexceptional and everyday, except that it’s clearly painful for him. He’s like a walking zombie. It’s as if he doesn’t allow himself to feel anything; he’s numb to everything she says, and he goes along with it all, just drifting from one day to the next. I feel like this is the method he’s settled on, because it helps him to endure and survive.
I was always curious about why we never see him do anything to end the relationship, even though it’s clear that they are both unhappy.
Of course, Show turns that on its head by the finale, which I’ll touch on later.
Baek Ji Won as Writer Jung [VAGUE SPOILERS]
At first, I didn’t really enjoy the way Show treated Writer Jung, because mostly, I found myself watching Writer Jung being made comedic fodder for her singlehood. I didn’t like seeing her preen with hope, only to have those hopes dashed for the Supposed Funnies.
In short, Writer Jung’s loneliness got to me, and I just wanted Show to do well by her. So when Writer Jung effectively has two men fighting over her in episode 14, I was suitably pleased.
SPOTLIGHT ON A FEW KEY RELATIONSHIPS
Jin Joo and Beom Soo
The romance between Jin Joo and Beom Soo is the main loveline in our drama world, and honestly, because I went into this fairly blind, I almost didn’t see this romance coming.
Jin Joo and Beom Soo start off in a pretty awkward, almost antagonistic place, and I personally found Beom Soo quite annoying too, so I didn’t immediately think that Jin Joo would ever find him appealing. However, Show effectively turns that around, by forcing Jin Joo and Beom Soo into a situation where they need to talk to each other. The more they spend time talking, the more I began to see that these two are perfectly matched in their odd quirks and weird idiosyncrasies.
Also, for the record, I’d like to say that I find it really quite refreshing that Beom Soo is Jin Joo’s leading man. He’s a little chubby and not conventionally good-looking – in fact, Hwan Dong is a better-looking guy – but yet, we see that Jin Joo and Beom Soo connect strongly in their quirks and conversations, which is honestly where it’s really at, with relationships. And I appreciate it a lot, that Show demonstrates that this emotional and mental connection is important enough, that it doesn’t cast a conventionally handsome actor for the part.
From finding this loveline bemusing at the start, I found myself easily getting fully on board during my watch, in almost as understated and organic a fashion, as this loveline itself comes about.
E3. I can very much see why Beom Soo would rub Jin Joo the wrong way. But I’m pleased that he’s so taken with her script that he’s gone after her, if only to annoy her.
E4. The regard each for the other, is growing, between Beom Soo and Jin Joo. (I think) he gets through to her with the song that he sings, and what he says about not using someone’s pain to tease them, and she’s definitely getting to him, since he can’t sleep at night, wondering why she and her ex are still arguing, 2 years after breaking up.
E5. Jin Joo’s arc with Beom Soo took up a lot of screen time this episode, and it turned out to be quite the funny twist. After so much build-up and self-praise, it was crazy and ridiculous to see Beom Soo fail so hard at the presentation. Jin Joo held her own quite well, I thought, but the directors were being misogynic jerks, and I rather liked Beom Soo’s outburst about how strong Jin Joo is. It shows how much of an impression she’s made on him, and it sounds passionate and sincere, even if it also sounds off-the-wall. Her karate chop to his neck, knocking him out, was just the cherry on top.
I do like the solidarity they share afterwards, taking comfort in hot noodle soup at a pochangmacha, clinking soju bottles, like battle-weary kindred soldiers.
E7. Jin Joo and Beom Soo slipping into a quasi-relationship sort of state via their role-plays and drama couple immersion – for science! – is so quirky, and so symptomatic of their mutual denial that there’s anything going on between them. This is the second time we see Jin Joo vehemently deny that they did anything, the first being when she drunk-slept over at his apartment, and it’s starting to feel like a pattern is forming. Under the security of pretend, these two are just going on dates and saying and doing things that courting couples do. I wonder when they’ll realize that what they’ve got going on is more than pretend? Heh.
E11. Jin Joo avoiding Beom Soo feels rather cliched, but I’m glad it doesn’t get dragged out very long, and I’m glad that in the end, when she can’t avoid him anymore, that she agrees to work on the things within their control, like he says. Beom Soo’s confession is blurted out and ungainly, but so clearly sincere.
E12. The way Jin Joo and Beom Soo come together as a couple is so quirky and unique to them. After Jin Joo leaves the truncated date with Hwan Dong, she calls Beom Soo, and they walk towards the park, hoping that they will run into each other. While on the phone, they have one of their philosophical conversations, this time, about what love is. And then, just as abruptly as she begins the conversation, Jin Joo declares that they shouldn’t postpone love. Just the news that Beom Soo was waiting for! As they come face to face with each other, she also says, “Let’s postpone skinship,” which slightly crestfallen Beom Soo valiantly agrees to – until she tells him her bluff, and then kisses him squarely on the lips. Aw. Cute.
Han Joo and Jae Hoon
For the record, I really liked the connection between Han Joo and Jae Hoon.
Show doesn’t give us a firm definition of their relationship until the finale (which I’ll talk about later), but labels aside, I found their care for each other heartwarming and sweet. It felt like they could truly understand each other’s struggles and anxieties, and it was really nice to see them supporting each other at the workplace, and even outside of it.
Show reveals in the finale that the bond between Han Joo and Jae Hoon is purely platonic and not romantic in nature. In principle, I like this a lot, but at the same time, I do feel that Show threw out several red herrings on this one, to purposely mislead us into thinking that there were romantic undercurrents flowing between these two characters.
While I get that this does make the watch more interesting, since as a viewer I was constantly wondering what these characters’ true feelings for each other were, I do have to admit to feeling a little played by Show, on this one.
Of course, it also possible – and plausible – that there were romantic sparks between Han Joo and Jae Hoon, but when they each realized that their circumstances did not support a romantic relationship between them, they each shifted gears towards the other, and embraced their connection as a special friendship.
Given the circumstantial evidence that Show serves up, this is the version of events that sits most comfortably in my mind. That way, Show is exempted from the accusation of red herring throwing, and I can accept that the romantic undercurrents we saw, were real.
Just for the record, here’s a map of my thoughts around Han Joo and Jae Hoon, during my watch.
E3. Jae Hoon said that thing about wanting to make Han Joo smile. What is that supposed to mean? Especially since we now know he has a girlfriend? What is this guy about, is he really as shy as he’s making himself out to be?
E4. I’m curious about why Han Joo talks with Jae Hoon after his girlfriend comes to trash the place for him wanting to break up, saying stuff like, “you don’t have to tell me you’re sorry..” “why do the guys I like always never fight well..”
I mean, he held her hand once while pretending to be tipsy, and remarked that he wanted to make her smile. Surely that doesn’t mean that there’s anything actually going on between them?
E5. Han Joo’s arc with Jae Hoon is intriguing me, because I can’t easily place it, in the kdrama scheme of things. He seems to like her, but he’s still with his cheating girlfriend. She cares about him, but I can’t tell if she’s shifted him mentally from potential male admirer, to just-a-friend. Regardless, it was quite touching to see how Han Joo reacted when Jae Hoon told her that story about Ha Yoon being at the club with her younger male cousin. Instead of laughing it off, or bickering with him for claiming to have let her worry for a few days, she solemnly hugs him, pats him on the shoulder repeatedly, and thanks him. I kinda love that she can’t even explain why she’s thanking him, and just thanks him because that’s what she’s feeling, in the moment. There’s something very pure about that.
E7. I realize I’m most interested in Han Joo’s arc with Jae Hoon, because she’s in a position where most women would feel like they’ve missed the boat. She’s divorced, and mother to a young son. Her best prospect would be that flashback that we saw today, of a single dad wanting to merge families with her. So, to have a young man be drawn to her, and look at her the way Jae Hoon steals glances at her, and mumbles to himself how cute she is, is quite thrilling to me. It’s like a vicarious message to all other women who are supposedly past their prime and not in the best position to receive romantic attention; that they’re not wallpaper; that they’re just as deserving as the next woman, to be on the receiving end of admiring romantic attention.
E10. Why is Jae Hoon so hesitant to share the information with Han Joo, that he’s broken up with Ha Yoon?
E11. I’m glad that Jae Hoon finally came clean and told Han Joo about his breakup with Ha Yoon. I’m also glad that he and Han Joo are just keeping things platonic at the moment; he needs time to heal and move on. I rather like that even while keeping things platonic, he and Han Joo are still connecting, in a kindred spirit kind of way.
E12. We see very little of Han Joo and Jae Hoon this hour, but I really liked that scene where she texts him while he’s out, and they text back and forth like close friends. There’s a cozy, easy vibe between them that I enjoy, and this thing of finding comfort through texting resonates with me. It’s like a small but important source of warmth, when you’re by yourself in the cold, feeling lonely.
E13. The way Jae Hoon is so observant of Han Joo is very telling. Most people only notice such minute details about the other person, if they have a special interest in them. I’d like to see Jae Hoon and Han Joo build more on their relationship because they make a really good pair. I’d take it even if they keep it platonic. I’d like Jae Hoon be more open about his situation and his feelings with Han Joo too.
E14. I guess real life isn’t cut and dry a lot of the time, and maybe I’m used to things being neater on my screen in a drama, but I was quite surprised to realize that Jae Hoon maybe hadn’t broken up with Ha Yoon after all. The way things looked so strained between them, I though they were broken up, but Ha Yoon just kept hanging around like a bad habit. But, when Jae Hoon hugged her at the end of the episode and asked her what she did that day, I realized that they’ve simply been estranged.
In the light of that, I’m still intrigued by the special bond that we see between Jae Hoon and Han Joo. They sync so well together at work and at play, and they brighten at each other’s texts, and they clearly are concerned for and considerate of each other, to a great degree. She notices a nick on his cheek and buys him an electric shaver; he notices that she’s tired and buys her tonics to boost her energy.
There are definitely special feelings that they harbor for each other, but it’s unclear to me whether those special feelings are of a romantic nature. But, I appreciate the special place that they’ve each carved for the other in their hearts, because they both seem so in need of support, and they each seem to blossom so much, under the other’s care. I almost feel like this is the “special friend” sort of status they’re accepting, because this is the acceptable option for them.
Eun Jung and Director Kim
Director Kim (Son Seok Koo) shows up later in the show, as a surprise quasi-friend to Eun Jung, and I hafta say, I really enjoyed this somewhat weird and bizarre bond.
Son Seok Koo is wonderfully weird as the eccentric Director Kim of few words, and Eun Jung’s continued bemusement at him made for some very amusing, as well as some very poignant times.
I sincerely hoped that Eun Jung’s connection with Director Kim would be non-romantic in nature, because in my mind, it would’ve felt like a bit of a cop-out, if she’d gotten over Hong Dae’s death by entering into a new relationship with someone else. Happily, Show does not disappoint, and I feel very satisfied with the treatment of the growing bond between Eun Jung and Director Kim.
Here are just a few highlights of this pair.
E10. Eun Jung standing up to the shouty Director Kim and basically staring him down and out-cursing him, is so awesome. She’s so sharp and fearless, I love it. It’s also great that he yields the victory to her; I guess he ran out of words to retaliate with, and also, possibly he’s not that bad of a guy after all?
E14. I really like how Show is building the connection between Eun Jung and the director. It’s a kindred spirit sort of connection, like they’re comrades on a similar journey, and are providing each other with a bit of company for the ride. I like how the orphanage is the thing that ties them together, and I really dig how this has been provided for, narratively, so many episodes ago, when Eun Jung donated all her money to the foundation. By making her and Director Kim the orphanage’s two biggest, most giving sponsors, who give literally more than they can afford, they are of the same tribe, in a way.
E14. Eun Jung’s bemused expression at just about everything Director Kim says is my expression too, heh. He’s really quite weird and eccentric in his ways, which is kinda great from an entertainment point of view, but I like even more, the hints that Eun Jung is starting to understand him a little bit, by the end of the episode. Like, she’s starting to get his meaning a little, even if he still puzzles her a lot.
So Min and Min Joon
I was pleasantly surprised by the little loveline between So Min and her manager Min Joon (Kim Myung Joon). Because it had felt like they were introduced as peripheral characters, I wasn’t expecting that they would enjoy very much screen time, in the overall scheme of things.
So color me surprised, when Show not only gave them more of the spotlight than I’d expected, but gave them a whole loveline, complete with backstory and everything. What a lovely bonus, to be able to see their love story play out, beyond the initial obvious crush that Min Joon was nursing on So Min.
E8. I kinda love the backstory behind how Min Joon became So Min’s manager. To think that she basically told him that that’s what he should do, back when he was the school’s jjang, is just so bizarre and so perfect. He’s let her direct his life ever since, and I do think he’d be lost without her.
E9. So Min missing Min Joon is a beat that I gravitated towards. Even though this is a minor arc, I like the idea of So Min and Min Joon being secretly in love with each other all these years, only to be forced to admit it to each other, now that they’ve been forcibly separated.
E10. Another favorite moment of mine this episode, is Eun Jung giving So Min the advice to just love while she can, and not waste time. It’s extra weighty and wise coming from her, since she’s lived through the loss of her lover, and it was pretty great seeing So Min run to Min Joon as fast as she possibly could, because she wanted to love him as soon as she possibly could. Aw.
Min Joon’s feeble protests couldn’t have stood up to So Min’s insistence that he liked her, and it’s also nice that when she tries to run off mid-almost kiss because she’s bare-faced, he catches up to her and tells her that she looks great without makeup, before kissing her good and proper. Double Aw.
E11. While So Min going undercover to Min Joon’s apartment to meet him in secret and make out with him should be quite squee-worthy, the chemistry falls a little flat for me, now that they are in a relationship proper. But, I appreciate the sentiment, that they want to see each other everyday, while working hard towards their respective goals.
E12. It’s sweet how Min Joon is brutally honest with So Min about her career and her limitations, and she accepts it all without hesitation. Her trust in him in very clear, and that is very touching, to me.
E13. I like how So Min is so into Min Joon. Before they were dating, it was clear that he was into her, and he was always the one holding a torch for her, while she seemed oblivious. So it’s refreshing to see her so eager to talk about him on camera, and even articulate that she likes him so much that she’d marry him. Aw.
STUFF I TOOK AWHILE TO GET USED TO
Show’s sense of humor sometimes leans really wacky
Generally speaking, I found Show’s quirky sense of humor quite easy to enjoy, but I have to admit that there were a couple of occasions when I found it more bemusingly bizarre than fresh and funny.
E4. That recurring guitar singing thing in the scene where Jin Joo talks with Beom Soo about the script, is.. weird. At first, I think it’s all in her imagination, but by the end, Beom Soo’s all worked up and asks her why she keeps singing, and who keeps giving her the guitar. Um. Wha..?
..And other people confirm the existence of the guitar. I guess Show is more quirky and whimsical than I expected it to be.
E14. The PPL inception was quite out there, but really quite funny, with them inserting such a weird, random and imagined PPL scenario for the massage chair, and then calling it done. Ha. The drink PPL layered on top of that was kind of brazen, but it all stayed on vibe.
THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]
There are certainly more themes and ideas available to mine in this show, since it’s written so thoughtfully, and our characters are often engaged in philosophical conversation. Here are just a handful of the ones that stood out to me personally.
E3. The idea that context affects a person. Han Joo and Jae Hoon are both shy, but because they had each other’s company, they were able to do things they wouldn’t normally do. Do Yeon’s (Kim Do Yeon) memory of her best friend who had to drop out of the idol group because of stalker threats, made her close up. But Han Joo and Jae Hoon’s combined efforts to cheer her on and help her, warmed her up and made her feel better.
E8. The idea that even the most admired person has their own insecurities and doubts, and is more than likely to suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome. CEO Lee’s drunken meltdown-confession that she isn’t strong or precise, is so poignant. It reminds me that many of us are putting up a front; trying to fake it till we make it; feeling like we don’t actually deserve to be where we are. It’s so deeply poignant because it feels like it hits a deep note of truth.
E8. The idea of how scary it is, to face up to those hidden parts of ourselves that we don’t actually even understand. We see Eun Jung being confronted by the footage of herself talking to her dead boyfriend, and it’s like she finally sees herself. It feels confronting and overwhelming, even from where I’m sitting; I can only imagine how shaken Eun Jung must be. It must feel like being hit by a ton of bricks.
E12. The idea that love shouldn’t be postponed. Even if the situation isn’t the most ideal, like with Ji Young and her boyfriend being poor and unable to afford much, it’s still more important to love. Jin Joo, in her usual quirky way, tries to do things differently, but her efforts to put off love end up being shelved quite quickly. I think Ji Young cut to the heart of it when she said that at most, you have about 70 years to love the other person, so you don’t have that much time left anyway.
E14. Today’s theme is taking time away from real life in order to truly rest, and we see Eun Jung take time away at the orphanage, while Jin Joo and Han Joo take time away in the country, for the day. Their separate days are different as chalk and cheese, but both are equally needed. I like that cohesiveness.
E14. The idea of discrimination, and how one reacts to it. That quickish spotlight on the discrimination against Hyo Bong and his boyfriend was brief, but it cut pretty deep for the amount of screen time it got. Them being asked to leave a restaurant just because of their sexual orientation, and then them having to brush it off and carry on with life, just felt so unfair and unjust.
A QUICK SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
One this hour’s funniest things, to me, is seeing Eun Jung make Director Kim toe the line, with the accidentally sent photos as her hostages. His immediate obedient cooperation, coupled with her little leaked pleased smiles, was gold. It amuses me that he cares this much, that he would act so differently from his normal self as a result, but I love even more, that this opens up the communication between him and Eun Jung enough, that they even end up going for beer together and having a halfway normal conversation. It makes me happy that this pleases Eun Jung, that she would even compliment him on how being nice suits him. The fact that she sent the photos to So Min makes me laugh, and I love the cheeky vibe it gives their interactions, when he finds out. That smile that she flashes at him, is just so natural, vibrant and so uninhibited; I love it.
I’m relieved that Ha Yoon decides to move on, finally. Jae Hoon’s frustration is absolutely warranted. What, you hung around simply because you were waiting for him to hold you warmly, one last time? So, that big step towards some kind of reconciliation that he took the night before, was simply the final gift and assurance you were waiting for? Ugh. What a dysfunctional, toxic personality.
Still, I’m glad that this is now cleared up for Jae Hoon and for us as viewers. Finally, he doesn’t have to feel obligated to do right by Ha Yoon, and can start feeling free again. Although, wow, what a underhanded trick to play, since Ha Yoon just texted Han Joo about being Jae Hoon’s girlfriend just recently. And this was while she was simply waiting for her goodbye hug. That’s low.
Jae Hoon showing up to hit Han Joo’s ex-husband when she’d failed to land a punch, and then politely explaining that it’s his job to complete the tasks that Han Joo is unable to finish, is so off-the-wall and so priceless. The Ex is a loser who only puts himself first, and Han Joo is making the right decision not to go back to him, not even for In Gook’s sake. The fiercely whispered discussion / debate that Han Joo has with her friends back at home is just the cutest thing. It’s so odd and funny, to see them gesticulating wildly, as their whispers get incrementally louder, while they try to keep it down for In Gook’s sake.
I’m confused by Han Joo’s statement at the end of the episode, though, that she’s been seeing someone. Is this about Jae Hoon, or is this about someone else? If she’s referring to Jae Hoon, then she must have framed it in her mind as seeing him, even though Ha Yoon was still in the picture, and that’s not so cool, to me.
Also, for the record, I do like that Jin Joo makes up with Beom Soo by simply choosing not to be nitpicky or petty, and reminding herself that his good points outweigh his not-so-good points. That’s pretty amazing to me, that she can pack up her negative feelings so well, and then proceed to treat him graciously. A cool woman indeed.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
It’s to Show’s credit that I approached this finale with a pronounced sense of wistfulness. I did not want my journey with this show and these characters to end. I put this off for two days, even while I really really wanted to spend more time with these characters. You’ve managed the perfect push-pull, Show.
I have to admit, I did not quite expect nor enjoy the “twist,” that Han Joo’s been dating someone else for some time. It feels like cheating, in a way. Up to this point, Show has given no indication that Han Joo’s been seeing anyone. All this time, we haven’t seen her texting anyone else but Jae Hoon, and we haven’t seen her squee to herself over anyone. So to have Show basically pull out a “Ta-da! Guess what we’ve been hiding from you?” feels like a cheap shot of a twist. This is the kind of twist I don’t appreciate, because the twist was not built into the writing from the start, and more like something the writer pulls out, after keeping it from the audience.
That said, I did find it an interesting twist, for Han Joo to present a completely different take on Jae Hoon’s relationship with Ha Yoon. All we’ve seen is him suffering her volatile behavior in silence, but Han Joo basically makes the point that Jae Hoon had left Ha Yoon alone in order to tame her; that he didn’t attempt to love her, but to have her. I don’t know how true Han Joo’s take is, but I take the point, that a relationship truly always takes two.
I am satisfied that Han Joo and Jae Hoon continue their friendship, and continue to be open, encouraging and supportive of each other. On a personal note, as someone whose closest friend happens to be male, I appreciate that Show acknowledges the special bond between them, despite it being a platonic one. Yay for another drama example of a male-female pairing that doesn’t need to be romantic in order to be special.
One of my favorite things this episode, is seeing Eun Jung and Director Kim having a heart-to-heart conversation over drinks, when he finally asks to hear her story. I like that after all the quirky non sequiturs that he’s been giving her, they’ve somehow become comfortable enough with each other, to have this important, cathartic conversation. And even though his execution of it is still as randomly eccentric as ever, I do love Director Kim’s response, after hearing Eun Jung’s story, “Whatever you see with your eyes, I will say cheers… to your eyes.” How poetic, and how apt.
I also love that Eun Jung’s next project is literally inspired by one of Director Kim’s seemingly random remarks. I love even more, that even as she prepares to leave for Europe for that project, and he for Africa, that he’s still asking to meet her in Morocco. I have a feeling that these two are going to be weird friends for a very long time, and I really like the thought of that.
Importantly, Eun Jung has a conversation with Hong Dae where they achieve a sense of closure. He says that he’ll be gone by the time she returns from Europe; she says that we all have our place in the universe where we go when our time on this earth is up, and that she’ll meet him up there. It’s a bittersweet moment, but it also speaks of healing, and acknowledges that Eun Jung’s journey – one where Hong Dae isn’t necessarily present – is still ahead of her.
We see that Jin Joo and Beom Soo continue to work together, after their first successful drama together. And while they bicker constantly at work, they’re still faithfully keeping work and their personal time separate. They are as weird and unconventional as ever, and it works quite perfectly, for them.
We also get updates on all the various characters we’ve come to know over the course of our story. Director Seo (Heo Joon Seok) proposes to Da Mi (Lee Ji Min), and they end up having a tiny wedding in an Indian restaurant, just the two of them, while pretending that the other diners are their guests. Rather bizarre by my standards, but again, it works, for them.
When it turns out that CEO So (Park Hyung Soo) is a goose father with a wife and kids in the US, Writer Jung and CP Sung (Jung Seung Gil) go back to their undefined closeness, in a
painfully painful and funny parody of Something in the Rain (painful because that show – and that song – grated on my nerves, ack; funny, coz it was well-done, nonetheless).
Hwan Dong continues to overwork Writer Jung and her team, while taking up Pilates in order to become a better arm-wrestler, ha. So Min and Min Joon are married, and even Han Joo’s boss CEO Lee, is dating someone.
Jin Joo is given a bigger studio by the production company, where she can work and live comfortably, while Han Joo accepts an apartment from her ex-husband. Hyo Bong’s moved out to live with Moon Soo (Jeon Shin Hwan). With Eun Jung also leaving for Europe, our little ragtag family is set to finally stop living together. Sniffle.
As expected, Show gives us an open ending, with no neat happy bows for our characters. There’s a strong sense of change, as people move and circumstances evolve, but there’s also a strong sense of hope and community. I feel like walking away, I have the assurance that even though our friends no longer live under the same roof, that they will, just as they promise one another, continue to eat deliciously, chat deliciously and love deliciously with one another, for the rest of their lives. I feel wistful, but I also feel content. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Off-the-wall quirky, yet full of heart and poignance.
FINAL GRADE: A-