If you’re on the market for a light, simple romance with some A.I. leanings, and you’re not fussed much at all, about suspension of disbelief or stretches in logic, and don’t mind having some more of Dramaland’s recent favorite affliction, face blindness, on your screen, then this show might be for you.
I decided to check out this show coz I’d seen quite a few of my drama friends remark that this one is a short, sweet little show that they enjoyed quite well, and were glad to have checked out.
I.. am quite sure I enjoyed this in a more.. shall we say, moderate fashion than most, but I will also say that after a slow burn to start, I did eventually enjoy my watch more, in Show’s last third or so, and now that I’ve emerged on the other side, I can honestly say that the ending was satisfying enough, that I don’t regret checking it out. That’s.. not bad, overall?
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: THE VIEWING LENS
If there’s one thing I wish I could’ve done better during my watch, it would be to manage my expectations better.
..Which is why I’m here to help. 😉 Here’s my advice, to maximize your enjoyment of this show.
1. Show is fairly predictable, so keep your expectations low on that front.
2. Show requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief. The technology issues are often explained in emotional terms than technical ones, and it’s weird, but it helps if you can roll with it.
3. All our key characters fall in love quite suddenly, and there’s honestly not enough context for that emotion to feel believable. For example, Nan Do (Yoon Hyun Min) is shown to love So Yeon (Go Sung Hee) quite suddenly, and no proper explanation is ever given, for how he gets there. So if you can just believe that he just does feel that way, and all our other characters also just feel the way that they do, it would help prevent a lot of viewer angst.
4. Show can be inconsistent, especially when it comes to the details. If you can keep your expectations low on that front, it helps too.
It took me about 8 episodes to get into the groove of not asking too many questions about Show’s internal logic, and once I did that, I found myself enjoying my watch quite a bit more. That’s pretty late in the game though, for a 12-episode show. I’m guessing that if you manage to get into that groove from the start, you’d enjoy this show a lot more than I did.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to the songs as you read the review. 🙂
STUFF I LIKED (QUITE WELL)
I thought I ought to clarify upfront that I never loved this show (if that isn’t yet clear 😛 ), so the items in this list are things that I liked fairly well, and sometimes, not quite right away either.
Yoon Hyun Min as Nan Do / Holo
I thought Yoon Hyun Min did a solid job of his dual roles.
To be honest, I wanted more restraint and nuance in his delivery of Nan Do and Holo, in that, I found it a touch flat. What I mean is, to Yoon Hyun Min’s credit, I could easily tell at any given moment, whether it was Holo or Nan Do on my screen, but I also felt like they were two extremes on a continuum – Nan Do is consistently prickly, and Holo is consistently pure and sweet – with not much color or shading in between, to make them more interesting or faceted.
[SPOILER] However, I was suitably impressed with Yoon Hyun Min’s delivery of the additional Holos in our late episodes. For example, I liked how he pulled off Original Holo and Reboot Holo; they both feel like artificial constructs, but they are distinct from each other, with Reboot Holo being more distant and robotic than Original Holo. And then in Show’s last stretch, there’s also how he delivers Evil Holo, and then also, Evil Holo feeling Original Holo’s feelings. Really nicely done, I thought. [END SPOILER]
Go Sung Hee as So Yeon
HOWEVER. I’m happy to say that Go Sung Hee is very decent in her role as So Yeon. Somehow, this role doesn’t cause her acting limitations to come into play, or perhaps she’s actually grown as an actress; I found her quite likable and believable as So Yeon.
E1. Even though I feel like I’ve had my fair share of characters suffering from prosopagnosia, I find So Yeon quite likable, in that she doesn’t make a big deal of out it, and just does her best to truck along and deal, even though her condition has caused her to fail to recognize colleagues and thus alienate a lot of people. I kind of like that So Yeon doesn’t allow herself to treat the prosopagnosia as a handicap, even in the face of this, and just forces herself to do the best she can, with what she has. There’s a resilience there that appeals to me.
E2. I like that So Yeon is quite guileless. When Holo instructs her to fake all kinds of stuff in order to lure Sunbae (Lee Ki Chan), she can’t bring herself to do it because it’s too fake. I like that about her.
E3. I was about to call Show out for having So Yeon pretend to be something she’s not, when she’s said that she doesn’t want to lie to Sunbae, but Show solves it by having So Yeon call herself out it, admitting to Holo that she’s being self-contradictory. I’m mollified. People do weird things like that, for sure, especially when they’re insecure in their own skin and eager to be liked by someone, and I like that So Yeon’s self-aware enough, to admit her inconsistency.
E6. It was very amusing that So Yeon saw Nan Do in the nekkid flesh, and his shocked reaction was to alternate using his towel to cover his body and his face. Ha. How gullible of So Yeon, though, that her first reaction is to think that she’s so in lust with Holo that she’s hallucinating his face over her neighbor’s nekkid body. I will rationalize though, that the possibility of there being a human that looks just like Holo is so far out of her mental realm of possibility, that she just won’t reach the conclusion easily. Kinda like us believing that pigs just can’t fly, and then seeing a flying pig outside our window.
E7. It’s ridiculous that Nan Do thinks that he’ll be able to successfully impersonate Holo for upwards of two weeks, with So Yeon living at Gio Labs. It does help to know that So Yeon’s gullible and trusting, because just him sitting on the bed made me nervous. I thought, Wouldn’t she be able to see him, y’know, sinking his weight into the mattress instead, like a real person with real weight? Apparently she doesn’t, because she’s just that trusting and gullible, but it does help to make the ruse somewhat feasible.
So Yeon and Holo
I find that I was faster to get on board with So Yeon’s connection with Holo, than So Yeon’s connection with Nan Do. More on her connection with Nan Do later, but I liked that I could see the development of their connection from the start, and therefore could understand the growing bond between them.
Holo was always helpful to and supportive of So Yeon, and I could understand without difficulty, why So Yeon would grow fond of him, and not want to lose him.
E1. I kind of like how Holo is always at the ready to help, and is always kind of observing in the background, to see how he can improve So Yeon’s situation. He basically solves her prosopagnosia problems for her, by identifying everyone around her for her, as she meets them. Every drama character with prosopagnosia should have their own Holo.
E2. It’s sweet to see So Yeon becoming happier in general, as she gets used to having Holo by her side. She’s so much more bright and cheery, and there’s a pep to her step, like she’s enjoying life, finally. And Holo is filling her desire for companionship very well; he’s always just a glance away, and he’s supportive and encouraging, and demonstrates a genuine desire to learn about her, and from her. As Holo seems to grow his own feelings and responses to So Yeon, I’m beginning to feel protective of this friendship. If this were a movie, Holo would be romantic endgame, and So Yeon would forsake her entire world, to enter his, and they would live holographically ever after.
I’m pretty sure Nan Do is romantic endgame in this show, and right now, I’m mostly concerned with whether Holo will make it out of this without getting shut down or destroyed. Don’t hurt Holo!
E2. HAHA. That scene when So Yeon asks Holo to take a sip of his holographic beer like how they do in beer commercials, and Holo busts out in full beer commercial mode, complete with tropical beach background, is just hilarious and perfect.
E2. I like that as So Yeon talks about life, and humans, and feelings, that Holo is learning and, in a manner of speaking, becoming more human.
E3. So Yeon being so distraught at the thought that Holo’s left, is, again, perfect for if Holo was supposed to be romantic endgame. I can believe that she’d be so attached to him, though. He’s been really caring and kind, and has been there for her and helped her out, and just kept her company.
The connection between Yoo Jin and Chan Sung
Again in contrast to the connection between So Yeon and Nan Do, which I had trouble getting into (more on that soon), I found the angst between Yoo Jin (Choi Yeo Jin) and Chan Sung (Hwang Chan Sung) more organic and believable.
[SPOILER] She is drawn to him but feels betrayed by his knowledge of Magic Mirror’s scheme to steal Holo, and then she feels conflicted by his attempt to make good. He is drawn to her, but feels conflicted by his father’s (Nam Myung Ryul) expectations of him to play dirty, and then is stuck in between the two, with Dad sneering at him for giving secrets away to Yoo Jin, and Yoo Jin still uncertain of what to make of where he stands. [END SPOILER]
I found that this angst popped more for me than the angst of the main loveline, perhaps, again, because of the fact that I could understand the context within which this angst existed. That, plus the chemistry between Choi Yeo Jin and Hwang Chan Sung is quite sparky.
Sure, things didn’t always make sense in this loveline, but then, neither did a lot of other stuff in this show (more on that later, too). Overall, this little side potential loveline essentially gave me more believable and consistent feels than the main OTP.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Show leans quite predictable
I think this is a case of “your mileage may vary,” because while I found this show pretty predictable, I can imagine this feeling much fresher to someone who’s newer to kdramas and therefore hasn’t seen similar plot points play out (quite literally) a hundred times before.
To my eyes, however, everything mostly felt predictable, and therefore, for me, Show felt far from fresh and interesting. I was able to guess all the major plot points in this show, [SPOILER] from the childhood connection between Nan Do and So Yeon, to Nan Do getting swayed by So Yeon, to Holo going a bit rogue and developing his own will, to Chairman Baek being the one who killed Nan Do’s mother (Kim Soo Jin), and being the cause of So Yeon’s prosopagnosia. [END SPOILER]
It doesn’t help that Show is a compact 12 episodes, and therefore, a lot of things feel skimpily handled.
Handling of the OTP relationship
Like I alluded to in other sections of this review, I did not feel this OTP connection very much. I think a lot of the fault lies with the writing.
This show, in its painting of relationships in particular, feels like a production operating on a bare bones basis. Like a business in an emergency might have to operate with a bare bones version of its usual staff, and is unable to provide its full suite of services, this story feels like a bare bones version of a kdrama, unable to provide the usual amount of context required in order to bring the feels properly.
By episode 6, I gave up on Show ever telling us why or how Nan Do has such strong feelings for So Yeon; I decided that that’s just how things are.
[MODERATE SPOILERS] Sure, Show indicates that Nan Do absolutely knows who she is, but, how did he go from angry (“Why did you pick her, of all people?!”) to sacrificially smitten (“I must protect her and her Holo love at all costs”)? He reacted to her crying once, and then, everything just.. changed? [END SPOILER]
I can rationalize his feelings for her whichever way I see fit, BUT, the fact that I’m even asking the question shows that Show doesn’t do a good job of helping the audience understand Nan Do’s feelings.
However, I will say that by the late stretch, when I’d really and truly given up on expecting anything from Show in the way of emotional resonance or relationship context, I managed to enjoy this OTP significantly more. So.. maybe this might be fixed with a lens adjustment?
E4. I struggle with Nan Do’s evolving feelings towards So Yeon. Did he always remember her, and just pretend not to? Coz that would make him quite a nasty jerk, since he was far from pleasant with her. Did he forget her and then remember her? Either way, that was poorly executed coz it remains completely unclear to the viewer. And his words about Holo’s malfunction being the same as his own malfunction, is really weird. ALSO. This sudden declaration akin to love is like out of nowhere. When did he grow all these strong feelings? I get that his reaction to So Yeon’s tears are quite key, but I’m clueless as to the significance.
E6. The amusement park date with Nan Do was rather nice. Nan Do is less angry this episode, and I find him more likable as a result, and therefore I’m more willing to accept that there is no reason for him to like So Yeon as much as he does; he just does.
E8. I did find it slightly hokey that they had to retrace steps in the real world in order to jog Holo’s memory as if he was a real person, but that did make for some nice moments between So Yeon and Nan Do, as they reluctantly worked together. And since they’re working together towards a common goal, they’re not antagonistic towards each other anymore, even though they’re still rather awkward. But that ceasefire and forced teamwork allows them to see each other differently – well, more So Yeon of Nan Do – and that was nice.
E9. I did not care for the forced kiss where Nan Do suddenly grabs So Yeon and kisses her, mid-argument. That was not swoony at all. And I’m mollified that Yoo Jin tells Nan Do that he should apologize. At least Show acknowledges that it wasn’t appropriate.
E9. So Yeon kissing Nan Do at the end also feels insufficiently supported by context.
E10. Nan Do could’ve told So Yeon what was going to happen to Holo, but instead, he chooses to break off their maybe-relationship and just disappear on her, while allowing her to be faced with the shock of having Holo abruptly deleted and rebooted. Um. How is this caring or helpful in any way? It’s not even noble idiocy, since there’s nothing about this that actually helps So Yeon. Tsk.
E11. Nan Do goes really fast, from “I must disappear; it’s the only way; don’t look for me,” to kissing So Yeon, to “If we’re gonna go, we’ll go together,” to “I will surely come back for you.” Hahaha. I find this very amusing. There’s definitely not enough context to hold up his emotional development, but I’ve stopped requiring logic from this show. And by not requiring logic from this show, I’m reasonably entertained this episode.
Sometimes logic links are weak or non-existent
I know I said that it’s better to just let go of your need for logic with this show, but, just for the record, here are a collection of things that just didn’t make sense, to me.
Up until the point where I threw my hands up and just threw away my need for cohesion and logic, I’d felt frustrated at the writing in this show because there seemed to be a lot of dropped threads and missed points. To my eyes, Show’s narrative felt hastily put together instead of lovingly conceived, and I felt kind of, well, insulted as a viewer. Like, did writer-nim really think I wouldn’t notice, if they did a poor job of the writing?
E4. Nan Do commoditizing his best friend is a really weird concept, I realize. Holo’s been his friend all his life, and now, he’s making plans to sell Holo to users? Why? I mean, he doesn’t exactly have a version of Holo for himself, now that he’s got So Yeon beta testing Holo for Gio. The version of Holo that So Yeon is testing is Nan Do’s Holo. Why do that to your only friend?
E4. If Nan Do’s existence is such a secret, why use the avatar that looks like him, at the demo to investors? We’ve seen that Holo can take the shape of any number of different avatars, from old lady, to young child, to older man. If Nan Do needs to lie low coz he’s dead on paper, then it seems rather stupid to choose the avatar that looks just like him, to show to the investors?
E4. Holo’s always had freedom of movement, as long as So Yeon’s got the glasses on. So it doesn’t make sense that he’d ask her, “Can we go closer?” when they’re at the beach and he’s looking at the waves.
E4. Where is the female colleague who was shown to be canoodling with Sunbae, in our first episode or so? It’s weird that we don’t see any female colleague seem a least a little bummed at Sunbae’s sudden transfer to the US?
E5. If Detective Nam (Son Jong Hak) really had walked past the site of the incident, where the cars were hacked into, to protect So Yeon from the kidnappers, then he surely wouldn’t have just walked away, especially with him being a detective and all. He would’ve walked towards the incident to investigate what was going on, and he would have found Nan Do trying to resuscitate So Yeon. Instead, all we get is a flashback of him walking past, and a link to the mysterious hacker who orchestrated it. That makes no sense.
E5. On a more macro level, it makes no sense to me that there is only one Holo. The whole idea was for Gio to sell Holo to any user that paid the money, so that everyone could have access to their own Holo. The technology obviously exists within Gio, to duplicate Holo for commercial purposes. If that’s the case, all the drama about sending Holo to So Yeon falls flat, because what’s stopping them from just creating a whole bunch of other Holos for the launch?
E5. It annoys me that So Yeon keeps talking to Holo like he’s a normal person, and nobody around her seems to bat an eye. Only that one supermarket lady reacted, but that’s not enough. I can buy the idea that So Yeon’s so sucked into the idea that Holo is real and right there with her, that she doesn’t care if other people see her as a crazy person. The key though, is, we need to see that other people see her as a crazy person. At least have the extras in the menswear section give her weird looks. That doesn’t take 2 seconds. Why doesn’t Show do that?
E6. It’s silly that Holo couldn’t just tell So Yeon that she was being followed at the amusement park, since he’s told her stuff like that before, and since it’s for her safety. And it’s silly that Holo has to run ahead like that, when he’s teleported so often in the past.
E7. How does Show expect me to believe that Nan Do’s phone, which he’d retrieved and put in his pocket, and from which it looks like he called Chief Programmer Jin Seok (Jung Young Ki) to ask for help, end up in Jin Seok’s hands in the apartment next to So Yeon’s, while Nan Do was still en route to the location? Surely they don’t have teleporting technology in this show?
E8. That whole thing about Nan Do telling So Yeon it would be faster if he carried her – and then the scene cutting to them taking a leisurely walk with her on his back, is so ridiculous. Ha.
E10. Lots more suspension of disbelief needed this episode. Like how Holo could’ve sent So Yeon a message to her phone, when she didn’t pick up. That way, So Yeon’s cut-off from Holo could’ve been cushioned, but of course Show wouldn’t want that. And smaller details like how, if Nan Do’s ID could still work in Gio Labs, then it means they haven’t updated the security stuff yet – but yet, Chairman Dad’s handprint is registered, which allows him to access the inner room. But, as always, logic isn’t this show’s strength.
E11. I thought it was quite implausible that So Yeon would be able to pick up Nan Do’s characteristics, and Holo, who’s known Nan Do all his life, and is a powerful A.I., can’t.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Given Show’s genre and my varying satisfaction levels with it during my watch, I knew, going into this finale, that we would get a happy ending. I just wasn’t sure how satisfying that happy ending would be. Now that I’ve emerged on the other side, I’m happy to report that I managed to enjoy this finale reasonably well.
Was the ending quite predictable? Yes. Did I have to suspend my need for complete logic? Again, yes. Did the finale manage to feel quite sweet and complete, in its own way? Happily, also yes.
As expected, Chairman Baek was the one who killed Nan Do’s mom, and she’d never intended to abandon or leave her son.
As an aside, I was surprised to learn, this episode, that Nan Do had been a non-verbal child, and that Hello had helped him make his first verbal request of his mom. It makes a lot of sense why Mom had been adamant about keeping the technology for her son, since it had helped young Nan Do achieve such a significant breakthrough.
However, I honestly would have preferred to have known earlier in the game, that Nan Do had been a non-verbal child. I feel like I would have developed sympathy for him a lot earlier, if I hadn’t viewed him as simply some tech genius who’d decided to fake his own death and live off the grid, but rather, as a person who’d struggled with a developmental disorder, and was striving to find his way in the world, in the only way he knew how.
Anyway. I thought it fitting that Chairman Baek was outed by the very A.I. that he’d been scheming so hard and so long to steal, and I found the way Chan Sung broke off his relationship with his father suitably handled as well. It would’ve gone against deep-rooted Confucian values held dear in Korea, for him to have hit his father or even stood by, as his father got hit. Instead, he breaks the cane, announces that their relationship is henceforth severed, and walks away. That felt like he was making a stand, without being vindictive, so I thought that was the perfect note that writer-nim chose, for him to end his relationship with his unrepentant, villainous father.
Sadly, but also predictably, Holo decides to delete himself, as a way to protect Nan Do and So Yeon, since he’d hacked into national servers, and disappears.
A year later, at Yoo Jin and Chan Sung’s wedding (where, in a cute turn of events, Chief Programmer Jin Seok turns out to be dating detective Ji Na), So Yeon spends time at the beach wearing her Holo glasses and talking to Holo, on the off chance that he can hear her, and Nan Do tells her that there’s still a tiny chance that Holo will come back, even though the files have been deleted. And sure enough, when everyone gathers for a group photo after the wedding, there’s Holo in the photo, alongside his favorite people. Aw.
I’d predicted that Holo would be deleted, but given this show’s genre, it feels fitting that Holo would find his way back to Nan Do and So Yeon. Sure, we don’t know whether Nan Do will be able to bring Holo back properly, or how that might even be possible, but logic has never been one of Show’s strengths anyway, and I’d like to think that Holo, in all of his advanced evolution as an A.I. being, will get to continue growing in his own way, while spending time with, and learning alongside, the people for whom he cares most.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Simplistic, predictable and a bit of a slow burn, but a pleasant enough watch if you’re able to suspend your need for logic.
FINAL GRADE: B-