THE SHORT VERDICT:
More lens adjustments are needed for this show than the average kdrama, but with the right lens, Show is a warm and sweet watch experience that manages to feel satisfying, in spite of its flaws, and in spite of Show having had 4 episodes sliced off from its run, in the middle of its run.
If you’re able to dial down your need for logic, and to some extent, cohesiveness, Show presents a thoughtful thematic exploration of love and loss, solitude and solidarity, and the confusing, bemusing journey of dealing with all of those things.
Jung Hae In and Chae Soo Bin are lovely in this, particularly together. This was worth the extra lens management, in my opinion.
THE LONG VERDICT:
This is one of those shows that I checked out, out of pure curiosity. I was just that puzzled and intrigued by the extreme feelings of different camps of viewers, regarding this show.
The ones who love this show, love it with a passion, saying that it’s so warm and beautiful that it’s basically criminal, that Show got truncated due to low ratings. The ones who didn’t like this show, have strong words for all the things that bothered them, and why they ended up dropping the show.
The curious cat in me really wanted to know where I’d land with this show, and I also wanted to see if I’d be able to understand the perspectives of both sets of viewers.
..Now that I’ve finished the show myself, I do think that I get where each camp is coming from. Hopefully this review will help to shed some light on it all.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen as you read the review. I personally found the OST very enjoyable. The songs feel heartfelt, and cover a very pleasant range; from thoughtful, bare and acoustic, to breezy, light and airy. My personal favorite tracks are “Who I Strolled With,” and “Together Again.” Both tracks feel gently uplifting, because the notes seem to float up so effortlessly.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS & THE VIEWING LENS
I went into episode 1 without any special lens on, and came away feeling bemused, and almost ready to drop this show. I couldn’t make sense of so many things, and I struggled to make sense not only of plot details, but why characters behaved the way they did.
BUT THEN. I changed my lens going into episode 2, and that made the world of difference. Here’s the lens that I think might help you get maximum enjoyment out of this show: that of a dreamy thoughtful anime, like Your Name.
The dreamy anime lens helped me to accept the leaps in character logic, because it helped me to see them as anime characters rather than real human beings.
Also, the thoughtful anime also tends to be very pretty to look at, with a moodsy OST to score the experience. Somehow, I’m more accepting of the thoughtful anime as more poetry than prose, and I’m more able to accept the thematic emphasis of the show, even if stretches in logic are involved.
Every time I started to question characters’ behavior during the rest of my watch, I’d imagine them as anime characters doing exactly the same thing, and.. the bemusement would give way to calm.
[MINOR SPOILERS] For example, in episode 3, Seo Woo (Chae Soo Bin) climbs the wall of Ha Won’s (Jung Hae In) house. Ordinarily, I can’t accept that a female lead might climb a wall and enter someone’s house compound without permission, but I can accept that an anime character would do that.
Strictly speaking, it is really random and far-fetched that Seo Woo would just walk into a building that happened to be where Ha Won’s company is, and see a commercial playing in the hall, and piece everything together, just like that. But in an anime world where things can be fantastical, I can accept that. [END SPOILER]
It’s useful to remember that this show doesn’t always give answers the way you’d expect; it’s almost like the narrative details and specific timelines are of secondary importance to the theme that Show is presenting. If you’re able to focus more on the themes, and gloss over any narrative bumps you encounter along the way, Show can be quite enjoyable, I think.
I wouldn’t say this show is for everyone, but.. with this lens, this show just might work for you?
WHY DO FOLKS HATE THIS SHOW? CLARIFICATIONS & EXPLANATIONS
Once I’d gotten a few episodes into my watch, I began to see how people might drop this early. This show doesn’t have the same rhythm that other dramas typically have, and this also needs to be processed differently than other dramas.
I could see how people would be put off by certain bits of information, and then call this one a dud prematurely. In this section, I thought I’d attempt to provide some answers for the common objections that I’ve heard leveled against this drama. There’s no way to do this without any spoilers at all, but I’ll do my best to keep the spoilers as light as possible, and not be too spoilery about it.
[SOME HIGH LEVEL, VAGUE-ISH SPOILERS]
1. Ha Won is a creep who’s still pining for his crush, 10 years after she rejected him and married someone else.
In defense of Ha Won’s intense feelings for Ji Soo (Park Joo Hyun), I can see how this objection would make sense, if she was just a random girl that he had a crush on, and then refused to let go of, even after she’d decided to marry someone else.
The thing is, she’s not a random girl. Ha Won and Ji Soo were friends for most of their lives, and for a season, seemed to be the only friend in each other’s lives. They did everything together, confided in each other, played together, and even had a secret language between them. She was important to him, beyond the realm of romantic possibility. She was important to him as a person.
When I take that into consideration, it makes a lot more sense that he would be so attached to her even after all these years.
2. Ha Won is stalkery for wanting to record Ji Soo’s voice without her permission.
In the early set-up phase of our story, it does appear that Ha Won is asking for Ji Soo’s voice to be recorded without her permission. However, this is not explicitly the case, and because there are other people involved in this mission, when it comes to details like the “how” of the recording, it remains murky with regards to who specifically asks for what.
Importantly, at the point when the recording takes place, it happens with Ji Soo’s full cooperation.
3. Who is Ha Won to tell Ji Soo to come to him when she becomes unhappy?
These are words that Ha Won says to Ji Soo, when she tells him the news, that she’s getting married.
This is a case of the subtitles doing a disservice to Ha Won. His words are consistently translated as “Come to me WHEN you become miserable,” as if that misery is inevitable, thus implying his opposition to her marriage plans.
However, his words actually say, “Come to me IF you become miserable,” which has a completely different vibe altogether. Instead of predicting her misery, he’s offering to be her safety net. Huge difference.
Aside from these bigger, broader objections, I do think that most of the smaller narrative bumps ought to be handled quite nicely, by the dreamy anime lens.
People getting involved in one another’s lives in what feels like a premature manner; our female lead developing strong feelings for people that she’s just met; people asked to do things without full information; lack of explanation for how characters arrive at certain decisions – in the overall scheme of things, these are less important to our story than the average drama.
Remember, with this drama, asking too many logical, specific questions will only ruin the watch experience. Show just doesn’t jive that way. Think themes, motifs and ideas instead. 🙂
STUFF I LIKED
Jung Hae In as Ha Won
I’ve come across some online sentiments that Jung Hae In is getting typecast &/or just keeps playing similar characters.
There may be a measure of truth in that, since the roles he’s most well-known for, are earnest, boy-next-door types. However, for the record, while I found Jung Hae In’s delivery style consistent with what I’ve seen from him (in Something In The Rain and One Spring Night), I found Ha Won as a character unique in his own right. The acting method and delivery style might be similar, but the layer and nuances feel tailored to Ha Won as a character, and I think Jung Hae In did an excellent job playing Ha Won.
I feel like he inhabits the character very well. His delivery feels consistently measured and restrained, and yet, it’s often not hard to guess how Ha Won is feeling about things. The restraint doesn’t make him impassive; the restraint just makes him more subtle. I do enjoy that.
I also think it’s safe to say that I found Ha Won the most consistent, of our main characters. Also, once I got the misconceptions about Ha Won out of the way (see above), I found that I sympathized with Ha Won quite a bit, and I didn’t find it hard to root for him either.
E5. It occurs to me that Ha Won might not feel the loss of Ji Soo so keenly, if she hadn’t been within such close reach. She’d literally been within inches of him, before she ran away, and they’d even exchanged a phone call and there were hints of reconciliation, before she left for Norway so abruptly and died. Because his hopes had been raised, there was further for him to fall, and I feel that that just amplified the pain so much more, than if he’d always been estranged from her before she’d died.
E5. The way Ha Won takes A.I. Ji Soo to the bridge, tells her he wants to hug her, encourages her to scream out loud, and then tells her, “Rest in peace,” feels a lot like a final goodbye, like he’s doing what Seo Woo had asked, and letting Ji Soo go.
It’s a very poignant moment, to see him taking that step of closing Ji Soo’s chapter in his life. It feels momentous and heartbreaking, and given how much Ji Soo has meant to him his whole life, it also feels like the road ahead of Ha Won is unclear, now that he’s decided to look away from Ji Soo, finally.
E6. The moment that Ha Won decides to “quit Ji Soo” his entire demeanor changes. That scene, of him sitting at the overhead bridge, is poignant because Ha Won looks like a lost little boy; it feels like whatever vitality he’d had previously, has been sucked out of him. Ha Won doesn’t say a great deal on the phone with Soon Ho, but Jung Hae In’s delivery – from the lost look in his gaze, to the tiredness in his voice, to the slight droop of his shoulders – says it all.
E6. That’s great that Ha Won’s changed the voice command in his home to something that’s not “Ji Soo.” He meant it when he said he’d quit.
E8. Jung Hae In really does inhabit Ha Won in a way that feels organic; I often feel like I can feel his emotions, even when he doesn’t say much. Like in the scene where Ha Won sees Seo Woo coming towards him, and then sees her stop, and then leave.
The expression on his face conveys confusion, bewilderment, and a sense of lostness, so much so that it reminded me that this echoed the time when Ji Soo had run away from him, just as he was getting within arm’s length. I’m relieved that he doesn’t allow the incident to get him down, but just that moment, and that Look in his eyes, made me feel a great deal. And that’s all credit to Jung Hae In’s delivery.
Chae Soo Bin as Seo Woo
I really, really enjoyed Chae Soo Bin as Seo Woo, you guys.
I’ve always thought that Chae Soo Bin has a very sweet quality about her, like in I’m Not A Robot, where I enjoyed her a great deal as well, but I feel the role of Seo Woo allows her sweetness to really shine through, and I personally found this quite delightful.
Seo Woo is written to be simple, sometimes a little too fast to give her heart, and sometimes a little slow to put things together, but so pure-hearted, empathetic and loving, that it’s hard to hold her shortcomings against her. Chae Soo Bin injects Seo Woo with a lovely warmth that I love; she gives Seo Woo a gentle and giving spirit, and I found myself growing very fond of Seo Woo, during my watch.
There are some narrative details in Show’s later stretch that don’t feel organic to Seo Woo’s characterization, which I’ll talk about later in another section. I just wanted to say for the record, that I decided to count that as a writing misstep, rather than an actual character flaw.
E2. When I think about it too hard, Seo Woo strikes me as overly emotional and nosey, getting involved in business that isn’t hers, and shedding tears from just hearing pieces of someone else’s story. But, again, the anime lens saves the day, and I can just see Seo Woo as a very warm-hearted person who sympathizes easily with others; an easy source of warmth for anybody who spends time around her.
E4. We finally get insight into Seo Woo’s loss of her parents, and the depth of her pain, at their sudden passing, where even the house that they lived in, is now gone. It’s heartbreaking and heartwrenching to think that Seo Woo basically lost her roots in Gangwon, that fateful day.
E4. Seo Woo is a bright and earnest girl, but there’s also a wistful, poignant sort of undercurrent about her that makes her feel very relatable and endearing. When she remarks that her neighborhood had been peaceful at the time that Ha Won took the photo, and says that that’s good, it feels like there’s a mix of wistfulness, sadness and thankfulness in her voice.
E5. It occurs to me that even though Seo Woo seems to have moved on with life – stepping away from the edge of taking her own life, and facing the world with an earnest, cheerful disposition – she may not have actually healed from the loss of her parents.
Smallish details tell me that; the fact that she’s so wistful about hearing someone say, “Stay;” the fact that she’s not gone back to her hometown since the incident; it tells me that if we were to dig deeper, beyond Seo Woo’s earnest, cheerful disposition, that we’d find an open wound.
E5. There’s a purity about Seo Woo that I really enjoy. She is so invested in Ha Won’s journey of talking with Ji Soo, that she thinks about it while she’s at work. And she runs out during breaks to meet Ha Won, in order to help him. All this, without expecting anything in return. I do enjoy that a lot, about her.
E5. Seo Woo has a strong protector instinct. She wants to protect Ha Won from knowing that Ji Soo was unhappy, and she wants to protect A.I. Ji Soo from remembering that Ji Soo had been unhappy, or that she’d gone to Norway. The adamant way she tells Ha Won not to pursue it or try to find out the truth, makes me feel that she’s determined to prevent people from getting hurt.
E6. It’s so sweet of Seo Woo to prepare the studio and make it as homey and cozy as possible, so that Ha Won will get a good rest when he gets there. This, after promising to quit her one-sided love for him, too. She’s all wilted and sad too, but she goes back to the studio to make it nice for him. She’s so sweet.
E7. Ordinarily, I might question the need for Seo Woo to go to Gangwon and look upon the ruins of her family home, but I suppose in a situation like this, where her healing has been halted and stunted, and just hanging in limbo for so long, it’s probably an important step for her to return to it, and process it, so that she can move beyond it.
Seo Woo squatting in front of the remains of the house, crying, as she plays the music that she’d recorded, like she’d promised her mom, is heart-pinching to watch. But I do think it’s a necessary catharsis.
E8. Seo Woo literally running home to eat lunch with Eun Joo (Lee Sang Hee, vibing so differently, compared to when I last saw her in One Spring Night), out of concern for her, is really sweet. She’s a really loyal and sweet friend.
Ha Won and Seo Woo together
I found that I really enjoyed the journey of Seo Woo and Ha Won coming together as a couple. There’s something pure, innocent and uncalculated about it that I really like. And the way they grow closer also feels organic and natural; there’s nothing forced about it, which I really appreciate as well.
In healing drama as this is presented to be, it seems fitting that it is empathy and appreciation that primarily drives the OTP connection, rather than romantic attraction. The romantic bond comes later, and to my eyes, blossoms quite naturally, as a result of them spending large amounts of time together in solidarity and understanding.
Jung Hae In and Chae Soo Bin share a warm, natural chemistry that I found very winsome. It’s true that the OTP kisses land on the static side of things, but I put that down to Show wanting to present their connection as pure and innocent, rather than there being a lack of chemistry between them. I found their shared scenes warm and sweet, and quite pitch perfect.
E3. On the surface, it seems very dysfunctional that Seo Woo would fall for Ha Won because he’s yearning for someone else. But, as weird as it sounds, I can buy Seo Woo’s appreciation for Ji Soo, as he yearns for Ji Soo. Seo Woo is a warm, pure-hearted soul, and she’s drawn to the purity of Ha Won’s devotion to Ji Soo. She’s drawn to that quality in him; the capacity he has, for that kind of attachment. And for someone like her, who doesn’t seem to be calculative in her affection for others, I feel like she just.. appreciates him, without thinking of wanting his devotion to be redirected towards her.
E4. As odd as it might seem, I can understand Seo Woo’s appreciation for and therefore crush on Ha Won. She articulates it herself, at the end of the episode, that she really likes how he dedicates himself to someone else, so wholly. It’s like she’s drawn to this inner beauty in him, and just wants to admire it and its quiet exquisiteness.
To her eyes, this ability of Ha Won’s, to yearn for someone and cherish someone, is so beautiful and compelling, that she can’t help but be drawn to it, even if nursing the crush feels futile, because his heart is somewhere else. But that’s also the thing with Seo Woo. It doesn’t seem like she expects for her feelings to ever be reciprocated; in fact, she just wants to like him in secret. Her feelings for him are him-focused, not self-focused, and there’s also something very pure about her not expecting anything in return; not even the acknowledgment that her feelings exist.
E4. I like how Ha Won and Seo Woo become closer, as he takes her up on her offer to chat with Ji Soo anytime. I would believe that he would seek her out often for this reason, and I would believe that they would naturally grow more comfortable with each other, as they spend time together. It feels organic to the story and to the characters.
E4. It’s a precious thing, for Ha Won to have Seo Woo be as interested in learning about and tracing Ji Soo’s steps as he is, because when you’re feeling alone, the most comforting feeling, really, is solidarity.
E4. Ha. I guess it was only a matter of time, before A.I. Ji Soo outed Seo Woo about her crush on Ha Won. I feel her embarrassment and mortification – what a way for your crush to find out about your feelings for him! – but more than that, I love that in that moment, she chooses to be brave and own her feelings. Her words are equal measure eloquence and earnestness, as she swallows her pride and tries to put her feelings into words.
Seo Woo: “I like him.I really like looking at him. The way he cherishes you, the way he misses you, the way a person gives his all for another person.. I like it all.”
A.I. Ji Soo: “Won doesn’t know how you feel, does he?”
Seo Woo: “No. I don’t want him to know. You had no idea how much he cherished you either. I hope.. he won’t know either.”
That sincere earnestness, battling and overcoming her embarrassment and awkwardness, is beautiful. I can believe that Ha Won just looking on and seeing her like this, would be enough to make him fall for her.
The way Ha Won looks at Seo Woo, when she articulates her feelings for him, and then says (to A.I. Ji Soo) that she hopes he never finds out, makes me think that he’s not only pleasantly surprised by her statement, but also intrigued and curious about Seo Woo as a result.
His awkwardness about pretending not to know, and then sticking his foot in his mouth by reminding Seo Woo that he knows, by saying again, that he’ll pretend not to know, is quite funny, and Seo Woo’s chagrined, mortified reaction is just perfect. The way she takes off running down the street in a bid to leave her embarrassment behind, and the way she squirms in her bed and flails, is so relatable.
E5. As odd as I find it that Ha Won would regularly be awake at 2am and 4am (like, when does he sleep, then??), I like the idea of late night phone calls being exchanged between Seo Woo and Ha Won. It feels like the world is not there, and there’s just the two of them, keeping each other company. I like it.
E5. “Ji Soo worries about you.” “There’s nothing to worry about me. I’m worried about Han Seo Woo who lives here.”
That’s a huge statement for both Seo Woo and Ha Won. Ha Won’s attention is so full of Ji Soo that it’s quite significant that he’d show concern for Seo Woo living in a place that’s damp and cold. And for Seo Woo, whose dream is to have someone say, “Please stay,” this feels like many notches above that. I feel like Seo Woo does have people who care, around her, like Eun Joo, but is just one of many people or things that others might care about. She misses what it feels like to really matter to someone, so Ha Won’s expression of concern must be such a balm for her soul. I can totally see why she’d nurse feelings for him.
E5. It’s nice to see Ha Won and Seo Woo spending time together and growing more comfortable and in sync with each other, as she helps him with talking to A.I. Ji Soo. They just seem to fit together very well, and there’s a synergy about the way he covers her ears without her even asking, to make sure she can hear clearly through the earbuds. Plus, on a shallow note, they make a very cute picture together.
E5. When Seo Woo sees just how much Ji Soo is embedded into Ha Won’s life, the absolute futility of it all, breaks her heart. Her statement that he doesn’t even have 1% of a chance, versus her 1%, just because he’s alive, is so earnest and poignant, and her decision to stop her one-sided love, if only to show him that it can be done, is selfless and quite heartbreaking. She’s putting herself through heartbreak, so that he can hopefully free himself from a futile love.
E6. That scene, where Ha Won looks out the window of the studio and watches Seo Woo leave, is such a reversal of how they first met, when Seo Woo had been the one to look out the studio and see Ha Won. This is likely the pivoting point in our narrative, where their roles become somewhat reversed, where Ha Won becomes the one wanting to see Seo Woo.
E6. I really like seeing Ha Won gravitate towards Seo Woo. He was so distant and reserved before, and now, he’s actually the one seeking her out at the bridge, and following her so that she can have dinner, and then taking her home, and asking to go into her room so that he can finish talking with her. It’s gratifying to witness; it feels like he’s starting to cleave to her, like a plant leans in to the sunlight, and I like it a lot.
E6. I love how Ha Won, as Before Dawn, tells Seo Woo that she doesn’t have to go so far as to quit her one-sided love, and that Ha Won will do what she’d asked him to do, and doesn’t need her to set an example for him. I feel like that’s partly for her sake, since it’s clear that she’s miserable working to quit, and it’s nice to feel that he doesn’t want her to be miserable.
Of course, it’s also becoming clear that this is for his sake too, because he’s becoming cognizant that he needs her too, and I like that he wants to be around her, and that he wants her to like him. It doesn’t feel selfish, like he just wants to bask in the affection; it feels like he needs it and is cleaving to it, and that he’s starting to reciprocate, in a seedling sort of fashion. And it feels like he’s aware of this seedling, and doesn’t want to stifle it and wants to give it room to grow.
E6. There’s this idea that Seo Woo and Ha Won are each other’s sources of healing. When Seo Woo feels wronged by In Wook’s rude behavior, she goes and sits outside Ha Won’s home office for the healing vibes, and when Ha Won looks at Seo Woo, it brings him comfort as well. I don’t know how healthy I find this in principle, but it’s a nice concept.
E6. The scene where Ha Won cries in the cafe, is so perfect. First of all, Jung Hae In’s delivery is so restrained and appears so effortless. It really looks like Ha Won’s tears are welling up all on their own, against his will, and he literally can’t stop the tears from falling. And secondly, I love that Seo Woo is so keenly aware, of how this is needful, for him. She doesn’t try to tell him it’s ok or tell him not to cry, like most other people might. She gives him space to cry, and assures the cafe owner that Ha Won needs to cry. She understands that this is part of his healing process, and that this, while uncomfortable, is good and needful. I love that.
And it’s really so telling of how much Seo Woo cares, when she remarks later, that it felt cathartic for her, when he was the one who’d cried. Also, that she’d forgotten that she’d been feeling down, once she saw him crying. She says it all without a trace of guile as well. There’s this selfless quality about her that I love.
I love Seo Woo’s response, when Ha Won gives her one last chance to say something to Before Dawn. Faced with saying her last words to Before Dawn, she gives him the gentlest hug and thanks him for everything, sincerely. It’s lovely, and Ha Won looks like he’s been shaken by the most beautiful thing in the world. He’d needed that hug; that human touch, and it really feels like her touch of humanity watered his parched soul, in that moment.
E6. I love that Ha Won is starting to find joy and strength in looking at Seo Woo, and I like that he explained it to her, even though he’s vague enough at first, that she doesn’t know what he’s trying to say.
“You said.. you liked looking at me. To be honest, I didn’t know what that meant. For many years, I put no value in physically seeing someone, and I believed feelings continued even if you didn’t see each other. But I get it now. I get what it means to like looking at someone. It was nice looking at it.. when things were tough.”
“One percent is a lot. You shouldn’t quit. One percent it everything. I really want to see how your one percent grows.”
I do think that Ha Won means that Seo Woo’s 1% is likely to grow to a lot more than 1%, and quite likely, is already much more than 1%, as he says this.
E6. I love when Seo Woo calls Ha Won to let him know that she isn’t quitting, and that she doesn’t expect anything from him; she wants him to just focus on figuring out how he should quit Ji Soo like they’d talked about, and Ha Won answers, “I found out.. what and how to stop. I did find out, but.. I need you to do something for me. You just.. have to go back and forth.. so I can see you.”
“The thing you said you liked looking at… You don’t mean..” And as the realization hits, it’s in this moment that she realizes that Ha Won’s removed the bandaid from her face in the photo. He’d unveiled her, to look at her. Augh.
“I can’t say exactly what this feeling is. But… I need you. Can you stay? Please stay.”
Ahhh. That’s so perfect. I love that the motifs all reverse, in this moment. She’s always said that she likes looking at him, and now, he says that he wants to – needs to – look at her. And I love that she’s said that she longs so much for someone to ask her to stay, and in this moment, he’s saying that to her, not as lip service, but as a sincere request, to please stay, so that he can see her. It’s perfect. I love it. I love that Ha Won is warming up and opening up, and gravitating towards Seo Woo, and I love that Seo Woo is finally someone’s main focus, where her very presence is valued and important and precious.
E7. I find it very gratifying to see that Ha Won is much more present and much more invested in Seo Woo’s life than she realizes. She still sees herself as that 1%, given a chance to help Ha Won at his request for her to stay around him, but she’s clearly much more than that to him.
The way he goes to meet her at Gangwon, knowing that it’s going to be an emotionally tough trip for her, is really thoughtful, and the way he observes the things that she needs and then buys them for her, is very sweet. Seo Woo has no idea how important she’s becoming to him, and I love that she’s growing more and more important in his estimation, without even realizing it. She’s just being her sweet, earnest, caring self, and that’s what’s changing the way Ha Won looks at her.
E7. The symbolism of Ha Won and Seo Woo being able to finally sleep through the night is clear: they calm each other down and soothe each other, just by being present. It’s sweet to see that where they’d been so unable to sleep before, they now enjoy such sound and peaceful slumber.
E7. I love the conversation that Seo Woo and Ha Won have:
Seo Woo: “I’ll text often. You said that made you feel like I was with you. I am helping, aren’t I? I’m helping you, but I feel like I’m the one receiving help.”
Ha Won: “Giving feels like receiving, and receiving feels like giving. Isn’t that what it means to be together? You are… of great help.”
Seo Woo: “I’m glad. The more I think about it, the more I like the phrase… “being in the air”. Staying by your side comfortably like air. How nice is that? Unintrusive like flowing water. It’s nice feeling like someone is by your side. It provides a sense of security. I can stay as much as you want. It’s not like anyone can do it. It’s only because it’s me.”
Ha Won: “Why can you do it?”
Seo Woo: “Because you are such and such a person, and I am such and such a person. I think that’s why it’s possible. That “such and such” is for you to fill in, but it’s like we share… the one thing we wish others would understand.”
Ha Won: “I’ll do it too. I’ll be the person who stays… for you.”
Ahhh. Those words mean so much to Seo Woo, and I’m so happy that Ha Won is the one to offer to be there for her, without her needing to ask.
E8. The scene where Ha Won gets a little jealous and asks Seo Woo if she knows that In Wook is a married man, is quite cute. The way Seo Woo belatedly registers that it’s a weird question to ask, and then concludes that her 1% has gone up to 20%, is very endearing. And when Ha Won flounders a bit, trying to deny it, Seo Woo blithely and brightly declares that she must be at 25% now, which is even more adorable. I like this cuteness between them.
E8. The suggestion and execution of the half-look on the bridge is also quirky and sweet. I like the idea that they meet halfway, just to look at each other, and connect briefly and affectionately. It’s like a mid-day charge-up, from their respective power sources.
E8. The way Ha Won looks at Seo Woo is quite lovely. There’s an appreciation in his eyes, like he’s grateful she’s there, and there’s also an affectionate sort of amusement that’s often also present in his gaze. Like in the scene when he kinda-sorta makes his feelings towards her known. First, he’d rather forego sleep, if he can spend a bit more time with her, by walking her home. I thought that was very sweet. And then, the way he looks at her with a softness and an amusement in his eyes, and says, “No one will use that blanket, so come whenever you want to sleep well. Since I can’t go to the semi-basement.” … “I can hear the thoughts in your head. It is what you’re thinking. You’re right.”
I would squee, if the concern of impending angst (due to Seo Woo still holding onto A.I. Ji Soo, which I’ll talk about later) wasn’t niggling at me.
E9. Ha Won is making such wonderfully positive strides in Seo Woo’s direction. I love that he seeks her out, and just keeps telling people matter-of-factly, that he misses her. I love that unabashed quality about him, and it’s especially endearing, knowing that Ha Won’s a reserved person by nature.
E9. I also love the slightly teasing yet matter-of-fact way he acknowledges what’s happening between them, when he says to Seo Woo, “We miss each other. We want to be with each other. We want to hold hands. It’s my first time having it be mutual.” It’s self-aware and appreciative, and I feel a gladness in his words that I really enjoy.
E9. I love that he got a frying pan because Seo Woo had looked for one at his house, previously. Cute.
E9. When they are together, there are distinct little hints of progression, in their almost-relationship. The way they sit together under the same blanket is so cozy; that’s definitely not something you’d do with someone casually. I love how comfortable they look with each other, sitting so close together like this. Also, I like the visual metaphor here, that they’re growing warm together, and giving warmth to each other, under the same blanket.
E9. I love that Ha Won cooks for Seo Woo, using the two new frying pans, in order to congratulate her for completing her first recording. That’s really sweet and thoughtful of him, and I’m sure it says a lot about how much Seo Woo means to him, and how close he feels to her.
E9. The moment when Ha Won tells Seo Woo about his mom is very significant, since, by his own admission, he’s never told anyone about it before. Seo Woo’s response is so understanding, compassionate and empathetic. She reaches for his hand, then softly sings him a song that’s clearly encouraged her in the past, about living on, and finding a reason to never disappear. The way she puts her head on his shoulder, and the way he takes her hand in his, make me feel like these two are pretty much a couple now, even though they haven’t overtly articulated it.
E9. It’s also very significant, that even with the turmoil of thoughts he must be facing, with the new information that Ji Soo knew how his mother had died, that Ha Won still wants to see Seo Woo. He doesn’t take his phone with him and Hoon (Kim Jeong Woo) says it’s because Ha Won is retreating from the world, but even in this moment, he seeks out Seo Woo. That’s huge.
Again, I’m concerned for what he’ll feel, when he realizes that Seo Woo’s taken Ji Soo without permission, and has even unlocked the memories – something that they’d worked together to prevent from happening.
E10. Putting these disconnects aside as much as I can, I did enjoy watching Seo Woo and Ha Won grow closer. The way she tries to switch on the street lamp so that he’d come back to a brightened up house, and then the way he comes up behind her and gently lifts her, so that she can reach the switch properly, and then the way they look at each other with gentle gladness, as he pulls her into a sweet hug, murmuring, “I finally get to see you.” Aw. Melt-flail.
E10. The manner in which they decide to live together feels rather abrupt, and yet quite organic, for them. As he watches her get the bedding ready to help him sleep, he asks, “Do you want to live here?” and proceeds to describe how neither of them would come home to an empty house, and how he doesn’t want her to live in the semi-basement by herself. He starts to suggest they she start coming the following day, but Seo Woo, looking somewhat entranced, interjects that she’ll start right now.
Somehow, in their context, where they are clearly helping each other to overcome their respective problems with chronic insomnia, plus the fact that they want to be together, as they fall more in love with each other, it seems like a natural decision for them to arrive at, to live in the same house.
E10. I appreciate how Ha Won goes with Seo Woo to pick up her things, and assures her that she doesn’t need to come right away. The way they each count to ten, lingering repeatedly on numbers like five, and six, to extend the agreed waiting time, is sweet, and feels innocent, too.
E10. Seo Woo’s awkward attempt at kissing Ha Won as she leans into the car, is very cute. “I was going to do something, but I’m too short. That broke the mood.” It’s perfect that Ha Won leans over to meet her halfway, and kisses her instead.
E10. After all the upheaval and emotional grappling, there’s a distinct sense of relief, when Ha Won and Seo Woo finally see each other and fall into a tearful hug. It says a lot, that Ha Won seeks out Seo Woo in the midst of his turmoil, instead of closing himself off. But, it niggles at me that there are things that Seo Woo hasn’t come clean about, to Ha Won, and I wonder if he’d still consider her his safe place, if he’d known.
Eun Joo’s homestay
At first, I found the inclusion of scenes of the homestay rather odd and random, but I soon came to enjoy this little side ecosystem, which functions as Seo Woo’s surrogate family. I also love how Eun Joo is like a mom to Seo Woo as well.
I didn’t enjoy the arc with Chang Seob (Kang Bong Sung) very much, but I really did enjoy seeing Min Jung (Lee Jung Eun) becoming part of the gang.
E10. I really like the growing bond between Eun Joo, Min Jung and Jin Soo (Kim Woo Seok). That little beer party was so spontaneous, and it was great seeing each of them welcome the thought of sitting down on the floor to down some beers with the others. The camaraderie is now so warm and easy among them, and I love that they also spontaneously went to a fancy place for high tea, when Jin Soo offers to buy. And, I love how freely Eun Joo screams, when she hears Jin Soo tell Min Jung that screaming out loud relieves the pressure in the chest. The old Eun Joo would’ve been too self-conscious to do that, but this new Eun Joo just walks ahead on her own and screams loudly, remarking with satisfaction, that it feels really good. Huzzah!
It’s also really significant that Min Jung is opening up; when Eun Joo remarks that Min Jung’s posted so many photos of herself at fancy restaurants, Min Jung tells the truth without hesitation, that these were places that her daughter had shortlisted for Min Jung to visit, because she couldn’t visit them herself. What a far cry from earlier, when Min Jung kept to herself and didn’t say much at all.
That scene, when Ha Won makes the innocent remark that the homestay is Seo Woo’s home, and everyone tears up at it, is really heartwarming and poignant. This is the moment that these people, who each don’t have a family to call their own, realize that they’ve become one another’s family. Aw.
Also, I’m proud of Eun Joo for telling Chang Seob to move out, and I’m proud of her for doing it so calmly. Most of all, I’m proud of her for making that decision based on what she wanted, and nothing else.
I also find satisfaction in how regretful Chang Seob’s become, and also, in how Min Jung tells him with certainty, that it’s too late now. Ha. I love that Min Jung’s got Eun Joo’s back.
Eun Joo packing household items for Seo Woo to take with her to Ha Won’s house, is such a motherly gesture, and Min Jung buying a gift of pajamas for Seo Woo, is just as sweet and motherly. That video call where Seo Woo and Ha Won chat with Eun Joo and Min Jung, as Seo Woo opens the present, is so warm and familial. I like it.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Kim Sung Kyu as In Wook
For the record, let me say that Kim Sung Kyu does a very solid job of delivering In Wook as a character. I felt that all of In Wook’s angst, anger and fear was well presented, and he did feel like a real, living, breathing person.
Also for the record, let me also say that I did not find In Wook very likable at all, and even though Show does work to make him more sympathetic towards the end of our story, I did not end up feeling all that sympathetic towards him. I feel like his turnaround was pretty effectively executed, but I also feel like his actions and behavior prior, are so harsh and brusque, that I don’t feel like he even begins to make up for it, by the time the final credits roll.
However, I acknowledge that In Wook’s almost a necessary evil in our story, because he’s a source of dramatic tension, which every story needs, which is why I’ve put him in this section.
E2. The fact that In Wook looks miserable doesn’t make me feel a great deal of sympathy for him. He knows that Ji Soo is miserable because of his “mistake,” but he’s not saying, “Ok, let me set the record straight, regardless of how much it might cost me, and then let’s start over.” Instead, he’s saying, “This wouldn’t be an issue if you didn’t make it an issue.” So, he’s miserable and he knows that his wife is miserable, but he’s not prepared to right the wrong; his preference is to keep it swept under the carpet, so that his life can carry on the same path it’s been on. That’s not cool.
E5. In Wook’s so tortured about the phone number that Ji Soo left behind, and yet, he can’t bring himself to check who’s on the other side of that number, whether it’s by his own hand or someone else’s. He wants to be put out of his misery, but is afraid of what he’ll find. I guess that’s in line with the cowardly streak that we’ve been shown about his character so far. He made a mistake in the past, and would rather bury it than face up to it, and now, he would rather be tortured by the possibility of Ha Won being the person Ji Soo was calling, than face up to it and find out the truth.
E7. I believe it’s In Wook’s own guilt that’s driving him into a frenzied sort of depression. Ji Soo making a friend in Seo Woo and giving her a plant as a gift should be no big deal, and yet, the thought of what this might mean haunts In Wook, and affects his ability to function not just as a musician but as a person.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
Lee Ha Na as Soon Ho
To be bluntly honest, I generally do not care for Lee Ha Na as an actress; from the little I’ve seen of her, there’s just something a little too aggressive about her quirkiness, that makes me uncomfortable. So it doesn’t help that she plays Soon Ho, whom I also found problematic as a character.
Generally speaking, Soon Ho tends to come across as presumptuous and rude, in the way she interacts with the people around her. For a while, the anime lens helped; with it on, Soon Ho just comes across as a comical side character; the kind that overreacts and has their mouths drawn super wide, as they react to their surroundings.
Additionally, I told myself that Soon Ho’s intrusiveness and lack of manners or decorum isn’t intentional or malicious. She just seems very clueless, like she’s never been told there’s such a thing as respecting someone else’s personal space. She just doesn’t seem to understand or possess “nunchi” (눈치, literally eye power, or eye measure, referring to the ability to read or understand others’ moods).
However, I have to say that I was really quite disappointed with Soon Ho in our late stretch, and even though she manages a turnaround by the finale, it generally didn’t help endear her to me, as a character.
E6. Soon Ho’s “sales pitch” to In Wook is far from professional and yet, it works. I feel like Show is hinting at a growing connection between Soon Ho and In Wook and I’m feeling quite indifferent about it. I don’t like either of these characters, honestly. Soon Ho’s too clueless about things like personal space and manners, and In Wook’s too self-involved and mean.
E7. Soon Ho’s growing connection with In Wook is still something I don’t much care about, but it’s still pleasant to see that she’s now much more nurturing than before. The way she offers to care for his plants, and more importantly, the way she grasps his hands and encourages him to perform on the night of the house concert, when he’d been paralyzed before, is kind.
E8. Soon Ho asking Ha Won to let her take over the apartment is quite rude, seriously. I didn’t react strongly to it because I’ve categorized Soon Ho as a weird character in this anime world that generally doesn’t make sense, but for the record, I thought it was rude and presumptuous.
E9. In Wook confiding in Soon Ho is a big deal, since he’s so reticent and secretive, and Soon Ho gives him warmth and assures him that everything that happened in the past isn’t a big deal. But, when she hears later that Ji Soo’s husband had something to do with Ha Won’s mother’s death, she swears that she’ll hunt him down. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? It’s easy to empathize with the one who’s in front of you – but what happens when the ones in front of you get stacked up against each other? And I’m sure that’s going to happen, once Soon Hoo finds out that In Wook is/was Ji Soo’s husband.
E10. I am very disappointed in Soon Ho this episode. I get that she likes In Wook romantically, but the way she reacts after finding out that In Wook is Ji Soo’s husband, is not ok. It wasn’t long ago that she’d sworn that she’d hunt down Ji Soo’s husband and destroy him, for being involved in the death of Ha Won’s mother, and now that she knows that it was In Wook, she just can’t stop protecting him. All her other articulated intentions of showing Ha Won the letter, revealing the truth to him, and giving him a chance to deal with it, are tossed out the window, once she realizes that In Wook is Ji Soo’s husband.
When Ha Won moves to speak with In Wook in the studio, I hate that Soon Ho blocks Ha Won’s path, and begs him to understand In Wook, saying that In Wook’s just barely gotten over it, and is just coming out of his slump. She’s known Ha Won for years, but is essentially casting him aside for a man she’s only known for a few months at most. This, despite the pain and heartbreak shining out of Ha Won’s eyes. I did not like that, at all.
Late-stretch perplexities [SPOILERS]
I actually found it hard to enjoy Show properly, from episode 8 onwards, because of writer-nim’s decision to have Seo Woo take A.I. Ji Soo without permission. I kept waiting for her to put it pack, &/or tell Ha Won about it, but that moment never came.
First of all, this doesn’t feel true to Seo Woo as a character, and that bothered me.
Secondly, that constant tension in the back of my mind, while I waited for the other shoe drop – which it never did – really messed with my ability to truly enjoy the positive developments between Ha Won and Seo Woo.
I did not feel that this was a good writing decision, at all.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of my thoughts on this, if you’d like to know more.
E8. I get why writer-nim would want Seo Woo to be in possession of A.I. Ji Soo, so that In Wook would be able to hear “Ji Soo” speak at the studio, by some kind of accident (I’m pretty sure where we’re going with this), but it bothers me that Seo Woo takes the device on the sly, and doesn’t say anything about it, to Ha Won. That seems out of character to me, even factoring in for the fact that Seo Woo says that she’s dense. This seems like it was shoehorned in to fulfill two narrative purposes: 1, to have In Wook hear Ji Soo, and 2, to likely create some kind of angst between Ha Won and Seo Woo.
I really don’t want there to be angst between Ha Won and Seo Woo, though. They’ve been making such positive steps in healing each other and themselves, and growing closer in their relationship, and in such small, incremental ways, that I feel like one big angsty event could destroy so much of the progress, in one fell swoop. But I feel like dramas always feel the need to introduce some angst before the finale, in order to amplify the joy of reconciliation. The lower the starting point, the greater potential for the leap upwards to be quantum in nature? Also, I’m taking consolation in the fact that we don’t actually have a lot of wiggle room for angst, because Show was cut down to 12 episodes. I’m definitely reaching at straws.
On the other hand, if it’s just to get A.I. Ji Soo in In Wook’s orbit, then that could’ve been easily achieved via Soon Ho, who’s taking over the apartment. She could’ve easily found it, fiddled with it thinking it was some sort of cordless charging device, switched it on, and then thrown it in her bag to ask Ha Won about later, only to have A.I. Ji Soo triggered to speak, when she hears Seo Woo’s voice in the studio. That could’ve worked, and it wouldn’t have required Seo Woo to take the device without permission.
E9. I have mixed feelings about this episode.
I appreciate that Seo Woo decides that she should put A.I. Ji Soo back where she found it, but I’m disappointed that 1, she doesn’t do it, even though Ha Won, whom she encounters by chance and therefore flusters her, offers to leave the apartment, and 2, she doesn’t make an attempt to go back a second time, when she can be sure that neither Ha Won nor Soon Ho would be there.
I’m very perplexed that Seo Woo, who’d made such a big deal to Ha Won about not talking to A.I. Ji Soo anymore, so that Ji Soo wouldn’t remember what had happened to her, or why she’d sold her dishes, now starts to talk to Ji Soo again. If she’d made a big deal about it before, surely she wouldn’t forget now, that she never thought of it as a good idea?
I’m further bemused by Seo Woo’s apparent lack of reaction, when she hears Ji Soo say, in a distinctly upset tone, that she remembers now, why she’d sold her dishes. If this was the one thing that Seo Woo was trying to prevent from happening, for Ji Soo’s sake, then she ought to have a bigger reaction to it.
I’m really quite thrown by this, and I hope Show fixes this well, in our remaining 3 eps.
E10. This was a hard episode to watch.
It really niggles at me that Seo Woo is not shown having any kind of reaction to the fact that she’s awakened the very memories in A.I. Ji Soo she’d made a big deal to Ha Won about, that she emphasized should never be awakened. That feels completely out of character to me, even in this dreamy anime world. Seo Woo should feel some kind of bad about it, since it was something she’d warned Ha Won against doing, and she’d gone and done it, while holding onto A.I. Ji Soo without his knowledge, and without his permission. This is a very uncomfortable disconnect for me, to be honest. This messes with my ability to enjoy the sweet moments between her and Ha Won.
Another disconnect for me, is the fact that Seo Woo keeps the truth about In Wook’s identity from Ha Won, allowing Soon Ho to persuade her to go along with the pretense that they don’t know this key piece of information that Ha Won is actively seeking out. I get that she’s trying to respect Soon Ho’s wishes, and let Soon Ho be the one to tell Ha Won, but it does make Seo Woo feel uneasy, and her unease does affect my ability to enjoy the sweet moments between her and Ha Won, too.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
It really feels like Show is cramming as much as possible into this penultimate episode, which is unsurprising since the writers had to tell their story in 4 fewer episodes than originally planned. Keeping that in mind, I’m trying to cut Show some slack, but I have to confess, this was a pretty uneven episode, even with the forgiving lens on.
Ha Won works around Soon Ho’s request to leave In Wook alone until after the recitals, by buying up all the tickets for the afternoon performance, and confronts In Wook to ask for the truth. To In Wook’s credit, he appears to tell the story without fudging, and we find out that he’d regretted his lie not long after telling it, but had failed to stop Ha Won’s mom from pressing on in the snow, despite calling out to her multiple times.
I’m quite surprised that In Wook is able to carry on with the second recital, after the nerve-wracking and emotionally draining experience of telling Ha Won about how his mother had died, but I rationalize that perhaps he was running on adrenaline.
Ha Won isn’t ok, but he holds up pretty ok, through it all. He takes comfort in a call from Gran (well, technically his adoptive mom), and finally asks her to tell him about his mom, which she does, in a light and affectionate tone, which radiates a lot of warmth; something that I feel Ha Won really needs at this moment.
Seo Woo comforts Ha Won back at the house, promising to always be there to support him, and also, telling him that she will “take care” of In Wook for him, and so he shouldn’t get his hands dirty. Heh. She’s sweet, even as she’s swearing revenge. She also tells Ha Won that things will get better, with time.
The thing is, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, with regards to Seo Woo being in possession of A.I. Ji Soo without permission, and it really messes with my mind, as I watch this episode. When Ha Won keeps asking Seo Woo to speak her mind honestly, I feel like this is the thing she’s withholding from him, but it’s not.
Chang Seob eats his last breakfast at the homestay, and to his dismay, everyone seems to carry on as usual, without giving his departure a second thought. Min Jung does ask whether he’ll be going home to live, and when Chang Seob starts whining pitifully about everything, Eun Joo gives him a piece of pickled vegetable, which is apparently from the last remaining bottle of pickles that Seo Woo’s mom had made. I’m glad that Eun Joo doesn’t change her mind and ask Chang Seob to stay, and I do think it’s very much in her character to show some kindness, even when the person in question is her annoying ex-boyfriend.
I’m really enjoying Eun Joo and Min Jung together, and I like that they’re talking so comfortably with each other, so I’m quite disappointed to hear that Min Jung’s planning to leave. I’d expected these two to band together and be a found family to each other. I hope that Show brings them together somehow, in the finale.
Ha Won hums a short 4-note riff to Seo Woo, saying that his mom used to play it. Seo Woo promises that she’ll find it and play it for him, and she does. This is a huge stretch, since that riff is a simple fa-mi-re-do sequence that can be found in any number of songs, but ok, this is drama logic at work. The important thing is that Ha Won is very touched by Seo Woo’s effort, and tells her that he loves her, and asks her to go to Norway with him to play the song in Oslo.
In Wook has a short encounter with the last person whose voice Ha Won’s company is collecting recordings of, and has a sudden epiphany, piecing together all the fragments of information that he has, to conclude that there’s a device with Ji Soo’s voice and personality on it. This is very far-fetched, that In Wook would able to think so coherently given the circumstances, and piece such random-seeming pieces of information together, but I guess this is drama logic, amplified further by Show’s shortened run time.
He makes himself a nuisance, calling Soon Ho to ask for information, trying to hack into the studio computer to find the recordings, and insisting to Seo Woo, that she must have the device, when Seo Woo denies it.
After the previous episode, I’d felt really pretty sure that I wouldn’t be softening towards Soon Ho anytime soon, but she does turn around this episode. She apologizes to Ha Won, and thanks to Ha Won prodding her for the reason for her apology, she does articulate that she’s sorry for her behavior, and that she tends to go crazy when she likes someone. It’s a pretty sudden about-face, considering how, by the end of the episode, she’s asking Ha Won why he hasn’t done anything to In Wook, but again, I put this down to Show’s truncation.
The episode ends with Ha Won confronting In Wook in the studio and grabbing his collar, fire blazing from his eyes, and it looks like the trigger is In Wook’s statement to Seo Woo, that nobody can get between Ha Won and Ji Soo. I feel like I should be feeling the dramatic tension more, but after the crammy-choppy-rushed vibe of this episode, I’m feeling a bit disengaged.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
This finale feels very.. abstract, to me.
I think I understand where Show is coming from, but I found myself having to use my thematic lens a whole lot, in order to make sense of the various things that Show was serving up, while reminding myself that Show is working with four fewer episodes, to wrap up its story.
Here are the key themes that I feel are the focus of this final episode.
The idea that setting someone else free is good for oneself as well.
In confronting In Wook, Ha Won, shaking with emotion, asks him if he knows just what he’s done, tells him not to put his assumptions on other people, like try to tell Seo Woo that she can’t ever get between Ha Won and Ji Soo, and then slaps down Ji Soo’s letter to Gran, and leaves.
In Wook, in reading Ji Soo’s confession that his pain hurts her, and how she wants to be a source of strength to him, is finally set free from the mental torment that he’s been suffering, wondering if Ji Soo valued Ha Won more than him, even though he was her husband.
In turn, Ha Won tells Ji Soo to rest in peace, now that he’s relayed her true feelings to In Wook. In telling Ji Soo that, Ha Won also looks like he’s experienced a measure of relief.
Seo Woo reluctantly does what A.I. Ji Soo requests, and gives In Wook a chance to speak and play the piano for A.I. Ji Soo, and the experience is tearfully cathartic, not just for In Wook, but for Seo Woo as well.
The idea that everyone needs to be able to walk their own path, without using someone else as a crutch.
Min Jung leaves the homestay, even though she’s scared, because she feels that she needs to learn to face her fear. I love the moment when she looks back at Eun Joo and the gang, and remarks that they’ve given her strength. I appreciate this idea, that the people around us can give us strength and support, but ultimately, we need to learn how to walk out our paths, with our own feet.
Seo Woo, overcome with emotion by A.I. Ji Soo asking her to get rid of her and forget her, slips into what looks like a bout of depression. It’s possible that this is also her running dry, after spending most of our story giving warmth and strength to others. Show positions it as her feeling confused about whether she’s actually coming between Ha Won and Ji Soo, with In Wook advising her to take some time away, to gain some perspective.
She asks Ha Won for some time apart, which Ha Won initially resists, but ultimately gives in to, when he sees how much emotional turmoil Seo Woo seems to be in. We see Ha Won making a trip to Norway, to visit his mother’s house. It’s an act that gives him closure, similar to how Seo Woo’s trip to her family home in her hometown had given her closure.
Seo Woo seems to overcome her depression when, with Eun Joo’s help, she realizes that she doesn’t have to accede to A.I. Ji Soo’s final requests, to destroy her and forget her. This indicates, to me, that Seo Woo’s entire need for time apart from Ha Won, stems not from her feeling confused about whether she was coming between Ha Won and Ji Soo, but from the anxiety of the prospect of putting a final end to Ji Soo. Along with that idea of putting a final end to Ji Soo, comes feelings of guilt towards Ha Won, to whom Ji Soo’s always been important. When she realizes that she has an alternative – to put A.I. Ji Soo in a place where she won’t be found, and to remember her anyway – she seems set free to reconnect with Ha Won again.
On a related tangent, I’ve seen some viewer conclusions that Seo Woo stepped away from the relationship because she felt guilty about Ji Soo’s death, and other perspectives, that Seo Woo was scared of the potential loss that love brings. Personally, neither of these conclusions resonates with me.
Seo Woo’s tears are introduced quite suddenly, and Show is rather vague about what it all means. I don’t see Seo Woo as feeling afraid to potentially lose Ha Won, because from the moment she developed feelings for him, she’s always loved unreservedly, even when she didn’t think she had much more than a 1% chance of Ha Won reciprocating her feelings. Because of this, I find it hard to believe that Seo Woo would develop relationship cold feet at at the end of our story; that feels out of character, to my eyes.
If Seo Woo was indeed feeling guilt over witnessing Ji Soo’s death, this also felt like an odd time and way to bring it up. All this time, Show’s glossed over any trauma that Seo Woo might’ve experienced because of this, so it doesn’t ring true to me, for this issue to raise its head now, and be the thing that drives Seo Woo away from Ha Won. Additionally, if it had anything to do with guilt surrounding Ji Soo, I’d have expected Seo Woo to at least tell Ha Won that she had A.I. Ji Soo, but instead, it never actually comes up.
For the record, it niggled at me to the very end, that Seo Woo taking A.I. Ji Soo without permission, is never brought up or resolved. This feels out of character to me, since Seo Woo is good-hearted and honest by nature, and I feel like it would weigh on her conscience to keep this from Ha Won. And earlier, we do see her attempt to put A.I. Ji Soo back, but fail, which indicates that Seo Woo does feel that it’s not right for her to hold onto A.I. Ji Soo. This never getting an airing and a proper resolution, put a damper on the eventual reunion and happy ending that we get, for Ha Won and Seo Woo.
We see In Wook get out of his slump for good, and give a heartfelt performance. We also see him thank Soon Ho, and encourage her to return to the studio, to get out of her own slump. She eventually does, and she even starts to study sound engineering, so that she’ll be able to assist Seo Woo in the future.
We also get what feels like a random scene of Min Jung meeting the piano tuner at the nursing home where she’s working, and the piano tuner has an A.I. device that’s been programmed with Seo Woo’s voice. I rationalize that this scene is to show us that everyone has their own points of reaction, and Seo Woo’s is Before Dawn, because he’d pulled her up when she’d been at her lowest. (I still find it odd and quite arbitrary, that we should meet the piano tuner in the nursing home. What is she doing here so far away from Seoul, and why does she have an A.I. of Seo Woo?)
It took me a long minute to clue in to what Show was saying, but as it turns out, A.I. Ha Won’s point of reaction – the thunder – was not really about Ji Soo, but about his mom, who’d played the piano every time it thundered, so that Ha Won wouldn’t be scared.
It also comes into focus, that A.I. Ji Soo’s point of reaction – the idea of a crush – wasn’t about Ha Won, but was about In Wook, who’d nursed a crush on her for 10 years, before speaking to her. And now it makes sense too, that A.I. Min Jung’s point of reaction was Eun Joo’s homestay, which was a place full of warm memories for her, and which she hoped would give her strength.
Through this last stretch, we see many echoes for Ha Won, of past events with Ji Soo, now happening with Seo Woo. Tearful goodbyes and a separation; a scene where she’s running away from him, while he’s trying to catch up to her; only this time, Ha Won’s certainty that they won’t break up – that they simply can’t break up – holds him in good stead. He’s steadfast and optimistic, and that’s the difference between Ha Won now, and Ha Won when we first met him. It’s also what makes Seo Woo completely different from Ji Soo; he has faith in Seo Woo, that she will come back to him.
Just as Ha Won hesitates over whether to call Seo Woo from Oslo, she calls him, and their conversation is filled with, “What do you see?” … “When can I see you?” … “See you tomorrow,” and this reminds me of what they’ve each said of the other, at varying points in our story, that they just like to see the other person.
When they finally do see each other face to face, there are no words of “I miss you,” “I love you,” or “It’s good to see you,” which would have been nice to hear. Instead, Seo Woo says, “You’re here,” and Ha Won concurs, “I’m back,” before they embrace, and I feel like what’s unspoken by both of them, is “You’re here.. where you belong,” and “I’m back.. where I belong.” When I think of it that way, Show does leave me with warm, cozy, snug feels.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Rather abstract, but warm and sweet, given the right lens.
FINAL GRADE: B+