THE SHORT VERDICT:
Fresh, different and quirky, Into The Ring is much more than its premise might suggest. Rather than a pedestrian look at politics at the municipal level, it’s more of an underdog story with a dash of superhero flair, and a good dollop of awkward, adorkable romance. Nana and Park Sung Hoon are great in this, particularly together, and they were the bright spots that I consistently looked forward to, during my watch.
I do have some quibbles with Show’s general handling, but this is, overall, a solid watch that rocks its own brand of weirdness and kookiness, and is, in the end, a pretty unique breath of fresh air, in Dramaland.
THE LONG VERDICT:
To be honest with you guys, I’d had zero plans on checking out this show, because it’s about someone running for office, and I have always had little to no interest in politics, at any level.
Still, because so many of you spoke positively about this drama, and also because I did have a very good time watching 2019’s Designated Survivor: 60 Days, which is also political in its premise, I decided to bite the bullet and give this one a try.
In the end, I think I don’t love it as much as some of you do, despite my best efforts. I do like it though.. kinda-sorta like how I might like a nephew who has an annoying habit of biting me when I least expect it – but is otherwise quite cute and winsome. 😜
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it as you read the review.
In general, I found the OST pleasant, with a touch of quirk. I don’t think any single track managed to worm its way into my heart, but I did feel that the OST was nicely applied, and that it did feel cohesive to this drama world.
If I had to pick a favorite track, it’d be the retro-groovy hair-in-the-wind carefree-vacation vibe of Our Memories In Summer.
I do rather enjoy the first track in this playlist, Good Sera, because it feels like our female lead’s personal anthem. It’s got empowering and celebratory notes about it, which I think work nicely with our story. I also like the second track New Direction; it’s got such a nice groove. It’s got a driving beat that I find both firm yet soft. Cool.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS & THE VIEWING LENS
What to expect
1. An underdog story
I do enjoy a good underdog story, and Show quick establishes that this is one its strong threads. Nobody expects Se Ra (Nana) to succeed at her bid for the district representative seat, not because they actually understand what she’s about and don’t think she fits the bill; rather, it all seems to be dismissive prejudice, and very quickly, I find myself just wanting Se Ra to succeed, if only to prove everybody wrong.
2. Quirky humor
I’m happy to report that the humor in this show isn’t too much for me. I find that I mostly jive with it quite nicely, and I find myself quite nicely amused. The use of the fisheye lens and unusual camera angles can feel a bit distracting, but to Show’s credit, it does add to Show’s off-the-wall vibe.
3. Everything’s unpredictable
There pretty much isn’t a predictable bone in this show, from beginning to end. From the fisheye lens which makes me feel like this story world is just weird and off-kilter, to the often unexpected narrative turns, I literally don’t know what to expect next, from this show.
Given that we exist in a drama landscape where most longtime drama fans can predict a good chunk of a show’s plot points and story milestones, by virtue of how many dramas lean on similar trajectories and tropes to tell their story, this is a very welcome feeling indeed. The last time I felt this way, I was watching 2019’s Be Melodramatic, and that turned out to be an extremely positive experience.
The cartoon superhero lens
I found that the lens that worked most for me, was the cartoon superhero lens, with an occasional tweak. Show is regularly, consistently irreverent, so the cartoon lens really helps me to make sense of the characters and the way they relate to one another. On top of that, we sometimes have victorious hair-flying-in-the-wind shots, which vibe superhero, to my eyes.
In this drama world, people often don’t behave like regular people; social rules and courtesies are regularly ignored and that’s presented as something to be celebrated rather than frowned upon. Our heroine in particular is a sassy, unapologetic rule-breaker who pays little heed to behavioral norms, and I think if you see that as problematic instead of fun, there’s basically no way for you to enjoy this show.
[MINOR SPOILER ALERT] In episode 6, The way Se Ra knocks Gong Myung (Park Sung Hoon) to his knees in a fit of jealous pique when she sees him get out of Hee Soo’s (Yoo Da In) car is a great example. It’s rough and it’s dangerous, and Gong Myung literally winces the next day, just getting regular normal things done, and that’s terrible, when you’re wearing a normal lens.
BUT, if you view it through a cartoon lens – especially in the vein of classics like the Roadrunner series where Coyote regularly gets smacked into the side of a cliff or similar, and is none the worse for wear – it lands a lot better. And I feel that it’s meant to land this way, given Show’s other quirky touches. [END SPOILER]
Also, eventually, when the romance gets into gear, the superhero lens, with the rom-com lens layered over, is just a whole lotta fun. Our accidental superhero Se Ra and her dorky-swoony sidekick Gong Myung making moony eyes at each other and being adorkably in love, is literally my favorite thing in this show.
HANDLING & EXECUTION
STUFF I LIKED
It’s fairly accessible
For the most part, I felt able to appreciate the general trajectory of the story, even though I am quite the politics noob. I think it’s important that Show is accessible to even the average person who doesn’t have political workings at their fingertips. Which is the excuse I kept giving myself to not specifically get educated about how this political system works – because I need to speak for the innocent. Ha.
Even though this show’s entire premise is Se Ra getting into politics, and therefore it’s a given that she would win the election, I still felt sucked into her campaigning ups and downs. I felt the sucker-punch of the lows, and the thrill of the highs, and it was an all-around absorbing journey. I thought this was very well done.
Although I have to admit that sometimes I didn’t fully understand the political goings-on in our drama world, it didn’t turn out to be all that necessary to completely “get it.” I just needed to know when Se Ra was being unfairly treated, so that I could feel upset on her behalf, and when she did well, so that I could feel proud of her and cheer her on. And Show clued me in to those times just fine.
Show does this thing where it sometimes reveals rather big plot twists as if it’s the most casual thing in the world. I find that this provides a bit of a rollercoaster quality to the watch experience, even though we aren’t exactly going at a breakneck speed. I did enjoy this.
[SPOILER ALERT] For example, in episode 2, the way Show casually reveals that, 1, Gong Myung had a younger brother who’d died in a traffic accident, and 2, he’s actually Chairman Cho’s (Ahn Nae Sang) son, made me do a double take. I was all, “Wait, what? What did you just say?” blinks
At the same time, I was glad that Gong Myung’s identity as Chairman Cho’s son was outed so early, not just to us, but to Se Ra as well. Usually, this type of information is saved for a later reveal (birth secret trope and all), in the same way that childhood connections tend to be milked for angst before being revealed. [END SPOILER]
It made me happy that Show places these cards squarely on the table right off the bat, because it made me feel like Show had better and more interesting narrative places to go.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
The use of the fisheye lens
I mentioned it earlier in this review, that the fisheye lens lends a quirky, off-the-wall quality to how we perceive our drama world. I was ok with this. What I didn’t like, is the lens flare that comes with the use of the fisheye lens.
I looked it up and apparently the lens flare is one of the effects of using a fisheye lens. The lens flare is the one thing that I find annoyingly distracting in how this drama is filmed. The distortion and odd angles I am ok with, and they do add a sense of kookiness to our drama world which works with our narrative, but the lens flare is ugly and distracting, and often actually impedes the visibility of character’s faces. That straight-up gets in the way of my efforts to take in and enjoy this drama, and often frustrated me enough, that I wished I could give someone a Stern Lecture on how NOT to use a lens flare. I just couldn’t understand why they’d pass cuts like that? Grumble.
CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
STUFF I LIKED
Nana as Se Ra
As our protagonist, Se Ra can be quite bizarre, eccentric and in-yo-face, but she has so many positive qualities, that I found it hard not to like her.
I love that Se Ra isn’t easily daunted, and I love that she operates from the heart, without exception. Even when it doesn’t make logical sense, if her heart says for her to poke her nose into something, or speak up for someone, she’s there, and I love how irrepressible she is, in that respect. I also admire her resilience in the face of obstacles. She faces many different roadblocks in the course of our story, and there are times when she gets discouraged, but she always finds a way to dust herself off and keep going. What a queen!
I really enjoyed Nana in this role. She plays Se Ra without a shred of vanity or self-consciousness, which is saying a lot, since Se Ra can be so loud and weird, sometimes. On top of that, Nana manages to make Se Ra emotions feel real, even in the midst of my cartoon superhero lens. That’s both impressive and important to me, because I think it’s a hard thing to do, but that fact that she does it, helps me to engage with Se Ra as a character. Nicely done, I say.
E1. I love the idea that Se Ra has a random, peculiar talent that seems quite useless, but which looks likely to stand her in good stead, in her bid to be district representative. With all her years of systematic complaints under her belt, she has a deep and broad understanding of all the things that the constituents in the district might care about.
On a tangent, this idea of a random talent finding its place resonates with me, because in the real world, nobody really thinks that having a talent writing about dramas is all that useful, but here, in the blogosphere, that’s viewed completely differently. Here, in the blogosphere, this has use and purpose, and I feel that same sense of surprising satisfaction, for Se Ra.
I find Se Ra likable. She’s not malicious in her complaints, even though the complaints drive the service officers crazy. She’s earnest about making things better, and dedicates herself to it. Even when she’s tipsy and upset, it doesn’t stop her from reporting an apparently very drunk man, slumped over at a stoplight, because she believes he needs help.
I also like her forthrightness. She firmly believes in her right to speak up – unlike many other drama heroines before her – and I find that stubborn tenaciousness that she holds onto, never mind what anyone else thinks, refreshing and interesting. I also like her gung-ho, can-do attitude. Even though she only has 24 hours to put in her application, she isn’t discouraged by it, and throws herself headlong into making it happen. I like that drive and confidence, despite her lack of actual political experience.
E1. It says a lot about Se Ra that she refuses to take a job, even though she’s desperate for one, and this one’s been specially arranged for her, because it means that it’ll put someone else out of a job. She’s empathetic and principled, and I respect that.
E2. I like Se Ra’s indefatigable nature. Even though the campaigning journey turns out to be really challenging, with way more obstacles and sudden hurdles than she’d expected, she remains resolute and determined, and continues to push her way through, on her own terms. Even when she’s thrown out of her family home, and even when people don’t pay attention to her, and even when best friend Woo Young (Kim Mi Soo) refuses to vote for her, Se Ra just carries on. I honestly feel tired on her behalf, with all the campaigning that she’s doing, but she just keeps going.
E2. I also admire how principled Se Ra is. She refuses to be moved by bribery or threats, and marches right up to Chairman Cho, to return the ginseng that he’d given her dad. She’s ballsy, and I love that.
E2. When her friends drag her to the protest against the construction of the distribution center with a prepared speech and everything, Se Ra first refuses to go, and then, when she finds herself plonked into the spotlight, she declines the speech notes, and speaks from her heart instead. At first it seems a bit risky, since the audience cheers die down the moment she announces that she’s Candidate 5, but by the end of her heartfelt speech, everyone’s cheering for her. I think that’s pretty awesome.
E3. The thing that strikes me about Se Ra this episode, is how she’s led by heart, and not her head. It was an illogical thing to do, to agree to support Candidate 2, Son Eun Sil (Park Mi Hyun), and even hand over her complaints diary to her, but she does it because Son Eun Sil had moved her heart once, 3 years ago, while campaigning. And even though her friends balk at it, and Se Ra herself questions whether she did the right thing, it all comes back in a pay-it-forward manner, when Son Eun Sil herself is moved by Se Ra’s careful and meticulous complaint diary – which shows just how intimately she knows Mawon, and how much heart and thought she’s already given to Mawon and it residents – and withdraws her candidacy, in support of Se Ra. Aw. This was a favorite moment for me, this episode.
E3. I do love that Se Ra’s victory isn’t driven by fancy high-profile strategies like her opponent Candidate 1. Instead, she’s again led by the heart. She chooses the most neglected neighborhood, and gets down on the ground and gets to meeting the people themselves, showing empathy, and offering support and encouragement. She doesn’t seem to be making headway in the moment, but when vote-counting day rolls around, and the votes from that neighborhood are overwhelmingly in Se Ra’s favor, it’s clear that she’s managed to touch the hearts of these residents. They felt seen, and they reciprocated. That’s really heartwarming.
E3. It’s hard not to be moved by Se Ra; she’s so full of heart. Even in the moment when she realizes that her campaigning window is up, her eyes well up with tears, as she offers her hand to Gong Myung. She is spent, and emotional, but she’s determined to do this right, and I have to admire her for how hard she works, and how hard she pushes herself, in spite of the odds.
E3. How sweet of Se Ra, to write a letter failure to the residents, when she’d thought that she was going to lose the election. “During the 13-day campaign, it felt as if it only rained on me. What I wanted the most… wasn’t an umbrella. It was someone to get rained on with me. To the nine percent who got rained on with me, I wish to say thank you. I hope that everyone’s tomorrow is better than today.”
The fact that she still expresses gratitude for and solidarity with her voters, while assuming that she’d lost, shows how genuine and sincere she is. I love that.
E4. I thought it was endearing when Se Ra finds satisfaction in dealing with the kids’ pumpkin complaint, and praises herself for earning her keep that day. That’s heartwarming and cute.
E5. It’s really hard to get Se Ra down. After her pay gets suspended due to Chairman Cho’s maneuvering, she kicks around in frustration for a while, but it really isn’t long before she perks up at taking a part-time job promoting green juice drinks. I mean, that’s not a glamorous sort of job by any means, and she does seem to want to keep it from ex-boyfriend Min Jae (Han Joon Woo), but her enthusiasm for wanting to do a good job is genuine, and I like that. She’s so resilient.
E5. It sucks that Se Ra doesn’t get credit for working on the ordinance that gets passed, when it really was all her work. But it’s pretty awesome how she decides to respond to the situation.
First of all, I like that Se Ra works diligently on preparing the ordinance, despite Hee Soo’s annoying behavior. For example, Se Ra doesn’t like the red ink treatment that Hee Soo gives her draft, but she hunkers down and works on it earnestly anyway.
Second of all, even though Se Ra realizes the omission too late to say anything before the ordinance gets passed without her name on it, she doesn’t shy away from confrontation. She confronts Hee Soo and calls bull on Hee Soo’s claim that this is the normal and expected way of doing things. Plus, she promptly locks Hee Soo on the rooftop (where they’d been talking), to get back at her. Ha.
And then she confronts Gong Chan (Oh Dong Min), refuses to back down, tells him that he, along with everyone else, is a loser, and then soundly outs him by playing the conversation (which she’d recorded) at the presentation of the ordinance. She’s so blithely unapologetic, not just at the presentation, but later, at the disciplinary hearing too. In fact, she even plays more of the recording, to incriminate Gong Chan – and everyone he mentions – even more.
It’s just so admirably awesome that Se Ra stands her ground so firmly, despite being pressured by the majority to just toe the line and keep quiet. She just will not keep quiet, and I love how she goes all-in to stand by her words. I really like that little detail, that she refused to apologize publicly, and that’s why her suspension is so much longer than Gong Chan’s. It’s still an unfair system and I still think she’s being punished unfairly, but I just have to admire her chutzpah.
Also, I like that Se Ra effortlessly shows that she knows what she’s talking about, in meetings. The actual cost of a bus ride, the actual minimum wage; she basically understands the struggle of the average citizen, and I love that it shows.
E6. It’s kinda hard to watch Se Ra’s efforts to help the old granny with the golf ball problem, and run into obstacles every step of the way, but it’s great to see Se Ra’s resilience and tenacity kick in, and even greater, to see her final high-profile event, designed to help people feel the need for change. Muahaha. It’s pretty epic, seeing everyone cower in anticipation of the flying golf balls that she sends their way, with her flashy gold golf club.
E7. Se Ra comes across as such a fearless force to be reckoned with, as she faces off with Chief Won (Bae Hae Sun), so it’s really quite poignant to realize that she’s actually scared on the inside. That moment when she confesses to Gong Myung that going to Chief Won’s office was like going to the slaughterhouse, really got me in the heart. The fact that Se Ra rose to the occasion and stuck to her guns even though she was feeling nervous and scared on the inside, just endears her to me more. She chooses to be brave, even when she’s not feeling brave, and that’s admirable.
E7. It’s such a bummer that the granny (Kang Ae Shim) who had complained to Se Ra about the golf balls, and then hassled her endlessly about it, is quite ungrateful, once the complaint is taken care of. She’s all smiles with Chief Won, and just mutters a “thanks” to Se Ra, while nudging a fruit basket in her direction. Se Ra’s quite disappointed by this, it’s clear to see, but it’s also significant to me, that even so, when Se Ra receives a fresh complaint through her father’s friend, she blithely takes it on, without the shadow of disappointment hanging over her. She recovers quickly and is quick to look on the bright side, which I find endearing.
E8. I was actually quite amazed and shocked by Se Ra, when she seeks Hee Soo out and tells her that she’ll vote for her. I mean, I like that Se Ra’s quite spirited about this, because she feels like she has a plan, but I’m impressed at her ability to just gloss over Hee Soo treating her so poorly, while keeping her plan in focus.
E9. It’s cute that Gong Myung can’t stop Se Ra from making donations to resident’s causes, once she has the money to do so. Before we know it, practically the whole of her monthly allocation is used up. Se Ra really does have a big heart.
E10. This episode, Se Ra’s attention is drawn to the issue of name changes to the neighborhoods affected by the Smart One City project. I like how quickly Se Ra zeroes in on the fact that a name change would result in a lot of additional cost, when their district is basically out of money. That’s a pretty savvy angle, to my eyes. Also, there seems to be a personal element to it too, where Se Ra sincerely hopes that the names of the neighborhoods can be preserved, and I like that idea too.
E13. I like the scene where Gong Myung and Se Ra talk about the loss of her position as Chairman over a beer. I’m pretty amazed that Se Ra takes the loss of the Chairman position so well; in her words, she’d been prepared to lose it anytime, once she became Chairman for no reason. I like that even in this situation, she can smile, and think about Woo Young’s job, and congratulate Gong Myung on his transfer. She doesn’t wallow, she keeps her chin up, and she’s staying positive, and I love that about her.
Park Sung Hoon as Gong Myung
I have to say, I’m delighted by how much Gong Myung grew on me, as a character.
At first glance, he’s a square stick in the mud who sticks to the rules and keeps to himself, and really isn’t any fun to be around. However, the more Show peels away his apathetic outer shell, I found there was so much to like, in our beta square of a male lead. I love how sharp and incisive he is, in analyzing both people and situations; I love how he doesn’t really seem to care what other people think of him; I love what a dork he is, at heart, and the way he take passive-aggressive petty revenge on others, when something – or someone’s got his goat.
Importantly, I love that Show doesn’t actually change Gong Myung in order to make him more likable to me as a viewer. By the end of our story, he’s still essentially the same person; I just feel like I know him a lot better, and I think that’s cool.
This is the first time I’m noticing Park Sung Hoon on my screen, even though I’ve technically seen him in 2016’s Jealousy Incarnate, and I think he’s absolutely pitch perfect as our gangly, lanky, slightly awkward, very endearing Gong Myung. 😍
E1. I find Gong Myung interesting, in his systematic, robotic approach to everything. It makes me curious to know more about what makes him tick. Importantly, even though he appears to be a bit of a stick in the mud, he doesn’t come off as unlikable. In fact, there’re some tinges of pathos in how he’s been demoted, and doesn’t have people to eat lunch with.
Also, there are flashes of personality, which make me think that he’s more emotional than one might expect. The way he passes Se Ra right away at the interview, seems like a personal thing; he just wants her to have no time to complain, so that his life will be easier. His consternation, when she starts complaining again, after a short break, is quite funny.
E4. I feel bad for Gong Myung, who suddenly gets transferred to District Council, thanks to his father’s manipulative ways, and ends up at the bottom of the food chain, setting up meeting rooms and washing dishes. It feels like he’s a victim in all of this.
I do appreciate that he tries to help Se Ra, like when he takes care of her bag of beef at the funeral parlor, and then tries to rescue her from the fray, when the fight breaks out. And, he even buys one of her expensive steaks, which is so cute, and just shows how softhearted he is, despite his repeated attempts to have nothing to do with Se Ra.
E4. Gong Myung’s statement during the epilogue, that the reason he wants to go back to Planning and Budgeting is because it’s the most political place, being where decisions are made on the allocation of taxpayers’ money, tells me that he’s strategic and shrewd, and wants to be able to make a difference. Unfortunately, it also seems that in practice, his strategic and shrewd qualities haven’t gotten him very far, since he seems to be getting further and further away from going back to Planning and Budgeting, especially with his latest transfer. There’s something quite plaintive, about that.
E5. I do love that it’s Gong Myung who triggered Se Ra to make a stand, when she’d been ready to go along with the ruse to make some money for creating a presentation for Gong Chan, with his incisive observation that to her, it’s not just about the money; that she really doesn’t want to give up the chance to pass an ordinance bill.
He does the same to Hee Soo too. She’s all upset and pouty about Se Ra locking her on the rooftop, but he shows her no sympathy. Instead, he tells her directly that she’d had the chance to stop this entire thing from happening, but she didn’t.
Gong Myung may be a man of few words, but his observations are insightful and sharp. I like that.
E5. Gong Myung has so much pent-up hurt and frustration about his father. It really shows, the way he blurts out Chairman Cho’s wrongdoings in front of Se Ra’s family. Given how polite and decorous Gong Myung usually is, this is so telling, that he would out his father in front of Se Ra’s parents, whom he hasn’t seen for years, because his father’s hypocrisy bothers him that much. And then, when Se Ra runs after him, it’s quite heartbreaking to see him cry, especially because he’s usually so deadpan. Poor baby.
E6. Gong Myung’s little petty actions in protest against people or behavior that he is against, becomes quite the running gag. The first time he does it, it’s amusing. But the more he does it, the funnier it gets, because he keeps getting away with knocking into people or spilling water on people on purpose, by mumbling an apology. Our dorky deadpan rebel. Hur.
E9. I love how Gong Myung tells a furious Chairman Cho that he should have considered all his variables, instead of assuming everything would go the way he wanted. What Gong Myung says is completely true; Gong Myung’s involvement was always a possibility, as was Se Ra’s turning down of Chairman Cho’s offer. Gong Myung’s always so dependably incisive.
E11. Gong Myung’s the stiff, distant, official type of guy, and that’s exactly one of the things I appreciate about him. In that flashback, when Yang Nae Sung (Yu Seong Ju) approaches him and asks if he’d been working at the Ministry of Planning and Budget, I really like the polite way Gong Myung shuts him down, citing official protocol. “I no longer work there. Why don’t you file a request for whatever file you want to see?” I dunno. This just appeals to me. Gong Myung never cares about whether other people see him as approachable or nice, whereas I often automatically do.
E11. I do love how sharp Gong Myung is, in picking up on how the Sarang-dong resident leader’s daughter had conveniently been the one to win a cash prize for the naming contest – which had been held after the naming had been done in the paperwork the month before. And he’s fast on his feet too; I love how he manages to effectively threaten the resident leader through the peep-hole of the resolutely shut door. So resourceful!
E11. Aw, how perfectly sweet and poignant is it, that Gong Myung refers to Se Ra as a friend whom he’d missed for a long time. It’s so heartwarming to hear, and I’d love for him to be able to tell Se Ra things like that.
E14. Gong Myung telling Se Ra how he’ll miss coming home at her house because of how her parents welcome him warmly, is so poignant. Aw. Poor Gong Myung, who’s grown up by himself and is therefore out of touch with the little warm family gestures that are so common in other households. The way he practically chokes on the words, “I’m home,” makes me want to give him a big ol’ hug.
Se Ra and Gong Myung together
When all is said and done, I feel like this OTP is an excellent and believable example of the evolution of a bickering relationship evolving into a romantic one.
When our OTP first meets in our story, they do not get along much at all, and I find it hard to imagine how Show would bring these two together in a believable way. But Show does it, and does it in such an organic manner, in such slow degrees, that I basically float along on the journey, until there’s a point in my watch where I literally forget that these two used to be more like enemies. Well played, Show, well played.
Gong Myung and Se Ra make a wonderfully adorkable couple, and I love that each person’s weirdness kinda complements the other person’s weirdness – and where it doesn’t, they accept each other, oddities and all. That’s really sweet, really.
Park Sung Hoon and Nana share a chemistry that feels sparky and believable, and all the skinship, from friendly thwacks to tender kisses, all feels organically grown. Really nice. The more time these two shared on my screen, the more I enjoyed my watch, basically. ❤️
E1. The childhood connection between Gong Myung and Se Ra is tropey, but given Gong Myung’s distant personality, it does come as a rather pleasant surprise, that he muses about it fondly, saying with a small smile, that Se Ra’s grown up well. It does make me curious to see more of this soft spot, which he’s kept hidden so well.
E2. I like that Se Ra becomes aware of her childhood connection with Gong Myung now, rather than later. If we need a childhood connection, I would rather not have the secret dragged out for episodes on end. Having Se Ra realize it now, changes the tone of her interactions with Gong Myung immediately. She’s no longer just an ex-colleague or the expert complainant Garden Tiger Moth; she’s his ex-schoolmate and ice-cream sharing friend, and that changes everything.
E3. I rather like that Gong Myung is dragged along Se Ra’s journey, mostly because it’s his job to make sure that she’s abiding by the rules – and by the time she’s done with her relentless campaigning, there’s a respect in his gaze, as he shakes her hand and tells her that she’s worked hard. He had started out wanting nothing to do with her, but now, he finds himself supporting her, in spite of himself, and I really like that.
E3. I do love the epilogue, where a drunk Se Ra asks Gong Myung who the 9% who’d pledged to vote for her might be. Gong Myung replies, “People like you,” and then after a pause, adds, “People like me.” Aw. The feels! We have solidarity!
E3. We have some sudden hyperawareness, with Se Ra suddenly becoming cognizant of the fact that Gong Myung is not just a boy anymore, but appealing as a man. Ooh.
E5. In principle, it’s not cool that Se Ra is handsy with Gong Myung, grabbing him by the chin and all that (I mean, if it were a man grabbing a woman’s chin like that, I would be uncomfortable too), but I rationalize that she’s like this with him because of the context of their relationship. Because they were friends as children, there’s a lot of that dynamic that leaks into how they relate now, because that set the entire tone of their relationship. If she didn’t realize that he was her childhood friend, I’m sure she’d never grab him by the chin.
E5. Gong Myung really puts up with a lot of nonsense from Se Ra. But the sense I get is that he’s actually not that opposed to helping her, and that’s why he does things that she asks, rather than that he’s being forced into it. The way he vets her ordinance proposal so seriously and thoughtfully is very sweet, actually. I’m not surprised that Se Ra would have a moment of hyperawareness; it’s always nice to see a man excelling at something.
E5. The dynamic between Gong Myung and Se Ra is loosening up and becoming warmer, in spite of Gong Myung’s initial misgivings. In spite of himself, he’s getting more comfortable talking to and hanging out with Se Ra. I like how he went to meet her at the pochangmacha where she was drowning her sorrows in soju and noodles, and brought her cake. How heartwarming and cute, that he congratulates her on passing her first ordinance bill, and when she mumbles that no one knows about it, he counters that he does; he knows. Aw. And how ridiculous and endearing, is the way Se Ra scoops a big bite of cake, and then practically force-feeds Gong Myung, as it he’s a child taking too long with his meal. Haha.
Aaand, we have tipsy hyperawareness as well, with Se Ra getting all heart-thumpy while grabbing Gong Myung’s hand, after drunkenly proposing that they give each other their hearts for safekeeping. Hahaha. She can be so off-the-wall, and so earnest at the same time.
E5. We see from the flashback, that Gong Myung issues with his father go back many years. How awesome of Se Ra, that she’d thrown herself between Gong Myung and his dad, and told his dad that he was coming home with her and not him, because she’d sensed Gong Myung’s fear. I love that. Se Ra was fiercely loyal and so brave, even as a little girl.
E6. Gong Myung seems increasingly interested and invested in Se Ra’s activities. His first petty action, spilling water on Go Dong Chan, is basically because of her. And his question to Manager Lee (Park Sung Geun), about whether she’d called that day again, is out of concern for her too. And, he takes the trouble to backtrack and tell her that there’s no special relationship between him and Hee Soo, in case she misunderstands. It all feels like breadcrumbs at this point, but if you collect enough breadcrumbs, you can basically do some meaningful cooking with it, yes?
E6. Gong Myung’s flying tackle of the drunk man is fantastic, and quite funny. He’s usually so reserved that seeing him react in such a big way, especially to protect Se Ra, is pretty great. Squee!
E6. Gong Myung knows and accepts Se Ra more than Min Jae does, even though Min Jae had been her boyfriend for 9 years. Min Jae tells her to be more easygoing, but Gong Myung just states matter-of-factly that just being easygoing isn’t her style, and if she did that, she wouldn’t be Goo Se Ra anymore. In this moment, Se Ra looks quite blindsided, like she’s not used to being so seen. I do love that Gong Myung gets this reaction out of her, just from being himself and telling her honestly what he thinks. Love.
E6. The entire montage of how Se Ra sends Gong Myung selfies of herself eating, on the hour, through the night, because he’d said that he was going to be pulling an all-nighter, is quite cute. Even cuter, is Gong Myung’s eventual aborted attempt at a return selfie, awkward stiff smile and all. Hee.
Also, leaked smiles are my kryptonite, and Gong Myung leaks a smile, even as he sets the photo that Se Ra sent him as his phone wallpaper. Squee!
E7. I do love that Gong Myung is actively helping Se Ra now, like when he asks Manager Lee how to best get a complaint looked into, and then applies the answer to helping Se Ra with the issue of the golf course.
E7. Ha. I think it’s so cute that Gong Myung’s sulking about Min Jae taking Se Ra home, and Se Ra referring to Min Jae as “Min Jae Oppa.”
E7. Now that Gong Myung knows that Se Ra and Min Jae have broken up, it feels like the hyperawareness on his part, inches up a notch. And, he’s doing more nice things for her too, while convincing himself that he’s just doing his job, like how he makes a new list of tea items for the district representatives, and includes Se Ra’s name, alongside her favorite blueberry yogurt cake. Aw. Sweet!
Plus, there’s how he buys thermal underwear for Se Ra’s parents, so that she has something to give them when she supposedly receives her first (non-existent) paycheck. He’s so thoughtful.
E7. I have an instinctive meh reaction to any and all games day scenes in dramas because they often feel like filler, so color me surprised, that this episode’s highlight actually comes from the games day. I love that, during the epilogue, we get to see what Se Ra had turned to look at, that had powered her to the finish line. It was Gong Myung, continuing to run alongside her, giving her renewed strength to keep running, despite stating for the record that he had no interest in this games day. Aw. And, squee! The loyalty and solidarity! 🤩
E8. Gong Myung sure is sending mixed signals to Se Ra this episode. First, he spends several hours searching for her based on the photo that she’d sent of her favorite place, and then, he goes to her, bringing beer and dumplings, because of what she’d said before during her campaign, that he should at least bring her dumplings. And he says encouraging things to her about doing the things that only she can do; that she’s done her best and should stop blaming herself; that she’s so full of energy that there will always be someone on her side – like him.
And then, when Se Ra actually extends an invitation to him, to be on her side, he declines. That’s quite a mixed signal, no? And he keeps grinning at her, too, which she understandably finds aggravating, in the wake of his refusal. It’s almost like he’s finding humor in her despondence.
My take on Gong Myung’s behavior, is that he’s compartmentalized his relationship with Se Ra, and decided that they are merely colleagues, probably because he’s mostly that kind of stiff person who likes to keep things purely business. And so, even though he does seem to be warming up to Se Ra and growing interested in things to do with her, he probably categorizes the nice things he does for her, as “just business.” He’s possibly also not very aware of how he feels about her, or he might be in denial about it. And yet, he can’t stop grinning around her, I think, because he finds her cute. Altogether, I think that’s why his behavior on the rooftop comes off as being so strange.
E8. I love how much Se Ra cares. Those information packets that she makes for the fired security guards, to help them with their job searches, is so thoughtful and sweet. And I love even more, that Gong Myung just knows that she’ll take care of them, even without her telling him.
E9. I love that this new arrangement – complete with Chief Won’s refusal to give her a driver or an assistant since Se Ra claims cost control is her reason for refusing Min Jae as her secretary – means that Se Ra and Gong Myung are basically glued at the hip all day. YES. I love the idea that they’re basically spending entire days together, from the time he picks her up for work, to the time he drops her off.
As expected, Se Ra and Gong Myung make a cute pair. I enjoy watching Gong Myung help Se Ra, while she basically stumbles along in her new role as Chairman, adjusting and adapting and ad-libbing on the fly, while succumbing to the occasional bout of heart-thumping hyper-awareness.
E9. That moment in the school playground, where Se Ra and Gong Myung relive their childhood memories, is cute. The way Se Ra basically jumps on Gong Myung, is so childlike; it feels like these two never grew up.
E9. Muahaha. It amuses me that Se Ra gets so jealous of the way Gong Myung turned to look at Hee Soo in the photo taken at the local study room, but I find it even more amusing that Gong Myung looks so uncomfortable and tries to explain.
I love even more that just as Se Ra braces herself to ask Gong Myung one last time if he likes her, the whole situation gets turned on its head because Gong Myung gets jealous that Min Jae’s calling Se Ra. He tells her not to answer, and then his confession comes out in an awkward, earnest rush, and he finishes by saying, “What I’m trying to say is.. it’s all about you, Goo Se Ra.” … “It was you from the start.” Omo. Squee!!
Se Ra moves to kiss him, and then after she pulls back, she moves in for a longer, proper kiss – and once again, I’m checking the top right hand corner of my screen to see if I’m watching a cable channel, because these two kiss like they mean it. More than the kisses, though, I am very much taken with Gong Myung’s hands. His fingers look so long and beautiful and gentle, as he cradles Se Ra’s back. Lovely. ❤️
E9. I also love the epilogue, where we see Gong Myung’s reaction to Se Ra smiling for the camera. He looks the perfect mixture of stunned and helpless, in the face of her cuteness. Hee.
E10. Se Ra’s quasi-shy preening is funny to watch, but it’s Gong Myung’s happy, amused – often leaked – smiles that make my day. I can really feel that he’s tickled and very much charmed by his new girlfriend; I sincerely can’t wipe the goofy grin off my face, seeing him like this.
E10. For all the time and effort put into coming up with dating regulations and coming to an agreement about dating in secret, Se Ra and Gong Myung are terrible at keeping their dating relationship a secret, and it isn’t very long at all before they’re busted, first by Han Bi and Ja Ryong (Shin Do Hyun and Choi Go), and then by Se Ra’s parents. Han Bi and Ja Ryong’s reaction of our OTP’s hug is fantastically theatrical and exaggerated, and I love that our OTP likes the look of it so much, that they want to legit give it a try. Which then gets them busted by Se Ra’s parents, hur. Too funny. 😆
E10. For a couple that’s just started dating, Gong Myung certainly wastes no time in meeting the parents, getting served hard liquor, getting drunk, and spending the night at his new girlfriend’s home. Ha. I am tickled by just how fast things are trundling along, when they’d made such a big deal out of dating in secret.
I am also rather entertained by the blatant role-reversal in this relationship, where Show has Se Ra being the protective, proactive one, and Gong Myung filling the role of the maiden in distress. I love that she takes such pleasure in looking at him, such that she can’t stop cooing about how cute he is, even when she’s completely drunk.
Also, our story has evolved so much, that I was rather startled when Se Ra remarks that her previous boss had made her prepare 13 drafts in a single sitting, and Gong Myung replies that he’d been that boss. Oh, how things have changed. And I love that Gong Myung doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder about it.
E11. I do like that Se Ra takes Han Bi’s words to heart, and goes after what’s precious to her, despite her defiant stance towards Gong Myung during their cold war. I like that she goes to his neighborhood and calls him, and prattles about how she still wants to know so much about him, and how could he have not called her once, and it’s sweet how Gong Myung goes in search of her, even while he has her on the line. That’s definitely very different from how Min Jae used to treat Se Ra.
Even though I’m slightly disappointed that Se Ra doesn’t apologize for her part in the quarrel, while we see Gong Myung apologizing, I am sufficiently mollified that she tells him that she’s lost sleep over it, and looks haggard. That’s her way of telling him that she’s been feeling bad without him, and I think he understands. And then, we get giggly make-up kisses. Aw. Finally!
E13. Se Ra’s instinct not to leave Gong Myung alone, is such a sweet, pure thing. She knows that he’s deeply affected by seeing his brother’s name on the memorial, and so she heads over to his apartment and starts living there, without really planning on it or thinking it through. She just knows in her gut that she doesn’t want to leave Gong Myung alone, and I find that very endearing and sweet.
Even though she does effectively lie to her parents to sneak to her boyfriend’s house, it’s not the hanky-panky that her dad imagines at all. (Gong Myung having to awkwardly vouch for how healthy he is, was amusing, I have to admit.) Se Ra just wants him to not be alone, which is how they both end up at her parents’ house, when they come to collect her. It’s cute how they get up at 3am to make ramyun, and smile with delight at how ramyun really does taste better when it’s eaten with someone else. Also, I like Se Ra’s gleeful remark, that now they are in the kind of relationship where they eat ramyun together at 3am. Hee.
E14. Gong Myung and Se Ra walking home hand in hand, smiling at how, despite the loss of the Chairman’s office and car, they have each other, is very sweet indeed.
Se Ra’s parents
It should probably come as no surprise that a quirky gal like Se Ra would have equally quirky parents, heh.
Ahn Kil Kang and Jang Hye Jin manage to make Dad and Mom tenderhearted amid the weird idiosyncrasies, and I found myself growing very fond of them.
Here are just a couple of Mom and Dad highlights that I enjoyed.
[SPOILER] I love that in episode 3, we see both Mom and Dad, who hadn’t been on board with Se Ra running for office, get into the act. Mom, by dancing toe to toe against Candidate 1’s team (whom she’d used to dance for, ha), and Dad, by handing out Se Ra’s candidacy cards in the rain. Aw. That is sweet. Also, that shot of Dad quietly crying by himself in the stairwell, after Se Ra wins, is so touching. He is so proud of her. ❤️
I also love how Mom and Dad welcome Gong Myung into the family home in episode 5, as if Se Ra’s brought home a playmate or something. They clearly still think of Gong Myung as a young kid, and I find it very amusing and endearing. [END SPOILER]
Se Ra’s friends
I thought Se Ra’s friends Woo Young and Han Bi were pretty great. Even though Woo Young has her reservations about Se Ra’s choices, they both always end up supporting and helping Se Ra anyway. I love that despite their very different stations in life, they are constant and loyal, while being bluntly honest with Se Ra. Together, they fulfill Se Ra’s need for both cheerleaders and naysayers. I think that’s pretty awesome.
Also, credit to show for giving both Woo Young and Han Bi time in the spotlight, so that we grow to understand more of their stories too.
Choi Go as Ja Ryong
Ja Ryong often drives the plot along, either by saying something that’s wise beyond his years, or something that’s driven by his kiddish innocence. Either way, his words often hit home for Se Ra, and he feels like some kind of accidental guardian angel. Yes, it’s a plot device, but I found him pretty cute and endearing.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
In our political drama world, there are more than a few characters who are amoral and gray, who essentially work out to neutral. I neither liked them or disliked them, which is why I’ve put them in this section.
Han Joon Woo as Min Jae [SPOILERS]
Min Jae breaks up with Se Ra early on in our story, and spends much of the rest of the time being pretty ambiguous, both in terms of whether he actually wants to win Se Ra back, and what his real motives are, in helping Chairman Cho.
He often seems rather regretful of breaking up with Se Ra, and does nice things for her like placing enough juice orders so that she’ll get to receive a paycheck – but he always stops short of actually telling Se Ra that he wants a reconciliation.
On the political front, he often seems to have his own agenda that he simply aligns with Chairman Cho’s agenda wherever possible. For example, he’s the one who talks Chairman Cho into helping Se Ra secure the Chairman position, but Min Jae clearly has his own reasons for doing so, and it’s not the same as Chairman Cho’s reasons. Min Jae’s reason – as far as we know – is to help Se Ra and put her in a better position.
Min Jae’s a smart man for being able to navigate among the sharks for so long, but it’s at high personal cost. He loses Se Ra, and also, he’s stuck as Chairman Cho’s assistant for years, when Chairman Cho never comes through on his promise of nominating Min Jae for a political position.
Overall, Min Jae strikes me as rather lost and muddled, because he doesn’t know when to stop. He doesn’t know when to let go of Chairman Cho’s empty promises, which results in him losing Se Ra, and he doesn’t know when to let go of Se Ra either, since she never asked him to help her, and yet he tries to impose his plans on her career.
In the end, I’m glad that Min Jae declines to work for Chairman Cho again, even though he loses his job, with Chief Won getting arrested. I do feel a little sorry for him, that he ends up wasting so many good years of his life, but I’m glad that he does eventually see clearly enough, to make that stand, and choose to leave for his hometown to start afresh.
Yoo Da In as Hee Soo [SPOILERS]
To be honest, I found myself vacillating quite a bit, in terms of how I felt about Hee Soo.
Sometimes, I didn’t find her likable at all, like in episode 4, when she pointedly ignores Se Ra’s outstretched hand, when all Se Ra was trying to do, was be polite and cordial. Also, she smoothly tells Go Dong Chan that his prank was too cruel, but when she remarks that she’d really been otherwise occupied with another appointment, it becomes clear that she’d known about the prank while it was being planned, and didn’t do anything to stop it. Plus, she then tries to be nice to Se Ra, when they need her vote. And she makes use of Gong Myung’s mobile phone to get through to Se Ra, without his consent. All in all, not cool at all.
There are other times when I disliked Hee Soo too, but the worst thing, is how she takes credit for Se Ra’s work in episode 5, and submits the ordinance without Se Ra’s name on it. Then she has the gall to act all snooty and superior, saying that Se Ra should think of it as sharing, and that everyone has to do that when they start out. Blech.
But then, there are other times when Hee Soo shows that she’s not as calculative or heartless as she first appears, like in episode 6, when she tells Gong Myung more of how she really feels, during their trip to the local study room to give presents to the kids. As Assemblyman Bong (Yun Ju Sang) surmises, she does vacillate between wanting to show off and wanting to effect change, and that makes her feel quite.. human.
Also, there’s the time in episode 14, when Hee Soo reaches out and spells out for Se Ra what she believes will happen to the memorial, and warns Se Ra that she trusts Chairman Cho too much. In this moment, it kinda-sorta feels like Hee Soo and Se Ra are on the same side, which is nice.
Hee Soo remains in this amoral space through to the end of our story, and she basically fluctuates between being pretty awful, and pretty nice. I sometimes almost liked her – until she reminded me not to, with her bad behavior.
Oh Dong Min as Go Dong Chan
Go Dong Chan is one of those characters that I love to hate. He’s essentially perfectly whiny and annoying, like a big mosquito that you want to swat with a big bat.
I felt frustrated whenever he’d get his way with something, but it was amusing to see him flail and whine and whinge whenever he got blindsided by Se Ra and Gong Myung’s plans and didn’t get what he wanted. Muahaha. I have to admit, I couldn’t help gloating a bit, every time Dong Chan got his just desserts.
STUFF I LIKED LESS
Ahn Nae Sang as Chairman Cho [SPOILERS]
Ahn Nae Sang is pitch perfect as greasy politician Chairman Cho, who’s willing to sell anything and anyone, and throw anything and anyone under the bus, in order to achieve his goals. I loved to hate him, too.
The way he systematically takes Se Ra down, and makes her the subject of a smear campaign in episode 2, such that even tenacious Se Ra is ready to turn in her withdrawal from candidacy, is so consummate and smooth. It feels like he’s done this kind of thing many times before, and I immediate get a bad taste in my mouth. Blech. Such a sneaky, cruel, casually pompous man.
It’s most shocking that he is even willing to use the story his late younger son to gain sympathy from voters. Seeing his show of real emotion in private, I’d almost felt sorry for him, but any desire to feel bad for him poofed away, when I realized that he was using the story of his younger son’s death for political gain. This left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth, to be honest. Did not like.
Se Ra getting treated badly by the people around her
There are multiple times in our story, when Se Ra isn’t treated very nicely at all by the people around her, and this was a downer for me. Here’s a quick rundown, for the record.
E4. We go from the high of Se Ra’s victory, to the low of her being treated like an outcast by the other district representatives. When Se Ra means nothing to their agenda, both parties ignore her pointedly and won’t even take her hand to shake it. When Se Ra’s is the deciding vote on the motion of passing municipal bonds, they not only line up to shake her hand, they pull out all the stops trying to bribe her. It’s all quite manipulative and snooty with a side of malice, and I do not enjoy that. I guess that’s the point, though.
E4. The prank of setting up a welcome party for Se Ra, and then not have anyone show up, thus saddling her with a ridiculous bill for a meal she didn’t eat, is too much. It’s childish and cruel, and doesn’t take into account the burden the bill has on Se Ra. Ugh.
I feel bad for Se Ra, coz this all feels like a very rude wake-up call, after a happy dream. She’s given no help or support, and is even treated poorly and pranked, when she’d won her place fair and square. I appreciate that she’s keeping her chin up, and won’t back down easily, but I feel for her, because it seems like this is going to be one very uphill battle.
E8. It’s a bit of a bummer that Se Ra gains the Chairman’s appointment because she’s essentially a pawn on Chairman Cho’s chessboard.
E9. Even though Se Ra’s officially Chairman, she’s still being treated with snooty disdain and casual rudeness by her colleagues. It’s all a bit much, really. It’s a good thing she’s got a ride or die secretary by her side.
How Gong Myung gets treated – sometimes
Even with my cartoon lens on, I have to admit that there were times when I struggled with how Gong Myung is treated by Se Ra. This is most evident in episode 11.
I have to admit that even though the lovers’ quarrel between Se Ra and Gong Myung is played for comedy, I felt the sting of it, especially when Se Ra spits out that Gong Myung is so aloof and standoffish that that’s why he doesn’t have any friends. I felt that was a low blow, and I felt hurt on Gong Myung’s behalf. And even though Gong Myung’s hurt is visible to see, Se Ra doesn’t back down, and insists that he started it first. 🙁
Also, what Gong Myung says about her benefiting from having a good secretary is true; he’s been going above and beyond for her, and even though they’re in the midst of a quarrel, I felt sad for him too, when she won’t back down and insists that she can easily find another secretary who’s as good as he is. It’s no wonder he’s upset enough to get Yong Kyu (Kim Hyun Mok) to take over his job as Se Ra’s secretary.
As petty and illogical as this quarrel is, I find myself instinctively siding with Gong Myung on this one. I mean, he’s visibly shocked and upset, and when he tests the waters with Se Ra, saying that he’s leaving, she glares at him, and eggs him on, her voice higher pitched and defiant. “Go now!” I honestly felt that was too strong. I know Se Ra’s strong-willed and full of energy, but her reaction, to my eyes, feels quite overblown and strong, for this situation.
Therefore, when I see Gong Myung going out of his way to help Se Ra, while pretending to ignore her, I can’t help but feel like he’s really loyal and big-hearted.
I also realize that if Se Ra wasn’t so rough in how she reacts to Gong Myung’s uneasy denial that he’d done it for her, I wouldn’t be so quick to take Gong Myung’s side. After all, it’s not unusual to have a bit of push and pull between couples when it comes to admitting who’s wrong and making up after a spat. But at the first sign that he’s not responding strongly to her quick and quiet “Thank you,” Se Ra shoves the papers in his chest and pushes him such that he knocks his butt on the table, hard. I’m desperately reminding myself to keep my cartoon lens on, but it’s difficult not to feel sorry for Gong Myung and side with him, on this one.
A FEW RANDOM HIGHLIGHTS [SPOILERS]
Here’s a random collection of moments that I enjoyed, that didn’t quite fit into any of the other sections.
E3. Son Eun Sil snidely but calmly calling out Chairman Cho on his sexism and bloated ambition.
E11. Pfft, that Gong Myung now has to become Se Ra’s undercover secretary, coz he can’t displace Yong Kyu so soon after getting him to take over.
E12. Se Ra calling out Hee Soo’s flimsy excuse that she’d wanted to be on the winning side. That’s illogical and ridiculous, and I’m glad Se Ra flat-out tells Hee Soo so.
E12. Se Ra spitting out her orange juice right back into the glass, when she realizes that Chief Won’s “Secretary Kim” is Min Jae. That’s so cartoony and comical.
E12. I like how unaffected Se Ra is, while talking to Min Jae. He’s trying to talk to her and tell her that Chairman Cho has it out for her, but Se Ra remains nonchalant and unruffled, and it gives me a sense of satisfaction that Min Jae can’t seem to get a reaction out of Se Ra anymore. Lady’s moved on, boy.
E12. Gong Myung’s officially back to being Se Ra’s secretary, to Yong Kyu’s disgruntlement. Heh. Also, credit to Gong Myung for uncovering the fact that Yong Kyu’s “girlfriend” who keeps calling him, is actually Chairman Cho. Pfft. Yong Kyu’s got peculiar taste in girlfriends, it seems. But really, I hadn’t placed him as a potential spy, he’s always seemed the straitlaced type.
E12. Hee Soo being flabbergasted at learning that Gong Myung is dating Se Ra, and then getting all peeved that she’s the last to know. What a double blow, for her. And what satisfaction I experience, from her chagrin, muahaha. Gong Myung being clueless to Hee Soo’s emotional turmoil is just icing on the cake.
E12. Se Ra and Gong Myung literally pushing Go Dong Chan out of Se Ra’s office, and locking him out, so that he can’t interfere with the protestors’ conversation with Se Ra. It’s not quite the same as taking a big bat to the big mosquito, but it’s close enough.
E12. Se Ra and Gong Myung going undercover in order to gather information for their investigation, and Se Ra referring to Gong Myung as her husband, and insisting that he’s suuper handsome, while chatting up the restaurant ahjummas. Hee. I must say, Gong Myung does look quite dapper now, with his hair effortlessly parted.
E12. Gong Myung bonding with Ja Ryong over a few questions and answers, and Ja Ryong then reaching for his hand. Aw. Sweet!
E12. Gong Myung turning on the “pretty boy charm,” complete with slo-mo hair shake, when Lady Accountant walks in while he’s snooping at her desk. Ahaha. I found that very amusing. Too bad Lady Accountant seems completely unmoved. But yay that he isn’t discovered snooping. Phew.
E12. That flashback of Gong Myung’s younger brother cheerfully running up to his hyung and Se Ra Noona, to hold their hands and walk with them. That’s exactly how Ja Ryong walked with Gong Myung and Se Ra. Aw.
E14. Hee Soo showing up at the police station and identifying herself as the lawyer representing Se Ra. Huzzah! Se Ra clinging to her like a little girl clings to her mom’s skirt is very cute, and Gong Myung echoing Se Ra in addressing Hee Soo as “Unni” in thanks for the tofu-laden meal, is just bonus. So unexpected, and so funny!
E14. It’s actually quite heartwarming – though still poignant – to see Se Ra and Gong Myung visit Golfball Gran in the hospital and tend to her needs.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Even though there are some lower points this hour, this felt like a mostly heartfelt episode, and I always count heartfelt as a good thing.
Se Ra fights back against the accusations leveled against her, and in a rather surprising move, Min Jae drops off a memory stick with evidence that Se Ra can use against Chairman Cho. When questioned, Min Jae says simply that he really does want Se Ra to successfully complete her term, and that she’ll need the information. He also tells her that he’s returning to his family, and thanks her for everything. Ooh. Is this Min Jae bowing out of our story? If so, it’s nice that he’s doing one last thing for Se Ra, and also, that he’s offering a sense of closure.
Interestingly, Se Ra doesn’t use the information that Min Jae’s supplied, and uses her one chance to address the assembly before the vote, to speak from her heart about why she can’t bring herself to say goodbye to her colleagues and the residents of Mawon-gu. She takes courage from the note that Gong Myung passed her before the meeting, and talks about how her election was something that gave hope to the average, ordinary person, and asks for the chance to keep working. Gong Myung slow-claps after Se Ra finishes her speech, and no one else joins in – which makes his continued slow-clapping even more poignant. It feels like such a show of support and solidarity, particularly because no one else is joining in.
Happily, the vote works in Se Ra’s favor, and she gets to keep her job. Se Ra is pensive though, as she makes her way home.
I really liked the scene where we see Dad waiting for Se Ra with slippers, so that she’d be able to change out of her heels, so that her feet would hurt less. Aw. How sweet and thoughtful! I love that shot that we get, of Se Ra and Dad walking home arm in arm. So heartwarming. 🥰
I also love the quiet exuberance of Se Ra making a running jump into Gong Myung’s arms on the bridge, and then kissing him on the lips. They just look so contented together like that. ❤️
Dad finally finds out about Mom’s debt, and that Se Ra’s venture into politics was an effort to repay that debt. I was really quite surprised that instead of going ballistic as he’s wont to do, Dad actually reflects on how everything started because he’d quit his job, and feels bad for how he’s affected the family. I don’t take pleasure in seeing Dad feel bad, but I really appreciate the self-reflective angle, and I also like that he’s able to empathize with Mom that she’d just been trying to restore what had been lost to the family. That conversation over the dinner table felt raw and honest, and I liked it a lot.
Back at work, Se Ra has a flash of insight when she sees Assemblyman Heo’s name in Yang Nae Sung’s journal with the word “bury” next to it. After a confrontation with a nervous and highly suspicious Assemblyman Heo, and a clue squeezed out of Manager Lee, it isn’t long before Se Ra announces to the assembly that both Golfball Gran and Yong Kyu’s father have high levels of arsenic in their system, and petitions for the environmental report for the area to be released.
Chairman Cho gets nervous about the attention the petition is getting, and releases information connecting Assemblyman Bong with Yang Nae Sung’s hit-and-run accident. Assemblyman Bong ends up resigning, and, time-skip later, we see Se Ra approaching ex-candidate Son Eun Sil to ask her to run for the position Chief of the Mawon-gu Office. We also see in the epilogue, that Assemblyman Bong had once encouraged Se Ra that as long as she had one person on her side, she’d be able to keep her beliefs alive. And he’d encouraged her to be that one person to someone else as well.
I do like the idea of Se Ra being that one person to Son Eun Sil, who had once been that person to her, and I can see that being our last big arc in the finale. I know I’ll be cheering for Se Ra to do what only she can do, and I know that whatever the thing is, that only she can do, she’ll have Gong Myung right by her side.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
This finale was a bit of a mixed bag for me, to be honest. I liked some bits, but was less enamored of others. Let’s take a look at how that shakes out, shall we?
First of all, I like that Se Ra, spurred on by Ja Ryong’s observation that Liu Bei is the best character in Romance of the Three Kingdoms because he was the only one who didn’t give up, approaches Son Eun Sil and requests that she run for the position of Chief of Mawon-gu. And I also like how we get to see a highlight reel of sorts, showing us how Se Ra, Mom, Han Bi and Woo Young rally round her and support her campaign. This makes it feel like we’ve come full circle from the beginning of our story, when we’d seen Se Ra campaigning.
I also like the detail that it’s Gong Myung who manages to appeal to Hee Soo’s desire to be an agent for change, which results in Hee Soo sharing the Area Six environmental report with Se Ra’s team.
I feel rather saddened that Gong Myung comes to the conclusion that he needs to sell himself in order to secure victory for Son Eun Sil, because it clearly opens up a lot of wounds for him; wounds that are still raw and bleeding, after all these years.
In the end, Son Eun Sil does win, and Chairman Cho seeks out Gong Myung. In this moment, Chairman Cho looks defeated and regretful, and it makes me sad that even though he tells Gong Myung that he’d like to apologize, Gong Myung is so hurt that he tells his father, with angry tears in his eyes, that there will not be any forgiveness or reconciliation between them, for the rest of their lives. This feels so awful, honestly, because estrangement and unforgiveness is a terrible burden to bear, and I don’t want to think of Gong Myung continuing to live with this stranglehold. Or at least, I don’t want to think of Gong Myung continuing to be hurt by this, as he lives his life.
I do love the little scene, though, of the district representatives arriving at Son Eun Sil’s inauguration and finding that VIP seating is no longer A Thing. I love how Gong Myung informs Dong Chan of this, while literally taking Dong Chan’s mouth spritz and spritzing his own mouth for emphasis. The cheeky fella! 😆
The Sarang Resort fire memorial is placed in Minju Elementary School, after a round of brainstorming and petitioning by the students themselves, which I found very heartwarming. In spirit, it feels like the kids are taking a leaf out of Se Ra’s playbook, and making themselves agents of change, even though they are technically kids with little power.
We skip forward to June 2021, when Se Ra finishes her term as District Representative. After saying her goodbyes to everyone, she takes an emotional moment to reminisce about her journey, which I thought was a nice way of inserting a highlight reel of some of Show’s larger milestones. I like that Gong Myung meets her as she’s about to exit the building, and that she links arms with him so that they can walk out together. I love even more, that Gong Myung switches it up and puts his arm properly around Se Ra’s shoulders, as they leave. Nice move, Gong Myung.
What I didn’t like so much, though, is how the secret rooftop scene basically ends with Gong Myung extracting a promise from Se Ra to never go into politics again, ever. I.. really don’t understand. All this while, I’d felt that Gong Myung was the one who understood Se Ra the most, and accepted and appreciated her for all that she is. And her desire to be an agent for change is a fundamental part of who she is. I know that she can be an agent for change without being in politics, but crimping her wings just doesn’t seem like Gong Myung’s style, so this narrative choice did not sit well with me. It made me think less of Gong Myung, and I didn’t like that.
We then skip to Spring 2022, when Woo Young decides to run for office like Se Ra once did, and we see the gang support her in full force, just like they’d once supported Se Ra. I thought this was nice. And it was also pretty cool to see Woo Young being a fierce working mom, toting her baby with her in a pram, and refusing to allow the other representatives to bully her. You go, girl!
We also see Han Bi working as a judo instructor to the kids, which is great, because it means she’s overcome her guilt complex around judo, and is now able to enjoy the sport that she loves. We then see Gong Myung doing a great job dealing with an upset citizen with a complaint, at the service center.
Fast forward to April 2023, and Se Ra is approached by a trio from the “Polar Bear Party” who invite her to join their campaign. Even though Se Ra initially demurs, saying that she’s retired from politics, a phone call informing Se Ra that her complaint about a company not paying her contracted outsourcing fee is not valid because she was a freelancer, and that she should change the law if she’s unhappy about it, galvanizes her into changing her mind and saying yes.
I suppose Show had wanted to end on this note of Se Ra being a bit of a rebel and throwing herself into politics because of her beliefs, and that’s why we’d had Gong Myung forbid her to enter politics earlier, but.. it still doesn’t sit right with me.
But, it is pretty great to know that Se Ra will once again be putting her passion and her talent to good use, and, based on Show’s closing flashback to way back, when Gong Myung had stolen bashful glances at her while she’d first campaigned, it’s safe to say that he’ll stick by her side and help her like he always has, even though she’s technically breaking her promise.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Firmly quirky in its own ways, for better or for worse. A solid ride, overall.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Psst, if you loved Gong Myung and Se Ra as our OTP, you should totally check out the last MV of this set. You’re welcome. 😉😍
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Into The Ring, is More Than Friends. I thought male lead Ong Seong Wu was very impressive in 2019’s At Eighteen, and I’m very curious to see what he’ll bring to his role in More Than Friends, where he plays a very different character.
If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️