Flash Review: Off The Course [Drama Special]

I realize that over the last little while, I’ve grown a significant soft spot for jTBC dramas in general. Sure, there’s no network that consistently puts out great shows, but I have noticed that more often than not, the shows put out by jTBC tend to work nicely for me.

Which is why, when I saw that jTBC was putting out this little drama special, I couldn’t not check it out. Well, that, and the fact that this story sounds like just the kind of heartwarming, poignant sort of story that I’d eat up with a spoon. 😉

At just 2 hours of screen time, Show manages to pack quite a lot of meat on its bones, and I’m suitably impressed.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Soo Ji (Nam Ji Hyun) gets left at the altar by her groom Sung Chan (Kim Bum Soo), and promptly sets off on a road trip – in a decked-out chicken van, no less! – to hunt down her missing groom, along with her mom (Park Ji Young), with whom she’s always had a strained relationship.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

I went into this one fairly blind, except for knowing the premise of our story, so I was a little taken aback by Show’s comedic bent. Once I got used to it, though, I found Show’s farcical trappings quite entertaining. Just thought I’d put it out there, so that you’ll know to expect it, and be able to roll with it right away.

Also, rather than a romance (since the groom did run away), it’s helpful to think of this show as a mother-daughter story, or a story of personal journey.

STUFF I LIKED

1. Show’s balance of the funny, unexpected and heartfelt.

Beneath the comedy, there is a lot of heart, and I really enjoyed the way Show meshes it all together. Show’s comical leanings meant that I was often taken by surprise at various unexpected plot developments, and Show’s ability to tease out relationship and character nuances meant that I found this solidly satisfying, and not just a lightweight bundle of funny.

2. This feels like a full story with fully formed characters.

It’s quite remarkable how Show manages to make this feel like a proper story about real, fully-formed people, when it only has two hours of screen time to play with. I loved that sense of going on a meaningful narrative journey with characters who have quirks, facets and layers for us to explore.

3. The spotlight on the mother-daughter relationship

Just from the reading the very short synopsis (which is even shorter than the one I wrote for this review), I expected that the relationship between Soo Ji and her mother would be a strong focus of our story, and Show does not disappoint. Show does a really nice job teasing out the differences between Soo Ji and Mom, and helping us to understand why each woman might be the way that she is. The road to reconciliation and understanding isn’t easy or smooth, but that’s what helps to make it more realistic and believable.

4. Very solid deliveries by the cast.

Nam Ji Hyun and Park Ji Young are our stand-outs, both managing to breathe life into their characters and making them pop, despite the limitations inherent in our short running time. I enjoyed watching them together, and found it easy to believe that they are a mother-daughter pair who just happen to have been exasperated with each other for a long time.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I feel like viewers who were hoping to see Soo Ji reunite with Sung Chan would be disappointed by the turn that our story takes towards the end, which, incidentally, might explain Show’s rather mediocre ratings on MyDramaList. Because, in the end, the couple, who admittedly make for quite a bit of cuteness in the beginning of our story, does not reconcile. To a die-hard romance fan, I can see how this would be far from satisfying.

However, I think Show chooses the more meaningful ending, where Soo Ji finally makes a choice that she is determined to stand by. After years of choosing to go with the flow of things, and dabbling with the idea of living from hand to mouth while wandering the world, Soo Ji encounters a situation where, at long last, her determination and protective instincts are ignited in a big way.

I do feel like the pregnancy offers a lot of room to explore not only what makes Soo Ji tick, but also, what makes Mom tick, since Mom herself raised Soo Ji as a single mother. So many years of emotional baggage finally gets aired, and it feels much needed and cathartic, for both Soo Ji and Mom.

It’s heartening to see that this baby doesn’t only give Soo Ji and Mom the push that they need, to finally understand each other a little better, but also becomes the glue that binds mother and daughter together even more tightly, despite their continued squabbles and bickering.

In the end, both mother and daughter had big lessons that they needed to learn. Soo Ji needed to learn to be strong and resilient, while Mom needed to learn how to let go and allow Soo Ji to find her footing on her own, without smothering her. In the end, things aren’t perfect for our characters when we leave them, but everyone is definitely in a better, more grounded space than when we first meet them, and that is heartening and uplifting enough to leave me with warm, fuzzy feels. 🥰

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Heartfelt and uplifting, beneath its farcical packaging.

FINAL GRADE: B++

TEASER:

WHERE TO WATCH:

You can check out this little drama special with English subs on OnDemandKorea. Episode 1 is here and episode 2 is here.

If you’re geo-restricted, you can use Opera’s free, built-in, unlimited VPN to get around geo-restrictions. A tutorial on that can be found here, and an article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.

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Leslie
5 months ago

What a substantial story, wrapped in a sweet, short package, kfangurl. As you said, there was a lot of thematic and character development in 2 hours. It felt complete at the end. Impressive. I was recuperating from my second COVID vaccine yesterday (feel great today), and Off the Course was just the diverting, but worthwhile, watch I needed.

Are drama specials otherwise known as made-for-tv movies, or are there other distinguishing features? (Come to think of it, I haven’t heard “made-for-tv” in a long time – maybe I’m just behind the times re entertainment concepts and lingo. 😂)