Dropped: Melancholia

Full disclosure that I checked this one out purely for the love of Lee Do Hyun, you guys.

After he up and stole my heart in 18 Again, I just can’t seem to help myself, when it comes to wanting to see more of him on my screen. 😅 You guys know I typically don’t do horror or monsters, but I legit watched Sweet Home because he was in it.

..Which means I kinda had to at least give this show a try, since he’s this story’s male lead, right?

Unfortunately, this is one time where my love for Lee Do Hyun is just not going to see me through a show. I’m officially calling it quits on this one, after 7 episodes.

My trajectory with this show

I honestly wasn’t keen on the premise of this show, in the sense that right off the bat, via promotional material and its synopsis, we’re told that there’s going to be a romance between Lee Do Hyun’s character Seung Yoo, and Im Soo Jung’s character Yoon Su. The squicky part of this, is that Yoon Su is literally Seung Yoo’s high school math teacher.

However, I told myself that it was worth giving it a shot, because perhaps it’s in how Show spins its story, and builds its context. Perhaps all that will make everything land differently – is what I was thinking.

I also tried to tell myself that as long as Yoon Su keeps things professional before the time skip, then Show ought to have more wiggle room to play with, in turning their relationship romantic, after the time skip, because by then, Seung Yoo would be an adult.

Therefore, every time I felt a touch bemused by Show, I would tell myself to wait for the time skip, because things would become better and clearer and more workable then.

Well. I’ve now officially arrived at the time skip, and.. it’s just not working for me, anyhow.

Here’s a quick rundown of the various things I liked and didn’t like so much, about the first 6 episodes, and then an overview of how I felt about the time skip, which we get into proper, at episode 7.

Stuff I liked

Lee Do Hyun’s portrayal of Seung Yoo

I came for Lee Do Hyun, and he does not disappoint in the least.

Immediately, from episode 1, it becomes clear that Seung Yoo is gifted, and might have some savant-like tendencies, in terms of his social awkwardness.

At the same time, Show also indicates that there’s some kind of trauma in his past, that has caused him to want to divorce himself from the math prodigy label, even though he’s definitely still interested in math itself.

The way Lee Do Hyun plays Seung Yoo, there are layers of reticence and sadness, as well as lashings of defiance and intensity. It’s really, really good, and I was immediately intrigued.

I wanted to know more about Seung Yoo, and what makes him tick, and what had happened to him, to leave him so determined to distance himself from the math prodigy label. I was also curious to see what kind of healing path Show has in store for him.

Woo Da Vi as Ye Rin

I actually found Ye Rin pretty interesting, as a character.

She’s under a great deal of pressure to excel beyond her natural aptitude will allow, and the effect of that stress on her, is something that I found very interesting and thought-provoking to explore.

I like how Show doesn’t make Ye Rin an evil character, even though she’s set up to be a rival of sorts, for Seung Yoo. She’s more gray than almost everyone else in this drama world, and I found her fascinating to explore, particularly because she’s so clearly a product of her environment.

The supporting characters are rather interesting

The one who grabs my attention most, is Jin Kyung as Director of School Affairs, Noh Jung A. I’d last seen Jin Kyung as Head Nurse Oh in Dr. Romantic, so it’s really quite fascinating, to see her in such a powerful, amoral sort of role.

The way Director Noh carries herself, is like some kind of slinky, wily cat. Her purrs are soft, but her claws are sharp – is what I’m getting from her, so far. I feel like she’s going to be a bit of a scene-stealer, in this show.

Pyeon Jung Su also does a great job of playing Ye Rin’s glamorous, beautiful, but perhaps not very sharp mother.

There’s something about the way Pyeon Jung Su plays her, that makes her appear glamorous, yet kinda low-class, at the same time. It’s quite brilliant, honestly. I find her quite entertaining, in all her shallow glory.

And then there’s Choi Dae Hoon, who’s Yoon Su’s fiancé, who appears perfectly pleasant and harmless on the surface, but who keeps showing darker shades of his character, the deeper we get into our story.

In general, I felt like these characters added interest to our drama world, even though I didn’t necessarily like each of them.

Show’s exploration of the idea of nature vs. nurture

There’s an interesting idea here, about what you’re born with, and whether that defines who you are and who you become. Seung Yoo’s born with a strong affinity for math, while Ye Rin isn’t.

Both Seung Yoo and Ye Rin are facing pressure to do well in school and climb to the top, but the difference is, Seung Yoo’s fighting against that pressure while Ye Rin actually seems to want to please, by achieving that top ranking. Except, it seems beyond her means, because she’s not born with the right qualities.

It’s an exploration of nature vs. nurture, in a manner of speaking, but at the same time, we see that nature without nurture doesn’t amount to anything either.

I found this pretty interesting.

Stuff that was ok

Im Soo Jung as Yoon Su

Yoon Su’s in this category because it took me a while to wrap my brain around her, as a character.

Right away, from episode 1, I’d felt that there’s something about Yoon Su that dances the fine line between pure & innocent, and annoyingly naive.

I understood that Show wants to portray her as someone who’s very pure-hearted and idealistic, and who’s so borderline genius in her affinity for math, that she’s a little handicapped in the everyday things of life.

I realize, though, that there are really people like Yoon Su in the world, who are brilliant at something specific, like math, or music, or art, and are very accomplished in their field, but, outside their field, in regular life, are prone to making mistakes that most people would consider silly, like Yoon Su’s ability to basically forget her personal belongings on the train, in episode 1.

I eventually grew to embrace Yoon Su a lot better, but struggled again, after the time skip (more on that in a bit), which is why she’s in this section.

The luxury high school setting

I honestly was not prepared for the luxury high school setting that Show serves up.

I mean, I knew, going in, that at least part of our story takes place in high school, so that’s not the surprise. It’s the kind of high school that kind of throws me. It reminds me of SKY Castle, where all the kids are from well-to-do families, and their parents are extremely involved in their academic journeys, and they’re all armed with ambition up to the gills.

The luxury high school concept in this drama world feels a little extreme to my eyes, and was just ok, for me.

Seung Yoo’s connection with Yoon Su

Essentially, I have very little issue with the growing bond between Seung Yoo and Yoon Su, in our first 6 episodes.

1. Show does a very solid job of convincing us that Yoon Su is the right person to work with Seung Yoo, to help him embrace his math genius all over again. Whenever we see them working together, and also, whenever Seung Yoo smiles, because of math, it made me happy.

I liked seeing Seung Yoo showing interest and growing enthusiasm for the things that Yoon Su points his attention to, and I liked the idea that as a result of working with Yoon Su, Seung Yoo starts to feel free to explore math again, and express himself in it.

2. It’s true that Seung Yoo develops a big crush on Yoon Su, but I was ok with this in concept, because it’s common for students to have crushes on their teachers.

3. Yoon Su carries herself professionally, and doesn’t encourage the crush, which is pretty much all I could ask for, from her.

The downside

The downside, for me, is that as Seung Yoo’s crush on Yoon Su continues to grow, because he’s intense by nature when it comes to things that he’s passionate about, his feelings for Yoon Su also vibe intense to my eyes.

Ordinarily, I love me some intense Lee Do Hyun, but with Seung Yoo actually entertaining real romantic feelings for Yoon Su (ie, he does not see this as just a crush), I found my watch experience around this start to feel slightly uncomfortable – particularly with how Show treats it, which I’ll talk about next.

Stuff I didn’t like so much

Show’s use of romantic music in the first 6 episodes

The thing that really bugged me more and more, during my watch, is Show’s tendency of using a romantic ballad to score a number of scenes between Yoon Su and Seung Yoo, while she’s still his teacher, and he’s still her student.

In episode 2, Show uses a love ballad to score the scenes where Yoon Su and Seung Yoo are connecting over math, and I found it very weird and distracting. And then, in episode 6, when Seung Yoo asks Yoon Su what to do, when you can’t help falling in love even when you know you shouldn’t, Show lays on the romantic ballad too.

Egad. I found this all very inappropriate, to be brutally honest. I mean, I get that Show is mostly likely going to turn this relationship romantic at some point,  but even so, it’s way too early to be sowing those romance seeds with us as an audience, surely?

There’s more scheming in this than I would like

Generally speaking, there are a lot of people engaged in scheming and related unsavory behavior, in our drama world. From school staff, to parents, to students, there isn’t a category of people where someone isn’t actively doing something to try to cheat the system to their advantage.

I just found it all a bit much, especially the character of Gyu Young (Choi Woo Sung), whom I found startlingly malicious.

My reaction to the time skip 

Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I kept looking forward to the time skip, because it felt like a fresh start, in a way, and I was hopeful that at least some of the main things that niggled at me in the first 6 episodes, would be naturally resolved with the passage of time.

Uh. That didn’t quite happen.

Here are all my pros and cons from episode 7, which I thought you guys might find helpful, if you’re thinking about whether to watch this show.

[MINOR SPOILERS]

Pro: I liked seeing Seung Yoo in a position where he commands a lot more respect than he’d used to. There is definitely some satisfaction to be had, from seeing the perplexed expressions of the people from his past, see him be so successful.

That scene where the alumni have just received applause for agreeing to be mentors to the current group of sophomores, and then Seung Yoo walks in to wild applause and thrilled chatter at the announcement that he’s going to be their teacher, is pretty great.

The fact that people who had used to disdain him now have to embrace him, is also pretty gratifying, to me.

Pro: I’m actually interested to see how Ye Rin responds to Seung Yoo appearing in her world, once again. Not only is he way more successful and influential than she is, given their current positions, she’s also nervous about him uncovering the truth, that she’d been the one who’d taken that photo that had crumbled his world.

Con: One of the reasons I’d been waiting for the time skip to happen, was so that we’d get to see Seung Yoo more grown up. However, I can’t help thinking that he’s still really, really young, after just 4 years. I’d somehow imagined that the time skip would be longer, but just 4 years later, he’s just 22, honestly.

Some of his intensity around wanting to enter Asung High as a teacher, feels naive, to my eyes.

Con: I’m also not hot on how Seung Yoo’s romantic feelings for Yoon Su have not abated, 4 years later. I know this is supposed to be romantic – this is Dramaland, after all – but for some weird reason, this is landing as more obsessive than romantic, to my eyes.

Perhaps it would have been better, if Show had taken his feelings back down to neutral, and had him approach the clearing of Yoon Su’s name, as a matter of principle – and then possibly revive his feelings slowly.

I dunno. I guess it’s within Seung Yoo’s character to be so focused on something for so long, since that’s how he is with math, and that’s arguably one of the marks of his genius, but it does strike me as a bit weird, from a neutral bystander’s perspective.

Con: I was waiting to see Yoon Su again, because I was curious to see how she’s getting on, 4 years after the scandal. However, I have to admit that there’s something that’s not working for me, in how Im Soo Jung is portraying Present Yoon Su.

On a mental level, I get that Yoon Su’s different now compared to before, after all she’s gone through. She’s no longer carefree; she’s disillusioned and wounded, and wary.

However, in execution, I personally feel like there’s something rather affectatious about the way Im Soo Jung delivers Present Yoon Su. It’s like she’s a little too distant, and a little too cold, that it feels rather flat and fake?

What I mean is, I don’t think Yoon Su the character is faking it; I do believe that she’s meant to be real about this change in her approach to life and people in general. I just.. feel like the delivery isn’t really working for me.

Con: I am not keen on the scenes where Seung Yoo and Yoon Su are together. Eep. That’s not helpful, is it?

Honestly, though, the way he approaches her, at the hospital where they first cross paths again, made me cringe.

I mean, dude, this lady lost so much of her life, because of the scandal that involved YOU, never mind that it was a set-up by other people; how could you ask her to give you words of praise, upon seeing you again, after all that’s happened? Where’s your compassion?

See, this is one of the reasons I say that Seung Yoo leans too young for me, in terms of where our present story wants to go.

This was literally the point at which I paused the episode, to think about what show I’d watch, if I were to drop this one. 😅

Pro: Ok, I did like the fact that Seung Yoo’s got a real connection with Yoon Su’s father (Oh Gwang Rok), and that they really do connect through their mutual love for math.

The fact that Yoon Su’s father is so lucid and appreciative of what Seung Yoo shares, makes me want Seung Yoo to visit him more often, and strengthen that bond. It feels.. mutually beneficial. I like that.

Con: This is similar to how I felt in Hospital Playlist 2, when they also introduced a time skip partway through the story. I felt rather bemused at having to get used to so many new characters.

I don’t actually want to get to know a whole other bunch of entitled kids, figure out whose kids they are and how that impacts our story, and figure out how they all relate to one another.

Also, given that we still have the previous bunch of entitled kids in our story, doesn’t that kinda double the number of entitled offspring? And doesn’t that seriously mess with the ratio of nice characters vs. not so nice characters in our drama world?

Con: Given how I’m not keen on the romantic angle of writer-nim’s approach in our current timeline, I’m not hot on where we end the episode.

I’m cool with them meeting at the library again, and I’m cool with Seung Yoo surprising Yoon Su with his presence. But did we really need to have him catch her by putting his arm around her, in that typically romantic pose?

[END SPOILERS]

Saying Goodbye

To be fair, I don’t hate this show. As you can see from my pros and cons list, there are still elements in this story that interest me. However, as you can also see from my list, the pros are heavily outnumbered by the cons.

And truthfully, I’m just.. not all that interested, to see where this story goes. 😝 At the same time, there are other shinier, newer dramas that are calling out to me, and so, it only makes sense, that I pull the plug on the show that I’m not loving, in search of a show that I might actually properly enjoy.

I’m sorry Lee Do Hyun-sshi. I guess I don’t have that much fangirl fortitude, after all. 😅

Patreon Update!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Melancholia, is Bad and Crazy. I’ve taken an initial peek, and I’m definitely intrigued. Episode 1 notes for Bad and Crazy will go up on Patreon on 2 Jan 2022!

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Foundation Tier (US$1): Happiness (bonus show!)

Early Access (US$5): +Our Beloved Summer

Early Access Plus (US$10): +The Red Sleeve

VIP (US$15): +The Bond [China]

VVIP (US$20): +Bad and Crazy

Ultimate (US$25): +The King’s Affection

Ultimate (US$25): +Hellbound (bonus show!)

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. ❤️

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Jiyuu
Jiyuu
5 months ago

I watched this until episode 3 then I paused to watch The Long Ballad and NIF 2. Was about to watch again for math (they do present it so creatively!) and Lee Do Hyun but as I was reading this, I realize there really are too many malicious characters in this series. For those who have finished or have watched more than I have, can you tell me if the math parts presented creatively in trees and fountains, does it continue?

Eric Lancaster
Eric Lancaster
5 months ago

I’m sorry I recommended this one. After finishing it, I would give this a B minus. There’s nothing here to hate, but defects that make it less.

The problems (some spoilers!):
The writers couldn’t make up their minds whether this was a romance or not. (This is the same problem as search WWW – same FL). They had this romantic tension as an element of the story early on. This is really awkward – at best it can be a clueless kid crushing on his teacher, not a romance. Then later he’s an adult and wants to have a relationship with her – ok, now this is at least something we could support. And she feels something back then … basically the writers just dropped the romance for the last 6 episodes. What a mess.

If we were to try this over, how about Plan A:

  • make him a younger kid in the beginning. He’s the student, she’s his inspiring teacher, that’s it.
  • Then when they meet again after he’s an adult famous mathematician – they could have a romance subplot that intensifies over the last 8 episodes.

Or, plan B, just forget the whole romance angle entirely – judging by the last 6 episodes, that’s what the writers wanted to do, and make this purely a justice drama.
Or plan C, make the romance between ML and Ye Rin instead. That could be interesting.

This show had a ton of acting talent (villains and ambiguous characters, the younger student actors) – admired them and hope to see them all again.

There was a major problem with how the whole justice/revenge arc worked. They kept proposing quick, easy resolutions then having the villain wiggle out of it, then trying again. There should have been some ingenious plan that broke apart the evil empire a bit at a time.

If I weren’t a little familiar with Korean culture (and looked at this purely from an American point of view), the idea of the villain’s big plan involving cheating on high school math tests would be giggle material.

sunlazy
sunlazy
5 months ago

well honestly I didn’t like it too, i got in this Lee doo hyun craze because of youth of may, and yes i was super excited for melancholia watched it on the premier day and was not that satisfied but still proceeded to watch it but at episode 6 it was a little too much for me and I stopped because the plot was super boring and i knew what was going to happen next it was just predictable. I actually didn’t like the main female leads acting as it was a suffocating role or sm idk. But definitely didn’t like it..

Tereza
Tereza
5 months ago

I love Lee Do Hyun, but I dropped this show after ep. 2. It was just too boring!!!!

g005
g005
5 months ago

Based on your verdict, it seems like you were more focused on the romance life of Lee do hyun in the drama then the actually plot of the story “A sexual scandal between a math teacher and a student in a prestigious high school ended in tragedy. 4 years later they meet again, now as adults, to reveal the corruptions in school and to regain one’s reputation as a teacher. While watching Melancholia I wanted to see how they bring justice and basically get back at the principal who ruined the Math teachers life by trying to cover up and not ruin her school. If you only started the drama because of Lee do hyun and Kdramas typically love story mindset, you will most likely drop or get uninterested. I myself also started the watching the show because of Lee do hyun oppa, and I just kept watching because I know who wouldn’t pick a drama with a bad plot. If you focus more on the actually plot of the drama its very interest and I loved it 🙂

g005
g005
5 months ago
Reply to  g005

Fr the show is so much more than the romance you are disappointed in

SuyongKim
SuyongKim
5 months ago

Personally, I highly recommend this drama cause shows the maturity of the main characters, Baek Seung Yo and Ji Yoon Su.
Ji Yoon Su, besides her intelligence, her persuasive and idealistic at the beginning showing that she becomes tough after her tragedy. She embraces her trauma after the framing of what she’s never doing. Her characters are okay, she is a type of melancholic person. I think it makes sense cause she’s teaching Math. I mean based on my personal life, I have a friend that genius in math and physics, they are a lack social life. It’s hard to understand and communicate with them, they just busy with the books, solve problems. Just it.
Ji Yoon Su, as a teacher keeps in the line and behaves professionally toward Baek Seung Yo while he is a minor. Even after 4 years since the scandal, she denied it. It shows how firm her personality is. She wanna make get things right on track. And she’s so supportive towards Baek Seung Yo that she let him go to solve the Ji Yoon Su father project that is not finished yet. 3 years, without intense communications. She also takes time for herself to understand and accept the fact that she has deep feelings for Baek Seung Yo.

Baek Seung Yo on another side, he’s showing that developed maturity. He also accepts the fact that Ji Yoon Su rejects his gift photo of her. I can relate to Baek Seung Yo why he develops strong feelings for her. It’s not easy to find someone that has the same passion as you and can relate to. Ji Yoon Su helps Baek Seung Yo overcome his trauma. Ji Yoon Su plays a big role in his personal life and his career. How he will let her go?? Absolutely never. He wants her in his life. Ji Yoon Su is so precious to him. He shows a bit of pushing to her but then he steps back cause he realised that it’s not something good. So he let her take time for herself to understand her feelings. Not only her but himself. So the main character gives each other time and space to understand their feelings to each other. How to trust each other, how to support each other.
Also I didn’t see any cringe scene. Still make sense and realistic.

This the best K-drama mature couples relationships.

Japkiran
Japkiran
5 months ago

actually, i also dropped it after watching ep 7 because i somewhat felt uncomfortable on seeing the two of them together. I was gonna drop it way early than 7th episode but i held on bcz i thought it would get better after the leap but the introduction of the new students and especially that one girl (who reminded me of young seung yoo) was unnecessary and i thought that the same story of lee do hyun just focusing on that girl and the girl falling for him and other malicious students just trying to expose them would repeat, so i just dropped it. And honestly, im soo jung was not so good in portraying her character. i really love her acting in chicago typewriter but in this show it didn’t just fit in. also i think there were only 2 to 3 people nice in this show, otherwise everyone else was just scheming and plotting. i felt like i was watching penthouse or sky castle(i haven’t watched them but i know the concept so). All in all, it was just not it. I agree wholeheartedly with ur review!!!

reaper
reaper
5 months ago

I dropped this show after ep. 2.
It was just too boring.
Also I didn’t like the female lead. Always talking about what a great teacher she is but the more I saw her teaching the more I thought she shouldn’t be a teacher.
On top kind of forcing ML back into Math wasn’t her best moment.

The rich kid school setting with the female boss felt stupid and annoying. A little like Sky Castle and I hated that show.

I might be the only one who doesn’t have a problem with the relationship between teacher and student. I thought that was the most intriguing part while reading the synopsis.

Yall fangirling over Lee Do Hyun is so cute ^^ Too bad there wasn’t any eyecandy for me in this one.

CarpControl
CarpControl
5 months ago

Ha, once again another post proves our tastes overlap more than not, KFG! 🤣I wish I had dropped it sooner, but I said goodbye at ep 10. The script failed LDH and his talent, although my heart-eyes are as big for him, as ever.😍
One of the rather annoying things about the show was the school, which looked like a SET. I was coming from Someday or One Day, where the school looked.. so REAL! The side characters and corruption plot is very campy. The fact that parents in Melancholia-verse think that they need to bribe an Olympiad result for getting their kid into Korea’s Harvard, is laughably bad-logic, and tells me writers do not know how Uni Ad-coms work.😜
I wish they explored the math-bit more, and also the forbidden-territory of a student/teacher relationship. There was SO much raw potential, but it was too safe & boring. Not even vanilla. They even ruined the potential to do something daring post time-skip. 🙄
I moved on to Chugakusei Nikki, and never looked back!

Ps. Super scared for LDH’s next ‘revenge noona-romance’ with Song Hye Kyo, because it looks about 80% similar in plot, to this. I would rather check out his short film with Hwang In Yeop, where *gasp*, LDH is the bully, and HIY is the one being bullied!! (reverse 18-Again!)😅

Natalia
Natalia
5 months ago

I dropped the show at ep.2, I found it boring and did not particularly like the female lead (although admittedly it was too early to do her justice). I actually considered waiting for the time skip, but I’m glad I didn’t now that I see that it came as late as episode 7. And only 4 years seems indeed too short to justify a romantic relationship between a teacher and an ex student. But maybe there’s not a romantic relationship after all, who knows?

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
5 months ago

There is certainly divided opinion out there re Melancholia, kfangurl.

I always find it interesting when there is an actor we follow and they then do a show that feels aimless. What’s more, throwing some tropes in here and there to make it feel more familiar, doesn’t work. I started a new CDrama this morning because both leads are all time faves, only to drop it at the end of the episode.

I guess your post reinforces once more Melancholia is not a show I would enjoy.

Carulhein
Carulhein
5 months ago

Yes, I have to agree that the way Seung Yoo approached her after time skip felt a little stalkery but Yoon Su’s extreme coldness kind of made it so. She was just too rude to him. I can’t stand rude people. And when there’s some form of noble idiocy, ach, I just want to close the book and walk away. But then again, the alternative is worse. If you’re a good person, just being rude, it puts me off immensely. Also, at certain points I feel like she really just looks like his mum and the chemistry feels a bit off. Maybe Im Soo Jung was a bit miscast. I don’t know. I’m going to finish it though, because there are more good than bad for me. I need to see the bad people get their comeuppance and I love Lee Do Hyun too much 😁.

Kun
Kun
5 months ago
Reply to  Carulhein

I disagree with this simply because she has every right to be cold to him and not want him involved in her life. It doesn’t make it her fault that he then has to resort to being obsessive, its absolutely within her rights to not want him in her life. Obviously he didn’t intentionally ruin her life but her life was ruined as a result of what happened and she had just gotten the pieces together. I think its pretty unfair to criticize her for not wanting anything to do with him

Carulhein
Carulhein
5 months ago
Reply to  Kun

Yes, maybe you’re right, I just don’t want to watch it.

Kun
Kun
5 months ago

Post timeskip was definitely rough. I particularly dislike how Seung Yoo approaches her after the timeskip. He flat out ignores her telling him to leave him alone multiple times and insists on trying to force his way into her life. It felt callous, intrusive, and obsessive and when it finally “worked” well how can you root for an otp like that.