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, 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.
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?
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. 😅
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!)
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