So.. I’m making the decision to pull the plug on Thirty-Nine, you guys.
I’ve watched all the available episodes (6 at the time of this posting), and I’ve concluded that while I don’t hate it, I really don’t love it either. And more likely than anything, Show and I are just not that great of a match.
However, it’s not an objectively terrible show, so there’s a chance that you might like it?
In this dropped post, I’ll do my best to lay it all out, so that you can figure out whether this one’s for you or not.
MY TRAJECTORY WITH THIS SHOW
When this show was announced, I wanted to love it right away. I mean, it stars three very solid actresses, and purportedly celebrates the friendship among their characters, while exploring the nuances and foibles of being thirty-nine.
In a drama landscape where characters in their teens and twenties are given the lion’s share of the spotlight, this promised to be refreshing and mature, at the same time.
Writer-nim and I
Of course, this is the part where I conveniently overlooked the fact that I have not enjoyed a single other drama that this writer has written, which would be: Bel Ami, Entertainer, and Encounter. For the record, I dropped all 3 of those dramas, even though I’ve only got a Dropped post for Encounter (which you can find here, if you’re curious).
I guess writer-nim and I just have very different preferences, because, as I was watching this show, I realized that it was the writing that bothered me the most. And, in Encounter, which is the only other show of hers which I’ve watched a significant chunk of, it was my discomfort with the writing too, that eventually made me decide to drop it.
I started feeling iffy about this one, at the episode 4 mark, but decided to keep going, just to see if things would settle in a manner that worked for me. They did not. And that’s why I’m writing this post today.
STUFF I LIKED
1. The friendship among our three leads
The main draw of this show for me, is the friendship among our Main Three.
From episode 1, I found myself genuinely enjoying the friendship between Mi Jo, Chan Young and Joo Hee (Son Ye Jin, Jeon Mi Do and Kim Ji Hyun). I like that the three of them are so different from one another, yet have been friends since forever.
It kinda-sorta reminds me of my friendship with my two best gal pals, and that’s definitely one of the reasons I decided to keep watching, despite hearing very mixed reactions to this show.
The fact of the matter is, these women aren’t living clean-cut, straightforward lives. Sometimes, it’s messy, and sometimes, people don’t make the best decisions. And friendship is about navigating through the mess, instead of giving up on one another, because of the mess.
A great example is Chan Young’s emotional affair with Jin Seok (Lee Moo Saeng), which we learn about, right from episode 1.
She knows it’s not right, even though she tries to justify it to herself, in her own mind. It’s a clear case of her knowing what she ought to do, versus not being able to do it, because her feelings are too invested, and her emotions are clouding her judgment.
She knows that the best thing to do would be to cut things off with Jin Seok, because it’s clear that he has no intention of divorcing his wife (Song Min Ji), but she also has long-standing feelings for him that she finds hard to overcome.
What does a friend do, in this situation? How does a friend express love, in such a situation?
Joo Hee chooses to express her love, by giving Chan Young the time and space to come to her own conclusion, while Mi Jo chooses to be vocal in nudging Chan Young to hurry up and make that decision to cut Jin Seok off, before she wastes more of her life on him.
It’s hard to say which is the better way, because I actually think that Chan Young needs both. She needs a bit of a nudge, but she also needs the time and space to get to a place in her life where she feels ready to do the mature, logical thing, and cut Jin Seok off.
What’s important, I feel, is that through it all, whatever Joo Hee and Mi Jo choose to say or not say, it doesn’t actually put the friendship in jeopardy.
I really like the fact that even when Chan Young’s annoyed at Mi Jo for voicing an uncomfortable truth, she doesn’t respond by cutting Mi Jo off. I really like that their friendship can withstand that kind of uncomfortable honesty.
2. Kang Mal Geum as Mi Hyun
I get a real kick out of seeing Kang Mal Geum as Mi Jo’s outspoken, quirky sister, after having just seen her as San’s very decorous mother, in The Red Sleeve. Just that mental juxtaposition alone, tickles me, and I find myself grinning every time she shows up on my screen. 😁
In particular, I love that beat in episode 3, where Mi Hyun backhugs Mi Jo with so much gentle affection, right there in the middle of the clinic, in a bid to connect with Mi Jo in the midst of her emotional funk. What a sweet unnie she is. I love her.
3. Chan Young’s parents
I really like how cozy and warm Chan Young’s relationship is with heir parents (Seo Hyun Chul and Lee Ji Hyun). The affection that the three of them have for one another, is really heartwarming to see. And, despite the grumblings on the surface, it’s clear that they are all really happy that Chan Young’s there for a visit.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
1. The terminal illness thing [MINOR SPOILER]
So.. this isn’t really a spoiler, because Show serves up right away, in episode 1, that one of our Main Three is dying, and it isn’t very long at all, before we’re told that that person is Chan Young.
That’s not exactly a fun time, yes, but I decided that I’d rather have Show tell me upfront, rather than spring it as a surprise in a late episode. At least this way, I know what to expect (a poignant story about learning to live even in the face of loss), and what not to expect (a story about someone beating a grave illness).
Knowing this upfront sets me up to get the most out of my watch, I feel.
It’s kinda-sorta like how it’s helpful to know, going into The Red Sleeve, that the story has a bittersweet ending. Knowing that actually works out to be freeing, because you’re no longer wondering about the end point of the journey. Knowing where the journey ends, actually allows you to focus more on the journey itself – or at least, that’s how I’d like to think about it.
2. The meet-awkward between Mi Jo and Seon U [SPOILERS]
I don’t actually have a serious issue with the loveline between Mi Jo and Seon U (Yeon Woo Jin), but I will say that I found the one night stand starting point really quite awkward and weird.
As far as the execution goes, it’s clear that it’s a very awkward encounter for both parties, and Show doesn’t do a very good job of selling why she would agree to sleep with him, or why he would ask, in the first place.
I did try to rationalize this, and Show does attempt to explain in a subsequent episode that he didn’t realize he’d said the words until they were out of his mouth, but.. the rationalization doesn’t really work for me, if I’m being completely honest.
3. The promise of a loveline between Joo Hee and Hyun Joon
I’ll talk more about this later, but for now, I’ll just say that while both Joo Hee and Hyun Joon (Lee Tae Hwan) are written as pleasant characters, I don’t find either of them very interesting. Part of that is because Joo Hee doesn’t get a lot of screen time at all (more on that in a bit as well), and so this whole thing feels very perfunctory and tacked-on.
In episode 3, I think Joo Hee’s supposed to be annoying but cute, in that whole drunken thing, where she keeps Hyun Joon from closing the restaurant, and then hands him a waste disposal card instead of a credit card. But.. I’m sorry to say that the tipsy-cute isn’t quite landing for me. 😛
4. The thing between Chan Young and Jin Seok [SPOILERS]
In episode 1, I didn’t think a great deal of Jin Seok, for wanting to stay married to his wife, and yet, not wanting to let go of Chan Young.
I felt that the right thing to do, would be to make a choice, and stick to that choice.
If he wants to stay married, then he should do the right thing by Chan Young, and let her go, so that she has a chance to be happy without him. And if he wants to be with Chan Young, then he should get a divorce, to be fair not only to Chan Young, but to his wife as well.
In episode 2, I liked that Chan Young made the decision to cut Jin Seok out of her life, but then I got annoyed with Jin Seok for not respecting her decision, and continuing to barge his way into her life, even though she’s told him that she’s cutting him off.
Jin Seok is annoyingly persistent in trying to keep Chan Young in his life, and Chan Young – sigh – is too soft-hearted when it comes to Jin Seok, to stand her ground for too long. It’s tough to watch, but.. I have to say, the situation is not unrealistic.
I appreciate that the point at which Jin Seok asks his wife for a divorce is before he finds out about Chan Young’s diagnosis. I’m grateful for that silver lining, that he asks for a divorce, without this knowledge. At least it means that he’s not being driven to do something, only now that Chan Young’s dying.
And I get that he chose to stay in the marriage even after finding out that Ju Won’s (Ki Eun Yoo) not his son, because he cares about the boy, and doesn’t want to put him through something like a divorce in his family, at such a young age. I can buy the idea that he’d stay in the marriage for his son’s sake.
Plus, I can see why Jin Seok might then be even colder to his wife than ever. After all, he’d found out that she’d tricked him into marrying her, which had then caused him to lose Chan Young in the first place. (Although.. if he’d been in a Thing, with Chan Young then, why was he sleeping with someone else? 🧐)
The thing is, all this doesn’t make it right for him to continue this emotional affair with Chan Young. Even when I now understand his context better, I still think that it’s been selfish of him to keep Chan Young in his life all these years, when he’d had no intention of leaving his wife – that is, until now.
All that said, I must say that the scene where Chan Young and Jin Seok finally tell each other their sad secrets, was one where I genuinely felt engaged with the emotional beats of the scene.
Messiness aside, I did feel the raw emotion of the moment, where they are both grieving the fact that Chan Young doesn’t have long to live.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK SO WELL FOR ME
1. There’s something about the execution
At around the episode 2 mark, I realized that I liked this show more in concept than in execution.
What I mean is, I like the idea of the friendship among our 3 female leads, and I like the idea of them navigating their way through the messiness of life and love, while supporting one another through it all, and I like the idea of each of them having distinct personalities, and yet having fun when they’re together, like they’re back in their teens again.
However, in the execution of it, there’s something that lands weirdly for me, at least some of the time. I’m trying to put my finger on it, and right now, what I can articulate is, that it seems to come down to timing and pitching.
Timing and pitching
I feel like our characters are being pitched a little larger than life than actually lands naturally, and what this means for me, is that so far, I haven’t been able to really think of any of these characters as real people.
At this point, they are still very much just characters in a drama, and some of them even land kind of like stereotypes, even. 😬
What I mean by timing, is that the rhythm of the dialogue feels a little off, in terms of timing. It feels as if the actors are waiting a beat too long, for the punchline of other actor’s lines, before starting to deliver their own. I feel like the rhythm of the dialogue isn’t flowing in a smooth enough manner to make it sound natural.
Put together, I can sort of see why some viewers have remarked that this show has an old-fashioned drama feel to it. It does kinda-sorta give me echoes of more stagey-flavored dramas, from years ago.
Show’s comedic side
When Show brings out its more comedic side, like in episode 4, with Mi Jo’s family being suuuper interested and curious about Seon U, the minute they catch a whiff of Mi Jo’s connection with him, I mostly don’t feel it much.
I mean, I like Unni and think she’s great. But when Dad (Park Ji Il) shows up at the clinic trying to suss out Seon U, while lying that he’s suffering from athlete’s foot, I cringed.
That was supposed to be funny, I think. And that was also supposed to add a sprinkling of levity to the heavier topics in our drama world, I think. But yeah, that didn’t work for me.
2. Our story has one protagonist, not three.
When I’d signed up for this show, I’d assumed that this would be a story shared by three main characters, and that the story and screen time would be more or less evenly divided between them, and that we’d get to share their stories reasonably equally.
That hasn’t turned out to be the case. This isn’t a story about three friends. This is Mi Jo’s story, and she happens to have two friends.
Even when Chan Young is the one who’s terminally ill and has a limited amount of time left to live, Mi Jo continues to get the lion’s share of screen and story time. Not gonna lie; this bothered me and made me resent Mi Jo as a character – which I’ll talk about next.
3. Certain narrative decisions [SPOILERS]
In episode 2, the results of Chan Young’s checkup get told to Mi Jo instead of Chan Young herself, and I didn’t like this, at all.
Aside from the lack of patient confidentiality, which in quite commonplace in kdramas, I chafe at the fact that Show finds it more important to give Mi Jo a reason to have a meltdown and receive some comfort from Seon U, than to give Chan Young the chance to receive her checkup results directly.
I get that this also circumvents the possibility of Chan Young keeping the diagnosis to herself for an extended period of time, but honestly, the fact that the whole of episode 3 is spent on Mi Jo being distraught about Chan Young’s diagnosis, felt very lopsided to me.
As a reflex, I couldn’t help thinking that the spotlight, and all of my sympathies, should belong to Chan Young, rather than Mi Jo.
It felt a bit weird, to me, to be spending essentially the entire episode, soaking in Mi Jo’s (very weepy) feelings, while Chan Young is kept in the dark about her own condition. Plus, I have to admit that a lot of Mi Jo’s thoughts and ruminations felt very self-focused to my eyes.
I had to rationalize (pretty hard, actually) that before Mi Jo can be in a position to support Chan Young and be there for her, she needs to process her own feelings first; that it’s only after she’s processed her own feelings, that she would be ready to break the news to Chan Young, and be strong for her.
The silver lining
I do appreciate that in the process of this, we get to see that Seon U’s a really decent guy, who is thoughtful and sensitive, even as he does his best to support Mi Jo through her crisis – even when he has no idea what that crisis is.
I like how he does practical things for her, like offer to drive her places without asking questions, getting food for her because he knows she’s not eating, trying to make her feel better by making her laugh and getting her flowers, offering to be a listening ear so that she can get things off her chest, and even going running with her so that she can work off her frustrations.
Importantly, when Mi Jo does tell Seon U the secret that she’s grappling with, he keeps that secret and doesn’t tell anything to Jin Seok, even when Jin Seok asks him if he knows anything. Additionally, he has the sensitivity to know that when Jin Seok asks whether Mi Jo is in her office, that Mi Jo’s preference is to not see Jin Seok.
All pretty darn good traits, I’d say. I’m definitely coming around to the idea that Seon U’s an appealing potential boyfriend.
4. Son Ye Jin as Mi Jo
If I had to sum up my issues with Mi Jo as a character, it would be that she’s coming across a bit too much like a victim, to my eyes, when Chan Young is the one who’s dying. Essentially, she appears to need more comfort than Chan Young herself, and that just doesn’t sit right with me.
Let me state upfront, that this is very likely a “just me” sort of a thing.
If you love Son Ye Jin (like so much of the dramaverse does), then you might actually really enjoy Mi Jo as a character. In which case, please don’t come after me with flaming arrows &/or stones. I’m just telling you why I personally struggle with her as an actress, I’m not saying she’s a bad actress.
Far from it.
In fact, she might be doing too good of a job, for me, because I think my struggle is primarily with how Mi Jo’s written, and then, my personal struggle with certain aspects of Son Ye Jin’s delivery, just adds to it.
Some personal context
I’m going to have to admit that Son Ye Jin as Mi Jo isn’t really working very well, for me.
Before you come after me with flaming arrows, allow me to share some context. I’d been neutral towards Son Ye Jin as an actress, basically until Something in the Rain mostly ruined her for me, because I’d felt so aggravated by her character in that show. Also for context, in that show, Son Ye Jin spent A LOT of time being weepy and looking like her character was playing the victim.
This did not endear her to me.
However, I thought that my Son Ye Jin aversion was cured by Crash Landing On You, where I enjoyed her very well indeed.
Unfortunately, with my attempt to watch this show, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m quite possibly still suffering the after-effects of Something in the Rain.
What I mean is, every time Mi Jo gets weepy, I find myself instinctively bracing for the worst, and also, recoiling from her character.
All that to say, if you don’t have a similar issue with Son Ye Jin’s weepy face, and also, if you loved Something in the Rain, you might not have the same trouble with Mi Jo that I do.
Specific instances where I struggled with Mi Jo’s actions [SPOILERS]
1. In the context of what Mi Jo’s dealing with, I can understand why she would act impulsively and slap Wifey like that, and then even pull her hair, after Wifey responds to the slap by calling the police. I get the idea, that with Chan Young’s mortality hanging over her head, nothing matters to Mi Jo anymore, and that’s why she throws caution to the wind and just leans into the crazy emotions of the moment.
That said, I have to admit that even though I am working hard to understand Mi Jo’s emotional state, I don’t appreciate her choices very much. And, like I said earlier, the weepy faces don’t help.
2. I have to admit that after all the circling and build-up, I felt a little underwhelmed at Mi Jo’s conversation with Chan Young, at the close of the episode.
I know in my head that what Mi Jo had needed to do, was to get to the point where she felt able to talk to Chan Young about it, and that this is more important than the actual words that she says. At the same time, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed, that all Mi Jo ends up saying, is, “Why didn’t you tell me that you got a CT scan?”
The other thing that I find underwhelming, is the fact that after all this preparation, it’s Chan Young who actually appears more grounded and in control, in this conversation, despite the fact that a bombshell’s just been dropped on her. I do love how Jeon Mi Do plays the scene, where we see Chan Young’s vulnerability through her tears, even in the midst of her stoicism.
I’m also annoyed in principle, that Mi Jo is weepy, which makes her come across as a bit of a victim, when Chan Young herself is working to be strong and stoic. To put it bluntly, it feels rather too indulgent, for Mi Jo to be weepy and getting upset that Chan Young’s refusing treatment.
3. I get the idea that Mi Jo cares about Chan Young, and doesn’t want her to die, but I have to say, this episode, it really does feel like Mi Jo and Joo Hee – but Mi Jo in particular – are invading Chan Young’s personal space too much, and suffocating her.
I feel that in this respect, Joo Hee’s a better friend, because she has more sensitivity in terms of when to back off and give Chan Young some space.
Like when Joo Hee comes upon Jin Seok with Chan Young in the studio, Joo Hee knows instinctively that the two of them need some time to talk it out, and it’s Joo Hee who tells Mi Jo, who’s immediately concerned that Chan Young shouldn’t get stressed, that the two of them need time to sort things out.
See, I like Joo Hee’s approach. She takes time to bring Chan Young nourishing food and tonics for her health, but she knows when to back out of the picture, to give Chan Young privacy.
Mi Jo doesn’t appear to know how to do that, and the scenes of Mi Jo hanging out at Chan Young’s house and making her salads, and driving her to work, are a little much, I feel. To be fair, Chan Young does call her out on it, and tells her that if she keeps doing this, she’ll just make Chan Young feel like she’s about to die right away.
4. The fact that Mi Jo doesn’t stop badgering Chan Young about getting treatment, the whole of this episode, also rubs me the wrong way. Just because Chan Young says no, doesn’t mean that she’ll change her mind if Mi Jo bulldozes her way through with more of the same question, but that’s basically what Mi Jo does.
To be fair, Mi Jo does admit that she actually understands Chan Young’s rationale for refusing treatment, so it’s not like she’s completely blind. I guess I don’t identify with Mi Jo’s way of showing affection to Chan Young.
I actually want Mi Jo to back off a bit, because as much as I believe that Chan Young thinks the world of her friends, it’s clear that she’s got other people and other priorities in her life as well.
And the way Mi Jo is playing it, it feels like she’s ready to move in with Chan Young and become a permanent fixture in every part of Chan Young’s life, and I just don’t think that that’s what Chan Young wants or needs – at least right now.
5. It kind of rubs me the wrong way too, when Mi Jo needs and gets all this comforting screen time with Seon U, when what I would like to see, is how Chan Young is doing, and how she’s coping, and who’s there to comfort her.
The fact that Mi Jo gets a comforting hug while she continues being weepy on Seon U’s shoulder, and Chan Young is alone at home, unable to answer that phone call from her mother, kinda makes me resent Mi Jo, weirdly.
It’s like, I want that kind of comforting presence for Chan Young – although, to be clear, I don’t actually want the source of that comforting presence to be Jin Seok.
After episode 4, I was really in two minds about whether to keep watching this show.
Like I said, I don’t hate it, but I’m not loving it as much as I’d like to, either. And so, I went on to watch episodes 5 and 6, just to see how I’d land.
In the end, I didn’t hate the episodes, but there are a couple of things that gave me pause.
The insistence of a romantic connection between Joo Hee and Hyun Joon
The big one is, I don’t get Chan Young’s dying wish to set up Joo Hee with Hyun Joon, despite knowing that Hyun Joon’s got a girlfriend. Just, why? She could’ve just said that her wish was to find a boyfriend for Joo Hee, and that would’ve solved it. Why pick a guy who’s already got a girlfriend, and is not looking to break up with said girlfriend?
That scene, where Mi Jo and Chan Young protest quite vehemently at the news that Joo Hee had actually helped Hyun Joon reconcile with his girlfriend (the horror!), was in pretty poor taste, I felt.
Seon U’s dad
The other thing is, although I appreciate the spotlight that Show is trying to shine on the stigma around adoption in Korea, I do feel like Seon U’s dad (Jo Won Hee) being portrayed as prejudiced and condescending, is done with a much too heavy hand.
The deciding factor
To be brutally honest, though, these weren’t really the things that ultimately made me decide to pull the plug on this one. I mean, I’ve said it several times already; I don’t actually hate this show, even though I haven’t loved it all that much.
The deciding factor, really, was the closing scene in episode 6, where Mi Jo’s just fought Jin Seok’s wife, and collapses from (what I assume to be) the effort, the emotional stress, and the cold.
This particular shot of Mi Jo, all fragile and heroic, after fighting for Chan Young’s privacy, inadvertently triggered my personal aversion to seeing Son Ye Jin in this victim space, and I realized that I just can’t do this anymore.
I think it’s time to admit that I want Show to be something that it’s not, and will never be. Rather than try to force it, I realize that I’d be happier spending my drama hours elsewhere.
If you do love the show, though, please carry on, and don’t let my personal experience be a damper on yours. Happy watching! ❤️
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Thirty-Nine, is A Business Proposal. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I’m actually kinda loving it, so far!
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Confession (bonus show!)
Early Access (US$5): +Rainless Love in a Godless Land [Taiwan]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +A Business Proposal
VIP (US$15): +Uncle
VVIP (US$20): +Reset [China]
Ultimate (US$25): +Twenty Five, Twenty One
Great run down. I can summarized my decision to drop this drama like this: It´s not what I wanted.
I wanted a story about 3 friends, got 1 main character, who is not at all compelling. I guess they wanted a strong educated female lead (like in Hometown Chachacha f.e.), but she has no interesting qualities.
It´s true that melodrama is not my genre, but I can appreciate good tear fest (like Moon Lovers was) with an interesting story and this was not it. Work now, drink later is far superior and I´m gonna search your site if you´ve watched it before :). If not, I highly recommend.
Omg omg omg thank you for this verdict! I have shared most of your feelings about this show, and actually let me just say it gets worse in the second half of the show.
I watched Thirty Nine (till the finale) pretty much because I was recently diagnosed with a medium term illness and comforted by some caring friends near and far, though not in a constantly overbearing fashion like the Thirty Nine Trio. At first I found it heart warming and relateable, and Jeong Cha Young’s personality is a bit like mine.
I’m new to Kdrama so I’ve only seen Yejin in Crash Landing On You, which is my second favorite Kdrama after Vincenzo. To be fair it’s Hyun Bin oppa that I’m fangirling for (and I descended into a North Korea rabbit hole on the internet beyond the show.) But Yoon Seri was also a strong lead who balanced the melodrama with some courageous strength in life and death situations, serious ladyboss power, and humor. So I was hoping Cha Mi Jo had that kind of complexity too. The fact that she doesn’t, I agree, is the writer’s (and director’s) fault rather than that of the actor. I’m sorry to say it’s a waste of Son Yejin’s star power, because she is a much better actor than the writing and directing allows her to be.
I was actually hoping Thirty Nine, despite the tragedy, would still be a light but cathartic, generally feel good and somewhat adventurous show like Hometown Cha Cha Cha, which I adored. But I found it heavy, monotonous, and going nowhere. I wanna say Thirty Nine is the worst Kdrama ever, but then I’ve only watched five to date and really, really love the other four.
I nevertheless kept watching till the finale because like you, I just wanted to give it time to hopefully see it develop into the drama I wanted it to be, but I found episodes 7-12 to be all filler and lacking substance that actually moves the story forward.
Without spoiling anything, I just wanna say that Thirty Nine’s ending is all over the place and draggy. In my opinion, there’s only one highlight ie that one beautiful day Chanyoung didn’t see coming. But even that has a redundant cliche element. Other than that, it was an incoherent sprinkle of quasi-closures that again highlighted the selfish, indulgent crybaby that Cha Mijo is.
I really had wished that over the last half of Thirty Nine and especially the finale that Cha Mijo would grow emotionally and maybe even overcome her mental illness so she can be everyone’s rock, and truly giving to her crew rather than sucking the life out of them. I also wish for more screen time for Seonwoo and Juhee, to actually SEE developments, rather than to be told they are happening off screen.
Likewise, these are my personal opinions, informed by my own personality and personal preferences. Obviously, given the high ratings of Thirty Nine and the actors singing the series’ (and script’s) praises, many would disagree with this Kdrama rookie fan, and I respect that. Please don’t shoot me with firey arrows either because that is not what I’m doing to genuine fans of this show. You drink your cup of tea and I drink mine, let’s please respect each other.
Anyway after spending 12+ hours watching Thirty Nine, I just want to move on to another Kdrama with similar vibes as Vincenzo, Itaewon Class, and to some extent, Crash Landing On You. A series that stands for something, has substantial action and suspense, encourages learning something new about the world, and is hilarious and just a tad romantic without being overly so. And a badass female lead that goes through some incredible transformations, which is the case for Hong Chayoung, Jo Yiseo, Yoon Seri and Yoon Hyejin. If I’d known Kdrama female leads are mostly more like these four rather than like Cha Mijo and Jang Juhee, I’d have started watching many years earlier.
If a Kdrama (or a non-Korean series) like the above exists, please, please, please let me know! Netflix suggestions aren’t doing me any justice at all! LOL I know I want a lot of things from a series to potentially watch, but I must say that 4 out of the 5 dramas I’ve watched so far have tremendously raised my bar. Thank you in advance for those with recommendations. And Kfangurl, thank you for the work that you do and giving us fellow fans a space to mull over our favorite (or not so favorite) Korean shows. Sending love and light to you, annyeong.
Hi Caroline!! Ah, the solidarity of knowing you’re not alone! Thanks for sharing your experience of the show – since we felt so similarly about the parts that I watched, I’m relieved I didn’t try to push on, to finish the show! 😅
As for drama recommendation, we just completed a group watch of Healer, which I think you’d really like! You can check out the show details here, and find all the open threads (with episode notes and discussions) here! ❤️
Thank you! Healer sounds like an awesome show, and I’m delighted to find that it is on Netflix after all! I have a soft spot for journalist protagonists who receive a mysterious and dangerous call to adventure, so I will tune in.
Is Healer funny too? I loved that about Vincenzo. A similar American show would usually have a really dark and violent story that’s verging on stressful to watch. But the comedy in Vincenzo takes the stress out of this otherwise dark and increasingly violent Kdrama, and it’s so refreshing to see. Dapper consigliere as a fish out of water in a rundown Korean building of rejects, and everything is so ironic and unpredictable. After finishing Vincenzo I realize it has such a special combination of qualities I won’t seem to easily top in other dramas.
I’ve also watched the pilots of Law School, Juvenile Justice and Hospital Playlist 1 as I try to decide which one I want to continue with. I’m also considering Life, Goblin, Welcome to Waikiki and Silent Sea. Have you reviewed any of these?
Hey Caroline, great to hear that Healer’s back on Netflix! When I last checked, it wasn’t available. 😅 To answer your question, yes, Healer’s pretty funny sometimes, but in a different way than Vincenzo.
Also, out of the titles you listed, I’ve only reviewed Hospital Playlist 1, you can find the review here. I’ll be checking out The Silent Sea soonish, so that review will likely come out in the next month or two. 😊
For more drama ideas, you might also like to browse my Full List here, and my Faves list here. I hope that helps! ❤️
Hi Kfangurl. I normally agree with your reviews but had to write as I felt strong enough to disagree with you. I do agree that it’s not perfect in many ways, but then even dramas that you rate A are not absolutely perfect either, but I enjoyed and watched the whole 12 episodes. I particularly enjoyed from episodes 8 onwards and the finale was definitely very moving. Worth watching and it wasn’t worthy of such a negative review that you dropped the show. But then I am not one that tends to drops shows. Maybe because I am more in the age range for this drama that I enjoyed it.
Glad you enjoyed the show, Gem. I personally didn’t hate it, but the things that I listed in my post, really did get to me, and one of those things is very subjective and personal – my struggle with Son Ye Jin’s crying face. 🙈😅 Like I said in my post, this show didn’t work for me, but it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work for others, so.. I don’t actually think I was overly harsh; just.. honest, maybe. 😁
Hi Kfangurl, thanks for replying. Ah yes I do understand your reasons on why the show didn’t work for you, I agree that the show was more geared on Son Ye Jin character, and there were some things that didn’t work as well. But overall, I didn’t think it was that terrible and I was eager to watch, especially from episode 8 onwards. I shed many tears on the last episode, as normally many of the series I enjoy, always have disappointing endings, but this particular show had a very moving and great end to the series.
Thanks for all your reviews though, as they have helped me choose the right dramas to watch based on your rating system and your detailed reviews. 😃
I had high expectations for this show given the cast, didn’t have an idea what it was about (other than the title of course and the pictures). I don’t like to know anything before I watch a new show. Once I saw this had been dropped, I actually almost didn’t watch it. But, I absolutely love the show through 7 episodes. I came back and scanned this review quickly and I didn’t agree with most of the assessment (well, pretty much any of it) about the show, meaning, two people can look at the same work of art, statue, painting, etc., and have polar opposites reactions. Anyway, I guess one will really like this show or drop it really soon. But I wouldn’t go directly off this review to make your decision. Happy kdrama viewing!
I mentioned this on Patreon, but I will also leave it here. I think Delicious Romance (also about three girl friends) is way better that 39. The friendship is more realistic but also likable, the dialogs are to the point and meaningful and the plot is quite nice with a lot of interesting things on the side (the meddling parents part felt a bit draggy to me but maybe just because I find Asian parents outrageous meddling in general).
i loved your comments..and they actually echo most of my feelings and also is the reason i dropped it at ep 4..
I loved ur review (although I’m still watching and maybe will get all the way through this show, cuz I’m a non-dropper), it’s so detailed and very well written.
I’m currently watching A Business Proposal and I’m loving the comedy. The timing is on point and it’s not cringe. But…after ep 5 (he’ll start to pursue her bcs he realizes that he likes her) I just have to wait and see if it’s not going to drag….
Thank u! I really enjoyed ur page!
Off my list! I don’t normally drop a show just because KFG does, but in this case, the writer being the writer on Entertainer, and Encounter – nuff said.
Netflix continues its project of making all females unpleasant, depriving them of all the positive characteristics of kdramaland. Hope at least Forecasting is watchable.
Forecasting is way better.
Kfangurl, very very nicely put, thanks for making me not feel like ‘Am I the only person who was not getting this ?’ I was so excited when the show was airing its preview and right off the 1st episode , i felt like this is too fluffy. Maybe I was wanting more real-life friendship, more content-wise..I just couldn’t watch it post episode 4.
thanks for the well written in-depth review as always 🙂
Re: the Hyun Joon and Joo Hee thing I just chalk it up to one more facet of the show feeling extremely staged. As in the show was pitched as a concept probably as three girl friends falling for three guys who were also friends. But yes this being on her bucket list made no narrative sense to me. Wasn’t Mi Jo just vehemently against Chanyoung seeing a guy with an existing partner? So shes fine with it if they cause the breakup beforehand 😬
Re: Jinseok my thoughts are probably more negative than yours and somewhere around what Sean said. I think my biggest issue was not just that I straight up didn’t like the guy but also was what I felt like was the show trying to play him up as a victim of his wife’s actions who was actually a noble/straight-up guy. The scene where he confronted his wife actually made me mad. None of this justifies the emotional affair and I thought all of his decisions were largely terrible and selfish so it further irked me when he tried to pretend it was all about doing what was best for his kid when that was not the impression I got at all. To quote myself in deep dive, I ended up hating his stupid face 😂
All in all it probably wasn’t a good sign even in episode 1 I largely felt disengaged and not very invested. The highlight scenes for me overall were probably the flashbacks to past scenes of their friendship 😅
Hahaha, as soon as I read this post title, I thought: ‘Looks like KFG needs some Business Proposal kind of fun on her drama-plate right now!‘. ✨✨
And lo & behold, that is exactly what she’s watching instead of 39! How serendipitous! [Because I too dropped 39 (after 2 eps) ad decided to watch BP instead!]🙈 Hope you’re having a blast watching, KFG! ^^
Agree with you on how the spotlight is on mijo when its chan young who is dying. A stellar actor as seen in hospital playlist isn’t being allowed to shine and show her potential. There is a lot going on at the same time to make the show emotional/heavy. Death, disease, loss of parents, adoption, aging parents, relationships, suspense (about mijo’s birth mother). I’m not sure how to handle all of it at once.
Kfangurl, I think you summed it up quite well and in a way that will allow potential watchers to make a decision whether to watch 39 or not.
My thoughts are that show is extremely well acted. However, 39 did this u-turn in episode 3 – it’s almost as if the writer changed their mind in terms of who will be the character to suffer from terminal illness. So, I found myself starting to ffwd certain scenes – which means the alarm bells started to ring. By the end of episode 4 (after ffwd even more scenes), I waited for five minutes and weighed up my decision whether to watch at least one more episode or not. My conclusion – I dropped it.
I didn’t have a problem with the trio’s interactions. However, I did have a problem with Mi Jo’s selfishness. I think Son Ye Jin is quite good in this role (and I loved her in SITR, until I didn’t). There was only one scene re her weepiness that was perhaps not quite right for me. In terms of her strengths as an actress, watching her movies is the key to this one – she can act and with a wide range. I was hoping to see more of that here, given that 39 should be more of a grown up drama. I think she got caught between a rock and a hard place regarding to what extent (and how) she needed to play a vulnerable character – which is not her fault – that lies with the director.
Even though 39 is a drama, the handling of the terminal illness, or the writing of it, disappointed me. Many people are quite stoic or calm these days, despite the shock, when diagnosed and pragmatic to boot. Those closest to them, although hurting tend, to be very supportive and honest in a calm way. The situation for me is this: the real issues begin once a person is underway with their treatment, or if they are not undergoing treatment – how they are supported during their final days. This is what tests a family and friendships. Perhaps, this is where show will head. However, I feel we have been served up with a rather old fashion and out of touch view on this subject.
As for the ladies choices in men. Hmmm. Jin Seok is portrayed so well, but he is despicable – a vampire of the human soul. Chan Young has not deserved this. And what was that scene re my secret will be worse than yours – I found that so unwarranted. I know what the writer was trying to do – the self centred male who really doesn’t have a perspective on the other people around him. I would have thought after so many years of knowing one another – he might just bite his lip for once.
Joo Hee is the character I like most, but she has been served up a real disappointment in where her relationship is going. That’s not saying this doen’t happen, re the likes of Hyun Joon walking into a person’s life, because it does. My thoughts are his situation needs much more context and not the usual existing girlfriend is all about status type trope.
As for Seon U – yes, a big tick. Mi Jo knows she is on to a good thing.
Finally, Ms Cha – a very close second to Joo Hee, and perhaps a character with a tad more happening would overshadow the cast. KMG is an absolute delight in this. When she plays those playful and fun moments – show comes alive.
Show could have been something special. Despite whatever was keeping me from watching 39 initially, to then take the plunge into a promising and inviting pool of awesomeness as shown in the trailers and then end up with my floaties slashed, tells me somehow, I was receiving telepathic signals from Netflix that I just might have an issue with this show.
Ahaha Sean, what an image – taking the plunge into a promising pool of awesomeness and then having your floaties slashed, haha! 😂😂😂
Thank you kfangirl for laying out the factors so clearly! Will steer clear.
Cheers, Elaine 🦆🦆🦆
@Sean – that’s exactly what happened to me with this writer’s show Entertainer. The promos featured comedic scenes, which were created only for the trailers and were not part of the show. I’ve often wondered if I would’ve enjoyed Entertainer if I didn’t have other expectations. But then came Encounter.
@Beez – I have often wondered how kdrama writers make a decent living. However, despite being used for certain topics drama wise, the writer here seems to have been quite prolific on the movie front. There is one movie of hers I did enjoy, which was a spy movie. Anyway, her next drama is Sacred Divorce, which may be okay. Nam Goong Min is listed as the ML.
@seank – you’re right! I went back and looked at the list of this writer’s movies and I’ve enjoyed quite a few of them:
On Your Wedding Day
Like for Likes
My Annoying Brother
The Royal Tailor
Always – OMGoodness! Probably my favorite romance movie of all time!
I thought the movie “Kim Ji-Young: Born 1982″ was about something totally different that what all the hoopla was about.
Sean every movie on her list says “dramatization” after it. Do you know what that means?
@Beez – I did like Always as well.
Looking at the list in Asian Wiki, “dramatization” means that the movie is based purely on the writer’s thoughts instead of on an event, facts, a particular issue, another work or what is generally accepted. Which by the way, just to confuse things, all those elements I just mentioned, can be used as the basis of a film or show and “dramatised,” or written in a way that the writer believes will engage the audience 😊
@Beez and Sean – I third that admiration for Always.
@Sean @phl1rxd – There’s another movie on her list – My Pavarotti – that I just can’t seem to finish. Or more like it finishes but I’ve slept through it. Which doesn’t mean the movie is boring but rather that I fall asleep no matter how boring or interesting.
*siiiiiiigggh* scruffy So Ji sub. 🤪
Thanks Sean. I wondered what it meant because your last explanation, to me, is what I would automatically assume so it seemed strange that they would specify. And also two of the movies do not have the word “dramatization” after them so it’s strange. I’ve only seen “dramatization” used on Western media when it’s based on real events but dramatized or exaggerated for entertainment purposes.
I am up to episode 4. I agree with some of your points, but they don’t bother me too much so far, so I’m going to keep watching.
I kind of agree with you, Sara. I’m at episode 6 and I’m starting to feel more sympathy with the characters. even Jin Seok. But I did drop it after episode 2 because, and here I agree with Kfangurl, the interactions between the 3 friend were a little off. I don’t really know how to describe it, but yes, there is something annoyingly TOO MUCH about it. And yes, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Son Ye Jin. I don’t really know why.
But, having said all that, I’m going to push through. It’s becoming more engaging and I really love Yeon Woo Jin in this 😉
I dropped it and had nothing to watch, so started watching again. To clarify 🙂