So.. I was hoping to take to this one, because I have soft spots for both Kim Kyung Nam and Ahn Eun Jin, and they are both playing leads in this, and both for the first time, too.
That feels like a double breakthrough, doesn’t it? Yay for both of them!
Unfortunately.. after just 2.5 episodes, I’m coming to the conclusion that this show just isn’t for me.
Still, I’ll do my best to lay it all out in this post, so that you can figure out whether this one would work for you – even if it didn’t work for me.
MY TRAJECTORY WITH THIS ONE
I have to admit that I didn’t take to this one right away, but decided to give it a bit more time, because of our leads, and also, because I thought I saw glimmers of promise, that this one might appeal to me, given a bit of time to settle.
I liked episode 2 better than episode 1, but when I hit ‘play’ on episode 3, I found myself feeling disconnected and quizzical all over again, which is essentially how I’d felt when watching episode 1.
And because I’ve heard that you either like this one or you don’t, I figured that it’s unlikely that I’ll grow to like this one, even given more time.
So, I’ve decided not to force it, and pull the plug early. Better to drop a show, than hate-watch it, yes? At least, that’s how I feel. 😅
STUFF THAT DREW ME TO THIS SHOW
On paper, there’s a good chunk of stuff that draws me to this show.
First of all, I love Kim Kyung Nam, whom I think is an excellent actor. He was legit my favorite thing about The King: Eternal Monarch, no exaggeration.
He’s currently still pretty underrated, and this is his first lead role in a prime-time drama, so I do desire to support him, and see him in a leading man sort of space.
Second of all, I also love Ahn Eun Jin, whom I basically found suuper endearing and adorable in Hospital Playlist Seasons 1 & 2 (reviews here & here), and I’m thrilled that this is her first lead role too.
Plus, this promises to be a healing sort of melodrama, which is one of the genres that I find myself enjoying quite easily.
Altogether, this sums up why I’ve had my eye on this one, ever since it was announced.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
I find it tonally strange
If I had to sum up why this show isn’t working for me, it’s that I find it tonally strange.
That’s not to say that nobody would like this show.
I think that if you can jive with Show’s chosen brand of quirk, upon dipping your toes into episode 1, then there’s a good chance that you might like this one.
Personally, I found Show’s chosen brand of quirk rather odd, and I wasn’t feeling it, for pretty much all of the 2.5 episodes that I ended up watching. Mostly, it all vibed a little weird, to my eyes.
One of the main things, for me, is that Show feels rather tonally uneven, and the tonal shifts feel quite jarring, to me.
For example, everything to do with our female lead In Sook (Ahn Eun Jin) leans kinda poignant, heartachey and serious.
I mean, she’s suffered a fair bit in her life, and now, she’s diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that’s only going to leave her with several more months to live? Ack. That’s sad.
Add on the fact that In Sook’s worried for her grandmother (the wonderful Goo Do Shim), as well as her little girl neighbor who’s terrified of her abusive father, and it all just feels too cruel, really.
On a tangent, Baek Hyun Jin is leaning into type in a BIG way, and playing the abusive father in the sort of vile way that he seems to excel at.
How completely awful, that a father would set out to kill his own daughter, for insurance money! And then act all offended and self-righteous, when his daughter tries to run away, to save her own life??? 😱
Back to the tonal thing, though; aside from In Sook and Kim Kyung Nam’s assassin character, who both vibe more serious, everything at the hospice has a weird, off-kilter, Intended-To-Be-Funny sort of vibe.
The hospice crowd kinda-sorta reminds me of the patients at the It’s Okay To Not Be Okay hospital, &/or the crowd of ghosts in Hi Bye, Mama!. They’re all meant to be extremely quirky and off-the-wall, and.. I’m just not feeling it.
I don’t hate it, exactly, but I find it tonally strange, and I do kind of wish that Show had gone with a less aggressively quirky angle.
On a tangent, I didn’t find either of In Sook’s roommates immediately likable, especially so-called influencer Mi Do (Joy), who appears to be aggressively shallow, self-centered and inconsiderate, so that didn’t help matters either.
However, by the end of episode 1, it already looks like In Sook’s going to be depending on her roommates, with that desperately sad video call from Gran, who’s been beaten up for no good reason at all, by her neighbor, Abusive Dad.
At this point, as Other Roomie Se Yeon (Kang Ye Won) tells In Sook to just take out Abusive Dad, since she’s going to die anyway, and why can’t she take “just one person” with her – is when Show’s title starts to look completely different to my eyes.
The literal Korean title is “Just One Person,” and I’d imagined that this “one person” referred to something like having just one person who would understand you in life, or something similar.
It would’ve never occurred to me in a million years, that the “just one person” referred to our terminally ill protagonist killing just one person, to save another, since she’s dying anyway. 😳
(I know, Trent told me that this meaning of “just one person” is kind of like in every synopsis he read about the show, but somehow, I managed to avoid that spoiler, ha.)
ALSO. Talk about a NON-meetcute.
By the time we’re closing out the episode, In Sook’s bashing Abusive Dad in the head, as he tries to rain blows on Assassin Dude, who’s protecting the little girl with his own body.
Which means they meet when In Sook presumably kills a guy, and saves him? That’s kinda nuts, honestly.
On that point, I have to say that I find it rather improbable, that a professional assassin would just hug the girl and shield her with his own body, instead of, y’know, fighting Abusive Dad and knocking him out cold.
But I suppose Show was gunning for that ending scene, where it’s In Sook who comes to the rescue, thus causing her path to officially cross with Assassin Dude.
It’s.. all rather surreal and strange, basically, like I said.
But, because I thought that there were enough hints that Show might settle into something poignant and touching (which I’ll talk about next), I decided to keep going, at least for a while.
The roommate potential
Even though I found episode 1 altogether quite odd and perplexing, I saw some promise in the potential bond among the roommates, and that’s what kept me watching, at least for a while.
For one thing, the set-up, where In Sook is placed in a room where she has 2 roommates, neither of whom she actually likes on sight, vaguely reminds me of Prison Playbook, interestingly enough.
In both stories, our protagonists finds themselves suddenly in a place they don’t really want to be, housed with people who don’t actually appear to be very friendly, or on the same wavelength.
That comparison actually made me want to give this show a little more time, because I did take a couple of episodes to warm to Prison Playbook, but by the end, I loved that show a great deal.
I wondered if, given a few more episodes, I would grow to really like this show too.
Also, I found, to my surprise, that I liked episode 2 more than episode 1.
It’s nice to see the 3 roommates get along, in a manner of speaking.
They’re not friends, and they’re very different, but they’re in this together now, and that solidarity comes through, even if some of it is reluctant.
I like that they talk to one another about things now. Not only about the incident where they believe they killed Abusive Dad, but also, about how they each felt, when they found out they didn’t have long to live.
It’s matter of fact yet poignant, when they talk about things like that.
Our leads’ backstories and their potential connection [SPOILERS]
In episode 2, we get more insight into In Sook’s and Woo Cheon’s backstories, and that did help to color them in as characters, in my eyes.
The backstory of how In Sook lost her hearing is so tragic. Those girls that pushed her in the water are so awful. Kids can be awful. Innocently awful.
The backstory of how In Sook had been thrust on Gran by her dad, is very sad too. It’s such a terrible thing, that Dad had purposefully kept Mom from seeing In Sook, and then Mom had died of cancer.
And all these years, In Sook had assumed that Mom had abandoned her and never looked for her. Ugh. It’s good that Dad’s regretful now, but you can’t put a price on what he stole from In Sook, in keeping her from Mom.
Woo Cheon’s backstory is tragic too. To think that his father had tried to kill the whole family, and then Woo Cheon had survived with Mom – only for Mom to die of cancer not too long after.
And then there’s the thing where he accidentally killed a classmate and went to juvie. Was it an accident, I wonder? Is that how he started on the path to becoming a contract killer?
Woo Cheon’s fascination with In Sook is definitely a hook. Maybe he feels a sense of solidarity with her, since they both have such tragic childhoods.
Altogether, this did make me feel curious to know more about In Sook and Woo Cheon, and to see them connect more.
That said, I still did find some things strange about episode 2.
Like why Woo Cheon had just let Abusive Dad hit him like that. Or why he’d gone back and put the flower behind Abusive Dad’s ear.
I’d thought that his explanation, that there are some days like that when you don’t know the meaning of your actions, kind of worked, but then I eventually came back and pressed ‘play’ on episode 3, after taking a break.
Watching episode 3, I found that Show was extending its brand of aggressive quirk to Woo Cheon too, with his obsession with the girl in that photograph, whom he’s christened Isobel.
What this meant to me, is that the straight-up non-quirky poignance that I’d thought we’d get with Woo Cheon’s character, was no longer part of this deal. Woo Cheon was going to be aggressively quirky too, and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that.
Partway through episode 3, I found myself feeling thoroughly bemused by and disconnected from what I assume is the off-the-wall charm that Show was trying to sell me.
That’s when I concluded that I’m just not part of Show’s target audience. I don’t jive with Show’s brand of quirk, even with effort, and I just don’t think I’ll ever get there.
Goodbye, Show. You get brownie points for daring to be different, and for giving Kim Kyung Nam and Ahn Eun Jin their first lead roles, but.. you and I are just not meant to be, unfortunately.