I really, really wanted to like this one, you guys.
I mean, it’s headlined by Seo Hyun Jin, whom I think is an excellent actress, and Show’s promos made Seo Hyun Jin’s character Soo Jae look like a force to be reckoned with.
Ooh. I couldn’t say yes fast enough, basically.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I find myself dropping out, after 9 episodes.
Still, I hope you guys find this Dropped post useful, in helping you figure out whether this one’s for you.
MY TRAJECTORY WITH THIS ONE
I actually really enjoyed episode 1 of this show, which I found to be a solidly strong outing, and I’d felt pretty confident that I would find this one an engaging, worthwhile watch.
Unfortunately, I found episode 2 weaker than episode 1, and that was the beginning of a not-great trajectory. As the episodes went by, I found my interest levels slipping, despite my best efforts to adjust my viewing lens.
I managed to finish watching episode 9, but thereafter, couldn’t muster up the interest to unpack it nicely for my episode notes for Patreon.
That’s also the point at which I realized that I didn’t have the interest to go on to episode 10, either.
Which is how I ended up writing this Dropped post.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Even though I didn’t manage to adjust my viewing lens sufficiently to make this show work for me all the way through to the end, I did have some success with len adjustments during my watch, and thought I’d share.
For a while, I used a legal thriller lens, paired with a heightened melodrama lens, and I did have some success with that.
I did find it helpful to think of Show as being on the stylized, melodramatic side of things.
Meaning, thinking of this drama world as a stylized, melodramatic place, rather than a world which reflects real life was helpful in helping me digest the high drama sort of flair that Show serves up, not only in Soo Jae’s behavior, but in her surroundings as well.
However, I found that the lens that worked best, was the makjang lens, rather than a legal thriller lens, or a heightened melodrama lens.
The makjang lens allowed me to embrace logic stretches and narrative leaps with blithe enjoyment, rather than endure them with a quizzical side-eye, so I do think that the makjang lens might be your best bet, in maximizing your enjoyment of this show.
Unfortunately, as far as I’ve watched, which is up to episode 9, Show doesn’t lean directly into the makjang, and tries to do too much in terms of mashing genres together, which I’ll talk more about later in this post.
STUFF I LIKED
Seo Hyun Jin as Soo Jae
Specifically, I really enjoyed watching Seo Hyun Jin deliver her role as Soo Jae, even though I often found myself wrestling with Soo Jae’s characterization.
In particular, I loved watching Seo Hyun Jin play the elegant badass, which is Soo Jae’s chosen persona around just about all of her political adversaries.
Paired with her often faultless corporate wardrobe, in this space, Soo Jae comes across as beautiful, compelling and charismatic, and I loved that.
To Seo Hyun Jin’s credit, when Show reveals more of Soo Jae’s backstory, and we get to see a very different side to Soo Jae’s personality, Seo Hyun Jin delivers those different facets wonderfully as well.
Even though I found Soo Jae’s characterization bumpy at best, I thought Seo Hyun Jin did excellently with what she was given.
I will talk more about my issues with the writing later in this post, but for now, here are some of my thoughts around Soo Jae as a character, as I tried to make sense of her, during my watch.
E1. I find myself more intrigued by Soo Jae and her personal journey, than by the actual case which forces her to do time as a law professor, for a semester.
I think Show does a decent job of alluding to the fact that Soo Jae isn’t as naturally cut-throat as she appears to be, at work.
We see that she’d been a lot more timid, and showing a lot more in the way of “normal” emotions, back when she’d first joined the law firm.
And, in her more “natural state,” she’d been treated poorly, and looked down upon, by basically everyone. People being snide behind her back, AND to her face, as we learn this episode.
Show isn’t very specific about this, but it’s not hard to make the connection that Soo Jae had decided, somewhere along the way, that the only way to survive and succeed, in this dog-eat-dog world, was to throw away any trappings of humanity or conscience.
And, succeed she does.
When we meet her, she’s the most successful and most revered and feared partner at TK Law Firm, and, she’s completely different from the younger Soo Jae whom we see in flashbacks.
I’m sure this might vary across the board, but the thing is, I don’t see her as a bad person.
For one thing, it’s arguable that she’s just doing her job. A lawyer’s job isn’t to decide what’s right and what’s wrong, and who the victim is. That’s the purview of a judge.
A lawyer’s job is to defend their client to the best of their ability, and it’s an altogether very gray arena in which they play, where the guilty can get off scot-free, while the innocent might end up serving time.
That’s.. just the nature of the beast, as it were.
And Soo Jae’s decided that to succeed, she will have to play by the rules of this gray arena, and do whatever it takes, to win her cases, because those wins are her street cred.
The other thing is, I’m sure that given her disadvantaged starting point (disadvantaged in the sense that everyone looked down on her and wouldn’t give her a chance), Soo Jae would have had to work at least twice as hard, to prove herself.
And, along with that, I’m sure she would also have had to be twice as tough, in order to prove herself as a worthy player.
Putting that together, I feel that Soo Jae is simply doing her job, and that includes intimidating the witnesses, clients or opponents, with her words.
Yes, it’s not nice, but it’s clear that Soo Jae’s decided that being nice is a luxury that she can’t afford.
And currently, Soo Jae’s in a position where she’s damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t. For example, when she chooses not to smile, people gossip about it behind her back. And yet, when she chooses to smile, people pick on that and gossip about her anyway.
It’s quite an awful environment, really.
Which is why I do appreciate that we get glimpses of Soo Jae’s inner struggle, beneath her effortlessly glossy image.
Like that quick scene of her pouring liquor into her tumbler to drink like coffee, when she has a private moment. It’s not explicitly laid out for us, but to my eyes, this indicates that drinking is likely part of Soo Jae’s coping mechanism.
Because, if she’s switched off her true self to this extent in order to survive, surely it’s got to show up somewhere, right?
E3. It’s a little cliched, sure, but I appreciate the contrast between Group Eight celebrating their victory from last episode, with lots of food and cheer, while Soo Jae is shown alone in her apartment, with cup ramyun, instant rice, and a can of beer.
At the same time, I think it’s important for us to see Soo Jae in her unguarded state, so that we get a better sense of who she is, as a person, not just who she is, when she’s got her corporate armor on, at the office.
And even though it looks like Soo Jae might really only have the one friend, in Joon Hee (Cha Chung Hwa!), it’s good that we get to see Soo Jae loosen up and smile, as she trades a few gentle jibes with her.
Despite the glimmers of humanity that we get from Soo Jae, her modus operandi when it comes to work – particularly when she’s being attacked – is to attack right back, and I have to concede that that’s not very nice at all.
Like when Park Ji Young goes to the law school and makes a scene, accusing Soo Jae of murdering her sister, it’s Soo Jae’s instinct to defend herself, by pointing the finger at Ji Young and her parents instead.
As they say, attack is the best form of defense. That must have become Soo Jae’s way of defending herself, over the years.
It sure doesn’t help Ji Young, but it’s effective in getting Ji Young to stop attacking her, partly because she’s so shaken by Soo Jae’s smooth accusation.
And yet, when in private, Soo Jae can suddenly show sympathy and softness, like in that flashback that we see of her, talking with Park So Young (Hong Ji Yoon) on the roof.
She’s velvet steel through most of it, but there are small moments, like when she tells Park So Young that she can’t help her, unless So Young tells her the truth, where it feels like glimmers of her old, inner self coming through.
In that sense, I find Soo Jae quite the bundle of contradictions.
She’s smooth, unruffled and elegantly steely through almost anything and everything, but sometimes, when you least expect it, she shows hints of softness. I find it quite fascinating.
Another thing that makes Soo Jae more sympathetic, is the reveal that she has some extremely toxic family members.
From the sound of it, it seems like her mother and brothers have all been on the wrong side of the law, and have the expectation that Soo Jae will not only clean up after them, but also bail them out and give them money, as needed.
Gosh, it’s all quite makjang, the way the family scene is played, and I had to remind myself that this is a stylized drama world, and these characters are likely designed more as caricatures than anything else.
And, just knowing that they are part of Soo Jae’s life, makes me feel sorry for Soo Jae, that instead of having a family she can turn to and rely on, she’s got parasites for family, who are threatening to suck her dry.
I really do like how Soo Jae approaches the whole video scandal, which causes all those rumors that she’d been involved in Park So Young’s death.
Instead of being hush-hush about it, she’s out and proud and letting it all hang out, in a manner of speaking, with the way she covers it during her lecture, and then tasks the legal clinic team to investigate her, in the context of the case.
That’s pretty ballsy, and she’s completely unruffled by all the gossip. I do admire her for that.
And, I must say that Soo Jae does come across as very competent, while quizzing various students on the different facets of the case, during her lecture. I like that too.
E4. I still find it interesting to see Soo Jae be her assertive, shrewd, analytical self, when dealing with everything else that isn’t related to Gong Chan (Hwang In Yeop).
The way she gleans new pieces of information through her various sources, and then pieces the fragments together, to figure out who’s playing what and why, is nicely engaging, even when I sometimes only have a vague idea of what she’s doing and why.
I don’t fuss about that too much, because it all becomes clearer anyway, as the episode progresses.
For example, when Soo Jae receives information from Mi Rim about “the two accountants” I actually didn’t realize what she was talking about, until I saw Soo Jae confront Yoon Se Pil (Choi Young Joon), with the two accountants by his side.
That’s when I realized that the two accountants had been working for Soo Jae to dig up dirt in the Hansu Bio documents, and that they’d jumped ship, to work for Yoon Se Pil.
And then there’s how the case details around Park Ji Young seem to pop up out of nowhere, but if you just follow along, by the end of the episode, it becomes clear that this had all been a set-up that Soo Jae had worked out with Park Ji Young, in exchange for her cooperation.
Nicely done on Soo Jae’s part, since it gets her what she wants, in that it clears her name as having been involved in Park So Young’s death, and it also unearths new evidence of who the real murderer is.
E5. I realize that I have to keep reminding myself that Soo Jae is supposed to be a bundle of contradictions, every time she does or says something that gives me pause.
For example, when she repeatedly tells Gong Chan he’s crossing the line, and she doesn’t like it, I get quite perplexed, because she’d crossed that line too, by kissing him, not so long ago.
With that context, it feels contradictory and messed up, that she should be allowed to cross the line when she feels like it, but he isn’t allowed the cross the line, like, ever.
Reminding myself that Soo Jae is written to be a bundle of contradictions, and that she is all mixed up on the inside, about Gong Chan, does help to smooth things a bit, for me, but I have to confess that this still niggles at me somewhat, in the corner of my mind.
Also, Soo Jae gets upset with Gong Chan for calling the police, even though it’s a very dangerous situation, and anyone in his shoes would have called the police
And then she gets upset with him for removing the boxes of confidential documents from the apartment (office?) that was broken into, when he’s just trying to keep her stuff safe.
I have to keep reminding myself that she’s just wary of letting Gong Chan come close, and that’s why she keeps lashing out at him, in a manner of speaking. She’s just trying to push him away.
That’s also the reason she ups and leaves early in the morning, while he’s still asleep.
STUFF THAT WAS OK
The power play stuff
I found the power play stuff moderately interesting, which is why I’ve got it in this section.
Our main baddies, played by Heo Jun Ho, Lee Kyoung Young and Jo Young Jin, are reasonably solid, with Heo Jun Ho leading the way as the most commanding of the three, by my estimation.
I have to admit, however, that as I got deeper into the episodes, the intricacies of the web of lies and deceit started to lose me, and I stopped wanting to pay close attention to the details, because it all felt quite effortful, with no real tangible payoff that I could detect.
Instead, I found myself just going with the flow of the power play stuff, feeling content to grasp it in broad strokes, rather than keep close track of exactly who was doing what to whom, and when and why.
The school stuff
In a similar fashion, I found the law school stuff moderately interesting, though not particularly gripping, which is why it’s in this section.
I liked the idea of Soo Jae being a badass law professor who plays by her own rules, but I was a lot less interested in the politicking in school, and which professors had it out for Soo Jae, and why.
Group Eight / The legal clinic
In principle, I liked the idea of Group Eight becoming a cohesive intact group in forming the legal clinic, but I had quibbles with the implementation of the idea, which is why it’s in this section.
Generally speaking, Soo Jae taps on the legal clinic team a lot, to help her investigate the various cases at hand, and while I like the idea of this, the delivery of how the members actually manage their investigations, is almost cartoony, and requires regular suspension of disbelief.
So, nice concept, not so great execution, unfortunately.
Bae In Hyuk as Yoon Sang
I have a soft spot for Bae In Hyuk, particularly after enjoying him in Kiss Goblin, so I was pretty pleased to see him on the cast list of this show.
The reason I’ve got Yoon Sang in this section, is because the way Show plays it, his character goes from apparently decent, to something a lot more opaque and dubious.
I also didn’t like how angry and possessive he comes across, after the initial couple of episodes.
At first, I was rather taken with the idea, that Yoon Sang is a rebellious son, who presumably fails his courses in defiance, because he’s somehow got a more righteous heart than his father and brother, and sees them for the morally dubious people that they are.
In that context, I almost felt like Yoon Sang could be the lead in his own drama, heh.
Because of this, I actually preferred Yoon Sang as a character for a while, compared to Gong Chan.
BUT. Once he started showing those angry and possessive tendencies, I changed my mind quite quickly. 😝
In principle, I do still think that Yoon Sang is an interesting character, because he keeps me guessing in terms of what he would do, if his loyalty were to be tested.
Would he stand by his principles, or would he protect his father?
It’s an interesting conundrum.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
The writing in general
Ultimately, I think that the writing is Show’s biggest problem.
There are two main things that I’d like to highlight, in this section.
1. Show’s shifting tones
I honestly don’t think that Show actually knows what it wants to be.
Does it want to be a legal thriller? A stylized melodrama? A makjang? A rom-com? A journey of self-discovery? I’m not convinced that Show actually knows the answer to that question.
And, as Show meanders through its episodes, trying on these different genres for size on what feels the basis of whim and fancy, we get a pattern of shifting tones that can sometimes feel downright bizarre, from a viewer’s point of view.
Sometimes, we go from makjang to rom-com in two seconds flat, and even though I like to think of myself as being quite flexible with my viewing lens, I found this extremely whiplashy.
This doesn’t just affect plot developments, mind you; this also very much affects characterization.
The biggest victim, I feel, is Soo Jae, our protagonist.
[HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS]
When we’re in makjang or legal thriller territory, she’s calm, cool and smilingly fierce, while capably meeting her enemies wherever they choose, and often overcoming them.
But then, Show often switches into rom-com mode right after, which is where Soo Jae tends to be girlish, shy and really quite pliable, in the face of Gong Chan’s affections.
I get the idea that people can be multi-faceted, but that idea doesn’t take away the whiplashy feelings I get around Soo Jae’s characterization. It just doesn’t come across as organic, unfortunately.
It just feels like writer-nim decided that it would make for an interesting contrast, for Soo Jae to be a fierce badass, but also, a blushing flower, at the same time – and then just stitched those two things together without stopping to think about how to connect those two concepts in a way that feels believable.
2. Show’s not as clever as it would like to think
I realize that this show does this Thing that quite a lot of shows resort to, for the thrill factor. It jumps the timeline, to show us a surprising outcome, then backtracks to fill in the gaps, and show us how we got there.
Show does this a lot in episode 8.
I didn’t keep count, but it really feels like it does this multiple times, at the same time, for various narrative threads, which means that it almost always feels like we’re all over the place, in terms of timelines.
On the one hand, it works out to be reasonably entertaining, if I don’t think about things too much, and just go with the flow.
On the other hand, I can’t shake the niggling feeling at the back of my head, that says that Show’s trying too hard, and isn’t as cool as it thinks it is.
Because, my brain can’t help but put everything in chronological order afterwards, and it just.. doesn’t seem as cool. And that just makes Show’s effort of gunning for the shock factor that much more obvious. Or at least, that’s how it’s shaking out, for me.
Additionally, there are various things that hinge on certain characters acting in not very smart ways. Again, this takes away from Show’s cool factor.
One example that comes to mind, is that beat where Yoon Sang gets Secretary Ha (Jeon Jin Ki) drunk, then steals his key card, enters his apartment, and steals the original recording of Soo Jae’s voice.
For one thing, with Secretary Ha being so wary, it strikes me as extremely out of character for him to actually allow himself to get drunk, just because Yoon Sang’s pouring him shots of soju.
Additionally, it’s a stretch that Yoon Sang would be able to find the recording so easily, upon entering Secretary Ha’s apartment.
Because, if this was so important, why would Secretary Ha leave it in an obvious place like a desk drawer? Wouldn’t he have some kind of secret place to hide dubious stuff like this, akin to (but likely not as large as) Chairman Choi’s secret place?
The fact that this was a key piece of evidence, without which it would have been hard for Mi Rim to prove that Soo Jae had been set up, this does feel rather flimsy to my eyes, unfortunately.
Hwang In Yeop as Gong Chan
So, I really do have a pre-existing fondness for Hwang In Yeop, particularly after his turn in True Beauty, where I thought he did well as the bad boy with a marshmallow heart.
Unfortunately, I don’t like the way his character Gong Chan is written, nor do I enjoy how he’s being directed to act really young.
Show makes Gong Chan vibe too young
Even though Gong Chan is supposed to 27 years old, he often vibes more like a teenager.
Maybe Show is trying to bring across the idea that Gong Chan lost a lot of his childhood innocence and is therefore a little stunted, thereby making him feel young, even at 27 years old?
I have no idea.
All I know is, I struggle with the way Gong Chan is made to feel very young, particularly because Gong Chan’s in a loveline with Soo Jae.
I think it would have been helpful, if they’d made Gong Chan a more obviously adult student, kinda like the policewoman who’s part of Group Eight (Kim Jae Hwa). After all, this is law school, and students can be of any age.
There’s really no pressing reason that Gong Chan needs to vibe so young.
The positioning of Gong Chan as a very young man, with hairstyle to emphasize his youth (those bangs!), and behavior that indicates he’s very youthful, is not working out very well for me.
For example, in episode 5, the way Gong Chan ends up sitting on the couch, hugging a cushion, after he sees the note that Soo Jae left him, is so much like a lost little boy, that it made me cringe. A lot.
I get that Gong Chan is younger than Soo Jae, but did they have to direct him to act so much like a little boy? That’s not appealing at all, and does not make me want to root for this loveline. 😝
Why not age up Gong Chan’s character, and still let Hwang In Yeop play him, but with a more mature air about him? I honestly think that would have worked better.
Gong Chan’s inorganic & unconvincing characterization
Additionally, because Show is trying to push both the loveline, and the idea that Soo Jae is a strong career woman who’s fighting this loveline, AND Gong Chan is very young at heart, this results in weird narrative decisions, more than a few times.
For example, in episode 7, it feels like such a stretch, that Gong Chan would be audacious enough to install himself for a sleepover on Soo Jae’s couch, even though she specifically tells him to leave.
This honestly feels out of character for him, coz he’s usually much more cooperative with Soo Jae, and respectful towards her as his professor.
But, I get that this is to make it such that Gong Chan would be there to watch over Soo Jae, and care for her, when she has nightmares that night, and also, be there to leave her a warm breakfast to wake up to, in the morning.
However, in pushing the loveline, Show basically has to compromise Gong Chan’s characterization, which feels weirdly off-kilter in this arc.
On top of all this, there are times when I just don’t understand why Hwang In Yeop’s being directed to play Gong Chan a certain way.
For example, in episode 5, in the scene where Soo Jae confronts Gong Chan about crossing the line and treating her as a joke, I feel rather perplexed by the way Hwang In Yeop plays Gong Chan.
In this scene, Soo Jae’s getting riled up and raising her voice, and she’s clearly emotional about it. But Gong Chan, in contrast, is mostly calm, with very few cadences in his voice.
This feels unnatural to my eyes, because Gong Chan’s supposed to be young, inexperienced and very much smitten with Soo Jae. I imagine that those 3 things would add up to Gong Chan being more emotional in the moment than he appears.
This felt weirdly inorganic, to my eyes.
The loveline between Soo Jae and Gong Chan
When Show first announced that it would have a noona romance, and that it would be between Soo Jae’s law professor character, and Gong Chan, her student, I groaned.
I mean, I do love me a good noona romance, but the idea of a teacher and student getting together sounded all kinds of problematic to me.
HOWEVER. Because this show stars Seo Hyun Jin, and I thought it sounded really interesting, I rationalized that the noona romance might work, because this is a law school setting, and students at law school can be mature students.
Unfortunately, Show didn’t seem to get that memo.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous section, I found it extremely problematic, for Gong Chan to have such a young-vibing characterization, particularly in the context of this noona romance, where our more powerful character, Soo Jae, decides from the outset, that she wants nothing romantic to do with Gong Chan.
I get the idea behind it, though.
I understand that in concept, it makes sense that we have Gong Chan in this picture, to remind Soo Jae of her true core nature, the innocent soul who believes in the good in others.
And I understand that the reason Soo Jae keeps forgetting herself around him, and keeps saying and doing things that her brain doesn’t appear to have approved – like kissing him, or telling him that she isn’t dating the 7 trillion won guy – is because there’s really no way that she would give him a chance, if she were in conscious control of everything she says and does.
This is arguably the only way Show is able to push this noona romance forward, like it’s decided that it should.
However. The execution is awkward, and comes across as strangely disjointed.
I feel like I’m getting thrown from one genre to another and then back again, on a regular basis, with this show, and it feels rather whiplashy.
That said, I don’t know if there IS any non-awkward, smooth, non-whiplashy way to go about this, particularly since Show has decided that Soo Jae, the more powerful character between them, is not going to be the one pushing the loveline forward.
All that said, I understood that this loveline is one of Show’s Main Events, and therefore tried my best to roll with the romantic developments, as Show served them up.
I had varying degrees of success with this, and as I got deeper into my watch, I succeeded less and less often with this, unfortunately.
Here’s a look at my thoughts about this loveline, as I watched the episodes.
E2. Despite all my misgivings, the fangirl in me couldn’t help but get a bit of a thrill at the elevator scene, where Gong Chan tells Soo Jae that it’s not that he likes Se Ryeon, but that he likes her.
Somehow, I can believe that this would touch Soo Jae’s heart in some way.
I think it’s because Soo Jae’s dipped back into her humanity, however briefly, for Se Ryeon’s case, and, fresh off of that, she’s being told by someone, with all sincerity, that he likes her.
That must feel quite different for Soo Jae, since, from what we’ve been shown, Soo Jae has been more likely to receive either lip-servicey compliments, or outright hate, in her time at TK Law Firm.
While it does seem quite forward of Gong Chan to hold Soo Jae’s hand like that, even for a short while, with the context of how she’d once held his hand, when he’d first been sentenced to prison, it makes a lot more sense.
It’s quite poignant, really, to see that Soo Jae’s words, that they both need to gain power and have a solid foundation, in order to not get lost, have been Gong Chan’s inspiration, for turning his life around.
And so, despite my quibbles about the execution of this episode, I still find myself very interested to see how this re-connection unfolds between Gong Chan and Soo Jae, going forward.
E3. Some of Gong Chan’s moments with Soo Jae lean a bit cringey for me, like that moment when he smiles at her, when the group forming the legal clinic moves off to have lunch with Director Baek (Kim Chang Wan).
But most of the time, I find him rather sweet and earnest, in the way he looks out for Soo Jae, and is unabashed about the fact that he likes her.
And, even though it’s on the cheesy side of things, that Gong Chan gives her his umbrella, and then later serves her a big, hot meal, I like his earnest sincerity enough, that it still works for me.
For example, the way he tells her gently, to take her time to enjoy the food, is really nice. I liked that very well, and I can see why that would make Soo Jae smile.
And while I do think that it was really quite rude of Gong Chan to speak that way to Joo Wan (Ji Seung Hyun), I can see why that would amuse Soo Jae, since Joo Wan is a bit of a thorn in her side.
And then there’s how Gong Chan comes to her, all earnest and wide-eyed, asking her to confirm that she’d had nothing to do with Park Ji Young’s arrest for Park So Young’s alleged murder.
He really does trust her implicitly, and it comes across very clearly, when he expresses himself to her.
Plus, even after she’s drawn her line, and told him not to cross it, he’s steadfast in saying that he’ll continue to like her.
I can see how all of that might come together, to cause Soo Jae’s heart to forget to be cold for a bit, and waver, in response.
And so, when Soo Jae drops that glass and it shatters all over the floor, and Gong Chan comes rushing back into her office, to check on her, I can kind of see how she would waver some more.
After all, he’s so devoted and caring, like nothing could shake his feelings for her, or his belief in her.
The way he lifts her by the waist to seat her on the table is definitely crossing the line, but.. I can’t deny that I felt some sparks there, while he picked her up. 🔥 I can see why Soo Jae would waver, in the face of all this.
All that said, I find it hard to believe that Soo Jae would let down her guard enough to actually kiss Gong Chan like that.
That feels oddly inorganic to my eyes, and I’m curious to see what Show’s going to do with that, in the next episode.
E4. I find it extremely hard to believe that Soo Jae would slip up around Gong Chan more than once.
If she’s caught up in the moment and kisses him without thinking, sure ok, I can buy that once.
But Soo Jae being Soo Jae, would be clean cut about stopping it right there. I’m sure she would watch her own behavior like a hawk, to make sure she doesn’t make a similar mistake again.
Yet, before the episode is up, she’s letting slip, WHILE COMPLETELY SOBER, that hey, you misunderstood one more thing; 7 trillion won guy is not my boyfriend.
Facepalm. I don’t buy this at all, honestly. This doesn’t feel true to Soo Jae’s character, from were I’m sitting.
E5. One thing that I find surprising, is the way Gong Chan is framed as a guy who likes Soo Jae, in Soo Jae’s conversation with Joon Hee.
What I mean is, the two of them don’t dismiss Gong Chan as just some student crush; the way they talk about Gong Chan, he’s given the weight of a full-blown suitor for Soo Jae’s affections.
I find that surprising, because even though Show has been giving us indications that Soo Jae’s not completely unaffected by Gong Chan’s attention, I wouldn’t have thought that she would talk about him like this, to her friend, like she’s actually considering him as a potential boyfriend.
Soo Jae talks about being embarrassed at the idea of Gong Chan finding out everything about her, but honestly, I’d have imagined that her reasons for pushing Gong Chan away, would have more to do with the fact that he’s her student, than that she’d feel embarrassed.
Clearly, I’ve yet to wrap my head around what kind of character Soo Jae’s supposed to be, since I feel so bemused by this.
E6. I find that while I’m still not super loving the scenes between Soo Jae and Gong Chan, it all lands better now that I know his age.
Yes, there is cheesy cringe in the scene where Gong Chan comes across a tipsy Soo Jae and Jun Hee; that part where Jun Hee whispers to Soo Jae, if this is the Gong Chan who has a crush on her, and Gong Chan answers that yes, it is he, is sooo cringey, eep. 🙈
I also do find it slightly cringey that Soo Jae gets noticeably jealous when Gong Chan talks about the ice store owner’s daughter, who had liked him before.
Beyond that, though, I’m starting to mildly appreciate the way Soo Jae and Gong Chan find that they have similar experiences, even though they have different contexts.
In this scene, Soo Jae talks about her name rolling around on the ground like a piece of trash, and when she asks Gong Chan if he knows what that’s like, we see that he does know what that’s like, from when he’d been wrongfully accused of murder.
Different context, but similar core experience. I rather like the idea of that, and I can appreciate that Soo Jae would feel more connected to Gong Chan because of this.
E8. Show’s really working hard to push the romance between Gong Chan and Soo Jae, which isn’t a surprise.
I just wish that Show wouldn’t push it in weird and inappropriate moments.
Like when Mi Rim’s (Lee Joo Woo) at the penitentiary acting as Soo Jae’s attorney, and she’s trying to assure Soo Jae that they’ll get her out of there.
The sudden tangent that Mi Rim goes off on, telling Soo Jae that she should just date Gong Chan when she gets out of there, because Gong Chan clearly likes her, is really strange.
It honestly feels like it comes out of nowhere, and was just shoved in there, so that we wouldn’t forget about the loveline.
That makes Show look kinda desperate to my eyes, not gonna lie.
The ending of the episode, where we have Gong Chan waiting for Soo Jae at her apartment building, does feel kind of tacked on, since we haven’t spent any real time on the loveline this episode.
I’m guessing that Mi Rim’s line to Soo Jae, telling her to date Gong Chan once she gets out, was to facilitate this final scene, where Soo Jae gives in to her feelings and leans her head on Gong Chan’s shoulder, telling him simply that she’s hungry.
I’m honestly not particularly blown away by this final scene, but I do buy the idea that it would probably be safer for Soo Jae to stay at Gong Chan’s place for now, where his two hyungs are also available as additional hands, feet, eyes and ears, as needed, rather than alone in her apartment.
I’m normally all about cohabitation hijinks, but to be honest, I’m in a more cautious wait-and-see mode, with this one.
By the time I got to the end of episode 9, it suddenly became clear to me that I was ready to tap out of this show.
A large chunk of this episode felt like a rom-com, which is really weird, considering that Show has a main narrative that is anything but a rom-com.
These strong rom-com vibes don’t mesh well with the legal thriller that is at the core of this show’s makjang stage.
While I can sorta-maybe understand the idea that the rom-com stuff is meant to provide a breather from the more intense makjang stuff that Show’s been serving up, combining the two is just whiplashy, to be honest.
Also, with everyone egging on the romantic connection between Soo Jae and Gong Chan in their own ways, I feel as if Show is trying to brainwash me, by trying to convince me that everyone else is on board with this romance, and I’m the weird one for thinking that it doesn’t work.
I’ve also lost interest in the details of the power struggle stuff involving our main baddies. I only care that Soo Jae appears to have a plan to have them all under her thumb, somehow.
I’m slightly perplexed by the thing where Soo Jae tells Gong Chan that it was back when her father had gone bankrupt, that she’d decided to do whatever it takes to win.
This somehow doesn’t mesh with the version of Soo Jae whom we saw in other flashbacks, in her early career? That version of Soo Jae had been warmhearted and earnest; nothing like the cutthroat version of her that we’d met in the present, in our story. This doesn’t match, I feel.
Last but not least, I find myself not taking to the closing scene, where Gong Chan takes Soo Jae to the seaside, after she’s told him that she’d rather just go home – and then she suddenly admits that she likes him.
After which we get kisses and a minting of the OTP relationship.
I know Show’s been building up to it for a long time, but it still somehow manages to feel random to me – most likely because I’ve been struggling to get on board with this loveline since the beginning.
This episode just felt like too much of a hodgepodge mishmash of tones and genres, and now Show looks set to go hard on both the romance and the power struggle, mostly likely at the same time.
There’s a small chance it could work, I guess? But, based on what I’ve seen Show serve up so far, I can’t say that I have all that much confidence that it will.
Also, to be frank, I realize that I’m not interested enough in the outcome, to invest more drama hours in order to find out what happens, or how it all goes down.
Which is why it’s goodbye from me, Show. I hope you do actually do better than I think you will..! 😅
Seo Hyun Jin-sshi, fighting~! 💪🏻
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Why Her, is Shining For One Thing [China]. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I am enjoying it right away. My E1-2 notes on Shining For One Thing can be found here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Yumi’s Cells 2 + k-ent tidbits + E1 notes of all shows covered on Patreon
Early Access (US$5): +Our Blues
Early Access Plus (US$10): +Shining For One Thing [China]
VIP (US$15): +Bloody Heart
VVIP (US$20): +A Dream Of Splendor [China]
Ultimate (US$25): +Alchemy Of Souls
I think you’re right about the writing not being all that great in this show. They came out of the gate with an absolutely bang up episode, and then it just slid downhill from there.
But in my eyes, the really besetting sin of the show, the flaw that ends up as its true Achilles’ heel, is the noona romance. As you say, I’m all for a well-done noona romance, but this is the opposite of that, and as it goes on, it slowly but surely poisons the rest of the show. By the time we hit the big schmoopy sunrise-and-kisses on the beach scene at the end of ep. 9, I was literally fast-forwarding through it, just because it made me feel so bored and dyspeptic…a deadly combination.
I didn’t see True Beauty, and have no preset feelings about Hwang Im-yeop one way or another–I thought he was fine in Sound of Magic, neither loved nor hated him there–but from quite early on in this show, every time he showed up on the screen, I let out a little sigh or groan. I’m open to that not being the actor’s fault; this is just a misconceived character and poorly written role, and it does show and its initial potential a real disservice.
As Sean said, this promised a lot at the outset, and then…well. Sad. I actually haven’t dropped it, and am more or less committed to finishing it, but that’s mostly due to completist fetish, and I’ll be kind of dragging my feet.
I stopped at episode 4..but I plan to finish because I love watching SHJ enjoy being a smart-ass..
I just wanted to comment about something re “noona” romances. I think a lot of people have fantasies about how such relationships should or would or could play out
I wonder how many people have actually been in such relationships.
Perhaps the viewers don’t really grasp the self-doubts, the power plays, the Dread of seeming ridiculous that lead to the seemingly implausible behavior as depicted in this show for example.
Very often the younger person is the initiator, who is often unaware of what they are setting off by their behavior.
Just thought I would add my 2 cents.
Fangurl – I had the pleasure of reading this entire review and enjoying all the spoilers as I do not plan to watch this. I did have to stop and do a double take on the screen shot you have with her in that black suit. It is gorgeous and she looks fabulous in it. Sorry to hear the show did not match that suit.
Well written and comprehensive review Fangurl!
Oh, what show could have been! The first episode was glorious, a feast for both mind and soul. One of the best openings to any show, ever. Then the Scooby Doo gang happened, Gong Chan happened and then I don’t know what happened 🤣
Velvet Steel is an awesome description of Soo Jae – a cold heart with a warm embrace. She is certainly that 🥶❤️☀️
Seo Hyun Jin is awesome. Everyone else, apart from HJH as our scurrilous chairman, is way below par. That in itself is the fault of the writing and the direction, not the acting 😫😫😫
In the end, it was eight episodes for me. I wanted show to work – 😔 Although there a number of really good noona romances out there, show was, as I said over on Patreon, a noona snoozer 💤