I feel like “Your mileage may vary” is quite the understatement, with this show.
There are two main camps of viewers when it comes to this show, it seems like. One camp that loves it a great deal, and another that finds many things to be problematic, in this drama world.
Most of the time, when I lead with a statement like that about a show, I tend to fall squarely into the middle ground of finding it pretty ok, overall.
This time, however, I happen to have enjoyed this one much more than I’d originally expected to. Lens adjustments apply, of course, which I’ll talk about in a bit.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
Overall, I found the music breezy and enjoyable; in line with the light tone that Show’s gunning for.
MY TRAJECTORY WITH THIS ONE [SOME MINOR EARLY SPOILERS]
I have to confess that when I first pressed “play” on this show, I.. wasn’t prepared for the general vibe of the show, which leaned, well, “aggressive” to my eyes, and after less than an episode, was kinda ready to back away from this one.
What I mean is, Show’s apparently cavalier attitude towards relationships and sex was exactly the kind of thing that I’d been happy to get away from, in Western entertainment, when I came to kdramas.
I found it quite in-yo-face, to have Show establish, within its opening minutes, that our female lead Mi Ran (Kim Ok Bin) enjoys sex and doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with cheating on her boyfriend, by sleeping with someone else. 😅
Now, it’s one thing to have a female lead who’s free spirited and enjoys sex, but I do think it’s a whole other thing, to portray her as someone who thinks nothing of cheating on her boyfriend.
And then there’s also how our male lead Kang Ho (Yoo Teo) is blunt to the point of being mean, with his female co-stars.
In Show’s first 30 minutes, I concluded that I didn’t like our female or our male lead very much.
However, all the positive buzz around this drama made me rethink my decision, and after a break, I came back to give Show another try.
This time, I had my viewing lens adjusted, and my patience at the ready, because if folks were loving this one, I hoped to figure out why, and hopefully tap into that too.
And whaddya know, I actually ended up enjoying this one wayyy more than I’d originally thought possible.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Generally, I think the lens that works for this show, is the “don’t think too hard lens,” because that will give you the highest chance of enjoying your watch of this show.
That said, I do think that the degree to which you’d be able to enjoy this one, really depends on how much you’re able to switch off your brain.
Beyond Show’s glossy, modern packaging that indicates a free-spirited approach to relationships and sex, Show actually does remind me of older kdramas.
Specifically, I’m thinking of older rom-coms that we all slurped up in the day because it had felt like such delicious crack, but which, under a more analytical lens, would be all kinds of problematic.
Even more specifically, I’m thinking of Secret Garden, which aired from late 2010 to early 2011, and which I’d inhaled with relish along with almost everyone else in the dramaverse, back when it’d first aired.
At the time, I just had a lot of fun watching it, and it was only much later, when I tried to revisit the show for a rewatch, that I found myself struggling with, well, a lot of stuff, including the terrible things that our male lead was written to say, to come across as a cold, prickly male lead, but which I now could only see as Very Awful Jerk behavior.
In the years since, I’ve come to realize that sometimes dramas do this thing, where they start out showing us what a jerk a male lead (or female lead, for that matter) is, in the beginning, and then, instead of actually showing us proper character growth, the dramas start showing us that this character is nice, all of a sudden, and somehow, we forget how horrible they once were, because of the recency effect.
You could even say that these dramas are gaslighting us, even.
All that to say, I do think that this show does a bit of that, because our leads’ more problematic behaviors do get softened up, by the time we hit Show’s second half.
By this time, we’re having so much fun with the frothy hijinks that it’s hard to remember that we ever found these characters unlikable, or their behavior, problematic, in the first place.
Ultimately, I do think that if you’re able to just roll with what Show’s serving up, and just focus on the rom-com fun, then you’d be quite likely to have an enjoyable time with this one.
If you’re not able to switch off your brain to this extent, however, then maybe this one’s not for you.
TOUCHING ON THE TOPIC OF MISOGYNY [SOME BROAD SPOILERS]
There is misogyny in our drama world, no doubt about it, and I do think that this is a potentially very divisive topic.
I’m not planning to delve into this too deeply, but my friend LT did write a thought-provoking post on it, which you might like to check out here.
Personally, I made the choice not to think too deeply about this issue, because I was having a good time watching the show, and didn’t want to get into a critical sort of mindset that could have potentially ruined the watch for me. 🙈😅
I will say, though, that the world in which our characters exist, is definitely a misogynistic one, and the law firm where Mi Ran ends up working, is especially so, with the firm’s strict stance of not hiring female lawyers.
In her post, LT makes a case that our male lead Kang Ho is misogynistic and never actually changes, and, well, I find myself feeling differently about that.
Perhaps it’s because of my chosen viewing lens, which was a lot more casual, where I willingly ignored behavior that could be problematic, under the umbrella of “this is meant to be silly and funny.”
I found myself willing to accept the idea that Kang Ho had met many unpleasant women in his life, and been hurt enough, by some of them, that he’d come to the conclusion that he didn’t like women, in general.
I also found myself willing to accept that when Kang Ho got to know Mi Ran and realized that she wasn’t like the other women he’s been so used to, his attitude towards women in general actually changed.
This is the key area where I feel that I have a different opinion than LT.
Where LT feels that Kang Ho essentially doesn’t change, and is still misogynistic despite his feelings for Mi Ran, I kind of received it differently.
To my eyes, Kang Ho does change his attitude towards other women, after getting to know Mi Ran.
For example, he doesn’t get that physical reaction anymore, from being in close physical contact with women.
I think that’s supposed to indicate a significant change in Kang Ho, where his physical nausea basically functions as narrative shorthand for his general attitude towards women.
Additionally, we do get a couple of scenes of him being nice to the women whom we’d seen him saying mean things to in our early episodes, and even apologizing for his past words.
That’s not a lot, sure, but it’s something, I think, particularly in a short show like this that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
All that to say, I can see that Show isn’t perfect, and could have definitely portrayed or positioned certain things better, but I didn’t mind it so much, because I was convinced that Show didn’t mean any harm.
STUFF I LIKED
Broadly speaking, here are the various things that I found myself enjoying, during my watch:
1. The OTP chemistry
Once I got past the initial hyper-bickery stage, of which I wasn’t such a huge fan, I found the OTP chemistry very appealing.
I found myself nicely sucked into the process of our OTP falling for each other, and both of them trying to figure out what to do about it.
Also, there is more skinship in this than the average kdrama, thanks to Show being a Netflix offering. And, importantly, that skinship feels natural and believable – and isn’t too risque (ie, there isn’t any actual nudity, which is a decision I’m grateful for 😅).
Despite the rather unusual narrative circumstances and the sometimes rather OTT characterization of our leads, Yoo Teo and Kim Ok Bin make it feel like Kang Ho and Mi Ran are sincerely into each other, and that singlehandedly added a nice amount of crack to my watch. 🤩
2. Show’s fast pace
Show’s only 10 short episodes of an hour each (or under), and that meant that our story moved at a nicely brisk pace.
It felt refreshing to actually get story development in such a brisk fashion, where I didn’t have to contend with much filler at all.
I liked that, and that also contributed to Show’s slurp factor, in my books.
3. The secondary loveline
This isn’t a big like, for me, but I did ultimately rather enjoy the loveline between our second leads.
Elaine mentioned to me, that she felt Na Eun (Go Won Hee) was unnecessarily passive-aggressive towards Won Joon (Kim Ji Hoon), but I personally found that I wasn’t actually bothered by this, because I took it as something Show meant for amusement.
Like, oh, Na Eun’s so awkward around Won Joon, and the only way she knows to put up a front to conceal that, is to act all superior, in front of him.
And so, I didn’t mind this loveline, and enjoyed it in a low-key sort of way.
Also, Kim Ji Hoon’s mane of glory is, well, quite glorious, and I found that gazing at it was a nice bonus to my watch, heh. 😁
4. Kim Sung Ryung as Soo Jin
I wanted to give a shout-out to Kim Sung Ryung, whom I found very likable in her role as an older star who’s struggling a little bit, with her personal problems, as well as her fading popularity.
I actually really liked the friendship that grows between Soo Jin and Mi Ran, and count that as one of the highlights of my watch.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
All’s well that ends well in this drama world, and I wouldn’t expect anything less, from a fluffy show like this one.
Because of Show’s overall cheery tone, I was confident that we’d get our OTP happy ending, even when I saw the title of the finale episode, which is “A Passionate Goodbye.”
And yes, Kang Ho and Mi Ran do break up for a while, in our finale, but through it all, I was confident that Show would find a way to bring them back together again, so I wasn’t too fussed by the break-up.
I thought the final conflict, of Mi Ran’s past becoming a point of contention among Kang Ho’s fans and the entertainment industry at large, was believable and organic to our story.
After all, the industry is famously harsh on its artists, as are fans and the public, in general.
And, Show had established Mi Ran’s approach to sex and dating, from the get-go, so it’s not like this was new information introduced at the last minute, just to create dramatic tension.
It makes sense that with Kang Ho and Mi Ran dating openly like that, that Mi Ran’s past would get splashed everywhere, at some point, and that it would become a problem for Kang Ho’s career.
I do appreciate that Kang Ho is steadfast in his commitment to Mi Ran through it all, and has no intention of breaking up with Mi Ran, even though the pressure is tremendous, and coming from all corners.
I also like that when Mi Ran first broaches the subject of a break-up, Kang Ho’s response is to suggest that they only fake break-up, while saying that this is something that the public doesn’t need to know anyway.
That’s very true; we don’t need to know, and we don’t actually have the right to know, and I’m glad that Show points that out, even briefly.
I was rather bummed that when things blow up and Kang Ho publicly declares his love for Mi Ran and proposes to her, her response is to break up with him for real. Boo.
Thankfully, like I said, Show moves fast, and it isn’t long before public opinion starts to turn around, with regards to Mi Ran and her dating history, and it soon becomes viable for our OTP to reunite, without either of them having to condemned and ruined.
Yes, it’s totally a bait-and-switch deal with regards to Mi Ran and her dating history, coz suddenly she’s some kind of dating vigilante who only dates jerks in order to get revenge on them, for their ex-girlfriends. That was weird, I thought.
But since it’s in service of getting us a happy ending for our OTP, I’m willing to shrug and move along.
In the end, I’m glad that this time, it’s Mi Ran who reaches out to Kang Ho first, since Kang Ho’s consistently been the one to express his desire for them to be together.
And while it’s admittedly a little mean for Kang Ho to rib her like that by pretending not to want to be with her anymore, I can understand that he might like a bit of petty revenge, for the way she broke up with him.
In the end, Show serves up an ending that I consider very much in line with its overall sensibility, in that Mi Ran is still not convinced that she’d like to get married, possibly ever, while Kang Ho very much wants to get married, but they are happy together, nonetheless.
They are still noisy, bickery and a little out there, which is how we’ve come to know them, and it feels pitch perfect, that this is how we leave them, as well.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Fun for a whirl – provided you don’t think too hard.
FINAL GRADE: B+
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Netflix.
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Great breakdown of the positives and negatives of this drama. I definitely had mixed feelings about it. I didn’t really care for the first half of the drama for several of the reasons you mentioned. The second half was much better though, and I enjoyed it much more. It was a bit too late to love the drama at that point, but it left on a more positive note 🙂
Yay that you enjoyed this one KFG! Yes FL and ML started off a bit OTT in hating the other gender but I think their growing connection was teased out quite well. I felt the dialogue was written pretty well actually! From the verbal sparring to the more earnest heartfelt moments.
I was quite smitten with Yoo Teo in this one. Thankfully he wasn’t too harsh of a jerk and he really revealed his inner softie later. I very much enjoyed the bromance with his bestie played by Kim Ji Hoon, the scenes of them bantering and acting like an old married couple were so fun.
So I give this one top marks for achieving what it set out to do – a romantic comedy which really delivers on the comedy front, as well as the romantic front! And in a zany way which reminded me of how well I enjoyed the frothy Business Proposal last year (until the last 2 episodes).
Hope more people can enjoy Love to Hate You! Without giving anything away too much, the Netflix budget really shows in later episodes where we delve more into the movie making for ML! What a treat, I really enjoyed that.
Yay you did do a review for this one! I personally was 100% like you for this one, just enjoying the romance and the silliness while not taking a particularly critical and analytical lens on it. So I enjoyed this a lot. I know there were issues but I kinda wanted to kick it aside so I could just enjoy whatever they were serving up? Oops. Anyway I’m glad you enjoyed this one!
Hi5 MC! I guess there’s a reason some shows are referred to as guilty pleasures.. We feel guilty for not taking a more serious lens to problematic aspects of the show. 😅 But I also can’t help thinking that taking that more serious lens to something that’s not meant to be serious can rob you of fun that you would otherwise have. Again, there’s a reason we call it a guilty pleasure! 😝😅
Hahaha, MC & KFG. My notes for this show literally read “Guilty pleasure, very fun. Great FL character – interesting and unashamed. ML is so appealing.” 😆
I really enjoyed it, while recognizing it wasn’t a dramatic masterpiece. Despite its more mature rating on the skinship side, it still contexted the relationships in emotion, feels, and personal history, which is what’s so appealing about Kdrama!
Ahh, didn’t know you were stealth watching this one! Good for you! I enjoyed it a fair amount as well; like you say, it has more than its share of inconsistencies, but if you just allow the narrative momentum to carry you along, nothing terribly insurmountable. I hadn’t seen either of our leads before, and ended up liking both of them a lot, so that’s good!
Also, having just (well, somewhat recently) having seen Kim Ji-hoon and Lee Ju-bin having a fairly torrid affair in Money Heist: Korea, I was wondering what their relationship here would be, but (probably for the best), show didn’t go there…
P.S. Sean’s right, Dr Romantic 3 is off to a suitably fast-paced start, so if you wanted to jump through season 2 on the sly….
I’d checked out about 3 eps earlier on, while considering it for Patreon coverage (and then I picked something else, coz this didn’t feel like a show that needed episode notes) – and then I finally went back to finish it during my break! 😊 Glad I didn’t miss out on the fun on this one!
But yes, I’m trying to work in more shows now, by putting in a “watch whatever you want before bed” sort of thing into my schedule, so I’ve taken up your suggestion of Dr. Romantic 2 (after you suggested it on Patreon), and am now about 4-ish eps in! YAY! I like it very well, so far! I hope I’ll be able to finish it fast enough, that I’ll be able to join everyone else on Dr. Romantic 3! 😅
Oh, yay! There’s something to be said for just watching a show for the fun of it, without the pressure of having to write about it or say anything about it (or so I imagine…).
I have found it kind of fun to be exposed to Lee Sung-kyung in a role where she is generally happy, upbeat, and smiling (the first two eps of DR3), after just going through Call it Love with her very intense and serious face. As I recall, her character arc in DR2 was more focused on her obstacles and growth as a young surgeon at the beginning of her career, so maybe less smiles and upbeat, but still not as intense/serious as CiL.. Wonder if you’re feeling a bit of the same “whoa, different LSK altogether” vibe?
(I also thought, and still think, on balance, that DR2 is the best role I’ve seen Ahn Hyo-seop in to date, so there’s that…).
I thought it was wonderful to finally see the smiling, upbeat LSK, Trent. I haven’t seen that for quite some time, as with some other aspects re her acting.
A nice little review, KFG. I quite enjoyed show overall. I felt though, nine episodes would have just been fine instead of ten and although the last episode was okayish – the vigilante aspect didn’t cut it for me – they took the easy way out in terms of an explanation and redemption.
PS: Romantic Dr Kim 3 has got off to a cracker of a start. I only recently finished RDK 2.
@seankfletcher I agree, the vigilante aspect was rather sudden and awkward, but with a manhwa sort of lens, it works better. I still don’t love it, but find it easier to accept. 😅
Yay that Dr. Romantic 3’s off to a great start – I’m trying to work my way to that starting line, by zooming through Dr. Romantic 2 as fast as I can. 😁😅