THE SHORT VERDICT:
I’d say that Show is a mixed bag, overall.
On the one hand, it’s a silly, funny show about mixed signals, wrong turns and burgeoning feelings, all within an overarching umbrella of fish-out-of-water hijinks, because our earnest vampire needs to get used to the modern world that he’s woken up in.
This is pretty great, I have to say.
On the other hand, Show isn’t a rom-com at heart, and has more poignant themes about love and purpose that it wants to focus on, in its second half. This requires some hefty lens adjustments, which I’ll talk about in my review.
Your mileage will absolutely vary, but I will say that with my lens adjusted, I’ve come away with a more appreciative attitude towards Show’s ending, and I’m not putting in a request to get my watch hours back.
THE LONG VERDICT:
This was the show that I almost didn’t watch, you guys.
Honestly, I’d checked out episode 1 while looking for a show to cover on Patreon, and I hadn’t been very taken with episode 1.
But, I saw so much love for this little show during the early-to-mid stage of its run, that I felt that I’d be missing out, if I didn’t give this one another try.
And so I dived into episode 2, and whaddya know, found myself very entertained indeed – which is how I ended up covering this one on Patreon after all.
As it turned out, Show’s ending left many, many of its fans extremely frustrated, and I heard all of the rumblings (and outright wails) of dissatisfaction, while I was still in the thick of my watch.
I didn’t want to drop a show that I was still enjoying, though, so I hung in there – but with the added knowledge that I should adjust my viewing lens, for the finale to come.
That actually worked out pretty well, in the end, because it’s allowed me to go into the finale with a more neutral mindset, and at least try to appreciate what writer-nim had in mind, in going with this chosen ending.
I’ll more about that later, in the section where I focus on the ending.
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 liked the OST well enough, though I can’t say that any single track actually got under my skin.
That said, I did feel that the various tracks were suitable and well-applied, and they did bring a little something to the watch experience.
In terms of favorites, I find that I do have softer spots for Track 2, Heart Race, and Track 7, I Know It’s You.
Here’s “I Know It’s You” as well, in case you’d prefer to listen to that on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
HOW I’LL BE APPROACHING THIS REVIEW
First I go into the most important bit, I think, which is how to manage your expectations going into this one, and what viewing lens would be most helpful.
After that, I talk about what I liked and liked less, in a pretty macro sort of fashion, with selected spotlights on characters and relationships. I won’t be doing a separate section on characters and relationships, for this review.
If you’re interested in my blow-by-blow reactions while watching this show, you might like to check out my episode notes on Patreon here.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
I do think that this section is more important than average, with this show, so I really hope that this section helps you out.
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Show looks like a rom-com, but it’s not a rom-com
I think that this is the biggest thing that you should manage your expectations around.
Show might look and feel very much like a rom-com to start with, and that’s fine, but I do think you would benefit from preparing your “poignant melo” viewing lens.
I’ll talk more about all that in the section focusing on the finale, but I do think that this lens will help you appreciate better, what writer-nim had in mind, in writing this ending.
2. Show’s got an open ending
Yes, that’s kinda spoilery, but I do think that this is helpful to know, going in.
I also feel that it helps to think of this as just one key chapter in our OTP love story, rather than the whole of their love story.
Sure, it’s highly unlikely that Dramaland would actually come out with a continuation in order to spell out the rest of the love story for us, but at least we can imagine how that all unfolds, in our imaginations, and gain our closure that way?
That said, I will also say that Show’s open ending tends hopeful, so perhaps don’t run away just yet. 😁
3. Show takes a little while to gain its footing
What I mean is, I found episode 1 rather uninspiring, but I really liked episode 2, and proceeded to enjoy a lot about Show, in spite of its imperfections.
So perhaps give this one at least 2 episodes, before you decide whether this one is worth your time?
4. Some suspension of disbelief is required
..But it’s nothing a bit of a manhwa lens can’t fix. 😁
STUFF I LIKED
Taecyeon looks sharp in the 1920s suits
Yes, we are starting with something really shallow, because, truth be told, when I wasn’t so enamored with episode 1, it was the regular sight of Taec lookin’ all sharppp and handsome, that kept me engaged. 😁
After episode 1, Show grew on me a fair bit, but to my eyes, it was still a distinct bonus, that Woo Hyeol made it a habit to dress all dandy in those shirts and vests, as a matter of daily routine.
It’s just so cute, that even when In Hae (Won Ji An) has him cleaning the mansion with her, he’s wearing a crisp shirt and vest, underneath his apron. 😁
When Show feels fresh &/or unexpected
One of the things I really enjoy about this drama, is how fresh and unexpected it can feel, sometimes.
Maybe that’s just me, not being super familiar with this genre, so it might not feel as unexpected to you?
Here are a couple of times when I felt pleasantly surprised, by Show.
E3-4. I did find it rather unexpected, for example, that In Hae isn’t afraid of Woo Hyeol, even though she does balk at first, after seeing him use his powers, and realizing that he’d always been telling the truth, about being a vampire.
I’d kind of thought that she would be at least somewhat scared of him after this point, particularly since she does seem rather uncertain, when she asks him, when he offers his hand, if he’s there to save her, or to catch her.
But once he answers that he’s there to save her, she gets over her nerves quite quickly, and it’s not long before she goes back to being fearless about facing off with him and telling him what’s what.
I do think that some of it is just the shock talking, after he maxes out her credit card; she’s so incensed and desperate that she tells him that she has no choice but to die, and so he should just kill her and get it over with.
I guess she really feels like there’s nothing left to lose?
Or at least, that’s what I’d thought in the moment, but later on, when Woo Hyeol asks her about it, her explanation – that he’d saved her, and if he’d meant to kill her, he would’ve done so already – makes a lot of sense.
E5-6. Show’s got a way of turning scenes on their heads, and giving me a completely different outcome than is typical, in kdramas.
Like the one at the top of episode 5, where things look all intent and poignant, with Woo Hyeol grasping In Hae’s shoulders, and saying Hae Sun’s name.
..which gets completely short-circuited, by In Hae spraying capsaicin into Woo Hyeol’s eyes.
Yikes. Poor Woo Hyeol, writhing and tearing, from the capsaicin in his eyes. 🙈😅
I feel bad for him, but it’s also very funny, the way Taecyeon’s twitching so violently. 😆
Show sense of humor
I will say that Show’s sense of humor didn’t work for me alll of the time, but it did work for me a lot more than I’d expected.
And, I do think that as I watched more episodes of this, Show’s sense of humor kind of grew on me, in that some broader beats that I might have otherwise rolled my eyes at, somehow still made me chuckle, in the context of our story.
Here are some highlights, of the things that I remember most fondly as being funny, entertaining &/or amusing.
E1-2. I did think it was kinda funny that when Woo Hyeol gets all angry and glowers at In Hae that she’s going to pay for waking him a day early, he doesn’t even get to touch her neck with his fangs, because she bites him first instead.
E1-2. It did take me a bit of a mental adjustment, to get used to the idea that the previously extremely powerful Woo Hyeol is now practically powerless, because he’s almost, but not quite, human.
It was a little jarring for me at first, not gonna lie, because Woo Hyeol being powerful and badass had been a highlight for me, in episode 1.
Once I got used to that idea, though, this soon become a running gag that became more and more amusing, the longer it got dragged out. 😁
E1-2. Even though I wasn’t super amused at first, the fact that In Hae treats Woo Hyeol as some kind of homeless scammer-parasite became funnier to me as it went on, as well.
I thought it was quite funny, when he faints after being bitten by her, but she thinks he’s dead, because he has no heartbeat, and rushes him to the hospital, where he’s eventually pronounced dead – and then, when he wakes up, In Hae basically thinks he’s come back from the dead, heh.
Woo Hyeol continually trying to find his way home, and In Hae continually trying to shake him off, is low-key entertaining to me, but I think there are 3 things that made me think, “Ah, this show is going to be pretty fun.”
Here they are:
1, when Woo Hyeol tries and fails, multiple times, to prove to In Hae that he is, indeed, a vampire. His elastic expressions, as he tries to summon his fangs, to no avail, made me giggle out loud. Taecyeon can be a hoot, when he wants to be. 😁
2, when Woo Hyeol spots his reflection for the first time, and it’s in In Hae’s eyes.
His words, “In your eyes.. I’m there,” sound like they’re right out of a romance trope, and then the way he grabs her face, to get a closer look, looks like it’s right out of a romance drama, but to him, it’s literal. He’s literally trying to get a better look at himself, in her eyes.
And of course, In Hae gets all freaked out, thinking that he’s leaning in to try to kiss her, and throws him out. Hahaha.
3, when Woo Hyeol gets drunk on instant ramyun, lol. Must be all the MSG they put in there? 😁
His complete ecstasy while sniffing and tasting instant ramyun for the first time is also quite hilarious.
E3-4. Without his backup gold, Woo Hyeol’s suddenly totally penniless, and completely at In Hae’s mercy, and I do find this funny.
It’s especially funny because Woo Hyeol’s now always so sheepish in front of In Hae. I mean, here’s our vampire, who has immense powers at his disposal (provided he’s drunk some blood), and he’s this sheepish dork in front of In Hae, who’s holding the house ransom, for the money he spent on her card.
Just the set-up itself is quite funny, and Taecyeon’s earnest sheepishness just makes it funnier, to me.
The whole sequence of Woo Hyeol trying to get a job, in order to pay In Hae back – and in order to be seen as a human – is silly and hilarious; I had to burst out laughing at the way Woo Hyeol takes a nap in a coffin while working at a funeral parlor, just coz he’d heard lacquer coffins were nice, and wanted to give it a try. Pwahaha. 😆
E3-4. I am so tickled by that scene where Woo Hyeol, Sang Hae and Dong Seop share the bag of blood that Rose gives Woo Hyeol.
The way they all hiss in unison, while baring their fangs, every time they take a sip of blood, is hilarious to me. 😁
The fish-out-of-water hijinks
I do love the fish-out-of-water hijinks that we get, with Woo Hyeol being new to the modern world and everything.
I like that Show uses a moderate touch on this, touching on some stuff, with some things enjoying a bit more attention and screen time, but not going too deep or too long into it.
It helps that Show makes Woo Hyeol a fast learner; this way, the comedy lasts for a few quick moments, in his facial &/or physical reactions, and then we’re happily moving on.
E3-4. Like his first encounter with an escalator, for example, where it’s cute-funny how he gawks at it, then almost falls, but catches himself just in time, and then looks pleased as punch, at how he’s adapting so well.
This was a great, classic little pop of funny, that I think Show does really well, and that I find myself enjoying very much.
Woo Hyeol swanning around in the department store, basking in how great he looks in all the modern fashion, and then using In Hae’s credit card with wondrous joy, is such a mood, seriously.
I cringed for In Hae because, well, there goes all her money, again, but I also couldn’t help giggling at Woo Hyeol and his misguided joy at how amazing that little card is, to be able to buy so many things. 😅
When Show balances the funny with pathos
One of the most important things that Show does, I feel, is balance the funny stuff, with poignance and heart.
That helps to ground everything, so that it’s not just silliness all the way through.
The poignance is also what makes me care more, for our characters, and Show does a really nice job of this.
Here are two examples to illustrate what I mean.
E3-4. The way In Hae takes Woo Hyeol to task for maxing our her credit card is a great scene.
On the one hand, it’s supposed to be funny, coz In Hae gets so, so mad at Woo Hyeol, but he seems clueless as to why she would be this upset.
On the other hand, In Hae’s angst feels very raw and real, especially since we can see tears sheening in her eyes, as she emphatically tries to explain to our clueless vampire, why he shouldn’t have done what he did, with her card.
E3-4. I do love how Show manages to inject nice bits of poignance into our otherwise silly-fun show, and I do like that tidbit, at the end of episode 3, where Woo Hyeol explains to In Hae why he chose to build his mansion there, of all places.
It’s because that’s where he and Hae Sun had had their secret hideout, and he believes that she’ll come back to him one day, if he just keeps waiting for her there.
Aw. That is very poignant and touching, isn’t it?
E7-8. The whole scene of Woo Hyeol embracing Hae Won, is kind of funny, with how In Hae’s nervously trying to smooth everything over, with a flimsy cover story that Woo Hyeol’s just spent so much time overseas, and therefore goes overboard, sometimes.
It’s also quite cute, how we have a reverse 3-way wrist-grab of sorts, at the end, with Woo Hyeol grasping Hae Won’s arm, and In Hae grabbing Woo Hyeol’s sleeve, in a plaintive attempt to keep the situation under control.
At the same time, I do find that the scene is quite full of pathos, because Woo Hyeol’s longing and shock feels real and raw.
Taecyeon as Woo Hyeol
I really enjoyed Taecyeon in this role.
His comic timing is pretty great, and he manages to inject the right amount of heart into the role, so that I found Woo Hyeol to be the most earnest, good-natured vampire I’ve seen.
I found myself growing very fond of Woo Hyeol, very quickly, and I do think that a good chunk of credit goes to Taecyeon for his delivery.
Also, I just wanted to say that the way Woo Hyeol gets so much joy out of being a cleaner is super cute, and one of the many things that made Show as fun to watch as it was – until it stopped actually being fun (more on that later).
Won Ji An as In Hae
I also really enjoyed Won Ji An as In Hae.
She has a way of making In Hae both prickly yet vulnerable, and that worked really well, for me. Importantly, I found myself able to sympathize with her, even when she was being hard on our endearing vampire.
I also really like how straightforward and principled In Hae is, like in this example.
E7-8. I’m glad that In Hae makes it clear to Do Shik (Park Kang Hyun) that she doesn’t have a romantic interest in him.
I do appreciate In Hae’s forthright nature; the minute Do Shik starts to indicate that he likes her as more than a friend, she’s quick to set the record straight, even though he isn’t actually confessing his feelings specifically.
That’s also considerate of her, because if she hadn’t said anything, it would have resulted in Do Shik being led on for longer.
This might hurt his feelings now, but I do feel that it’s better in the long term, that she nip this in the bud as early as possible.
The way Show builds the OTP connection
I honestly really appreciate how Show builds the OTP connection, from the time they first meet, and basically recoil from each other, to becoming so connected, that they each can’t imagine life without the other.
Show teases this out in a way that feels nicely organic, while still retaining a lot of its comic sensibility.
I found the OTP connection to be such a natural, gradual sort of build, that I didn’t even realize how far our OTP had come, until I compared their interactions in later scenes, to earlier in our story.
I also felt that Taecyeon and Won Ji An paired well together, in the context of this story. Whether she’s being the straight woman to his goofy-silly antics, or they’re talking about important things like life and love, I thought their dynamic was believable and engaging.
Here’s a look at a good chunk of my thoughts about this OTP connection, over the course of my watch.
E1-2. Hahaha. Because of the bite that she took out of his neck, he starts hearing her, when she’s in distress. This is such a handy
plot location device! 😁
It’s partly for his own benefit, that Woo Hyeol decides to drink the blood in order to help In Hae, but it’s still rather sweet, I feel, that he’s using that precious vial of blood, on her account.
E3-4. I do very much love that contented, self-assured owner air that Woo Hyeol oozes, as he swans up to In Hae and Do Shik with that umbrella, as they’re standing outside the house.
Seriously, it feels like Woo Hyeol is basically pretty confident and self-assured – until he’s in front of In Hae, and she’s tallying up the score between them, heh.
E3-4. I love-love-LOVE where we end episode 3, with Woo Hyeol suddenly sensing (from the bite on his neck) that In Hae’s in danger, and then rushing to the living room, where he scoops her up – into the AIR – to save her from a falling chandelier – and then moves in for what looks like an ardent kiss.
I was all woahhh 😳😱 what is happeningggg – which is when Show gives us the answer, at the top of episode 4, that In Hae had been bleeding from the lip, and Woo Hyeol had basically been unable to resist the sight and smell of human blood, and that’s how he’d swooped in on her lips like that.
Wheeze. That is so hilarious, and such a great way of turning the scene on its head. And that’s also SUCH a great explanation for the apparent ardor that we see from Woo Hyeol, as he leans in to put his lips on In Hae’s. 😁
And then, I love how, once they get back on the ground, In Hae basically pummels him willy-nilly for being a pervert, while he protests helplessly that he’s not a pervert, hahahaha.
After that, I am so very amused at how In Hae pouts at her bizarre luck, that her first kiss would be with a vampire. Tee hee hee. Poor In Hae; she must feel so weirded out. 😅
E5-6. One of the things I find refreshing about this show, is all the honesty we get, between Woo Hyeol and In Hae.
In most kdramas, there isn’t this much honesty going on, because they’re mostly planning to use the secrets to create drama and tension within their stories.
Here, though, I love how, when In Hae asks Woo Hyeol why he’d addressed her as Hae Sun, Woo Hyeol simply tells her the truth, and then, she even apologizes, for waking him up a day early, and foiling his plan to become human.
And then, he even tells her why he thought she might be Hae Sun.
All this candid openness; I love it.
It’s hilarious, though, how In Hae responds by telling him that he’s being a stalker, and that if she really is Hae Sun and had died for him, then he should leave her alone now, so that she can finally live her life.
Hahaha. I am so amused by this.
E5-6. I’m most amused by how In Hae is all blustery about how there are rumors at school, of them dating, and then gets offended, when Woo Hyeol has a similar blustery reaction upon hearing of the same rumors. 😁
E5-6. Woo Hyeol’s trying his darndest to get In Hae to fall in love, because of what Mr. Ko (Kim In Kwon) has said about her blood becoming warmed up, and having the ability to turn Woo Hyeol into a human, and I’m quite tickled at his various efforts, which come to naught, of course.
There’s the whole thing where Woo Hyeol leaves anonymous love letters and bouquets for In Hae, on Sang Hae’s advice, thinking this is oh-so-romantic – only to have In Hae almost report the whole thing to the police, as the work of a stalker, ha.
E5-6. I do love the scene where a drunk In Hae laments the details of her life to Woo Hyeol, where she expresses her regular worries about losing her job and also, losing the roof over her head.
And then, when Woo Hyeol asks about whether she’s experienced love before, she tells him about how her mom had been sick, and they’d been in debt because of the hospital bills, and eventually losing touch with her father.
The sympathy and compassion in Woo Hyeol’s gaze feels very gentle and real, and I feel like in this moment, his heart actually does go out to her.
It’s so nice, how he strokes her hair as she lays her head tiredly on the table, and whispers that she’s doing great, and that he’s proud of her.
It’s really lovely, and feels like a very raw, genuine moment of connection, between them. 🥰
And then, when In Hae falls sick the next days, Woo Hyeol nurses her back to health – even though he uses the medicine that Do Shik brings, and passes it off as something he’d brewed himself, ha.
E5-6. It feels like Woo Hyeol and In Hae are softening towards each other, in their various interactions, and I particularly liked watching them measure the various parts of the house together.
They look like such a cute couple, pottering around the house like that together. 🥰
And, also importantly, it seems to bother Woo Hyeol, to hear Do Shik say that In Hae is the woman that he wants to protect.
At the same time, I also really like the fact that In Hae is starting to show empathy for Woo Hyeol, like in the way she thinks about how he must be upset, to have the house that he’s protected for so long, undergo changes like this.
And then there’s how he feels comfortable enough with her, to brush dust out of her hair, which of course has her feeling all kinds of hyper-aware of him.
I very much approve of these little glimmers of understanding and closeness. 🥰
E7-8. I continue to feel quite surprised by Woo Hyeol’s good-naturedness.
I mean, each time he brings up the fact that he failed to become human because In Hae had woken him up a day early, there’s no malice in his eyes, even though In Hae’s action has had such a big impact on him, and is creating quite a few complications in his life.
I’m glad to see, though, that now, In Hae’s actually regretful and contrite, where before, she’d appeared more detached.
I do think that this demonstrates that she feels more connected to Woo Hyeol now, and has more empathy for him.
Also, I do like any indication that she’s growing perhaps a little fond of Woo Hyeol, so the fact that she can’t help but be fixated on his fixation on Hae Won, feels significant to me.
If she didn’t have some feelings for Woo Hyeol, then this shouldn’t affect her in this way, right?
But, she can’t help but be quite preoccupied by this. Plus, she also can’t help but wonder about his whereabouts, when he’s not at home.
And then, she serves him that bowl of blood jelly to cheer him up, when she notices that he’s looking rather down.
Doesn’t this all point to her probably having some feelings for Woo Hyeol, even if she isn’t cognizant of it just yet?
I do rather enjoy the dynamic between Woo Hyeol and In Hae, where he’s all confident and charismatic with other people, but is timid and dorky around her.
Like that scene where In Hae walks in on Woo Hyeol and his pals, eating blood jelly in their living room.
When she puts her foot down and vehemently tells Sang Hae and Dong Seop to leave, Woo Hyeol’s quick to back down and abide by her wishes.
It’s only after she goes back to her room, that we see that In Hae’s strong reaction had actually come from a place of anxiety and fear, because she’d felt nervous and weirded out about being in a house with three vampires instead of one, and I can’t help wondering if part of the reason Woo Hyeol’s being so cooperative with her, is because he’s being considerate of her, rather than afraid of her?
My favorite thing about their dynamic, is how they do talk about important things, like love.
It feels significant that In Hae would tell Woo Hyeol that love isn’t only about having his heart race; that him waiting for Hae Sun for so long, is also an expression of love.
I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the lesson that Woo Hyeol will learn, is that he is already capable of love, and doesn’t need to become human in order to experience love.
I also really like that Woo Hyeol is grateful to In Hae, for looking out for him, and being concerned for him.
And, I do think that Woo Hyeol’s developing a good amount of regard for In Hae too.
When she lets him look at his reflection in her eyes, after he gets dressed up for Hae Won’s visit, he tells her that her eyes are beautiful.
Aw. He’s looking beyond his reflection in her eyes, to see her. Melt – even though he probably also isn’t cognizant of any feelings that he might have for her, since he’s preoccupied with the fact that Hae Won has appeared in his life.
E7-8. Isn’t it very telling, how In Hae gets all angry with Woo Hyeol, for muttering Hae Sun’s name in his drunken stupor? I smell jealousy, don’t you? 😁
And then, of course, there’s the thing where she gets all peeved and upset, when Woo Hyeol declines to stay in that apartment with her, that Do Shik offers her, while the house is being renovated.
That also definitely smacks of petty snappishness, from feeling rejected, yes? 😁
On top of that, there’s also how In Hae gets all hot and bothered about Woo Hyeol receiving a gift from Hae Won, for saving her.
E7-8. How telling, isn’t it, that when our housemates are split up, they actually think about each other, and wonder about each other?
Aw. These two miss each other, even if they won’t admit it. 😁
It’s dorky-funny, though quite expected, that Woo Hyeol actually has no idea how to text, which is why he can’t reply to In Hae, and has to call her instead. And, he’s so awkward at talking on the phone too, it’s like the words get stuck in his mouth and are only able to escape, a few at a time. 😂
How endearing is it, though, when In Hae tells Woo Hyeol that he did well, for keeping all the ground rules she’d set for him, for when he’s interacting with Hae Won, and he asks her to repeat it, then tries to act cool when he hears it again, when he’s actually undeniably happy on the inside. 😁
Also. That moment, when In Hae tells Woo Hyeol that he’s talking as if she’s going to be away for months, and he answers that time is relative, and that a day can feel like a hundred years, feels so significant.
He says it quite easily, but you can totally see that it’s affecting In Hae in a pretty significant way.
E9-10. This pair of episodes, we don’t get a confirmation of our OTP’s feelings the way we typically would in a regular rom-com or romance drama, but we definitely do see indications that Woo Hyeol and In Hae mean more to each other than they might have initially imagined.
And, every time we got a sign that these two care more for each other than they might’ve realized, I perked up.
Like when Do Shik tries to warn In Hae against Woo Hyeol, and In Hae is quick to defend Woo Hyeol.
More than the fact that she’s defending Woo Hyeol, I’m sitting up at the way in which she defends him. It’s landing as personal to me, like she’s personally invested in this, and is legitimately afraid that Woo Hyeol’s secret might be exposed.
And then, when Woo Hyeol doesn’t come home, whether it’s after handing out rice cakes, or after going out to meet Hae Won, she gets upset and seems personally offended and hurt by his absence.
Also, she looks genuinely concerned when he comes home from his talk with Mr. Ko looking all despondent and drained.
Plus, there’s also the way she gets upset and uncomfortable every time someone mentions the possibility of her dating Do Shik, particularly if that someone happens to be Woo Hyeol.
She definitely cares about him, whether she’s being more overt about it, or acting petty-peeved. 😁
But, to Woo Hyeol, this is terrible, because in his mind, her falling in love with Do Shik, is the only way that he might be able to live, and not die.
Aw. I do feel sorry for how stressed this must make him, but poor guy doesn’t even seem to consider the possibility that the person she could love, might be him.
At the same time, I do like that there’s care and concern growing in him, for In Hae, even though he doesn’t think of her as a romantic possibility.
Like, when he overhears her talking about how her father had gone missing, there’s definitely a note of sober empathy in his eyes.
Of course, there is that unfortunate explosion from Woo Hyeol towards In Hae, this set of episodes, when he comes back brooding about his potential impending death, and she accuses him of going out to have fun, while evading his responsibilities at the guesthouse.
I can see how that might trigger him, and I do wish that he would come out and tell In Hae what’s on his mind, but I can also understand that he might not be ready to talk about it, because, for most people, talking about something makes it feel all the more real – and I can see why Woo Hyeol wouldn’t want this to feel real.
I feel really bad for In Hae, because she looks truly hurt by his words, and it’s also a bummer to see her studiously avoiding him for some time, but I’m glad and really quite relieved, when he apologizes, and she accepts.
As always, I always like when Woo Hyeol and In Hae have meaningful conversations, and I like how, once she accepts his apology, they’re back to talking about important things like love, and what it means to them.
And, when Woo Hyeol hears what In Hae says about how her falling in love, is as remote a possibility as flowers blooming on a dead tree, it’s so sweet of him, to deck out the tree in fairy lights, to show her that sometimes, flowers can bloom on dead trees – and likewise, she can love, and be loved by someone.
More than that, his thoughtful, gentle manner makes the moment feel very heartfelt, like he sincerely wants this for her, and not just because he needs her blood in order to live. Very sweet. 🥲
And, I love that, when In Hae, touched by his kindness, asks him to tell her about how he can become human, he actually tells her.
It’s so great to me, that he manages to tell her the truth, while managing to come across as sincere and non-threatening – even though the truth involves her blood.
And I do love that, instead of rejecting the idea right away, In Hae’s actually curious to know more, like, why it has to be her blood, and what gives him the idea that her blood could help him become human.
This definitely shows that she’s come to accept and trust him, and doesn’t actually see him as a threat to her safety.
I’m actually rather low-key amused that instead of being appalled by the idea of Woo Hyeol needing her blood, she’s more perplexed at the idea that her blood has to be filled with love – and that’s the reason she walks away from the conversation.
And so, here I am, watching this, and feeling kinda happy, that she’s actually ok with giving Woo Hyeol her blood, if it would help him. 😁
It’s actually really quite cute, the way In Hae puzzles on her own, over how to help Woo Hyeol, because she doesn’t know how to fill her blood with love.
This is such a demonstration of care for him, isn’t it?? 🥲
ALSO. Look at how upset it makes In Hae, when Woo Hyeol offers to leave the mansion, once he becomes human.
He thinks that she’ll be so happy to get rid of him, but she actually feels offended by his offer, ha.
Girl, this is such a big clue, that you are fond of Woo Hyeol. 😁
E9-10. I love that the first thing Woo Hyeol does, when he learns that In Hae’s father had ordered a custom suit for him, is to go home and show it to In Hae, because he knows that she misses her father, and this is a piece of her father, in a way.
Because of the retro party, we get that scene where In Hae shyly and awkwardly comes down the staircase in that dress, and hears Woo Hyeol tell her that she looks pretty in it. Aw.
And then, we get that spot of conversation during the party, when In Hae follows Woo Hyeol outside, and she tells him that he’s impressive for doing so much for love, and that her life’s become more interesting since coming to the mansion.
It’s so great, that she tells him outright, that she likes the mansion because he’s there, and asks him to rethink the conditions of their deal.
Yay for open communication, instead of hidden angst!
And then, when the partygoers chant for In Hae as the owner of the guesthouse, Woo Hyeol only has eyes for her, as he leads her in that dance – to Hae Won’s consternation, muahaha.
That ending voiceover from Woo Hyeol, as he looks right at her, that he, too, likes the mansion because she’s there, is just perfect.
Honestly, I feel like we could end the show right here, on this happy, hopeful note. 😅
E11-12. The truth is, even though their relationship is officially platonic, In Hae and Woo Hyeol are each nursing feelings for the other, whether they’re cognizant of it or not, and those feelings are shining out of their eyes, as they dance together, while locking gazes.
E11-12. I’m glad that when Hae Won throws that fit and stalks off, I kinda love that Woo Hyeol only seems to care about In Hae’s feelings.
And, it’s not Hae Won he apologizes to, it’s In Hae.
Even when In Hae tells him that it’s Hae Won whom he should be apologizing to, it doesn’t deter him from telling In Hae that he’s feeling this way for the very first time, and finally knows what it feels like, to dance while looking into the other person’s eyes.
I also do like that he doest take In Hae’s words about Hae Won to heart, and assures her that he will take care of things, with Hae Won.
The increasing care and connection between Woo Hyeol and In Hae is definitely a highlight, this pair of episodes.
Like the way she is so concerned about him losing the scroll and tries so hard to find it for him, even though the scroll is a drawing of another woman.
I also like how she tries to offer him a sense of perspective, in reminding him that the scroll is just a drawing, in the end, and that the more important thing, is the person he’s looking for, who made him dream of experiencing a love that makes his heart race.
It’s actually so nice, to see that in response, Woo Hyeol shows empathy for In Hae, because how much harder must it have been for her, to lose her father, without knowing whether he’s alive or dead, than it’s been for him to lose a simple scroll.
And, I do believe that it’s In Hae’s reminder, that this is just a drawing, that enables Woo Hyeol to walk away so easily, when Hae Won tries to hold the scroll hostage, after showing it to Woo Hyeol, the morning after he takes her drunken self home.
I’m really glad that In Hae manages to find Woo Hyeol before he collapses like that, and I do like that detail, that when In Hae sees Dong Seop feeding Woo Hyeol from that packet of blood, she doesn’t freak out, and instead asks where he got that from – so that she’d know what to do, if Woo Hyeol collapses again.
Aw. In Hae cares more about Woo Hyeol’s safety and well-being, than her own fear. 🥲
I can see how this would be a good jolt to In Hae, to realize how much she cares about Woo Hyeol, and how much she wants him to be in her life.
I love how, when he wakes up, she tells him this, and also, that wants him to stay by her side, for a long time; that she’d be devastated, if there was no Woo Hyeol in the world.
I also love how she acknowledges that she knows that there is only one person in Woo Hyeol’s heart, but still, she feels that she should tell him that she thinks she likes him.
..To which Woo Hyeol responds, by pulling her in for a kiss.
Eee!! I’d say that Woo Hyeol totally looks like his heart is racing, the way he’s kissing In Hae with such ardor. 😉
And then we have snuggles, on the bed, as Woo Hyeol assures In Hae that he’s not going to go anywhere. (Ugh, the foreshadowing, though.)
The aftermath is pretty cute too, with In Hae absentmindedly trying to drink out of a closed bottle of water, while wondering if she isn’t going to die, with her heart beating so fast, and Woo Hyeol pacing his room with a dazed but happy aura about him. 😁
Isn’t it so relatable, how In Hae puts on makeup the next morning, hoping to look pretty for Woo Hyeol, and yet, feeling all kinds of self-conscious about it, the moment their lone tenant makes a remark that this is so unlike her?
I’m glad that Woo Hyeol tells her that she looks pretty; after all, she put on that makeup to look pretty in his eyes, yes?
I’m also glad that our OTP carries on the healthy dynamic, of talking openly and sharing information, with In Hae asking Woo Hyeol about what had happened with Hae Won, and Woo Hyeol telling her honestly, that Hae Won had had the scroll with her – and that he’d felt lost, because the Hae Won he saw, was nothing like the Hae Sun that he’d known.
I don’t know if I’d believe that this was the moment that Woo Hyeol started to actually like In Hae, but I can buy the idea that this was the moment he became cognizant of his feelings for In Hae; that suddenly, knowing that she was waiting for him, and concerned for him, made everything right in his world. 🥰
How thoughtful of In Hae, to bring Woo Hyeol a thermos of ox blood to enjoy, while she and kiddo eat churros at the amusement park. It totally feels like In Hae’s gotten used to hanging out with a vampire, eh?
Later, I love In Hae’s idea of having a birthday party for Woo Hyeol, with his friends, for when she gives him her blood, so that he becomes human.
That is such a lovely, considerate sort of gesture, and I love In Hae for thinking of this, for Woo Hyeol.
Bits of meta
This is a relatively small thing, but it really did add a distinct bit of fun to my watch, when Show threw in a bit of meta, just for funsies.
In particular, I like this little touch, which we get at the end of episode 2.
E1-2. I do love that closing scene, which we’ve actually already seen in the trailers, where she asks him if he’s really a vampire, and he answers, “Do you believe me now?,” before adding, with an outstretched arm and a slight twinkle in his eye, “Let’s go home.”
..Which is SUCH a cheeky nod to 2PM’s song “My House,” which features a very similar soundbite, and outstretched arm sort of gesture. Tee hee hee.
You can check out the MV here, just for funsies. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Taec’s rocking a vampire-adjacent, werewolf sort of look, in the MV, heh. 😁
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Go Gyu Pil and Yoon Byung Hee as Woo Hyeol’s sidekicks
Overall, I ended up feeling quite neutral about Woo Hyeol’s sidekicks, Dong Seop and Sang Hae.
I’d found them too broadly comic in episode 1, and then I started to come around to them, more because I liked the idea of Woo Hyeol having companionship with others like him, rather than being alone in the world, than because I enjoyed them as characters per se.
That said, there were times when I did feel that their love for Woo Hyeol was sweet, and there were also times when I found them to be funny in a way that tickled my funny bone.
Like that little beat in episode 7-8, when we’re given a glimpse at how the two other vamps sleep standing up in the wardrobe, in a nod to old vampire lore, about vampires sleeping upright in coffins.
I found that quite amusing. 😁
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
The role of Mr. Ko [SPOILERS]
I have to say, I ended up feeling quite frustrated with Mr. Ko as a character, because it feels like he’s the bearer of ALL our bad news. 😪
Just why is Mr. Ko our resident experts on all things vampire?
First, he’s the one who’d told Woo Hyeol to sleep in a hawthorn coffin for 100 years, in order to become human.
And then, he’s the one who tells Woo Hyeol, to drink In Hae’s blood, in order to now fully become human.
And, this set of episodes, he reveals that he’d been the one to reveal how to kill vampires, which had led to the death of many – including Hae Sun.
Just.. who is Mr. Ko, and why are we so sure that what he’s saying is correct? *grumbles*
And why would he go around telling people how to kill vampires, in the first place? *grumbles some more*
Our second leads, a lot of the time
Our second leads start out fine, but Show definitely does that thing, of not making them so likable, once we get into the second half of our story.
Park Kang Hyun as Do Shik [SPOILERS]
Do Shik starts out being all nice and helpful to In Hae, but by the time we hit the second half of our story, his behavior becomes a lot more stalkery and controlling.
Plus, there’s his actual agenda, when it comes to Woo Hyeol.
I do believe that his concern and care for In Hae is real, but I mean, if he’s trying to kill Woo Hyeol and eat his heart, in order to save himself, then he’s absolutely on my blacklist, y’know?
Sure, I get that he doesn’t want to be subjected to the curse, but the way he’s thinking about taking down Woo Hyeol has a cold, sinister sort of vibe to it, and that gives me the sense that he doesn’t feel bad about wanting to kill Woo Hyeol.
Show does work to redeem him towards the end, but I personally still came away from Show not liking Do Shik very much.
Yoon So Hee as Hae Won [SPOILERS]
As for Hae Won, the more I see of her, the more she comes across as calculative and manipulative, beneath the pretty, smiling surface.
When she’s with Man Hwi (Baek Seo Hoo), she seems to be her most unvarnished self, and that self vibes calculative, mercenary and cunning, to my eyes, with the way she tells Man Hwi to investigate Woo Hyeol, and report back to her.
In fact, the more I see of her connection with Man Hwi, the more distasteful I find it, because while it’s an all-business relationship, there’s also what feels like a tussle for power between them, as if they’re each trying to gain the upper hand, in this relationship.
And even though Hae Won does seem interested to get to know Woo Hyeol better, the feeling I get, is that she’s in it more out of casual intrigue, and out of how his yearning for Hae Sun, turned on her, makes her feel, rather than genuine interest in him personally.
She’s also so entitled, the way she acts like In Hae owes her Woo Hyeol’s feelings. And she’s so accusing, the way she jumps to the conclusion that In Hae’s distracting Woo Hyeol on purpose; like, it’s In Hae’s fault that Woo Hyeol’s not paying the right amount of attention to Hae Won. Sheesh. 🙄
Plus, she’s vengeful too.
We see her threaten both In Hae and Woo Hyeol that she’s going to make them pay, for what they’ve done to her. Not her best look, by far.
As with Do Shik, Show tries to redeem her by the time we get to the finale, and it does help to temper my poor impression of Hae Won, but I’m still putting her in this category.
The unevenness of the penultimate stretch
Generally, I feel that Show’s penultimate stretch is pretty uneven, but if I had to pick a pair of episodes to illustrate what I mean, it’d be episodes 13 and 14.
Overall, I found this pair of episodes a bit of a drag to watch.
Of course, that’s also partly because this is the dreaded penultimate stretch, which is infamously typically angsty, as dramas ramp up their gears to rustle up as much last minute dramatic tension as possible, in order to keep us invested for the finale.
Another part of it, I feel, is that Show isn’t playing to its strengths anymore.
In fact, it feels as if Show lost sight of its strengths a fair way back, especially after it started talking about Woo Hyeol having to kill In Hae, in order to live, and become human.
As much as I can understand writer-nim’s desire to create an unsolvable conundrum, and thereby gain our interest and emotional investment, Show is just at its best, when it’s being cute and dorky.
I really, really miss the days when Show would make me laugh with how cute and dorky Woo Hyeol could be, on his quest to live like a person.
At this point in our story, though, it just feels like all sadness and angst, and any time Show lets a cheery background track play, to try and lighten things up, it doesn’t feel appropriate or effective.
It just feels like someone making a weak joke in an inappropriate setting, and coming off as insensitive &/or clueless. 😅
Here are some of my more specific thoughts, on this pair of episodes.
E13-14. I do feel for Woo Hyeol, who’s shocked and dismayed at his own inability to control his vampire instincts, at the sight of In Hae’s blood.
I do think that this is a valid conundrum, and I wouldn’t have minded, if Show had focused more on this instead, since it does affect the OTP dynamic.
Instead, we have Do Shik overstepping his boundaries to interfere, and I’m legit tired of him telling In Hae and Woo Hyeol what to do. 😪
And of course, there’s the thing, where Woo Hyeol’s confronted with a life-or-death choice; to die, while In Hae lives, or to live, while In Hae dies.
It’s not surprising that our goodhearted vampire chooses death, because he cannot bear the thought of killing In Hae, and I do appreciate that this is a sad choice for him, even though he’s already lived a very long and full life.
I also appreciate that beat, when Woo Hyeol asks Dong Seop how he would have felt, if Woo Hyeol really had succeeded in becoming human, and Dong Seop replies that he would have been happy for Woo Hyeol, but also, sad at the thought that after Woo Hyeol’s death, he wouldn’t get to see Woo Hyeol anymore.
And, I also appreciate the poignance of Woo Hyeol’s musing, that if In Hae hadn’t woken him up a day early, he would’ve never had the chance to meet her, nor learn from her, what love is really about.
As for Hae Won, I’m just about as tired of her antics, as I am of Do Shik’s, honestly.
I hate the way she’s pressuring In Hae to leave the mansion, and I also hate how she comes off as so entitled, when it comes to both the mansion, and Woo Hyeol’s affections.
I like that we do get to see Woo Hyeol and In Hae clinging to each other, when In Hae comes back from the hospital and runs into Woo Hyeol brooding on the street.
But sadly, we don’t get a whole lot of that, this pair of episodes.
And I also appreciate that, afterwards, Woo Hyeol is honest with In Hae about how he feels sorry towards her, for not being able to control his instincts, when he saw her blood.
I’m glad, though, that In Hae consoles him, and encourages him not to feel too bad, because that’s what Hae Sun would have wanted too.
I like the tender, gentle tone of this conversation, but sadly, we don’t get a lot of that either, this pair of episodes.
Instead, we focus on Woo Hyeol’s efforts to find Butler Joo (Seo Hyun Chul), In Hae’s father, and how that lands him in Man Hwi’s trap.
I’m glad that Woo Hyeol’s friends show up to help him escape, and I’m also glad that this inadvertently leads to In Hae’s father returning to the mansion.
But, I don’t appreciate the noble idiocy of Butler Joo not wanting to tell In Hae what had happened to him, because that just results in her pushing him away in a fit of anger, which, honestly, feels like total filler, to my eyes.
It feels to me like Show wasn’t sure how to fill up the episode, and decided that a bit of noble idiocy would do nicely, to take up some screen time.
And so, even though it’s an emotional scene when In Hae finally reconciles with Dad, I didn’t really feel it so much, because I was still giving Show the side-eye for making this arc take a stupid turn, in the first place. 😒
As we close out the episode, Woo Hyeol’s weaker and sicker than ever, and now he’s up and disappeared, presumably to die alone, so as to keep In Hae safe.
Urgh. I don’t like where this is going, one bit.
A COLLECTION OF SHOW’S EFFORTS TO FORESHADOW OUR ENDING
Because so many of us felt so frustrated at Show’s chosen ending, here’s a collection of moments when I felt that Show was actually trying to give us hints of things to come.
E3-4. In the aftermath of the kiss, I’m intrigued by how Woo Hyeol muses quizzically that he can feel Hae Sun in In Hae’s blood.
Like Woo Hyeol, I’m wondering what that’s about, because.. could it really be, that In Hae is Hae Sun, looking different, because she’s reincarnated into a different body..? That’s not impossible, right?
E9-10. In terms of the various darker hints that Show’s throwing our way, it’s mostly in the way Woo Hyeol talks about wanting to live for the person he loves, before he dies.
He mentions it a couple of times, this pair of episodes, and the general feel that I’m getting from it, is, that Woo Hyeol feels that if he can love wholeheartedly before he dies, then that makes a life well-lived.
And then there’s that moment of apparent foreshadowing, at the carousel, when In Hae remarks, with happy, shining eyes:
“I finally get why people say life is like a merry-go-round. It keeps going round and round, up and down. It may seem slow and boring, but when you look back, it’s filled with dazzling moments.”
Based on the hints that Show’s been giving us, this feels like a suggested framing for later, if/when things don’t turn out well, for Woo Hyeol. 🙊
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel, about this finale.
It’s definitely not my preferred ending, but I maybe-kinda get what writer-nim was going for, I think, and so perhaps I don’t hate it? 😅 But, I also don’t like it, if you know what I mean?
That said, I do think that a big part of the reason I don’t hate the ending as much as many other viewers before me, is because I was a little late to the party, and therefore, had heard the various screams and wails of frustration at Show’s chosen ending, while I was still watching the earlier episodes.
And so, even though I didn’t know the specifics of the ending, I knew to brace myself for not great things to happen. And, I also tried to tune my viewing lens ahead of time, to try to understand what writer-nim had been going for, in choosing this specific ending.
I guess it does pay, sometimes, to be late to the party? 😅
I figure an efficient way to go about talking about this finale, is in terms of a few main questions:
1. What was writer-nim actually going for?
I could be totally off, of course, but after chewing on the finale for about 2 days now, here are my thoughts on what I believe writer-nim was going for.
I feel like there are few main ideas at play here, and the main one is, that the love between Woo Hyeol and In Hae (whom we now learn is actually Hae Sun), is a love that spans lifetimes.
And so, despite the passing of hundreds of years, and despite Hae Sun no longer even having her original face, these two souls will find each other, and love each other, no matter what.
And so, even though, in this lifetime, Woo Hyeol doesn’t get to become human, the idea is that they will continue to love other, regardless.
In another lifetime, it’s possible that Woo Hyeol might be born a human, and then he and Hae Sun / In Hae would find each other again, and love each other again.
And so, I do think that at the end of the finale, writer-nim’s intention is to serve up an open ending that is underlined with hope for a better tomorrow, when these two souls are reunited again, as they are bound to be.
So why didn’t writer-nim just make Woo Hyeol human now, and give us that happy ending right away, you ask?
Heh. I asked myself that question too, and my best guess, is that writer-nim wanted a sense of balance, to the love between Woo Hyeol and In Hae / Hae Sun.
We’ve seen Woo Hyeol wait several hundred years for Hae Sun / In Hae, out of his love for her, and now, as we end this finale, we see that she is ready to do the same for him now.
Of course, there’s also the question of why writer-nim had Hae Sun change her appearance, such that In Hae turns out to be the Hae Sun for whom Woo Hyeol’s been waiting, all this time.
Again, I could be completely off the mark, but in my opinion, I think that this is to show us that the love between them is so strong and so pure, that Woo Hyeol would be able to find Hae Sun, even if she changed her appearance.
On top of that, there’s also the idea that even if someone would appear before Woo Hyeol with Hae Sun’s appearance, his love for Hae Sun transcends appearance; he loves her, not her appearance.
Which is why Woo Hyeol ends up loving In Hae, instead of Hae Won, even though it is Hae Won who has Hae Sun’s face.
2. Did writer-nim prepare us for this?
I would say, kind of?
Thanks to the aforementioned wails of frustration around the dramaverse at Show’s finale, I’d been on the look out during my watch, for indications for where Show was planning to take us, with its finale.
And there were indeed points in our story, where I felt like our characters’ lines were designed to bring across the idea of “love in the moment;” essentially, that it was worth it to love each other in the present, even if tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed.
And so, even though the time that Woo Hyeol and In Hae have together, to love each other, is much shorter than one might have hoped, the quality and purity of that love trumps the length of the time that they’re given, to love, if that makes sense.
I believe this is writer-nim’s way of encouraging us to love in the now, as well; to dare to give our whole hearts, even if tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
Which, y’know, is really quite a romantic notion, and one which many of us would interpret positively, when applied to a real-life situation.
3. So what went wrong?
If that’s the case, and there’s so much romanticism and hope in our finale, then why did viewers at large find this finale so frustrating?
I do think it’s because Show was pitched as a rom-com. And rom-coms, as we know them, are designed to have happy endings.
Also, for the first third (maybe even half) of our story, this really did vibe like a rom-com, with fun bits of comedy thrown in, while our OTP found themselves feeling unexpected feelings for each other.
We just.. didn’t expect Show to actually be a poignant melo, underneath its rom-com appearance.
I do think that it’s that disconnect that threw us all off, and resulted in the howls of anguish from every corner of the dramaverse, when this finale aired.
Like I always say, managing expectations is key, and context is everything.
Coz now that I’ve kind of figured out where Show was going with this finale, I find that I’m feeling a little more positive towards it, after all.
4. Was there anything good about this finale?
Of course it was no fun at all, to see Woo Hyeol growing weaker and paler by the minute, and I didn’t like the fact that he went off by himself to die, but I do appreciate that Show brought him back, and that we got to see him and In Hae take that trip out to the beach and spend some quality time together, in his final hours.
It’s quite lovely that they talk about important things, like how each feels like the other has saved them, and helped them to truly love, and it’s lovely too, that they get to tell each other, “I love you,” and share a heartfelt kiss.
Yes, it doesn’t feel like much in the grand scheme of things, but I do think that it’s this confirmation of their love, that will anchor In Hae as she set out to wait for the time when she and Woo Hyeol will be reunited, all over again.
It’s because she’s so sure of their love now, that she is able to look towards the future with hope and a positive expectation that she and Woo Hyeol will meet again, and love again, with a love that makes their hearts race.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Uneven, though well-intentioned. Better in concept than execution, at least in terms of the ending.
FINAL GRADE: B
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Heartbeat, is A Time Called You [Korea]. I’ve taken an initial look at A Time Called You and I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying it quite nicely.
You can check out my E1-2 notes on A Time Called You on Patreon here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): +A Time Called You [Korea]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +My Journey To You [China]
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