Editor’s note: Saya here! Popping in to say: please welcome our first solo guest-post! We’ve been planning to open up our blog to showcase different fandom voices, and while that’s lurking in the pipeline of all the work we are trying to get through, I thought it would be nice to jump the queue and welcome back a friend of the podcast, JustMe, who previously featured as a guest in Episode 46. Drama Addict Diary is a new feature we’re trying out, so tell us what you think!
Meet the author: JustMe is a twenty-something part-time master’s student. Full-time pharmacist. Overtime drama-watcher. You can follow her on Twitter at @JustEpicness.
More Than Friends is the aptly-titled story of two friends who take ten years to get together—with the help of an ever-supportive group of friends, and, of course, a perfect second lead.
As a guest writer, I felt the need to review this particular drama for one reason: the friends-to-lovers trope. The drama description promised for juicy jealousy and I’m all for it. I am so for it that tears are filling my eyes with excitement as I write this.
Warning! This is a summary and review of Episodes 1-4 only, and contains spoilers up to Episode 4 and no further. You can consider this segment a safe space for guilty pleasure, snark, and self-deprecating humour.
Episode 1: A look back at high school
We first meet Lee Soo (Ong Sung-woo) and Kyung Woo-yeon (Shin Ye-eun) as high-school classmates.
In classic K-drama fashion, Woo-yeon is a shy, bullied “plain” girl. (Lord help me, can they please get an actual plain girl? Wait, scratch that—I’m also enjoying the aesthetic of this couple. They look so good together.)
Lee Soo is a charming, seemingly confident, flirtatious boy with an I-don’t-care-what-others-think attitude. He seems a bit isolated from his peers and finds solace in his “friendship” with Woo-yeon.
I’ve put “friendship” in quotation marks because it does not quite seem like the right word. In fact, Woo-yeon is quickly taken with him. Lee Soo flirtatiously teases Woo-yeon a lot, and subtly shows her favour over her other classmates. But it’s not quite clear, despite his flirty behaviour, whether he’s actually angling for a romance with Woo-yeon, especially since he keeps stressing the importance of their “friendship”. Teenage-me would have been hella confused…and completely in love. So, while I am not yet completely sold on Shin Ye-eun’s character, I can understand her.
Did I mention Soo was extremely good-looking? Well he does, several times in the show, and I cannot even be annoyed by it. Darn you Ong Sung-woo, Woo-yeon does not even stand a chance. Great nuanced acting. The casting director made a great choice. Point to Ong Sung Woo (and not his character).
Girl, you never stood a chance.
If you can’t tell what my opinion of him as the male lead is—well that’s just it. He is so confusing that I find him a bit off-putting. But goodie points to the writer for including a strong trio of friends to our female lead. She needs a devoted support group and Soo just ain’t it for the time being.
Episode 1 ends with a confession and a rejection. Which for me means, okay, time to move on. But not Woo-yeon. She is understandably heartbroken, and fast-forward a few years into the future, she is still not over him.
The first episode did not compel me too much. I cannot pinpoint the reason, but I have seen so many other friends-to-lovers shows that have done it better. However, this is just the first episode and I like the first OST song, so I’ll keep going. I cannot say that I very much like Lee Soo.
Episode 2: Moving on. Or are we?
A few years later, Woo-yeon calls Lee Soo every time she gets drunk, confessing her feelings over and over again and feeling sorry for herself for not letting go. She gets rejected. Again.
If this was not clear, I am decidedly disappointed in Woo-yeon for being so taken with a boy who has yet to show actual, outspoken interest. While Lee Soo is a definite jerk for not being clear, I am more unforgiving towards Woo-yeon for not moving on. Also, my dear Woo-yeon, this alcohol thing is a problem. (Or is this just the pharmacist in me speaking ?)
I cannot help but lose the little patience I have with Lee Soo as well. Yes, we learn a bit more of the reason behind his commitment issues: his parent’s divorcing and fighting “trauma”. I am not convinced enough just yet. I do not think they gave me enough of a look into him yet for me to understand him. We have mostly seen things from Woo-yeon’s point of view, after all. For now, Lee Soo is just a selfish cabbage.
Despite another rejection, Woo-yeon meets him again a few years later, this time by coincidence on Jeju Island. By this time, she is 28, meaning it’s been ten years since she first met him. Ten years of nursing a one-sided love.
She vocalises clearly that she needs to avoid him as he is toxic for her (YAS GIRL!) but Lee Soo is not having it. In fact, he does all he can to be with her. But as friends, of course. Sure. I see you sneaking smiles at her! (Darn it, I’m growing to like him despite myself.) However, I want my heroine to be stronger and not swayed by pretty boys. Make. Him. Work. For. It.
We are introduced to On Joon-soo (Kim Dong-joon), CEO of a publishing company. He and Woo-yeon meet via a hair-caught-in-his-coat-button incident (never mind that she has beautiful silky, straight hair), and this dude is already so much kinder than Lee Soo. I’m all aboard for her feelings to waver and for her to actually consider another guy.
I’m loving getting a deeper look into Woo-yeon’s work-life and dreams. I guess she is not as one-dimensional as I thought. She gains the confidence to do what she should have done ten years ago: let go. She breaks what she refers to as the “curse of her one-sided love” by kissing Lee Soo, which she justifies as a sign for new beginnings, as done in fairytales. She wishes him farewell for the last time.
In any other world this might have been goodbye for real, but this is the world of K-dramas: a world where second leads, character development, and new all-time lows have yet to come.
By the end of Episode 2, I’m not quite pulled in. The leads have not endeared themselves to me so far, and I do not have any reason to cheer them on just yet. But the preview for the next week seems promising and I’m not watching any other weekend dramas…so next week will make it or break it for me.
Episode 3: The beginning of a love triangle
Oh no! A calligrapher just so happens to have cancelled on CEO Joon-soo and he needs another one ASAP. Woo-yeon is called in and she does an amazing job. She and the team go out for drinks. She gets a bit too drunk and makes a spectacle of herself. She drunk-dials Lee Soo. Again.
PLOT TWIST! It turns out the person she called was not Lee Soo, but CEO Joon-soo. Lee Soo apparently changed his number a year ago. Thus, for the past year, Joon-soo has been receiving Woo-yeon’s calls. He is completely elated and taken with her. Just to remind you that Mr. Second Lead is indeed perfect.
He is about to walk her home when Lee Soo steps in and carries her home. The carrying-the-drunk-girl trope is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I love some forced proximity. And Lee Soo does too, by the look of it. Our boy cannot help but sneak a smile. Also, this is the first instance that Soo shows jealousy and I. AM. ALL. FOR. IT.
Meanwhile, we get more insight into Woo-yeon’s friends and their storylines. Kim Young-hee (Ahn Eun-jin) is an assistant manager of a big company, in a long-term relationship since high school. Her (completely smitten) boyfriend wants to marry her, and she faces the cultural pressures of his in-laws.
Han Jin-joo (Baek Soo-min) is a single prosecutor still on the lookout for a boyfriend, despite her being so sure she’d have it all once she graduated. You and me both, sister. They are clearly B-stories but the serial fast-forwarder in me is not fast-forwarding. I am enjoying their own little realities. They feel real and relatable.
Episode 3 ends with Joon-soo setting up a publishing project for Lee Soo and Woo-yeon. OHOHO, now the plot is moving. We truly have a reason for all three to meet each other a lot.
The show is now giving us more and more tiny scenes from Lee Soo’s perspective and I love it. Is Woo-yeon’s love not so one-sided after all? Still, I need more proof. And more proof we are about to get.
Episode 4: New outlooks
Despite her initial reluctance, Woo-yeon ultimately accepts the job position with Lee Soo. She wants to succeed in her job and dreams. She states clearly to him she only wants to be friends. And now it is Soo’s turn to hesitate on that.
Woo-yeon invites Soo to be “just friends”, and Soo refuses to shake her hand.
Guys, I am squealing. It is not the same when those words come from her now, is it? Also, ten million points to Woo-yeon.
Of course, Soo insists on working together with her. They go out on a not-date. But this not-date is broken up by an actual date with perfect Mr. Second Lead. He openly admits he is interested in her and by the end of the episode, is honest about the phone call misunderstanding. Did I mention he was perfect? And Soo is openly disquieted by Joon-soo’s interest in his “only friends”-friend. Things are getting interesting.
In all honesty, if I were in Woo-yeon’s shoes, I would have dropped Lee Soo a long time ago and readily jumped on the Joon-soo train. He is open and ready to commit! But also, Soo is just so darn swoony that it is hard. I see those sneaky smiles. Darn you, Ong Sung Woo. You get a point, and half a point goes to your character, because darn you.
In this episode, our male lead begins to open up and I’m starting to understand him a bit more. He is not as perfect and as put together as Woo-yeon thought, and has his own struggles and insecurities. He opens up about his commitment issues, like him choosing to be alone to avoid getting hurt. I am loving this candid communication.
And as revelations about Soo are starting to be divulged, I am beginning to see that Woo-yeon might have been a bit selfish, too. Did she really know him? From the beginning, it was clear she never saw him as a friend and that was what he had needed all along. It is mostly his fault, but some of it is hers, too.
Favourite moment of the episode: Lee Soo’s conversation with his dad.
“A man can be friends with a woman if he has feelings for her, but a woman can only be friends with a man if she no longer has feelings for him.”
His reaction to this is everything:
Overall impression: I’m low-key excited for this week’s episodes. Watching Soo get uneasy over another man showing interest in Woo-yeon is so pleasing. She suffered over him for years. When he finally realises she is no longer interested in him and can do without him, it agitates and unsettles him. And it is getting increasingly difficult for him to hide his feelings. Now, all he needs to do is act quickly, be honest with himself—and her—before it is too late.