I’m delighted to join Saya in her foray into diary-writing (is this a support group now?), which like Mi-joo in Run On, I haven’t done for many years. But it’s a super fun way for us to keep up with what we’re watching in between Yaks. We’re already covering Sisyphus week to week, so I won’t go into that here, but I’ve been watching an alarming amount of dramas lately—probably the most at any time since I first jumped down this rabbit hole. Weirdly, two are about characters traveling to meet their other selves twenty years in the past/future? And lots of teenagers, which is not very on brand for me. (Spoilers for episodes mentioned in headings!)
And yes, I have headings, because that’s how my brain works 😂
Hello, Me: Episodes 1-2
Let’s start with a new premiere! I wasn’t sure if I’d like this premise, but I love both Choi Kang-hee and Kim Young-kwang, so I sat down and watched Episodes 1 and 2 with my grandmother. Because I keep starting K-dramas with her and they keep ending up too creepy and/or boring for her taste. 😅
Leads have a very un-cute meet in neighbouring jail cells on the worst day of each of their lives. That’s a wacky choice, but I love it. Squid costume and all. (I’m extremely entertained by how he continuously refers to her as his “cellmate” after they get out.)
Bahn Ha-ni (Choi Kang-hee) is supposed to look awful/have let herself go, but I find her adorable? I love those freckles. She looks like a real woman who goes outside. (To be fair, any 17-year-old would be horrified by her 37-year-old self, so from Baby Ha-ni it’s totally understandable.)
Han Yoo-hyun (Kim Young-kwang) has 80 licenses but a job ain’t one, so there’s obviously a growth arc coming here. I thought I was over the Arrested Development Chaebol as Hero, but KYK is the one actor that can still make me root for a character like this, without approving of anything he does. I mean—that grin. That puppyishness! No one does it better. His smile has always reminded me of Lee Seung-gi, who’s also really good at The Metamorphosis of a Cad. (See: Brilliant Legacy/Shining Inheritance.)
Instructively, Ha-ni’s worst day ever is way more miserable than Yoo-hyun’s, but she draws comfort from him being worse off than her, which tells you a lot about these two characters already.
Wow, Ha-ni’s sister is really taking the idea of revenge is a dish best served cold to its extreme.
Anthony, Ha-ni’s one-day high school “boyfriend” and current nemesis, is super entertaining as a shallow actor with no redeeming qualities, but I’m conflicted by the fact that he’s played by Eum Moon-seok, aka Blackface Dal-shik from Backstreet Rookie. Does it make it better that I’m enjoying hating him? I dunno.
For the most part I don’t mind the over-the-top humour, even if I vibe more with the subtler jokes, but Ha-ni’s fantasy sequences in the hospital did nothing for me.
Normally I roll my eyes when a character just stares at an incoming Truck of Doom, waiting for it to hit them, but I did appreciate the mirroring of present and past here, and Present Ha-ni having an existential crisis at the worst possible moment.
Someone please rescue Ha-ni from having to care for this manchild and an actual child at the same time 😭 But also, I can’t wait to see her get back to a place where she feels like she has the right to stand up for herself, like she did 20 years ago. Only this time with justice instead of ego fueling her anger.
So. Hello, Me is very predictable and tropey. I can see every plot development coming like a slow-mo Truck of Doom, but… I’m actually enjoying this. It feels full of heart. I want to see Ha-ni learn to love herself again. And not in the way 17-year-old Ha-ni did—although I LOVE that Mini Ha-ni is such a conceited jerk. It’s so much more honest than shows that have protagonists look back at idealized versions of flawless naive youth. Come on! Most teenagers are awful, and Ha-ni was especially bad. But she’s also completely justified in her pain and disappointment to see that twenty years later, she’s not only not living her dreams, but humiliated, poor and alone in every aspect of her life.
And it’s a very relatable mirror to how we can sometimes feel after reaching a certain age *ahem* and realizing that we do not now, nor will we likely ever, live the fabulous life we imagined for ourselves as giddy teens. That genuine emotion and melancholy underlying the ridiculous hijinks is what grounds this otherwise very silly show.
It’s no surprise that the rude awakening Ha-ni had at seventeen, and the guilt over an accident she clearly feels responsible for, made her swing all the way in the other direction into the doormat she is now. So Ha-ni’s not a Candy because she’s the protagonist, she’s one because life forced her into a corner, and she gave up—and her journey is to come back into the world and face it bravely. I can get on board with that.
LUCA: The Beginning: Episode 3
I talked about Episodes 1 and 2 in the latest Long Yak, so I’ll just put my scattered reflections on Episode 3 here, apart from heartily agreeing with Saya that Gu-reum should absolutely be brain-dead at this point from getting hit on the head that much. But also, I absolutely don’t care. This show is so darn fun to watch.
The chemistry between Kim Rae-won and Lee Da-hee is FIRE and ELECTRICITY. And not only because of all the actual fire and electricity lighting this joint up.
I so appreciate how sparing and meaningful the dialogue in this show is. Not a wasted word. The premise is crazypants but the dialogue is A+. Especially between our two leads—I hold my breath whenever they interact.
Why is there so much fighting and why is Gu-reum still alive. Is she a mutant?! Okay, I take it back, I actually do care and I don’t want her to get beat up anymore, please Chakka-nim.
Teamjang Ajusshi (Kim Sang-ho) is growing on me like an adorable moss. I love that he doesn’t treat Gu-reum any differently because she’s a woman—he’s as ornery with her as with the rest of his team—but also recognizes that she’s vulnerable to risks her male colleagues aren’t, and checks in with her in a respectful and matter-of-fact way. Such an on-brand gruff teddy bear.
DANG, Gu-reum’s father was Human Experimenter #1? This definitely puts another complexion on her revenge mission against Ji Oh.
Kim Sung-oh’s conundrum here is fascinating and I think I’ll love his arc. But I’m calling it now, he’s probably gonna die.
Aaaaand the baddies work for the government. Of course they do. I am surprised at myself for being surprised.
I know this is a super emotional moment, but the oppression olympics happening as these two both jockey for “my life is the saddest” is top shelf gallows humor and it’s cracking me up so hard.
Actually I think it works so well because it is such a vulnerable conversation for these two, the first emotionally bare one they’ve had with each other despite all the near-death experiences. LUCA undercuts serious moments with a slightly off-kilter humour that tonally just works SO WELL for me.
How painful that his name came from such a thoughtless impulse from these nuns. This main one is giving me flashbacks to a lot of the horror stories I’ve heard about real Catholic orphanages and the kinds of abuses that went on inside them with no one the wiser. That flashback sequence hurt my heart. And I hurt for him that his trauma keeps making him lash out in ways he hates, but can’t seem to control. This can’t end well for Ji Oh.
“I was a human until you made me into a monster.” Oof.
I usually hate childhood connections between the leads, but this is an exception, because it roots her hatred and his curiosity, linking them in this ambivalent, hostile closeness. He can’t stop thinking about her, because she’s the one thing that stays in his swiss-cheese-like brain. And she can’t leave him alone, because lack of closure over her parent’s disappearance has haunted her all these years. There’s this electric intimacy between them from the beginning that they obviously have no idea how to deal with, so they just walk around that elephant in the room and occasionally beat it nearly to death, all while being unable to stay away from each other even when their lives depend on it.
Yes I know this pun/metaphor has gotten away from me, let’s just go with it
Also, I’ve realized I’m trash for instant banmal between leads for reasons other than liking or friendship. Adversarial banmal. Frenemy banmal? Is that a thing? I’m making it a thing.
Hotel del Luna
I watched six episodes of this with my grandma and sister. It was gorgeous: the leads were gorgeous, the sets were gorgeous. The sageuk sequences, GORGEOUS. IU and Yeo Jin-goo are lovely together. I was excited to see Lee Do-hyun in the Goryeo bits! 😍 But this show is soooooo slooooooow. WHY are the episodes 75 minutes long?! Maybe we should have tried watching at 1.25 speed, but I don’t know how to do that on my TV yet and I didn’t love Hotel del Luna enough to figure it out for its sake.
Also, see above re: both too boring and too creepy.
Not boring in the slightest, extremely heartwarming and full of funny moments…but ultimately too creepy. Possession, no matter how goofily done, will never be my thing, so once I realized it was an ongoing phenomenon and not just a one-off thing, I was done. Sorry, Cha Ki-joon Jo Byung-gyu.
Love Naggers 3
This show is both anxiety-inducing and stress-busting, don’t ask me why.
Actually I think I do know why: the letter writers are usually with such unbelievable specimens of human trash that I feel both infuriated on their behalf and relieved to be single. Also the hosts are smart, unfiltered and don’t hesitate to tell the people who write in (mostly women) to throw the whole man/woman away.
Low-key radical: this is a variety show about dating that doesn’t exploit people’s feelings to create TV drama, but instead exploits the TV structure to get anonymized free counseling for people’s relationship problems AND provide viral entertainment. A slow clap for whoever came up with this idea.
All the MCs are wonderful (and I appreciate that one of them has a degree in clinical psychology), but Han Hye-jin is the queen of my heart. I also have a huge ajusshi crush on Seo Jang-hoon
Go Back Couple: Episodes 1-3
I’ve been meaning to check this out for years, and after Hotel del Luna, The Uncanny Counter and Chocolate all failed the watch-with-Dadi test, we landed on a winner. (We also tried Oh Hae-young Again, which has disturbingly way more workplace and domestic violence than I recalled, mostly played for humour 😬, and Let’s Eat 2, which…ugh. The male lead didn’t seem like this much of a predatory insurance salesman in Season 1.)
Three and a half episodes in:
Jang Nara and and Son Ho-joon, who were 36 and 33 at the time, were perfect casting choices to play themselves at both 38 and 20. Especially Jang Nara. What does this woman eat?! Has she made deals with underworld forces?
This is a painful and well-done portrait of a relationship on its last legs, and the emotional wreckage left behind when it’s over, that somehow also manages to have humour and light moments, keeping it from getting too heavy.
I love that both of them tell their friends immediately that they’re time travelers, only to face ridicule and disbelief.
The almost parental love they have for their younger selves and 20-year-old friends is completely adorable.
Jin-joo’s reaction to seeing her mom again *oceans of tears*
I do find male lead Ban-do to be hypocritical, misogynistic, cruel, and predatory (I don’t care if she was your first love, you’re now a 38-year-old man hitting on a 20-year-old). And he’s also more immature than his best bros are at twenty. But friends assure me he has a satisfying redemption arc, and Son Ho-joon has the acting chops to sell it, so I’m settling in.
Especially because this is that perfect 12-episode length. (And actual hour-long episodes, mansae!)
A Love So Beautiful: Episodes 1-18
I’m increasingly aggravated by how long cable drama episode lengths have gotten (I’m thisclose to writing an essay, so you know it’s bad). This week I contemplated trying out Vincenzo, saw that Episode 1 is 83 minutes long, and noped out to watch A Love So Beautiful instead—which clocks in at a light 25 minutes per instalment. The 2020 KakaoTV drama is a remake of the 2017 Chinese web series, which I didn’t watch.
This drama is basically a redux of Itazura na Kiss and its 890385 iterations (of which my favourite will forever be It Started with a Kiss), except that the male lead, Heon, simply ignores the female lead, Seoli, or does things for her behind the scenes, instead of being openly cruel to her. Yay?
👆🏽 I wrote that after about 4 episodes. After watching 18, Heon is just incredibly introverted and awkward, with the occasional teenage boy jealous lash-out. But I felt exhausted for Seoli the whole time, because this girl puts in so much emotion, and gratefully laps up the small crumbs of affection he allows her in exchange, for years.
But! Things I enjoy (at mostly 1.25-1.5 speed):
Seoli, played by relatively new actress So Joo-yeon, is HELLA charming. This is my first time seeing her but I fell instantly in love with her bubbly, bumbling charisma. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for her future projects.
Second lead swimmer Dae-sung (Yeo Hoe-hyun) is a total sweetie. Not fun to see him get his heart crushed brutally, but I do love his amazing, supportive friendship with “brother” Seoli. He’s all in with his feelings for her, and not afraid to let the world know it. (AHEM, Heon.) Yeo’s also both better-looking and a better actor than lead Kim Yo-han, which, uh… tough break.
The real MVPs
The main romance is fine, but I am super invested in the secondary romance between cool girl Ha-young and aspiring idol Jin-hwan, two of Seoli’s best friends, who have the sweetest high school love story I’ve seen in a long while. I cried for these two more than once. Ugh, such pure and wholesome characters 🥺 😭
This friend group—in fact, Seoli’s entire class—are the fluffiest marshmallows I have ever seen in a school drama. How lovely that Seoli, even if she ain’t the brightest bulb in the pack, has loyal friends and classmates who will stand up for her. That scene when the dean is embarrassing Seoli by reading her love letter (which is actually song lyrics) out loud is so cringy…and then it’s gold, because one by one her classmates stand up and start singing the song, ending with a united chorus of resistance against the bullying teacher, who gives up in disgust. I cheered. This is why I’m still watching, despite the emotionally withholding love interest and Seoli’s unreasonable and overwrought love for him. I love these kids.