Oy, the pacing of this show! Tan has a complete and total breakdown and Eun-sang is really sad and I felt pretty much nothing. And so… I’ve gotten a bit ranty. I should say I enjoyed aspects of episodes 17 and 18, but the overall feeling is, unfortunately, an unhappy one.
It’s not the actors. Because I did feel something when Tan interacted with Won. And I felt something when Eun-sang interacted with Young-do. It’s not a chemistry deficit either. If I took their scenes in a vacuum (when they weren’t hampered by the hammer to the head slo-mo shots) Tan and Eun-sang come across as an engaging couple.
It’s the writing. It’s all the writing. There’s so little context to what’s going on. In her goodbye note, Eun-sang says that she and Tan were madly in love but I never felt like we saw that mad love happen. I think we saw them hover on the brink of being madly, thoughtlessly, screw-the-rules, in love — but the writer never allowed them to buy in.
Trouble always arrived before the romance could get up off the ground. They flirted in California, but then came Rachel and Eun-sang took off. In Seoul, they were struggling against their social differences for ever. Then they finally started dating (for like, a day), and… now this. I feel like I’ve never had the chance to see what an awesome couple they are together. Instead I’m given little flashes of brilliance (the car break down in California, the epic apron-removal scene in Seoul) and then it’s all rude interruptions.
I do get that they love each other, of course. It’s the only logical reason for their misery. But I want to feel their love for each other — not work it out like a math problem. And I totally understand that story logistics demand a breakup at this point in the drama. But because the drama only just recently got Eun-sang and Tan together, Tan’s utter breakdown feels unearned. (One attempt foiled and he dies in a pile? What, no Plan B?)
Again, per story logistics this was the time for Tan’s breakdown. But, because I was thinking about this from a logistics angle, I knew the crisis would pass. Only two episodes left, after all. So I was tapping my foot through the emotional scenes, waiting for them to be done with so we could move on. Which isn’t the viewer-emotion the show was going for, I’m sure.
It’s too bad because I think there was potential for an epically good drama here. The uber-wealthy, not-quite-real world makes for a fun setting. The stringent social rules makes for (or should have made for) delicious conflict. The characters really are interesting. (Even though they’ve been mishandled, I still like all the characters I’m supposed to like.) Even the story, at heart, is a good one — love across social barriers is a classic for a reason. The failure is in the story-arc.
And as we come to the end the failure becomes more obvious. I feel like the drama is scrambling to get us to the proper place for the grand climax… without taking the time to make the grand climax actually mean anything. I’m quite sure Tan and Eun-sang are going to have their happy ending. I’m pretty sure Won will defeat evil Daddy Kim and reconcile with his brother — maybe even get the girl. I’m not even worried about Hyo-shin anymore what with him and Rachel getting frog-marched towards a last minute romance. (Which I still feel very “meh” about, by the way. It’s better than suicide, though. There’s that.)
But I’m also sure it’s all going to feel very rushed and therefore easy and therefore not very satisfying. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. (The pessimist side of me is rolling her eyes really, really hard. But the optimist is hoping!)