|Will Secret Love Affair’s finale live up to Tokyo Tower’s fantastic Parisian hug?|
When this post goes live, I will be watching the final episode of Secret Love Affair. (Yes, I’m so obsessed that I’m taking vacation time to watch the last two episodes when they air in Korea, which is 8:50 am my time.)
We drama fans often talk about the sorrow that comes with the finale of a show we really loved. The finite nature of Asian dramas can be a double-edged sword on this front—they almost never outstay their welcome and are able to tell a single, central story without dragging it out indefinitely. But when they’re done, they’re done forever. There’s no new season, no continuation on Netflix, no second generation or The New Class to look forward to. This can feel like a real blow when you’ve ushered a group of characters into your heart and spent months contemplating the state of their souls.
What’s worse is that Secret Love Affair is a drama that engaged me emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. (Hye Won would say that I’m being excessive, but this statement is nothing more or less than the truth.) And now that it’s ending, I’m at an utter loss—What do I do with all the energy I’ve been devoting to this series? Here’s a short list of things I’ve been considering:
Taking piano lessons
Reading Secret Love Affair’s favorite books, Aimez-vous Brahms? and Sviatoslav Richter: Notebooks and Conversations
Hooking up with a man (boy?) who’s young enough to be my son
Breaking beer bottles in threatening ways
Getting a massage
While each option has its own pros and cons, I think we all know what I’m really going to do next. And that’s watch another drama.
There are lots of newish series out there, but I don’t find any of them incredibly appealing. For one thing, they’re all really boy-centered, which is not my thing when it comes to television. I watch Kdrama for the great female characters, and I hate when they’re shunted to the side so the male lead can be the show’s star. Then there’s the subject matter. I guess the proliferation of cops and doctors in this drama cycle is better than the herd of shoe designers that were foisted on us a few seasons ago, but not by much.
I’m definitely going to watch something new, but I could use some help deciding what. Here are the shows now in the running.
(episodes 24 and 25 of 50 air this week)
I normally wouldn’t look twice at a long family drama—historically, I end up more annoyed than entertained and regret the time I spent watching them. Fifty hours is just too much of a commitment for me, especially when the dramas in this time slot tend toward the stogy and old fashioned and have notoriously low production values. They’re also prone to having gender politics that make me uncomfortable, thanks to their older, in-on-Saturday-night target audiences. I’m not really a fan of enslaved daughters-in-law and male chauvinists, the two go-to stereotypes of the genre.
What’s caught my interest in this case is the screenwriter: Lee Kyung Hee. In addition to 2012’s well-reviewed Nice Guy, she wrote some of my favorite dramas of all time, including Thank You, A Love to Kill, and I’m Sorry, I Love You. Lee’s specialty are gripping, gritty melodramas about irredeemable antiheroes that could make an inanimate object sob. So what business does she have working on a show called “Wonderful Days”? And how will someone who usually writes tightly conceived, twenty-episode shows fill fifty shaggy episodes of multi-generational wank? I don’t know, but I’m interested to find out.
And then there’s the issue of watching a family drama live: would fifty episodes seem less daunting if they were broken up into bite-sized, two-episode chunks? (Although with my rate of watching these days, the show might be over before I actually caught up.)
(episodes 7 and 8 out of 16 air this week)
I love noona romances, but I’m a little wary of this one in spite of the positive buzz it has garnered. It’s about a career-minded reporter who falls in love with a free-spirited man who’s fourteen years her junior; as a series airing on the tvN cable network, it’s sure to have excellent art direction and more than its fair share of steamy moments. All that sounds great, but I tried watching My Queen, the Taiwanese drama it’s based on, and didn’t even make it all the way through the first episode. Its comedy was broad to the point of slapstick and its leads came off as cartoony stereotypes, not people. Based on what I’ve seen of Witch’s Romance on Tumblr, it follows its source material really closely. I prefer epic melodrama to romantic comedy. This might not be the show for me, no matter how good it is. And exactly how many noona romances can you watch in a row? This would be my fourth, following after You Who Came from the Stars, I Need Romance 3, and Secret Love Affair. Those are tough acts to follow—three of them gave me lots of time to think about how not to do a noona romance, and one of them was practically perfect in every way. (I’ll leave you to guess which was which.)
(episodes 9 and 10 of 20 air this week)
Now this sounds like a good old-fashioned Korean melodrama: young lovers are tragically separated, only to spend the next twelve years pining for each other before being re-united as adults. In their years apart, the female lead recovered from legal blindness (congratulations!) and both lovers became medical professionals—he’s a successful surgeon, she’s an EMT—and come into contact again through their jobs. You had me until you go to the health care twist, show. I could totally go for a classic melo romance, but I worry this series will end up focusing on the work lives of its characters instead of exploring their lives as fully formed people. I am, however, a little intrigued by seeing the actress who played Jan Di in Boys over Flowers in another show. Is she actually a terrible actress, or did that show’s problems (and strange, intoxicating charms) arise from its terrible writing?
(episodes 3 and 4 of 20 air this week)
We all know they primary reason I’m considering picking up this show: Lee Jong Suk is cute as a button. It also promises fish-out-of-water antics and perhaps even some spyjinks as his North Korean character works in a South Korean hospital. This will probably be the cycle’s big fan drama, which always makes for extra fun watching, and all reports indicate that it’s shaping up to be a thrilling story with a starry-eyed central romance. As far as I can tell, it will go in one of two directions: another jokey, skin-deep exploration of North/South relations, or an episodic hospital drama. I’m not particularly excited to watch either. Maybe shower scene gifs on Tumblr are all I need to know about this show?
So, dear readers, what shall I watch next?