Tis the last weekend in the month of love! Before the sun sets on the last day of February I’m determined to churn out a second post. After all, I spin up tales of love and swoon over make belief kdrama couples in my spare time so it would be remiss of me not to pen something to mark the most romantic month of the year.
So my friends, let’s fall in love with a kdrama, get smitten with an OTP, be a fangirl or fanboy for a day and set our hearts a-fluttering.
Before the month started I was already emotionally engaged, appropriately committed and giddily swept off my feet by two kdramas that premiered a decade apart: Lovers and I Have a Lover.
What they have in common:
- both have Lovers in the title
- both were produced by SBS
- both feature a love quadrangle (almost)
- both feature one of the leads spending time in prison
- both feature birth secrets
- both male leads have loyal, to die for sidekicks
- both deals with adult subjects such as premarital sex and adultery
Lovers is not your typical romantic kdrama nor is it truly a melo. It crosses somewhere in between these two genres. A gangster and a plastic surgeon! What an unlikely pairing. Normally I’m not a big fan of shows where the protagonist is a gangster and fight scenes make more than its fair share of appearances. But somehow this show has me hooked.
Mi Joo and Kang Jae unwillingly fall in love with each other but Kang Jae is already in a relationship with another woman pregnant with his child. Sae Yeon, Kang Jae’s arch rival is Mi Joo’s blind date, set up by his mother. And to complicate matters, Sae Yeon’s first love was actually Kang Jae’s girlfriend, Yu Jin. Confused? Is your head spinning yet?
The build up of the sexual tension between Mi Joo and Kang Jae is slow but intense. From the beginning the attraction is there, bubbling underneath the layers but kept at bay. Though the bickering OTP plot device is used, it is neither pointless nor over the top. Conflicted Kang Jae is appropriately cast in the role of the broody, badass mob boss, tough on the outside but puppy soft in the inside. Torn between two lovers, those longing glances, subtle flirting and internal struggles are real enough to keep me watching.
The story is not your normal rich kid poor girl variety though he’s technically the heir and she’s a struggling doctor. As unbelievable as it might be for a plastic surgeon to be financially challenged, the story is one that is sufficiently realistic and convincing. Perhaps there’s an abundance of plastic surgeons in South Korea or in Mi Joo’s case, she’s one with a conscience.
The remaining cast are also believable and worth cheering for. I tend to have a soft spot for the loyal sidekick character. Sang-Taek and San did not disappoint. Loyal to a fault, one dies for him and the other waits faithfully for his return. Both are the most likable characters in this show. Yu Jin, the passive aggressive girlfriend is the most pitiful one in my opinion. Originally loved by the same two men in Mi Joo’s life, she is denied true love. That scene where she bandaged Kang Jae’s hand with her ribbon even after he trashed her place demanding to collect, remains entrenched in my mind. So fragile and yet so strong in the face of terror. Even in a make belief drama, she’s one tragic character that made me care.
The ending is slightly rushed and in typical kdrama fashion, the OTP has to spend some time apart before they can come together. Overall it is a good story with an edge, albeit one that could see Mi Joo do away with a little less crying a la Winter Sonata.
I Have a Lover
A fifty episode weekend drama. This is a first for me. Never have I braved this road as I lack the persistence to stay with something this long especially with a show still airing. Such dramas usually means unnecessary plot-lines, one too many amazing coincidences and where the antagonist(s) have nine lives and countless iterations of evil reborn. Even when the OTP comes together, it will be inevitable that they will be pulled apart again, and again, and again until my heart can no longer take it.
I Have a Lover is no different except it’s got Kim Hyun Joo. She’s such a great character actress, playing three entirely different characters in one show: the high and mighty, win at all cost Hae Gang, the amnesiac confident Mother Theresa Hae Gang, and her unsophisticated, simple-minded identical twin. Her performance is breathtakingly good that one keeps forgetting she’s in these multiple roles.
This show has one complicated story arc. Husband and wife grow apart. He has an affair with his research assistant and she gets into an accident, losing all her memory. She transforms into a carefree, kind and defender of the helpless Hae Gang. Four years later, Jin Eon, back from the States, and oblivious to Hae Gang’s fate, falls in love with her all over again while his mistress, Seol Ri, gets jealous and seeks revenge. Embroiled in this love quadrangle is Baek Seok, Seol Ri’s stepbrother, who is also Hae Gang’s protector and love interest. He is the typical kdrama goody two shoe good guy that can do no wrong but almost always ends up without the girl.
Due to its adulterous theme, there are many viewers who loathe Jin Eon. There is no forgiveness and one part of me says he doesn’t deserve his wife back especially after the cruel way he breaks up with her, asking his father to throw her away. But everyone deserves a second chance as long as the road to redemption is followed and earned. That’s where the lengthy fifty epis give it justice. I can’t help but cheer for a reunion. It is impossible to deny the effortless chemistry and deep sexual tension between Hae Gang and Jin Eon. The sparks just fly when the two are together. The eyes say it all.
Running parallel to the main conflict is the saga of Hae Gang’s twin. In hiding to save herself and her child, she’s quirky, naive and almost comical. Mother and daughter find refuge in the unlikely brother of her enemy and reconciles with her twin and mother. This is a heartwarming part of the show. Kim Hyun Joo having conversations with herself in the two roles is nothing short of perfection.
My other favourite character is little Woo Joo. She’s got to be the cutest kid on k-ent. Sweet and endearing like no other, she’s unassumingly charming as Hae Gang’s niece and Yong Gi’s daughter. No wonder the kindly but stiff-necked Professor Min also falls for her charms!
And there’s always Hyun Woo, Jin Eon’s best friend, confidante, matchmaker and errand boy. And for the viewer, he gives us the candid humour and lighthearted moments.
Of course the show has its share of antagonists but unlike other shows, this one wants to give everyone a closure and a chance for redemption including Seol Ri and Jin Eon’s father. Even for the serial murderer Tae Seok and his wife Jin Ri, the show is treating them a tad too nicely (in my opinion).
It’s been quite a ride. I Have a Lover has been a riveting show and kept me glued to my small screen for weeks. But gotta say, it is with mixed emotion I say goodbye to the most compelling on screen couple to have graze my screen in a long time but I’m exhausted. Can’t deny I will be more than glad to go back to the 16 episode variety as I declare a retirement from my short stint with weekend kdramas.