I don’t watch Kdramas for the realism. I don’t need them to reflect tendency for things not to turn out well, as is so often the case in real life. I’m not watching them for the reality factor. And yet, in what seems to be an effort to remind me that life isn’t fair, some Kdramas lure you in, only to sucker-punch you with an ending that you never asked for. And yet, I keep coming back.
Some Kdramas spoil you with the happy ending. My Lovely Samsoon raised the stakes by taking the typical romantic triangle and turning it on its head. Samsoon (Kim Sun Ah), the supposedly unattractive, spunky working-class girl falls in love with Hyun (Hyun Bin), the snarky, snobby, heir of a hotel chain. Oh but WAIT! He falls in love with her. Oh but WAIT! Hee Jin (Jun Ryu Won), the incredibly attractive, slim, med student/former girlfriend who survived cancer shows up. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Oh but WAIT! Samsoon is going to fight for her man. Oh snap! She gets him in the end! Yay! I have no problem with that. The media tells us all the time that this doesn’t really happen, so I’m really excited when one narrative tells me that it can.
But you know, after watching quite a few Kdramas, I realized that this is not the norm. More often than not, I get sucker punched by an ending I never wanted. Fresh from watching Chinese wuxia dramas, I wasn’t expecting bunnies and singing by the end of Bicheonmu. The first scene in the first episode gives you the definite impression that this couple, Jin (Joo Jin Mo) Jin Ha and Soo Lee (Park Ji yoon) (seen in the picture above), may need a bigger boat, or at least some more arrows. Still, anything could happen, so I watch it anyway. I keep hope alive for our intrepid heroes. However, once Jin Ha goes from this sweet and lovely young man:
To this scary dude on a mission:
…all bets are off. This is DEFINITELY not going to end well for somebody. But does it have to be bad for EVERYBODY that matters? It turns out, all is not well for our intrepid hero and heroine by the end, and not only them, but their families, their buddies, and perhaps even the family pet.
It’s fine if this only happens occasionally, but more and more, I’m watching Kdramas that give me endings I never wanted.
Some Kdramas play on your hopes and dreams, only to dash them completely to pieces in the end. Case in point: Boys Over Flowers. Here, the Kdrama presents you with attractive Korean version of Scylla and Charybdis. On one hand, Jan Di (Koo Hye Sun) has Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho), a rich, super attractive heir of his family’s business (sound familiar?) who has developed a weird crush on her, even as he torments her. On the other hand, Jan Di has Ji Hoo (Kim Hyun Joong), a rich, super attractive almost-recluse who, in taking on the role of her knight in shining armor, has fallen for her daughter-of -dry cleaner charms.
Really, she can’t go very wrong here. But over the episodes, the Kdrama torments you. She really likes Jun Pyo. No, she REALLY likes Ji Hoo. Sigh. This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the ENDING. Instead of choosing one or the other, she kinda falls into a choice, and when she does, Jun Pyo literally doesn’t recognize her (I don’t want to ruin it for you). By the last episode, after all Jan Di and Jun Pyo go through (and they go through a lot), I was thoroughly disappointed by that last scene on the beach with Almost Paradise by T-Max playing for the 5,394,293,747th time. Because even at the very end, she doesn’t commit. Not really. Ok, not at all.
It’s not always the women, though, that make an ending bad. Let’s look at Hong Gil Dong, shall we? What begins as a happy-go-lucky action/comedy/romance, ends up in a standoff with rebels on one side and the government’s finest on the other. Fine, our couple Gil Dong (Kang Ji Hwan) and Yi Nok (Sun Yu Ri) are rebels. Fine, they are facing an overwhelming force in the form of the government.
Are we supposed to forget the fact that Gil Dong used to be boys with the king Chang Hwi (Jang Geun Suk) and actually helped him get to the throne? Believed he was a better alternative to Chang Hwi’s older brother who turned the palace into a sleazy lounge? What makes me less than enthusiastic about the ending of Hong Gil Dong is that it does all of this work to make you believe that Gil Dong has made a positive impression on the Chang Hwi, giving him an alternative to the reign of his psychotic brother, only to turn around allow him to do the. exact. same. thing. Once again, things do not end well for our intrepid heroes. Sucks to be a rebel.
So, if I’m rarely satisfied with the ending, why do I keep watching? For the RIDE! I know that often, they are writing the Kdrama even as they film it. I would go back (have gone back?–maybe I have, maybe I haven’t) and watch each of these Kdramas again, knowing full well how they end, because of the character development, the pitfalls they face, and the twists and turns they endure. In Bicheonmu, Jin Ha and Soo Lee go from a sweet couple to people who have to defend themselves and the people from those closest to THEM! That’s worth watching again. Really, who wouldn’t want to get caught up in the well-dressed world of F4 again, even it means listening to T-Max? And given Jang Geun Suk’s recent success, I’m game for another round of Potential King and Rogue Robin Hood.
Maybe in the end, it’s all about the journey.