Objectively speaking, I am not sure if I really want Yeo Reum to end up with Tae Ha because five years in a relationship is indeed a long time, but five years since the relationship ended is an equally significant time frame. Plus, if she insists and really believes that she is firmly grounded to the present which now includes a really sweet, new boyfriend with whom she can imagine a future together with, then why the need to turn back time, you know?
However, I also believe – objectively speaking – that she’s just as equally better off without both. There’s no need to limit and retrace her steps to the old lover if the past is indeed a closed chapter and quite frankly, her current boyfriend may or may not even be the right person given some of his actions thus far that’s been revealed to us. My argument is, why is it that we’re made to think it’s either or, when surely there’s options C and D?
Oh wait, because we’re in drama land and this is a rom-com. Right. Okay, let’s reassess what we have here.
Part II: Thoughts on the Characters of Kang Tae Ha, Han Yeo Reum and Nam Ha Jin
I’ve been chewing on my thoughts about the show and certain key points, and honestly I am still having a difficult time trying to put to words if I’m looking at it all… correct, whatever that means within this context, and to a degree – realistically. To be honest I am not sure if the reason I am on Team Tae Ha is because the character is who and what he is …or it’s because the magnetic pull that is Eric Mun is too damn hard to repel. It’s so shallow of me I know, but honest to God it’s a distraction. I’m saying this because this is my caveat and hence my confusion in siding Tae Ha.
I do like Tae Ha though, I really do. To me he is a fully realized character i.e. one who feels well-fleshed out with an intricate past and a learned present. I find him realistic and easy to root for because he’s not pretentious – he’s honest about what he feels and isn’t ashamed to admit if and when he’s at fault. He’s not embarrassed to admit his vulnerability to the person he sincerely loves: Yeo Reum. He’s also not a jerk, like he’s made wrong moves that have hurt others, but he’s not spiteful and revengeful you know what I mean? It doesn’t make him a bad person, rather one who’s made some bad moves. Probably my favorite part about him is that not only does he remember the past (and hold it dearly in his heart), it’s that he’s learned from it. He’s done his reflection such that he knows those moments in the past when he acted like a dick – no two-ways about it, he was it. However, he has since grown and matured from those mistakes and overall experience, so he’s genuinely trying to be a better person and where Yeo Reum is concerned, a better man who is now more deserving of her.
Another trait of his that I like is that he’s steadfast in his decisions and viewpoints; once he’s made a decision, he see through with it both personally and professionally. I hate wishy-washy heroes so I really appreciate that his feelings for her doesn’t waver even when she gives him shit about it. However, I’m aware that the real question that begs being asked is – is he right to hold on to these feelings and what more make them known, as well as doggedly pursue her while knowing that not only are they no longer together but she’s also happily attached to someone else? One could easily argue – and I would agree – that this was a selfish move. On the other hand, I think it depends on how one looks at it and from which viewpoint (and to an extension, which team we’re on) and frankly for me, as much as I want them to be together (again, the why is confusing because I’m having a really difficult time separating actors and characters), the bigger gesture of love he should’ve and could’ve done is to gracefully let her go and wish her well, knowing he had his chance once upon a time ago but had unfortunately wasted it.
…however. One could also argue he did exactly that in the first five episodes, especially in episode five. Remember that scene when she’d mistakenly texted him and he was honestly so embarrassed and wished the ground would just swallow him whole, yet pretended to her that he’s fine-just-fine? Or remember all those moments he took the blame for her to avoid Ha Jin’s suspicions, from the littlest things like speaking in banmal to ego-bruising moments like holding himself in check while they act all lovey-dovey right under his nose? In other words, he was thinking about her and really tried to convince himself that letting go is the best option, only to in the end cave in because it hurt too much.
Which then brings me to the revelation in episode six, which has effectively turned the tables for Mookie, who finds it unacceptable because to her that wall between Tae Ha and Yeo Reum is now impenetrable because the impact of the emotional pain is resounding and glaring. I… understand why she feels the way she does and respect that, but I can’t seem to think the same way. For me, I understand that his negligence and repeated emotional abuse in the past makes it extremely difficult for Yeo Reum to move past from because she really did suffer the heaviest blow, but I don’t think it’s fair for her to hold it against him in present-day to the point where she’s accusing and berating him as an unkind person – a jerk – that he was five years ago. I’m not excusing his past misdeeds towards her but her prejudice and insistence that he’s never going to change is unfair, especially when he’s clearly changed.
Then there’s also the bit where she’d withheld the truth from him about her father’s death. He had no idea, he really truly did not know. Of course one could argue that she tried telling him and hinted it to him multiple times when she tear-strickenly kept calling him, and yet he had ignored all the signs because he was too busy prioritizing everything else but her. The argument is valid, but I would counter that while it’s true he’s at fault for his negligence and added mistreatment towards her, no one can hold it against him for not knowing. It a whole different matter if he did find out but didn’t do anything about it, which isn’t the case here. It’s insensitive of him for not picking up the signs and for not responding to her distressed calls, but he genuinely did not know because he didn’t figure that out. Yes, he had so many chances but again, what’s the use of holding those what-if moments against him? Those are akin to sunk costs because he just never caught on, so he never did anything about this.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that for all the parts he’s at fault, no excuses, but at the end of the day Tae Ha is also only human. Moreover, to a large degree he has repented which we’re seeing and so is she, but her denial is strong because of their shared history; the fault lines run too deep. If she can’t be with him anymore that is her prerogative, but it’s unfair to keep claiming he is and will always be the same person he was years ago. “You will never change; you’re still the same jerk you were back then,” is a moot statement.
That’s not to say that I’m giving him a pass for stating so arrogantly that she’ll come back to his arms – “The sky will fall,” he had said, fixing a steely gaze upon her – because again, what and who gives him the rights to think he still has a claim of any kind towards her? What makes he think (or any man really) that she belongs to him as if she’s an object up for trade? I didn’t appreciate the wrist-grabbing too and not for the reason that it’s the typical oh-gosh-they-do-this-all-the-time-in-Kdramas rather it’s a violation of her personal space. However, I wouldn’t be so quick to write him off solely based on this scene because after all, these revelations of what went wrong are given to us in piecemeal form – there’s still a lot of holes that we need fill before we can objectively (or emotionally) come to any conclusions.
As for Yeo Reum, don’t get me wrong – I don’t dislike her. Honestly she reminds me of Yeol Mae from I Need Romance 2012 and even though I’m uncertain if that’s good or bad (I did like this character but this also means that Jung Yu Mi isn’t diversifying her roles), what I definitely like about both character is that they are so humanly relatable. Like Yeol Mae, Yeo Reum is selfish, cunning and manipulative in getting her way, wants to be the first priority and not an afterthought in her romantic relationships and . I’ve read here and there that people can’t stand Yeo Reum because she’s accusing Tae Ha as among other things a jerk, insensitive and selfish …when she’s had moments where she portrayed exactly those. However, looking at it from her perspectives of course her perception of him is skewed and cloudy because her memories and stance about the past is that he’d mistreated and wronged her. Maybe she still remembers the good bits but the negative parts overtake the former magnanimously that even though he has changed, I think it will still take a while for her to come around and she might even need a hard shake to see him differently.
Despite all that I’ve stated above, I need to clarify that I don’t agree one bit with what she did upon receiving Tae Ha’s drunken confession. If she doesn’t feel the same way then there’s nothing anyone can do about it and I know that in the first place why did he even lay it all out as if she’s obliged to receive it, but how she reacted – ah, that’s it; with knowledge there’s responsibility – well, it was dickish of her to trample on his feelings in the name of revenge. At this point everyone understands and are well aware he hurt her badly in the past but if she insists that the past is the past, then she should’ve just rejected him firmly and leave it at that because why the spite over something that’s no longer significant? Instead she did what she did which was rubbing it in his face that she’s supposedly moved on and so too bad for him. Honestly, I hated her in this scene because that was low, real low.
Regarding the difference between past-her and present-her and especially the kind of girlfriend she was to Tae Ha compared to how she is in the present with Ha Jin, honestly first things first is can anyone even fault her for playing the game to what she believes is her best advantage? Just like Tae Ha did, she came out of the past relationship as a learned person – changed, jaded and experienced. One could maybe fault her, if you insist on finger-pointing, that she’s not being completely honest and acting as herself with Ha Jin what’s with the manipulation of tears and accusing him of keeping secrets when she is doing exactly that and in fact, right under Ha Jin’s nose. I understand the accusations but to me it all boils down to it’s her prerogative and as an observer, I can’t even say I’m surprised. That’s not to say I agree with her actions because I don’t, but I understand and accept her motivation. She was burned really badly the first time so of course she’d make sure that this time around she comes out as the grand winner, not the one with the broken heart and bruised ego. Of course she’d play her cards wiser this second time around. I wish she would bend and soften, even if just a little where Tae Ha is concerned – if not in a romantic sense, then at least by giving him the benefit of doubt as a better person – but again, considering their shared history and the absence of closure, this seemingly trivial acceptance (to us) is perhaps the largest hurdle for her.
As for Ha Jin, personally I find him too perfect so much so that it irks me because drama land produces this kind of character way too many times. I’m wrecking my brain trying to think of his imperfections, those rough edges where he is more human and less mere cardboard character, and couldn’t seem to come up with any negative traits that’s particularly glaring. I agree that it’s pretty douchey of him to go on blind dates behind her back – even if he had a legitimate reason and was upfront about it to his date – and I also agree that it’s pretty flighty of him to actively pursue Ah Rim while hiding the truth from his girlfriend, but these actions alone do not automatically mean he is a bad person. He’s… just being human, you know?
I think the thing about his relationship with Ah Rim is that he doesn’t find it a big deal (or is adamant it isn’t) because supposedly they’re more like siblings than lovers so in other words, he has convinced himself that his feelings towards her are purely platonic and will not blossom into something romantic. The other reason is of course more obvious – the historical and emotional baggage that’s part of the package i.e. admitting their connection means coming clean about a past that he believes is his alone to keep. It doesn’t make him a bad person, why would it, for wanting to keep his personal history to himself and it comes down to this being his prerogative too, that he believes it’s not a big deal and therefore feels no need to explain. Of course one could argue that in a relationship, two people must be honest towards each other about everything but come on now, everything? Really, you sure? Personally, I don’t think he’s in the wrong for wanting to keep certain things to himself until he feels the time is right to reveal them and ha, the same could easily be said about Yeo Reum and her history with Tae Ha, which Ha Jin is still in the dark about.
In a nutshell (for now), what kind of trajectories am I anticipating for these characters and within the same breadth, exactly what is it that I am expecting from them? Truth is, I have no idea. I don’t really think I have expectations of any sort because I’m perfectly fine with letting the story play out however the characters think is best. My hung-up-on-the-past self wants Yeo Reum to end up with Tae Ha because I swear that Jung Yu Mi and Eric Mun create fireworks just by standing next to each other. However, my objectively speaking self thinks it’s probably best for her to end up with Ha Jin because what she had with Tae Ha is something that’s in the past, whereas what she has now is a healthy and happy relationship. Even so, I can’t silence my realistic self who would much prefer that she break up with both, start anew and fresh because why limit herself and her happiness to only two people? Why believe that it’s either one or total unhappiness? I know, I know… here’s where I’ve to remind myself that this is drama land and not life.
Up Next: That Thing Called The Past and Quick Notes about Side Characters