Unemployment Romance : End of series review

I've delayed this post for some time (the drama ended last Saturday) because the last episode just rubs me in the wrong way. I doubt there's more I can say (or rant) about the Unemployed Romance that I haven't done in my Dramafever posts, so I've decided to extract my own excerpts from episode 4 to 10 (the first three is covered in my recaps) for anyone who cares to read how I feel about the drama but couldn't be bothered to stop over at DF. I omitted inputs from fellow bloggers because they aren't mine to be begin with but links are provided to those interested in other bloggers' take on the drama.

Overall, I'm so disappointed that this turns out to be another dud. I was beyond patient with this drama (I would have dropped this like a hot potato had I not been excited by the prospect of seeing Nam Gong Min in a lead role) what with its experimental format and all. Generally, the story unfolds in three parts. The first three episodes covers the present and past in Im Seung Hee's (Lee Young Ah) perspective, the next three and a half episodes show us the past from Kim Jong Dae's (Nam Goong Min) point of view and we only get a meagre three episodes or so from the timeline after they bump into each other again at the Unemployment Benefit Office. Looking back, I noticed I tried to offer a positive opinion most of the time, but I couldn't help the occasional harsh words. Sigh, it really is the case of the bigger my expectation, the greater my disappointment. Oh and while it's been an enlightening experience, I probably won't be guest blogging at DF in the near future.

Episode 4

So glad we finally get to know the other half of the OTP and that he's not a total jerk after all. However, I have my reservations about his character. Jong Dae falling in love at first sight with Seung Hee is cute, him actively pursuing her is cute, him not wanting to let her go is cute but...and that's a big BUT, I can't quite shake the feeling that young Jong Dae is still just that - young! He comes across as a little immature, from his mini-tantrum at the restaurant to the handling of his family problems. Of course, he IS still young. As a freshman in college and dating a girl he loves, I can imagine how his family problems may eventually throw him off course. I can feel his sincerity in droves and that he's a genuinely nice guy but I feel he lacks composure in the face of adversity. He is earnest and sweet I'll give him that, but he's also too innocent. Young Jong Dae would make a really sweet first love but I can sort of see how they ended up the way they did.

Contrast this to the Jong Dae we met in Episode 2 - he looked troubled and gloomy. I do think he might have gone through a lot since their break up, especially in light of his family troubles and him not making the bar exam. He would have matured significantly since then, but I also can't help feeling that he might have turned too cynical as well. It will be interesting to see how their "reunion" play out.
As of now, I still have one foot firmly on the Wan-Hee ship. Wan Ha's sad puppy eyes when he found out that Seung Hee is taken are enough to slay me. It also reaffirms the fact that he was too late to mount any challenge the first time. On the other hand, I do find Seon Joo a pretty sad case. It seems she's always played second fiddle to Seung Hee. And why do they always fall for the same guys. Sheesh. She's the least developed character thus far but if Jong Dae needs four episodes to make a grand entrance, I would not be surprised if Seon Joo's part in the story would unravel in the latter part of the drama.

Episode 5

Err…I’m starting to have a funny feeling about this show. We’re halfway through the episodes and yet narrative wise, we have not progressed beyond the initial meet up between the leads. Or re-meet up. I have no problem with the story per se, but two episodes of full flashbacks, or maybe even three by the looks of things, seem a bit too much for such a short drama. I was counting on the story unfolding after their awkward reunion at the unemployment office and was prepared for a couple of set up episodes but the structure of this drama took me off guard. I’m all for experimental formats if they enhance the story but thus far, I do not feel that this format benefit the show very much, especially with its an episode per week broadcast.

That aside, it feels as though the story actually began in the past, and the present time line is more of a continuation of that story. Considered from that point of view, the past two episodes would feel less like filler and more like the missing pieces in the love story between Seung Hee and Jong Dae. In episode 5, we continue to be acquainted with Jong Dae as he struggles with raging hormones, stressful exams, sleazy friends and his family’s financial downfall. It’s interesting but I find Jong Dae to be quite the “normal” guy and therefore the antithesis of every drama hero ever. It’s more common to find heroes like him in movies than in dramas so while he might seem less charismatic, I like that he is rather relatable.

As a standalone episode, this one has a slightly introspective feel. Beneath all the silly, Jong Dae has matured a little towards the end. It is evident from his gentle rejection of Seon Joo’s confession, his steadfast love and devotion to Seung Hee, and his thoughtfulness of his parents’ situation. Yet years of failing to pass the elusive BAR exam and Seung Hee’s progressive achievements would render him vulnerable to self doubts. And I foresee that as an obstacle to their relationship.

Episode 6

Is there an expiry date for a first love? Most first loves we encounter in Kdramas are sweet but dramatic, some even bordering makjang. In Unemployed Romance, we have quite a run of the mill love story - something more relatable, it could have happened to just about anyone and it is something I can identify with. I believe for a relationship to last, both parties have to grow together. Seung Hee and Jong Dae fell for each other when they were both young and naive, the time when people actually believes love conquers all. Sadly, after ten years of "honeymoon", reality stepped in and their individual ambition got in the way. It may sound cruel but I don't blame Seung Hee’s decision to bail on their relationship. While Seung Hee made strides in her career, Jong Dae's situation remains status quo. For himself and Seung Hee, Jong Dae needed to make something of himself. Sadly, dude has the toughest of luck.

Since we're FINALLY caught up with the present, it would be interesting to see how much Jong Dae has changed. I don't think it's that far-etched to say he is still affected by Seung Hee. The key is what he plans to do about it. I don't doubt their story has ended (not with 4 episodes to go) but I do want to be shown if their relationship deserves a second chance or if they should draw the curtains on their first love and move on to better prospectives where the likes of Wan Ha is waiting.

Episode 7

Can I say this is a favourite episode of mine so far? Even though we are still revisiting some scenes from the past, but boy am I glad we have finally move on to the scene at the unemployment office. The past few episodes have changed my perception of Jong Dae but conversely they have also made me wary of Seung Hee and Jong Dae's true nature. I do believe that neither is as bad as they think they are and the break up is the sequelae of a combination of bitterness, misunderstandings and outside interference. However, their obstinance and pride will make the path of reconciliation that much harder.

That leads to my next dilemma - do I even want these two to reconcile? Seung Hee and Jong Dae have both decided to accept another person into their lives at the point of their bickering reunion. Besides Wan Ha, I am quite impressed with Yeon Woo who genuinely seems like a nice girl, well not very tactful at times but nice is nice. Which is more than I can say for Seon Joo. If there's one thing I look forward to about her, it's the fall out from her 'little' lie. She's been spared so far and showed nil remorse. If anything, I think she enjoy Seong Hee's misfortune. 

I'm a teensy bit disappointed both pairings (Jong Dae-Yeon Woo & Seung Hee-Wan Ha) have barely made any progress in their relationships before the unexpected meeting stirs up old feelings. However, despite their bickerings, it's obvious that Seung Hee and Jong Dae still remember stuffs about each other, even the embarrassing ones. I thought the cream detail was oddly sweet and this is one of few moments I could imagine the relationship to work. And of course we have the 'helpful' peripheral figures who all insist that our leads should lie to their current other halfs. I suppose they all watch dramas and realize that there's no such thing as a secret in dramaland!

Episode 8

Interesting. I'm genuinely torn in this episode. On one end, I really do like Jong Dae. I mean he really stepped up big time as a whole - I quite like his new found sensitivity and calm. Well, except for his unfortunate attack on the poor ahjussi. More on that later. I like how he handle Yeon Woo's dad who is hilarious by the way. That's a cheeky portrayal of one of dramaland's most common cliché. I cracked up at dad's derp face whenever Jong Dae reactions caught him off guard. When dad tries to reason with Jong Dae over his lack of resistance, I almost died laughing.

On the other hand, I couldn't help feeling bad for Wan Ha who continues to be awesome. He gets a kiss (yay!) and his awkward explanation (the sweetest anesthesia ever!) was so so adorable. I expected more from Kyung Hee's alleged master plan but it resulted in their first kiss, so I wouldn't deem it a complete failure. The rest of the episode is painful for the poor guy with Seung Hee obviously exhibiting more concern than is appropriate for an ex. He put up a brave front but his unease is palpable.

At least the new characters provides the funnies as the plot heads into angst territory. The misunderstood ahjussi deserves much sympathy for the worse luck ever. And well, he should maybe consider a career in pro-wrestling or something. And Yeon Woo's dad is the most thwarted rich daddy character ever. Lol.

Speaking of side characters, Gwang Pal's honest appraisal of his lack of direction in life is refreshing. They are still clueless as ever but they are candid about their own shortcomings and do not seem quite disillusioned with their lot in life, which I feel is a kind of positive thinking by itself.

Episode 9

Oof. I do believe Jong Dae's dad is possibly the most tragic character in this drama after all. After being in and out of jobs for what seems like forever, and earning the ire from mum in the process, he has a malignant brain tumour to boot. What's even scarier is that Jong Dae seems to have inherited dad's perennial bad luck. Surely father and son deserve a break from their crappy luck, especially since they have doggedly strove to improve themselves despite everything. 

I really love how Seung Hee described Jong Dae - that he was a warm person who places his family's happiness above everything. Because that's exactly how I feel. Even when he was young and immature, there is a sensitivity about him whenever he interacts with his family, more evident in his conversations with dad. That is why while I never warmed up to him as a romantic interest, I still find him an earnest young man. 

Seung Hee's presence in his life, at this vulnerable stage, may prove decisive. It is clear neither is over each other and with Seung Hee clueing on Seon Joo's lies, she will have to reevaluate her feelings for Jong Dae. She loved him then but has she ever stopped loving him? Her decision being apparent, I wished fervently all episode that Wan Ha would recognize his ship has sailed so that he could be spared of all the impending pain. I thought he was really sweet (but probably desperate) with the couple rings. Needless to say, the scene in which Jong Dae held her ring-clad hands while they kiss resulted in many a pangs in my heart. I felt like he has never set a wrong foot thus far but such is the fate of second leads. I was a bit relieved that Wan Ha wasn't tasked with the big reveal about the break up. For a moment it seems that the show would be cruel and force Wan Ha into making a bad decision so I was really glad that Gwang Pal ended up the one who cleared up the misunderstanding.

Still, Seon Joo finally gets outed and that's something to cheer about. She's been condescending all series long so I've been looking forward to her comeuppance. I still don't sense any regrets, far from it even. Boss Kim is back in the picture but I'm still doubtful he's gotten rid of his gambling habits. In any case, if he's Seung Hee's ticket to get out of her rut then so be it. With only one episode to go, I'm just disappointed that I'm not exactly waiting with bated breath.

Episode 10 (Final)

This is it. Hmm….you mean this is it? I don’t know about you, but I felt cheated. The ending felt rushed and abrupt. All the things I was looking forward to, happened off screen. Jong Dae was so wishy washy I almost hoped for an alternate ending. He started off okay, seemingly realizes his feelings and determined to reconcile with Seung Hee. Somewhere along the line, between Seon Joo’s apology and Wan Ha’s punch, he changed his mind – even after Seung Hee’s desperate plea. It’s like he heard her, but chose not to comprehend. Then when Seung Hee decides to move on (whether or not that is a wise decision is open to debate), her words suddenly make sense and he makes a last minute U-turn.
Jeez. I feel so sorry for Wan Ha who towards the end still made the best of his chances. At least we don’t see him suffer onscreen. That’s the only consolation. I don’t particularly like the epilogue where they threw Seon Joo and Yeon Woo at him, because he deserves so much better. Speaking of the epilogue, I was confused for a moment thinking the past ten episodes were merely scenes from Seung Hee’s drama. Then I saw her at the airport and realize she made her choice and the drama is a re-telling of her experience.

Another plot line that felt so wrong was Jin Joo’s relationships with Gwang Pal and Hyo Sang. What in the what! I’m pretty sure that’s a pretty wrong message to send to the audience. I mean at the end of the day, the lesson learned is “love conquers all” right?

Now that the series has ended, I personally feel that the format is all wrong. In the first place, I think ten episodes are too long for this drama. There is not enough meat to the story to warrant the episodes. In fact, I think this story works better in a movie format. I was chuckling throughout the episode, amused at the way some of the plot lines were wrapped up.

Still, it’s not all negatives for me. Lee Young Ah and Nam Goong Min turn in decent performances. Lee Young Ah looks the prettiest I’ve seen of her so far in her dramas. More importantly, Unemployed Romance introduced Seo Jun Young to me. Since Song Wan Ha is the only character I heart in this drama, it ain’t all bad.

These are the links for The Unemployed Romance Drama Club Archive at Dramafever:

1 comment:

  1. Hello. This is A.K.I.A. Talking…
    Thanks for the great review of Vampire Prosecutor Unemployment Benefit Romance 실업급여 로맨스 (2013)! I enjoyed it a lot.
    I added it to my collection of reviews for the show. The show has now an average score of 67.5%.
    Here is a link to the page if you would like to give it a look:
    Thanks again for the review. If you want to do something with my blog, please contact me. Also, if you know of reviews of this show that I do not have please send it my way!