There was no way I could pass up on this one. KBS returned with their annual Korean drama specials and the first series starred up and coming actors Jang Dong-yoon (School 2017) and Chae Soo-bin (Strongest Deliveryman). Since two of the well-liked actors starred in the same drama, I knew I had to check it out.
Titled ‘If We Were a Season’, the one-episode drama documents the lives of childhood friends Yoon Hae-rim (Chae Soo-bin) and Uhm Ki-seok (Jang Dong-yoon). It’s unfortunate that the drama is only a one-episode special and not your usual 16. Can we get another project with these two actors again please?
[I meant to post this earlier, but since there weren’t any english subs out until last month I’ve only finally been able to do a recap until now. Also, I might do a recap for the rest of the KBS drama specials if I have time].
KBS Drama Special If We Were a Season: Episode 1
The drama starts off with our two main leads Um Gi-seok (Jang Dong-yoon) and Yoon Hae-rim (Chae Soo-bin) enjoying the nice sunny weather. Gi-seok walks with his two best friends while Hae-rim bikes her way down the road. However, to her shock and dismay the brakes on her bike stop working and she can’t find a way to stop her bike. She ends up flying into the air after crashing into a small rock, but is fortunately caught by Gi-seok who runs as fast as he can to catch her from falling onto the ground (wow, he really is fast).
Once they land (in each other’s arms I might add) onto the ground and the two realize what had just happened, they quickly sit up in shock. Gi-seok pokes fun at Chae-rim for having failed at riding her bike, but she shrugs it off. “It’s been a long time, Yoon Chae-rim, ” Gi-seok adds before the drama takes us back to their long history together. Turns out that the two have been together – side by side (literally) – since they were born. From infants up until now, Gi-seok and Chae-rim have grown up together as friends and were inseparable. However, as they grew older they also became more distant and started to avoid each other.
Fast forward to the present, Chae-rim updates Gi-seok on the status of her bike before heading to school. It’s completely broken and won’t be able to be fixed so she’ll just have to buy a new one. She thanks Gi-seok and prepares to walk to school before he stops her to invite her to ride his bike with him to school. She ends up biking them to school with Gi-seok’s bike since Gi-seok injured his hand catching her the day before. Haha.
It’s the season of spring. As Chae-rim prepares to head to school, she nags at Gi-seok to give her her math book and then nags at him once again to get the chains of his bike checked since they’ve been acting weird. She doesn’t want his bike to break down while they’re both riding it, but he’s confident that his bike will be okay. Halfway into the ride, Gi-seok’s bike breaks down though so the two have no choice but to run to school. Hahaha.
As the two sneak into the school late, they come across a student hiding to smoke a cigarette — it’s the new transfer student from Seoul, Oh Dong-kyung (B1A4’s Jin Young). The teacher introduces him to the class and to Hae-rim before finishing the rest of class announcements. Gi-seok can’t help but have a bad feeling about Dong-kyung. Meanwhile, Chae-rim nags at Gi-seok to tie his shoe laces properly and even does it for him. Dong-kyung observes them the entire time. Oh ho ho.
Chae-rim and Gi-seok are complete opposites and it’s not difficult to understand why. While she’s the class president and first rank at the school, Gi-seok can care less about studying. They take the bus home together to which Chae-rim asks why Gi-seok just didn’t go straight home after returning from the bike repair shop and instead joined her at the library. He uses the excuse of sleeping better at the library than at home to answer her question, but in reality he’s only looking out for Chae-rim who has a habit of falling asleep on the bus after a late night of studying. He wants to make sure she gets home safely.
The next morning in class, Gi-seok and his two friends fill out the career planning sheet that is due to their teacher that morning. Gi-seok’s two friends quickly fill out his sheet for him since they’re short on time and need to turn in the papers to their teacher by a certain time. Their teacher – Teacher Lee – strikes a conversation with his colleague in the teacher’s office before being interrupted by Gi-seok’s friend Seo Min-joon who turns in their career planning sheets.
At lunch time, Gi-seok and his friends join Chae-rim and her two friends and eat together. They discuss about their career planning sheets, but stop because Gi-seok is still annoyed at how his two friends filled his sheet out for him. He has a talk with Teacher Lee about his sheet and is discouraged at the response that his two friends wrote, but Teacher Lee encourages him to just “try it.”
Turns out that what his friends wrote as one of the goals on the sheet Gi-seok hopes to accomplish within the first semester of school is to have a ‘passionate first kiss.’ AHHHH. So that’s why Gi-seok was so furious at them. As he comes up with a plan as to how to do this while in his bedroom, Chae-rim comes rushing in with a cup of noodles in her hand. She asks him to heat it up for her since her mother’s home and she doesn’t allow Chae-rim to eat noodles at home. That’s truly tragic.
Chae-rim enjoys her noodles while watching a romance movie in Gi-seok’s room. He stays seated at his desk, but finds himself distracted by Chae-rim. He eventually joins her in watching the movie and grows upset when she disproves of the kissing scene between the two leads as the ending to the movie. She feels like a hug between the two main characters as an ending would have been more fitting because it’s more heart-warming and because that means that their story won’t end. Gi-seok kicks her out of his room after having a debate about what the ending of the movie should have been. Lol.
Chae-rim returns to her house to find her dad waiting for her in the living room. He reminds her to keep studying and then leaves. Meanwhile, Chae-rim enters the living room and quietly and secretly checks her dad’s phone since he got a text message. She discovers that her dad has been texting another woman.
This heavily affects Chae-rim who is so upset and sad that she doesn’t even have the energy to eat. Gi-seok brings her a few snacks, but she doesn’t have the appetite for them. But what she does have the appetite for is the chocolate milk that Gi-seok is drinking so he ends up sharing it with her. Meanwhile, Dong-kyung approaches Chae-rim asking for her assistance in helping him get gym clothes. Gi-seok volunteers to assist Dong-kyung since he seems to be a bit jealous of him.
Later on that day as Chae-rim prepares to accomplish the semester goal that she had written on her career planning sheet, Gi-seok accompanies her and questions her about her relationship with Dong-kyung. She claims that they’re not close as he had assumed and worried about. She also asks him what his semester goal is, but he refuses to tell her (because his goal is to have a passionate kiss! haha). She proceeds with shooting a few balls into the basketball hoop, but fails to get at least one in. Seems like her semester goal is going to take a few more tries to achieve.
While walking back home, Gi-seok and Chae-rim have a conversation about her goals after high school. She plans to go into education and hopefully get accepted into Seoul National University. Chae-rim gets back at Gi-seok for not telling her what his semester goal was by doing the same thing to him. Haha. Give him a taste of his own medicine Chae-rim!
The next day, Chae-rim follows her dad to see what he is up to. She watches in fear and concern as they enter a warehouse together. She’s about to enter the warehouse until she encounters Dong-kyung along the way. Ahhh, what is he doing here?
Turns out that Dong-kyung’s chasing after his mother who he thinks also has an affair with Chae-rim’s father. However, unlike what they thought their parents aren’t having an affair with each other. His mother is just showing Chae-rim’s father different products and items she has stored in her small warehouse. Phew, that’s good.
The two escape hand in hand before they get caught by their parents. They have some lunch together which is going fine until Dong-kyung starts complimenting Chae-rim and calls her cute. She joke that she’s about to get indigestion from his comment before getting some more food. Meanwhile, Gi-seok meets Chae-rim’s mother while on his way home. She asks him why he didn’t go with Chae-rim to the library today which confuses him.
Chae-rim and Dong-kyung wait for the bus so they can head back home. While he asks her a few questions about her because he wants to get to know her better, she receives a phone call from Gi-seok which she rejects. While Chae-rim and Dong-kyung head back home, Gi-seok helps Chae-rim’s mother make dinner at their house. He asks Chae-rim’s mother for advice for “a friend” (aka himself) and describes his situation with Chae-rim: he wants to confess to her, but is afraid of what will happen afterwards if the confession doesn’t work out. Mom gives Gi-seok some advice while Chae-rim makes it home not too long after.
The next morning at school, Chae-rim notices that Gi-seok is sick. He asks for her to pick up his bike since he can’t because he’s sick. Later on that night, Chae-rim goes to pick up his bike from the repair shop only to encounter Dong-kyung once again. This time, he has an umbrella with him and holds it over Chae-rim’s head to protect her from the rain (AHHH I CAN’T. THIS IS TOO CHEESY I CAN’T WATCH). She ends up taking his offer to walk home with him and forgets about Gi-seok’s bike (WAIT BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BIKE?!). Before dropping Chae-rim off home, Dong-kyung confesses to Chae-rim and asks her to go out with him.
The next morning at school, there’s this suspicious atmosphere between Chae-rim and Dong-kyung. Chae-rim and her friend head out to watch him play soccer against Gi-seok’s friends and a few other guys for PE. Gi-seok, who was originally supposed to go home because he has a fever, joins the soccer game once he finds Chae-rim watching the soccer game. HAHAH. Omg, he totally doesn’t have a fever when it comes to Chae-rim huh? Out of anger and frustration, he cheats in the soccer game and plays rough against the other boys. Poor guy is trying so hard that he knocks his head against the pole of the goal post and ends up at a hospital. Maybe he really should have just gone home like he was supposed to.
Gi-seok wakes up in the hospital to a disappointed Chae-rim. He requests for her to meet him at 10pm that night at the park because he has something he wants to talk to her about.
Chae-rim celebrates her mother’s birthday with her parents. As usual every year, her dad gifts her mom with a scarf. But Chae-rim notices that something’s different this time. She discovers that her dad might actually really be having an affair with another woman once she visits her mom’s piano studio. She sees a woman with a piano sheet music that her father had gotten from Dong-kyung’s mother when he went to visit her warehouse. Turns out that he was looking into piano products for that woman, not for her mother. Chae-rim rushes out the house and refuses to believe in anything her dad says. She runs over to the park where Gi-seok waits for her.
Once at the park, she stops to recollect herself. That’s when we find out what Chae-rim’s answer to Dong-kyung’s confession was and unlike what it had seem, she rejected his confession (ooooooh). She then recalls the earlier conversation she had with her dad right before going to the park and it’s too much for Chae-rim. She heads back home and updates Gi-seok with a text. She can’t meet him at the park anymore.
The next morning, Gi-seok and Chae-rim meet each other outside in front of their houses. Gi-seok’s upset that Chae-rim never contacted him throughout the weekend, but Chae-rim is honest with Gi-seok. She knew what he was going to ask her at the park and she wasn’t going to be able to give him the answer he wanted so she decided that it was best to not show up at all. The timing was just off as a few minutes before she was at the park, she ran into Dong-kyung. Still upset and shaken up by the discovery about her dad, she remains honest and forthright with Dong-kyung. When asked why he likes her, Dong-kyung admits that he just likes her because he does and connects his feelings for Chae-rim to their first encounter ever. That’s when he knew and that’s when his feelings for her formed. Chae-rim felt the same way about Dong-kyung and also felt that same connection with him too. She explains all of this to Gi-seok who walks away in tears. And so another season passes by.
This changes their relationship drastically and nothing is the same anymore. Gi-seok barely talks to Chae-rim now and the only time he talks to her is to help her with her career goal assignment but even then that is limited. And so another season passes by.
It’s winter now and Chae-rim is getting ready to visit Seoul. Before she leaves her house, she opens the same window that she would use to communicate with Gi-seok all the time growing up. She then heads out to the train afterwards where she then finds Gi-seok there waiting for her. He walks towards her and during this walk, the drama takes us back to memory lane: we find out that Gi-seok had actually seen all the times Chae-rim and Dong-kyung were together. So he knew about them and their feelings for each other because he was a witness to all those moments they spent time with each other. Oof, that must have hurt so bad.
So he updates Chae-rim on how he’s been doing and she does the same to him. He also adds that since he had been ignoring her all this time, he wasn’t too sure how he should bid farewell to her but he does it anyways. He wipes her tears and then leans in for a hug. Instead of the passionate kiss that he believes is the best kind of ending to a movie, he gives Chae-rim a warm and tight-knit hug — the type of ending that Chae-rim believed was best for a romantic movie because it was happier and didn’t mean necessarily mean a farewell.
And so it’s the same with Chae-rim and Gi-seok. He bids farewell with her at the moment as the train approaches them from behind by holding her closely in his arms, but they both know that this doesn’t mean goodbye forever.
Wow, this drama is really bringing out all the moods associated with the 4 different seasons isn’t it?
I have quite a few critiques about the show that I’ll touch upon later, but if I had to choose my favorite aspect of the drama that almost outweighs all the critiques, it would definitely be the ending to this drama. It was so beautiful, so beautifully shot, so wonderfully acted, and well-connected back to Chae-rim and Gi-seok’s relationship. It’ll probably have to be one of my favorite endings of any drama ever and I don’t think I’ll get over it.
Maybe the drama could have been a lot better had it been 16 episodes instead of just one so I’m curious as to what this drama would have been like had it not been a KBS drama special. I do think the drama had a lot of potential to try new things or do things differently with the typical childhood friends trope that it used here. It’s unfortunate that the drama was so short though because if it just had been given more time, the transition from childhood friends to familiar strangers could have been something highlighted and help shed light on broken friendships. Just as painful as relationship break-ups are break-ups between friends and Chae-rim and Gi-seok’s relationship was no exception. How can one just go from talking and seeing each other everyday to having to pretend like you don’t know them?
A part of me feels like the drama was two different but very interesting dramas. The first half was a light and adorable story of Gi-seok and Chae-rim as high school students who often hung out with each other and completed the other in a way. And you have Gi-seok who has unresolved feelings for Chae-rim and all he wants to do is kiss her (passionately). Then in the latter half of the drama, things got dramatic and serious and Chae-rim developed feelings for Dong-kyung which is why she couldn’t reciprocate Gi-seok’s feelings. Then the two have to learn how to process and deal with this conflict. The thing is this drama had really really really good ideas and concepts, but they were all so different from one another that they didn’t blend in well nor did they connect coherently. I like the idea of Gi-seok and Chae-rim being childhood friends and having a strong connection and relationship with each other. That trope can be often over-used in K-dramaland, but in here it was quite well-done and executed because 1) Gi-seok and Chae-rim had great chemistry with each other and 2) they were so cute together and knew each other so well. I wished the drama had just gone with this trope and give us something cute and light and have the two end up together in the end.
At the same time, I absolutely loved the ending to this drama, but yet I felt like the writer started writing the drama with this ending in mind and then worked her way backwards. I felt like the ending was rushed and confusing and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. What I would have wanted was for the drama to stop using so many flashbacks and show us some things right there and then when it happened. It kept on skipping back and forth and I just had trouble understanding the timeline of it all. The drama tries to play around with its title ‘If We Were a Season’ and I could see what it was trying to do (good relationship between Chae-rim and Gi-seok during spring and summer but then it goes downhill during fall and winter), but the execution behind this had so much potential. I still really like the ending though so lots of brownie points for that.
I understood that Chae-rim was in no way obligated to reciprocate her feelings for Gi-seok. I could also see how her father’s affair with another woman made her hesitant in going forward in a relationship with Gi-seok. If she didn’t like him then she didn’t like him and there was nothing she could do about that. I don’t blame her for not feeling the same way about him and it actually frustrated me when he was being so demanding in wanting her to contact him all the time. But I do wish the drama would have done a better job with giving us a better reason as to why Chae-rim had feelings for Dong-kyung than Gi-seok. I just couldn’t buy it. The person you’ve known for your entire life and who you spend everyday with and that you’re most comfortable with is not the person you like, but you fall in love with someone you’ve only known for a month and had a strange connection with at first sight? I guess those kind of things and emotions can occur in real life, but in this drama felt like it was placed there on purpose so I couldn’t understand Chae-rim’s reasoning of why she liked Dong-kyung – especially since he didn’t have a reason for liking her other than that he just likes her and fell in love with her at first sight (and I’m not sure if it was just Jin Young’s portrayal of Dong-kyung or if it was the character itself, but sometimes he actually rubbed me off the wrong way and came off as conceited so that confused me even more?). I know Dong-kyung was there for Chae-rim during a rough moment in her life and he was there for her in other situations as well, but Gi-seok’s basically been doing that for Chae-rim his entire life. What about Dong-kyung did she like that she didn’t find in Gi-seok? I wish the drama could have explored that aspect and showed it because then it would have been more believable and I would have been more invested in their “break-up.”
I could be criticizing about these multiple aspects of the drama, but I still did enjoy watching it. Chae Soo-bin and Jang Dong-yoon had such great chemistry that I want them to act in another drama (with a happy ending). I swear, there were times where I thought Jang Dong-yoon was in love with Chae Soo-bin because he would give her all these lovey-dovey looks. When you separate the drama into halves, the first half was really strong on its own and the second half was also really good on its own. The first half reminded me of a really cute and good school drama while the second half was an emotional and sentimental melodrama with good impact. Even if this drama didn’t live up to the hype and expectation that I originally had for it, I’m still very much in love with the ending to this drama because it had a connection to a scene earlier in the drama that defined Chae-rim and Gi-seok’s relationship to each other. While their debate about a kiss vs. hug as an ending to a movie might have been minor back then, it’s proven to be so much more critical and significant later on in their lives and this transition is so beautiful. I almost shed a few tears upon seeing the open-ended ending so while I’m sad that Gi-seok and Chae-rim didn’t end up together, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’ll never be a chance or that they’re completely done with each other. Not all hope is lost.