[Discuss Away!] The Interest of Love, Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow, Crash Course in Romance, Kokdu: Season of Deity

One of these I finished, two of these I dropped, and one of these I binged all the episodes in one night. Let’s dive in to see which one was which!

The Interest of Love

I really wanted to like this one. I really did. The thought of Moon Ga-young and Yoo Yeon-seok in a drama together as the main leads was exciting and carried so much potential. Unfortunately, the drama just wasn’t for me and I ended up dropping it a few episodes in. I already knew the drama wouldn’t be what I wanted it to be after watching the first episode, but I kept on going because I thought that maybe things could get better. Unfortunately, nothing really ever changed and things stayed the same.

‘The Interest of Love’ failed to build a strong set-up and foundation that could get me to buy all the romance and relationship heavy stuff that it was trying to sell to its viewers. Why is the office bank romance such a big deal in the work environment? Why is everyone so hung up on love? Why was it such a big deal if two co-workers were dating or not? Why should I be invested in Su-yeong and Sang-su’s storyline and relationship when the drama didn’t really show us much of them in a romantic perspective in the first place? I wanted to be more invested in Su-yeong and Sang-su’s relationship but I didn’t have a reason to do so. Combine that with the frustrating characterization of both Su-yeong and Sang-su and I just couldn’t get into the drama. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their characters and their decision making. I wouldn’t mind the game they were playing with each other and the push-and-pull and the back-and-forth if there was just more context behind this couple. We barely got a few glimpses of the two together in the present and got a few flashback scenes when Sang-su started out in the workplace. But other than that, this frustration and resentment between the two started once Sang-su was late to their dinner date and the drama was moving at too fast of a pace.

It’s as if this drama threw us into a pool and expected us to just be able to learn how to swim or float or survive without any help or assistance. We got thrusted into the world of their workplace (AKA the bank) and then was expected to just go with the flow and not show any resistance which didn’t work with me. I needed more context, I needed more background information, I needed more. I just needed to see more of our characters and I needed to know more about our characters first. But the drama shoved heavy romance and relationship antics down our throats from the beginning and expected us to just accept it for what it was. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this execution and style of storytelling. I actually liked learning more about the individual characters and how they got to where they were. And I get that the drama’s title is an indication of what it will be about and what it will center itself around, but I just couldn’t get into it. Who are these characters? Are relationships and romance as big of a priority to them as the drama is making it out to be? The characters weren’t the easiest to root for and their decision-making was questionable at times and they sometimes felt a bit too one-dimensional.

All in all, ‘The Interest of Love’ was a drama that required way too much patience for me to just tolerate it so watching it would have been nearly impossible for me to do. It’s such a shame because I love both Yoo Yeon-seok and Moon Ga-young and I had high hopes for this drama. Maybe the drama was trying to be too much like the novel instead of having its own identity and little spin to it. I’ll never really know why the drama went the route and direction that it did, but I knew with confidence that it wasn’t my cup of tea. Maybe in an alternative universe, the drama tightens up a few loose strings and puts together a much better performance.

Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow

It took me a while to finish the second season and I had the hardest time finishing episode 10. I tried watching the final episode so many times and every time I thought I could do it, I just couldn’t. I finally had enough patience and strength to watch the finale, but the ending didn’t really change much about what I had felt and thought about this drama the entire time: it didn’t really do much for me.

Whether it was the first season or the second, ‘Alchemy of Souls’ wasn’t really my cup of tea and a big part of it was just the scriptwriting. The Hong Sisters have had much better projects (like ‘Hotel Del Luna’) so this one just really didn’t hit it for me. There was a whole lot of rules and powers and characters and storylines combined with soul-switching and magic and firebirds and tall trees that made it hard for me to be engaged and invested. There was just too much going on in a universe that already had a lot going on to begin with and the drama just kept on piling on more and more even until the very last episode. This made it a hard watch so I couldn’t get into it 100%, but I do appreciate the cast members and how they made the most out of what they were given. The cast ensemble definitely saved the drama and made it worth watching even if the writing left a lot to be desired. It’s such a shame because I liked Go Yoon-jung and it was refreshing to see her in this season after the brief glimpse we got of her in season one. Prior to this drama, I had never seen her in anything before so she’s definitely someone who I will keep an eye out for. As for the male actors, Shin Seung-ho is still very much my bias (as much as I want to deny it lol).

Crash Course in Romance

2023 has sort of been off to a slow start in K-dramaland for me so after finishing ‘The Forbidden Marriage’, there hasn’t been another drama that’s really done it for me. This initially included ‘Crash Course in Romance’ at first as it wasn’t really a show that I wanted to try (I know I know, I can be a bit picky at times). I checked out the teaser but didn’t really feel all that strongly about it. But boy was I wrong. I decided to give the drama a chance one day while at the gym when I had finished the latest episode to ‘The Last of Us’ and, therefore, had nothing to watch. I’m ultimately glad that I gave this drama a try.

I ended up binge-watching all six episodes in one night because this drama was that good. And silly me didn’t even realize who the director and writer behind the drama was because that was also another selling point for me to keep tuning in. Aaaaand Jung Kyung-ho and Jeon Do-yeon are sooo so good both individually and together as the main leads. I can’t emphasize that enough. They’re amazing and great both together and in their own ways. The first two episodes were amazing and was by far one of the stronger premieres to a drama in a long time. The first episode started off a little slow, but I eventually warmed up to it in the end and the second episode only made things better. I can’t quite recall when was the last time the first two episodes of a drama had me feeling nervous butterflies in my stomach and had my heart fluttering throughout its run. ‘Crash Course in Romance’ started off so well and so strong thanks to its simple, heartfelt, and heartwarming story and group of central characters. Add the magic that is the director and writer and it’s no surprise the drama is such an alluring and charming watch.

The pair behind ‘Crash Course in Romance’ are also the same two people who worked on other magical dramas that I’ve watched and enjoyed such as ‘Oh My Ghost’, ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo’ and yes, even ‘High School King of Saavy.’ So upon finishing the first two episodes to this drama, I finally looked up the director and writer and it came as no surprise to me why this drama was so good. So charming. So straightforward and so relatable. So magical.

I love dramas like ‘Crash Course in Romance’ where the premise is simple, the characters are people you can relate to or have seen in your daily life (with the exception of maaaaybe math teacher superstar Choi Chi-yeol haha), and there’s not a whole lot going on. I like that I can just sit back and relax as I watch our characters go about their daily lives. Jeon Do-yeon’s character, Nam Haeng-seon, is the owner of a banchan/side dish restaurant who Jung Kyung-ho’s character, Choi Chi-yeol, is a big fan of because it was the same side dishes that he ate when he was younger. The food is his comfort food; it brings him back to his younger days and it makes him feel at peace and comfortable.

The drama shows us Haeng-seon and her life as a restaurant owner barely making ends meet, but we also witness her take care of her niece (who she refers to as her daughter) and her brother who has Aspergers Syndrome. She also has an amazing best friend who assists her with the restaurant and is there for her every single step of the way. Haeng-seon has a great support system and she’s also a great source of support for her loved ones. Out of all the characters, I enjoy watching her story and character arc the most. She was forced to grow up a bit too soon too fast to take care of her niece at a young age so she didn’t have all that much time for herself. She wants to be the best mom she can be to her daughter so other things like love and romance and relationships is not a priority. There’s a scene in the drama where Haeng-seon stops to think for a second about dating and getting back into the dating scene, but she snaps herself out of it and focuses on the restaurant again. It’s little details and scenes like this that makes her story enjoyable and makes it so easy to root for her as a character. She places her family and loved ones first; she never backs down without a fight and she protects her family first and foremost. Family comes first for her and I can only watch in awe at how she cares and protects her loved ones.

Then there’s Choi Chi-yeol: the superstar math teacher who is in high demand because of how amazing and productive his teaching is. His teaching produces favorable outcomes and results for his students and he’s well respected by many students and their parents. I’ll admit – I liked how the drama was shaping his character out to be in the first two episodes. I was actually excited at the thought of this version of Chi-yeol and Haeng-seon falling in love. But in my honest opinion, I felt as if the drama took a step back in the way that it eventually progressed Chi-yeol’s character. The drama ended up turning him into more of a tsundere type of guy which I’m a bit disappointed about. There’s plenty of dramas out there where the male lead is cold and ambiguous with some kind of traumatic event or reasoning for that behavior. The same thing can be applied to Chi-yeol who suffered some traumatic incidents in his life as a teacher which then propelled him to distance himself from others. So I get why Chi-yeol is the way that he is and why he acts the way that he act. I just wish the drama didn’t make him to be this type of character for this long in the drama.

The reason why I say this is because I was expecting the drama to go the traditional route with Chi-yeol and Haeng-seon’s relationship where they meet on bad terms but due to dire circumstances become better acquainted and eventually fall in love. Chi-yeol is the superstar math teacher whose class Haeng-seon’s daughter, Hae-yi, wants to be in so Haeng-seon needs Chi-yeol in order to support her daughter. Chi-yeol needs Haeng-seon’s food to function and operate as a human being. They both need each other for their own reasons. Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol didn’t meet each other on the best terms, but they eventually made up once Haeng-seon learned of Chi-yeol’s career and identity. So once we got over that hump in episode three, I got excited for where the drama was going. Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol will have reasons to keep in touch, to get to know each other better, and they’ll also get to see each other more. The drama will keep doing what it’s good at which is develop relationships and we’ll see this sweet relationship development between Chi-yeol and Haeng-seon.

But the drama took a step back by progressing Chi-yeol’s character to be cold and indifferent towards Haeng-seon which was a bit disappointing. Again, I get why he acts the way that he does and there’s trauma that is still bottled up inside of him. But it makes the romantic development between Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol less exciting. Six episodes in and I actually was expecting more romance between the two given that this drama is titled ‘Crash Course in Romance.’ And maybe I’m just being impatient; maybe Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol will eventually develop feelings for each other and fall in love. But I also felt as if the drama had a grand opportunity do something with our main couple, but sadly passed on that opportunity.

You watch the two text each other a couple of times so you’re like okay.. maybe there’s something there. Or you watch Chi-yeol visit Haeng-seon’s banchan restaurant every single day and night after work and endlessly crave her food so you’re like, wait, maybe there’s potential to tap into. Or you watch Haeng-seon cook Chi-yeol and his co-workers some food as they work late into the night so you think maybe he’ll start to warm up to her due to her kind act. Or you watch as Chi-yeol accompanies Haeng-seon as she’s outside of a convenience store drinking alcohol and he joins her. Or you watch as Chi-yeol felt it was unfair that Hae-yi got removed from the special class that he was teaching so you thought maybe he felt this way because he cared for Haeng-seon. Or you watch the two become more acquainted because Chi-yeol went out of his comfort zone (and broke his own rules) to tutor Hae-yi privately at Haeng-seon’s house so you think that maybe Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol finally have something going. But with every passing opportunity or reason to be excited at the thought of something happening, the drama left you hanging. You watched and you watched and you hoped and you hoped and with every interaction, you thought maybe this would be the chance. With every interaction between Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol, you thought that maybe this one interaction would jumpstart something and be the one to make all the difference. But unfortunately, the drama didn’t capitalize on these opportunities. Instead, we’re left kind of going no where with their relationship and now we’re back in square one where we have to watch things unfold once again.

It’s unfortunate because I felt as if the drama took a step back on Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol’s relationship to focus more on the mystery-thriller aspect of the show. And I get that the whole mystery in the show has something to do with Chi-yeol’s career as a teacher (which is why it’s there in the first place), but it does feel a bit distracting at times because you feel as if you’re watching two separate dramas. One minute it’s upbeat and happy and light-hearted and then the next it’s dark and serious. I’ll admit that the ending to the second episode sort of made me a bit underwhelmed because of how sudden and random it felt. You delivered in so many ways in the first two episodes only to cap it off with a reminder about this mystery that I don’t really care all that much about. And to be completely honestly, I could do without the whole mystery-thriller aspect to this show and would have been completely fine just watching the more light-hearted aspect of the drama. Or I would have been fine with the mystery-thriller story if Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol’s relationship development wasn’t placed in the back-burner for it.

I feel like Haeng-seon’s character development has also suffered as a result of the drama focusing more on the mystery aspect of the show. I was so happy to see the drama focus on Haeng-seon and Hae-yi’s relationship and watching the two bond. Parental and familial relationships (especially between the female characters) is always great to watch so I wanted to see more of that in the show. To put it nicely, I need more Chi-yeol and Haeng-seon and less mystery. Or I wished the drama found a way to balance the two. It seems as if the drama got more and more ambitious as it progressed, but I hope it finds a way to string it together.

With all that being said, I still heavily enjoy ‘Crash Course in Romance’ because of how charming it is. Like I mentioned earlier, I love watching Haeng-seon spend time with her family, but I also love watching her bond with Hae-yi who she had a complicated relationship with. Haeng-seon’s the protector of her family so she does whatever she can to make her daughter happy and that determination allowed the two to grow closer. The emotional scene where Haeng-seon came to the police station to rescue her brother was also another example of how Haeng-seon places herself second to her family. But maybe what I would love to see the most out of all things is Haeng-seon give herself some more love and credit; I’d love to see her do some things for herself or dedicate some time to also enjoying what it is that she loves. I love how family-oriented she is, but I also hope she’ll find ways to take care of herself. She deserves it. And perhaps somewhere somehow along the way, that plan will alaso include Haeng-seon finding love again with none other than Chi-yeol.

Kokdu: Season of Deity

The only reason why I gave the first episode to this drama a chance was because I was in a K-drama slump and I felt empty and I needed to watch something to fill the empty hole inside of me. So even though I had no initial intentions of watching this drama, I decided to give the first episode a try. I mean, it can’t be all that bad, right? You have Kim Jung-hyun and Lim Soo-hyang together as the main leads in a drama, it has to be good, right? Right?

Except it wasn’t and I was genuinely shocked at how wild and crazy the first episode was. My jaw literally dropped when I finished the first episode because I was puzzled as to what I saw and it had been a while since I had seen something so surprising. First episodes tell you a lot and also doesn’t tell you much when it comes to a drama, but the first episode of ‘Kokdu’ showed me what I could expect and whether to keep watching or not. In the end, I walked away with red flags and warning signs. In the end, I walked away feeling confused and also a bit disappointed.

The funny thing is.. I remembered watching the teaser to this drama and sort of thinking about how the drama reminded me of ‘Goblin’ in some ways. Maybe the bridge played a big part in that and gave me flashbacks to ‘Goblin’, but still, the resemblance was sort of there. Then you learn that ‘Kokdu’ also involves grim reapers and our main couple were lovers in a past life and you’re like.. okay, it sort of does remind me of ‘Goblin’, but maybe ‘Kokdu’ will also be its own sort of special. And indeed, it was very special in its own special ways.

I liked watching Lim Soo-hyang’s character, Han Gye-Jeol, and her story behind her career as a doctor. I enjoyed watching her stand up for herself and navigate her complicated situation as a doctor with a not-so-impressive educational background. There was potential that the drama tapped into on her background story. But then there were also other aspects behind her character that I couldn’t really understand such as her obsession with Kim Jung-hyun’s character, Kok-du, who rescued her from falling down a flight of stairs on a rainy day. This mere act alone caused her to be head over heels over him to the point where she even alluded to marriage and getting married and she was super giddy over him. I couldn’t 100% buy into it, but Han Gye-Jeol also made a big deal out of it throughout the first episode so it was something that you just kind of had to go along with.

Then as you progressed into the first episode, you learned that Kim Jung-hyun’s other character as the doctor, Do Jin-woo, hired Han Gye-Jeol to work for him because he knew she was related to a case that he was involved with so he had other intentions behind why he employed her. So up until this point, there was a whole lot going on and the storytelling wasn’t helping all that much because it was intentionally cutting and inserting the scenes in intervals to maintain this mystery related to the case (which I wasn’t the biggest fan of. I get why dramas do it, but I also dislike it when they purposely edit things in a way to drag things out further than it needed to be). But then just when you thought that was it, the episode took it one step further and introduced you to Kok-du who then possessed Do Jin-woo’s body. So yeah, the first episode was a lot. I would argue it was a little too much.

The thing is.. I’m bummed about this drama because I could sense the great chemistry that Kim Jung-hyun and Lim Soo-hyang had with each other. Individually, they’re both actors who have great chemistry with their co-stars (when they want to) and it seems like there was some of that in the first episode. Even though there wasn’t anything romantic between Do Jin-woo and Han Gye-Jeol, I could tell that there was nice chemistry between the two actors. But it’s such a shame because the first episode turned me off in a way that made me not want to return for the second episode. But my curiosity got the best of me and I started the first few minutes of episode two only to quickly realize that it wasn’t going to get any better so I ended up dropping it. The first episode was already enough to make me reach this realization, but the second episode just solidified that decision even further and stronger.

‘Kokdu’ was messy in many ways and I can tolerate messy depending on its execution and how it’s done. ‘Alchemy of Souls’ wasn’t the most organized and well-written show, but I was able to at least tolerate it and finish it even if I didn’t pay attention to every single minute of every single episode. ‘Kokdu’ was definitely different and maybe it’s a show that might be an acquired taste. Maybe it’s one of those shows where the first two episodes was rough but it gets better once everything is finally set up. Maybe the later episodes won’t be all that bad. Maybe I was overthinking it and the drama actually might get better.

But the first episode was messy enough on both the directing and writing front that I didn’t want to sit through the next few episodes to wait and see if it would turn out better. I assume Kok-du and Han Gye-Jeol will eventually fall in love and there will also be all the politics and background behind their past lives as well as Kok-du’s life as a grim reaper. But for now, I think it’s safe to say I won’t regret passing on this one or that I will get back into it. The first episode was that traumatizing that I just knew I didn’t want to go back and the only reason why I tuned into the first few minutes of episode two was to see if it could get even messier. It’s been a while since I’ve remembered watching such an overwhelming and chaotic first episode to a drama and that says a lot because I’ve seen plenty of shows out there. And for the most part, the first episode to a drama shouldn’t be this wild and crazy. Dramas out there are a hit or miss for me and this one, unfortunately, was definitely a miss.

One response to “[Discuss Away!] The Interest of Love, Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow, Crash Course in Romance, Kokdu: Season of Deity”

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