With this episode "Bubble Gum" firmly moves into ultra-sad melodramatic tragedy territory. To the credit of the production team it is a pretty slow burn. The opening scenes barely have any trace of melancholy, which is impressive given the generally dour nature of last episode's cliffhanger. The characters in general are taking Seon-yeong's erratic behavior in rather good sport. Although really, it's the new normal so why bother fighting it?
That's about the only critical perspective I can offer for "Bubble Gum" right now. The drama has chosen this route, it's going to stick to it and...I don't really think there's any way to discuss what happens without creating some pretty major spoilers and really, most of the dramatic impact here is from the way the characters are blindsided by surprise revelations and apparently inexplicable decisions. Which do, unfortunately, have a rational basis.
This much we can see in the moments when characters discuss what's happening. The conversation between Ri-hwan and Seong-joon was, in my mind, the most informative because these are the two men who know the best what kind of mental state Haeng-ah has when it comes to romantic relationships and possible loss. The events of this episode do not take place in a vacuum. They've been built up to for a long time.
...And to be honest, I'm not sure that's convincing enough for me. The emotional problems we see in "Bubble Gum" are serious enough that throwing medical conditions on top of that just seems to be overdoing it. We have characters who are scared less because of things that are happening, and more because of what might be happening in the future. Again, note how everyone has a relatively easy time dealing with Seon-yeong, when she's already much more difficult to deal with. It's the fear that's more powerful in this case than the actual consequences.
For a drama to tackle mostly hypothetical conflicts like "Bubble Gum" is doing is a tough balancing act. When done correctly, the emotional hits are powerful. But when does less well, the story just ends up turning into a boring drag. What's more the calculations between good or bad here are so precise that I'm inclined to think viewer mood is a stronger influence on interpreting "Bubble Gum" than the actual creative decisions being made on an episode-to-episode basis. For me, at least, that's why I keep vacillating between liking this drama and not really getting it.
Review by William Schwartz
"Bubble Gum" is directed by Kim Byeong-soo, written by Lee Mi-na-I and features Lee Dong-wook, Jung Ryeo-won, Lee Jong-hyuk, Park Hee-bon, Bae Jong-ok, Lee Seung-joon and more.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bubble Gum" Episode 10"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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