In a fairly radical turnabout, this episode ignores the present day adventures of Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah altogether, instead having the story take place entirely in flashback. I wasn't sure what to make of this creative decision at first, but upon further reflection "Bubble Gum" really did need the reprieve. The melodrama had become just about completely unbearable. At least in flashback mode there are decently long stretches of time between individual sad events.
It helps that the child actors, both the kid and teenage versions of both Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah, are all quite good. Although they really need better agents- I can't find their names online, not on the official "Bubble Gum" website or anywhere else. These roles are very important to do properly because Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah in flashback are mirror versions of these characters in the present day, and frequently suffer from smaller scale versions of the same mental problems.
Oddly enough, for example, Seon-yeong isn't really any more sympathetic in flashback than she is in the present day. A big reason for this is that she's perfectly polite and considerate, if not exactly motherly, to the kid versions of Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah. But Seon-yeong is quite cruel to the teenage versions of both characters if they get anywhere near an implied romance. And that much is just horribly unfair. Haeng-ah was in the most miserable part of her life and where was Seon-yeong? Where was Haeng-ah's aunt when she really needed her, in the face of a real crisis rather than an imagined one?
The parallel to the modern day is fairly obvious. While Haeng-ah's relationship with Seok-joon was hardly a major crisis, it was a problem that had obviously been festering for a long time before Ri-hwan finally got the gumption necessary to try and solve it. That much appears to be a recurring problem in the lives of these characters. They can count on each other much more than their actual parental figures.
There's enough sweetness mixed into the proceedings this episode to keep matters bubbly and cute, though, so don't worry too much about the moroseness factor. The entire sequence where little Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah ask that questions all kids eventually ask is adorable yet also quite informative. Notice how the answers the adults give vary from ineffectual, to harmful, to clueless. The lack of effective guidance in life is what's led Ri-hwan and Haeng-ah to seek out their own answers- for better and worse.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Bubble Gum" Episode 11"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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