For these episodes, if I just de-emphasize the content of the dialog, ignore the scenes at the candy company, and instead just focus on the ambience, there's that same beautifully bittersweet tone which characterized the first half of the drama's run. When the increasingly artificial conflict between Moo-han and Soon-jin is de-emphasized, we can see these two as lonely, older people who are filled with regrets. They fix that feeling by trying to act without regrets for whatever time they have left.
The mature discussions about future decision-making are also back, which really sells the tone. I loved everything about Soon-jin dragging Moo-han to the doctor. On the superficial level, she's betraying him by going against his wishes. But on the deeper level, her actions are entirely in line with how she and Moo-han have bonded over sadness concerning past actions to which they could have reacted differently. That's why, ultimately, Moo-han is unable to argue with her.
The candy company does still linger large enough as a villain that I can't help but be annoyed at how Soon-jin is effectively fighting a giant conspiracy that seems to exist for the sole purpose of making her miserable. Granted, once we found out about Soon-jin's dead daughter, we knew that her regrets regarded reaction, rather than Moo-han whose regrets regarded action, Soon-jin was always going to come off as the martyr in comparison. But that really didn't need to be so literal.
The other subplots have also suffered because they, too, were left to wither in the face of Moo-han and Soon-jin's endless conflict over whether they should stick together or not. I still can't get past how Seok-yeong simply disappeared for most of the story only to pop up again way more concilatory for no apparent explanation. I did like the big moment that Moo-han had with In-woo though. Score some big points for platonic male friendship.
I-deun remains great though. Sure, she had no arc, but we knew where she was going. I-deun has gone from a spoiled brat to a young woman forced to confront the specter of her father in death. A lot of this is just a matter of Jung Da-bin being a very talented performer. I-deun is imminently unpleasant, yet even she can detect the change in tone. While even I-deun has regrets, at least she's young enough to make a more significant course correction. Not that it's ever too late, of course.
Review by William Schwartz
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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] "Shall We Kiss First" Episode 35-36"
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