Everybody in kdrama land has been talking about this drama for a while now. A lot of people described it as one of the most anticipated kdramas of 2018.
When it aired, the drama was off to a promising start. The premiere was a smashing success, episode one premiered with 8.7% and peaked at 10.1% coming in second place in the highest rated premiere drama of tvN.
However, the rest of the episodes fluctuated in the 7% range.
The drama enjoyed some level of success throughout its run and reached the double digits at one point making it one of the successful tvN dramas of 2018.
This spoiler-free review will be subjective and to some level opinionated. I will try my best to take into consideration the side of people who enjoyed it and talk about my own thoughts as well.
So let’s jump right into it.
The drama script isn’t original or particularly anything special (is there any these days?) but it’s to some degree interesting.
It piqued my interest at the start because it’s reversing roles. A rich woman and a middle-class man who fall in love against all odds and fight against the rich family members who want to end their relationship because of their difference in social status. It’s usually the other way around.
Writer Yoo Young A is behind this drama, she has written three drama scripts “Entertainer,” “Bel Ami” and “Encounter.” What I like about her drama scripts is the way she discussed social issues and inequality between men and women, it’s something that I noticed about her dramas and movies.
If I had to choose my favorite drama script she wrote, “Bel Ami” is obviously the winner in terms of uniqueness.
She also wrote a dear movie to my heart that’s titled “My Annoying Brother.” Her movie script are far more successful and interesting than her drama scripts.
To me, “Encounter” felt very simple, too simple! The writer doesn’t even try to experiment or use the good actors she secured for her drama and that’s really a shame because if I were her I would have had fun with the script.
The idea is interesting but is it interesting enough to carry 16 1-hour-long episodes? In my opinion, no!
I will not go into deep details about the script since this is a spoiler-free review but I will talk about the general idea the script revolves around.
A lot of push and pull takes place, the romance also takes a while to fully bloom, it also falls into the regular stereotype of people who try to actively ruin their relationship using their power or appealing to the lead characters empathetic side, the characters aren’t that interesting and that’s also another issue.
I feel conflicted with the script, a part of me understands why she took so long to get things going between the characters while the other part of me believes that many parts were unnecessary. Let me explain.
The writer takes you through the entire process of falling in love for a woman in her mid-thirties both the interesting and uninteresting parts, it gives you the overall vibe and sets the mood for what’s about to take place without missing a single detail.
This is why some people called the drama boring because it’s a vision of what happens when you take interest in someone, when you realize you really have feelings for them and when you realize you’re hopelessly in love.
As I said before, I understand the writer; she was aiming for a healing drama that takes you through the process rather than an intensive emotionally draining drama. This is also why you’ll see some other kdrama fans call this drama healing while others say its boring, it’s a slow melodrama.
This is why I am conflicted. I don’t know what to say about the writing exactly since I don’t know what the writer was aiming for.
Was she purposefully adding unnecessary sub-plots and scene-fillers because the basic idea is all she has? Or is it intentional because she wanted the audience to feel each character pain and understand their point of view?
She could have done so much better with the base material she had, she could have spin it in a very special unique way. She had the luxury to do so because of the cast.
To explain what I meant with ‘luxury,’ usually kdrama writers take feedback into question as they write since in most cases kdramas are written and filmed at the same time.
With such a stellar cast that’s probably being paid a ridiculous sum of money, the writer should have tried to steer clear from stereotypes mainly because the main actors draw in the audience using their names and that audience is very interested in anything they do.
With a tighter budget and a less familiar cast taking a risky move can sometimes hurt the actors and the production, but in this case we have people who can carry it using their names
With the basic plot she picked, this easily became just another stereotypical kdrama that brings nothing new to the table.
There are some episodes that you can deduct 10 to 20 minutes off that’s because there is a lot of silence sometimes, a lot of repetitive scenes of characters recalling events, at first you find this cute but as time goes back they just keep piling more previous flashback with sad background music.
There are also many unnecessary scenes that don’t add or subtract in the wider spectra of the drama, meaning their addition or subtraction has no effect on the plot.
The other issue was something “Encounter” couldn’t control… comparisons.
“Encounter” aired around the same time “The Last Empress,” “Memories Of Alhambra” and “SKY Castle.” All of the dramas I mentioned were extremely dramatic and over the top.
“Encounter” was overshadowed the moment it aired, the only reason kdrama fans were excited about this drama was because of the cast, if it hadn’t been for them, I don’t think kdrama fans would’ve anticipated the drama.
If “Encounter” had aired in a time when little interesting kdramas were available, I do think it would have been a bigger deal, its just that it aired at the wrong time and failed to capture the public’s attention because there were so many other kdramas with far more interesting unique stories.
When you have one hour to watch something, would you choose a drama about mundane events and two people constantly crying and longing for each other? Or will you pick an intriguing suspenseful drama?
This is something you guys won’t have to worry about since all these dramas already concluded their runtime, the way you answer the question above will help give you an idea of whether you should watch or not.
Aside from the plot which I still feel conflicted about, I am not conflicted when it comes to the way she created the drama characters.
Characters and performances
I didn’t personally like the way she created the characters!
Each character is very basic, the most basic form of character you’d see in any kdrama. The rich-calm woman, the sweet kind well-mannered man, the stuck up stepmother/mother/father, the supporting other parents, the noisy supporting characters that repeatedly say the same sentences over and over again…
This doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t such characters in real life, they actually exist and in abundance but it’s about the dramatic element and there isn’t much aside from the public pressure and pressure of expectations.
Bo Gum and Hye Kyo characters are extremely dull, the actors did well but the characters happen to be written in a way that makes you doze off.
Bo Gum and Hye Kyo look enchanting. Not all actresses can pull a bob hair cut but I think it suits the vibe of Hye Kyo’s character, that ‘stuck up’ powerful female CEO whose secretly trapped in a loop.
I think both actors suit the characters they played. I am going to get heat for what I am about to say but its personally my opinion on both actors…. I think they’re both good actors but not for every role, there are actors who can easily pull off roles across the spectra but those two are stuck on one side of it.
Song Hye Kyo in real life gives off a sophisticated calm vibe and I sense that in almost all of the characters she played throughout her career and she has played lots of them. Its just the way she carries herself.
This is not to say she played the same characters over and over again in every role but I rarely see her play a hyper unpredictable/psycho character that’s unlike anything she usually played in recent years.
I said this because I wanted to draw to the conclusion that this role suits her perfectly, when I read the character on paper, she is one of the first Korean actresses who come into mind for the role.
Some pointed out that this role she’s playing is very similar to the role she played in “That Winter The Wind Blows” and I won’t lie, I was reminded a lot of her role in that drama as well.
It’s the same case with Bo Gum, even though he did play a psychopath character in “Remember” opposite my lovely Seo In Guk, he still has that nice boy-next-door aura to him. It’s difficult to dislike him or not smile back when he smiles at you.
This is also why I think he suits the character Jin Hyuk as well.
I expected Hye Kyo to choose this script type for her comeback but I am disappointed with Bo Gum’s choice here, I am not gonna lie.
He spent about two years and a half MCing events and doing ads for various brands. For his comeback, he needed something with a twist, not this drama.
This doesn’t mean that “Encounter” is especially bad or what not but its not the type of script Bo Gum needed at this point of his career. He needed to try and steer clear from stereotyping himself.
In “Encounter,” he basically plays his own on-screen persona which we all love and adore. The kind sweet boy-next-door who’s extra polite, every woman wanna be with him and every man envy him.
I wanted Bo Gum to come back with a project that’ll leave an everlasting impression and “Encounter” was easily forgettable to me. It would’ve been nice if he had chosen an OCN drama, he needs to challenge himself not re-enforce the stereotypes about him over and over again.
Bo Gum is born in 1993 and he has to enlist in the military in two years, right now idols and actors born in 1990 are enlisting and according to the military law, Bo Gum will most likely have to leave before 2022 ends.
He needs to hit it while its hot so he can establish himself as a reputable actor beyond just a nice humble actor everybody likes.
In 2017-2018, he was offered a lot of roles, he was offered to lead “Where Stars Land” (which ended up going to Lee Je Hoon), he was also offered the leading role of the monkey in “Hwayugi” (which ended up going to Lee Seung Gi).
Both dramas had serious flaws with their scripts but as individual characters, Bo Gum would have been able to show a different side of himself.
The rest of the characters also do what you expect them to, none of them really try to do anything outside of the box. I think the characters seriously needed more thought.
However, if you like simple characters you’ll probably enjoy this drama. If there is one thing I liked about the supporting characters is that the writer didn’t make the script 90% about the two leads, she did try to be inclusive.
She involved supporting characters and created an environment around them, it wasn’t just about the two main characters which I appreciated.
Despite the fact that Hye Kyo and Bo Gum were leading the drama, the writer did try to make the story also about people around them not exclusively about them. That was nice to see.
This is where a lot of people get into heated debates. Some like the chemistry between Hye Kyo and Bo Gum while others, not so much!
I didn’t personally think it was THAT bad, I had such low expectations going in (I’ll explain why shortly) that I was actually pleasantly surprised when the drama aired.
Hye Kyo is married to Bo Gum’s best friend Song Joong Ki. Personally, in my head I have a certain image the Korean and international media helped cement. The two share a noona-dongsang type of relationship and they were always linked together using Song Joong Ki.
I feel weird watching an actor romance his best friend wife on screen; I just find it awkward!
Now I know they are both good actors and they did a good job at it (I didn’t doubt that for a moment) but it’s the connection they share in real life that had me skeptic, it wasn’t the age gap.
I would give their chemistry 5/10, and depending on whom you ask, you’ll either get 10/10 or 1/10. I think it also depends on how familiar you are with the actors and how immersed you were in the drama.
People who enjoyed this drama thought the couple suited each other so well, others thought the opposite.
Should I watch this drama?
People walked out of this drama having two contrasting reactions, they either liked the drama or not.
To me personally, the drama wasn’t that memorable or intriguing enough to stay in my brain even after it had wrapped up. Others will disagree with me.
I don’t mind healing dramas, in fact I love them but I feel that not everyone is capable of crafting those ‘healing’ dramas, some miss the mark and it ends up being boring.
I believe the writer was trying to go for an easily-to-digest drama but ended up with the results it did.
Whether I would recommend you watch this drama or not really depends on your taste:
- If you’re a sucker for romantic-melodramas with good looking leads and a heartwarming message, you will really enjoy this drama.
- If you’re a hopeless romantic you’ll love it.
- If you’re the type of person who likes dramas with action or a substantial plot that has no dull moment you’re most probably going to give up mid-ways.
- If you love Hye Kyo and Bo Gum, then of course watch the drama, but I doubt you’d even been looking for reviews if you were so sure.
This drama is perfect for those who just started watching romantic kdramas but for people who have watched many kdramas over the years or many kdramas over a short span of time, they will probably find this drama boring in comparison.
This drama might be more appreciated by people in their 30s; I have read many comments of women relating to Song Hye Kyo’s character and the internal struggle she goes through because she has fallen in love in her 30s.
Younger people might not be able to appreciate this drama as much because they personally don’t relate to it and see the subtlety in some scenes.
So what did you guys think of the drama? Would you recommend it?