JTBC drama “Chocolate” has concluded its run a couple of days ago; it was led by Ha Ji Won, Yoon Kye Sang, and Jang Seung Jo. It received average ratings fluctuating between 3% and 4% during its runtime.
Since I’ve checked out this drama, I wanted to talk about it but due to the majority expressing how much they liked “Chocolate,” I wondered if it was necessary at all but after giving it much thought and watching the drama, I decided to talk about it because I think it’s an interesting case-study of how far some writers have evolved since the hallyu wave gained momentum and how some of them are stuck at a standstill.
Note: as you can read from the title, this review is subjective and it’s about my opinion, not anyone else’s. Take it with a grain of salt and please know that I am not trying to diss/hurt anyone but discuss the drama.
Before we start, I want us to be on the same page on what the word ‘disappointing’ means in this case, it doesn’t mean that “Chocolate” was flat out bad or an awful drama, it’s an emotional drama for many, but to me, the overall story fell short of expectations, thus I’ve come to the conclusion that “Chocolate” was disappointing.
My biggest issue with “Chocolate” was the way the characters were structured and it’s the reason why I couldn’t take “Chocolate” as seriously as many have, I just thought it was too convenient and cringy at times.
Writer Lee Kyoung Hee who wrote “Chocolate” is known for doing cheesy overly emotional/dramatic scripts and in this case, it’s no different. It’s sad that JTBC gave the green light to such a drama considering how they’ve dominated 2019 with amazing scripts such as “SKY Castle” and “Be Melodramatic.”
It’s also very concerning that Writer Lee Kyoung Hee has almost never changed the way she writes. She’s a veteran writer but I can hardly notice any changes to the way she constructs her scripts 10 years ago versus now. Times have changed and for Writer Lee Kyoung Hee to continue using the same tropes over and over again in a similar format is sad with all honesty, but not unlikely considering the fact that she’s a veteran writer who’s been in the industry for so long, some writers just can’t break free from the mold they created for themselves.
She was responsible for many hit kdramas I liked but as I grew older such types of scripts are hardly as interesting or as innovative as they used to. I think if “Chocolate” was released in 2010, the ratings would’ve been double of what it got.
“Chocolate” in its format and structure is very similar to a kdrama that would probably be a great fit for the early 2000s yet it was somehow released in 2019, very puzzling considering how people’s taste changed over time and how little such types of scripts gain attention these days. The 3-4% ratings are actually good for a cable drama; I would’ve expected it to do worse considering the script direction but I know that people came for the actors and stayed for the heartwarming- cheesy at times- story.
The 2D characters
“Chocolate” has so many 2D characters, I don’t know where to begin and what to address first. They do grow and change over time but, for a start, the characters and their surroundings are annoyingly repetitive.
I was especially disappointed with Ha Ji Won’s character above all else, she’s straight out of a Cinderella story and feels so foreign and distant from a realistic portrayal of the modern woman, she’s so kind and so perfect in her own way that she doesn’t make sense as a realistic character. Almost princess-like and I mean it in the least compelling way possible.
She’s hit with many tragedies growing up and they play in a way that’s very dramatic and repetitive. She’s treated so poorly by her surroundings yet instead of adapting, she stays the same, so effortlessly kind, it doesn’t make any sense. She’s the classic damsel in distress that needs a saving by a hot and bothered male lead who treats her- oftentimes- like shit. How many more kdramas are writers going to pull out with the same scenario over and over again? I am shocked that in 2019, we still have such types of scripts coming out….
I was so shocked when a popular actress of Ha Ji Won’s caliber chose this character; I don’t mind sensitive vulnerable characters as long as the circumstances that led to the formation of such a character make sense, and in this case, they hardly do.
The second character I found to be absolutely annoying was her brother, Tae Hyeon, which felt like a vehicle designed to make us fall in love with Cha Young and pity her, a classical move by writers but it’s done in a way that couldn’t have made less sense.
He treats her like his wallet; he’s stupid, clingy and annoying. Despite such characteristics, he manages to find her when she’s in Europe and anywhere else and for some very odd reason; she’s still forced to look after him as if Europe is similar in its structure to South Korea…. As someone who lives there, I was shaking my head the entire time…
He’s an absolute jerk and yet somehow for the convenience of the plot becomes all mushy and kind when he finds out that his sister could probably end up losing her sight. He stays 2D for the majority of the drama runtime and when we’re at the end, he changes to this kind brother who cares about his sister.
The same goes for every main character in “Chocolate,” they’re all 2D and very similar to characters Writer Lee Kyoung Hee wrote previously if you don’t believe me, take a look at her works.
Applying the same character description to all your works is with all honesty lazy writing. How about writing eccentric characters that are different? How about experimenting a bit?
This is not to say that Lee Kang didn’t bother me but as a character, I could explain the reason he turned out this way, there was a logical explanation for the way his character ended up. He’s still a jerk at times and disrespectful towards the female lead but understood.
When I was 18 years old, I fell head over heels for characters like Lee Kang, but as I grew older, the bad-rich-hot guy trope doesn’t do the trick for me anymore because it’s so overdone that’s it’s becoming annoying at this point. I don’t find the hot rich guy who’s often rude hot anymore, he’s simply a jackass that’s not worthy of respect.
I won’t dive deep into how kdramas tricks women into believing they can ‘change’ a man or how women are often these vulnerable weak and poor characters that always need a saving, but I can tell you how it’s been bothering me more as time goes by as a woman. We’re more than that and to imply that we always love those bad boys is also wrong.
Many women who have self-respect wouldn’t take in or tolerate a character like Lee Kang or Lee Jun in real life. And for a drama like “Chocolate” who deals with real-life scenarios and the topic of inescapable death, this scenario doesn’t fit the overall vibe the writer is going for.
The script and the use of many classical tropes
Every single meeting and a lot of the key moments in “Chocolate” has been already re-created at least 300 times in other kdramas over the past 30 years. Down to the most crucial moments, the way Lee Kang is treated by his family, the way he treats Cha-Young or the way life treats Cha-Young throwing her from one place to the other in a dramatic fashion.
The thing I liked about “Chocolate” was the topic of hospice, that’s an interesting idea that will keep the audience attached because there are so many ways you can spin the script to your benefit to make sure the audience sticks around. It’s a concept that has been explored previously in other kdramas but it’s not overly used, yet.
“Chocolate” did a great job integrating stories of people at the hospice and tying them to our characters that I would’ve loved for it to have been the main focus even more instead of the cliché scenes we get in between stories about struggling families who have to coup with the impending death of a loved one.
Everything is too convenient with “Chocolate,” there is little room for a surprise; I could tell how everything will pan out from episode 5.
The writer uses the cliché love triangle that was so uncalled for to help both characters realize their feelings. Lee Kang and Cha-Young spend almost the entire drama unaware or denying they have feelings for each other, such type of scenario is expected from a teenage drama not a drama about people in their mid-thirties. The characters behave oftentimes like kids despite how old they look, that’s not to say there isn’t an abundance of such people in real life but the way it plays out is odd and uncalled for.
I want to bring up the pacing of this drama briefly; I found that at times we were hit with too many happenings all at once, and at times, almost nothing happened. There are around 3-5 episodes that had many scenes that often served no purpose and were repetitive.
“Chocolate” also didn’t need to be 16 episodes long; the same material could’ve been crammed into 12 episodes and it would have probably ended up serving the drama better justice.
Why it’s the most disappointing Ha Ji Won work in recent years
I am a huge fan of Ha Ji Won, I’ve seen almost all of her kdramas and have seen her growth as an actress, and her choice here is the reason I am writing this article in the first place. I am just very disappointed.
Ha Ji Won might have questionable drama choices but at least they were always interesting and fun despite all their flaws. Following her hiatus for almost two years, I expected an epic comeback with a unique drama, she has a loyal fanbase and many would watch any work she puts out, I believe she has the luxury to be picky, despite that, we ended up with “Chocolate.”
Taking a look at Ha Ji Won’s filmography I realized quickly that “Chocolate” is by far one of her most boring and least compelling works in recent years, in my opinion, and what I’ve explained above is why I’ve reached this conclusion.
“Chocolate” is by no mean a terrible or awful drama but to me, it fell short of expectations which were high, to say the least, I trusted Ha Ji Won would pick a more interesting project, something that is not so repetitive, something more interesting and unique.
“Chocolate” had many great scenes and tells heart-wrenching stories. All the actors were amazing, I have nothing but nice things to say about everyone’s performance, it was easily what carried the drama despite its flaws.
Because of how well they embodied their characters, the drama came to life even when at times their dialogue was too repetitive or unrealistic, they did their best.
I think I would’ve liked “Chocolate” more if it had been 12 episodes long and if it had focused on the aspect of the hospice apart from the family feud and their thirst to control the place. The ideas that could come out of a hospice are a dream for writers because there is a lot you can do with such a setting.
There were many times I felt bored or forced myself to watch because everyone was saying all those nice things about “Chocolate,” I felt that I might’ve misjudged the drama so I kept coming back to try and see what I’ve missed, I think that the characters really threw me off and prevented me from immersing myself in “Chocolate,” if they were a bit different or less stereotypical, I would’ve never written this article.
So these are my thoughts on “Chocolate,” what did you guys think of it? did you like it or not?