“Thirty Nine” Episode 1 To 6 Review- Confusing Writing And Questionable Messages

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JTBC’s “Thirty Nine” has been gaining attention among fans and k-netizens, the drama has been doing quite well in ratings for JTBC has struggled in 2021, but the drama has also been under fire for its plot.

Here is a review of JTBC’s “Thirty Nine” first half. Please beware that the drama has only 12 episodes, not 16.

Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.

Let us begin!

Cha Mi Ju and the cancer diagnosis

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I spoke highly of “Thirty Nine” premiere episodes if you’ve read my review so I do find it sad that I am left a bit confused by how it went from there, and I don’t know what to make of it, for the most part.

Since the premiere episodes, I’d say “Thirty Nine” has had its ups and downs in terms of the writing for each episode.

One of my first issues with the drama was how the cancer news was handled by the screenwriter. We spend a solid episode focusing on Cha Mi Ju’s reaction to the cancer diagnosis of Chan Young, while I do get how painful the news are, I found it self-serving just how much an entire episode centered around her feelings and her feelings only, I get she’s sad to see this happen but it feels odd that we’re spending an episode focusing on her rather than on the woman who will die in six months. It felt a bit tasteless on the writer’s part.

I understand that Son Ye Jin is the lead but I found the entire arc of how the screenwriter went about this exact revelation to be questionable at best, and this is me being nice.

To add insult to injury, Cha Mi Ju proceeds to tell a man who is basically a stranger that her friend is terminally ill. She spends some time contemplating telling Chan Young too, even if we assume the doctor didn’t tell Chan Young at the request of his friend Cha Mi Ju, it is still very inconsiderate of her to tell someone else before the concerned person in this case.

I’d say the entire way, the entire writing for how this situation was handled wasn’t to my liking. I am not against portraying people as ‘dumb’ or ‘inconsiderate,’ not at all, but the issue here is that the screenwriter just brushes those things off while asserting to us the viewers just how kind and well-mannered Mi Ju is, so which is it exactly? I would have rather see them fight over this point. If you’re trying to tell a life drama about such topics then being mindful of the way you write it is important in my opinion.

Chan Young and Jin Seok- a toxic pair

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As I said in the beginning of the review, “Thirty Nine” is under fire, here I’ll explain why. The drama is under fire for ‘romanticizing’ extramarital affairs. k-netizens are being critical of the screenwriter because of this, and I agree.

Before I start, I know its not the actors’ fault so this is just a look at how the drama is being written. I still like the two actors behind the characters and my opinions of their acting will not be changed, I still think they’re amazing.

I don’t understand what messaging screenwriter Yoo Young A is aiming for. I don’t understand her point of view, what are you trying to say? Are you trying to justify their affair? Downplay it? What are you trying to do with their story?

I am genuinely curious.

The two don’t have to sleep together for it to be considered an affair, the dude is already checked out and deeply in love with another woman, this is still cheating. The screenwriter then attempts to kind of make us sympathize with Jin Seok because it turns out that his wife has lied to him about the child being his, thus, trapping him in this marriage.

While I do understand this is terrible of her, this still doesn’t justify what they’d done nor excuse it. Also, they were cheating with each other even before this fact was made known so….. what is your point exactly?

It seems she’s trying to paint the wife as the terrible person or the antagonist of the story but so far, Jin Seok seems super sketchy, selfish and unreliable so I don’t know why I am supposed to believe him. He says the wife doesn’t treat the son well…. Then show it.

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Both of their characters are terrible for this but Jin Seok takes the cake. But instead of the screenwriter showcasing this in the light it deserves, she instead attempts to excuse their behavior and make us sympathize with them.

I still feel bad that Chan Young is dying but it doesn’t mean I like her character or excuse her at all. Some fans are trying to defend the drama by saying this is a ‘drama’ and it does happen in real life too…. Does it still feel okay to attempt to justify two people who have been basically together while he was married? Just because its drama and such situations happen in real life doesn’t mean it should be romanticized.

Of course, this isn’t a deal-breaker for me but its annoying above all else the way the screenwriter deals with this issue. No biggie, talk about it, but don’t excuse it. Chan Young and Jin Seok are both terrible human beings still for what they had done. At one point, Chan Young suggest he divorces his wife and she’ll take care of the child, which is a pretty f*cked up thing to say.

I am so curious to see how she plans on wrapping it up in relation to this story arc because it feels needlessly messy. There are about 10 different better ways she could’ve dealt with this subject without compromising our likeness towards Chan Young and Jin Seok. I don’t understand thus far why she made the character who is dying a cheating character, I’d assume you want people to sympathize and feel for her but then you make her character very unlikeable in the first episodes, the writing choice here feels odd.

Also, the screenwriter attempts to create some sort of ‘goals’ Chan Young wants to achieve before her death, one of them is very questionable, she says she wants to find Mi Ju’s parents…. But… like… I didn’t see Mi Ju discuss her biological parents aside from some flashbacks of her teen years. She didn’t bring up wanting to find her parents nor was it an issue, so for Chan Young to just say she wants to do that regardless of how Mi Ju responded to her felt very…. Weird. I’d assume such life altering decisions should be left for the adopted to contemplate.

What I like

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Despite my complaints with the drama, I still think there is beauty in it. First, I like the chemistry every couple share with each other.

Also, I really liked the look they provide regarding orphans, their adoptive process and how things can go different ways depending on how the parents handle the adoptive child. I don’t often see it discussed with such delicacy in kdramas.

I also love the friendship between the trio, they’re so cute together and share great chemistry. I think the three actresses are so talented and you can tell they worked hard to establish a good rapport for the drama to work well. The three actresses performances are amazing. I also especially love Lee Mu-Saeng’s performance here, when he cried when he found out the news, my heart just broke into pieces, he’s always been so talented and I am so glad he’s getting more spotlight.

Conclusion

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“Thirty Nine” has been, thus far, a mixed bag for me. Generally speaking, my perception towards a drama doesn’t shift greatly from my premiere episodes review but this time, I’d say I was shocked by how much it changed.

Like I said, so many of the drama characters’ decisions feel so selfish and inconsiderate but they’re masked as great gestures, and even with the sugarcoating the screenwriter is aiming for, the outcome still feels off. It feels so weird how she thinks those actions are ‘nice.’ It screams ‘lack of self-awareness.’

Some episodes were fun while others were a bit boring and this drama is only 12 episodes long. I still think 12 is a bit too long for the topics it tackles, but 12 is still way better than 16. I expect the drama to slow down even more in the second half.

Screenwriter Yoo Young A has written some of my favorite Korean movies ever, she’s always brought women’s issues to the forefront of her projects and I appreciate her for that. However, her dramas never came close to her movies, some screenwriters just do better with movies than kdramas.

So these are my thoughts on Thirty Nine, so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.

Tags: Thirty Nine

10 thoughts on ““Thirty Nine” Episode 1 To 6 Review- Confusing Writing And Questionable Messages”

    • Thrn wuit whonare you to influence us. Next time you make story and try to sell it. Perhaps you have a luck. Your comments not worth it. So watch others ok

      Reply
  1. I watch this drama mainly because of Jeon Mi-do

    Hmm, for me, there’s really nothing confusing with the story from Ep. 1-6.
    Jin Seok and Chan Young’s relationship I think, is a mirror of the Korean culture where extra-marital affairs are rampant; well, as I observe, most of the Korean dramas have this plot – just like The World of the Married and so many other series. As I understand, they were really the ones who spent time together, until Jin Seok got his now-wife pregnant, even though he still loves Chan Young.

    As for Chan Young’s wish to find Mi-jo’s biological parents, I think it wasn’t necessary for the writer or the director to include scenes where Mi-jo brings up conversations about wanting to find her parents. In a drama series or even a movie, there are hidden stories that they do not show in the screen. This is not the only drama series that has this kind of style. I think all dramas do that.

    That’s it. I just wanted to share my thoughts about your review. I really like this drama because it talks about love between friends which I can also relate.

    Reply
    • I totally agree with you on this.
      Just because it didn’t go as you think it should be or it is not the ideal thing doesn’t mean it is not happening in real life because it sure does.
      Besides we’ve only seen just half of it. ☺️

      Reply
    • I agree but I don’t think it is just Korean culture, it is too subjective to say this. In the French culture, when the Prime Minister had 2 families if I recall correctly. I think the writer for this article is not realistic. There is nothing shocking about this drama. In fact, it’s life. How many people do you know or stories do you hear, of star- crossed lovers? That’s the case with Chan Young. I mean what kind of person, trapped another person in a marriage by claiming a child is his? Just because she loves him. Regardless, if the man doesn’t love me, there is no way I will hold on to him. What’s that called? Obsession? Possession? And so what with Min Joo telling the story to a guy that she just met but have connection with? Haven’t you ever heard that sometimes it is easier to tell a stranger than to tell your own family / friend? I have been in a situation that I need to get it out of my chest but I can’t talk to my friends or family for the precise reasons because they are my friend and family. Seems like the person who wrote the article has been living a very protected life. I like that the characters in this drama have flaws because then I can relate to the story.

      Reply
      • Yes, yes, yes! These are my exact thoughts as I read this article. Life is real! I think that the writer of Thirty Nine does an excellent job at portraying that to the audience. And the actors are amazing. I feel like the writer of 39 is trying to speak some truths into the Korean audience that need to be heard and seen. And one of those truths is that “Life is real and it is hard, so stop pretending that it’s not!”

        Reply
  2. First of all , I looked forward in watching the show because of Son Ye Jin .. I loved her on all her other movies I watched. For some reason , this show makes me so bored that I stopped watching it on the 3rd episode and I decide to finish it when all episodes are done…. Maybe if I don’t have any other better Korean movies to watch.

    Reply
  3. Another boring kdrama tbh. Make worse by the overacting of Son Ye jin. She’s so unnatural and ‘pompous’ in her portrayal of the character. Simply cannot continue watching her trying to act cutesy. One other thing I find it foolish of the writer to show how the un-professionalism of the doctor for telling Mi Jo about the illness and not to the patient herself. And for Mi Jo to blurt it out to someone else about the illness is double blow…

    Reply
  4. The storytelling is so dragging. SYJ’s natural acting has waned in this drama, so so far from her natural portrayal in SITR. Her anguish knowing that her friend is dying is already overextended and overacting. Her facial expressions looks like she’s very conscious in front of the camera.

    Reply
  5. I agree with the most of what you said in your review. And personally, I am stopping watching it because the way the story goes is very weird. The relations between the characters are unbalanced. The drama was advertised as the story “about three women”, whereas it is basically all about Mi Ju’s emotions, reactions, life, etc. And what is more strange is that she is not even a central point of the drama – the central point of the story is the dying Chan Young, or I don’t understand anything. But it turns out to be almost all about Mi Ju – we already know a lot about her family, her parents, her sister, her boyfriend, her work, even about her hobbies. And of course we are shown what is great friend she is. So what about Chan Young? What about her family, what about how she lives the sickness day to day? what about how her parents take it? What about Joo Hee? She is shown as a third wheel here clearly with a very little air time. So it is very unbalanced. Very different from, for example, “Drink First, Work Later” drama – where it was also about three friends but the writer managed to develop all three characters equally and it is what made it into a great drama. I don’t know – maybe they wrote “Thirty Nine” specifically for Son Ye Jin, but I feel like I have had enough of her during the first 6 episodes and so I won’t watch the rest.
    Now, about the relationship between Chan Young and Jin Seok. For me, the fact that they stayed close after he married or whatever – this is not a point for me. But what she is saying to him is just incredible. So first, she is saying to him to divorce. That is not new for those who are in extramarital relationship. But what she is saying after she found out the diagnosis….wow. She is saying now not to divorce because she won’t be there. Just to make it clear – the guy does not love his official wife, they are in a very hostile relationship and the child is seeing and most probably suffering from it. Because as you know “unhappy parents – unhappy children”. So it is clearly better for him to divorce – not in order to get together with Chan Young, but because you just can’t live like this. But Chan Young is telling him to stay with his wife, whom he does not love, because she finally won’t be able to take her place. This is just some perverted thinking. So yes – writing sucks big time as I see it. Last thing – the world is now in such a whirlwind so watching some drama without even a single positive or right message is just not appealing to me. So bye bye thirty nine.

    Reply

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