ENA’s “Strangers Again” was definitely a drama that piqued my interest for a variety of reasons, and now that it has come to an end, I thought it would only be appropriate to discuss what it was and how I felt about the entire project, including the highly debated ending.
Note: this will be a spoiler review of the entire drama. This is a subjective review.
“Strangers Again” was one of those kdramas that I didn’t know would cause people to be split on two polar opposite sides like that depending on what character they perceived to be the worst offender in the relationship, and quite honestly, on both sides, what everyone had to say to justify why they hated one character more over the other made a lot of sense.
Of course, I am talking about Eun Beom and Ha Ra. But before I get into that specifically, I want to tackle the script in general before going into specifics.
Initially, what drew me into the drama was its candidness in tackling the subject of marriage and divorce. Despite the outlandish setup for the legal cases that don’t make basic sense, I liked how the screenwriter didn’t shy away from presenting couples’ issues so well, that part was pretty much as real as it can get.
Added to that, the cases weren’t about ‘winning’ most of the time which I found to be quite amusing as an idea. Since in most legal-based kdramas, its all about winning, in this one, the screenwriter realizes that divorce is not truly something you’d want to always ‘win’ at, sometimes, both parties are at a loss.
I also liked how not cut and dry the cases were and how not everything was what it appears to be on a surface level. The screenwriter didn’t mind pointing the finger at whoever caused the most issue whether that be the man or the woman while acknowledging at the same time the societal issues South Korea deals with.
This is why I would hesitate to say the drama didn’t do some good things, but the overall structure of the story as a complete body of work is lacking in many ways.
First of all, the drama stalls. This affected its structure, you can feel it visibly as we marched toward the 2nd half.
Second, the screenwriter didn’t seem to know how to tackle the relationship between Eun Beom and Ha Ra as well as she handled other cases. I liked how she showed Eun Beom and Ha Ra both screwed up royally but the execution of many of the plot points after the reveal of the reasoning behind the divorce fell short.
So now, we’re left with a very standardized version of what you’d expect from kdramas about such topics, which sort of makes this drama not carry any weight. What made “Strangers Again” special to me initially was how it seemed to be heading in a different direction.
This cumulates in the way Eun Beom eavesdrops on a conversation thats not even about him hearing her talk for like a minute and then deciding to end the relationship based on it. Even after that, the way he ended the relationship was very immature. I’ll delve into that deeper below!
In terms of Bi-Chwi and Si-Wook continuing their relationship, I had no issues with the way the screenwriter structured which I’ll also explain below.
The characters- focusing on Eun Beom and Ha Ra
“Strangers Again” characters are some of the most conflicting ‘human-like’ characters in a kdrama I’ve seen in a while. I liked that.
I loved how the screenwriter didn’t attempt to brush their actions as ‘romantic’ or such when in the grand scheme of things, they’re not. That was one of the drama’s strength points.
They may be frustrating but thats how humans are in real life, exes get back together not having learned the lesson the first time. I understand that fully. However, in the case of Eun Beom and Ha Ra, the structure of the story should have been handled differently.
The type of messaging and ‘moral of the story’ the screenwriter seems to be going with for Eun Beom and Ha Ra differs from Bi-Chwi and Si-Wook slightly but in generality, its that differing characters with vastly different outlooks on life would not make for a good couple.
In the case of Eun Beom and Ha Ra, its their 5th time at it. The way their story should have unfolded this time should have been different, and handled with more maturity to justify why the screenwriter would even make the two characters get back together because they’re not young adults anymore.
When they gave it another try, the screenwriter should have had Ha Ra examine what she truly lacked in the relationship and the way she handled it, how selfish and in her own mind she tends to be.
The screenwriter did say she understands why he left her like that, but still, I felt the script lacked the proper examination of why the couple should get back together and how their approach to their relationship this time should drastically differ too.
Eun Beom still is a coward, the only difference is, he’s self-aware which in my opinion made him less insufferable as a character. But in the end, he was the most insufferable to me, that ending solidified that. His cowardliness in handling their breakup this time around was the last straw for me, even given his trauma. If he had ended it more maturely and talked about it with Ha Ra openly and not dismissively, I would have reacted differently.
Both characters are deeply flawed and I don’t quite like them together. I think there was a sizable amount of fans this time wishing the main couple would not end together, I was one of them.
There needed to be a whole transformation on both Eun Beom and Ha Ra’s part to justify that. The screenwriter should have aimed for this to be the particular lesson she tries to covey to the audience with them. That if you’re now on the older side and want to rekindle a relationship that disastrously failed due to issues with both characters’ personalities, it should start with the acknowledgment of the fault, and the improvement on the said issues.
It should have been that the screenwriter wrote that Eun Beom should either seek treatment for his mental health trouble or be encouraged by Ha Ra. This should have happened while they were dating, and the screenwriter should have explored how they dealt with it.
This also meant that both of them needed to make an effort to communicate more effectively and be more conscious of the needs of each other.
Even with this in mind, the screenwriter makes it a point to tell us directly and multiple times just how the two wouldn’t work together. The reason is… the kids part.
A child is a major responsibility that can truly change your life to better or much worse. Getting into a relationship at this point in their life knowing well the kids part is not agreed upon is a major issue.
If Eun Beom had treatment and found out the core of his issues and sought after fixing it, then I think he would have changed his mind about kids, but that doesn’t happen. He only seeks help when the relationship is over… which should have happened the 1st time they got a divorce, not this time.
This just makes the entire arc of the rekindling of their relationship feel not only forced but extremely dumb.
the characters- a look at Bi-Chwi and Si-Wook
Now in the case of Bi-Chwi and Si-Wook, while also frustrating, the difference is this is the couple’s first go at it. So even if their ending is not what I would have liked, I still feel its realistic.
Despite what any rational being would see as obvious signs their relationship is doomed to fail, they don’t see it because they’re in love… which tracks well with how actual incompatible couples behave in real life.
They love each other while being aware that in the long run, it might not work. If you ask me, I’d say they’ll get a divorce around four to five years from now. Bi-Chwi struggles with giving in and knowing when to do so due to pride, Si-Wook ends up being the one who always yields, over time, this will become extremely difficult for him to handle.
Bi-Chwi’s character is very rigid and hellbent on her own ideals not realizing its costing her a good husband, who is not perfect by any means but still someone who is willing to try, who wants to give in just to keep her.
Now, in whatever relationship in life between a couple, there will always be one who gives in more than the other, I think the screenwriter did a good job at demonstrating that unfolding before our eyes. In the case of this couple, I think she meant to show just how incompatible some couples are and how they come to be. I felt it was justified, like I said previously, given its their first go at it.
However, the writing for Eun Beom and Ha Ra is not the same thing and thus, didn’t make much sense to me.
“Strangers Again” is one of those dramas that could have been much better, its filled with ‘what ifs’ that I felt while watching it. Would I recommend it to anyone? Highly unlikely, but I still think its an interesting watch if you don’t get particularly annoyed easily.
If you happen to love the lead actors in this drama, I think you would enjoy it, or maybe not, because the ending is not a particularly happy one. Many watch because they like happy endings and feel its a wasted watch if not.
I think the screenwriter has some great ideas, next time, I wish she write for an OTT platform and comes up with a much denser and shorter drama, I think she’d excel at that.
So have you guys seen the drama? any thoughts on it?