“Love In Contract” has definitely been a kdrama that sort of subverted my expectations in 2022, lets talk about it.
Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.
The interesting characters
Ji Ho- and the legendary Go Kyung Pyo
In my review of the drama’s premiere, I noted how cute the drama was but how scared I was about how it can potentially develop from a plot-standpoint.
About my worries, I feel they’re still somewhat delayed which is good news because this means something else better happened. The characters.
On paper, and from afar, “Love In Contract” looks pretty similar to about every rom-com kdrama you can possibly envision. From the hot hot leads, to the jealousy created by the needless love triangle, and even the basic characters descriptions. However, where it excels is in how it handles some of its characters choosing to give them depth beyond just what you’d expect from a rom-com.
The first character I want to bring up is Ji Ho. I am a fan of Go Kyung Pyo and has always been. I haven’t always been a fan of his choices in dramas but in recent memory, the dude has been picking some amazing projects. I never once doubted his acting and he always delivered, but in this case, he goes above and beyond and does it in a way that I would have never imagined. He’s the main reason I am still watching.
His character could have pretty easily come off annoying and difficult-to-like. I like the writing of his character and the way he acts the character. In the areas where I feel words or a script might fail his character, he steps it up in the acting department to enhance the material given. This is the type of character I would have not necessarily pictured him playing or pictured him playing that way.
I like how the screenwriter wants to delve deeply into what made him so incapable of normal human interactions, bringing up his troubled childhood when he was told to shut up because he was blunt, even though, majority of kids are just blunt, they learn as they grow. He had no parental oversight, a death of a father, and an aunt who isn’t going to be emotionally available to tolerate him as he learns whats appropriate to say or not. This is something parents usually do and tend to teach their kids to varying degrees of success, but generally speaking, adults know how to carry basic conversations rather than avoid them altogether as much as they can. They also basically know what to say or not, generally speaking. This is something Ji ho lacks.
I also liked how the solutions presented by Sang eun don’t work beyond a surface level and he reverts back to his old habits and what he’s comfortable with the moment he feels cornered or flustered. At the same time, you can still see he’s changing a bit, one bit at a time, which I also loved.
Such an immensely interesting character and I must commend the screenwriter on writing this character so well alone.
A particular scene that stands out is when he’s dining with his boss and Sang Eun basically begins to lie her way through, the way he acted in that scene was one of the highlights of his career in my opinion. I was so amazed and I repeated the scene because I couldn’t concentrate on anything but his epic facial expressions. Such a stellar talent.
There are many other subtle things the screenwriter mentions here and there that I particularly liked in relation to Ji Ho, but I won’t bore you with more details as I feel you get the point.
Woo Gwang-Nam and Madam Yoo
The next character I like is Woo Gwang-Nam. I like how the screenwriter also humanizes his struggles with his parents over his coming out and dealing with the harsh reality of the reception of Korean people and especially those around him that he cares for.
Its a layered issue that isn’t treated lightly and I loved that. I love his interactions with Sang eun a lot, too. They make a cute duo.
I wish Sang Eun would be kinder to him in certain situations as she seems so into her own issues, but I see why thats not the screenwriter’s main concern. It comes off insensitive but I don’t think the screenwriter gives it more than a fleeting thought about how funny it is when she ignores him sometimes despite the fact that he’s always 100% there for her when she needs it.
The character tends to sometimes come off as a token character but there is some depth to him, I appreciate the depth given and hope to see more of it in the future.
The 3rd character I like is Madam Yoo. Such an interesting person. Her point of view of the world and how she carries herself despite literally being at rock bottom is very interesting and well-thought-out. You wouldn’t think somebody who lives in such conditions and have hit rock bottom to carry themselves like this, but it shows just how much she believes in herself and her abilities and how it forces people around her to treat her with respect even when she didn’t earn it or was outright intolerable and disrespectful.
Sang Eun and Min Young’s performance
Regarding Min Young’s character… its a trend I have noticed and talked about briefly in recent reviews of her dramas…. The thing is, I can’t personally distinguish Sang eun from any other female character Min Young has played in recent memory. They all feel the same. I mean the situation surrounding this character is particularly tragic than most others she played [in rom-coms], but it still feels the same with her. The same facial expressions, the same mannerism, the same tone of speech, it all feels jumbled inside my brain, I can’t tell them apart.
That doesn’t mean Min young is a bad actress, but it is something I’ve noticed. Sang Eun is one of the least compelling characters in this drama despite it being centered around the services she provided. Min Young does exactly what you’d expect from her to do and she does it well but something feels missing…. And in my opinion, its my inability to distinguish, thus, rather than feeling drawn to the concept of the character, I feel indifferent.
The character feels so bland, even at moments when it should not in theory.
Some of you might retort with, ‘she’s doing a good job, what are you talking about?’ and I think the people who might understand my POV would be those who have watched all of her previous dramas. If you’re a new fan, I don’t expect you to like or agree with what I said above. It might seems like an over-read into the situation but if you’ve been watching her for nearly 10 years like me, you might understand the angle I am coming from. At one point, an actor should try to venture out of their comfort zone or they risk losing public interest, Min Young is at that crossroad in her career. What awaits us is seeing how she handles the next project.
Kang Hae-Jin and Jae Young being overshadowed
In regards to Jae Young’s character, I’d say he’s not interesting in the least bit. I love Jae young and he’s the main reason I tuned in so imagine my shock seeing how stellar Kyung Pyo was.
Kyung Pyo completely steals the spotlight from everyone around him when he’s acting, especially at moments when he’s flustered or seems as if he’s specifically anxious. Generally speaking, in many other projects, Jae Young was the one stealing the spotlight.
Its not his fault, mainly because his character is very standard and is very bland. Its not helped by the fact that Ji Ho is a lot more compelling than Hae Jin- as a character in writing. It feels Hae Jin is begging for it and his obsession with one woman he saw when he was in high school is a bit difficult to swallow. You’d think such ‘pure/innocent’ unrealistic narratives would cease to exist in 2022, but then you’d be wrong.
I would have loved it if he had his own personal baggage explored sooner, and wasn’t necessarily your standard hot/seemingly perfect second male lead.
That would have at least made his character a lot more interesting to follow.
The plot- the typicals
While the characters are something I admire a lot about the writing for this drama, I’d say I don’t particularly like the way its been progressing. I don’t hate it but I don’t quite like it either.
I feel the things surrounding our characters can be at times very cringy and/or very expected….I mean that in the way the sequence of events carry out. It would have been nice if the focus of the drama wasn’t on that very unnecessary love triangle that we know will end in heartbreak.
I didn’t feel its beginning was justified or the reasoning behind it was ever justified from a logical point of view but you know, its a rom-com, I should be very happy with what I’ve got. The main issue with the love triangle is the fact that it was doomed from the get-go, Sang Eun was already in love with another person when Hae Jin entered the picture. This means we can’ invest as much as we can because we know that its highly unlikely that she would switch.
I see potential in the drama which is why I would have liked it if the action surrounding the characters was better suited to explore them rather than focusing on the love triangle and jealousy resulting from her occupation. Its a mixture between well-thought-out characters and very standard plot lines you see in typical rom-coms, which means it tips the balance in a negative way because what drives the plot is ultimately something so typical it can become boring.
These scenes do play into some of my favorite characters strengths and weaknesses but I still felt it could have been structured a bit better. In a way that would make this drama even more unique among the sea of rom-coms we get each year. The screenwriter still uses what you’d typically expect which can at times, be disappointing.
I also am sad that the issue with how the service isn’t explored, I expected it to be explored a lot more than I’ve seen. I talked about expecting that in my premiere review and I am surprised about how seemingly professional everything seems to be going with such premise even when with two clients, she’s having trouble maintaining that ‘professional’ facade.
Comments on future episodes and hopes moving forward
“Love In Contract” is definitely an interesting drama beyond what you would expect from a rom-com. Moving forward, I wish the love triangle will end soon, but I highly doubt thats the case as we’re moving towards people figuring out Sang eun’s identity.
I know it will also leads to show-down between Ji Ho and Hae Jin’s family- something I feel conflicted on as of this writing.
I hope the screenwriter also doesn’t credit Sang Eun to ‘reforming’ or making Ji Ho better at communication, I wish we see more of him getting treatment and building on that.
Love is important and everything but he needs to explore why he’s like that and realize that he needs a lot of professional help to get through it, he needs to realize this is not normal and he needs help. That would be a nice message to send to the audience.
And also, I wouldn’t mind if Sang Eun didn’t end up with Ji Ho. I don’t think she should end up with Hae Jin either. The dude seems so into the fact that a paid service is somewhat ‘love.’ I can see why Ji Ho would think that but for Hae Jin, its a difficult sell especially if he’s as aware of his surroundings as he’s written to be.
I expect the drama to inevitably slow down as we move forward to the 2nd half and I am 90% certain we don’t need 16 episode for this idea, but, this is the industry standard. It is what it is.
So these are my thoughts on the drama thus far, so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.