2021 has been an average year for kdramas, when you compare it to 2020 which was filled with great content, you begin to understand what that’s the case.
Today, I am here to talk about my personal list of the most disappointing kdramas of 2021.
Note 1: the below list doesn’t include any kdrama above 20 episodes, and may contain spoilers from the said dramas. This article is a personal opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.
Note 2: Disappointing doesn’t mean awful/bad necessarily, but it means that I had higher expectations of the said dramas and was shocked by how the results came out, hence I was ‘disappointed.’
The sh*t show that was the penthouse has been an interesting phenomenon to look at and for a lot of reasons. From the hastily filmed and released seasons to it becoming arguably the most successful seasonal kdrama ever, the penthouse has been both entertaining and disappointing at the same time. A feat that isn’t easy to achieve.
Notice how I stated its the 3rd season not the 2nd one I have an issue with. While the 2nd season was crazy and beyond illogical, things get extremely weird and frustrating in the 3rd season.
When your own screenwriter does interviews admitting she has no idea why she keeps writing things that lack sense, you know things ain’t going well. The screenwriter’s solution for the 3rd season was to dig a deep hole for herself, a hole so deep it ended up swallowing her whole.
The script goes beyond crazy into the unbelievably frustrating and dumb territory. The penthouse series was never supposed to be taken seriously but even with most audiences suspending their disbelief to the max, it still couldn’t be saved.
The first two seasons were ridiculous, however, the 3rd season was dumb. Ridiculous is fun, dumb isn’t. What became of the series was something so utterly sad. Killing and then resuscitating characters became so boring and so cliché that we couldn’t take seriously anything the screenwriter put out. This in turn made it so that we couldn’t actually process much of the terrible things that should have had an effect on us.
The last episodes feel like a betrayal to the viewers who stuck around. In the ending, the screenwriter finally decides to go the psychological toll route which doesn’t feel earned in the slightest. It could’ve been saved by the ending, but she butchered it and tainted the legacy the drama could’ve had. It was sad to watch it become this ridiculed despite the hard work people have put into it.
Out of almost all the kdramas on this list, “Doom At Your Service” has one of the most interesting premises. Sadly, the execution was terrible.
“Doom At Your Service” suffered deeply from the 16 episode format, I think had it been 8 episodes, it would’ve been flawed but still landed on my best of 2021 list. The story of “Doom At Your Service” doesn’t deserve to be this long, the idea is too simple to be stretched out to 16 episodes. The stories are poorly woven together and the screenwriter purposefully withholds information for the sake of extending the ‘reveal.’
I haven’t seen a screenwriter purposefully refuse to properly explain their plot this much and I’ve been watching kdramas for a decade. Most screenwriters would’ve just explained it away but our dear screenwriter in this case chooses to not delve into the most important detail of this drama for the sake of ‘the reveal’ and the ending that felt so unearned and frustrating.
It felt as if the screenwriter heavily relied on the actors’ star power to carry the drama which made me feel even sadder for them because you can see the potential this had and the things it could have achieved.
Netflix’s “Hellbound” has been on my radar for a very long time, the casting news was enough to get me amped up for the release. The drama was released in November and it had to be the most disappointing kdramas I’ve seen of 2021. This is a very personal pick as I don’t think this drama is terrible but my expectations were so high. I didn’t expect to be let down by it considering the names behind this project.
“Hellbound” is a hit or a miss depending on who you ask, and while I understand the praise it received, I still believe it truly failed to live up to the hype and its potential.
“Hellbound” goes crazy around the half-point mark, the drama derails and loses its charm when its leading man Yoo Ah In is killed. The drama screenwriters fail to make sense of the events that happen.
The finale drives the point the idea that they truly had no idea how to construct a script that would make sense beyond just being a social commentary on religions and cults. Having a message is nice and all but it doesn’t mean it should overshadow the script.
Aside from the commentary they provide, the drama fails to make sense [within its universe] and ridicules its own premise for a very cheap payout. To make matters worse in my opinion, the director behind the drama says he doesn’t have plans for “Hellbound” season two and that the continuation of the story will proceed as a cartoon.
So even if you liked the drama, you have to wait at least 2 to 4 years before a possible second season is crafted which is frustrating, to say the least.
We kicked 2021 with “She Would Never Know” and while I never expected it to be the best… I didn’t expect it to be so unapologetically toxic either.
“She Would Never Know” has one of the most manipulative toxic male leads I’ve seen in kdrama land recently, and the issue isn’t that he exists but that he’s portrayed as a hopeless romantic who deserves to be awarded the girl because he’s in love and a hot guy. This is the nice guy trope that has been criticized in media a lot recently. The drama has it but instead of taking the chance to criticize such behavior, it is awarded instead.
“She Would Never Know” has one of the most toxic relationships in a kdrama and its so sad such a script was written in 2021. It was truly disappointing in that regard. What is more sad is the fact that there were people defending the male lead.
Rowoon has a lot of young impressionable fans and the screenwriter should’ve definitely taken that into consideration. TV shapes the way we believe a lot of things, aside from the people who say they are unaffected, there are many who knowingly or unknowingly end up being influenced by the awful messages about love the drama conveys, if even one young impressionable teenager walked away from this drama thinking it was a healthy relationship, that would be bad.
Generally speaking, time travel content regardless of whether its a kdrama or not, is very difficult to pull off. So when I heard our Shin Hye was coming back with such a premise, I took it with a grain of salt but even that couldn’t have prepared me for what “Sisyphus: The Myth” turned out to be.
The issue is with me, the fact that yet again, a drama about time travel surprises me with how nonsensical, convoluted and complicated it is. The entire premise becomes very difficult to explain the more you go on and the fact that the drama has 16 episodes amplifies the issues it has.
The CGI was also questionable and laughable which isn’t a good combination with the wacky premise it dealt with. You’d think that with such an ambitious idea, the studio would put the money into it… They did… about $20 million but the results were lackluster to say the least.
The two leads also share horrible chemistry which makes it even more difficult to root for them ending up together.
The reason I don’t title such articles ‘worst kdramas’ anymore is because I don’t necessarily think the list includes the worst, but rather the most disappointing and there is a huge difference between the two words.
“Lost” is by no mean the worst kdrama I’ve seen, in fact, if you look closely and sift through the unnecessary parts it had, the drama carries weight and a beautiful message underneath, but it has loads of issues too.
Advertised as the return of Jeon Do Yeon and Ryu Jun Yeol, I was highly anticipating the drama. I expected the two actors who have been praised for their picks in the past to have chosen a worthy kdrama for their return to the small screen after a while, turns out, I was wrong.
“Lost” has many unnecessary plot points thrown around, it also has a lot of filler unnecessary scenes that serve no purpose other than padding the run time and despite being considered a slow-paced kdrama, it still suffered from a lack of enough intriguing plot to justify 16 episodes.
The screenwriter hints at ‘massive’ reveal only to shock us with how mundane they truly are. Overall, “Lost” has its own charm but its not the type of kdrama you’d recommend to everyone due to its flaws and the theme.
I have no idea what’s the deal with Lee Min Ki’s thought process when he’s picking kdrama scripts but I’ve been disappointed by most of his projects in recent memory.
Granted, its not entirely his fault that the screenwriters butcher every kdrama he’s in but some scripts are clearly deeply flawed from the beginning.
“Oh My Ladylord” has one of the most confusing plot lines, it walks a fine line between magical and reality but it does little with it and the entire ‘magical’ part of the plot feels not only forced but deeply unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. It is used to heighten tension without bringing enough substance to carry the drama forward.
Aside from that part, the drama is about as typical as they come. It feels like it should’ve been made in 2002. The screenwriter behind this drama started out in the early 2000s and his projects are so far and in-between, this shows clearly through his writing. It’s puzzling that such a script was made in 2021.
“Monthly Magazine Home” is another drama that has some of my favorite underrated actors, too bad the drama fails to tackle the topic its supposed to be about.
The housing crisis is affecting all of us. In many places around the world, people are struggling to afford homes, the issue in South Korea is especially bad because house prices are through the roof, if you want to buy a modest apartment in Seoul it would cost you roughly around 1 million dollars, which is ridiculous to say the least. So a drama about home ownership sounds a like a terrific idea on paper, too bad it was the most stereotypical and cliché kdrama to tackle such an interesting and touchy subject.
“Monthly Magazine Home” instead opts in for the most ridiculous and over-the-top typical scenarios of a love triangle and the most standard romance drama in disguise of a commentary on the housing crisis.
The ending further proves the writer truly had no intention to properly explore the issue and discuss it. What made it worse was that it ends with the female lead owning a home, somehow glossing over what should have been the most important plot point of the entire drama.
“My Name” has been a drama that I also had high expectations of. Led by Han So Hee and Ahn Bo Hyun, I expected a different more exciting outcome.
While “My Name” isn’t necessarily poorly written, it isn’t well-written either. The drama falls in that typical setup for the topic it covers, the only difference is, we have a female lead replacing the male lead in such a situation.
“My Name” had the opportunity to truly shine and distinguish itself from other dramas with similar themes, but it fails to do so and goes through every single possible scenario you’d expect from it.
The watching experience became more of a list ticking off points I knew they were going to discuss. “My Name” doesn’t attempt to challenge the narrative around such topics and it is very predictable which is its ultimate downfall.
It remains fun as long as you’re willing to take it at face value and not truly think of it.
Sadly, these were my picks for the most disappointing kdramas of 2021, do you agree or disagree with me? Which kdrama disappointed you this year?