Co-posted at Still Just Alison
TV drama – 16 episodes
The world’s most introverted over-thinker meets the world’s most outspoken non-thinker – what could go wrong?
Fortunately it gets better than that, because if it was just “Genius introvert falls in love with pushy extrovert”, I don’t think I could have stuck it, Sandeul soundtrack or no. I spent the first couple of episodes wanting to slap the female lead, because the character was so incredibly annoying. Most humans with an iota of empathy could tell the boss was suffering from crippling social anxiety, probably due to some past trauma, but Pushy Git Girl just kept on regardless, causing massive public humiliation and exacerbating his problems.
But it does eventually percolate through Cha Ro-eun’s revenge-driven mono-focus that her boss Eun Hwan-ki is not the monster she imagined, but rather a misunderstood, compassionate, very lonely man, burdened by responsibility for others.
Once past the first couple of episodes, this series loses the cheap slapstick cruelty and settles in to give us a much more enjoyable experience. Because this is not just a rom com, or the unravelling of a mystery – it’s a tale of loneliness, and grief, and bullying. There’s a lot to unpack, once we take the time – just like Cha Ro-eun, we need to relax, shut right up, and pay attention, and then we begin to learn the real story.
Regular readers know that I have a particular fondness for stories and characters that break from tradition in some way, such as the romance in You’re All Surrounded. This series presents another fine example, because the underlying theme is communication, but not in the usual sense. Kang Woo-il (Baek Yoon), Eun Hwan-ki’s adopted brother and closest (only?) friend, is co-CEO and worshipped for his winning ways – he’s basically king of the corporate TED talk, winning contracts for the company with his persuasive presentations. As the series progresses, though, we discover our hero has his own skills, namely the ability to listen and empathise. This provides the opportunity for him to slowly win the hearts of his ragtag team, and eventually win contracts over his flashier friend, gaining a little self-confidence in the process. This is managed with a fine hand – it’s not a complete transformation, but a gentle mellowing, casting light onto the fine detail of his character to give him depth – character chiaroscuro if you will (or even if you won’t).
The team are good, although drawn in flat primary colours in contrast to the boss’ light and shade. The second leads are somewhat problematic, at least for most of the series – rather two-dimensional, both in character and acting, they only develop very late in the piece, leaving the burden of the series to be carried by Yeon Woo-jin, who does exceedingly well as the boss, Park Hye-soo, who’s suitably annoying but not entirely likeable as Cha Ro-eun, and various supporting characters.
Overall, this is a sweet series that can take you on a journey. Not a series for those who want instant gratification, but will amply reward anyone who can take time to appreciate nuance.
Sandeul – One More Step (My Shy Boss OST)
Alison blogs at Still Just Alison, where she writes about Korean drama, movies, music, and, very occasionally, things that aren’t Korean. But only occasionally.