Drama fans these days associate tvN with some of the biggest and best shows of the past few years, including the Reply series, Signal, and the most recent pop culture sensation, Goblin. In between causing huge television stirs, though, the station also produces quite a few dramas (Entourage, Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Twenty Again, Surplus Princess) that while perhaps not receiving runaway ratings, are extremely well produced, cleverly written, and beloved by especially more hardcore drama fans. It seems that the newest release, Introverted Boss, may fall into this category. While it cannot possibly live up to the incredible hype of its predecessor, Goblin, it has the potential to join the ranks of tvN’s second tier gems.

Now, is this to say that the plot is anything novel or outstandingly unique? No, not particularly. In fact, at its core, this drama very much resembles the 2013 drama Flower Boy Next Door (another underrated tvN gem), which revolves around the love story between a reclusive book editor and a bubbly video game creator. Introverted Boss has a fairly predictable plotline that has actually already revealed much of the intrigue in the first few episodes, perhaps jumping the gun and answering viewer’s burning questions just a tad too early. However, even though the intrigue may be slightly lacking, the development of the characters and the compelling nature of the themes will hopefully bring viewers back week after week.

Though the script is interesting in and of itself, the acting is what really brings this drama to life. Yeon Woo-jin is doing a great job of making his introverted character a real person and not just a caricature of a hermit. Though the comedic moments of the drama can get slightly goofy, as is the norm with most dramas, he keeps the character grounded at least somewhat in reality. The highlight of his acting so far comes in the form of the botched presentation scene, in which the viewer can truly see the character’s internal struggle and his own frustration with the limitations his own fear and anxiety place on his life.

Park Hye-soo is certainly no slouch herself, either, with her acting as Chae Ro-woon perfectly portraying a once bright and vibrant young woman who is trying to keep hold of herself amidst the throes of grief and rage. Of course, the rest of the experienced ensemble cast are holding their weight as well, though their performances tend more towards the stereotypical. It is particularly satisfying to see Ye Ji-won showcase more of her range and play a much different role than fans have seen from her recently, transforming from Another Oh Hae Young‘s alcoholic lovesick sister into Introverted Boss‘ frazzled but gentle-hearted office mom.

While perhaps the previews may make Introverted Boss seems simply like a comedic love story about a loner CEO and the feisty girl who brings him out of his shell, the themes are much more serious than one might expect, touching on several issues that can still be considered extremely taboo. In fact, the dramas opening scene depicts the suicide of the female lead’s older sister, sparing the viewer none of the bloody details. While this serves as a catalyst for almost all the later action in the drama, it also brings to light an important issue of mental health.

In episode three, another somewhat controversial topic is touched upon with the discussion of transgender issues. Though it be brief, a transgender woman, played by Heo Young-ji, is shown as having a loving and accepting relationship with her father, who is making every effort to support his child in her life decisions. This father character is no angel, though, as he just minutes before slaps Chae Ro-woon across the face for inquiring about his personal life. The fact that this assault was brushed past so easily by all the characters, including the victim herself, was perhaps the biggest letdown of the drama thusfar. The presentation of these serious themes resembles that of the incredibly powerful 2014 drama It’s Okay, That’s Love, though this time explored in a much more shallow way and in a far less serious context.

Despite what seemed to be a promising start, though, the show recently took a week off to reboot, rewrite, and reshoot in response to an extreme ratings drop in the second week of airing. It seems that fans were disappointed with the writing, particularly in regards to the unrealistic nature of the story. While this shows bad signs for domestic ratings and initial reception, the drama shows enough potential to still have a shot at a second wind. This week sees the debut of this new concept, so it will be interesting to see how extensively the direction has been changed. Here’s hoping Introverted Boss can maintain its good points while perhaps improving others and winning back the hearts of audiences.

(Naver Entertainment, Images via tvN)