Our editors, Karen and Qing, predicted a bump in the road for Was It Love? in their review of episodes 5 to 9. Thankfully, it seems that the drama is getting back on track as the truth comes pouring out about the characters’ messy pasts. With the show entering its second half, they discuss how knowledge of the truth has opened up room for important insights into the characters’ emotional worlds.
This review contains spoilers.
Karen: We predicted that a slump was coming for us after the end of episode 8, but I’m glad to say the drama managed to swerve itself back on path with episodes 9 to 12. We get the big revelation of Noh Ha-nee’s (Um Chae-young) father and the history behind Noh Ae-jeong’s (Song Ji-hyo) departure 14 years ago.
Episodes 9 and 10 begin shakily as we head into the second leg of the drama, setting up eerily paralleled situations with the past for the characters. Ae-jeong is made to confront Joo Ah-rin (Kim Da-som) at Oh Dae-oh’s (Son Ho-jun) house, just like how she witnessed Ah-rin’s intrusion into his apartment years ago. Ae-jeong’s fury throws out any opportunity for her to iron out the past with Dae-oh, leading to an even more tangled web of misunderstandings. By the end of episode 10, however, the truth finally explodes in the face of all the adults. What remains is for Ha-nee to find out who her father is, and this shift in focus is a refreshing change in the plot direction.
The tangled threads of the past have started to unravel and I’m glad to say this has offered many good opportunities for character development. We get many significant interactions between characters, and it is with these conversations that we get to understand more about the various emotional turmoils and decisions behind each individual within the story. Knowing the reason behind Ae-jeong’s departure years ago certainly makes a huge difference in viewing experience. What changes in the plot and characters do you notice with the truth spilling out?
Qing: We noted in our previous reviews that compared to the male leads, Ae-jeong isn’t as fleshed out or convincing as a character. The belated reveal of her side of the past brings much-needed insight into her emotional world, what drove her choices back then, and what drives her actions in the present.
Before the reveal, it was difficult to understand Ae-jeong’s conflicting, stonewalling behaviour. She repeatedly fends off Dae-oh’s attempts at pursuing her or unravelling their past misunderstandings, but suddenly decides to discuss their past. After going all the way to Dae-oh’s house, though, she once again shuts out all conversation.
It’s only after we see how Dae-oh became preoccupied with his writing, and dismissive towards Ae-jeong, that we understand why she easily read Ah-rin’s uninvited kiss as evidence of Dae-oh cheating on her. To her, their love had gone cold even before that fateful night. We also come to see why she can’t bring herself to give Dae-oh a chance to redeem himself, since she sought him out twice to tell him she was pregnant, but he never contacted her back. I understand that the show withheld the full picture to keep the mystery of who fathered Ha-nee, but it deprived us of the chance to relate to Ae-jeong’s earlier treatment of Dae-oh.
Aside from these important flashbacks, episode 11 also delivered great character moments for Ae-jeong, such as her confrontation of Ryu Jin (Song Jong-ho). Despite her unyielding stance in front of Dae-oh, this scene is proof that she now has the maturity and emotional distance to entertain the possibility that there was truly a huge misunderstanding between them. Dae-oh got to this stage before Ae-jeong did, but only because he hadn’t experienced the hardships of raising a child alone for 14 years. We also see that Ae-jeong has hidden doubts about whether she made the right choice all those years ago, when she finally breaks down in front of her mother, Kim Hyang-ja (Kim Mi-kyung).
These episodes were also a turning point for Ha-nee’s search for her dad. What did you think of Ae-jeong’s decision to keep Ha-nee’s father a secret, and the reveal?
Karen: I’m personally not a fan of Ae-jeong keeping the radio silence on Ha-nee’s father, especially when it’s obvious she’s feeling torn emotionally by her mother’s decision. This imposed ignorance has led to Ha-nee being an easy target for bullying and leaves her defenceless in disproving the rumours of Ryu Jin being her father. Ha-nee, being 14 years of age, is old enough to make her own decisions about whether she wants to remain in contact with her father or not. She makes this point clear on her own in her displays of maturity throughout the show, and more prominently in the latest episodes.
Unlike the adults who are trapped by the ghosts of the past and continue to waver between affections, Ha-nee displays a maturity lacking in the grown-ups. She is upfront when speaking to Dong-chan (Yoon Sung-woo) about their friendship, and manages to overcome her anger at Ae-jeong for hiding her father’s identity. We see this development in her conversation with Ae-jeong, as Ae-jeong treats Ha-nee to a meal of hot udon noodles. She is understanding of Ae-jeong’s decision, but asserts herself firmly over her right to know who her father is.
Of course, we get more scenes of Dae-oh and Ha-nee as well, once we find out Dae-oh is her father. Even without Ha-nee knowing the truth, these scenes become endearing as Dae-oh tries to express his concern hesitantly. Their interactions reinforce Dae-oh as someone who tries hard to consider the feelings of others, and it is always fun to see these two banter with each other. It is clear Dae-oh is suppressing an urge to tell Ha-nee about being her father. Perhaps he might be uncertain if he is the right person to spill the beans, but we get a dramatic and satisfactory reveal for Ha-nee when Dae-oh swoops in to defend her after Ha-nee’s bullying incident at the end of episode 12.
There is also the parallel between Ha-nee’s search for her father, and Dong-chan’s own tense relationship with his father, Koo Pa-do (Kim Min-jun), surrounding the topic of his birth mother. It seems that the remaining episodes of the drama will delve more into that storyline, and I’m certainly looking forward to it.
The big reveal has certainly organised relationship matters for us, but the changes in characters certainly goes beyond just Ae-jeong, Ha-nee, and Dae-oh. Do you see any other characters taking interesting turns in their behaviour, now that the truth has been brought to light?
Qing: Interestingly, the two love interests who registered unfavourable impressions in our last review developed in opposite directions. Ryu Jin only became worse since the last review. He didn’t just blatantly ignore Ae-jeong’s clear message that she wants to remain friends, but was also unremorseful when admitting he deleted her last text message to Dae-oh. While his mistake back then was understandable, since he didn’t know Ae-jeong was pregnant, with this hindsight, he now knows that his actions deprived Ae-jeong of a partner and Ha-nee of a dad.
The manipulative ways of Ryu Jin’s CEO, Jennifer Song (Seo Jung-yeon), are despicable, but she nailed it when she mocked him for ruining his career over an unconfirmed theory that he fathered Ha-nee unknowingly. He didn’t even have the good sense to ask Ae-jeong if he was Ha-nee’s father, and just crashed his way into their lives without considering the harm it could bring to them.
Conversely, although Yeon-woo’s (Koo Ja-sung) previous interference in Dae-oh’s interactions with Ae-jeong, and his unprofessional, disrespectful behaviour towards Ae-jeong remain questionable, he redeemed himself a little in his conversation with Ah-rin.
From the way Ae-jeong drew the line with him, it’s been clear that Yeon-woo was never in the running. But when Ah-rin asks why he’s so determined to care for Ae-jeong, we finally see him step out of his “I will be end game” bubble to voice a stance that’s truly considerate towards Ae-jeong. He admits that ultimately, whether or not Ae-jeong likes him romantically, he just wants to help lessen their hardships.
All in all, I think the drama is back on track with the shift in focus to Ae-jeong and Ha-nee. It’s a bit of an oddball: it looks cliched, but has characters that defy stereotypes, and gifts us with some interactions we never knew we needed (see: the conversation between Hyang-ja and Dae-oh). It’s hard to tell where the final four episodes will take us, but I think we can be cautiously optimistic.
(YouTube. Images via JTBC.)