Time flies and it’s already the end of the journey for True Beauty. Emotions are running high for our main characters Ju-kyeong (Moon Ga-young), Su-ho (Cha Eun-woo) and Seo-jun (Hwang In-yeob) before all plotlines and character arcs are neatly tied together for a sweet and satisfactory ending. Although True Beauty is not without its flaws, it ultimately delivered what it promised to — a hilarious and warm drama.
This review contains spoilers.
How can True Beauty‘s final quarter and conclusion be assessed? At best, these episodes provide the viewers with more of what they already had and give a first impression of the characters’ futures. After the first half perfectly embedded its message about lookism into the plotline, the drama fails to do so for the remaining episodes.
After Soo-jin is previously outed as the villain and reveals Ju-kyeong’s bare face to her school peers, Ju-kyeong expectedly goes through a tough and painful time. Thankfully, she can count an Su-ho, Seo-jun and her family. The Im family matriarch Hyun-sook (Jang Hye-jin) finally becomes aware of her daughter’s struggle and pain, which makes for heartwarming and sweet family moments. Things take a turn for the better, when everyone at school sides with Ju-kyeong and voice their support regardless of her outer appearance. Unfortunately, Ju-kyeong’s newfound peace is shortlasting.
Here, the drama decides to drown the viewers in a myriad of K-drama tropes with the obligatory departure of the male lead and a time leap. Su-ho is forced to leave Korea after his father suffers health problems and decides to break up with Ju-kyeong to avoid hurting her any further. Su-ho’s absence means more of Seo-jun, who rises and shines. He supports Ju-kyeong through her heartbreak and grows closer with her family. Also growing are his feelings for Ju-kyeong. The drama knows how to engage the viewers emotionally when it comes to Seo-jun. He is incredibly charming and his moments with Ju-kyeong heartwarming, leaving viewers hoping for more for this couple despite knowing that they won’t be end game. In the end, Seo-jun comes to terms with his unrequited love in a teary, painful scene.
Giving Seo-jun time to shine (it seems the drama listened to viewer complaints here) after the love triangle previously slid into the background, is a refreshing development. However, more of Seo-jun highlights more of what Su-ho lacks (except for his good looks) and this is where things get cheesy and dull.
Su-ho is absent for about two years without any proper explanation, then returns out of the blue and wants to rekindle his romance with Ju-kyeong? Although this plotline is taken straight from the webtoon (where it yields a completely different outcome), it can be taken with a grain of salt at best. Its placement is odd and redundant especially considering the young age of the characters. Feelings and affections at this age are volatile, so it’s slightly incomprehensible that after two years Ju-kyeong views Seo-jun as nothing more than a close friend.
Despite how unsubstantial the time leap might feel, it entails some positive outcomes too. Seo-jun’s impending debut as an idol and songwriter, Ju-kyeong finally focusing on her career perspectives as a make-up artist and the wedding of her sister Hee-kyung (Im Se-mi) with her teacher Joon-woo (Oh Eui-shik) are just some of the pleasant progresses of two years.
Soo-jin’s (Park Yoo-na) arc is also wrapped up in a neatly manner. After she was caught for spreading Ju-kyeong’s bare faced pictures, she leaves Korea only to return in the final episode and apologize to the latter. It’s sweet to see the two young girls reconcile, but in hindsight, Soo-jin turning against Ju-kyeong without any proper prior build-up remains gratuitous and contrived.
Paradoxically, or perhaps inevitably, it’s the main theme of True Beauty that gets buried under all the fluff, romance and comedy. This drama was essentially about the effects and persistence of lookism and in that aspect, the final episodes failed to deliver a conclusion. The first half impactfully depicted Ju-kyeong’ struggle as an ugly girl until her exposure through Soo-jin. This is resolved in a matter of two episodes as everyone sympathizes with Ju-kyeong and accepts her for who she is underneath the make-up.
The drama led us to a singular conclusion here: Ju-kyeong’s inner beauty is her true beauty. This, however, could have been portrayed more in-depth with a hint of realism over the course of more episodes. Maybe a monologue, in which Ju-kyeong recapitulates her experiences and the lessons she learned, would have been the fine tuning to True Beauty.
Did True Beauty drown its viewers in K-drama tropes and cheesy clichés? Yes. Did plot lines ocassionally feel overtly contrived? Yes. Still, in sum these shortcomings are not substantial enough to impact the drama negatively, but surprisingly rather complement the storyline and add to the youtful undertones. Throughout its run, True Beauty delivered an entertaining drama with comical moments, pretty outfits, handsome boys and relatable supporting characters galore. The year is still young, but this drama might end up as one of the big surprises of the year. If you are looking for something light and heartwarming, True Beauty is the right choice.
(Images via tvN)