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Review: Doctor Slump – The Fangirl Verdict


THE SHORT VERDICT:

I’d have to say that this worked out to be a pretty uneven watch for me.

On the upside, there are spots of genuine Cute that I found very endearing, and Show does take a gentle approach to the topic of mental health. Both good things.

On the downside, however, I felt that Show started to meander quite a bit in its second half, and along with that meandering came (in my view, anyway) quite a lot of filler, where it felt like Show was doing its best to distract me from the fact that it was cycling in place. 😅

Would have been much tighter and more coherent, as an 8-episode mini series.

THE LONG VERDICT:

You know, when I loved this show, I was almost gleeful, at the feels that Show was serving up; I think there was even a moment when I flailed in excitement, for real. 🥲

This was mostly in Show’s first half.

When I didn’t love this show, which was mostly in Show’s second half, I found myself dragging my feet through the episodes, because I was feeling quite disengaged and disgruntled.

Such great highs, followed by some pretty low lows, eh?

Show still does serve up some great moments in the low stretches, so all is not lost (which is how I found myself finishing this one instead of dropping it), but in my experience at least, this watch experience never regained the same cracky feels that I’d loved, in its early stretch.

I’m disappointed, to be sure, but honestly, there are folks who love this one all the way to the end, so.. you might, too?

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while reading the review.

Overall, I found the music pleasant in this show, though I have to confess that I also didn’t find it very memorable.

Shout-out, though, to Park Hyung Sik for singing Track 6, Lean On Me. Here it is as well, in case you’d like to check it out.

HOW I’M APPROACHING THIS REVIEW

First I’ll talk about how to manage your expectations going into this one, and what viewing lens would be most helpful.

After that, I talk about what I liked and liked less, covering both the more macro aspects of Show, as well as selected characters and relationships. I’ve opted not to do a separate section on characters and relationships, for this review.

Additionally, because I think it’s important that I talk about what didn’t work for me on a macro level with this show, I will start with the stuff I liked less, in this review, before finishing off with the things that I liked more.

Finally, I also spend some time talking about my thoughts on the penultimate episodes, as well as our finale episodes.

If you’re interested in my blow-by-blow reactions, &/or all the various Patreon members’ comments during the course of our watch, you might like to check out my episode notes on Patreon here.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS

I don’t know if I’m the best person to talk about this, since, as you already know, I didn’t have a very successful watch of Show’s second half. But, perhaps you can learn from my misadventures? 😅

Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:

1. Some suspension of disbelief is required

I don’t know if this is writer-nim’s intention (I suspect it’s not), but there are times when things don’t feel quite rooted in reality, in this drama world, and I think it’s probably helpful to keep your expectations low, for whether things happen this way in the real world.

2. A manhwa lens can be useful

On a related note, when stuff doesn’t feel like it’s unfolding on your screen, the way it would in the real world, I feel like switching to a manhwa lens can help everything to land better.

3. Patience can be helpful

The reason I say this, is because, even though I didn’t care for a fair bit of the meandering that Show did in its second half, there were some really nice moments that I was rewarded with, for staying.

So maybe having a bit of patience – or a ready finger on the Fast Forward button 🤭 – is the way to go.

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

Show’s varied tones

Maybe Show was trying to be everything to everyone, y’know, so that there’d be a little something for everyone, but I personally found Show’s tones to be too varied for its own good. 😅

[VAGUE HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS]

Our tones run the gamut from warm and healing, to dark and ominous, to OTT-comic, to poignant and wistful, to distractedly meandering, and I just found it all too much, to be honest.

[END HIGH LEVEL SPOILERS]

I feel that Show should have been more selective about what it wanted to be, and to whom, and just stuck with it.

Because Show tries to be all these things, I feel like it ultimately doesn’t really know what it wants to be?

I have some thoughts about the cuts that Show should’ve made, which I’ll touch on, in this next spoiler section.

[SPOILER ALERT]

The dark, dramatic stuff

I definitely would have preferred if Show had cut out that whole thing with Jeong Woo being sabotaged by Kyung Min (Oh Dong Min), and the whole mafia arc that that entailed.

I mean, yes, it amps up the dramatic tension, but it also takes away time and attention from the internal journeys of our lead characters, and I would have been perfectly happy to have focused on that instead.

Instead, we end up spending chunks of time on the mystery behind who had sabotaged Jeong Woo and why, and how it had gone down, and Show also toyed with us by dangling red herrings at us, and it just feels very filler-esque to my eyes, because that’s not what I’m truly interested in.

Why couldn’t Jeong Woo have fallen on hard times because of a pure accident? Don’t those happen anymore?

The “slice-of-life” stuff

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also wish that Show had reined it in, with what I think is the “slice-of-life” approach.

The reason I use quotation marks, is because I don’t personally feel that this truly qualifies as slice-of-life, but I don’t know what else to term it. It reminds me slice-of-life, because this is where Show gets really meandering, almost like it’s on autopilot. 😅

This all felt a lot like filler to me, and I think part of the reason is because Show meshes the meandering “slice-of-life” with a good helping of OTT comic. Those two elements don’t mix so well to my eyes – at least in this story world.

I think Show would have been more enjoyable to me personally, if it had stayed with the warm melo vibes instead.

[END SPOILER]

The aggressive aegyo

Once our OTP gets together, Show leans into what I’m terming Aggressive Aegyo. On hindsight, I think this is quite possibly an extension the OTT comic tone in this drama world.

On the upside, overall, I am not opposed to the OTP Cute in principle, because it’s true that Park Hyung Sik and Park Shin Hye are two very beautiful looking people, who can be very cute together.

On the not-so-upside, I find this particular brand of cute on the aggressive, try-hard side of things.

I see this as an issue with the direction that our actors were given, because this particular brand of funny is being served up across the board. So this is on PD-nim, as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t understand the reason for it, though.

Like, Park Hyung Sik and Park Shin Hye can be plenty cute, funny and endearing in less aggressive ways, so why push it to that extent, such that the reactions that Jeong Woo and Ha Neul give us, are so exaggerated that we often have Park Hyung Sik and Park Shin Hye scrunching up their faces to the maximum that their faces can be scrunched up?

That’s.. not a good look, and it’s not especially funny either, from where I’m sitting, so I’m just mostly rather perplexed by this.

The whole sing-song manner in which Jeong Woo and Ha Neul regularly aegyo, hard, at each other, is also not especially fun or endearing, so it’s a miss for me.

Unfortunately, Show keeps this as part of its repertoire, all the way to the end. 🙈

Not my favorite thing, by far. 😅

The writing starts to land as rather weird, in Show’s second half

Overall, I found the writing much stronger in Show’s first half, than its second.

Not all the time, but sometimes, I found the logic employed to be quite strange. Additionally, there were times when some arcs felt forced into the narrative for no real apparent reason.

Here’s a look at a portion of episodes 9-10, where I found the writing to be quite odd, and as a result, I’d found the watch experience quite choppy.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E9-10. I appreciate that Jeong Woo tells Dae Young (Yoon Park) that picking up the scalpel still gives him chills, and that he isn’t ready.

In fact, I would’ve been happy if this was the angle that Show went with, in Jeong Woo pushing back against Ha Neul coming into the OR to help him.

Instead, Jeong Woo starts pushing back in a different direction, where it’s more about him not being able to accept her help, especially after how they’ve broken up. And how she’d never considered working in a plastic surgery practice before.

This.. felt kinda off to me, not gonna lie. 😅

Neither of these points sounds like a strong reason, and it felt kinda painful, watching Jeong Woo press on with these points, in episode 10.

And when Jeong Woo brings up the point that he can’t bear to see Ha Neul force herself to work on his account, when she’d been taking a break, Ha Neul’s response is just off the mark, I feel.

She says that she’d thought of that too, but what could she do, she couldn’t bear to see him struggle.

Which isn’t the point.

She gets to the proper point later, that this is also something that would help her get better – but it just feels like really weak writing to me, that these were the cross wires that were employed to beef up the angst, this episode.

It’s just, Show tries to give us a scene of Jeong Woo and Ha Neul having a pointed, honest conversation, and it just doesn’t pop, for me.

When Jeong Woo says that Ha Neul never gave him a reason for their breakup, she doesn’t address it, and the conversation ends with Jeong Woo telling her that her insisting on helping him like this, is selfish.

Again, I just felt like this was going off-point, and this made this scene underwhelming to watch, from where I was sitting.

And, I did like the conversation between Jeong Woo and Ha Neul a lot better, when they talk after he’s punched out Kyung Min.

There’s more honesty here, and more openness, and I liked this a lot more.

Additionally, I can buy the idea that the first attempt at an open conversation was just at a point when they weren’t ready.

Which means that I buy that idea that Show had given us that off-the-mark conversation on purpose, to demonstrate that they just weren’t ready to talk properly, and were going off-course, based on their feelings.

However, I would still say that that scene added to my overall sense of feeling underwhelmed, while watching. 🙈😅

Like, that whole nightclub tangent felt weirdly shoehorned in, to me, and the comedy in that also felt rather forced, to my eyes.

After that, the whole thing with the teacher’s lipoma was very weirdly handled, I thought.

I mean, who goes to a plastic surgery clinic to get a lipoma seen to? You wouldn’t know it’s a lipoma anyway, until you can a proper scan, just in case it’s a malignant tumor.

You just don’t go to a plastic surgery clinic to get that checked; you’d go to a proper hospital, in case it’s malignant and you need cancer treatment.

I couldn’t shake the thought that this was just all very weirdly written, while watching this arc, and so, the poignance of Jeong Woo doing the surgery on Teacher, with Ha Neul assisting him as his anesthesiologist, was really mostly lost on me. 😅

[END SPOILER]

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Show’s treatment of the topic of mental health

Overall, I like the fact that Show approaches the topic of mental health with a gentle touch, and that’s why I wish I could put this in the “Stuff I Like” category.

Unfortunately, the way Show simplifies things, or even misrepresents things, can be misleading and unhelpful.

And I’m assuming that the whole reason mental health is even on Show’s radar, is because Show wants to be helpful to the general public, by raising awareness about it – in which case, being misleading and unhelpful directly contradicts that mission.

So here’s a quickish spotlight on when I thought Show did better handling the issue of mental health – and when it did worse.

[SPOILER ALERT]

When I thought it was good

E5-6. I really do appreciate the lashings of mental health related insights, that we get threaded through our story.

Like the way Ha Neul has all this angst about going home and telling her family about her failed interview, but in the end, it really isn’t that hard at all, when she does tell them.

All that difficulty had been in her head; the anticipation of the event, had been so much worse than the actual event itself.

That’s exactly how it is for me, a lot of the time, and I thought this was a very astute observation by Show, and a good reminder, that often, a lot of the enormity of a situation, is all in our minds.

I also really appreciate the opening of episode 6, where we hear Ha Neul talk in voiceover about depression, and how, sometimes, she feels motivated to do something, while at other times, all she wants to do is lie down in her bed.

And how, sometimes, she’ll think that she should live for herself, while at other times, she’ll wonder what the point even is; everything feels so futile.

It perfectly echoes what Daily Dose of Sunshine told us, just a while ago, and so this feels like a nice reinforcement.

I do appreciate that Dramaland seems to want to offer us a chance to think seriously about mental health, these days; this feels like a good and healthy direction to take.

E7-8. I also appreciate that in the wake of Jeong Woo’s case being wrapped up, Show makes a pointed statement, that things don’t just magically go back to normal for him, just because he’s acquitted.

He still has to live with the fallout that happened when he first got accused; like how he still has to live in the rooftop apartment because the money he lost doesn’t just magically come back.

Plus, part of that fallout has to do with the broken friendships that he’s experienced.

Show exaggerates it to make a point, but it’s true that people mostly would look out for their own interests rather than someone else’s, and in Jeong Woo’s case, this is why organizations and people who had backed away from him hastily before, now want to reconnect and re-establish their previous partnerships.

It’s gotta be pretty depressing to be in the center of that, because it really does emphasize just how fleeting and fake these relationships mostly are, so I can see why Jeong Woo might withdraw into himself and not want to see people, for a while.

Although the execution feels rather uninspired and tropey, it’s pretty heartwarming that Ha Neul’s family shows concern for Jeong Woo, and ends up having a barbecue party on the rooftop, basically because they’re worried about him, and want to feed him.

I thought that was sweet.

E11-12. I also thought it was a nice little PSA, when Ha Neul’s therapist reminds her that self-esteem is a tower that we need to build everyday, bit by bit. That felt useful, like something that someone might need to hear.

I also appreciate the gradual approach, to Ha Neul becoming better, because it’s true that there’s no instant cure for depression.

When I thought it was not so good

E9-10. There are things about mental health and recovery, that Show is obviously simplifying, that might be doing more harm than good, in the long term.

I do appreciate that Jeong Woo is shown to be experiencing panic attacks, particularly when he goes back to the operating room, because it would’ve honestly been too unbelievable, if he’d been able to function in the operating room, while suffering PTSD from an incident that had occurred in the operating room.

I don’t know how psychologically sound it is, but as a layman, I can buy the idea that Ha Neul’s presence in the OR, gives Jeong Woo the calmness that he needs, in order to complete the surgery successfully.

So, I do like the idea of Ha Neul and Jeong Woo working together. In my mind, it’s immediately win-win.

Ha Neul’s gift of a cheerful pair of Crocs, to remind Jeong Woo to think of fun things instead, while going into surgery, feels overly simplistic, I feel.

I’m rationalizing that Show doesn’t take the medication out of the picture, so it’s offering up a multi-pronged treatment approach for Jeong Woo, but at the same time, I can’t help getting the sense that what we’re seeing is a very simplistic treatment of mental illness, and I just don’t know how helpful that really is, to the viewing public.

Like, I can understand the desire to make the topic of mental illness more approachable by packaging it in the form of a pretty rom-com, since there has traditionally been a lot of stigma around mental illness, in Korea.

However, the downside to packaging it in a pretty rom-com, is that it seems like the topic is getting watered down quite a bit, and that.. doesn’t really help, with helping the public have a more informed idea of what mental illness is about.

[END SPOILER]

Ha Neul’s family

Ha Neul’s family is generally on the loud and OTT side, plus younger brother Ba Da (Yoon Sang Hyeon) is characterized as extremely irresponsible and self-centered, for the most part.

At the same time, I found that I didn’t dislike Ha Neul’s family – even Ba Da! – because I thought it was pretty clear that they were harmless and meant well, and that Ba Da would be given a growth arc, by the time we got the finish line.

Plus, to balance out Ba Da’s annoying behavior, we have Mom (Jang Hye Jin) becoming quickly supportive of not just Ha Neul, but Jeong Woo too.

STUFF I LIKED

Park Hyung Sik as Jeong Woo

I mostly felt like this was mostly Park Hyung Sik being Park Hyung Sik – which I mean in the best way possible.

Honestly, I feel that writer-nim should have spent more time and energy delving into Jeong Woo’s fractured family relationships, and work on healing those as much as possible, instead of giving us the dark mystery, particularly since we see so much of Ha Neul’s family.

That said, I do have a big soft spot for Park Hyung Sik, so it was easy to like Jeong Woo as a character, even in the midst of the uneven writing.

Here are a handful of thoughts I had around Jeong Woo, during my watch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1-2. Even though Jeong Woo does seem a little clueless and obtuse at times, particularly to other people’s needs and feelings, I don’t detect any kind of malice in him.

Rather, it just seems to me like he’s someone who’s lived a charmed life, where everything good has come to him with very little effort, and it doesn’t seem to occur to him, that life could be any other way.

He’s used to being first in class, he’s used to being praised by others, he’s used to having his friends fawn over him and support him, and he has no idea what the other side of the fence is like – at this point in our story, anyway.

The way Jeong Woo has to sell everything to pay off his debts, largely incurred because of penalties for breach of contract, and still ends up billions in debt, and the way his so-called friends turn on him, leaving him feeling rejected and lonely, makes me feel sorry for him.

He’s in this situation, not because of a crime that he’d committed; rather, it looks like somebody’s out to get him, and there’s nothing that he can do or say, to prove his innocence, at this point.

E3-4. I am loving how simple and good-hearted Jeong Woo is.

Even though his problems are pretty darn big, and arguably bigger than Ha Neul’s, he takes genuine interest in her problems, and then takes sincere joy, in helping her feel better.

What a good egg he is, yes? 🥲

E7-8. I do appreciate that episode 7 gives us a focused look at Jeong Woo’s life, behind the “charmed life” impression that he gives off, and it’s a lot more poignant than one might expect.

That flashback to his attempt to grow that kidney bean, and how he’d brushed off his failure as nothing of concern, does shed some light on what really goes on behind Jeong Woo’s bright smile and laidback attitude.

And, there’s also that thing where his mother is businesslike and demanding, of him, without showing understanding, sympathy or affection – all of which are things that he clearly craves.

From all this we can see that it’s not that Jeong Woo doesn’t care; it’s that he cares too much, and doesn’t want to show it. And also, it’s not that he doesn’t hurt; it’s that he hurts so much, that he doesn’t want to show it.

It’s no wonder Ha Neul’s empathetic tears affect Jeong Woo so much.

His entire life, he’s hoped for someone to be on his side, so that he wouldn’t feel so lonely, and here she is now, crying for him like she’s the one who’d suffered the injustice.

I can see why Jeong Woo would be so affected by Ha Neul’s presence in his life. 🥲

[END SPOILER]

Park Shin Hye as Ha Neul

Kinda like how I felt like I was watching Park Hyung Sik be Park Hyung Sik in this show, I also felt like I was watching Park Shin Hye be Park Shin Hye – and again, I mean that in the best way possible. 😅

I found Ha Neul to be quite easy to root for, even though Show starts out painting her in hyperbolic colors, like having her be so driven that she would eat instant coffee out of the sachets, just to save time (sooo bad for her kidneys, I’m sure!).

There’s an earnestness about Ha Neul that really appealed to me, particularly when that earnestness was channeled towards learning how to be kinder to herself, and how to protect herself.

Every time she made some progress, I found myself cheering for her. 🥲

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1-2. It’s understandable that Ha Neul goes into denial about the depression at first.

After all, she’s been an overachiever all her life; this would likely register in her brain as a sign of failure.

I’m glad, though, that it doesn’t take very long, for Ha Neul to come around to the fact that her mental health is at risk, and that she does need to do something about it.

That scene where Ha Neul fights back against her abusive professor, and tells it to him straight – with a kick in the shins, no less, just like he’d kicked her – was so darn satisfying to watch.

It felt like a fist-pumping sort of moment, when she basically decides that her health is not worth this drivel, and fights back without thinking to leave a bridge intact, which might allow her to get her job back.

No, she is all in on this, and that is quite glorious, honestly.

She does not care if she doesn’t get her job back, or ever gets to work in the medical field henceforth; she just will not allow her professor to abuse her like this.

Glorious, and YESSS, for self-preservation and self-care! 🤩

[END SPOILER]

Jeong Woo and Ha Neul

I really like the idea of this OTP, where both leads find each other while they’re down and out, and they help to heal each other, even as they work on their own journeys.

On top of that, I really like this Park-Park pairing; I think both Park Hyung Sik and Park Shin Hye are pitch perfect, in these roles. 🤩

You may have already gathered from my earlier sections, that I struggled a fair bit, with the aggressive aegyo that writer-nim (and PD-nim too, I’m sure) foists on them.

I was not a fan of this, and we do get regular doses of the aggressive aegyo once the OTP is minted, because that’s when they start getting overtly cute with each other.

HOWEVER.

I really, really love this idea of them helping each other, as fellow wounded souls who really need the empathy, understanding and solidarity that the other person provides.

In fact, I find that my favorite portion of this relationship, is when they aren’t lovers, but friends, though I will admit that that not-quite-lovers part was pretty great too.

Here are all my OTP highlights, in this spoiler section.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1-2. I appreciate that Ha Neul doesn’t demand that Jeong Woo move out – at least, until he brashly offers to, heh.

But when he takes it back and says that he’ll be staying, she accepts it without complaint, and she even states matter-of-factly that she believes that he’s being accused of something that he didn’t do.

That’s so important for Jeong Woo to hear, and she’s the only one who’s saying that to him, right now. 🥲

Second, I appreciate how Jeong Woo tries to be nice to Ha Neul, once he realizes that she’s suffering from depression, and has been having a terrible time at work, and now is having a hard time with Mom, after quitting her terrible job.

I very much enjoyed the drunk scene; I find that Ha Neul and Jeong Woo are both cute drunks. 😁

Aside from the Cute, I also appreciate how the barriers are all down, and that they’re having honest conversation, powered by soju.

That bit, where Ha Neul talks about delayed gratification has gotten her nowhere, was really poignant, I thought.

I mean, just imagine delaying gratification your entire life, only to have everything fall apart under your feet, so that all the gratification that you’d thought you’d experience eventually, is all gone too.

That’s sad. 🥺

I also appreciate how Jeong Woo confides in Ha Neul, that he’s been unreasonably afraid of men in black suits, because he’s worried that someone would sic thugs on him.

This feels like a big deal for him to share this secret, since Jeong Woo had legit tried to move away, out of wanting to keep his pride intact in front of Ha Neul.

I found the forehead flicking scene pretty funny – these two are pretty great at physical comedy 🤩 – and then I love how this whole scene changes gears so suddenly, when Ha Neul gets that text from Mom and starts bawling.

I love that Jeong Woo starts bawling right there with her, in solidarity, and I love even more, that they end up crying their hearts out, while hugging each other for dear life.

It’s adorable and poignant, at the same time.

Adorable because these two drunks are just too cute, and poignant, because the comfort they feel in each other’s presence, is so real. 🥲

E3-4. I really enjoy the process of them forming a stronger connection, and becoming proper friends.

And, I just like this enduring idea, that even though these two people were at competitive loggerheads through all their time together in high school, now, they are in situations with enough in common, that they each find solidarity, understanding and empathy in the other, in a way that just hits different from everyone else in their orbits.

I like that Show manages to give them a good amount of differences, and yet makes it such that, at a fundamental level, they have similar enough experiences, to be able to understand and empathize with each other.

I thought this was nicely done.

Of course, with both of them being rather prideful (again, something in common! 😁), it makes sense that they would both feel awkward about the drunk sobbing-hugging incident, and try to keep a distance, as a result.

But I also like very much, that Show makes both of them kind at heart, underneath their own pride and ambition, such that they each can’t help but care enough about the other person’s troubles, and reach out and connect anyway.

I like that a lot. 🥲

Like how Ha Neul goes to Jeong Woo’s apartment to tell him that he can stay at her family’s home, until his window gets fixed, even though Jeong Woo’s already declined the offer from Mom, because of the agreement that he and Ha Neul have made, to stay out of each other’s way.

And, Ha Neul also stays to help him clean up the glass, even though she doesn’t have to.

More importantly, she speaks to the heart of the matter; that Jeong Woo is actually worried that the break-in is a bigger issue than a petty attempt at robbery.

Even though she’s a little clumsy and blunt about it, Ha Neul does make a point, that it’s highly unlikely that the break-in was the work of thugs sent to exact revenge on him. 😁

Most importantly, she tells him that everything will work out fine, because it’s not his fault.

Aw. That’s exactly what Jeong Woo needs to hear, and Ha Neul is literally the only person who’s telling him that. 🥲

These types of little moments of connection made me happy every time they appeared on my screen.

I liked watching them go out for ice cream, and having conversation, which happens to be about Ha Neul feeling out of place because she’s now unemployed, which then leads to Jeong Woo taking Ha Neul to do all the things that she’d said she’d never done in high school, because she’d been too busy studying.

It’s such a simple concept, but I got such a good amount of satisfaction, watching Ha Neul chow down on tteokbokki, which she’d always used to deny herself, and enjoy arcade games, and even sing at the noraebang.

I enjoyed just as much, how much satisfaction Jeong Woo seems to get, from giving Ha Neul these experiences.

E3-4. I also really love that moment when Jeong Woo looks at Ha Neul, on their way home, and suggests that they both take a break while they’re at rock bottom, instead of trying to fight so hard to climb back up.

It’s possibly the most liberating thing that Jeong Woo could have said, and I feel like this hits Ha Neul like a ton of bricks, because no one else in her life would think to say something like this to her.

And perhaps that’s just what she needs to hear, so that she doesn’t feel pressured to try so hard, and this might perhaps be the key to help her get better from her depression. 🥲

Plus, it really seems that all these little things that Jeong Woo’s introducing to Ha Neul, are contributing to her healing, which is really nice to see.

I also really like that even before they officially declare that they’re friends, Ha Neul already automatically turns to Jeong Woo first, like when she finds out that her nasty professor had secretly kept her on a contract basis, such that her severance pay is now half of what it should have been.

And, I like how Jeong Woo is quick to think of the potential consequences, if she were to confront him about it, and I like even more, that Ha Neul does actually stop and listen to Jeong Woo’s input.

All these little indications that they’re already best buds, make me happy. 🥰

I love that beat, when Ha Neul realizes how much the court case is weighing on Jeong Woo, that she spends time reading up on it – so much so that she finds the other case from India, which she then rushes to Jeong Woo, at the courthouse.

I think it really does say something, when Jeong Woo, surrounded by reporters, rushes to help Ha Neul, when someone accidentally pushes her over.

Of course, it could be argued that Jeong Woo was using this as a chance to escape the reporters, by changing the focus, so to speak, but I would also argue that he seems genuinely concerned about Ha Neul falling down.

And, I also like the fact that he’s willing to invite Ha Neul over to his clinic, even though it’s a far cry from when it was in its heyday, with everything closed and shrouded in dust-covers.

How sweet is it, that in the wake of his trial, Jeong Woo’s first question, when they sit down to treat her scraped up hand at the clinic, is if she’s ok – because she’d been upset about her severance pay earlier.

Aw. He’s turning out to be such a considerate, thoughtful good egg. I like him. 🥲

I also really like that he thinks to thank her for coming to the courthouse, because he knows that it couldn’t have been easy for her to go there like that.

E3-4. The way this conversation leads to them going to Sokcho together, in order to watch the sunrise, feels like a bit of a stretch, but I can buy that they might feel a little reckless, now that they’ve decided that they can relax a little, while they’re at rock bottom. 😁

Plus, I do think it’s pretty meaningful, that it’s at the beach, that they agree to become friends, rather than administratively placed classmates, who have no choice in the matter.

I also like that as she agrees, Ha Neul is cognizant of how it might be helpful to Jeong Woo, to have someone on his side.

This mutual consideration and thoughtfulness is working really well for me. 🥰

I also love – LOVE – how Show turns that moment on its head, a little bit, with the way Jeong Woo makes a big show out of writing out in the sand, that this is the first day they became friends.

It’s dorky and cute, and it’s also kinda funny, how Ha Neul finds it so cringey. 😁

Show’s not wasting any time in amping up the hyper-awareness, with some hyper-proximity thrown in, and I am lapping it all up. 😋

Like how Jeong Woo gets trapped when Ha Neul falls asleep at the restaurant, and leans over right until her head lands on his lap.

Hahaha. I love his expression; it communicates his shocked discombobulation so well! 😆

And I love that Show toggles between this kind of thing, and meaningful conversation, so deftly.

Right after the restaurant scene, we have Jeong Woo and Ha Neul talking over coffee, about how his clinic got sold, and how he’s relieved, that he had that much money saved up.

This feels like pretty personal thoughts, and I’m heartened, that he’s sharing them so openly, with Ha Neul. 🥲

E3-4. I love, love, LOVE that Jeong Woo’s whole reason for rushing out to Hwabon to see Ha Neul, is to tell her the same thing that she’d told him; that it’s not her fault. 🥹

It’s a fabulous callback, and a wonderful way to bring things full circle, between the two of them. 🥲

E5-6. Specifically, I am loving how, this pair of episodes, Ha Neul and Jeong Woo both admit to having some feelings for each other, but agree not to act on said feelings, and focus first, on dealing with their mental health issues first.

That is so healthy and vulnerable and open, all at the same time, and I just love that, so much. 🤩

I love that this puts our would-be OTP in a space where they’re candidly admitting their feelings to each other, and even expressing feelings like jealousy, even though they haven’t formally established a couplehood yet.

There’s just something about this in-between, honest sort of space that appeals to me, so very much; perhaps even more than an actual inking of an OTP relationship.

It just makes me feel like they’re both very self-aware, and very willing to be vulnerable, in admitting their evolving feelings for each other, not only to themselves, but to each other as well.

Of course, this isn’t true right away; we do have that period of time when Jeong Woo is taken aback when Ha Neul asks why he’s come to Hwabon in the first place, and he fibs that he’s there to sightsee, in a fit of embarrassment.

At first, I groaned a little bit in disappointment, because I’d wanted Jeong Woo to be honest with Ha Neul; that he’d gone there to Hwabon, because he’d been worried about her.

HOWEVER. I’m pretty happy with how things turn out, because:

1, this means that they spend more time in each other’s company while doing the sightseeing that Jeong Woo’s reflex answer makes it necessary for them to do, and

2, Ha Neul eventually tells Jeong Woo how she has feelings for him, in spite of it.

This means that she’s admitting her feelings for him, even though she believes that he very likely doesn’t have reciprocal feelings for her.

Gosh, I love how brave this makes her. She’s being open about her feelings, not because she expects that he likes her back; she’s being open about her feelings, because she wants to be honest. How great is that? I love that about her. 🤩

On that note, I also really like how Ha Neul processes the rejection that she’s just experienced, where she doesn’t even get to attend the interview that she’d traveled so far for.

It feels so grounded and wise of her to say that this is probably for the best; that she likely wasn’t ready yet, and should rest some more. Love that. 🤩

Even before they admit their feelings for each other, I like how our would-be OTP is showing understanding and concern for each other.

Like how Jeong Woo picks up very quickly, on the fact that Ha Neul isn’t going home because she doesn’t know what to say to her family about her failed interview, and he even knows right away, that she’s at the arcade, from the background sound that he hears during their phone call.

I love that he just heads over there and spends the rest of the day with her, playing games, eating convenience store food, and even going to their old high school, for the nostalgic feels.

And how sweet is Jeong Woo, when Ha Neul asks him what he’d like to do, if he could go back to his school days?

Instead of thinking about something that would make a difference to his own life, his thoughts naturally go to how he’d like to give Ha Neul a hug, because of how hard she’d had it, with all the pressure and expectations that she’d been trying to live up to, at the expense of actually enjoying her life.

It’s the sweetest, most selfless thing, and Jeong Woo says it so naturally.

Augh. It’s completely hitting me in the heart; no wonder Ha Neul looks utterly moved by it too. 🫠🥲

And it’s no wonder as well, that this is likely one of the things that causes her to re-examine her heart, to figure out how she feels about Jeong Woo.

It’s a bummer that Jeong Woo tells Ha Neul, when she asks, that he’s just being nice as a friend, and it’s little wonder that Ha Neul would feel mortified and awkward, as a result.

BUT, I do appreciate that, the next chance he gets, Jeong Woo tells Ha Neul that the reason he can’t be completely open with his heart right now, is not because of her, but because he doesn’t have the right to be, and therefore, there’s no reason for her to feel embarrassed.

Aw. That is considerate.

Plus, the look in Jeong Woo’s eyes, has a touch of smolder to them, I fancy, even though the overriding emotion there, is regret and uncertainty.

I love the way Ha Neul reacts, once she realizes that Jeong Woo’s suffering from PTSD.

The way she heads right over to the rooftop, and homes in on him, to give him a big ol’ tearful hug, and express empathy at how hard it must have been for him, and assure him that it will all be ok, is really touching, to me.

It feels like a sweet moment of reciprocity, because all this time, Jeong Woo’s been quick to put himself in Ha Neul’s shoes, and worry about how she’s doing, and how she feels.

Now, she’s doing the same for Jeong Woo, and we hear, in voiceover, how she feels his sadness and pain, in this moment. It’s quite beautiful, yes? 🥲

And, I really like that, the next morning, when Jeong Woo tries to rationalize Ha Neul’s hug for her, she tells him that no, she really had wanted to hug him, not because she wasn’t all there.

Guh. I just love this desire of Ha Neul’s, to be honest, even though it might be awkward and potentially embarrassing.

I also really like her ability to put aside her feelings, and decide to just focus on Jeong Woo’s more pressing needs, which, right now, are in the area of his mental health.

Ahhh. How wise, even in the face of heart-wobbling feelings. I like her a lot.

It’s sweet how she takes him out, and spends all day picking out things and doing things, to prep him for a good night’s sleep.

Of course, her matter-of-fact statement, while they’re washing his bedding, that she thinks she’s developed feelings for him, is utterly endearing too. 😍

It’s cute how she makes that analogy about having a weakened immune system and therefore more easily infected, and wonders whether her feelings for him are because her mind is in a weakened state, tee hee.

She’s just really cute, and it makes complete sense to me that Jeong Woo’s utterly charmed. 😁

I also love that he takes her cue, and is honest about how he’d meant it, when he’d told her that he’d missed her, the night before.

Ahhh. So much cute, y’all. I love. 🥰

It’s so poignantly sweet too, how he tells her that things are really tough for him, but he’s able to hang in there, because of her.

It gives me the goofy grins, how he meets her halfway, while respecting her analogy, and asks her to wait for him for a while, so that they can figure out whether whether they’re dealing with friendship, an infection because of their weakened state of mind, or real feelings.

Of course we know we’re talking real feelings here, but I just love this sweetly cautious, open and honest approach to their connection. 🥰

I also love the way Ha Neul tells Jeong Woo that if he has nightmares again, he can call on her to play Go Stop with him. Aw. It’s thoughtful and sweet.

When Ha Neul broaches the subject of Jeong Woo perhaps going to see a psychiatrist, I appreciate that she doesn’t push him on it, but does mention that she’s felt a lot better after seeking psychiatric help, and starting on medication.

I felt bad for Ha Neul, when Jeong Woo reflexively rejects the idea, because he’s recoiling from the idea because “it’s not that bad,” because this implies that it is that bad, for her, and not for him.

However, Jeong Woo does come around before too long, and I’m glad that she goes with him, and they make an outing of it – even taking their meds together, afterwards, as if it’s some kind of couple activity.

The little incident with Ha Neul getting super excited about finding a 500 won coin on the street is played for laughs, but I do take the point, that it’s important to find happiness in the little things in life; that it makes a positive difference to our mental and emotional wellbeing.

And then the whole cameo by Lee Sung Kyung, who plays the girl who’d always come in third after Ha Neul and Jeong Woo, is played for laughs too, and while it’s kind of silly and low-key amusing, what I appreciate more, is that after her fit of jealous pique, Ha Neul does come around to a different point of view.

Importantly, I like that once she realizes that she could have been unreasonable, she  is quick to think of a way to make amends, and goes to the rooftop to look for Jeong Woo, with mandu and beer as her peace offering.

Again, I just love that Ha Neul feels able to talk openly with Jeong Woo about how she’d felt jealous, and how she didn’t like the feeling at all. This feels so refreshing to me. 🤩

I just freaking love all the healthy elements to their conversations, and in this conversation in particular, I love how Ha Neul’s confession about her jealousy naturally morphs into a conversation about ambivalence and mental health.

..Which eventually morphs quite quickly, into Jeong Woo telling Ha Neul that he likes her (Eee!!!); that she’s like a drug that someone prescribed to him, helping him to get through the difficult times (awwww); that when all the hard stuff is over, he’ll confess to her properly.

Ahhhh, schweet. 🥰🥲

Also, how cute, that Ha Neul tries to act cool, but can’t help having a side moment of blush-squee. 🤭

I really, really like where these two people are with each other, right now. 🥰

[END SPOILER]

Dae Young and Jeong Woo [MILD SPOILER]

I wanted to give a quick shout-out to the friendship between Dae Young and Jeong Woo, which becomes a Thing, in Show’s second half.

I really liked how helpful Dae Young is to Jeong Woo, and what a concerned hyung he becomes to Jeong Woo, despite the prickly-snooty attitude that we see at first, from Dae Young.

Dae Young and Hong Ran

Pretty soon into our story, Show starts hinting at a potential loveline between Dae Young and Hong Ran (Kong Seong Ha).

I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t super interested in it, because the run-ins and other interactions leaned on the silly side of things.

By the episode 11-12 point, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’d started to genuinely enjoy this connection between them.

Sometimes, I enjoyed their scenes more than the OTP scenes, even.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E11-12. I love how we’re seeing them help each other in very everyday sorts of ways, and how they’re each filling parenting gaps in the other person’s life, which overall leads to happier kids on both sides, and therefore, happier parent-child relationships too.

It’s honestly perfect, the way Dae Young’s able to help Hong Ran with Jin Woo, and how Hong Ran’s able to help Dae Young with Eun Jeong.

I really like the practical, everyday sort of touch that we’re getting with this arc, with Hong Ran accompanying Dae Young to the store, to pick out new bras for Eun Jeong.

The more I see them helping each other in these everyday ways, the more convinced I am, that these two people would be really great together, and that it would not only make them happy, but would benefit their kids too. 🥲

[END SPOILER]

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODES [SPOILERS]

E13-14. I’m honestly pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed these episodes more than I’d expected to – so here’s a detailed spotlight, to give credit where it’s due.

I’d actually been bracing myself for this pair of episodes, for two reasons.

First, this is the infamous angsty stretch of just about every 16-episode kdrama, coz most dramas ramp up the angst right about now, in order to create enough tension and drama, to power the narrative to the finish line.

Second, with Show bringing Kyung Min’s involvement in Jeong Woo’s medical incident to the forefront, I was pretty darn convinced, coming into this pair of episodes, that there would be a lot of screen time spent exploring this angle, and that it would be full of investigations and such, which.. I’m not super interested in, in this particular story.

I’m so pleasantly surprised that not only does Show not lean into the investigation, it actually gives us a pair of episodes that feel more thoughtful and gentle than it’s been giving us, of late.

Sure, these episodes weren’t perfect, but they were so much better than I’d expected, that I feel like I can’t complain too much.

See the importance of managing expectations? 😂

First of all, let’s talk about the whole story around Kyung Min.

I’m glad that Show gives us the full backstory, of what had happened, and how Jeong Woo’s mother had been so condescending, inflexible and unkind, in her treatment of Kyung Min, particularly when his father died.

It’s a lot for someone to deal with, and the way Mother Dearest had been so snooty towards him for such a long period, over the entire time he’d tutored Jeong Woo, I can see how this could have really done a number on Kyung Min, so that an otherwise normal, nice person, might become irrational and vengeful.

It’s so sad, really, that Kyung Min decided that he wanted Jeong Woo’s family to suffer the way his family had, and that’s why he’d done things to Jeong Woo, like spike his drink with the exact same medicine that his own father had taken, the night he’d died.

It makes no sense, and it’s completely unfair to Jeong Woo, but the thing is, on some level, Kyung Min knew this – but he couldn’t stop himself anyway.

I’m leaning towards the idea that Kyung Min had become clinically depressed, after all that he’d gone through working for Mother Dearest, and losing not only his dignity, but his father as well.

Of course, I’m no doctor, so I could be wrong about that, but my point is, I think Kyung Min had mental health issues that had gone unchecked, and that’s how he’d ended becoming a twisted monster, of sorts.

I appreciate the various indications that we get, that he’d really had cared about Jeong Woo, despite his twisted actions, and that he really did feel sorry towards Jeong Woo, for everything that he’d done.

While it’s tragic that Kyung Min died as a result of that accident, I feel that it works out, narrative speaking.

Because, not only had Kyung Min been involved in staging that medical accident, which had resulted in someone’s death, and Jeong Woo losing his clinic and his reputation, and going deep into debt, it also put all of Jeong Woo’s staff out of work.

Mainly, though, it’s that someone had died because of his actions.

Additionally, there’s how Show uses his death, to explore the impact that it leaves, on Jeong Woo, and I found that very worthwhile and well done.

The internal conflict that Jeong Woo grapples with, around whether or not to forgive Kyung Min, is so on-point, and so sensitively done.

It’s so true, that Jeong Woo would have extremely complicated feelings towards Kyung Min, after all that they’ve been through together, and then, all that Kyung Min’s done to him, that all amount to a big load of betrayal.

I can imagine that Jeong Woo would find it hard to forgive him, but also, hard to hate him, at the same time.

I’m glad that Ha Neul tells him that he doesn’t have to forgive Kyung Min, because I do think that that helps to take some pressure off Jeong Woo.

That said, I’m a touch sad that Jeong Woo and Ha Neul start to keep their pain to themselves, after some time, but I also understand Show’s point, that sometimes – oftentimes? – we hold in our pain, in order to protect the ones whom we love.

And the whole reason Jeong Woo and Ha Neul don’t tell each other the painful things on their minds, is not because they don’t trust each other; it’s because they each understand that the other person already feels burdened, and don’t feel that they should add to that burden, by opening up about their pain.

The way Jeong Woo bottles it up feels typical for most people, and I’m glad that he eventually opens up to Ha Neul’s mom, and I’m so thankful for Mom, because the way she responds, is just perfect.

She acknowledges without reservation how hard it must be for him, and how much he’s suffered, and how exhausting it is, to hold onto a grudge and the unforgiveness that goes with it.

Yet, she does not press him to let it go right away, because she understands how much hurt he’s suffered, and that it’s just too painful now, to say that he forgives Kyung Min.

Her advice, to just wait, and allow the pain to subside with time, is wise, and her presence with him, as she rubs his back, is just the consolation that he needs.

It’s beautiful how he has a good cry with Mom by his side; this is the start of the healing that he will eventually have, in full. 🥲

Speaking of opening up, I did very much enjoy the scenes between Dae Young and Hong Ran, this set of episodes, particularly the scene where they eat kalguksu together, and Hong Ran tells him what had happened with her ex-husband, and how they’d gotten divorced.

The fact that Hong Ran’s willing to tell Dae Young these things, tells me that she is comfortable with him, and trusts him, and I like that a lot.

The way they end up sharing an umbrella in the rain also feels like a step towards them becoming closer.

Plus, the scene of them at the jimjilbang with Jin Woo, with Dae Young doing all these fatherly things with him, is just precious.

I felt really quite bad for Dae Young, when Jin Woo asks if they’re dating, and Hong Ran answers in the negative, so emphatically.

Aw. Poor Dae Young. I feel like I can hear his heart breaking into a million pieces. 🙈

I thought it was kinda cute that Hong Ran got jealous at the company gathering, and that Dae Young then clarifies his feelings towards her afterwards.

The way he tells her that she’s the only one he makes time for, on the weekends, and that she’s the only one he’s curious and worried about.

I actually really liked this confession from Dae Young; it feels so real and so organic; it’s just a pity that he gets interrupted by that accidental kiss on the cheek, by Nurse Do.

Oops. 🤭

I mean, it’s clear that neither Dae Young nor Nurse Do enjoyed that accidental kiss, but I can see how this might give Hong Ran pause, and thus create awkwardness between them.

I do love this idea, of Dae Young and Hong Ran coming together and blending their families into one, and I hope that that’s exactly what they’ll do, before we get to the finish line with our story.🥲

As for Ha Neul, I’m glad she gets that assistant professor position, and that Jeong Woo is so genuinely happy for her, even though he knows that this will result in them having less time to spend together.

I thought that was sweet.

The way the reality of Ha Neul’s new schedule eventually wears on them is played for comedy, which I suppose I prefer over the thought of Show leaning into melodrama. 😅

I’m glad that Jeong Woo gets that 20 billion won compensation, and uses (some of) the money to find a way for them to spend more time together, by creating a way for them to work together.

I thought that was a nice idea.

And, as we wrap up the episode, we have Jeong Woo looking like he’s about to propose, and that’s a development that I’m not opposed to, at all. 🥲

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

My friends, I hate to say this, but I basically ran out of steam and goodwill with this show, in these final two episodes.

It honestly felt like Show had about a single half hour of story to tell, but had to stretch it out, somehow, to fill two whole hours instead, and that’s how we ended up with what feels like a heckuva lot of filler, in this finale.

With our main story pretty much wrapped, in essence, this finale felt like an extended epilogue; the after-party for folks who really, really love these characters and this drama world, and are not ready nor willing to say goodbye, just yet.

I think if you fall into this category, you’d actually enjoy this finale, because it gives you the opportunity to spend more time with these characters, as they live their lives, and continue their respective journeys.

I have to confess though, that even though I managed to enjoy this show reasonably well overall, I just don’t have that kind of deep affection for these characters.

As a result, I found myself chafing at Show’s remaining minutes; like, are we not there yet? No? Seriously? 🙈😅

Of course, another factor that would affect how well you enjoy this finale, is how well you take to the particular brand of OTP aegyo that Show likes to serve up.

The reason for that is, Show serves up a good amount of it, in these last two episodes.

If you like this style of OTP Cute, then you’d enjoy this finale a lot more than I did, because I don’t enjoy this style of OTP Cute much at all. 😅

Each time our OTP swerved hard into aggressive aegyo territory, I winced – and then continued to wince, until the end of the scene.

I’m preeetty sure that wasn’t the effect Show was gunning for, but well, that’s just it landed for me. Hopefully it landed better for you? 😅

Mostly I found myself liking stuff more in concept than in execution, in these finale episodes.

For example, I like the idea of Jeong Woo and Ha Neul getting married, but I didn’t like how Show dragged the whole thing out, such that Jeong Woo’s basically on tenterhooks almost the whole time, on whether he should propose, or whether Ha Neul would say yes.

Similarly, I liked the idea of Ba Da finally becoming more responsible, and earning his own keep, and wanting to buy Mom a bag, as a token of appreciation.

However, I wasn’t super into the silly comedic touch that Show employed, with Mom literally running out of the store, and Ba Da chasing her down.

These finale episodes weren’t without highlights, for me, however, and just for the record, here are the things that I did enjoy:

1. Dae Young plucking up the courage to tell Hong Ran that he really likes her, and to please date him – aided by his daughter’s advice, no less. That was sweet and cute.

In fact, I found myself perking up for this secondary OTP, during this finale stretch.

2. I didn’t love the OTT comedy around Jeong Woo getting all peeved about Ha Neul going away for 6 months, BUT, I did like the way Ha Neul spoke her mind to her professor, about how she felt that situation could have been better handled.

That was steady and matter-of-fact; very nicely done.

And, it’s a great demonstration of how Ha Neul’s come so far, in her mental health journey, that she’s able to deal with this setback with calmness and confidence. I liked that a lot.

3. I also appreciated the statement that Ha Neul’s psychiatrist makes, about what being “better” means; that people don’t necessarily become happier. Instead, they become better able to accept and deal with setbacks, and are able to approach their lives with hope instead of a sense of defeat.

I thought that was nicely summarized, and a good reminder to us as viewers, as well.

4. I did like that moment when Mom tells Ba Da that Ha Neul’s not better than him; that he and she are just different, and that they are each special in their own ways.

5. Jeong Woo texting Kang Jin Suk, and asking if he’d be able to come work for Jeong Woo, because Jeong Woo needs someone trustworthy, was a nice touch.

Overall, I like the closing idea that Show serves up, that the slump that Jeong Woo and Ha Neul had thought of as the lowest points in their lives, had but been a new starting point, and that they’re now confident in facing the future, because even though there might be sadness and misery, there will be happiness too.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Show has some really nice bright spots, but is, overall, rather too bloated and indulgent, in my books.

FINAL GRADE: B

TRAILER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’m covering on Patreon, in place of  Doctor Slump, is Lovely Runner [Korea].

You can check out my on-going episode notes on Lovely Runner [Korea] (which are current with the airing episodes) on Patreon here.

Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!

Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment Drop (Sundays) + the first set notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)

Early Access (US$5): +Blood Free [Korea]

Early Access Plus (US$10): +Will Love in Spring [China]

VIP (US$15): +The Atypical Family [Korea]

VVIP (US$20): +Lovely Runner [Korea]

Ultimate (US$25): +Captivating The King [Korea]

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️



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