Written by Jung Hyun-jung & Jung Da-yeon
Directed by Park Shin-woo
Every week Lovestruck in the City gets better and better and just when you think it might have peaked, it goes and delivers its twelfth episode that may very well be the very best episode of the series.
I realise I might sound like a broken record at this stage. Every review for the last three weeks has been a variation of ‘best episode ever’ but let’s be honest; it’s true.
After Jae-won’s drunken dream turned out to not be a dream at all but an actual memory and with Ji Chang-wook and Kim Ji-won’s wonderful performances, Lovestruck has simply continued to create a lovely balancing act between poignancy, comedy, and even suspense, not to mention an air of unpredictability with every passing half hour it delivers a new episode.
There is much here to laugh at, squirm at and react to, and the eleventh episode, as it builds up to Jae-won and Eun-oh finally being in the same room with their circle of friends, is a brilliant escalation of comedic suspense and even terror as we wait for some sort of emotional confrontation.
That comes in the following episode, and the series switches gears and character point of view and finally places us in the headspace of Eun-oh/Seon-a for the entire thirty minutes.
There has been something enigmatic about Lovestruck’s leading female character, an elusiveness that the series has hinted at but left hovering over proceedings, making the audience and Jae-won question her motivations and reasons for her behaviour.
This has led to an interesting reaction from audiences, some of whom have sided so squarely with Jae-won that Eun-oh has almost felt like an enemy of sorts to some viewers.
It’s easy to be charmed by Jae-won. Ji Chang-wook’s performance and his ability to be both funny, emotional, and look dashingly handsome in some of the best clothing to be worn by a male lead in a K-drama, means that it’s hard not to be charmed, but there has been a more subversive and analytical approach to this type of character all season and when Rin-I even questions his anger issues, it goes without saying that he isn’t as purely the nice guy as we might want him to be.
That isn’t to say he is a bad person, he’s just complex and interesting and it’s these nuances that has constantly made the series such as a joy to watch week in and week out.
Frustratingly, there is a feeling that he does deserve some semblance of an answer as to why Eun-oh did what she did, and while he doesn’t get that answer, the audience does.
It’s a heartbreaker. Pure and simple.
Kim Ji-won’s performance has been brilliant throughout, and with the twelfth chapter of the series devoted to her, with ample screen time also given over to Oh Sun-Young and with it Han Ji-eun’s increasingly enjoyable borderline psychotic performance, there is a different flavour to this episode compared to the rest of the series.
It once again straddles the line between being very, very funny, and elegiac and poignant. That it can go from an elongated depiction of a drunken conversation between Eun-oh and Sun-Young that honestly goes on way too long like actual drunken conversations are prone to doing so, to those devastating flashbacks that function as an origin tale for not only Eun-oh but to some degree Seon-a, makes this without question the best half hour of the series yet (and once again, yes I am aware that I am repeating myself, but it’s true).
There is an inherent cruelty to so much of what Eun-oh has faced from her ex-boyfriend and the way he breaks up with her to the manner in which she loses her job, that it brilliantly contextualises her character and motivations. The writing, the direction and Kim Ji-won’s performance here all come together fantastically for an episode that ditches Lovestruck’s format for a good chunk of the duration, and it’s only when it goes back to the documentary format and the way it cuts between Eun-oh’s explanation to camera and Sun-Young’s own thoughts and feelings about what she wants, and with it the first time where it feels like we’re seeing something honestly raw with her character too, it can’t help but leave you emotionally reeling.
With only two weeks left, it’s hard to know where the series is going. There is something truly unpredictable about it at this stage. We may desperately want a happy ending for all of this, but at the same time it’s difficult to see if that might be the right, honest ending for what’s fast approaching a mini-masterpiece such as this.