Written by Jung Hyun-jung & Jung Da-yeon
Directed by Park Shin-woo
You get a sense of finality starting to makes its presence with this penultimate block of episodes. After spending nearly a large chunk of the season having its two lead characters predominantly spending their screen time together in those gorgeous flashback scenes (and they really do seem so far away and so long ago now), Jae-won and Eun-oh’s screen time is now very much within the present day.
The previous episodes have given us stretches of time between the two characters here and there, but the thirteenth episode of the series is almost entirely given over to the two finally having that heart-to-heart, or variations of it, that we’ve been wanting for a while now.
The chemistry between Ji Chang-wook and Kim Ji-won has been undeniable all season, but it says a lot about how great these two are as actors that they can play their scenes from such a completely different and embittered place as they do here.
Last week’s episode ended on a cliffhanger suggesting that Eun-oh had made her way back to Jae-won’s house. That Jae-won was only shown from the back of his head made me think that this episode was going to trick us and reveal that she hadn’t.
Instead there is no playing around with the first of this week’s episodes which outside of Geon’s increasingly funny confusion as to where Eun-oh has disappeared to, instead turns into a lovely two-person play where the two pivotal players in a large part of the plot finally talk it all out over a breakfast that ends up in the sink.
By the end of these two episodes, there is a huge range of emotions that the viewer has gone through that is evidence that even as it is about to hit the home stretch and reach its conclusion, Lovestruck in the City is showing no signs of losing any momentum or steam.
Jae-won and Eun-oh’s scenes are funny and poignant, but also manage to go from leaving you in emotional knots to being playful in one brilliant sweep with their performances. The setting has changed. We are away from those gorgeous sandy beaches, rolling fields and that hazy filter that made everything look like a gorgeous Instagram photo. Instead we are in the rainy streets of Seoul, with no hazy filter to make everything look dreamy and glossy. Instead of a quirky caravan, we’re in the front seat of Jae-won’s none more modern car, the rain falling upon it.
The reality check is startling, but even with the more embittered tone of their conversation, the raised voices and the internalising that is part and parcel of Eun-oh’s character (and honestly, nobody can say so much with so little as wonderfully as Kim Ji-won has done practically all throughout the second half of the series), there is still time for those little bits of flirtation, chemistry that is undeniable and even some playful behaviour.
Jae-won’s playfulness in the car in episode 13 and Eun-oh’s deliberately bland noodles and accompanying flying food particles into Jae-won’s facein the following episode are once again a brilliant example of how the series has a wickedly great command of tone. That it can break you emotionally in one episode and make you laugh at the more overt romantic comedy of the next is a prime example of why this might be very well one of the best series of 2021.
That the series has been unafraid of those reality checks even while sweeping us along with its more romantic leanings gets its most thorough workout here, and even the more stable romance of the series (Rin-I and Kyung-joon) isn’t a safe bet anymore as it becomes clearer and clearer that they might be on different paths, or at least have different ways of approaching their lives.
There’s a gentle and lovely moment between the two when they are eating dinner and those differences become ever more clearer, Rin-i being somewhat indifferent to what is going on, but Kyeung-joon becoming ever more aware of the chasm that is enveloping between them. It’s a scene that is gently moving, but also funny as well, but above all else it gets at the heart of what has frequently made the series so damn good. The observations, the humour, the poignancy, it all gets a brilliant workthrough here, but it also sets in stone some considerable stakes going into the end of the final batch of episodes next week.
So Ju-yeon and Kim Min-seok have been unbearably cute all season, not to mention portraying a more grounded and effective long-term romance in contrast to the more quietly epic one between Jae-won and Eun-oh, and while the final scene this week gives us the present day kiss between the central characters that we’ve been building up to these last few weeks, there is a suspenseful feeling in the air that all bets are still off for everyone involved here.
I think it’s safe to say that we might get our happy ending after all, but there is still that small tangible suggestion that we might get something more realistic. I don’t think it’s going to become a tragedy or anything like that, but its observational nature and reminiscent feeling of films such as 500 Days of Summer means that it’s not outside the realm of possibility that something more low-key and realistic is something the series could give the characters and the audience.
It gives the series a considerable edge as it goes into its final block of episodes. It also means we’re near the end of this story and honestly, I’m already feeling bereft at the series coming to a full stop.