Written by Jung Hyun-jung & Jung Da-yeon
Directed by Park Shin-woo
There has been a quietly epic feel to Lovestruck in the City, and as it reaches its final chapters, you can feel a sense of resolution in every pore of its duration, every scene having an ‘end of the story’ feeling (although there is a special seventeenth episode on the way).
I guess I didn’t want it to end. Its exploration of romance and relationships has been one of the most entertaining series of the year and even though it’s only February (and technically the series began at the end of 2020) I can already see this being one of my absolute favourites of the year.
We begin this final block of episodes where we left off, dealing with the aftermath of the kiss that honestly felt like we would have to wait until this week for, but given that it has happened, it stands to reason that Lovestruck would want to mine some more drama out of that cliffhanger. That they do with a scene that runs through every range of emotions that the series walks expertly around; it’s a scene that is funny, dramatic and emotional.
It also gives us some of the most mature drama of the series so far, drama that is just filled with near dread levels of poignancy.
The obvious thing to get out of the way here is just how damn brilliant Kim Ji-won and Ji Chang-wook are all in all of this. The opening moments has them playing their scene together in total opposite to each other. Jae-won is hyper and dramatic, she is calm and resolute, her voice level, his at high pitched levels (and I’ve come to the realisation nobody can do comical aggravation as brilliant as Ji Chang-wook).
That scene alone is such a great way to open the episode, but it’s the telephone call between them after that which is a clear sign that this series is going to end brilliantly. So much is said by Eun-oh as she outlines just how much she still needs to find herself that even Jae-won can’t do anything but listen to her.
The scenes that follow are lovely and understated and where most romantic dramas (from anywhere in the world come to think of it) would go all out for the big finish with big proclamations and mad dashes through airports and maybe a hit song over the soundtrack, Lovestruck keeps to an understated feel and is all the better for it.
The key scene in the first of this week’s episodes is Eun-oh confessing to Rin-I and Geon about where she went, what she did and the whole camera business and it’s another brilliant scene in an episode (and series) full of them. It’s a scene that goes from funny to emotional, back again, and then back round again for good measure, but it also kind of suggests that the most healthiest love story going on here is the one between friends as opposed to romantic love. Any other series might have tried to get more drama out of Eun-oh’s deception and her friends being angry, but instead it just confirms that the friendship at the heart of the series is perhaps its most purest love story of all.
The episodes keep us in suspense as to where Eun-oh and Jae-won’s story will go, so in the meantime we end up having our heartstrings pulled by Geon and Sun-young’s story where, once again, the scene is understated but no less powerful and then there’s the absolute devastation that comes from Rin-yi and Kyong-joon’s inevitable break-up which has been on the cards the last few weeks.
I don’t think I’ve said enough about Ryu Kyung-soo and Han Ji-eun’s work over the last few weeks, but the moment they decide to put a permanent full stop to their complex partnership cannot help but show you how sneakily good they’ve been all throughout the series and the scene between them where they say goodbye, possibly forever, is perhaps one of the saddest and more heart wrenching on the series because of just how quiet and dignified it is.
It’s in direct contrast to Rin-yi and Kyong-joon which is more dramatic but just as heart wrenching, particularly when it comes to So Joo-Yeon’s performance as Rin-I talks about the equally shameful treatment she received from her mother. It’s an overall scene that might prove divisive to an audience. For one thing we have cheered these two on as an example of a healthy relationship on the show but starting a few weeks ago the cracks began to show and now their relationship is in tatters.
Geon and Sun-young at least ended in a healthy place with respect and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, they might find each other again. The same cannot be said of Rin-yi and Kyong-joon which feels like it has a massive full stop placed on it with nowhere else to go.
It gets at the heart at what has made this series so damn good; these are explorations of relationships that either flourish or die out. They can end well (Geon and Sun-young) or they can end bitterly with nothing but resentment, disappointment, hurt and drunken jealousies (Rin-yi and Kyong-joon).
Or sometimes, a happy ending can prevail, and even though the episode gives Jae-won and Eun-oh the happy ending they deserve, brilliantly it does so without copping out.
I honestly felt that a happy ending may not have been a natural fit for their relationship and for weeks I expected something approaching the final moments of 500 Days of Summer to be the track that Lovestruck would take in this episode, but brilliantly, masterfully even, it manages to give us something that we all wanted but in a way that feels natural and earned.
The nervousness of that second first kiss, the way they talk to each other, the beautiful imagery of the snow falling on them, the chemistry which is new and different now, but no less real (possibly more so), it adds up to genuinely lovely ending, and the use of snow gives it a fairy tale feel that might not be the most realistic thing for a series that has revelled in more emotional realism than most K-dramas, but to hell with it, we the audience and the characters deserve it.