***WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!***
Let's start at the beginning. In the beginning I went into it with intrepidation. Reply 1997 is in my top 3 of all times list. Those are some mighty big steps to follow in, and we all know how disastrous "sequels" can be. Not that this was a sequel in the traditional sense. Different cast of characters (nearly) and different storyline entirely. But the same kind of concept. Can you recreate that magic? Well, when I actually started watching it, I would have answered that question with a relieved and very emphatic "yes!" This drama was pure gold! Oh my goodness - I was OBSESSED! I got maybe 7-8 episodes in and then started to rewatch it. First time ever I have rewatched while it was still airing, but I just loved it so much and couldn't get enough. It followed the same concept as its predecessor - the identity of the husband is a mystery and only revealed in the end, so you spend the whole time looking for clues and building theories.
That's where it all went wrong.
The first, what, 15? episodes were amazing. Just fantastic. I was enraptured and gushing. I changed my FB profile pic to represent my allegiances. I changed the background on my phone. I was all in. It was truly a magical and wonderful time. I thought the world of these writers. I thought the world of the broadcasting network tvN for bringing us something so original and clever. Thanks to KMuse, we even had our own theories going and all the evidence strongly supported it. Oh, we thought we were so smart and had it all figured out. And we did. Until the writers turned on us. That's when it all started to fall apart.
Now before you start pointing fingers and accusing me of just being a sore loser because my guy didn't win in the end, just hear me out for a minute. That's really not what it was. Okay, maybe a little, because I really, really, really wanted him to be the one, but there's more to it than that. Right off the bat I was nervous when I saw that it was scheduled to be 20 episodes. 20 episodes is a l o n g time to keep a story like this going. Think about it. You have to tell a story for 20 episodes without revealing a very significant role and relationship. There are a lot of things you have to be careful to avoid. Rumor has it that, like Reply 1997, even the actors in this drama didn't know who the husband would be until the script for the last episode came out. Imagine how difficult that would be. How do you tell a story without knowing the end? And keep in mind that these weren't normal length episodes either. They were each about an hour and a half. There are entire movies that are that length. So basically you are putting 20 movies together to tell this story. That's not a whole lot to base so much on, you know? All this made me nervous. I wondered how in the world they were going to be able to stretch it out and keep the story interesting. How long can you drag out a main plotline that rests solely on the identity of one character? I put my faith in the writers though as the first episodes rolled out beautifully.
And then came the word that should strike fear in any drama fan's heart...extension. What?! You are going to tack on an EXTRA episode onto a drama that is already too long for its concept? This can't end well. Sure enough, somewhere around episode 16 everything started falling apart. This beautifully crafted and woven story that they had painstakingly built for 15ish episodes suddenly took a turn, and I would argue, it was a turn for the worst. It was like they just abandoned everything in order to make a specific ending happen, an ending that truly, and I promise that this is not just sour grapes talking here, didn't fit the rest of the story. It fell apart. Like a beautiful masterpiece crumbling under the master's hands as he looks helplessly on, unable to stop it.
Now, this is not to say that I didn't still enjoy the show in some part even after it all started to unravel. It still had its redeeming qualities. The cameos by the 1997 crew were awesome. And even though I was rooting for the other guy, I didn't hate the "winner". That last episode was a hard one to watch though. I felt like they ripped our hearts into pieces early on in 21 and then spent the last majority of the episode trying to convince us that what they did was okay. It wasn't.
So, why exactly was this one a disappointment in the end? Not because I guessed wrong. Not simply because my guy lost. It was the loss of the potential of this drama to do something amazing and different. Oh man, they had it set up perfectly to just rock the drama world and do what so few dare to do. It could have been one of the truly memorable genius creations of all drama times. Instead it just falls in with all the others. Predictable. They started out blazing this trail towards something wonderful but then got scared and turned around and went back home to the familiar and the comfortable. They were about to rock the boat but then sat back down in their seats and put their life vests on. Nothing is sadder than seeing lost potential.
With all that said, I have to give credit to the cast and crew. I'm sure that this was a very demanding and difficult experience for them. They all did a really good job. My only beef is with those that decided to wuss out and not venture outside of the comfort zone in order to make something special and notable. In the end, it was just another drama. Not that that's bad, I mean, I like dramas, obviously. You have to admit, however, that they are all very predictable in many areas. For example, from episode one on, you know who will be the OTP. Even in a drama like this one where technically you didn't know.
I have a hard time recommending this one or even rating it in general. I LOVED it, but became less enthusiastic towards the end. And then had my heart broken and my fears regarding the finale realized. How do you rank something like that? Do you tell your friends to watch a drama that is so incredible through most of it, even if the ending is disappointing?
That, dear readers, I will have to leave up to you to decide for yourself.