28 May 2021

K Drama Review: Fight for My Way (2017)

We seem to be on a Park Seo Joon roll. It started with She Was Pretty where he was just okay. He was cute in his Parasite and Record of Youth cameos. Then he totally won me over with his exceptional cooking skills and calm demeanor in Youn's Stay. And he finally proved to me that he's not just an okay actor but a really good one in Itaewon Class. Oppa must have been impressed as well because he does not usually go for consecutive dramas of the same actor, unless he likes them. Or he might have just been doing me a favor, knowing that PSJ is on my list. Whatever it is, I'm just happy that we've seen a lot of PSJ dramas to date. I'm not sure if we're watching the remaining ones because they're not exactly our type. But we'll see. 

Plot


Fight for My Way tells the story of four childhood friends who are in the midst of finding their niche in life. The drama takes us through their struggles, failures, and redemptions in their careers, love, and life in general. 

Park Seo Joon as Ko Dong Man


Going into this drama, I had my mind set that Park Seo Joon can do no wrong - give him any role and he'll be able to do justice to his character. And as expected, PSJ did not disappoint as the athletic but often idiotic Ko Dong Man. He definitely has the body of a martial artist and he was badass in all of his fight scenes. 

Although he can be characterized as someone clueless, I loved how PSJ breathed life into Dong Man as a guy who can knock you off your feet with his random sweet gestures. I loved how he would always pat Choi Ae Ra's (Kim Ji Won of Descendants of the Sun and Lovestruck in the City) head as if she were a little kid. Or how he would always be over protective of Ae Ra like switching seats with her because some guys were ogling at her legs, or beating up the guy who cheated on her (Kwak Dong Yeon of Vincenzo), or beating up any guy who disrespects her. And then he asked her to just hang out with him and no one else so she would no longer get hurt. 

But what I loved most about Dong Man was how he was always that shoulder to lean on for Ae Ra. I loved how he offered his back as her fortress so she can cry. Then he hugged her and used his jacket to cover her. Or when he covered her face with his jacket after a bad break up. And how he would always reassure Ae Ra that it's cool and okay to cry. 

And I loved his slow and steady realization that Ae Ra was actually the one for her. Quite reminiscent of his love story in Itaewon Class. It was so cute when he told Ae Ra that he had a problem because she now looks pretty when she cries. Or how he dumped his ex (Lee Elijah of Wonderful Days and Ms. Hammurabi) and ran after Ae Ra to kiss her and ask her to date him. I might be considered a K drama newbie but I know that Park Seo Joon is definitely one of the best kissers and huggers among my oppas. He makes me melt just by simply watching him do all of those things on screen. :D

One complaint I have of Dong Man, however, is that he tended to yell a lot. Like all those old K dramas where the male leads are rude. Dong Man was borderline abusive here, especially during the first part of the show when he and Ae Ra were just friends. I felt that some of the stuff he did were crossing the line already. 

I can't blame Dong Man for choosing his career over love. Although he was simple-minded, he understood that opportunities like his shot in MMA do not come often. He waited for his break for 10 years and if he lets that chance pass, it might never come again. Sure, it was heartbreaking for Ae Ra. But he probably trusted that their love was strong and Ae Ra would be able to wait for him. 

I liked his thoughtfulness when he talked to Ae Ra's mom (Jin Hee Kyung of Suits) before they broke up. He asked her to protect Ae Ra because he might not be able to do it anymore. That was very, very heartbreaking.

And for all the heartache he caused Ae Ra, Dong Man made up for it with that oddly-placed but still sweet proposal in the octagon after his match. 

I loved watching how Dong Man grew and matured. I wanted to hug and reassure him everytime he doubted himself. And how his relationship with his dad (Son Byung Ho) progressed from hostile to passive to finally, a loving one. I liked how he came to respect his dad after finding out his dad's own struggles in his career. 

Itaewon Class might have been Park Seo Joon's best performance as an actor. But with his body displayed in all its glory in numerous scenes here, I would have to say that he was yummiest here. :D

Kim Ji Won as Choi Ae Ra


Oppa loved Kim Ji Won. And I'm surprised to find out that she has not yet made it to his list. I feel a revision will be coming soon. :) 

This was the longest Kim Ji Won drama I've watched. She was a second lead in DOTS. And while she was the female lead in Lovestruck in the City, the episodes were much shorter. And after watching her in a full K drama as a female lead, I would have to say that Kim Ji Won is okay. I liked her restrained acting in the drama scenes. I loved the silent tears when she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her in the first few episodes. And that moment she shared with her dad (Jeon Bae Su) when the latter drove to another town to watch her host an event but she was unfortunately replaced by Dong Man's ex. It was heartbreaking to see someone as feisty as her get hurt and humiliated, especially in front of her father. 

I loved Ae Ra's confrontation scenes too. Or whenever she was acting bitchy with anyone (be it her college friend, Dong Man's ex, Dong Man's coach, etc.). 

And while she always seems to be looking for a fight, I loved how kind Ae Ra actually was. Even if she loathed Dong Man's ex and Dong Man didn't even care about that girl anymore, Ae Ra still treated her in a very classy manner. Even if the ex remained proud and rude towards her. 

My only problem with Kim Ji Won here was her tendency to exaggerate the funny scenes, her wailing moments, and her aegyo (flirtatious acting in Korean). Her character probably called for it but she really didn't have to because she's already cute as is. 

Similar to Dong Man, I also loved seeing Ae Ra grow. From a department store receptionist who dreamed of being a department store announcer, it was great to finally see her get that MMA hosting gig. My only concern though was if she was knowledgeable enough to do it. 

It was unfortunate that Ae Ra's storyline with her mom was very limited and not built up properly. I felt that it was a missed opportunity for the drama to not showcase the story of an adult film actress who had to leave her daughter but still watch her from the sidelines to the point that she bought the apartment where her daughter lived. I wish this part of the story was not rushed. 

I liked how Ae Ra was totally comfortable with Dong Man. She can see him with unwashed hair or demand that he give up his seat on the bus for her. That probably made Dong Man feel that he had the license to cross the line with her. 

And while some people would probably judge Ae Ra as selfish for breaking up with Dong Man because he still wanted to fight even if it could permanently damage his ears, I get her. I was proud of her for knowing her limits in the relationship and for taking only what she can. If her heart and mind can't bear worrying about Dong Man, then she does not have to. There's no shame in choosing to be far away from him than to be with him but see him hurt. 

I'm still unsure if I preferred Ji Won here or in DOTS. Had it not been for the over the top aegyo and wailing, this might have been the better one for me. 

Ahn Jae Hong as Kim Joo Man


We loved Ahn Jae Hong in Reply 1988. So it was nice to see him again, this time in a bit more serious role as Joo Man, Dong Man's buddy. Yes, he was still funny and I can still see traces of Jung Bong's coolness in him. 

I liked how Ahn Jae Hong had more screen time here, which helped me appreciate him more as an actor. I loved his breakdown scene after his girlfriend Seol Hee (Song Ha Yoon) broke up with him. I liked how he respected Seol Hee's decision even if it probably killed him inside. He didn't force her to take him back right away and he patiently waited for her to heal. And as a bonus, he was decent enough to finally dump their officemate (Pyo Ye Jin of Lovestruck in the City and Hotel Del Luna) who was chasing him. 

It was nice to see ambitious Joo Man but it was unfortunate that for a moment, he seemed to have taken for granted what Seol Hee wanted. I was glad that it was not too late for them to patch things up and meet halfway. 

Ahn Jae Hong may not be male lead material but he definitely brings something to the table and it's always a joy to watch him. 

Song Ha Yoon as Baek Seol Hee

This was Song Ha Yoon's debut in our TV screen. And I liked her right away. She's so pretty and there's something very cute about how kind and meek she was as Seol Hee, Dong Man and Ae Ra's best friend. 

But I resented that kindness at times especially when she allowed her relationship with Joo Man to be kept a secret. I felt so bad that she had to endure something like that. Or when Joo Man's relatives treated her like a slave. 

It was also a very touching moment for me when Seol Hee said that ever since, her dream was to become a mom. Maybe corny for some, but I'm sure a lot of women out there have the same dream. Yet not too many speak up about it for fear that they'd be judged as someone who has no ambition in life. 

And I was so proud of Seol Hee when she finally confronted Joo Man and their officemate who liked him. It was so refreshing to see meek Seol Hee fighting for what's hers. And I was glad that that incident paved the way for her to finally pursue something she wanted - to go to online selling. 

Song Ha Yoon looks promising and she's someone we'll be watching out for. 

Choi Woo Shik as Park Moo Bin


This is our first Woo Shik drama. We've seen (and loved) him in variety shows (Summer Vacation and Youn's Stay) and movies (Parasite and Train to Busan). So I was looking forward to watching him in a drama. 

Woo Shik was perfect as the nerdy guy suitor of Ae Ra who was too good to be true. Oppa didn't like this storyline though. He felt that it was quite lame. And while I agree with him, I felt that this was not Woo Shik's fault. It was just the way his character was written and he couldn't do anything about it. So yes, I still love Woo Shik. And I loved how his character reminded us that if something/someone is too good to be true, then he/she/it can't be true. 

Kim Sung Oh as Coach Hwang Jang Ho

I didn't really want to mention Kim Sung Oh (who had a cameo in She Was Pretty) but I felt that he deserved credit for his improved acting. We watched him in Warm and Cozy and we didn't really like him as the overacting mayor. Although he still had the tendency to be over the top here as Dong Man's coach, I think he did much better and he was more tolerable to watch. I can't say the same for Kim Tak Su (Kim Gun Woo) who didn't seem to show me anything new from his character in Record of Youth. 

Execution 

The show is far from perfect but it had moments that I loved. I liked the pacing. No nap times for me here. 

The theme about finding your place in this world is something that's very relatable, whether you're just starting out or thinking of switching careers. Both young and old can easily relate to this drama. I loved how it depicted the struggles that we have to deal with as adults - how we're too afraid to change because others depend on us or we're scared of leaving our comfort zones to start anew. I liked how the show's characters maintained their positive outlook in life despite the numerous obstacles they had to face. And the show did this without belittling the difficulties that come with adulting. 

I enjoyed watching the flashbacks, especially when I see how the young Ae Ra really resembled the old version. 

I also liked how the show injected family story lines, at least for the four main characters. Like how families still pressure their kids to marry someone from good families, only to enslave their new in-laws later on (especially the girls). I loved the lead characters' moments with their parents. It was heartbreaking to watch Seol Hee's mom (Lee Jung Eun of Ms. Hammurabi, A Taxi Driver, and Parasite) see her daughter suffer in the hands of her in-laws. 

Although this might be a controversial topic, I liked how the show touched on game fixing. Yes, this is unacceptable. But we also need to look at the sad reality that for some people, sports are really means to escape poverty and sometimes, they cannot help but give in to temptations in order to provide for their families. I'm glad that Dong Man got another chance because I don't think the game fixing incident was his fault. He loved his sister. So shame on the grown-up who thought of taking advantage of his situation to favor Tak Su. 

There were some illogical stuff. Oppa felt that it was too much for both Dong Man and Tak Su to suffer concussions from that headbutt. I also found it weird that Tak Su who had a concussion stayed in the hospital, while Dong Man, who had ear problems, a concussion, and a hairline fracture somewhere near the ear was allowed to stay at home without hospital admission. 

The flaws in the earlier parts of the show were tolerable or even forgivable. But what didn't really work that well for me was how the ending and the last few episodes seemed to dump a lot of things on me at the same time. Seol Hee's plum wine business. The back story of the divorce of Dong Man's ex. The story behind Ae Ra's mom and her adopted son. The story about the TV producer who stalked Ae Ra in the past (Kang Ki Doong of Prison Playbook). Seol Hee patching things up with Joo Man's mom. Dong Man and Tak Su's rematch. And of course, Dong Man and Ae Ra's break up, reconciliation through a marriage proposal, and finally, their wedding. 

Individually, these stories could have definitely added value to the show. But because they were all presented almost at the same time and towards the end of the show when things were being wrapped up already, they failed to shine on their own. They were in fact competing for the viewers' attention. And that was really unfortunate. I would have probably cut down on the Woo Shik story line in the earlier episodes to give more time to these more important stories.

Having said all of that, however, I still enjoyed Fight for My Way. As I mentioned above, it's very relatable so it's quite easy to move on from the not so pleasant things. 

Oppa says...4.

Noona says...4.25.  


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