Showing posts with label Run On (Kdrama) 3.8 || 4.4. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Run On (Kdrama) 3.8 || 4.4. Show all posts

19 August 2021

K Drama Review: Run On (2020) 3.8 || 4.4

Oppa might have had the Olympic fever when he suggested that we watch this drama which he branded as something about a track athlete. I didn't mind because it had Im Si Wan (House on Wheels 2 and cameo in Reply 1997), whom we have not yet seen in a lead role on a drama. We were also curious when we found out that the show had Shin Se Kyung, the first and only colleague IU has on Edam, and Sooyoung, Jung Kyung Ho's girlfriend and a member of Oppa's favorite, SNSD. And while the show didn't fully live up to Oppa's branding of something sports-related, it entertained me enough so I was able to enjoy it. 


Run On is about the story of Ki Seon Gyeom (Im Si Wan), a national athlete for track and field. He is the son of Assemblyman Ki Jeong Do (Park Young Gyu of Angry Mom) and popular actress Yook Ji Woo (Cha Hwa Yeon). Seon Gyeom unearths the culture of bullying in the track team and how it's covered up by the higher ups. He opts to retire from the team after getting involved in an assault scandal when he defended his bullied teammate Kim Woo Sik (Lee Jeong Ha). Although the team was willing to give him another chance, Seon Gyeom refused, knowing that he was only getting it because of his privileged background. The story takes us through how Seon Gyeom begins to live his life for himself and not for his manipulative father and how he meets genuine friends and the love of his life Oh Mi Joo (Shin Se Kyung) along the way. 

Im Si Wan as Ki Seon Gyeom

Si Wan was perfect as Seon Gyeom, a chill, nice guy, who was straightforward, bordering on blunt, most of the time. It was easy to misinterpret him as someone arrogant and cocky, the way Mi Joo and Seo Dan A (Sooyoung) probably perceived him. But that was just really how he was. He refuses to beat around the bush, like when Mi Joo was saying so many things and he asked her straightaway if she wanted to break up. Si Wan was great as a no-frills male lead. 

Despite his great traits, however, I was initially wary of glorifying Seon Gyeom because I knew it was much easier to be a hero and be magnanimous when you are privileged. But as his story unfolded, I learned to appreciate him more. Despite coming from a rich and powerful family, he actually lived a lonely life without friends. In a way, his untimely retirement from the track team proved to be a blessing in disguise because it helped Seon Gyeom live a more normal life and it paved the way for him to forge real and meaningful relationships with others like Mi Joo, Dan A, Woo Shik, and Lee Yeong Hwa (Kang Tae Oh). He got to do normal things like working part time as a driver for the production Mi Joo worked in. 

The greatest thing about Seon Gyeom was how grounded he was. I loved his strong sense of justice, especially when he used his platform to avenge Woo Shik. And how he refused to use his privilege to get special treatment from anyone. 

Seon Gyeom was just a genuinely good-natured guy. I loved his bromances with Woo Shik and Yeong Hwa. And how he always strived to protect his elder sister Eun Bi (Ryu Abel of My Mister and A Taxi Driver). And how serious he was about mentoring the track kids. 

Among the leads, Si Wan probably had the fewest opportunity to showcase his talent given how straightforward his character was. Nonetheless, it was still nice to watch him and I look forward to seeing him in a role that would allow him to show his range. 

Shin Se Kyung as Oh Mi Joo

We loved Se Kyung right away. She reminds of a younger and softer version of Park Min Young. I loved how cute Se Kyung was, especially when she was awkward around Seon Gyeom. She was perfect as the funny and always rambling Mi Joo. I especially loved the scenes where she bickered with Dan A, how the latter would bait Mi Joo on purpose and Mi Joo would get so defensive and offended. 

Even Mi Joo's banter with Yeong Hwa was adorable. It looked so fluid and natural, it almost felt like ad lib at some points. 

What I liked most about Mi Joo was how she chose self-love when she broke up with Seon Gyeom. She loved him but she knew she had to take care of herself first. She knew her worth and it was painful to see her doubt herself and ask if she lacked anything just because Seon Gyeom's father disapproved of her. It was not an easy decision and I was proud of how brave she was to have done it. 

Shin Se Kyung was really promising and I hope to watch more of her in the future. 

Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo

I would have to admit that I didn't feel Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo's chemistry right away. While Mi Joo was a very lively character, my appreciation was probably hindered by the "dryness" of Seon Gyeom. Yes, I loved Seon Gyeom as an individual but in the beginning, his personality was not really cut for a cutesy love story. But they grew on me. And I ended up loving them. 

I loved how a drunk Seon Gyeom kissed Mi Joo in public to ward off rumors that he was dating an actress. And how he confessed to a drunk Mi Joo that he was already doing what she asked him to do - to like her. And how he always looked out for her - work, meals, exercise, and how he simply pushed her to live a healthier life. Like how he took care of her when she got sick during her out-of-town gig and he even arranged to move the entire production staff to a better hotel. And I loved his very sincere confession to Mi Joo - how he said he was not sure if she felt the same way and if she wanted to do the things he wanted to do like hold, hug, and kiss her. It felt so natural. 

I loved how Mi Joo was the perfect foil for gentle Seon Gyeom. Like how she helped him realize that he does not have to be too kind all the time and that it was okay to accept help and kindness from others too, like when she offered to let him stay in their living rom. And how she stood her ground by dragging him in the cinema to take him away from his father, saying that he was there to watch a movie with her and not with Dan A. And I absolutely loved how she was overprotective of him, treating him like some fragile baby. 

I was not a huge fan of their misunderstandings though. They were mostly frustrating for me because I felt that they were all due to miscommunication and/or the show was forcing them to have conflicts so they can have something to argue about. For two characters who were pretty articulate, I just found it odd that they could not communicate well whenever they had issues. Like when Mi Joo insisted on not riding with Seon Gyeom going back to Seoul after the out-of-town shoot. I honestly did not know where it came from. 

I loved how Seon Gyeom handled the break up. He gave Mi Joo space and he did not force her to understand the situation. He respected her and he did not resent how she felt. And I was so giddy when they got back together and he promised to get rid of all other obstacles because he only wanted them to worry about things between the two of them and no one/nothing else. How so responsible of him. 

I came to love Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo because theirs was probably one of the least complicated love stories I've seen on a K drama in a long time. Even if it had all the ingredients to become a complex love storyline - guy from a rich and powerful family with a condescending father who wanted to marry off his son for power and an average girl - I was happy with how the show handled this angle with as little complexity as possible. 

Sooyoung as Seo Dan A

I didn't need to warm up to Sooyoung. I liked her immediately because she was perfect as Dan A, a cold-hearted bitch. Despite her bitchiness, it was easy to see that she was actually kind deep inside. And that she lived a lonely life like Seon Gyeom. Yeong Hwa perfectly described her as Rapunzel because she had a sad life even if she lived a privileged life. 

A testament to her kindness was how she helped Woo Shik reveal his story to clear Seon Gyeom's name in the assault scandal. While she could have done it because Seon Gyeom was her athlete, she really didn't have to knowing that she was about to cancel their contract. So I felt that she did that partly because she wanted to help Woo Shik too. 

I loved how she always picked on people around her to show them her affection - dragging Mi Joo to wherever as if they were BFFs, teasing Yeong Hwa and asking him to undergo a DNA test to make sure they were not related, and showing her brother who's the boss. I loved her deadpan delivery of her lines. She did them so well that you can't help but love her despite how annoying she often was. 

Sooyoung is perfect for this kind of role although she probably needs to work on her drama because the last episode where her dad died and she wanted to break up with Yeong Hwa didn't really evoke tears. it would be nice to watch her in a different role and see what more she can offer.

Kang Tae Oh as Lee Yeong Hwa

It was our first time to watch and hear about Kang Tae Oh. And while he's a newbie, I liked him immediately because he's cute and just like Shin Se Kyung, he did the funny scenes really well. Like when he showed his soft big boy side when he cried when Dan A didn't show up during a date. Or how giddy he feels whenever he calls Seon Gyeom his older brother. He was not so bad in his dramatic scenes too. I liked how restrained he was, using his eyes and face to express how he felt. I'm definitely going to watch more of him. 

Yeong Hwa and Dan A

Unlike Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo, Yeong Hwa and Dan A's chemistry was evident right from the start. Although that was probably because there was already tension between the two of them. Yet I still enjoyed watching them and I found myself rooting for them. 

While it was cute in the beginning, I felt that Dan A went overboard in picking on Yeong Hwa when she provoked him about the painting. She came off as someone very arrogant. Although I get that that was her defense mechanism to mask her loneliness, she still needed to show some decency, knowing how vulnerable Yeong Hwa felt towards her. And while I understood how bad Yeong Hwa felt at that time, I also wished he controlled his temper so he didn't have to trash his painting. Regardless of my judgment on how immature both of them reacted, I loved this scene because it felt so powerful. They both delivered the emotions required of them without overdoing it. 

I loved that tranquil moment they had in Yeong Hwa's hometown, although it felt ominous. And true enough, they did break up afterwards. And that was one of the saddest parts of the story for me. I wanted to hate Dan A for leading Yeong Hwa on even if she knew he was young and clingy. But I was comforted by the fact that Yeong Hwa understood that the break up was inevitable and he was just delaying it. In any case, I was just relieved that they got their happy ending. Although, being a pessimist, I can't help but worry that Yeong Hwa would always feel that he would be dispensable whenever he got in the way of Dan A's plans/dreams. 

Themes I Liked

I appreciated how the show touched on some themes that most shows would opt to avoid. 

Gender Discrimination. I loved how the show's pilot episode talked about this when Mi Joo stood up against her misogynistic professor. And while I would have preferred that she refused to work with him altogether, I liked how the drama showed us the sad reality that mere mortals like Mi Joo often have no choice but to suck it up to these people because they need to make a living. 

And how Dan A refused to let her brother bully her. Or how Seon Gyeom's former track coach Bang Bae Jeong (Seo Jung Yeon of Juror 8, Descendants of the Sun, She Was Pretty, Something in the Rain, and One Spring Night) beat up the male coach making advances on her. It was just unfortunate that despite being the victim, she was the one fired and she had to give up her career. 

Women Empowerment. I absolutely loved how this drama showed us that women are different and some want/need to be good at something else apart from being a wife and a mother. It was a great way of paying homage to working moms who are perennially guilty about not always being there for their kids. And as a balm to those guilt feelings, the drama showed us how we should never underestimate the power of children to understand, regardless of how young they might be. What matters most to kids is that you're there for them when they need you and the security in knowing that they can always run to you. I super loved how Seon Gyeom's mom cancelled her Hollywood audition to get a divorce and to protect her daughter. 

LGBTQ. Although this was only slightly touched upon, I loved the show's effort in talking about this. I loved how accepting Yeong Hwa was of his bestfriend Ye Jun's (Kim Dong Young) affection. And I loved how Ye Jun told his mom (Seo Jae Hee as Dong Kyung) that it's okay to be different and there's nothing wrong with it. 

Bullying. I believe this was supposed to the be the centerpiece socially relevant theme of the show. I liked it at first because it presented the harsh reality that violence is often deeply-rooted, accepted, and even reinforced in hierarchical institutions/groups, including people of authority like coaches who are supposed to protect the people under them like their athletes. Worse, even politicians cover things up when these incidents won't help advance their agenda. 

However, I felt that the show fell short in its attempt to dispense justice. Being shipped off to military service didn't really feel like a sufficient punishment for what the two guys did to Woo Shik. They were getting off lightly in my opinion. 

And what I hated most was how whistleblowers like Woo Shik and Coach Bang were still the ones ostracized despite the risks they took in exposing the truth. 

Religious Fanaticism/Hypocrisy. I don't see a lot of shows do this so I was pleasantly surprised to have this story line in a K drama. I liked how the drama showed us how religion is often used to cover up evil deeds and how it's used conveniently to show how righteous these fanatics supposedly are when in fact they turn a blind eye on horrendous events happening around them even if these are against Christian teachings. 

I also liked how the drama bravely showed us that Christianity is not inconsistent with acceptance of LGBTQ people. Yes, Ye Jun's mom struggled with accepting how her church-going son turned gay but she eventually accepted it. 

Helicopter Parenting. Yes, this is a recurring theme in many K dramas. But I still appreciate efforts to talk about it because it can never be emphasized enough that this does more harm than good. Channeling your dreams through your kids deprives them of their independence and happiness. Kids should never be treated like commodities the way Seon Gyeom's dad did with his children. 

Sports. Although this was supposed to be the highlight of the show according to Oppa, it was not really covered in-depth. But it was still nice to see the sacrifices of athletes - how much they give up to reach their dreams. 


The show started out quite slow but it did pick up around the third episode, when the characters and stories were more defined. 

The comedy had the tendency to be a bit over the top or slapstick like how everyone messed up Dan A's surprise birthday party. But it was not that bad, really. 

Apart from the brave themes, I liked how the show tried its best to veer away from some K drama tendencies. It didn't drag on the bribe issue between Seon Gyeom's dad and Mi Joo. Other shows would have kept Seon Gyeom in the dark for a couple of episodes and it would have caused a major conflict between him and Mi Joo. But the show opted to make Seon Gyeom find out right away. Although I would have preferred that he also discover that Mi Joo actually returned the money. 

I also loved how the show handled the inevitable break up of the main leads. It was actually more of a cooling off period to help the two process their emotions and fully understand what they were getting into. I loved the not overly dramatic, no frills reconciliation. 

And I totally loved how the show did not stretch story lines by delaying telling other characters about major things that concern them. When Seon Gyeom found out that his dad was behind his sister's scandal, I loved how Mi Joo told him to tell her anyway and not assume how his sister would react. If she feels bad about it, then he can just comfort her. No complicated plan to avoid/divert the issue. 


I appreciated the show's attempt in bringing back everyone for the finale. However, everything felt so rushed and choppy. At some point, it became quite exhausting to be bouncing from one scene/story to another. The transitions/cuts were quite rough. 

Some storylines came out of the blue - like Kim Seon Ho's (Start Up) cameo or Coach Bang coming back after a long hiatus. 

Probably because it was in a rush to wrap things up, it felt like the show treated some things in a simplistic manner - the death of Dan A's dad and how she resolved her issues with her brother, the supposed wedding between Dan A and Seon Gyeom, the divorce of Seon Gyeom's parents who seemed to be on their way to fixing things up towards the end, and Ye Jun's mom accepting him. I also felt that it was totally uncharacteristic for a selfish person like Seon Gyeom's dad not to resent people who denied him the opportunities he wanted. 

Although the ending did not really meet my expectations, I was still grateful for the show because it evoked good feelings in me as I watched it. 

Oppa says...3.8.

Noona says...4.4.