I don’t know how I ended up watching “I Need Romance,” since I never even saw the first season, but this show had a hook and reeled me in. The writing was sharp and raw. The lines were so good that it hurt me to just watch the characters spew venom at one another. You won’t find a fairy tale in here. Rather, you’ll discover a tale about loving, losing, vehemently hating, and loving some more. (I know, I’m cheesy. P.S. Spoilers ahead.)
The series stars Jung Yumi as the lead, Yeol Mae; Lee Jin Wook as her (ex)boyfriend of 12 years, Seok Hyun; and Kim Ji Suk as Ji Hoon. Yeol Mae has been in an on/off relationship with Seok Hyun for the past 12 years. After he revealed that he had no plans of marriage three years prior to where the story began, Yeol Mae broke up with him in search of someone who she can live a normal life with. Needless to say, she has not been able to get past her feelings for her childhood sweetheart, and the fact that she lives right next door to him adds to her inability to let him go. Ji Hoon is the owner of the coffee shop that Yeol Mae often visits on the way to her recording studio. She works as a music producer. She will eventually fall in love with Ji Hoon when she realizes that there is nothing left to salvage in her relationship with Seok Hyun. The story also intertwines in neatly the tales of the lives of Yeol Mae’s best friends played by Kim Ji Woo and Kang Ye Sol. So what will happen, who will be chosen in this second season of I need Romance?
Many viewers, as apparent by the wonderful comments on the top of the viki screen, hated Yeol Mae in the beginning of the series. I can understand why. She was demanding, selfish, and too honest for her own good. For several of the earlier episodes, all she did was relentlessly try to start over with Seok Hyun. She loved him, his smell, his movements, his kiss, but she wanted more than just his physical being, she wanted his soul as well, and those desires made her greedy and unable to move on with her life past Seok Hyun. She was relentless in her pursuit to reunite with him, and explosive with her jealousy. But her crude greed and rage feels so real. She’s not your typical kdrama heroine with a heart of gold and abilities of noble idiocy. And her anger and actions mirror those of many of us when we want something badly. How do you think you are when you desire something so much that it eats you up inside? I doubt we’re all sunshine and rainbows on the outside and crying silently at a corner on the inside. That’s why I loved hating her in the beginning. She’s all of us when we want to say something honest, albeit desperate, vicious, and unapologetic.
But we then slowly begin to understand why she is like that. Being with Seok Hyun brings out the worst and best in her. She is told repeatedly that she was selfish and non-self sacrificing. He badgers her when he is unable to show his own true feelings, and his bottled up emotions isolates him from Yeol Mae. He doesn’t want to get jealous because he doesn’t think it’s a noble emotion to harbor, but his envy when Yeol Mae starts a relationship with Ji Hoon tears him apart. The two leads have so much baggage with each other that I felt bad for Ji Hoon to have to deal with it. The scene where Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun fights in the streets frightened me. Their relationship was literally the best of times and the worst of times filled with so much emotional baggage. For more than half the series, I thought, if she stayed with her ex, she will never be happy. He tells her she’s selfish, and she believes it, and acts accordingly. He tells her she has a bad temper, and she believes it, and acts accordingly. And when Ji Hoon tells her she’s gentle, Seok Hyun won’t believe it and becomes infinitely more jealous when he realizes how much she can change for someone. They hurt each other so much.
And in comes Ji Hoon. This perfect man. I don’t know how much more perfect a drama writer can design a second lead, but he was perfect in my book. He describes to Yeol Mae his definition of love by telling her how he tirelessly watered a tree during a drought one year. The devotion and worry he felt towards the tree confirmed to him that he was in love. (O lord, a man that fell in love with a tree? Raises hand. Where can I get one?) He brings out the best of Yeol Mae, teaching her to deal with her temper, giving her space whenever she needed it, and just being understanding. (I know, he is not real.) He loved her unconditionally, and for a long time, so did Yeol Mae. I really did believe that she loved him that much back as well. (This is probably the first series where I believed that a lead fell in love with two different men.) But I can still understand why she didn’t choose him at the end. She has too much history with Seok Hyun. She has never stopped loving him even though she moved on, and the scene where she explains that to Ji Hoon made me tear up (on the inside). She was so torn between her new love and an old love that needed her. This says a lot about the actress Jung Yumi. She portrayed Yeol Mae’s emotions so well, and it rattled me up too.
All of that being said, I thought the story was well written and planned out. I do have gripes about how the last two episodes seemed crammed with the big genetic reveal. I wish Seok Hyun began to realize that he needed to communicate and open up earlier. If the big reveal was done earlier, I’m sure there are still tons of issues to explore. The actors were amazing. Jung Yumi was spectacular, raw, and believable. Lee Jin Wook can cry with a straight face like no other, maintaining his stoic isolation while showing us that he’s cracking. These two have amazing chemistry, as apparent by the goodies we saw throughout the entire series. (See the first ten minutes of episode one for example.) Not to mention Lee and Kim (who plays Ji Hoon) are real life best friends. It must’ve been hard for them to keep a straight face while fighting for a girl.
The side stories were very interesting too. I loved watching the growth of Ji Hee’s backbone to finally oust her douchebag doctor boyfriend. Na Hyun’s strong persona was absolutely admirable. If we had more time to watch how she had ended up fake married to a politician, I’d love to watch that.
So it was definitely a good ride. And the OST was amazing to boot.