Caution: Shipping Wars
For me, the OTP is law. When I start a show, I like to know the love lines beforehand so that I do not accidentally board a sinking ship and get overtaken with SLS, the scurvy of dramaland. Usually, it is easy to tell who the OTP is, and I accept the OTP whether I like it or not, because an OTP is not something I can change.
I pride myself on my ability to predict plots, to figure out the twists and turns before they happen. It makes me rather obnoxious to watch tv with, because I’m always trying to figure out what happens next.
When dramas do things that surprise me, I am duly impressed. When I can’t see where a plot will go, and when I have to trust the writers, that’s when I know that a show has got me (looking at you, Because This Life is My First).
When I started Reply 1988 I expected it would be a fairly straightforward drama. Here were the two leads: Go Kyung Po as the golden boy with perfect grades, perfect looks, perfect everything. He’s the childhood friend who is unable to see the female lead as a woman, he was obviously the typical main lead. Ryu Jun Yeol as the second lead, the bad boy with a heart of gold. He was the usual prickly on the outside, marshmallow on the inside guy that we were going to see and fall hard for as he falls for the main character, but is unable to get her to see how much he loves her. That’s how I predicted it, just a typical teen drama.
I had seen Park Bo Gum before in I Remember You/Hello Monster, where he played the (spoiler) serial killer/long lost little brother Min. He was fantastic in that show, and I didn’t realize how young an actor he was. I didn’t then realize that playing serial killers is often done when an actor is new as a way to showcase their skills until they get the part of leading man (examples: Namgoong Min, D.O., etc.). I simply thought that Park Bo Gum was a character actor, and when he appeared again on my screen as Taek, the baduk genius, I thought he had been given another meaty side role. I thought Taek would be similar to Min, as both characters struggle with understanding people and rely heavily on their brothers, biological and neighborhood, to take care of them. I expected heartbreaking moments related to his character, strong bromance, and assumed that, like Min, love interests wouldn’t be a thing for him. From the beginning, Taek was out of the running as a love interest for Duk Seon.
As the story progressed, I was impressed when I thought the tables were turned and Sun Woo was revealed to be the second lead. His love line with Bo Ra didn’t automatically take him out of the running as the husband mystery, since I had seen plenty of dramas with sisters fighting over guys. This did make Jung Hwan the male lead, which I thought was very cool of the writers and producers, since Ryu Jun Yeol was such a rookie actor. And yes, Jung Hwan did have all the typical leading man characteristics, his grumpiness, his lack of forthcoming, his secret way of taking care of the leading girl. I was hooked on the show, each week I eagerly waited for a new episode, watching both raw and subbed in my haste to see what would happen next with the relationships.
When Taek made that late night phone call to Hyeri, I screamed in frustration. No, they shouldn’t give this boy a puppy love that will only be sadness or pity and guilt from the other characters. Taek was a pure puppy whose love would only be used as an obstacle to our OTP. My heart broke, even though I had expected heartbreak from his story.
But then suddenly Duk Seon and Taek kissed, even if they at first played it off as a dream. I was so confused, I didn’t know what to think, and it made me seek out articles and comments, which had all turned into shipping wars between Taek and Jung Hwan! I was never moved by the arguments for Taek, because Jung Hwan was OTP, and I wasn’t going to jump onto a ship that I knew from the beginning wouldn’t sail. They had already done the requisite Answer Me male lead fake out with Sun Woo in the first few episodes, there was no way they would do it again.
But there was.
Honestly? After it was revealed that Taek was end game I couldn’t watch the last episodes of Reply 1988 until months afterwards, because I was so upset. I had fallen so hard for Jung Hwan, for uri Grumpy Cat and his love for everyone in the show. He was so caring and selfless, and the bromance broke my heart for all of them.
I think what made it most hard for me to let go of my own OTP was that they didn’t give him an ending. This guy who, from the beginning of the show, put others feelings before his own, who was shy and hid when watching the girl he liked, and who said “It’s not fate it’s timing, and I didn’t have courage and take the chances I had,” just proved too much for my usually rational self.
Taek and Duk Seon as a couple received closure, and I’m slowly growing, after two years, to accept them. When I want to rewatch the show, because I’m still not over it, I will only watch the Taek and Duk Seon and the wonderful family scenes. I try to re-align my mind with the real OTP. But when the fakeout was so complete, it’s hard for my heart to move on.