Review: Smile, Donghae a Perfect Example of ‘Frustratingly Addicting’

No spoilers. For the spoiler-filled Hindsight Review, click here.

KBS daily drama Smile, Donghae (Smile Again/웃어라 동해야) is a perfect example of a frustratingly addicting series.

The drama centers on Carl Laker, or Donghae (Ji Chang Wook), a Korean-American champion speed skater who was raised by his mother Anna (Do Ji Won) in America. Anna herself was adopted by a American family and has a mental disability.

Carl and Anna end up in Korea to find James, his father and the love of Anna’s life who disappeared after she became pregnant. This leads Carl, or better known as Donghae in Korea, into the web of lies, deceit, secrets and pasts one would expect from a daily drama.

He finds love along the way, but it’s a rough road for him and his mother and the people around them as it seems everyone is out to get them no matter how much they mind their own business.

As a daily drama, it is inevitable that you’re going to have the daily near-misses, the misunderstandings and the round-a-bout paths to the big reveals.

You’re also going to have the characters who will annoy you to no end, even the characters you do like will make those facepalm mistakes from time to time.

It’s all of this that drags the story out longer than it should.

But just as you’re about to have enough of it all, they pull you right back in, whether it is with the incredibly sweet moment between the destined couple or the bad guys getting knocked down a peg for once or if you’re lucky, they actually unravel one of the show’s secrets.

When a television series doesn’t appear to want to hit story beats on a regular basis, the next thing you hope for is that it at least keeps you interested. Smile, Donghae does that. At the very least, you either truly care to see Donghae, I don’t know… actually smile and be happy, whether it is with his mother whom he cares so much about or Bongi (Oh Ji Eun) whom he has fallen in love with, or long to see the villains get what’s coming to them because of how much you hate their guts.

And with this series, you’re watching because it is either of the two.

But it is that addicting, yet frustrating experience that can keep you hooked. It might not work on everyone, but there is always that television series you can’t help but not look away from.

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