The KBS-produced Netflix drama One More Time (헤어진 다음날/The Day After We Broke Up) is an example of having incredible potential, but falling short in execution, keeping it from becoming a truly great series.
Starring Kim Myungsoo (Infinite’s L) as Tan and Yoon Sohee as Da In, One More Time tells the intricate story of a couple falling in and out of love.
But that short logline definitely doesn’t even scratch the surface of what this story is about. And to really discuss the series and why it sadly comes up short, we must discuss it in detail. So SPOILER WARNING! Here’s a very rough summary of the entire series:
The series begins with indie band singer Yoo Tan, increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with his life. The band’s popularity is going nowhere, he is saddled with debt and he appears to have lost his feelings for girlfriend and bandmate Da In. One day, he accepts an offer from a major entertainment company which only wants to sign him. He quits the band, breaks up with his girlfriend and is quickly ushered to a club where he is introduced to a K-pop idol he’ll be paired with for publicity.
After leaving the party, Tan drunkenly stumbles to a lake and with the memories of his time with Da In running through his mind, he falls in. A mysterious young girl in red approaches him, walking on water, asking him if he is happy. As he sinks deeper into the depths, he says he was happy until today.
But Tan wakes up the next morning. Only, it isn’t the next morning. He discovers it is the same October 4th he had just lived. Everything happens just as it happened the first time he lived the day, only now he is aware that his day is repeating.
Realizing he’s now in a repeated loop of October 4th, Tan takes advantage of the situation and lives it up. He wins millions of won, buys fancy cars, hooks up with the idol and then the company boss.
But one day, he witnesses Da In get hit by a car and die. At first he ignores it, but something soon changes in him. Looking deep inside himself, he begins to feel that he must save Da In. And slowly he reconciles his feelings for her. Yet, his efforts are repeatedly unsuccessful.
It is revealed that the mysterious young girl in red is a sort of grim reaper who has been tasked with fetching Da In whose time is up. Despite all of Tan’s efforts, Da In dies at 8:23pm on the dot.
Halfway through the series, we learn that this loop was all set in motion by Da In striking a deal or contract of sorts with the reaper.
Seven years ago, Da In was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Bullied in school and losing her parents in a ferry accident, Da In had lost all hope. That is, until she met and fell in love with Tan. Da In asks the reaper to give her more time and strikes the deal to let her live for as long as there is love between her and Tan. But also, if ever she does die, she wants the reaper to ensure Tan remains happy.
And that’s how this endless loop came to be.
Not knowing any of this and losing all hope himself, Tan believes him taking his own life will end the loop and save Da In. But the reaper instead offers a different solution: to make it so Tan and Da In never met in the first place. Thus, erasing the memory of each other from each other’s minds.
Only, that doesn’t seem to work either when Tan still regains his memories of Da In anyway. One night, Da In realizes Tan is aware of her situation and tells him to just let her go.
But Tan comes up with another plan. He finishes writing a song that Da In had only just begun writing that very morning. He finally performs it for her one night. And the next day, Tan essentially affirms his love for Da In when they do a tandem bungee jump… while not being hooked up to the bungee cord.
Tan wakes up once more and it is October 5th. Da In no longer a part of the band, nor a part of his life either. Da In is actually a musician with a rich boyfriend. But to drive home the idea that Tan and Da In are truly destined for each other, the reaper somehow nudges them towards meeting each other for the “first” time. Thus, leaving it open to our interpretation as to how their story goes from here.
With all that said, this should be an epic series. I’ve been a fan of time travel-involved love stories. (See: Operation Proposal and Nine Time Travels.)
So this was right up my Korean drama alley. Yet, it left me searching for more. And not in a really good way.
One More Time felt like it wasn’t sure what it was trying to be. Whether it was a lack of budget or the relatively short eight-episode run, the series felt lacking with its execution despite having a solid premise.
The series started out pretty sloppy for its first four episodes and it didn’t come together until around Episode 5 or 6. Those were the episodes where Da In’s past is revealed. But by then, it might be too late for some viewers who would’ve given up before then.
Being a short eight episode series (each episode being half an hour), I had no problem finishing it. But it definitely had a rough beginning. And that affected the ending if only because the series wasted precious time to build a stronger foundation to what had the potential to be an epic and engrossing love story.
Time travel, grim reapers, death, mental health. It all gets thrown in there with none of them truly getting the focus and depth each deserves in order to build that foundation.
Death and the reaper are never creepy or eerie enough. The reaper as a little girl is never as fun or cheeky enough. Da In and Tan are never romantic or emotional enough. And the overall treatment of the story is never etherial enough to warrant the sweeping metaphorical scenes in the final episodes.
It feels as if they series had a grand vision, but didn’t commit to it for whatever reason. The haphazard establishing of the time loop took away the impact for the heavier and more dramatic reveal of Da In’s past, her contract with the reaper and the emotional toll this has all brought on her and Tan.
The idea of the two-part contract is actually an excellent twist. She only wants to live for as long as Tan loves her. But she also wants to ensure his happiness even after she dies. Thus the reaper ensures the loop.
The details and specifics of the time travel/loop are never clearly illustrated. (How does Tan keep the money he makes on the multiple October 4ths?)
But even ignoring those details, the series skimps on the other, more character-driven issues that would make for great story.
Da In and Tan, at various times, struggle with mental health and loneliness. The series touches on appreciating the small moments in life, the memories of those experiences and living life to the fullest. How those moments and memories can shape your life moving forward.
Da In and Tan are able to find each other and are what each other holds on to. Somewhere along the way in the original timeline, that love faded away. But in the end, we are led to believe that no matter what, they are destined for each other.
And that’s a shame since the series doesn’t provide the build up and foundation for that epic love story that they deserve. The series doesn’t go deep enough into the aspects that matter.
Kim Myungsoo and Yoon Sohee are strong actors and they take what’s given to them and make it work as much as they can. The characters aren’t naive teens. They are young adults and they’re able to play them as such. Which is sad as both actors would be more than able to handle a stronger screenplay. They both deserved much better.
One More Time has the two elements needed to make for a stunning experience: A great pair of lead actors with good chemistry and a sincerely intriguing premise. The lack of cohesion and commitment to the story prevents one from being able to fully engage in and be engrossed in the series. And while I wouldn’t call the four hours a waste of time, I’d say it was a waste of incredible potential.