JTBC’s Run On (런 온) is a warm-hearted slice of life series. Equal parts drama and comedy, the character-driven Run On follows the stories of people at various points in their lives all trying to figure out just how to navigate every day trials and move forward. An excellent cast, wonderful direction and fast-paced writing make Run On a real winner.
Run On is a no-nonsense drama. It doesn’t resort to contrived conflicts to keep things going. Instead, the series tackles realistic and relatable every day hurdles in life. It is a slice of life series in the best way possible.
The series’ characters each have their own unique struggles. They each have their own dreams and goals. And they definitely have their own set of beliefs and philosophies. Not to mention personalities that sometimes clash, yet surprisingly fit together as well.
At the heart of Run On is Im Si Wan as champion sprinter Ki Seon Gyeom and Shin Se Kyung as translator Oh Mi Joo. Their paths cross a few a times before they come to work together when Mi Joo is hired to be Seon Gyeom’s interpreter at training camp. From there, their relationship develops.
When Seon Gyeom comes to the defense of friend and fellow sprinter Kim Woo Sik (Lee Jeong Ha), he makes the decision to step away from the sport rather than further the backdoor corruption aided by his congressman father (Park Young Gyu). Mi Joo, meanwhile, has simple dreams and grabs every opportunity to make them a reality.
Run On effectively touches upon such themes as coming of age or finding yourself and what direction you want to take in life. Relationships are at the core of the series. Whether they be friendships, romantic or family relationships; the series presents a wide array of them in a way that feels natural and grounded.
Of course, in order to make such a series work, it needs to have a strong cast of characters. And it does.
The almost intricate web of characters helps to propel the story forward. There’s Seon Gyeom’s fierce, take no prisoners agent Seo Dan Ah (Choi Sooyoung) and university art student Lee Yeong Hwa (Kang Tae Oh) who strike up a half-reluctant/half-intrigued relationship. Kim Woo Sik (Lee Jeong Ha) has perhaps the series’ most emotionally affecting story. Seon Gyeom’s mother, an actress (Cha Hwa Yeon) and older sister, a famous pro golfer (Ryu Abel) have to deal with being used almost as props in the congressman’s political ambitions.
Then there’s pop star Seo Tae Woong (Choi Jae Hyun), Dan Ah’s (hidden) half-brother and Jeong Ji Hyun (Yeon Je Wook), Dan Ah’s assistant who have to deal with her difficult personality despite them actually caring about her.
Mi Joo’s roommate and film distributor May (Lee Bong Ryun), Seon Gyeom’s long-time friend Young Il, also a sprinter (Park Sung Joon), talent agent Dong Kyung (Seo Eun Kyung) and her children (and Yeong Hwa’s friends) Ye Jun (Kim Dong Young) and Ye Chan (Kim Si Eun) are among the other supporting characters as well.
All help to round out what is a very full series. They deliver performances that are just as engaging as our leads with characters that also get some unexpected, but very welcome development over the course of the series.
Im Si Wan and Shin Se Kyung excellently anchor the series. Their strong chemistry and their equally strong respective performances help to provide a romantic story in a way that is uncommon in many recent Korean dramas. It isn’t really a spoiler to say there is no love triangle when it comes to our main couple. Instead, their journey is all about themselves, how they come together and how they are able nudge each other forward from what they might feel is a stagnant position in their lives. It is quite a satisfying journey for them. And that is both for them as a couple and their respective characters on their own.
Choi Sooyoung and Kang Tae Oh take the reins and really step into spotlight about halfway through the series. And that comes after the first couple of episodes are able to lay down a strong foundation for where their relationship and their respective characters are coming from. That foundation allows for them to seamlessly step into the forefront when their stories kick into high gear. Both also share a great chemistry. And Dan Ah and Yong Hwa’s relationship is far different from that of Seon Gyeom and Mi Joo’s, they provide a refreshing balance and variety to the series’ stories.
It is truly a strong ensemble cast. And as a character-driven series, that really does a lot to help make Run On such a success in many ways.
Whether they are emotional moments or exciting triumphs, romantic sweetness or amusing hilarity, Run On‘s beautiful direction and cinematography take moments that may be everyday, run of the mill situations and turns them into cinematic events.
The captivating visuals support the strong writing. A careful, yet brisk pace keeps the story moving forward in a way that is rarely seen on Korean dramas. And the 16-episode journey all leads to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion for all.
For a series like Run On, it’s not a surprise. It is a series that takes an everyday slice of life story and manages to illustrate some difficult realities while remaining hopeful and positive. Each character faces different challenges. Every relationship is unique in their own way. Run On is a series that doesn’t need forced conflict and tired twists to be dynamic and lively.
Overall, Run On is a warm-hearted and sincere series. Charming and engaging characters drive the story. An excellent cast brings them to life. And tight writing and wonderful direction make it all come together. Run On is a definite winner and a thoroughly enjoyable series.