Good Ol’ Review: Good Things Not Enough to Make Up for Shortcomings of “Happy Ending Romance”

Good Ol’ Review: Good Things Not Enough to Make Up for Shortcomings of “Happy Ending Romance”

Not spoilers.

Despite having all the necessary pieces, Happy Ending Romance is weighed down by its inability to build a strong narrative foundation to what should be an intriguing and affecting story. A good cast, solid production and great music carries some of the weight. But the series leaves a lot left on the table.

Happy Ending Romance follows writer Cha Jung Woo (DGNA’s Karam) who faces career challenges due to his speaking out against corruption in the literary world. With his tarnished reputation and being blacklisted in the industry, he finds support in popular writer Kim Jung Hyun (VIXX’s Leo) who offers him some hope for the future.

Their seemingly solid relationship and partnership hits a snag when ambitious publisher Han Tae Young (Ha Jong Woo) approaches Jung Woo. Recognizing his talent and potential, Tae Young offers to help Jung Woo step back out into the world with his writing. But the overprotective Jung Hyun is suspicious of Tae Young’s motives and tries to keep Jung Woo away from him. The series progresses as Jung Woo is torn between the two men and two potential paths for his future.

Exploring the intriguing dynamics of their relationship, jealousy, following your dreams, finding oneself and the complexities of love and loyalty, Happy Ending Romance offers up a uniquely and refreshingly mature story in the Korean BL genre.

Happy Ending Romance Korean Drama Review

The series does a good job of touching upon the influence and effect others can have on you and vice versa. How those connections and relationships can bring about both positive and negative outcomes, regardless of original intent. This is probably what the series is strongest at. Though it does have its sweet moments, the series takes things seriously in a way that feels both realistic even with some deliciously soapy touches here and there.

Unfortunately, the series falls short in establishing the stakes of the situation with regards to Jung Woo’s, essentially, banishment from the literary world. Though we have characters regularly talking about the inability of Jung Woo to return, the series is unable to articulate the main dilemma in a way that makes you fully understand those stakes.

Instead, the series is propelled forward by the characters and their penchant for questionable and frustrating decisions. A mixture of morally gray characters and characters you know have good intentions, but the worst of executions. Perhaps that’s the best way to describe the series itself.

The series has a solid premise, but is unable to fully flesh out its good ideas. The series actually starts out on the rough side where the first two episodes whip back and forth between the past and present, while also randomly repeating scenes for seemingly no reason. After that start, the series then fails to build a solid foundation for the conflict and dilemma that ultimately fuels the main event. And that is the love (and career) triangle between Jung Hyun, Jung Woo and Tae Young.

It’s hard to be fully invested in what drives their conflict. And in turn, we have to rely mainly on the chemistry of the cast and the almost voyeuristic look at the characters’ lives. Almost like a reality show where you just have to watch what’s going on in the moment without any pre-show context of who they are or what they’ve gone through.

Happy Ending Romance Korean Drama Review

Thankfully, the cast does do a lot of the heavy lifting. Both idols Leo and Karam do a good job with their seemingly perpetually gloomy characters. And that’s where Ha Jong Woo is able to come in to provide the brighter contrast that, at the very least, makes up for what the story itself lacks. Im Too Chul and Jung Ji Yeon as friends and fellow literary world participants unexpectedly provide some of the more serious heft to the story.

Overall, the strength of the series lies in its character interactions and the juicy drama that stem from them. The greater story arc lacks a strong foundation. And that’s a shame considering perhaps every other aspect of the series is pretty solid. Good production value. A good cast. Some excellent music in the soundtrack, actually. But unfortunately, just doesn’t fully reach the potential that all these pieces could have powered toward.

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