Despite the murky lighting and frustrating middle, “Secret Love Affair” left drama tropes in the dust, featured great performances and a very satisfying ending.
We all enjoyed this rare appearance of sunshine on “Secret Love Affair”.
Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★★.5
Only 만: ★★★.5
Forty-something Oh Hye Won (Kim Hee Ae) is a respected director at a classical music foundation and college. When her husband takes a new student in promising, yet impoverished twenty-something Lee Sun Jae (Yoo Ah In), the titular love affair takes place between Sun Jae and Hye Won. They struggle to keep their relationship a secret while Hye Won wrestles with office politics that become increasingly Machiavellian, then end up involving the authorities.
Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: I never would have believed it given some of the frustration I experienced mid-series, but “Secret Love Affair” redeemed itself in the final two episodes.
만: It really did. I still wish that some of what happened in the last two episodes had happened earlier. I’m not a huge fan of the story being driven by the stupidity of the characters, so it was a very frustrating middle section, even if it was ultimately rewarding for those of us who stuck around.
중국어 캐나다: Yes, the weakest part was the lovesick idiocy of Hye Won, but when you review the entire cast, the characters were strong, and in the case of Joon Hyung, Young Woo and Wang, super entertaining.
만: If not for Joon Hyung, Young Woo and Wang’s antics, the middle section would have been more painful than it was. Wang was the only lighter note for a long stretch, with her cartoon villain smile, and her attempts to learn mahjong.
중국어 캐나다: She pretty much took over from Young Woo, who started out violent and crazy, but became more muted as the series progressed. Joon Hyung was as clueless from beginning to end. Overall, I was impressed at how banal everything seemed, because to describe some of their actions and words, everything would appear over the top.
만: On one level, it’s just office politics at its bitchiest.
중국어 캐나다: True. Sadly, I can attest to that based on personal experience. So, kudos to the writers for at least getting the secondary characters so right. I thought the acting overall was solid, too.
만: Agreed. For me, a big negative was the murky lighting. Yes, it set the mood and the tone, but everything was the colour of mud and it became harder to watch as the series went on.
중국어 캐나다: We were also annoyed by how the first time Hye Won and Sun Jae slept together turned into a radio play. I know that other viewers have said that it was more tasteful or romantic this way, but my problem is that the marketing and lead up led me to believe that I would see passion on screen. Not some light panting sounds, which I think is much more lurid, and made me uncomfortable.
만: Agreed. There are ways of doing sexy that don’t involve anything graphic, and I would have been okay with even that. Leaving us with views of pots and pans isn’t exactly it.
중국어 캐나다: I had high hopes when Hye Won’s imagination unwillingly pictured Sun Jae and Da Mi rolling around in bed. It was a brief scene, but hot enough, and they were covered in a blanket.
만: I found it funny that Sung Sook was convinced that Hye Won couldn’t survive without another “taste of the flesh” as she put it, when she barely had it in the first place.
중국어 캐나다: Well, at least we got some passion in the final episodes. The kissing was pretty hot. I must commend Kim Hee Ae and Yoo Ah In for overcoming the 20 year age gap in addition to a gulf in their economic and societal situations to create a believable couple.
만: Agreed. Both Kim Hee Ae and Yoo Ah In turned in great performances, and their chemistry was pretty amazing. That said, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we could really only enjoy them together towards the end. No wonder their most enjoyable time together was through a glass wall; up to that point, every romantic interaction they had was tinged with dread of the possible consequences.
중국어 캐나다: Though, they were quite relaxed and playful walking on the streets of Seoul at night in episode 15. I wish they had more of those happier moments throughout the series. Not only to make the series less painful, but I think it would have given viewers more of a reason to believe that Hye Won and Sun Jae were meant to be together. Instead, we got angst, desperation, and bad life choices.
만: What we didn’t get, and I appreciated their absence, were the usual drama tropes of a pointless love triangle, or a time skip at the end. I’m glad I wasn’t subjected to the usual lame tricks to advance the plot. Yes, a few times, they resorted to playing up problems that were not really problems in the end, but not to the point where I was unable to believe the story. I also enjoyed the restrained and timely use of music in this drama, though that’s to be expected given the setting.
중국어 캐나다: It sounds like we’re well on our way to giving “Secret Love Affair” respect and love.
만: We are. It was a good show, with a mostly subtle treatment of what could have been a trashy subject. The middle section was highly frustrating, but the payoff at the end made it all worthwhile.
중국어 캐나다: Despite the lack of the anticipated passion, “Secret Love Affair” offered entertaining secondary characters, and two leads who overcame the notorious age gap to create a believable couple with a lot of chemistry. Most importantly, the ending was emotionally satisfying.