Look at these posters for The Third Charm. What do you see? Attractive leads, bright colours, warm sunshine, a European city. What do they suggest? A romantic comedy with maybe with a few troubles along the way, but overall something light-hearted and probably fun? Well?not really, and that?s where the problem with The Third Charm just starts.
When I had announced on my Amino page that this was the drama I was currently watching, most of the comments told me to drop the show, as it was garbage, boring or that they just didn?t like it. Once I had finished watching the show for myself, I could see why. With the stunning pair of Esom and Seo Kang Joon, and these set of lively posters, most people, including myself, had gone into this show expecting a cute, sweet, sentimental love story, which the show is, in its early runtime, but it turns on its head so fast, with the inclusion of avoidable second leads, a shallow exploration of the changing sentiments between the leads, and a wholly disparate third act, that you can feel the show straying far away from where it all started out.
The story begins when On Joon Young (Seo Kang Joon, who has grown tremendously as an actor since I last watched him in Cheese in the Trap) and Lee Young Jae (a striking Esom) meet each other in their early 20?s, the first of their three subsequent meetings in the span of twelve years depicted. Even before the blind date that officially introduces them to each other, they briefly encounter each other in the subway and despite their very evident difference in personalities on display, their matching yellow backpacks is a silent indication to their future together. He is a shy engineering student, complete with glasses and braces and with no experience whatsoever with girls, and she is a tomboy hairstylist apprentice, who has short hair and doesn?t wear any makeup. It is cheesy, but The Third Charm makes you buy into it wholeheartedly. They are opposites in every bit of sense ? she loves spicy food, he can?t tolerate any, he loves to plan everything, she takes it one day at a time ? but the show goes a step further and attempts to deconstruct the notion of opposites attract. Can people with completely different personalities, hobbies, likes, dislikes, love each other? Can they stay attracted?The drama ventures to answer this by introducing new secondary characters, who are in every way alike to Joon Young and Young Jae, right down to their food choices, thereby with every increasing interaction, forcing them to consider if they truly belong together. A similar conflict was also briefly addressed in Because This Is My First Life (which Esom also starred in), when Won Seok and Ho Rang after their break up, date people with similar tastes to them, but soon realize that their compatibility was never a problem, to begin with, and no matter how different they both are, they both love spending time with each other. In The Third Charm, this is where things start to fall apart.
Neither of the secondary characters introduced, make any impact on us, whether it?s to confuse us on whom Young Jae/Joon Young should end up with or root for them. Especially Min Wook Hyuk?s Choi Ho Chul, who actively pursues Young Jae, knowing very well that she is in a committed relationship, comes off as a nuisance. All this obviously creates tension between our lead couple, but the show barely dips into that energy. Take the scene where Young Jae gets off the car in the middle of the road, after a heated argument with Joon Young. Instead of concentrating on that wonderful charged up atmosphere, the scene immediately cuts to another one of Baek Joo Ran?s (a wonderful Lee Yoon Ji) (hilarious but ill-timed) dates. And this isn?t to say that the director Pyo Min Soo isn?t good at extracting this energy. When Ho Chul admits to Young Jae that he likes her, and Young Jae dismisses him, resolving the issue right there and then, Joon Young admits that something still upsets him. It isn?t exactly jealousy, it isn?t exactly anger, but something prickly, an unsettling feeling that doesn?t let him call Young Jae for four days straight, and even misses out on her birthday celebrations. It is childish, it is crazy, but it is exactly someone as insecure as Joon Young would do. And when Joon Young and Ho Chul do finally come face to face, instead of a tense confrontation, we get a drunken stupor, which is, of course, played for laughs, because Joon Young isn?t good at holding his drink. Moments like these feel as if the director was scared of venturing into something too realistic, so decided to revert to comedy. It?s the quieter moments where the show occasionally shines especially the scene when Joon Young and Young Jae both cry alone after being unable to carry out a proper conversation with one another, a sign they both recognise as a relationship dying, but these are far too few.
The third act is where the show completely changes ? for the better or for the worse depends on your outlook ? but for me, it is where the show finally settles into what it was initially set out to achieve, particularly Joon Young?s change of profession to a chef (from a detective), which suited him and the show better. But it is worrisome that the better part comes towards the end, especially with not so much of a connection with its predecessor episodes. So, I couldn?t help wonder, how the story would have worked out if it wasn?t told in a linear format, or maybe just the whole third act as its own show, because this story had a lot of potential, that too with a great cast, it should have hit the mark, but the problem was that it wasn?t a bad drama, it was a bland drama.