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Show notes (Doona!): At first glance, Lee Doona stands apart from other romantic K-dramas in its league

Pictures of the cast of Doona.
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Show notes (Doona!): At first glance, Lee Doona stands apart from other romantic K-dramas in its league

In episode 1, the show does a great job using the cinematography to portray the sinking feeling one might associate with depression and anxiety while falling into that overwhelming dark place. A ball of thick murkiness surrounds your heart when you are around people, and they are talking to you, but you still might feel like you’re not even there mentally. You find it hard to stay in the present moment and feel like you cannot respond to them even if you try. I have never seen someone try to portray this feeling on screen perfectly, but it feels purging to watch Doona fall underwater while dealing with her feelings of anxiety and depression. The show uses metaphor to hint that Doona is currently processing all these feelings away from the pressure of the K-pop industry, even though she got triggered during her last performance on stage.

By the end of episode 2, I could see that Won-jun can have two kinds of relationships when it comes to love relationships during this series. He can either end up with Jin-Ju, with whom he can have a sweet, pure, simplistic yet fulfilling, sharing your heart with your soulmate sort of love. With Doona, he could have a more mature, passionate, taxing love relationship, enabling him to grow more as an individual because this relationship will ask a lot from him and put him out of his comfort zone more often.

Well, I’m not on either team Doona or team Jin-ju at this point in the show. I’m not sure who he should end up with. Only the new episodes will tell who he should end up with at the end.

The show is a bit different from the other K-dramas I have come to watch in the past year or so. It doesn’t follow the usual linear storyline that touches all the sub-tropes of the other romance K-dramas, but it still feels like a romcom in the sense that it focuses on the character-driven plot of Doona and Won-jun, and it shows us all shades of Doona’s character while still managing to follow a coherent storyline. And I’m interested in watching it unfold. Won-jun hitting the back of his head replaying the almost-kiss with Donna made me go ‘aww.’ He’s already forming feelings for her.

In episode 3, when Donna calls Won-jun sexy, he doesn’t respond with a coy smile or a smirk like the other K-drama male leads. Instead, he calls her an ‘incorrigible person,’ and something about his reaction to her compliment feels very realistic. It’s one of those things that you might expect your friend to say when you compliment them. I could also relate to Jin-ju not going for Won-jun more aggressively (if that’s how I should put it) because she’s hiding a dark secret of her own.

In episode 4?, Donna tells Won-jun not to overwork himself as they come out after Won-jun has completed a long shift at the theme park, and Won-jun tells her that he does take it easy. He tells her that he has a kid sister who’s sick and he has left her with his mother who takes care of her. He tells her that he feels a little happier now that he has left his hometown, and that he doesn’t have a heavy heart. He also tells her that he had felt a bit guiltier at the start, but that feeling has slowly faded. What bothers him is how much leaving his sick sister back at home with his single mother doesn’t bother him anymore. To this, Doona starts chuckling and laughing, but her expressions tell me a different story. It felt like she wanted Won-jun to feel better about his bad thoughts.

In episode 5, we see more of Jin-ju’s background and the way her father was treating her all this time. We got snapshots of it in a previous episode, but we see how she wants to break away from it all. Finally, she finds the courage to leave her troubled family and take a stand for herself. Her dad threatens that he won’t ever support her again, but that doesn’t stop her from leaving her house. As a viewer, I felt proud of her for taking herself out of that miserable situation.

I also really liked how they weaved the flashbacks from the past into the present, and how smoothly it flowed with the happenings in the present. They didn’t stick out for me and felt linear to the story.

In episode 6, I loved how Ira took down Jeong-hun with such ease, who is later revealed to be a champion in Jiujitsu. That made me laugh so hard. I also liked the advice he gave Ira as they walked out of the Jiujitsu studio. “Why bother with an asshole who cheated on you? Learn to move on. You can’t fix someone like that. If they’ve hurt you once before, they’ll do it again.”

In episode 7, it feels like the way Doona treats Won-jun is a bit careless and the way she leaves him reeks of abandonment. It doesn’t make sense that she would have left him like that after the night they had spent together. Maybe her old manager comes back as a part of the plot point because it makes her actions and the implications of why she has made them make little sense to me. The old manager coming in to see Doona impacts her character and changes the course of the story. It feels harsh even watching it transpire on screen. I also don’t understand why Doona didn’t text or call Won-jun when she returned to her grandma’s empty home from the hospital. The show leaves some questions unanswered. On the other hand, I enjoyed the interim reprieve from watching I-ra’s love storyline unfold.

In episode 8, at the beginning of it, we get snapshots of Donna and Won-jun in a garden-like undisclosed location surrounded by pink bushes. It never gets explained throughout the series, not even towards the end. We get a few other snapshots here that do get explained towards the end of the series.

In episode 9, at least they could have given a proper conclusion to Won-jun’s family and an update on his sister. I never found out if her operation went well or not, and how his mom and sister are doing with the time jump in the series. Also, we don’t get an explanation why Won-jun felt like he had to break up with Doona because one minute, he was writing down his thoughts or more like sending her texts about what he has been up to and after sending her the last update, she comes to see him the next day, and he breaks up with her just like that. There’s no emotional buildup other than Doona not texting him back, but this is something he had expected when she went back to the K-pop idol industry. If he was hurt by the distance, then he might have stopped sending her the updates, but he continued to send them because he wanted to keep Doona updated about his life. Maybe perhaps so that she doesn’t completely forget about him. I hate that we didn’t get a definite ending with what happened with them either. Nine episodes of emotional and romantic buildup only to end up with a wishy-washy ending. I can’t even put a finger on if it’s a sad or a happy ending. A sad ending would have been them moving on from each other and we would get a montage of them moving on side by side on the screen. And if it was a happy ending, we would have gotten to see them happy walking hand in hand down the street. But what kind of an ending is this? Won-jun smiling at a delicious pastry in a pastry shop? I wished they gave us more to hang on. It felt incredibly wishy-washy to me. And I knew it wasn’t because they ran out of time. The director did this deliberately to make a point, but god knows what is the point because it is lost on me.

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