The Maknae Takes One for the Team: Revolutionary Love

I don’t know that I’m on board with making this a permanent feature, but I couldn’t think of a better way to title this post. Let’s talk about the circus that was Revolutionary Love, shall we?

There was a lot of fun hype around Revolutionary Love, especially because it was Choi Siwon’s first drama after his military service. This maknae found him hilarious and heartbreaking in She Was Pretty and I was hoping for a similar performance this time around. Unfortunately, my boy did not choose a great drama, and the director had some unfortunate quirks that did NOT enhance the story experience, including an unusual focus on hands and feet during emotional reactions. Anyway.

SPOILERS ABOUND. NOT GONNA HOLD BACK HERE, DRAMA FANS.

A lot of viewers I’ve talked to were put off by Siwon’s extreme clownishness in the first few episodes. Having seen the entire series, I can see why he played the character that way–to show a greater contrast to the more serious-minded Hyuk in the latter half of the series. Unfortunately, the clown lasts until about the sixth episode, which is a lot longer than most audience members will tolerate. Siwon’s Byun Hyuk was silly and immature and relatively spineless. There were not any glimpses of a smart boy hiding under that clown suit, leaving this watcher NO hope for an improvement to his character until it was too late. Also, it was completely out of character for him to go on extended mental poetic rants while swoonily gazing at Joon and to be captivated by floating dandelion seeds. Maybe this is on Siwon, but that proved Hyuk’s simple-mindedness, not his naivety. In my own humble opinion.

Perhaps someone should explain to the writer the difference between naivety and stupidity. Naivety is temporary, but stupid is forever.  Hyuk was supposed to be naive, but guess where he landed instead?

Anyway.

Kang So Ra did as well as she could with the character she was given. Her Baek Joon was smart and refused to walk the beaten path. She had her life in the order she wanted it to be in, and lived as independently as she could. The problem was that Hyuk’s stupidity was catching at the worst moments, taking me out of the narrative to yell at the tv when she was acting particularly brainless.

Gong Myung playing Jae Hoon was probably my favorite character. Despite the flawed script he was working with, he gave his character great depth and conflict and made me root for him all the way, even when he was doing something to push Joon away. And when he finally smiled? Took my breath away. THAT is how you do character contrast.

The secondary characters worked out pretty well — sometimes I wish they had been the main characters instead — but their backstories weren’t fleshed out enough. I know that we aren’t supposed to know everything about the secondaries, but a few more brush strokes were needed to complete their image. Had the story centered around Mister Lee, Managing Director Seol, and Madam Ahn, I think we could have had something brilliant.

Enough with the characters. On to the plot. It was solidly constructed, but not surprising or twisty. Basically, I felt like EVERYTHING was a long-winded set up for the punchline at the end — the janitorial crew slowing down the security team and then Jae Hoon and Hyuk volunteering to be arrested. That part made me laugh and laugh, but it took way too long to get there.

And the ending, where Joon finally follows through on her dreams to go to Oslo and see the aurora borealis and travel the world while working odd jobs for a year? Fine, yes, that makes sense. HOWEVER, the two-lead love did not resolve correctly. This is not just because I was hit hard with SLS (Second Lead Syndrome) from the beginning, but because of Joon’s actual actions. She always asked after Jae Hoon first. Given a choice of whom to chase after, she always chose Jae Hoon. But one kiss from stalker Hyuk, who followed her onto her personal trip, and she’s swayed? Nope. She even looked confused after he kissed her. Nope. All indicators were for Jae Hoon, not Hyuk. And I thought Hyuk was buried under mountains of work? How in the world was he able to take off time to follow Joon? Not buying it.

(Yes, yes, they had a kiss in the middle of the series and Joon acted like it affected her. But her later actions didn’t follow through on that premise. It’s all about consistency.)

ALSO, how in the world did Hyuk’s older brother escape punishment? He was just as entrenched in the embezzlement and corruption as his father AND his seal was on the “secret” document proving it all, and yet he remained at Gangsu Group and kept his position. What?

It’s possible that the vision for this drama was slapstick and romance with a bit of corporate corruption thrown in for depth. However, it was NOT mixed by an expert and dwelt too long on Hyuk’s fantasies and brainlessness. I really couldn’t recommend it.  I hope all of these talented actors pick a better script next time.

Until next time, I remain your exhausted–

Karie the Maknae

Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

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6 thoughts on “The Maknae Takes One for the Team: Revolutionary Love

  1. Sounds like you really took one for the team. lol

    Arhh, I hoped to enjoy this. Because I also love Lee Jae Yoon (Hyuk’s brother) but he’s consistently in blahh dramas that I’m never invested in. Oh well, I just started “Jugglers” and that one seems like cool office drama. For now.

    • Obviously there are some commenters who disagree with me. You might want to take their perspective into consideration before you make a final decision. 😀 Mehitable makes some excellent points.

  2. I agree with you, this drama really had some issues. I was so disappointed with Siwon’s character. And like you said, the clown show was far too long. Gong Myung’s character portrayal was spot on. You could see and feel the emotion from his past, dealing with the injustices and his love for Joon, and his willingness to send her off to his friend. I had major SLS. I’m looking forward to seeing him in more dramas. I also did a double take (and a WTF), when I saw his brother talking on the phone at his desk… uh, didn’t he kidnap and beat the crap out of, threaten… he did far worse things than the Dad. It seemed like he was the driving force behind all of the corruption, yet Dad went to jail…. Anyhoo.
    Am I sad I watched this? Not really, it was a mindless filler between the other serious ones I’m watching. I did enjoy the flight attendant neighbor and the police officer’s romance, it was cute. I loved the moms too. This certainly won’t be on my list to binge watch over the holidays! (It won’t be on my “watch-again” list that’s for certain!)

    • I really hope to see Gong Myung in a drama that’s up to par with his talents sometime soon. Habaek and Revolutionary Love were definitely not it, though it seems he did his best with the material he had to work with.

      Mindless Filler is an excellent category for this drama, IMO. Maybe if I had expected less from the storyline, I would have enjoyed it more. Ah well.

  3. Everyone seems to have disliked this drama, but I really liked it! I loved that Byun Hyuk was a poet, and it made his choice of mask (clown) make a lot of sense to me. And the clown *was* clearly a mask, which we can see is his defence against his father’s abuse, but continues to make more sense as we learn about the event in his backstory that changed his relationship with his family as well as with Jae Hoon.

    I thought it was an interesting take on the trope of the Chaebol who learns about their privilege through their attachment to a girl. Usually that story characterizes the chaebol as a cold man who sees himself as having his wealth because he is inherently better than others, who learns to see poor people as people by falling in love with a tragic and desperately needy girl.

    But in this story, Byun Hyuk starts out assuming everyone is equally valuable, and he is just genuinely oblivious to the degree of difference between his life and the lives of poor people. Like, he’s not stupid but he genuinely has never come across someone who’s life could be ruined over 10 million won. It’s an insignificant sum to him, and a huge part of his arc is becoming aware of the realities of working class people, especially part-timers and contract workers.

    But something that was really different was that this wasn’t super-focused on his love interest. He follows his love interest into her world, but then he starts making friends and caring about the people there. Also, the driving force of the plot, relationship-wise (to me), was the need to save Jae Hoon, who was abjectly miserable at the beginning–and to save the friendship between Byun Hyuk and Jae Hoon (that’s where all the relationship tension was for me).

    So this is really different from the typical Cinderella story to me, because the financial rescuing was a) not focused on the romantic love interest and b) it was brought about through systemic change to his company’s hiring policies and internal structure, rather than through sharing his wealth with a person he cares about. And in fact the repeated cultural reference was revolutionary (references to “his namesake”), not to the Cinderella story.

    I also loved that Byun Hyuk had a personality just like his mother. It always bugs me when you end up with some randomly moral character in an immoral family… but he was so clearly his mother’s son, both kind hearted and a little ditzy. I found it adorable.

    So even though there were definitely some bumpy patches (and I also found the ending a bit… off, although I was willing to buy the romance), overall I really enjoyed the show. I love me a good, solid class critique, and also a class clown, so it was pretty much the perfect combo for me 🙂

    • I’ve been thinking about your comment all day, mehitable! You make some excellent points about the writing and the turning of typical chaebol tropes on their head. Granted, I’m the maknae, so I don’t always pick up on those tropes, so thank you for pointing them out. AND for pointing out that Byun Hyuk takes after his mother–I hadn’t considered that. I did like the moms.

      I think my biggest issue is the way that Hyuk’s clownishness and naivete was presented. It went on too long. There were the glimpses of his more serious side during his father’s abuse, yes, but he rarely let up on the clown besides that. It was too much, I think. I’ve been trying to think about how I would change it if I was the writer, and I’m not sure there’s an easy solution except for Hyuk to have a confidante that he can be himself with. But Jae Hoon was too broken to be that confidante.

      Honestly, the biggest let-downs were the excessive clownishness and the awkward ending to the romance. I didn’t buy it, so it didn’t work for me. I am really, really glad you enjoyed it, mehitable. And thank you for your awesome comment. It made me think and re-evaluate my reaction. I look forward to discussing dramas with you again!

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