Review – Sweet Stranger & Me
Welcome to backflash city. The heavy handed, overuse of backflashes in this show reminded me of K-dramas of old… when you’d have a backflash to something that literally happened in the same episode. It’s K-dramas for goldfish.
With that said, I still enjoyed this light drama. The side characters were particularly enjoyable. It’s one of those rare dramas that fully develops its side characters, so that they’re not just around as a plot device to add conflict as the two leads find love. Oh no, these side characters get their own stories and you’ll be rooting for them to find happiness too. In fact, I liked the side characters more than the lead characters. A lot more. The two second leads, the stalker sister, the goofy side-chef, the young gangster guy… I found them all to be more interesting and complicated than our reformed gangster turned chef and the grumpy stewardess. My biggest qualm with this entire series is that it didn’t firmly wrap up the endings to these people – after laying all that foundation for them, giving them walls and windows and doors… why leave us hanging? Give those people a roof, damn it, and complete their stories.
The simple version of the plot: A young woman comes home to rest shortly after her mother dies and she catches her fiance cheating on her. Once home, she discovers her mother secretly married a young man and this handsome guy is now her stepfather and owner of her family house, business, and property. Her family turns out to be full of secrets, including tons of massive debt. An extremely handsome and feisty local “Robot Museum” owner wants to buy the land to develop it into a resort… and he’s not only interested in the property, but also our leading lady. On top of all this, the girl her fiance had an affair with keeps hanging around, bringing all her drama and shenanigans with her.
It was cute. You have to suffer through the flashbacks for it, but it’s still a nice romantic show. With two very handsome leading men.
Overall Rating – 7/10. Kneading Dough… Better Than Crossfit For Upper Body Strength.
More on Characters, Spoilers, Complaints and Musings follow….
I thought this show had a nice amount of diversity in its characters. They broke the mold a bit. Well, maybe cracked the mold, but still… that’s impressive.
Let’s start with our lead female. Our irritable, grumpy, blunt, and defensive lead female. Her little bursts of imagination to deal with problems in her head – when she images herself as a crazy woman or a high school teenager – were adorable. I wish they’d used it a bit more, honestly. Our stewardess is hardworking and seemed to have her life on autopilot until her mother dies and she discovers her fiance is boinking her junior at work. Then she starts to unravel.
I also really liked how they handled her going back home to rediscover her mother, who had recently passed. I think a lot of people, especially children, take their parents for granted. And it can be difficult to see them as three-dimensional people. People who have friends and lovers. People who are just… people. Flawed and wonderful. I especially liked how the daughter discovers how her mom perceived her. I remember the first time I heard my mom talking bad about me. At the time, I was furious, but after I cooled down I realized it was laced with love. And parents are people too… they need to vent. Maybe their criticisms sting more because they really know you well enough to point out the negative aspects of your personality that you don’t like to recognize in yourself. But you know it’s true.
Our stewardess WAS grumpy. And snarky and blunt and completely self involved. As our second lead male often pointed out, she could be rude and oblivious. On the flip side, she could also be adorably honest, playful and loyal. Her chemistry with the lead male was only so-so in my opinion. She came across like an older sister more often than not… though who could blame her for falling for our sexy chef, eh? And though our second lead was into her the entire show, she basically confused him with wallpaper and never once seemed to notice that a handsome, rich successful businessman was clawing at her door. Grumpy Stewardess was an odd duck.
The second female lead, as a heavy contrast, was shameless, manipulative, and irresistibly persistent. It’s not often a second female lead gets this much screen time. The little temptress who’d stolen her friend’s fiance was surprisingly lovable. I loved her, at least. She was flawed and desperate and struggling to be loved… and to love herself. Her manipulations were so apparent, too, to everyone around her, but she was adaptable and willing to instantly change her strategies if she thought they weren’t working. Her huge eyes, her hysterical facial expressions – she was soooo funny!
There was an excellent parallel between her behavior and that of our second lead’s sister. Both girls were obsessive, overt, and obvious. And rather charming for it. The younger sister of the Robot Museum guy did her part to steal the show. She spent half her time stalking our sexy chef and the other half battling her brother. The drama gave us insights into their daily lives, their families, their dynamics and estranged but slowly growing relationship.
What can I say… I really wanted Stalker Sister to fall for the goofy side-chef. They were so cute together! They planted the seeds for their relationship but failed to water it.
Same goes for our second male and second female lead. Mr. Robot Museum, the slinky sexy Lee Soo-Hyuk, was mesmerizing as always. Part lawyer, part rich playboy, part intriguing paradox of sweet and smarmy… he was an invaluable cast member. Whether it was patiently flirting with the Grumpy Stewardess, or nagging the Sexy Chef, attempting to manage his Stalker Sister, or thwarting and succumbing to the charms our Temptress… he was always around, embedded in everyone’s life. The Temptress fit right in with his family, in my opinion… she had the sass of his Stalker Sister and the vanity of our Robot Museum guy. They paved the road home, but didn’t bother to drive us there… they just left their relationship ambiguous. And it’s not like they didn’t have the time to develop it… there were about ten minutes of flash backs per episode, which was ample time to give us another romance.
But noooOOOOOoooooo! All but spelled it out, spun the wheel several times, but didn’t guess the phrase in our romantic version of Wheel of Fortune. Wasted potential. Everyone in the audience knew the answer! Geesh, just give us the win.
And finally… the most problematic character… our male lead. I couldn’t help but feel that it was just bad writing coupled with lazy acting when it came to his character. Obsessed with an older girl since childhood… are we really supposed to believe this hunk of a man never once dated anyone??? Come on. And his devotion to our female lead is completely unfounded – they never even spoke before and yet he’s been pining for her for twenty years? I got his relationship with her mom, but the first-love angle on this main relationship failed to win my heart.
Now, if you’ve seen White Christmas, then you’ve seen Kim Young-Kwang at his best. He was both terrifying and vulnerable in that show… and impossible to forget. Or even as the dorky, struggling reporter in Pinocchio. He was so adorable and lovable in that drama! But he never made it past bland in this show. I don’t understand what happened, honestly. He never seemed hot for our lead female. He wasn’t convincing in the kitchen, for some reason. And most shocking of all, somehow he seemed only vaguely threatening as an ex-gangster. I know this guy can scare the pants off of me… so what happened? Did they put lithium in his tea? He seemed bored most of the time… bored with the role. Bored with the script. Bored by his leading lady… bored by the whole thing. And so he seemed boring because of it. Still, he’s lovely eye candy… but maybe he should have held out for a more inspiring role, cause Sexy Chef was lackluster at best.
Whereas this dude brought it to the table. Woo Do-Wan. He was intimidating as hell as a gangster but you could see the wheels in his head turning… as he muddled through feelings of betrayal and anger and ambition and disappointment in the world. You kinda wanted to hug him… or run screaming. If we’d had this kind of intensity with our first male lead, the entire show might have been significantly better.
So, Sweet Stranger & Me remains a decent mixed drink of a show. Some very fun side characters picked up the slack of our leading male and female and managed to maintain my level of entertainment for sixteen hours (fifteen if you take out all the ridiculous flashbacks). It’s good, but I wouldn’t really recommend it… unless you just watch as many of these shows as I do and need something to fill in a week.