Backstreet Rookie episode 6 continues to be a bit confounding, reiterating the same points and dynamics while occasionally threatening to become a different show entirely.
This recap of Backstreet Rookie episode 6 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
If you really think about it, Backstreet Rookie episode 6 ends without having really moved its core relationships forward at all. In fact, the episode is almost making a cruel joke at the audience’s expense with how much of its runtime is devoted to characters sitting and reminiscing about scenes that have already happened. Often, we see those scenes for a second time, which is patronizing in itself but also wasteful given how obvious the key dynamics actually are. The more I dwell on it, the more I fail to come up with a single justification for these episodes being an hour long.
What we’re supposed to care about, obviously, is whether Dae-hyun is going to end up with Saet-byul, but it’s hard to care since they don’t really have any romantic chemistry. The more intriguing questions are the ones the show seems least interested in. Saet-byul’s need to be cared for after spending most of her life having to step up for Eun-byul is a more compelling motivation for her desire to keep working at the convenience store than a potential romance with Dae-hyun – as a matter of fact, the romance gets in the way.
This is Yeon-joo’s point, too; she confronts Saet-byul in Backstreet Rookie episode 6 and explains how all the problems in her relationship began with the part-timer. But we saw their relationship in the earliest episodes before Saet-byul even became a factor, and it didn’t seem all that great then, either. Obviously, Yeon-joo is manipulative and cowardly anyway, especially in how she swerves personal responsibility in mistreating the doting Dae-hyun and won’t stand up for him to her judgmental mother, but I’m not sure to what extent we’re supposed to buy into her affection for Dae-hyun. She only seems to remember he exists when he gives Saet-byul a piggyback.
Luckily, Dae-hyun is beginning to realize his own worth, which in a sense is what prompts Yeon-joo to blame Saet-byul in the first place – she sees that Dae-hyun might not stick around forever, and contrives a reason to cut any potential rival from his life. The irony is that, if I’m honest, I’m not sure Dae-hyun sees Saet-byul as a rival to Yeon-joo; she seems more like someone he can look after, and in so doing grow up a bit given how prone he is to childish outbursts and how easily he succumbs to Yeon-joo’s pretty obvious manipulation.
Case in point: Saet-byul spends the majority of Backstreet Rookie episode 6 laid up in hospital after being attacked by the girl gang, even though she’s forced to stay thanks to acute appendicitis. He dotes on her the way a loving father would a child, all the while trying to fix his relationship with Yeon-joo. When Director Cho moves to Yeon-joo once again, Dae-hyun’s first instinct is to cut Saet-byul out. He really doesn’t seem that into her.
There’s certainly potential in the show’s theme of classism, which is more obvious here than it has been before in Yeon-joo’s mother’s ridicule of Dae-hyun. And Dae-hyun is acutely aware of how much more suitable Director Cho is for Yeon-joo, in terms of his status, which only exacerbates his anxiety. But the show has to focus on Saet-byul, so this stuff is shunted into the margins when it would arguably be better served as the entire focus. Contriving ways for Saet-byul to get into fights all the time feels like Backstreet Rookie contriving ways to be an entirely different show for a couple of scenes an episode.
The fight was pretty cool, admittedly. But where it really fits into the larger story that the show is trying to tell is anyone’s guess. Despite its reliable charm and likable leads, this is a muddled affair that I’m honestly not sure is going anywhere. But time, as they say, will tell.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.