Backstreet Rookie episode 11 finds itself in a bit of a holding pattern as it transitions into a new love triangle, but still seems unsure of where it’s ultimately going.
This recap of Backstreet Rookie season 1, episode 11 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Backstreet Rookie has had its highlights. It has been consistently charming and, in its last couple of episodes, surprisingly moving. But as we near the end of the season, a question is looming over the series that I find difficult to answer: Where, exactly, is this story going? With Dae-hyun having mercifully ended his relationship with Yeon-joo, and Saet-byul having finally made her feelings for him clear, despite some obvious rival attention in the form of Ji-wook, are there enough legs left in the season to make a romance really work? It’s a tough sell, if you ask me, especially since I’ve been saying since the show began that Dae-hyun and Saet-byul have no romantic chemistry whatsoever.
Last week’s cliffhanger ending suggested Dae-hyun was making a move on Saet-byul, but Backstreet Rookie episode 11 reveals it was just a dream that compelled him to reach out and grab her. With Saet-byul returning to work at the convenience store it’s business as usual in some respects, but things are slightly off-kilter in others, such as Ji-wook’s sudden jealousy over Saet-byul’s obvious fascination with Dae-hyun.
The store is also in a worse state than it was when Saet-byul was winning her sales awards, but her renewed enthusiasm earns her a manager promotion, which she and Dae-hyun celebrate, though she can’t help souring the mood by bringing up Yeon-joo. Backstreet Rookie episode 11 continues to move in a rather odd direction, as it characterizes Saet-byul as a little obsessive when it comes to Dae-hyun, and shows in flashback how, before applying to work part-time at the convenience store, she would linger outside to watch him through the window, even in the pouring rain. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but feel this undermines Saet-byul’s character somewhat.
On the subject of characters who need no undermining whatsoever: Dal-sik, whose bizarre relationship with Geum-bi takes a revelatory turn here, but nothing about it is more interesting for the pair having discovered who the other is. I honestly think this entire subplot could be excised with nothing at all being lost.
Anyway, things continue to look up for Saet-byul, who gets a new uniform and some praise from Dae-hyun, though he’s talking to himself more than anyone. Backstreet Rookie episode 11 is very explicit about its soapy love triangle, as Ji-wook ends up hosting an event at the store with Yeon-joo’s encouragement, where the dynamic is openly commented on. Saet-byul still finds the time to throw some shade Yeon-joo’s way, which is always welcome, but for Ji-wook, this is an opportunity to confront Dae-hyun about his feelings for Saet-byul, especially after learning that he’s now single. This is where the episode ends, with no indication, really, of where the show plans to go from here – except for around in circles, of course.
It’s a shame to be so critical of Backstreet Rookie after a string of what I considered to be quite good episodes, but the problem has always been that the show has no overarching narrative, and that is very strongly felt here. To cap off one relationship and then immediately pivot into a new love triangle feels a bit ungainly, and without too many episodes left, it’s difficult to imagine how there’s going to be enough time to pull it off in a convincing way.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.