“About Romance” finds some moments of poignancy here and there, but it’s too little too late.
This recap of Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 11, “About Romance”, contains spoilers.
All throughout these recaps, I’ve been complaining about the same things. In the latest, penultimate episode of Thirty-Nine, I found myself wondering once again about what this show might have been had it simply allowed itself to settle into its core dynamic. But the thought went a step further this time since the side-lining of Joo-hee – and the complete lack of attention to her character even after she expressed consternation about constantly being demoted to a third wheel – shows that there are plenty of issues with the core dynamic too. The whole thing is, frankly, just a mess.
Thirty-Nine season 1, episode 11 recap
Mi-jo’s relationship with her biological mother builds to a predictable and obvious note here in her acceptance of her adoptive parents as her true mother and father, which is nice, but did she really need so much time and so many reminders to reach this conclusion? There’s something to be said for the very conflicted feelings someone who has been adopted must feel in regards to family, and there’s probably a worthwhile show to be made about that subject alone, but it sharing space in this story has simply overburdened it.
When we return to the matter of Chan-young, whose physical wellbeing is worsening and whose mother believes she should be making the most of the precious time that remains to her, we’re reminded once again of how much more she’d have been able to do that if Thirty-Nine hadn’t been so concerned with so many different things.
This is what makes it hard to care about Seon-u and So-won and how the fates of these two relate to Mi-jo. Whenever this episode allows Chan-young the opportunity to feel the burden of her circumstances, it’s much better for it, and there’s some poignancy in attempting to sort out the morbid banality of a funeral for oneself. You can’t help but wish this was being better explored, especially the burden of trying to come off as a “happy” terminally ill person. Sure, it’d be nice if Joo-hee was even mentioned in these conversations between Chan-young and Mi-jo, but it’s hardly a surprise at this point. Again, the idea of a three-way friendship that inevitably ends up feeling lopsided is a juicy enough subject on its own for an entire show, but it’s underserved here. Eventually having Joo-hee take photos of Chan-young and Mi-jo just seems either cruel or laughably senseless.
This penultimate episode at least builds to an understated moment of real emotion, but it’s too little, too late, and turning on the waterworks now isn’t enough to save the show from its own stretched-thin mediocrity. A shame.