Reply 1988 exceeds expectations and prove naysayers wrong as it writes history and breaks cable ratings record. It sets itself apart from the previous Reply series with the way it introduces its characters and how it uses its running time to get to know them better the same way we establish our real life relationships with people around us through time and understanding. We get to see how individuals from different kind of families manage to survive their ups and downs together in interweaving story arcs. I feel like I’m a part of the whole Ssangmungdong community and I’m going to miss them big time. Which is why, even though I am happy that Choi Taek got the girl, I’m sad that Jung Hwan didn’t even get a proper send-off. We’ve seen so much from his point of view so it hurts when he just gave up on his feelings and even made a joke out of probably one of the most heartfelt confessions in Kdramaland. This is exactly the downside of developing subplots other than the main romance. We get too invested in one side of the story and yet, deprived of the how the main character feels for the sake of not spoiling the big reveal.
Although we’ve seen how Deok Sun lived her awkward teenage years, overcame a first love, and struggled to find her life ambition, we never really had a glimpse of how she felt about Taek until the final episodes. Just as Dong Ryong said, it was never about how much the guys loved her. At the end of the day, it was about who she loves. This has always been the series’ biggest flaw. I didn’t see how she developed her feelings from treating Taek as the baby of the group to looking at him as man or the way her feelings for Jung Hwan have subsided over time. I wasn’t convinced when she told Taek that her feelings won’t change because her previous feelings for Sun Woo and Jung Hwan did.
Even though I knew it was going to be Taek, my mind just can’t seem to accept it for some reason. I was hoping for the slightest chance that there’d be a big reversal but it didn’t happen. I think the show was initially building up Jung Hwan to be the endgame but then eventually, Deok Sun came off as someone who means the world to Taek and it’s just suddenly ok to let Jung Hwan give up on her because he is the emotionally stable one who could pursue other dreams and I swear if Taek didn’t win, he’d end up overdosing himself with those pills. Taek earned the right to be Deok Sun’s husband anyway. From his loving stares to huge sacrifices for her, no one would question Deok Sun’s decision in marrying him.
Anyway, despite my sadness over Jung Hwan’s lack of presence in the finale, I’m impressed with the way the writer handled the love triangle that doesn’t fit the mould of the typical Kdrama romance. Taek and Jung Hwan never really tried to one-up each other for Deok Sun’s attention the way romcom rivals usually do. They just naturally took care of Deok Sun the best way they know how and they even tried to be as careful as possible to not hurt their friendship in the process. It’s just that we had more time to see how much Jung Hwan secretly giggled like a dork and suffered silently. He competed against himself and in the end, he lost, not because he loved her any less but because he hesitated in expressing his feelings. The problem is the way the show concluded things for him, going from lead to supporting in a matter of episodes and then he just sent himself off the army and completely disappeared in the finale without a hint on whether he lived happily or not.
Jung Bong and Man Ok were mentioned but Dong Ryong who played a bigger role as all around funny, fart guy and occasional counselor was left out. Bora and Sun Woo’s wedding seemed to have taken the spotlight so it felt like the finale was done in a rush.
I appreciate the ending scene where Deok Sun reminisces about the good old days. I’m turning another year older this year and what I wouldn’t give to get my youth back. The drama reminded me that it’s not just me who’s growing old, but also my parents, my friends , the house where I live in and the places I’ve been to. I was still a baby in the year 1988 but I witnessed some of the early 90s fashion in my early years and I grew up with some of the obsolete technologies of the bygone era- a lot of things young people these days didn’t get to see. That’s when I realize that the laptop I’m using now, the smartphone I’m holding now and the people around me now would eventually disappear as well. There’s nothing sadder than when a drama hits you with reality and it hits you damn hard.