Crash Course In Romance | Series Review

The more apt translation for Crash Course in Romance is One Hit Scandal because this tvN series starring Jeon Do-yeon and Jung Kyung-ho deals with so many other things aside from romance.

The series centered around the relationship between former athlete turned banchan store owner Nam Haeng-seon (Jeon Do-yeon) and Math star teacher Choi Chi-yeol (Jung Kyung-ho). The first two episodes were very interesting as they showed the contrasting personality of the two main characters and how their paths intersect at one point in the past. Their meet-cute – a cat-and-mouth-chase – was hilarious and a solid start for the romantic comedy premise the showrunners were aiming for Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol’s storyline. The series could have just gone on to develop Haeng-seon and Chi-yeol’s relationship with the forced proximity trope they cleverly set up. It was already entertaining and interesting on its own but the showrunners probably thought that adding a looming murderer on the side could make it stand out from other romcom series out there.

The murder subplot came in the form of an obsessed killer pretending to be one of Chi-yeol’s people Ji Dong-hee (Shin Jae-ha). The idea isn’t at all a bad idea or a new experimental one, given that K-dramas are usually a hotpot of different genres. Shin Jae-hae, for his part, has done well in portraying the two-faced assistant of Chi-yeol. He charmed the audience in the first two episodes and made them believe he couldn’t be the man behind the killing. He did well overall despite the anticlimactic resolution to the murderer subplot. But I believe that the romance itself is good enough to have stood out on its own without this unnecessary add-on. It felt like picking up and biting on a chili pepper from a bag of candies you were happily munching on to feel good. Such subplots are good to have when you’re craving and anticipating having them. It just didn’t work in this instance because it wasn’t what I was expecting and looking for in a drama like Crash Course in Romance.

The other subplots, however, are a good addition to the main plot. Haeng-seon’s relationship with her niece-daughter Nam Hae-e (Roh Yoon-seo) is a great way to add a layer to Haeng-seon’s character and at the same time add one more thing to look forward to in the series. Roh Yoon-seo, who only have few projects in her filmography, showed that she can act alongside veterans like Jeon Do-yeon. Hae-e and her friendships with Lee Sun-jae (Lee Chae-min), Jang Dan-ji (Yoo Da-in), and Seo Geon-hu (Lee Min-jae) were lifted straight out of youth dramas but it complements the romance main plot well.

Haeng-seon and her clashes with Jo Sui-hui (Kim Sun-young) were enough to put the right amount of tension in the story. The own storylines of Jo Sui-hui and the other mothers like Jang Seo-jin (Jang Young-nam) with their children Bang Sun-a (Kang Na-eon) and Lee Hui-jae (Kim Tae-jung) were empathetic filler stories that made me stayed enough for the rest of the episode. The overzealous mother trope and the way they become more attuned to their children’s real needs might be a trite and overused narrative but it is always effective to tug the audience’s heartstrings. 

All of these subplots – including Haeng-seon’s backstory as a former athlete and how she is the caretaker of her brother Nam Jae-woo (Oh Eui-sik) – made Haeng-seon a compelling protagonist; like how a great side dish could amp up the taste of the main dish instead of overpowering it. Cho Chi-yeol’s past and his connection to Haeng-seon’s mother could also have been enough to make his story tender enough to move its target viewers. Jung Kyung-ho is even great at executing the slapstick comedy they inserted in between the romance. The escalation of Chi-yeol’s relationship with Haeng-seon is set at the right pace with enough interesting subplots from the other mothers and their respective close friends. An actual murderer as the main villain is, again, an unnecessary addition. The show could have been more effective in conveying that the “real villain” in these kinds of stories are unfair stereotypes, prejudices, and social pressures that stem from antiquated beliefs.

Nonetheless, Crash Course in Romance is one of the good series that premiered this year. It has stories – from romance to heartwarming family tales and friendships – that could appeal to a lot of K-drama fans and casual viewers alike. The portrayals of both Jeon Do-yeon and Jung Kyung-ho are also wondrous; proving a point that seasoned actors can definitely make any kind of plot work. It also showed that middle age romances shouldn’t just be melodramatic or involve illicit affairs. A rom-com could work with characters of any age with just the right actors and an effective storyline.

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