“If growing up means your dreams fade, I’ll give up on growing up.”
You know the drill. If you’ve read my previous posts on this drama, you know my likes and dislikes. And they stay pretty much the same all series long. In other dramas, i’d be all ranty by now, but the fact that i am not doesn’t mean it’s all good, i just wish not sound like a broken record. It’s not that i’ll gloss over the issues either, but let’s say i’ve anticipated it that i’ve adjusted my expectations accordingly.
For instance, i’ve mentioned the lack of plot, so i wasn’t surprised that in these six episodes, the story didn’t move that much. While it’s natural for new couple to get all giddy and excited at the newfound romance, watching them being all cuddly and lovey-dovey for two episodes was a bit much. I didn’t mind the increased skinship and whatnots, yet not at the expense of the other important things. Like job hunting and MMA training, which Ae-ra and Dong-man appear to take lightly, until the situation calls for their reaction.
I don’t know which one is Coach-nim’s main business, the gym or sundae stall, ’cause he barely frets when his other trainees cross over to Tak-soo’s team. Is Dong-man all he needs? Seems like the MMA’s field is quite small too, because Dong-man only challenges his ex sparring partners before eventually takes on his nemesis. We all know it’ll happen sooner or later, and Tak-soo’s coach figures sooner is better, when Dong-man is still a rookie and hasn’t mastered all of the techniques. And when Coach-nim isn’t the best mentor for ground skills, a deus ex machina in the form of the reknowned UFC legend arrives unannounced and offers to train Dong-man on that. What a coincidence.
Even then, Dong-man is hesitant to take Tak-soo on the ground while the latter is all about ground brawl. I wonder if i was overestimating Tak-soo; he doesn’t seem a good or skilled fighter despite the fuss, and the fight is lopsided and rather embarrassing to watch. Unfortunately, it ends in a No Contest following the unintentional headbutt which ends badly for both sides — mild concussion for the cheater and hearing loss for homeboy.
Good news is the deafness is only temporary; bad news is any more impact could make it permanent. The logical solution is for Dong-man to quit MMA, but of course he isn’t giving up so easily, not after 10 years of internal struggle. He’d rather risk his hearing than going back to exterminating pests.
The persistence, however, means the end of his relationship with Ae-ra. She has had trouble watching Dong-man fight since the beginning, when they’re still friends, and i thought her impromptu move to be MMA’s first female host means she’s overcome the dread, but Dong-man’s injury is the tipping point. She has a valid point to be against his MMA career, and while it is selfish of her to blackmail him and ask him to choose between dream and love, it is fair for her to choose to extract herself from the circumstances she cannot handle, especially after she cites Grandma’s lifelong anxiety over Dad’s fishing trips.
I was torn; i could side with both arguments but i also wanted them to find the middle ground and stay together. But i also could see why breakup is the best, albeit hurtful, decision in this situation — it’s unfair for Dong-man to force Ae-ra to support him and watch him fight, it’s unfair for Ae-ra to force Dong-man to let go of his dream, arguably for his own good notwithstanding. And if “Dreams come with a cost” and “One cannot have dream and love at the same time” are the notions the drama is going for, i could actually deal with it.
Honestly though, i never anticipated the possibility of Fantastic 4 Knuckleheads to go their own separate ways in the end, but that’s also realistic, so i cannot say i’d abhor the idea. Moreover, Show has given us solid reasons for the couples to stay apart without falling into the noble idiocy trap.
Show has also teased us with Joo-man flirting with cheating that i’ve gone from wanting him to stand his ground to wanting Seol-hee to dump him already. Their ideas of good lasting relationship are clashing and neither looks happy being together that i wondered if Joo-man was indirectly pushing Seol-hee for it. Still, when that finally happens, it was more heartbreaking than relieving. Because just one scene prior, we heard Seol-hee opening up about her ultimate dream, a simpler yet not lesser than the other three’s, and about Joo-man being her world that her breaking up with him in front of everybody must be a hard decision to make.
And i couldn’t be more proud of her for showing what a tough girl she really is, pulling herself together really well shortly after her world is falling apart. It’s also sooo satisfying to watch her throw water in Ye-jin’s face and say the things she needs to hear: “I’m allowed to throw water on you, right? It was one thing when you didn’t know, but this time, you knew. So that makes you evil. Still, I hope one day, you’ll be in my shoes. I hope tears pour out from those eyes that claim to be clueless and innocent.” Preach!
On the contrary, it’s Joo-man who gets all mopey and messed up, although he was half-asking for it. He may be lowkey rejecting Ye-jin’s advances, but keeping going to her every time she hits him up only suggests otherwise. Actions speak louder than words, remember?
Joo-man: “I didn’t cross the line. I really didn’t do anything.”
Seol-hee: “It’s the same to me. Whether you slept together or not, it’s the same. You were here all night killing me slowly every few seconds.”
Joo-man: “We dated for 6 years and we had 2 bad months. The rest was really good. Can you forget all of that?”
Seol-hee: “I missed the six years we dated for, but because of the last two months, I don’t want to go back to it.”
I’m thus happy that Seol-hee is firm about her words; her turnaround is the most satisfying. She’s the giver who gives everything without expecting anything in return, so being single allows her to focus on herself and be her own priority, for once. It’s nice that her work life is improving, too. She’s never ambitious; she may not be the best employee but it’s frustrating to see her belittled and disregarded every single time. Unlike Ae-ra and Dong-man who chase after their dream, or Joo-man who works his damnedest to achieve the ‘average’ life, Seol-hee’s ‘dream job’ just happens. Opportunity falls into her lap. She may have it the easiest, though that doesn’t mean she doesn’t earn it. She’s been providing glasses of happiness to her closest circle, and now the scope of consumers have broadened.
Besides the separation angst and extended cold war, there isn’t any more conflict to explore to fill the minutes that Show introduces the mysterious identity of Landlady Hwang. Honestly, it is such an unnecessary subplot. I’m totally fine with the Landlady being a nosy and eccentric proprietor with cheeky one liners. If she’s is someone’s mom, Ae-ra’s is the most obvious answer, though Show spins it into an uncalled-for mystery. I mean, is anyone curious about Ae-ra’s mom? I seriously think she’s fine without one. While it pained me to hear little Ae-ra questioned why she’s the only motherless one, she’s grown up to be a fine lady without mother issues, so she doesn’t need one at this point.
Without this last-minute turn, Show could’ve used the extra time on fleshing out the crises or working on the resolutions — or yunno, give us more friendship or family beats! — since some of them are rushed and confusing. Everything is settled one way or another, and everyone has their happy ending, so i guess the denouement is okay, though they could’ve still softened the edges more. I don’t know how Seol-hee and Joo-man make up already when they haven’t really talked about their issues or bridged the gap, or what makes Dong-man think proposal is a good idea when Ae-ra even refuses to be friends with him. Well, he does declare it’s she that he can’t live without, but even when Coach-nim slips up about Dong-man’s future career as a fighter, Ae-ra doesn’t argue back…
The potential new conflicts around Hye-ran moving onto the neighborhood and Ae-ra’s ex-stalker PD aren’t pursued further — which i didn’t mind though i did wonder about them. The latter comes with the better closure, but let’s say i’m glad i didn’t have to sit through more of their unnerving presence.
Fight for My Way is slice of life in parts, so i didn’t expect anything big or grand for the finale. We got our happy endings, though some of it fall a bit too neat in place. Like how Ae-ra ends up working in the MMA circuit as well, or how easy Dong-man KO’s Tak-soo (to be fair, the braggy is no match for him). I kinda wish Seol-hee never took Joo-man back, but then the dynamics would never be the same again.
What i like the most about this drama is how candid the characters are. I guess we agree that 99% problems in kdramas would be easily resolved if the involved parties just talk it out, and we hardly have such issue here. The characters behave like real people, speak their mind freely, and keep no secrets, even if things don’t always end well that way. I also love how supportive the families are. Fictional parents either rile me up or drive me bonkers, but here, they keep making me cry. Fantastic 4 Knuckleheads have the best parents in dramaland, hands down.
Ae-ra is possibly my favorite heroine, not only due to her sass and spunk, but also because she stays that way till the end. She cries a lot, but she ain’t weepy. She’s bold and stands her ground not for the sake of opposing the authority, but because she knows her worth and refuses to be exploited. Her friends-turned-lovers romance is less relatable than the dulled long-term relationship, and i was actually more invested in the secondary romance. Seol-hee is so rootable in general. Nevertheless, i like the people in this drama equally.
Oh, and how much do i adore the child actress playing her little version, Lee Han-seo! She’s shown quite a range given the limited scenes — the scene stealer for me.
In the end, Fight for My Way isn’t the funniest or giddiest romcom, the rawest slice of life, or the best family drama, but it has a little bit of everything. I laughed, cringed, and cried with them along the way. While the writing is probably the weak link, the other parts will more than make up for it. And the last epilogue almost got me!
Director: Lee Na-jung
Production: KBS2, 2017
Cast: Park Seo-joon, Kim Ji-won, Ahn Jae-hong, Song Ha-yoon, Kim Sung-oh, Lee Elijah
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life, K-drama (16 Episodes)