REVIEW: Run On
|[Please be advised, this review may contain spoilers.]|
So often dramas try to be clever, whether it'd be with words or storytelling and, time and time again, they fall flat. It takes real talent to pull off whimsy but, unfortunately, the television industry is filled with too many highbrows who think they can. For this reason, dramas, such as the abominable Record of Youth, will regularly have a seat at the table that is Korean television. It isn't so bad, however, for I feel the true purpose of the bad is to accentuate the good, and that contrast was never more clear than on the night I chose to watch Record of Youth. It wasn't long before I was, once again, browsing Netflix for a new drama to watch. It was then when I remembered an interaction I had on Twitter, earlier in the day, with a fellow fan. Right at the top of her currently-watching list was Run On, a show I'd passed on many times. Why, I couldn't say really, but it was recommended to me so I began to watch...
Instantly, I was immersed in a kaleidoscope of witty dialogue and cutting humor. It wasn't like anything I'd ever encountered in K-dramas. Don't get me wrong, comedy is as common in dramas as butter is on popcorn, but Run On is a whole different animal. It is sassy and smart and quick-witted. I, recently, wrote about the possible drawbacks to Netflix's influence on Korean dramas, but here we have a show that has, in my opinion, benefited quite nicely. Run On is, through and through, a K-drama, and (likely) due to Netflix's direction, it's brimming with fascinating characters, enduring life within a system of strict customs. Two characters who are affected most are Seon-gyeom and Dan-ah. Born into wealth, they are fettered by a family structure built on years and years of patricentric rule. So repressed they are that social rules and etiquette are a thing which exists solely outside the realm of their sequestered life. It isn't until they encounter Mi-joo and Young-hwa, respectively, that the outside world starts to chip away at the walls of their seclusion. It sounds dire, I do admit, but in Run On, it is presented in a way that brings the giggles, for it is meant to be a lighthearted jab at the upper class. A class so detached, that the mere mention of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, one of the most iconic films ever, causes one to scratch his head.
A feel-good show. It is such an overused term, but Run On was that, indeed. Many dramas, however, are technically feel-good, but how many achieve a level of goodness that is so pure and euphoric, it plasters a permanent smile onto your face. In that sense, Run On is a outlier, for its humor is inherently rooted into the essence of the show. It is not a symptom but the makeup of a show that is depicted as satire. Nowhere is this more evident than its dialogue, which is soaked in a sharp wit and sarcasm that is so cutting, one almost expects a "damn!" to follow. Run On is, in this way, an embarrassment of riches.
As rich as Run On is in witty humor, it is equally as prosperous in romances. Seon-gyeom and Mi-joo receive the most screen time, and rightfully so as they are the protagonists, but their love story is a marathon (no pun intended), while Dan-ah and Young-hwa's is a sprint. And the styles suited each couple perfectly, for it played up their respective strengths. Seon-gyeom's growth was a slow awakening, as he, with Mi-joo's support, reconciled with cultural norms and his role as a politician's son in a society where the young, as it happens, watch movies, eat junk food, and marry for love. Dan-ah's, on the other hand, was stymied not by a lack of cultural knowledge but an authoritative father. Upon his death, however, Dan-ah gained her freedom, and due in part to Young-hwa's infectious smile and adoration, she knew real love at last.
In the end, young love pushed through the barbed fence that is centuries-old patriarchy and discovered a world filled with rooftop barbecues, sleepovers, and even, getting drunk. And it all unfolds in a delightful manner, due to a casual setting where the characters are often seen having serious discussions about life over drinks or dinner. So intimate are these scenes that it almost felt as if I was right there in the room with Seon-gyeon and Mi-Joo, and stifling the urge to share with them my thoughts on Jerry Maguire.
Run On isn't without its flaws, however, as the show feels, at times, as if it's a collection of moments, each one a paint stroke on a canvas that somehow never quite delivers a cohesive visual. Its lack of a main story gives rise to long spells of inaction, particularly in the later episodes. But it's a minor quibble on my part, for Run On is, otherwise, a fantastic show. It is genuinely funny and sweet and thoughtful, but more importantly, it is highly relevant, as it calls attention to issues, such as class inequality and bullying, and to a lesser extent, homosexuality.
Run On (2020)
Cast: Im Shi-wan, Shin Se-kyung, Choi Soo-young, Kang Tae-oh
[Click here to watch on Netflix.]