Saturday, February 11, 2017

This Week My Wife Will Have an Affair: Series Review


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It's rare to find a show that balances a likable and intriguing set of leads with an equally interesting and surprising plot. But that's what This Week My Wife Will Have an Affair artfully achieved, which explains the fair amount of positive reviews it's garnered. This Week hooked us with the did-she/ didn't-she humor-filled premise, but then pulled out something more meaningful, which was a balanced look at marriage and human relationships. As someone who went in with zero expectations, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I got, and this stands as one of the few shows I completed in 2016 and enjoyed all the way through. 

As a whole, I found This Week to be incredibly easy to tune into and engage with throughout its run. It never had me desperately clawing for the next episode, but I did find myself musing over and looking forward to its episodes. This was largely the result of its laid-back tone and slice-of-life storytelling, which kept the characters feeling inhabited and interesting. It also had such a refreshingly subversive sense of humor and a quiet confidence in itself - it never relied on plot gimmicks, and the dramatic moments were nicely balanced with plenty of lighthearted jokes and cheery character interactions.

This Week begins with our leading man, Do Hyun Woo (played winningly by Lee Sun Kyun), accidentally seeing a text from an unknown man named Michael inviting his wife to meet later that week at a hotel. Rather than doing the normal thing and asking his wife directly about this, Hyun Woo chooses to keep his knowledge of the text a secret from his wife, and then proceeds to tell everyone from his friends to an online chatroom about it in a blundering attempt to get advice on how to approach the problem.



The brilliance of this show is that rather than getting frustrated at Hyun Woo's lack of directness, I ended up feeling sympathetic and completely amused by his passive attempts at preventing the affair, which entailed everything from searching through her Facebook friends to camping out at the hotel on the specified day. My patience for Hyun Woo was partly owed to the smart pacing and the resultant humor of his actions, but also because Hyun Woo's actions pointed to a larger problem in his relationship with his seemingly perfect wife, Jung Soo Yeon (played by Song Ji Hyo), which I was curious to see play out.

Indeed, said perfect wife had plenty of issues beneath her constant smile, and the entire series is an analysis on the impact of betrayal and lack of communication on a relationship. It dives into the heart of a long-standing relationship, and was such a breath of fresh air in a genre that regularly focuses on the initial falling in love and rarely on the bigger issues that come up in a relationship.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of major issues were glossed over and I'm not sure that I agree with the final resolution for our couple (more discussion and spoilers at the end of this review), but overall it was a fascinating and heartwarming watch.



Lee Sun Kyun did a terrific job portraying our lead, the seemingly victimized husband. He's over dramatic and self-absorbed, but also very easy to root for, with an interesting combination of naivety and quirkiness that makes him so very likable. This is definitely a warmer, funner character than any of his others I've seen, who've tended towards the colder male lead type, and it definitely suits him well.

Hyun Woo, for all his imperfections, ultimately felt like a fully fleshed person, warts and all. I liked that the story essentially restricted the audience's knowledge to Hyun Woo's knowledge - we saw things only from his perspective, and the gradual reveals were as much a surprise to us as they were to him. It's my favorite form of storytelling, because there's nothing worse than knowing something long before the leads figure it out and having to watch them flail through like dunderheads and understand things one step late.



As for Soo Yeon's title wife character, I unfortunately agree with the general critique on the lack of clarity with her character motivations. I don't think it's a major shortcoming for the drama because ultimately she too is far more fleshed out and realistically flawed than the average drama female lead. But next to Hyun Woo, she was definitely much less understandable and relatable. The issue with restraining us to Hyun Woo's perspective is that the story kept her mysterious for too long. When they finally tried to peel back the character in the last inning, I found her motivations and character path to be rather anticlimactic. They set her up for a great reveal, but her struggles and motivations were rather generic and didn't suddenly excuse what she had done.



I do think Song Ji Hyo was perfect in the role, in that she really captured the expressions (or lack thereof in some cases) of the somber and controlled Soo Yeon. She just has such a serious countenance in her drama roles, even from back in the day with Princess Hours. The unfortunate part is this role didn't demand much range from her, as she was always either serious or guilt-stricken. She was also always amazingly put together; I really wanted her outfits and her perfectly draping, wavy hair, plus nobody else could have worn a bold lip as well as she did. It's interesting to note that she would usually wear a dark red lipstick in meetings with Michael, which was probably a purposeful move by the costume designer. Because cheaters wear red?

Whereas the two leads' story is rather melancholic and dark, the two side relationships are alternately cute, mundane and exaggerated. Although I wasn't the biggest fan of either of these couples, I can see that they serve a purpose in providing something for everyone. If you're looking for the traditional syrupy sweet and innocent friends-turned-lovers story arc, then the Bo Young-Joon Young dynamic will fit the bill. By contrast, if you're looking for eyebrow-raising slapstick comedy with a touch of drama, then the disgusting yet amusingly philandering Yoon Ki and his classy/terrifying wife Ara's story is for you. I normally don't care for side relationships in any drama, but I didn't mind these two, because they provided at times welcome breaks from the seriousness of our leads, and both men proved to be stalwart friends to Hyun Woo. The dynamic between them was probably my favorite, even if the associated relationships weren't especially remarkable.



Bo Young (played by BoA, who I was surprised to see acting) and Joon Young (played by the familiar but not memorable Lee Sang Yub) are two coworkers of Hyun Woo who work together and have been long-time friends. Both have romantic histories, but through continued interactions and pursuit on his part, manage to slowly banter their way into something more. I know this was a fan favorite, and I can see why as both characters are young, good-looking, and reasonably cute together. But personally this was my least favorite arc and I think their dynamic has been overhyped, as I found their plotline to be quite generic and their chemistry lukewarm.

A friends turned couple dynamic is usually always satisfying just by the nature of its premise, but it felt like an inevitability here with zero surprises. Joon Young was clearly already head over heels with Bo Young from their first scene together, which made the series more about pushing through her (rather confusing) stubbornness and refusal to accept him. The ex-spouses and divorcee statuses were thrown in to add interest to the mix, but again were predictable little segments that we knew they would overcome, largely because both were conveniently already a non-barrier by the time we knew these characters.

I was also not a fan of BoA's acting, which was more often than not stiff and completely one-note - she basically had one expression on her face through the entire drama. I suppose it's thankful that the story didn't try to make her do more than be quirky, look cute and talk fast.
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I'll move on now to the most ridiculous couple of the three, Ara and Yoon Ki. Yoon Ki is a completely nonsensical, comic relief type of character who spends much of the series cheating on his wife in a sequence of ever more absurd affairs. I get why most people didn't like him, but in terms of entertainment value he certainly provided plenty, and the redemption arc at the end was among the most satisfying. I liked that Ara ultimately grew the confidence to walk away and right the wrongs against her, so that alone was worth watching.


As others have attested to, the personification of the online community is surprisingly one of the most heartfelt aspects of this show, and managed to be weaved in without ever feeling cheesy. Despite the little screentime these folks got (especially the elderly ladies duo), I remember and feel for them as much as any of the main couples. It perfectly encapsulates the unexpected warmth possible in human encounters. Serious aww stuff. 

Spoilers: I'll move on now to discuss spoilers regarding the resolutions for all three couples, so don't read if you're still planning to watch the drama.
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For our main couple, Soo Yeon and Hyun Woo, I personally didn't agree with the decision to have them reconcile after their divorce. I understand that the divorce segment was done in a way that indicated he was still in love with her and that both were doing it out of obligation rather than a desire to split, but that didn't make sense to me. Why go through the headache of divorce, from the expenses to telling your parents, only to get back together mere months later?

If Hyun Woo truly thought there was a chance of making it work, I think he would have gone for separation rather than a full divorce upfront. Divorce is not some magical cleanse that washes away past grievances - divorce is purposeful separation with adults who are better off apart (historically, just look at Elizabeth Taylor and her attempt to reconcile with Richard Burton after divorce - it just doesn't work). I would have rather seen both characters move on with their lives without each other, as that would have been more healthy and in keeping with the way life works.

Koreans are clearly still a very conservative society if they believe that the parents to a child must stay together for their children to be happy. I felt like that wound up being the message of their coupling, and frankly I wholeheartedly disagree with it. It wasn't enough to spoil the drama for me, but I felt it undermined much of the validity of the ending.



Moving on to Bo Young and Joon Young, I was so not a fan of the drunken one-night-stand leading to pregnancy bit, largely because I find it pathetic and irresponsible for adults in their thirties to not understand protection, no matter how drunk they may be (and especially then - are you really unaware of how to drink responsibly?) Ultimately it served the purpose of bringing two compatible people together, but I just wish their union could have been more carefully thought out and deliberate.

I also don't understand why she still feels the need to play games with him at the end, by faking a move-out only to move into his place, and then fake-protesting when he kisses her (seriously girl, you're pregnant, don't play the innocent act now). It didn't feel logical or realistic, and if you're hoping for depth here then you will be sorely disappointed.

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Finally, our gag couple Yoon Ki and Ara - oh Yoon Ki. Despite all the jerky and sleazy things he did, I'm not sure he deserved to die in poverty at gunpoint by his ex-wife. He was an awful husband, but he was also the type of guy that should have never married in the first place. Ara was pretty darn badass though in the end, and I wholeheartedly enjoyed watching that. I'll take their ending with a grain of salt, because it was the most unrealistic of the three and made me chuckle like crazy.

End spoilers

Overall, I don't think this drama was at all revolutionary, but it sure was a fun and surprisingly meaningful watch, and for that alone deserves its praises. It made me invested in its characters, it made me laugh, and it gave me an optimism for the human spirit.


You can watch This Week My Wife Will Have an Affair here

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