Dropping Start-Up due to second lead syndrome / not liking the main pairing

This is somewhat of a sad post for me after having raved about how much I adored Start-Up just a few episodes back. Unfortunately, following episode 8's adorable pine nut noodle eating sequence, something shifted for me and I found myself caring so much more for our second lead, Han Ji Pyeong, than I did either of the main leads. Where before I found Do San naive and cute in suddenly being smitten with Dal Mi, by episode 10 I found their interactions dull and far too predictable. Also where before I was encouraged by the deviation from norm in making the childhood love interest/backstory-rich Han Ji Pyeong NOT the main lead, by episode 11 I was frankly annoyed by how Dal Mi could so consistently keep ignoring him and how Do San was constantly rude and petulant around him. 

So in short, I've had to call it quits on Start-Up (stopped before episode 12) because it was starting to frustrate me more than entertain me. I would spend the episodes getting angrier and angrier as trouble upon trouble was thrown onto Ji Pyeong (now he's responsible for the brother's death??!! Cm'on) and as nobody seemed to give a cent about him, including the once loving Grandma (sorry Grandma, I kinda feel bad for you but I feel worse for Ji Pyeong because he literally has nothing except you and you just threw him out for Do San). 

Also a plug, but if you want to hear me talk about it live feel free to listen here (Spotify, Apple):

It's been so long since I felt second-lead syndrome, with all of its false hopes, frustrations, and deep disappointments, so this one took me quite by surprise. Or maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, because Nam Joo Hyuk has never been my cup of tea as I find him a flat and boring actor at best who's somehow gotten ahead on relatively little true acting talent. Don't be mad if you love Nam Joo Hyuk, that's just how honestly I see it. 

In contrast to Nam, our second lead actor is played by a true theater man and charismatic talent, Kim Seon Ho. I'm rather sad that he hasn't been a big player in anything previously (that drama with Moon Geun Young looks pretty terrible so I don't intend to watch it). But hopefully things will change now that he's been propelled up by Start-Up. 

What gives me slight comfort is the fact that it seems I'm not alone in preferring Ji Pyeong. In fact, most viewers in my age group (aka above 25) seem to find Ji Pyeong the much more compelling and interesting character, with a level of depth that Do San simply lacks regardless of how many crying scenes they give him. As one twitter comment put it best, Do San is quite literally a man-child. Dal Mi is also a child in many ways, so in that sense they make a suitable pair in terms of their lack of maturity. I just am not at all interested in watching it. 

I'll go on a tangent now to say that Suzy is passable in this role, but again she's someone I've never warmed up to as an actress (there's something hollow in her portrayals). Certainly she's improved, but keep in mind she's had 10 years worth of leading lady roles, so it's rather like HOW COULD SHE NOT IMPROVE? Any of us doing the same thing for 10 years would hopefully get better at it. And after many terrible godawful portrayals of leading ladies in the past (my thoughts on her/other bad actresses here) it's really about time she finally figure out how to finesse it. 

This is probably also part and parcel with why I'm feeling zero connection with the drama now that I don't support the main pair. If I liked her character (or our main lead Do San's) I think I could stomach through the rest of this series, because it's certainly funny at parts, cute in spades, and well-produced to boot. But to give me Suzy and Nam Joo Hyuk, both of whom I find flat and boring, and force me to support them together while putting my main love Ji Pyeong through the wringer with tragedy after tragedy and mistreatment upon mistreatment? That tests my patience in a way I cannot endure.

A lot of twitter tweets post episode 13 seem to support the reunion of our Samsan Tech trio plus the lawyer girl. Here's yet another area where I simply don't care. Our Samsan trio has been nothing but cruel to Ji Pyeong, from physically holding him back from finding Dal Mi to accusing him of murder when he was just doing his job as an investor (as someone who used to work in finance, I see Ji Pyeong in the right and certainly not as someone who did anything to the degree which one could accuse him of murder. The brother was clearly suffering from unaddressed mental issues, which no doubt Ji Pyeong may have triggered, but you absolutely cannot pin him for another person deciding to take his own life). 

I found Chul San funny at one point, but throw in a forced romance between him and the lawyer (zero spark I'm telling you, so obnoxiously fake 🙄) and abuse of Ji Pyeong and I have to say I almost would rather see the Samsan trio fail than succeed at this point 🤷

So yeah, in short here's another disappointing mid-run from writer Park Hye-Ryun. I'm still waiting for a drama from her that doesn't completely lose steam by midway. I Hear Your Voice came really close, but the extension and prolonged amnesia / serial killer piece really frustrated me.

Which actually brings me to my next annoyance with the series based on spoilers I read - isn't it the worst when dramas add a time skip in the last half of a drama? It's the absolute most horrible device, and is what killed Itaewon Class for me as well. It's a lazy gimmick imo, done when a writer runs out of plot in the present period in order to stretch the drama to its 16 episode run-time.

I daresay I might have enjoyed the childish antics and rags-to-riches journey of our naive main group more if I were 12 vs over 30. In fact, I highly believe there's an age correlation between Do San and Ji Pyeong supporters. Any woman who's spent time in the workforce would recognize the value of a self-made, gently supportive and kind soul over a young boy who falls in love at first sight. Sure the latter is cute, but the former is a true man deserving of a lifetime partnership. 

That's all I have to say for now. Let me know if you're with me on the Ji Pyeong ship!


  1. Yeah yeah. Ji Pyeong is all mature and hardworking, faced all the hardships in his life and still achieved his aim but for once I am glad of the power of the main lead character because as you said I felt a deep annoyance not for Nam Do San but for Han Ji Pyeong for his unwavering blunt self. The combination between him and the female lead would have been awful. He fits perfectly for the second male lead. Times without number he has given out his blunt opinion towards their business on their failures but was proven wrong. He even enjoyed seeing them in failure and calling to ask him for assistance, what a self centred jerk. He got to spend sometime with the female lead when Nam Do San was abroad but their pairing was such a bore.

    1. I agree that Dal Mi and Ji Pyeong weren't a good pairing, but my issue is that Do San and Dal Mi were too boring to watch together (perhaps as boring as you found Dal Mi and Ji Pyeong). I never got to the point anyways when Ji Pyeong was with her awhile Do San was away, cause I figured if I already didn't care about Dal Mi / Do San I definitely wouldn't care once there's all this forced separation and manufactured drama to keep them apart.

  2. Yes, absolutely! The main lead didn't have enough chemistry for me. I would definitely appreciate Ji Pyeong over Do San. Do San is like a man child and doesn't seem to grow at all as a character. Same goes for the trio. Their collective hatred for Ji Pyeong is quite confusing to me because time and time again, they succeeded in Sand Box thanks to Ji Pyeong's advice (which Dal Mi was smart enough to take and not get offended by -- so props to her!). I also wanted to point out how the trio decided to go to San Franacisco because of Young San and his revemge against Ji Pyeong. He wanted to prove Ji Pyeong wrong because he initially said that SamSan Tech will never succeed. Technically, Ji Pyeong was right! 2STO, the American company, engaged in an acquhire meaning they only bought SamSan tech because they wanted its talent and NOT its services. So Ji Pyeong was right all along! SamSan tech's services were non-profitable and would never last. So as an investor, he was right when he said that SamSan tech will never succeed as a business/company. And mind you, the only reason 2STO "reconsidered" SamSan Tech's services as part of the buy-out conditions was BECAUSE Ji-Pyeong talked to them. So, in hindsight, whatever success the company has is because of Ji-Pyeong. I got really frustrated because the trio seem to never learn or grow as characters. Even after they got scammed by 2STO (which Ji Pyeong tried to stop), none of the trio members appreciated him or admitted they were wrong. Their characters are just bland. Also, Do San is supposed to be a prodigy, a fucking genius and earlier in the series, we were told that he only lacks ambition. I was hoping that would get somehwere, that arch but unfortunately it didn't. They made his dream to be "love" which is quite stupid to me given the fact that the entire show was supposed to be about inspiring the youth. Following love seems counterintuitive to me.

    I did like Seo Dal Mi's character in that sense. Her character did grow. She went through hardships, started from scratch, became a CEO, took advice from a mentor without getting offended and really made Samsan tech a presentable company. She got fucked over either way but I like the fact even after she got dumped by Samsan tech, she didn't have a pity party. She got back up like a bad ass and moved forward. I think that was a lot in terms of growth. At least more than the trio.

    Ji-Pyeong grew too as a character. In terms of his feelings, he did overcome the obstacle of always being hesitant and suppressing his feelings. When he was accused, by Young San, of driving someone to kill themself because of his harsh tone and way of giving advice, Ji Pyeong was very mindful in terms of reflecting! he really tried changing his ways after that (Dal Mi asks him in a later episode for some realistic advice and he was very careful to not hurt her not because he likes her but because he's trying to watch his tone and harshness as a mentor and advisor). I was super proud of him.

    I have no interest in the main lead and their story at all to be honest. I am pushing through the last couple of episodes because of Ji-Pyeong to see how his character develops. He carried the entire show on his back if I say so myself. He is a great actor and he has the ability to evoke emotion in the audience (which Nam Jo Hyuk wasn't able to do that well in my opinion). I was so happy to see Kim acting spectrum expand. His temperament and emotions were truly a treat for me. I am really excited to see his future projects. So glad that he is getting the attention he deserves, finally!

    1. You make so many great points, and I agree with all of them! Ji Pyeong and Kim Sun Ho overall was the biggest positive of this drama; I'm so excited to hear he's been cast in a leading role and can't wait to watch his new drama! And yes Samsan Tech was such an irritating trio - I actually liked all three actors for it much less after this drama.


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