Drama review on ‘Monstar’: an okay watch

At the end of last year, there were so many half-watched dramas on my plate. I don’t know what it is about those untied ends but they so..metimes make me feel like an irresponsible adult. Oh, all right, an irresponsible person. Is there such a thing? Dramas making me feel guilty?

Anyway, I was watching Misaeng and it made me want to complete Monstar because now I don’t remember why I stopped. I just did. Or maybe I do remember and wanted to be sure and state clearly this is why I stopped. So, here I go shelving Monstar on the Done shelf.

It didn’t help that I picked it back up at episode 9 (as that’s where I left it), and this episode was the pits! I read in some book, I don’t remember which, about how life was like a long line of people each of whom was busy looking at the one standing in front of them unaware that a Bleeding Heart with eyes only for them was standing right behind them. Monstar’s episode 9 sure did hammer in that point.

There was so much one-sided love hexagon-y pining and solitary gazing that I was watching it all sitting deliberately sober, and a bit bored, until Ajusshi’s sad flashback just cracked me up. I shouldn’t be laughing at people who come back from the brink of suicide (stopped by a pair of Chinese chopsticks, no less,) but what can I say? (Poke me with those chopsticks!)

Then there were all those pregnant, awkward pauses, and the hurt looks that no one saw, and I’d forgotten why any one of them was behaving the way they were. Why does Sun Woo keep on following Se Yi with that hang-dog expression and why does Na Na keep on following Sun Woo with that hang-dog expression and is that Sul Chan I see in that corner peeking (with the hang-dog expression) at Sun Woo poking Se Yi on the shoulder as Na Na glares?

So I went back and read what I’d previously written about the show. I seem to have liked it. My first impression of it was a bubbly show that made me giggle at all the weird antics. That surely wasn’t happening now.

Where previously Sul Chan’s hyperactive imagination had endeared me to his emotionally stunted psyche, now he seemed to be stuck in this strange limbo of an 18 year old with the emotional quotient of a child: A bratty child whose jealous lines could scarily mimic an abuser who shouts at his partner: “You started this.” “I can’t seem to control what happens, so stay far away.” Yes, his adoption story is sad, and, yes, the fact that he has 3 identities is sadder, but it’s not something you try to flesh out in the last episode!

And where previously Se Yi’s lamb-talking, runaway spirit had seemed quirky, she just seemed unreal now. The actress who played her is so tiny, and, while Sul Chan’s swagger probably made her heart flutter, I just saw a scared sparrow. Do you see where I’m heading? The lead couple was not working for me. I did like when they finally talked about his adoption and he took her home, but it was too little too late.

Sun Woo formed the third leg of this love-line and where previously he had evoked no interest because of his Perfect (almost cold) ways, this time around some curious change had taken place. Maybe it was in Eun Ha’s imagined rock band performance where I got a glimpse of Kang Ha Neul as a rocker. I liked it! Mwehehehe. He is attractive! Why hadn’t I seen that before? I especially like his smile. (Do I spy a crooked tooth?)

The character was such a stick-in-the-mud guy, and First Love is such a cloying unreal thing, that it was no wonder I couldn’t see past that. Now it’s finally clear. It’s all in the hair. And maybe the eyeliner helped, too. See how much more stick-in-the-muddy he looks in Misaeng? Give this guy a role where he can be young and playful and have carefree locks and make him smile.

Though I never rooted for Sun Woo, there was a point where I may have cheered him on. A bit. But then I got back to not caring and thinking he’s a fool to not hook up with the ever awesome Kim Na Na.

I found it hilarious that Kyu Dong and Do Nam had the hots for Na Na after seeing her dance. Another love triangle, ladies and gentlemen, in a show with multi-generational triangles. All hail triangles! And quadrangles. And pentagons. And hexagons. Hail love geometry!

I find it uncanny that my interest in the show was directly mimicked by Eun Ha’s love or the lack thereof for Sul Chan, though her level of intensity exceeds mine. Is it any surprise that Eun Ha was one of the reasons I don’t regret completing this show, because otherwise I would have missed out on a great character arc: One that K-dramas are so unwilling or maybe unaware of to play out. Finally, a side character, female, who happened to pine or like the same thing that the main female character did (though her Sul Chan obsession bordered on irrational objectification), and through whom it was shown that it’s okay to like the same person and feel hurt, angry, jealous and feel it’s unfair when the person doesn’t like you back. It’s even okay to cry.

When Eun Ha goes through all that slew of conflicting emotions warring with the love and friendship she shares with Se Yi, she was then given permission, or rather Eun Ha gives herself and Se Yi the permission to be friends again. You know how rare this is in K-dramas? Where jealousy and resentment, normal emotions all the unsaintly among us feel, are made to be character traits of lepers who ought to be punished. I was glad to see it done well and with dignity here.

So it was Eun Ha and some random bits of the past episodes’ life that I saw here and there (the shades at night never failed to make me snort) that got me to finish this. I loved this show every time they played together – whether for band practice, whether for the heck of it, whether for real, or whether for make-belief. I loved the use of music. I loved how visual and playful it was. (When it wasn’t being a Multi Generational Hexagony Love Fest.)

I loved how it could make me smile and tear up (even now!) at odd moments: Like when Se Yi’s dead Dad comes and sings for her mom. (Who is this hunky actor? A singer? Mm.) Like when Eun Ha’s writing and we see her fierce imagination and when she feels she’s invisible and like she’s disappearing into bubbles. Or how being in love and missing your loved one could be like having your own set of love ballad-singing duo following you around all day. (The only part I liked in the romance… Okay, I do admit to having liked the initial starefest and the cute bits. But the last taste is the one that lingers.)

This show was more a collection of moments that really worked and many, many that just didn’t. Somebody at the writer’s room pantsed around so much that the end product remained vague and meandering with infuriating untied strings. If I say this was done to mimic life, nothing in the show was very life-like for the ending to mimic life thematically.

But I shelve Monstar with a smile on my face because that’s what the show left me with. You know that end bit where Do Nam starts with that song and then credits roll and we see the cast sing along? Notice how the scenes are from the backstage reels after real scenes in the show have finished. Looks like the PD made them sing the song at various moments throughout the drama filming process. I just find that detail endearing.

See, Monstar may have infuriated me at times, as only a thing you care about can, and the bad may have outweighed the good in the end, but like an old estranged friend you can’t quite hate I’ll think of the sunny days and pat it back to sleep.

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