The Gist: After a traumatic incident in high school, Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye) becomes afraid of people and shuts herself in her apartment. Working from home, she has very little reason to interact with anybody. Still, she can’t help but admire a doctor who lives across the street from her. Too scared to actually introduce herself, she simply watches him from afar every day. This turns out to be her undoing when his brother, video game genius Enrique (Yoon Shi Yoon) returns from Spain and catches her looking into his brother’s apartment. A type A extrovert, he can’t leave her alone but is determined to help her grow out of her shell. This ticks off Dok Mi’s neighbor, Jin Rak (Kim Ji Hoon) who had noticed Dok Mi’s good qualities long ago and just wants Enrique to leave her alone. Despite this discouragement, Enrique is unable to be swayed as he and Dok Mi learn to understand and help each other.
I have to give mad props to FBND for having such an original idea. So frequently I find myself watching a drama and it reminds me of thirty other things I’ve watched. I do not think there was even one moment when I thought this scene is just like that other drama. The plot is fresh (as is pointed out in a very meta fashion through Jin Rak’s boss) and the characters unusual. I can’t think of any characters even similar to Enrique or Dok Mi and definitely not as a pair. If you’re sick of the run of the mill story quirks, this one is totally different and well done at that.
Park Shin Hye is a very familiar face by now, but it was enjoyable to see her in something to different from her usual fair. Unlike Heartstrings and You’re Beautiful, FBND doesn’t showcase her musical talent at all. She plays such a believable recluse, that you actually get nervous watching her in uncomfortable situations. I’d think she was just a quiet person, but her other roles are so energetic that we can simply credit her fabulous acting. Shi Yoon was not an actor I had seen before, but I loved his commitment to his character, panda hat and all, and his interactions with Shin Hye were adorably sincere.
As a different kind of love triangle, I have to admit, I love this romance. My favorite romance stories are the ones where it’s obvious why two people should be together. Somewhere in the middle it became crystal clear why Dok Mi should be with Enrique and not Jin Rak. Jin Rak wanted Dok Mi to just be herself, not needing to change for anyone. I was totally on his side in this opinion because it seemed so harsh and that mantra of just be yourself is so ingrained, Enrique often seemed mean. However, I realized that Enrique wanted to push Dok Mi to be herself more fully and he could see how much happier and healthier she could be. It was not the easy way, but Enrique was better for Dok Mi and she was good for him too.
Played by Go Kyung Pyo, Dong Hoon is Jin Rak’s roommate and coworker. At first, I was really annoyed with this character. He seemed like a playboy and kind of obnoxious. You figure out eventually that he’s not a playboy but has to work every night as a designated driver to make meager cash. His support of Jin Rak and Do Hwi (Park Soo Jin) isn’t always straightforward, but he’s a really good friend. Also his interactions with the director of their webtoon, brilliantly acted by Kim Seul Gi, snuck up on me as some of the best on the show.
Japanese transplant, Watanabe (Mizuta Kouki), moves into our protagonists’ apartment complex to learn Korean cooking. I just do not really understand the point of this character. He was fine, but I don’t really understand him. All he really seems to add to the storyline is a place for everyone to get together. I kept waiting to see why he was there and he was essentially just the packing peanuts of the story. I felt like he was underused. Either they should have utilized him more fully or just yanked him out.
I loved this show, but the story felt like it dragged on for a bit. With such a subtle plot and quiet characters, I understand the holdup – you have to build to Dok Mi’s transformation. Still, I think condensing it down would have helped a bit. It’s not meant to be filled with action, but the story does lag a bit at certain parts.
Immediately when Enrique is introduced, it’s a given that he’s going back to Spain in like a month or two. That puts me at edge right off the bat because I know there’s a limit to the relationship building. I could see this being the big problem for them a mile away and I kind of hate that. I do not understand what it is about KDramas and separating your pair at the end, but they can’t seem to help themselves. The ultimate handling of it was nicely done, but it ticked me off right from the beginning.
I almost feel bad for saying this because everyone is different, but when I found out the reason for Dok Mi’s reclusive behavior, I was a bit disappointed. Her level of fear and dislike of people made me think she had been assaulted or something. I won’t spoil it here but it’s definitely not that dramatic. It sort of dented how I felt about Dok Mi, but I moved past it pretty quickly.
So… I love how different this show is. Peppered by a brilliant cast, FBND doesn’t have a strong overarching theme, but the small moments are poignant enough to carry it. The romance is well written and acted, if not a little bit long for the story.
Final Grade: B+