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[Plot twists] It’s okay, it’s a plot twist

By ChakkaAB

Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers.

It was going to be like any other drama. It’s Okay, It’s Love had all of the elements of a typical rom-com setup. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl bicker. Boy finds himself attracted to girl. Girl gets annoyed by boy’s interest, and in the process of pushing him away falls hopelessly in love with him instead. That is how the drama was going to go. But all of that changed at the close of episode four.

Hae-soo was begining to show some interest in Jae-yeol, the playboy novelist she had bickered with on national television to promote the upcoming release of his new book. There were scenes of her grinning and grooving to video footage she had taken of him on her phone and they’re interlaced with other scenes of Jae-yeol. Those scenes didn’t show the drama’s leading man in typical swoony rom-com fashion; rather they showed him playing with Kang-woo, a kid that Jae-yeol had taken under his wing. Jae-yeol was both a mentor and an anchor to boy who was terrifyingly lonely and seemingly has no parental support. But then we got flashes and scenes of reality — of Jae-yeol playing alone, and suddenly we understood that the kid was someone only the novelist could see. The boy was a figment of Jae-yeol’s wildly creative imagination and a scar leftover from his brutal past. Kang-woo was not an abandoned child but a manifestation of Jae-yeol’s personal feelings of fear and abandonment. By caring for him, he was unknowingly nursing that wounded part of himself.

Jae-yeol was broken and the drama was suddenly not going to be a story about how he falls in love, or at least not entirely. The drama had romance, but it also had another story, one that showed Jae-yeol coming to terms with his past and putting himself and his life back together while he also helped to heal those around him in the process.

It was perhaps a little too convenient that Jae-yeol fell in love with Hae-soo, the one person who could truly understand and help him, not just diagnose him. But they couldn’t be a couple, not on equal footing, without resolution to their mutual “issues.” She too, despite her profession, had not emerged from life emotionally unscathed. We, the viewers, omniscient in our growing understand of his diagnosis and slowly apprised of truths that even the characters around Jae-yeol can’t seem to fully see, were charged to watch with bated breath as the story unfolded. We hoped that someone would see the clear trail of breadcrumbs that would lead them to the REAL problem with Jae-yeol. But the choice was always up to him to look fully at his own brokenness and embrace the treatment that was required to live his life fully. Hae-soo wanted the best for him, but never pushed him. Once Jae-yeol made the choice for himself, together and with love, Hae-soo helped him to distinguish the real from the intricately drawn imaginary. And Jae-yeol helped Hae-soo in return; she was eventually able to let go of her own past to truly embrace and love unashamedly those in her life — including herself.

I think it was partly D.O.’s performance as Kang-woo, the boy who wasn’t real, that sold the entire plot twist. His character could have come across as unnecessary once the audience learned the truth. Instead, we genuinely grieved as Jae-yeol begins to heal, resolving that dark part of himself and causing Kang-woo to die. It’s heart-rending! Even though it was a good thing for Jae-yeol, I still couldn’t help but shed a few tears.

It’s unusual, at least in the dramas that I have seen, for a plot twist to occur so early on in the story’s development. It could be argued that a plot twist at the beginning of the story isn’t a plot twist, but in this case I feel it is. A story that was setting itself up for nearly four whole hours in one clear direction revealed to its audience that it was headed somewhere entirely different. It was partly the way in which this plot twist is revealed that made it so striking and memorable because I truly never saw it coming. Without it, the drama probably would have been yet another fun, light-hearted, and squee-worthy drama that may or may not have been worthy of a re-visit. Instead, it was jaw-dropping.

It’s my favorite Korean drama plot twist to date — clever without being gratuitous or makjang-y. It doesn’t try to dupe the audience, pretending to be one thing and then revealing itself to be something else entirely in the eleventh-hour, leaving them feeling betrayed. Instead, the plot twist serves to elevate the story that is being told, achieving new dramatic heights and emotional depths, lending value and an uncommon edge to an otherwise common plot setup, which only increases the payoff at its conclusion.

The plot twist never shied away from its dark side or pretended that the circumstances were less dire than they actually were, but its message is one of hope. No matter how dire your circumstances or bad your beginning, you are never without the potential to rise above. Jae-yeol and Hae-soo had the love and support of each other and a caring group of family members and friends behind them, but even if armed with only the courage to fight and rise above, any obstacle can be conquered. If this had been your run-of-the-mill rom-com, that message would not have landed with such beauty and impact.

It’s Okay, It’s Love was only the second Korean drama I had ever seen but it was a riveting and mind-blowing experience for me. Today, it remains one of my absolute favorite Korean dramas and is an unmatched example of the power and potency within an exemplary plot twist.

 
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I never watched it's okay, it's love, but I just might pick it up because of you. I LOVE those kind of plot twists (love in the omg, my heart wrenches and i wanna support the character kinda way). Great write-up!

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Same here. I've never watched it but this made me want to.

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Thank you, @RaOnAhlea! That is a HUGE compliment :)

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its a good drama.. my one and only starting point to both gong hyo jin and in sung..

its amazing..

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@alasecond, they were great together!

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i thought it was awesome and emotionally gripping. the actors were excellent especially D.O. it is worth trying!

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I agree!

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@Justme, thank you! It is a HUGE compliment to me that you would try this drama after reading my post. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed! It is amazing!!!! ;)

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This drama is wonderful. I love all of the side cast and ofc it has best OST. I'm crying so much in the end for Kang Woo Dying. D.O make love him more, and decided that I should check all of his project.

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I loved that they did the reveal early in the drama, because it deepened our understanding of the stakes for Jae-yeol's mental health. To be an insider in this knowledge, made watching his journey even more fraught and maybe even suspenseful.

However, I do still feel squeamish about a romantic relationship between a doctor and patient, and this is the thing that makes me not quite love It's Okay, That's Love. Same is true for Kill Me Heal Me and Heart to Heart.

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However, I do still feel squeamish about a romantic relationship between a doctor and patient

Usually I pivot away from a romance featuring a patient and doctor. In this case, I was somewhat assuaged by the notion that they didn't meet in a clinical setting and she was technically never his doctor. (But don't try this at home, kids!)

Also, the mostly English-language soundtrack was a poppy delight.

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Like you said, they didn't meet under a clinical setting, she was never his doctor, and she was penalized when interfered with his treatment. I would also add that neither of them knew that he had a psychological disorder until after their relationship was in full swing. Also, their relationship developed organically AND there was a sense of balance since she had psychological trauma and issues as well.

I would say that KMHM was way worse (even though I enjoyed it as well--mostly because of Ji Sung's acting). They both knew he had a psychological disorder and that she's a psychiatrist from the start. She was hired to essentially be his private psychiatrist. And their relationship developed under these circumstances.

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@hyperbutterfly89, you make some excellent points! I completely agree!

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@tsutsuloo, what and interesting handle!

I agree that the fact that Jae Yul and Hae Soo didn't begin their relationship in the patient/doctor dynamic saved it from being cringy and unethical. It also comforted me that it wasn't Jae Yul's issues and Hae Soo's need to "fix" them that was the source of her attraction. That would have also killed it for me. Whew!
And that soundtrack was incredible, highlighting the emotional highs and lows of the drama in just the right moment! Exactly what an effective soundtrack should be :)

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It also comforted me that it wasn't Jae Yul's issues and Hae Soo's need to "fix" them that was the source of her attraction.

Excellent point.

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In fact the show took lengths to show that HS was penalised for interfering in his treatment

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i am surprised, people didn't see it coming..
the fact our heroine is a passionate psychiatrist means its coming

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@alasecond, haha, right?

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@egads, I totally agree that the reveal was extremely well timed for plot and character development and for the viewer's overall enjoyment! It totally raised the stakes!

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This is one of my favorite k-dramas- and precisely for the things written here- a plot twist that was about showing us what the story is really about, instead of the late hour, and annoying, rabbit out of the hat stuff. The acting in this was great. It still had an unnecessary separation though.

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@oldawyer, those eleventh-hour plot twists rarely manage to elicit anything more than an eye-roll from me!

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@chakkaabβ€”Thank you for this lovely analysis. This was your second K-drama? It set a very high bar, didn't it.

I just saw it for the first time two months ago so it's still fresh in my mind. In addition to its open-hearted approach to mental illness, It's Okay, It's Love was also remarkable for its positive approach to sexuality, opposite-gender friendship and domestic abuse. And that soundtrack was daebak!

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Okay, now I want to see it.

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@ndlessjoie, you should! Do it! :)

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@tsutsuloo, it did set the bar very high and sucked me into the world of kdramas instantly! Kdramas don't all live up to this one, for sure.

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Ooh, I’ve had numerous people recommend this one and it’s been in my watch list forever (seems like a lot of these plot twist shows are on that list). I need a clone.

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@ally, haha. So many dramas, so little time!

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I loved that show! I watched it twice, if not thrice, and I ended up downloading the English-speaking soundtrack, I loved it so much!
thank you for this essay !

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@kethysk, thank YOU! I still have the soundtrack in my go to playlists and I have watched it a shameful amount of times! One of those that requires a regular re-visit :)

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Thank you for reminding me about this special drama. I remember bits of discussion from it. It wasn't everybody's cup of tea...

I loved secondary characters as well. D.O. - I didn't know and didn't care he is an idol, not much fun of K-pop. Kwang Soo I knew from Running Man and I was wondering why he is not on screen much more often after his performance. It was a beautiful ride to some of it's parts I could personally relate. It's hidden in that treasure box with few of others I like to come back to.

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@bc, it's in mine too!

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This is one of my top 10 Kdramas of all time too !

I think I missed the hint at episode four, becaused I discovered the plot twist very much late in the show. I was so impressed with Jo In Sung's performance dealing with the heart rending discovery.

It was kinda improbable to have each of the housemates having their own psychological issues, the drama certainly does bring awareness about different kinds (and levels) of mental illness to viewers.

I, for one, have not really understood mental illness before, and watching this drama has made me much more emphatic on this subject.

Gotta mention I love the soundtrack too.

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@kay, I would agree! Top 10 for sure, although I have more of a tiered system for ranking my favorite dramas. Genre must always be considered :)

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I totally agree with you! That part of the story of the whole drama was very memorable for me too, I consider it one of the best of all dramas I've watched. In fact reading your post made my heart twinge and remember all the feels 😞

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@jaderjylsk, it is one of the best dramas of all time (I would go as far as to say in any language) and thank you! That is a huge compliment to me as well :)

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my favourite drama of all time! thanks for writing this article. And yes, the plot twist was shocking (at least for me) and things started to get interesting after that. I miss all the casts! it's been 4 years since my first watch.. T.T (and no romance drama can top this one after all these years!)

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@iamgeralddd, it was wonderful. Go now and watch it again, my friend! The feels are alive :)

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You made me realize 'Its Okay, Its Love' and 'Children of Nobody' have a great deal in common, despite appearing on the surface to have virtually nothing in common. Both are child abuse dramas, both have a schizophrenic lead who mentally conjures up a figure from their past, both involve psychiatry or at least counselling. Both include a disabled family member. Its amazing how two utterly dissimilar shows can be so similar.

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Oh thank you. It’s the first time (I) am reading about It’s Okay, It’s Love on DB and I’m so happy. It was such a beautiful drama. I loved everything about it. The story, the actors, the weird squad, the romance. It was my first Jo In Sung drama and god! He is hot. That guy can name my heart as one of his possessions! 😍

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@marina, haha, I love it! Jo In Sung was my first Korean-leading-man love as well!

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He is fireπŸ”₯

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It's Okay, It's Love is my favorite drama. I want to live in the house on the hill with the perfectly imperfect roommates. The ensemble is excellent, conveying humor and affection even when they argue with each other.

There are so many scenes for me to gush over. One, on a basketball court shows Kwang So's character trying to emotionally support Jo In Sung's character. He is awkward, inarticulate and not very successful, but his kind nature shines through. I cried, one of many times.

It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention Jo In Sung and Gong Hye Jin. They were the perfect foils for each other and I loved every second of watching how their relationship grew.

Also, I own the sound track and it is daebak!

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@janezelda, oh that is a beautiful scene! It sticks with me as well. The feels!
I own the soundtrack too :)

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This drama is one of my favourites. I just love it and keep going back for more. Thank you, @chakkaab, for your post - it is just as good as the drama itself!

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@vlkbadwolf, WOW! Thank you for that compliment! I am blushing over here :)

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πŸ’•πŸ’•πŸ’•

My favorite element was definitely how it brought awareness regarding mental illnesses. We need that so badly. IOIL made me teared & Jisung saying goodbyes to his split personalities (especially Perry Park 😭) in Kill Me Heal Me made me bawled like a baby.

I wish we get more kdramas addressing all these mental illnesses. I wonder if we will ever get one on bipolar disorder, but I’m pretty sure the symptoms will be overly exaggerated (as usual), coz not all had it so extremely, & I’m one good example. πŸ™‚

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@jrr mental illness is such an important subject and it was so tastefully treated in It's Okay That's Love. It would be awesome to see more dramas regrading mental illness that were as well executed!

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I love this drama, its one of my favorites and I still listen to the soundtrack.

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Me too!

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This drama was one of those that holds a special place in my kdrama archive.. Love, love, loved this show's premise and execution. As a psychology enthusiast myself, I loved how it showed the sad reality behind one of the most misunderstood mental illness. I cannot expound further without spoiling it. πŸ˜…
And the soundtrack! This show's music is one of my absolute favorites, along with Goblin and Another Oh Hae Young's.

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@cindymahri77, I agree. Wonderful treatment of a very important topic!
The Goblin soundtrack is the only who that can compare in my heart :)

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I can't watch it - I've already watched it too many times to count.

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Haha! There's no such thing as too many times (at least not for me) :)

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oooh, i never saw this. I think i will now. Thanks.

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@carolemcdonnell, you should! Enjoy :)

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A warning for people looking to watch. Much of the first episode is deceptively generic K-drama and may put you off. I only got through half of the first episode before putting it aside, only to return later and discover episode 1 was not a proper example of the whole series.

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I enjoyed reading your commentary. I too found it emotionally deeply moving. The actors gave superb performances. It was the first I had seen DO and I have followed his career ever since. I frequently watch KDramas I really like repeatedly just for the pleasure of an led friend. I have not been able to go back to this one yet. It moved me so much, the emotions were so strong I haven’t been ready to revisit them. It was well written and superbly performed. I would suggest it to anyone as one of the best I have seen.

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