My First First Love: Season 1 review
Netflix recently dropped their latest original drama My First First Love, and it is every bit as adorable as I could have hoped. The drama stars Ji-soo, Jinyoung (of B1A4, not Got7), and Jung Chae-yeon, and tells the story of a young cast of characters learning about life, love, and friendship. The drama isn’t particularly unique in its story or execution, but it’s breezy, sweet, and enjoyable.
My First First Love was originally described as a campus romance. While this is technically true since most of the characters attend the same college, the drama is not a campus romance (or even campus drama) the same way, say, Cheese in the Trap was. Rather than the bulk of the scenes occurring on-campus and being about college life, most of My First First Love takes place in and around our hero’s house. And as it turns out, that house is rather important.
As the drama opens, we get a rather satirical (or perhaps archetypal) family dinner scene where our hero, Yoon Tae-oh (Ji-soo) is celebrating his 20th birthday. His father is wealthy and disaffected; his step-mother is passive-aggressive and only seems to care about her own son rather than her step-son.
All Tae-oh seems to want (or expect) out of his family is his grandfather’s old house. When he finally gets it, his family hands him the keys, forbids him from having girls over, and promptly forgets about his existence. For Tae-oh, that house stands for both freedom and adulthood — but this is quickly threatened when three of his friends appear on his doorstep one day. Literally.
Episode 1 not only introduces us to Tae-oh, but the cast of supporting characters as well. It doesn’t take long for these separate story lines to converge, when each character finds herself/himself in need of a home — and a haven. There’s Choi Hoon (Kang Tae-oh of 5urprise), the son who endures ridicule and abuse from his parents for wanting to be a musical actor. There’s Oh Ga-rin (Choi Ri), the ditzy, bubbly, sheltered chaebol heiress who escapes her smothering family. And then there’s Han Song-yi (Jung Chae-yeon), Tae-oh’s childhood friend, who shares a special (and about-to-get-complicated) relationship with him.
We’re used to seeing Ji-soo play the grumptopus, or a bad boy with a tofu heart, but this is the first time I’ve seen Ji-soo this cheesy. It took me a little bit to get used to the light-hearted, boyish Tae-oh who you sometimes want to slap some sense into.
Tae-oh might moan that his biggest fear is to turn his precious house into a boarding house, but when it comes down to it, he’s actually a softie that can’t say no to friends in need. The best part about the character of Tae-oh is that even though he seems (and often acts) flaky and immature, he has moments of sweetness and protectiveness that show his true character.
Part of Tae-oh’s immaturity is his preoccupation with getting the perfect girlfriend, and he believes Ryu Se-hyun (Hong Ji-yoon), the ulzzang on campus, is the one for him. He pursues her with toe-curling cheesiness — but it’s funny, whenever his friend needs something, he drops everything and runs to their aid. Particularly Han Song-yi.
Of all the characters with trouble ducking out at Tae-oh’s house, Song-yi is the one who has the most trouble and heartbreak, and, of course, the most pride. Even when she’s homeless and abandoned, she won’t ask for help from Tae-oh. This all-too-common K-drama trope of noble idiocy (and even the suitcase-dragging damsel in distress) somehow didn’t seem worn out here. Whether it’s because of the strength of the young cast, their earnest performances, or just the overall tone of the drama — it made me smile instead of eye roll. It’s completely predictable, but I didn’t mind a whit.
Some of my favorite moments of the drama were watching Tae-oh act like Song-yi’s cantankerous, but doting, oppa. The boy that seemed flaky and self-centered actually notices her worn out shoes and purse and secretly buys her new ones. When she needs a guardian at the police station, he leaves his date and rushes there. When she decides to pitch a tent in his yard instead of taking one of his guestrooms, he picks rocks out of the dirt so the tent is on soft ground, badgers her with bug zapping lights, and basically turns her camping into glamping. Turns out he also has a history of coming to her rescue in the rain. And since this is dramaland, you know that can only mean one thing.
While we’ve seen the scenario play out many times before, watching Tae-oh deal with his changing feelings for Song-yi is the highlight of the drama. On one hand he boasts about his new girlfriend, and he can’t wait for Song-yi to get a boyfriend since “taking care of her takes up all of my time” (and it’s not a lie). But on the other hand, watching Song-yi be romanced by his friend Seo Do-hyun (Jinyoung) starts a whole flood of conflicting actions — and feelings.
I love when a drama sets up a love triangle that actually makes me wonder which way it will turn out — and My First First Love is doing that for me. My heart knows that Tae-oh and Song-yi are perfect first loves, and complement each other well. But at the same time, Song-yi’s budding relationship with Do-hyun is hands-down the most sweet and sincere young romance I have seen in a while. In contrast to Tae-oh’s childish (and heading for disaster) infatuation with Se-hyun, Song-yi and Do-hyun have a maturity that’s surprising and refreshing.
How is this going to play out? When the heck will Tae-oh put two and two together and realize he has feelings for Song-yi? But then what will happen with the sweet, quiet, and over-burdened Do-hyun? As you can tell, I was 100% committed to this conflict. Then my enjoyment of this drama hit a major bump — or perhaps cliff is more accurate. The eight episodes I had been enjoying were about to grind to a halt mid-thought.
I was not remotely prepared to be watching a “season” of a Korean drama. I’ve talked before about how complete stories with a beginning, middle, and end, are one of the reasons I love dramas so much… so it’s probably no surprise that there was an angry lip curl going on when my story got cut off at its climax in Episode 8.
Like most, My First First Love was written as a 16-episode drama. However, it was decided to cut the drama into two seasons, and space them out, to better fit the Netflix approach. Weep. The good news? Season 2 has already been filmed. So, if you watch Season 1 and must also endure the state of limbo I’m currently in — well, at least we know the second half is signed, sealed, and will eventually be delivered.
Outside of the rudeness of cutting this drama in half, a part of me was secretly relieved. As the plot started to escalate and Episode 8 was approaching with no resolution in sight, I briefly worried how the drama was going to handle and solve its conflicts. After all, there’s a lot more story left to tell, a duplicitous girlfriend to expose (I think so anyway), and I’m sure, some hearts to crack in two before it’s all said and done. Tae-oh and his friends are adorable, earnest creatures, each with their individual journeys. I can’t wait to cheer them on in the second half of the story.