You Are My Spring: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
And we’re off to a strange start, folks! The premiere week of You Are My Spring delivers on the exact multi-tone dimension hinted at in its promo material. We get a complicated and slowish start — but that slowness turns out to be a bit of a red herring, since each episode is punctuated with eerie goosebump moments, thrills, and enough strangeness to have me hooked.
EPISODES 1-2 WEECAP
We’re heading into You Are My Spring knowing that it’s about three adults who live trapped by what happened to them during childhood — so it’s not strange to find the drama starting with some backstory. The year is 1994. In a painful opening sequence, we meet our heroine and her little brother when they’re children, protected by their mother from an abusive, alcoholic father.
The three escape one night under cover of darkness, and we’re not quite sure yet what sort of scene they are fleeing from. What we learn is important, though, because this is where we understand the significance certain things have for our young heroine. For instance, her obsession with a children’s book version of Poe’s “The Black Cat,” and her yearning for the normal life she sees next door, where a loving father comes home to his children with tangerines.
We next meet our heroine in the present day. She’s KANG DA-JUNG (Seo Hyun-jin), a concierge at a big hotel. She’s competent, speaks three languages for her job, and seems to have pulled herself together as much as possible to live a normal life. But, as with any deep scars, they still affect her life, and most frequently her romantic relationships.
To help suss all this out, we meet our hero, JOO YOUNG-DO (Kim Dong-wook), a psychiatrist whose practice just moved to the same building where Da-jung lives. The common space on the roof, and general proximity amongst the neighbors, means these two run into each other quite frequently (and that becomes very important). But, their first meeting is quite contentious.
Da-jung’s friends own and operate the coffee shop on the ground floor of the building, and as she sits with them on the roof, she meets Young-do for the first time. He’s seen a peek into her apartment, and uses what he’s gleaned to psychoanalyze her right there on the spot. Even from the little we know of Da-jung at this point, we know he’s 100% on the money — like a Sherlock Holmes of psychiatrists, revealing more about herself by what she displays in her apartment than she probably ever realized.
Like any person exposed and made vulnerable, Da-jung loses her cool and actually grabs Young-do by the collar to get him to stop (lol). But, despite this uncomfortable start, the two don’t have that much trouble moving past it and treat each other in a friendly manner.
But things are not quite as simple as the interactions between these two, and the insight into Da-jung’s personality and psychoses. There’s a third character whose name is CHAE JOON (Yoon Park). When we meet him, he’s already been romancing Da-jung for two months now. She jokingly calls him her “stalker” and puts him off, but it’s not enough to make him give up, and we see several of their interactions.
I don’t think I knew Yoon Park could be quite so cute, but he sells it here as this dapper, smitten man who drops the cheesiest pick-up lines that are somehow flirty and cute and intentional, instead of off-putting. Da-jung seems to agree, since she hasn’t given him a hard “No” yet. He balances the cringey cuteness with some thoughtful insight into her character (“I think you’re scared of relationships”), and that makes him seem smart and grounded, as well as devoted.
But the plot thickens — it thickens a lot. Joon dons the black cap of all drama bad guys, and pays Young-do a visit in his office. He insists he’s not there as a patient, and tells Young-do (essentially) to stay away from Da-jung because he likes her. Well, they didn’t set up Young-do as a really skillful psychiatrist for nothing: he observes and listens, and soon realizes that Joon is a sociopath.
It’s not just a hypothesis, either — the show is quite blunt here. Joon is indeed a sociopath who has a dangerous dark side, maybe a few murders in his past, and he might even have something to do with the murder that happened on premesis. But, he’s also psychotic enough to be able to play any role he needs to, so he continues to pursue Da-jung, and she gets awfully used to having this love-struck man follow her around.
Young-do warns Da-jung about Joon and tells her not to date him — but damn it — thanks to patient confidentiality problems, and the common drama writing trope where people can’t bring themselves to communicate, Da-jung doesn’t really learn why she’s being warned against Joon. She takes the warning, but with a grain of salt. Until the end of Episode 2.
Da-jung and Joon two are on a date, and after she steps out and returns to the table, she sees Joon hacking her cellphone and doing something on it before placing it back where she left it. Ack!! She’s rightly petrified, but doesn’t quite know what to do. When she works up the nerve to go back to the table, he’s gone, and has left a paper napkin rose for her (a tell of his that proves important later).
I’ll skim over the plot twist craziness that ends the episode (in case anyone wants to start watching spoiler free), but suffice it to say that the drama does have some games up its sleeve. We’re used to a lot of interconnectedness in K-dramas, and You Are My Spring is no exception. As Da-jung unravels a web of clues left by Joon, she learns that she might have known him in the past. He leaves her with several meaningful objects, a photograph that looks like a group of kids at an orphanage, and a letter with the note, “I finally found you.”
Full weecap spoilers will resume next week, but it’s so fun to watch the drama play out its twists, that it would be a shame to ruin the fun. What I will say, though, is that even though it’s a bit odd and uneven in its storytelling, there’s something I really like about the drama. I like the calm surface where nothing seems too awry, and yet the sense of secrets and duplicity lingers around each character.
The drama successfully builds an eerie tone when it wants to, but it’s also unclear where we are going to head from here. Our three characters clearly have a dark past in common, but we’ll have to wait to see how deep that goes, and what it means for their present.
Seo Hyun-jin is always great to watch, but she seems a little bit in her comfort zone right now — I’m curious to see what else the role has in store for her. Similarly, Kim Dong-wook is likable here as the unflappable, insightful doctor, but he’s hasn’t rocked my world yet. It’s Yoon Park that takes the cake here, with great range, convincing personality flip-flops, and some intense energy. Onward!
In the end, more than the story or the characters (for now), it’s the weird tone of this drama that sucked me in the most. I was intrigued enough to keep watching, but then found myself really enjoying the show as they amped up the tension at the end of each episode. I expect the characters and plot to fill in as the story progresses, but in the meantime, perhaps the OST they crank at the climax of each episode ending explains the tone of this drama better than I ever could.