Twinkling Watermelon: Episodes 1-2
Twinkling Watermelon is here and ready to play its way into our hearts one note at a time. Well, actually, make that two notes at a time — because we’ve got one guitar-playing band member in the present and another wannabe rockstar in the past. Their worlds are about to collide when our present-day hero slides back to 1995 and realizes that time travel is not only possible, it’s got an ironic sense of humor.
We’re off to a great start with this one — funny, charming, relatable, and just a little bit sneaky. We get lots of setup in these first two episodes, so the real story won’t take off until next week, but we needed all this backstory to show us just how high the stakes are — likely so they can be driven into our hearts at precisely the right melty moment down the road.
We first get to know our hero when he’s not yet a teen and right away the drama wants us to see just how much pressure is on this tiny tot. In a family of four — two parents, two sons — HA EUN-GYEOL (played by Jung Hyun-joon in his younger iteration) is the only one that can hear. His mom and dad (Seo Young-hee and Choi Won-young) are both deaf and so is his hyung.
This is not only a fascinating take on the timeworn idea of how one can feel out of place in their family, but a really believable setup for why our hero is going to need to let loose later on (read: conflict). Since he’s “the voice that connects their family to the world” (in the words of Dad), he’s taken on the role of an adult from a very young age, protecting his family however he can.
For example, his parents run a restaurant and we see him talking to customers, handling bad business transactions, and having to watch his older brother while the parents are busy. Phew. That’s a lot to keep up with for any 12-year-old, but this one’s also got the highest grades in school, tons of awards, and a knack for guitar that he’ll find out about shortly. The boy is doing it all, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s going to break.
One really interesting thing about the show is all the sign language. When the characters communicate to each other via sign language, we’re given spoken-word interpretations in voiceover. However, this only happens when both characters can understand. When a character is signing to someone who doesn’t understand, we’re also left in the dark. It’s a good storytelling device that creates a little suspense, but I also think it helps give us a better sense of the specific struggles of these characters who — we see time and again — face discrimination on a regular basis.
So, to get our story rolling, the family moves into a new apartment. The landlady is an awful, shrill antagonist with a son that’s Eun-gyeol’s age and even more awful than his mother. The son bullies Eun-gyeol until one day he finds himself walking by a music shop, hearing the lyrics of an Eric Clapton song, and crying his eyes out. He’s not crying because he got beat up, he says, but because the song touched him. This turns out to be a life-changing moment because the shop’s owner, who he just calls Harabeoji (Chun Ho-jin), offers to teach him guitar so he can play “Tears in Heaven.”
Eun-gyeol is a whiz and in no time he’s moved on to new songs and new types of guitars. Harabeoji gives him an assignment one day to finish an incomplete song that he’s been holding onto by an unknown artist. I get the feeling Harabeoji knows the artist and we’ll need this piece of information later, but for now, Eun-gyeol is only hearing that if he finishes this song, he’ll get to keep that snazzy guitar he’s had his eye on at the shop.
And here is where the big problems start. With his parents at work and his brother sick in bed, Eun-gyeol completes the song and rushes over to the music shop to win that guitar. Two things happen. First, the shop is locked and he can’t get in, but worse, it turns out later Harabeoji is no longer with us. Second, while Eun-gyeol is supposed to be at home watching his brother, the landlady’s bratty son kicks a cigarette butt into their apartment and the place goes up in flames.
Don’t worry — everyone lives. The point of this scene is that Dad rushes into the burning building after his first son is already safe because he thinks Eun-gyeol is still in there. Even though Dad takes it like a champ and comes out alive, Eun-gyeol never lives down the guilt of this moment. They get kicked out of their home (even though the landlady suspects the fire was her kid’s fault) and our little hero is battered by responsibility from all sides.
Then we come to a six-year time jump. Eun-gyeol (now played by Ryeoun) is in 11th grade and hanging out with his brother, HA EUN-HO (Bong Jae-hyun), like old pals. They’re doing taekwondo, going to cafes, chatting about girls, and just generally adding a sense of adorableness to everything around them.
We find out that Eun-gyeol is still a genius guitar player — and he’s still hiding it from his family (yeah, they never knew what he was doing back then when he left Eun-ho alone). Now, when he’s uber-stressed from studies and family duties, he goes into the street and jams out with a mask on so no one knows who he is. He’s garnered quite a following for his street sessions and ends up getting approached by an up-and-coming band that’s one member short.
Now he’s got a dilemma. Dad is so proud that he’s valedictorian and planning to go to med school, saying that he finally feels like somebody because of his great kids. (Yeeps. The pressure.) But Eun-gyeol loves to perform. Which is it going to be? Music or medicine?
He decides he’ll try to do both (in secret) and starts practicing with his new bandmates at a club, performing in front of screaming female fans, where there’s also some smoking and drinking going on — but not by Eun-gyeol. Unfortunately, the horrible landlady from six years ago sees Eun-gyeol outside the club, looking like he’s participating in illicit activities, and tells his dad. This is because she and Dad are now facing off over a recent car accident, where there’s a dispute over who was driving her car (her son was driving, but she’s saying it was her).
Before their dispute gets so riled up that she tattles on Eun-gyeol, Eun-gyeol asks his father why he can’t let it go. She’s saying she’ll pay for everything — who cares who was driving? And Dad’s response lays him flat. Dad feels guilty for not standing up for his family six years ago when they got evicted, and so, he’s not backing down this time. This brings all the guilt out of Eun-gyeol — who was secretly playing music when his dad almost died in the fire, just like he’s doing now — and he decides to quit the band. Wah, this family cares so much for each other.
But Eun-gyeol is feeling beyond suffocated by having to be the perfect son. In desperation, he goes back to where the music shop was located and finds it’s an expensive-looking house now. He learns that Harabeoji’s daughter tore down the store and now lives with her cello-playing daughter there. But, she’s been holding onto that guitar he was supposed to win six years ago (Harabeoji willed it to him somehow?) and now he’s got his hands on it, along with the message that Harabeoji thought he was the best guitarist he’d ever heard.
Okay, he’s back in the band. It’s not any easy decision, but he’s gotta at least try after that message from Harabeoji. And here’s where we get to the moment when Mean Landlady tells Dad about Eun-gyeol at the club. It just so happens that the night Dad comes to the show, the lead singer is sick and Eun-gyeol has to take off his mask to replace him. (That’s cute. I’m pretty confident Dad was going to recognize him either way.)
This leads to a crazy clash where Eun-gyeol finally says what he feels: “I’m not an interpreter or a fire alarm or an angel. I’m just me.” Dad is taken aback and asks why he didn’t tell him sooner, to which Eun-gyeol yells something along the lines of “How? You can’t even hear.” (Wow. That went overboard fast.) Dad is stunned and just stands there and Eun-gyeol takes off.
Afterward, he’s about to smash his guitar to pieces when a music store appears in front of him. He enters, decides to sell his guitar instead, and when he walks out the door, he’s gone back in time to 1995. In the street, as soon as he arrives, he meets a boy his age named, HA YI-CHAN (Choi Hyun-wook). “Dad?!” he says. It’s his father — who at that age could hear and speak. And this is where they cut us off this week!
Now, about that sneaky story structure I mentioned at the beginning. Since the six-year time jump, we were introduced to a few characters (including Yi-chan) whose story seemed to be running parallel to the main one. The whole time, I was like, why are they not connecting this story better to the family? So, that final scene is a reveal where we see that this other storyline is actually in the past. The drama tried to trick us by mentioning a cello player in the present, but not showing her face, and then introducing us to a character called CHOI SE-KYUNG (Seol In-ah) who’s also a cellist.
What we realize at the last second is that Se-kyung is actually Harabeoji’s daughter (whom we met as an adult in the present). In the 1995 timeline, she was a cellist (and now she has a cello-playing daughter who carries around the same case). What we’ve learned up to this point by following her story is that she’s highly sought after — including by Yi-chan, who’s practically stalking her to get her attention. When we last saw him, he had decided to join a band to seem more attractive.
Hmm, so Dad wanted to be in a band, huh? The whole thing is a lot funnier in retrospect, now that we know the serious dad we met in the present is not showing any signs of his former, funny self. Choi Hyun-wook’s character here reminds me a lot of his Twenty Five Twenty One performance and I cannot wait to see more.
The setup for this is just too good. We’ve got realistic pressure-cooker motives for Dad and son to be at odds. We’ve got a question about how Dad lost his hearing. We’ve got the irony of Dad wanting to be in a band — to impress girls no less — and not wanting Eun-gyeol to be in one (even though he really loves it!). And we’ve got the romantic question too: what happened between Yi-chan and Se-kyung in the past (and what kind of heart-wrenching are we in for now that Se-kyung is back in Korea in the present)? Plus, we saw one other character in the 1995 timeline but weren’t formally introduced yet. She’s got a feisty attitude and appears to be deaf. If that’s Mom, I’m dying to know her story.
- Premiere Watch: Twinkling Watermelon
- Seol In-ah poses a risk for Ryeoun in Twinkling Watermelon
- Ryeoun discovers his dad’s first love in Twinkling Watermelon
- When you meet your teenage dad in Twinkling Watermelon
- Ryeoun and Choi Hyun-wook sync up for Sparkling Watermelon
- Ryeoun starts a band in Sparkling Watermelon
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