Millie's Drama Review: Dear M (2020)
Dear M, a k-drama I recently watched, wasn't half bad. It was exactly what I was expecting, something a little bit funny, a little bit awkward, a little bit cringey, and a whole lot of heart. It gave a pretty good balance of plot, character and romance, the chemistry was there (mostly) and I thought Jaehyun (the male lead, and a member of the k-pop group NCT) did really well for this to be his acting debut.
However, this is a prime example of a show that I think was deeply impacted (possibly in a negative way) by having an idol play the main characters.
Usually, I'm not too against K-pop idols being in K-dramas, however, in this case, I think there were a couple of issues that made it difficult for me to fully enjoy the show due to the fact that it was crafted around Jaehyun, a well-known and recognized K-pop idol.
But before we go into that, here are some things I loved:
1. The relationships!!! This is exactly what I’m looking for in a k-drama- fun dynamics that I can’t wait to see play out, & leave me wondering what will happen next when these characters are all in the same room. I loved the three boy roommates and three girl roommates setup, some of my favorite scenes came from moments where they were just enjoying dorm life and each other’s company because the interactions between three different types of people were really fun to watch.
2. Furthermore, the writing was really good in the first half. I was honestly surprised by how good the pilot episode was, because it set itself apart as a “different” school k-drama, and hooked me from the moment we introduced Moon Joon (2nd male lead). Not much later, Cha Minho is introduced, probably the best developed character in the series (not saying this because I love Jaehyun, but because it’s true). The pacing is really good as well - the series immediately jumped into the plot without wasting any time on exposition because this type of series doesn’t need that (we can already kind of catch on to the setup), but still left enough context for us not to be entirely lost without an idea of what’s going on.
3. I had really high hopes after the first episode of this drama, because it opened so many different doors to explore. First, we have the central budding romance/love triangle between Minho, Jooah, and Moon Joon, then we have the Rosa-Haneul-Jimin business (by far my least favorite arc in Dear M), and also the underlying mystery of who “M” is.
I think the first few episodes were done outstandingly well, in their pacing, the chemistry and romantic moments btw the main leads, the subtle character development - everything was wonderful. But in my opinion, that momentum started to slow down as the series progressed.
Here are some of the things I didn't love:
1. The conflicts were dragged on for 3+ episodes that to me really didn’t feel needed. We were still en route for the same ending, and the only mystery left binding me to this series was the identity of Dear M. But I believe that just that singular thread of trying to find out who M was would not be enough to hold the interest of an average kdrama/general TV watcher.
2. Furthermore, we never saw anyone go out of their way to try to “catch” M, and we never had a specific arc where characters devised a plan to deduce who M was. That’s why it’s not of enough weight to carry a whole series, the way that it did for the middle episodes of Dear M.
3. We knew Haneul and Jimin would end up together again, we knew Jooah and Minho would end up together, we knew Young and Mokjin would date to complete the full circle of all of the roommates dating.
That’s why I wish in the last episode, the series would have gone the direction of either introducing a new conflict the whole group must face together (this way they could end off the series united rather than in split up groups), or doing more character building for the entire cast.
4. The only character with enough depth imo was Cha Minho, not because he’s Jaehyun, but also because he’s Jaehyun. Let me explain.
I’m not biased towards Minho because I like NCT. However, I do agree when people say Minho is the best, most developed character in Dear M because we actually learn about his background, his childhood, his history with Jooah, even his dating record. We don’t get this for any other character, not even our female lead, which really throws me off because Jooah ends up feeling less familiar than Minho does to me.
I believe that this extensive character development we see in the male lead is largely because Minho is played by Jaehyun, and so the writers have to pay extra attention to make a good role for this already popular idol so that the role only boosts his popularity, rather than portraying him as a bad person.
5. That brings me to another central issue with this drama - Cha Minho, to me, is a bit unrealistic as a character. His undying devotion to Ma Jooah, even after she harshly turns down and denies his confession, is unbelievable to me. Despite being given a thorough understanding of his backstory, his personality, his aspirations, etc etc, I still feel like his character doesn’t come alive for me, and the reason why is because of the way the writers made him unrealistically perfect, probably to protect his idol image.
Side note: on the other hand, Park Hyesu, with the little character building she had, did a substantial amount of great. To me, she really nailed the Ma Jooah character. It might be a bit cliche of a character, with the “over enthusiastic, boy crazy, head over heels” persona, but she delivered it really well and I believed it.
Every moment she was on camera, she was Ma Jooah, speaking to others, reacting to what others said, etc etc. My only problem is we know little about her other than her 12 year long friendship with Cha Minho. I'm left wondering about who she truly is.
We rarely ever get flashbacks to when she was younger, which we got for Minho all the time, and when she was in those flashbacks, it was because she was with Minho. It leaves me to wonder what kind of story she had that led her to become the person she is today.
Either way, I believe the distribution of character substance should be about even between the male and female lead for a drama to work.
Also, in this drama we are seeing the world mainly from Jooah’s pov. I say this because she is the first character we meet, and the person we follow through most of the narrative. Yet, I feel like we barely even know her, and instead know everything about Minho. That creates tension for me between who I am following narratively and who I’m supposed to identify with. Am I supposed to see the world through Minho’s lens? But if that is the case, how come they haven’t revealed to me his feelings right now, and whether or not he is Dear M?
For the other characters, I’m not going to talk about them much, since most of them were relatively shallow. I loved Gil Mok Jin’s character, even though the writers gave him about 2 personality traits total. Jimin, Rosa, and Haneul were again just entirely unbelievable and the conflict dragged on for way too long.
Either way, I definitely would count this drama as an enjoyable experience overall, despite there being some hicks along the road. Surprisingly, I didn’t skip any parts of the episodes, and actually watched it all the way through. The ending was definitely my least favorite part, it was dragged on for over three episodes and then they had to wrap up all of the different storylines in one final episode. It was strange to see really slow pacing for 3 episodes, and then rushing through all the conclusions in just 1 episode.
In my opinion, Jimin and Haneul should have gotten back together earlier so that their ending wouldn’t have felt as rushed, and we could’ve ended with a Dear M confession from Mok Jin to make the plot twist more dramatic.
Either way, I solidly enjoyed the drama, and I would say that if you are looking to either support Jaehyun or get some good laughs, as well as don't mind a slower pacing and sillier drama, then this show would be for you!!
That's all for today, and thanks for reading!