As I was waiting for Yoo Seung Ho’s romantic comedy I Am Not A Robot to finish airing so I could sit down and have a proper binge watch, I tried streaming Jang Nara and Son Ho Jun’s Go Back Couple for one episode. It was good episode but because I suffered from some connection issues (fangirl problems), I had to stop and try again for another day. Boy, was I glad that I did. It was one of the best Korean dramas that I’ve seen and that’s saying something I’ve seen a lot.
Synopsis: After being married for 18 years, college sweethearts Ma Jin Joo (Jang Nara) and Choi Ban Do (Son Ho Jun) finally decide to call it quits and get a divorce. As they prepare to live apart from each other, they are mysteriously transported back to 1999, before they met as freshmen college students. In trying to achieve happiness, the couple try to seize this opportunity to choose a different path this time around.
I loved this drama from the start because the series managed to create a kinship between the characters and the viewers right away. Because of the execution of the scenes, they understand Jin Joo’s struggles as a young mom who feels inferior to others and is constantly put down by her own husband.
But before viewers can judge Ban Do too harshly, the first episode also depicts the constant humiliation that he has to endure in order to provide for his family. This makes viewers root for this couple to get back together immediately even though they have a love/hate relationship when they return to their 20-year-old selves.
I love how the series captured the essence of the 90s and how Jin Joo and Ban Do’s weird transformation affected their families and friends. The dynamics among the cast members was top notch as they all successfully conveyed the personas of carefree 20 year olds as they began to explore life. The contrast in Jin Joo and Ban Do’s personalities also provided for many funny moments as they got close to their first loves.
One of my favorite parts of the series was the way they presented scenes from past and present to provide context to the characters’ actions. We understand why Jin Joo resented Ban Do so much. We understand why Ban Do seems to make a joke out of everything. We feel their pain in missing their precious son. We feel their sorrow and joy in meeting the one person they cherish the most in their blast to the past (Jin Joo’s mom).
The drama also successfully balanced the points of view of Jin Joo and Ban Do. While at first, we feel like Jin Joo made all the sacrifices and experienced all the pain, towards the end, the drama explores Ban Do’s own pain and suffering. The way the drama unknots the complications in their relationship as they rediscover their love for one another was gradual and a complete joy to watch. I cried buckets over all of the elements of this drama and laughed so hard at their antics. I felt like a crazy person.
I loved that the drama consistently showed the couple’s loyalty to each other (even though they felt like they hated each other) and proved that when the chips were down, they won’t allow anyone to hurt their better half.
Its also funny and moving how the series built strong chemistry between the characters and their first loves and fluidly transitioned Jin Joo and Ban Do’s potential romantic relationships with Nam Gil and Seo Young into that of a paternal and maternal love.
In the end, I would have wanted the super funny Dok Jae and Chun Sul to end up together but 12 episodes may not have been enough time to do so. I did appreciate the fact that Bo Reum and Jae Woo got back together. I also would have wanted for Ban Do to get the chance to explore his potentials in film as well, which I felt was a missed opportunity in the finale.
All in all, I loved that Go Back couple’s fantasy premise provided an excellent background to tell a very realistic story based on equally realistic issues being experienced by husbands and wives. It carries very important lessons and a lot of hope for even the most complicated relatrionship. At the heart of every relationship, be romantic, family, or friendship, at its core is always love, understanding and forgiveness.
PS. Shoutout to the style team for the simple tweaks they did with Ban Do and Jin Joo’s looks to make them appear mature and youthful in the different scenes. Its amazing how these 30-something actors look so young. Props to Jang Nara and Son Ho Jun’s acting as well. These two amazingly delivered in their challenging roles.