Drama Review – Reply Me 1988 (tvN, 2016)

sab: *sad face* 1988 has finally ended, and as if it has to rub it in, the closing portion with the various images of Sangmun-dong in derelict ruin reminds us that all good things have to come to an end. But at least we had fun along the way, and imo, 1988 is less of the usual Reply‘s coming-of-age dramas, but more of a family-themed one.

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Possibly the shift in tone is why 1988 reports higher than normal viewership ratings in Korea (so much so that even local papers in Singapore have to crow about it). I’d bet it’d probably reap in many awards, if tvN decides it will do an awards ceremony sometime — soon? In my mind though, I’d present the following trophies to these characters:

a) Best couple
Not our (late-to-realized) OTP, not Sun-woo/Bora (even though the goody-two-shoes and the smarty pants are sizzling hot underneath), not even sweet, gooey Jung-bong/ Mi-ok…but to Mdm Ra Mi-ran and her husband, Mr Kim.

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I’d admit that I’d thought theirs is prob the rockiest relationship amongst the parents initially. Cos Mdm Ra can’t seem to stand her husband’s inane behavior at times (plus she has the sharpest tongue among the 3 ahjummas). But as 1988 progresses, I realized they are the ones who were not only in love, but are STILL actively lovey-dovey.

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After their kids have grown up, they take to doing things like teaching/ learning to ride a bicycle, and take time out for dates. And when one of them is depressed, unwell, or juz generally feeling peevish (usually Mdm Ra), the other will try their best in his/her own way to cheer their partner up. And of course, the final “wedding” scene in ep19.

b) BFF award
Our 3 ahjummas followed closely by our 5 young people. Our ahjummas seriously have each others’ backs. They have seen each other through thick and thin, wealth and poverty and also watch each other’s kids grow up (I won’t be surprised if they help in babysitting from time to time when their kids were young).

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They haven’t let things like changes in social status go into their heads. Mdm Ra received help from her 2 friends when she was down and out. And when she became rich overnight, she didn’t move out of the neighbourhood, but continued to stay there and paid back in kind to her 2 friends (who are now poorer than her). Mdm Lee and Mdm Kim haven’t display any jealousy over their friend’s good fortune either. In fact, many times, they refer to her previous hard life and feel thankful for her that Luck finally came her way.

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c) Most ignored supporting role
That’d be Jung-hwan. Nah, I’m not that upset he doesn’t get Duk-sun. Frankly speaking, a part of me wants to go “I told you so”. Although we can ALL see how sensitive, and considerate he is under that gruffy exterior, his tendency to get cold feet at the wrong time sets him up for failure. Hopefully he learns from that painful first-love-lost experience.

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But that’s also something I want to rail against…so what happened to Jung-hwan after our OTP is revealed (or gets paired). 1988 kinda juz dropped him from the picture totally. We don’t even see how he cope with giving up Duk-sun…it’s like he has become totally peripheral. Not really fair for his character given the amount of air time Jung-hwan has earlier…

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kooriyuki: Once again we got caught up in the who’s the husband game, some of us are happy our ship sailed, while others experience the same disbelief and fury that their ship sank. After the disastrous experience of Reply Me 1994, I refused to root for anyone (actually I boarded the imaginary ship of Taek x Jung Hwan and jumped to another imaginary one of Taek x Sun Woo) and the viewing of Reply Me 1988 was much more enjoyable.

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One of the major quips that many people have right now is Deok Sun appears flip-floppy in her feelings, which I don’t really agree with. I think she’s someone who doesn’t have much self-confidence, being the middle child and also never good in her studies. Looking at how she always go to her girlfriends for reassurance about Sun-woo and Jung Hwan, it’s never who she likes, but who likes her. Even when Dong Ryong tells her it’s more important about who her heart pumps for, she wasn’t too sure about who she likes. Well of course, at 18 we were never sure who we liked, so why blame Deok Sun?

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I thought it was apt to show that the feelings Deok Sun and Taek have for each other were not something that developed out of the blue but it was gradual, which is not unlike Jung Hwan’s love for Deok Sun. Some may argue that Deok Sun only cared for Taek’s wellbeing (well, who on that street doesn’t care for his wellbeing?) but why would one bother if they don’t love the other person? Remember that in the very first few episodes Deok Sun teased Taek to grow taller faster so as to marry her when they’re all grown up, and that Deok Sun’s Mom mentioned how she’d love to have Taek as her son-in-law. I was wondering if Taek will actually get killed off if he’s not the husband, given the rate he takes painkillers and sleeping pills. Pairing Taek and Deok Sun is a natural choice I think, as they compliment each other. I think baduk shaped his character, as he obviously knows when he should and shouldn’t take chances and risk, because baduk is a calculated game of strategy. His decisiveness is good for Deok Sun because poor girl needs alot of reassurance and affirmation, methinks. (taking a step back, it’s hinted at throughout Show that Taek is the husband)

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But of course, Reply 1988 is not just about who is Deok Sun’s husband, but a story about family, parents, friends and the bygone era. I think Show is especially poignant to those who grew up in the 80s even if you’re a foreigner. Things like cassette players and video tapes, watching whatever was on TV, everything was so much simpler then and though not well off, I think most of us then had a happy and fulfilling childhood. I love the various stories of the parents here, and how realistically the roles were being portrayed, especially the mothers. It tugs at the heartstrings that all parents are the same (well, most), always worried about their children, wanting the best for them, and showing their love in different ways. Our 5 friends here are also awesome children who understands the hardship their parents went through to provide for them, and are sensible enough to appreciate their parents’ love.

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Each episode may be long, but they tell a story of not just our gang of 5 growing up, but also telling us that our parents were once young too, and they have their own stories even if we only know of them as our parents and nothing else. I really appreciate the amount of effort Writer Lee puts in to tell the story of the parents and the families they raised, because without them, there is no story of our 5 friends.

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3 thoughts on “Drama Review – Reply Me 1988 (tvN, 2016)

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  1. This was my drama crack from the very first airing. I usually wait till Tuesday for the subs, but after a few episodes, i just had to watch it without subs. I also learned not to dive into the husband hunting game after reply 1994. It took me awhile to recover from that heartbreak.

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