The tone for the final episode is a surprisingly somber one- there are very few jokes, just serious questions. Namely, does this relationship have any future? Doesn't the very idea of living together without being married imply that this was always just going to be a temporary situation? The worst of it is that most of the crises are not prompted by actual relationship problems, but rather employment issues that would appear to make these relationships too inconvenient to continue over time.
The Seol-eun / Hwan-jong conflict was the most surprising to me- as the couple always in the least focus, predictably we don't see them much here either. But whereas previous episodes portrayed Seol-eun's obnoxious testing behavior as a joke, here it's directly acknowledged that what Seol-eun does is borderline emotionally abusive. I was surprised "The Lover" ended up taking such a serious route- that much rather belied the more silly antics that have characterized most of the drama's run.
But that, I think, is the real theme here. That you can't judge the future of a relationship based on the presumed childishness of the moment- it's the characters' attitudes toward adulthood that really matter. Take Yeong-joon. As the much younger lover of a woman in her thirties, Yeong-joon has always seemed like lackluster relationship material. But off-screen, Yeong-joon has taken his career very seriously- the young man is much more mature than he lets on. Which only makes his final resolution with Jin-nyeo all the more heartwarming.
Joon-jae and Takuya are never convincingly outed as gay. Which is fine by me- their story has always been a little weird compared to the other three, because as of the first episode Joon-jae and Takuya had never actually met. The closest they come to narrative relevance is with the idea that it can in fact be nice to live with another person, and share in their eccentricities, and consider their needs. Which come to think of it is more-or-less what being an unmarried live-in partner is all about.
Part of me almost wishes that "The Lover" really had just gone to the dark side and given us the all-around gloomy ending that seemed to be foreshadowed for most of the runtime. By the end, though, I'd come to appreciate that the bigger message behind "The Lover" is that fear is what really makes or breaks a relationship. How genuinely upset would you be about not seeing this other person again? While that's not an expression that's always easy to emote, to a genuine partner, that much can be made believable.
Review by William Schwartz
"The Lover" is directed by Kim Tae-eun-III, written by Kim Min-seok-II and features Oh Jung-se, Ryu Hyun-kyung, Jung Joon-young, Choi Yeo-jin, Park Jong-hwan, Ha Eun-seol, Terada Takuya and Lee Jae-joon.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Lover" Episode 12"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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