First Impressions: “A Piece Of Your Mind” Is Well Worth Your Time

tvN’s “A Piece of Your Mind” premiered this week, and the first two episodes were definitely not what we were expecting — but in a very good way. The drama, led by the talented pair of Jung Hae In and Chae Soo Bin, is perhaps best described by the word “unconventional.” From the unusual way its plot unfolds to the breathtaking narrative that is starting to take shape, it’s clear that “A Piece of Your Mind” is different, and that the story it will eventually lay out for us is going to be a really special one.

Warning: slight spoilers for Episodes 1 and 2 ahead.

Moon Ha Won (Jung Hae In) is an artificial intelligence programmer, and his latest project is a little handheld device that seems to be an extension of his memory and emotions, although we don’t know specifics. Ha Won is supposedly Korea’s premier genius in the AI field, but the first two episodes focus mainly on the aspect of his life that is most central to Ha Won’s identity: his one-sided feelings for the love of his life, Kim Ji Soo (Park Ju Hyun)… whom he hasn’t spoken to in years.

Ha Won meets musical recording engineer Han Seo Woo (Chae Soo Bin) accidentally, but after they cross paths a few more times (rather less accidentally), he decides to set her up to meet Ji Soo — with the goal of eventually having Seo Woo extract a recording of his beloved’s voice for him. It’s an unusual request, but it has something to do with the AI device he’s working on. And also his feelings.

Somehow, Ha Won intuitively knows that the two girls will feel a special pull towards each other. And he’s right; Seo Woo is immediately drawn to Ji Soo, in a first meeting scene that resembles one you’d typically see between main leads in most K-dramas.

And as Seo Woo spends more time with Ji Soo, Ha Won (although she doesn’t know his real identity yet), and Ha Won’s relative Soon Ho (Lee Ha Na), she gets pulled deeper into their story….

Ha Won and Ji Soo were childhood friends who, it’s hinted at, were romantically involved at some point before something broke them up. Even their friendship eventually fell off (although not Ha Won’s feelings). Now, Ji Soo is clearly depressed, and Ha Won has endured his lonely one-sided love for 10 years. Given the fact that both parties are somewhat miserable, Seo Woo decides to see if she can spur the pair to reconcile… although it quickly becomes apparent that there is a lot more to the story that is keeping the two apart.

If this all sounds a little vague, it’s because it is: plot-wise, Episode 1 in particular was hard to follow at some points, especially in regards to Ha Won’s device. It’s a hand-held machine that speaks — with his voice — and knows all about his life, but we’re not told how or why, although the goal seems to be to somehow recreate his emotions within it. It’s mentioned that he might be testing it for use in a hospital, so perhaps it will be used to help patients deal with trauma.

It’s a little frustrating to not fully understand something that is pretty pervasive and drives the plot, but I’m assuming we’ll learn more about the device when we’re supposed to. Since it’s clearly related to his love for Ji Soo, it will likely have some emotional impact that will be more meaningful if given time to build up to. So, yes, while “A Piece of Your Mind” is perhaps more confusing than most dramas from the get-go, I think that in a few more episodes, the uncertainty will ultimately have a payoff: it’s the sense of mystical ambiguity that made some of the emotional moments in Episode 2 have such a big impact, like when Seo Woo doesn’t even know what’s bothering Ji Soo but doesn’t hesitate to warmly comfort her. The fact that these moments landed so well made me trust that the drama knows what it’s doing.

It will, however, be interesting to see how the drama incorporates the artificial intelligence narrative, because Ha Won is all about emotions, which is very different from what most people expect from an AI guy. There’s definitely room for “A Piece of Your Mind” to create something meaningful by bringing together themes of machine intelligence and what it has been so heavily about so far: the emotional rawness that makes us most human. Speaking of which, while “A Piece of Your Mind” has been labeled a rom-com, the premiere was definitely not. It’s possible the comedic aspects will develop later, but week one was a slice-of-life/melodrama hybrid.

The most compelling part of the drama by far is Ha Won, and it’s a credit to Jung Hae In that this character resonates so strongly that just two episodes in, there are already moments so poignant that they’ll bring tears to your eyes. His devotion to Ji Soo makes him both admirable and tragic — the guy literally sits around living in his childhood memories and watching old VCR tapes of her — and we’ve only just begun to learn about their complicated past. It’s clear that coming to understand Ha Won’s one-sided love, and how he’s managed to hold onto it for so many years, is going to tug at our heartstrings — and that’s only one of the questions the drama has posed so far. In fact, “A Piece of Your Mind” will make you reflect a lot more than most K-dramas do. Could you maintain a one-sided love just having a “half of a half” (the show’s Korean title; essentially a small piece) of the person you love? For how many people who are important in your life do you remember the very first moment you met, and what was your impression? What words could keep you going for years, and from whom?

I’m intrigued, and although it’s unsettling at times to not understand some aspects of the story, my intuition is that “A Piece of Your Mind” is one of those dramas that requires some investment and initial confusion, but that when things come into focus, the emotional payout will be worth it. It’s subtle, but it’s totally spellbinding.

Start watching “A Piece of Your Mind”:

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Hey Soompiers, did you watch the premiere of “A Piece of Your Mind”? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

hgordon stays up way too late on weeknights marathoning K-dramas and trying to keep up with the latest K-pop releases.

Currently watching: “A Piece of Your Mind
All-time favorite dramas: “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo,” “Hwayugi,” “Hotel Del Luna
Looking forward to: “The King: Eternal Monarch”

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