Final Call: “Heart to Heart”
According to Cha Hong Do (Choi Kang Hee), I love “Heart to Heart” because “love is touching something” and “Heart to Heart” definitely touched me. It affected me in ways I hadn’t imagined possible with a drama full of, for the most part, charm and lightheartedness.
To be honest, even with the unexpectedly dark twist of events that served as our couple’s last hurdle to happily ever after, I still adored “Heart to Heart” to pieces. Despite knowing how the plot twist would end up the moment it happened, with Cha Hong Do’s innocence in the accidental homicide of Ko Yi Suk (Chun Jung Myung)’s brother, it still kept my attention.
Ultimately, the last question on our minds as “Heart to Heart” drew to a close is: was that really necessary? Did our OTP really need to face that hurdle? A small part of me says no, it wasn’t necessary, but… an even larger part of me says yes, it was.
While it effectively put a damper on the light, airy tone of the entire drama, the same tone I had come to love, and gave it such an over dramatic twist, it served as a final turning point for the entire Ko family and for Cha Hong Do, herself. We learned that the psychological issues for so many people stemmed from the same incident that took place two decades ago and that the only way to overcome it is to bravely face it.
Although we already knew that Ko Yi Suk and Cha Hong Do were perfectly suited for each other and that they, quite frankly, needed each other, we didn’t see that all consuming love, that deep passion and desperation for each other, until outside forces were threatening to tear them apart.
In the past, whenever Ko Yi Suk was hurt, anguished, or sad, he would bury his face in his hands as he tried to cry, but he couldn’t. He never could. There was no release for him from those burdening emotions that weighed so heavily upon him. His dejected statement of “I can’t even cry” tore at my heart every time.
But with his realization that he must part with Cha Hong Do for the wellbeing of his family, he finally broke down. Ladies and gentlemen, Ko Yi Suk cried his heart out. All those years of unleashed negative emotions finally escaped from within him at that very moment. The gateway to freedom, to healing, to tossing his mask in the trash, had finally been opened.
For Cha Hong Do, the eventual revelation that she had, essentially, been framed, gave her the boost of confidence she needed to embrace Ko Yi Suk forever. From a woman who had shied away from others, who had self esteem issues, who had slowly, but surely, been shedding her insecurities without even realizing it, this was the moment that I, as a viewer, had been waiting for since the beginning. Empowering, bold, and undoubtedly inspiring, Cha Hong Do finally stood up for herself, for Ko Yi Suk, for their love, and even managed to call Chairman Ko out on, not only his insincerity in apologizing to her, but for the pain he and the rest of the family had caused Yi Suk. Her triumphantly proud statement of “you lost your grandson to me” was the most perfect revenge with the littlest of efforts.
But, perhaps, what I enjoyed most about this particular situation is that, despite the severity of the incident, Ko Yi Suk and Cha Hong Do attempted to handle it as maturely as possible. Even through each others’ anguish, their level of communication was still open and honest; both freely speaking their mind during the realization, the coping, and even in reaching the amazing decision that the past would not determine their future.
I fully expected a break-up, an inability to cope with the cruel “fact” that they had fallen in love with each other, so it took me by wonderful surprise when that wasn’t the case. Even when they eventually decided that they had no choice but to part, they handled it well with their usual open honesty. There was no noble idiocy, no hiding of the truths, and genuine well wishes for each others’ well being as they met for the last time. It was utterly heart shattering, for sure, but so new and refreshing all the same.
In this last arch before the end is also where I finally fell in love with Ko Se Ro (Sohee). My confusion over her strong desire to act, even when she clearly had no skills, was finally cleared up with one simple, yet heartbreaking, reason. Only in this final leg of “Heart to Heart” did Ko Se Ro shed her own mask and I had the strongest urge to embrace her loneliness away.
Still, despite her lack of familial closeness as she grew up in the U.S., Se Ro’s unwavering love for her brother was just the kind of warmth I was looking for to fill the coldness that washed over me from the chaotic mess of 20 years ago. As she finally heard the whole story about Il Suk and learned about Yi Suk’s secret guilt and resentment, never once did Se Ro judge her brother for his flaws or dark thoughts. She simply embraced him warmly, stood by him silently as a strong pillar of support, and did her best to ensure her brother’s happiness – no matter what.
On the other hand, Jang Doo Soo (Lee Jae Yoon) was probably the biggest mystery for me. I could never quite fully figure him out – even in the end. Whereas Ko Yi Suk went from “horrible male lead with a serious anger and attitude problem” to “big ol’ teddy bear,” Jang Doo Soo was the cause of my immediate Second Lead Syndrome, which gave way to weariness and caution, and then, finally, ending with a quiet love for him.
Honestly speaking, I was expecting to dislike Jang Doo Soo till the end after the way he had fiercely attempted to control Cha Hong Do. A big, bright red warning sign flashed like emergency lights at me when he suddenly changed like that, but what really pushed me to the edge was when he told Cha Hong Do that he wished she had never changed. He wished she had never decided to tackle her Anthrophobia, to face the world, to overcome her fears.
A man who would wish for you to remain as you were, hidden and completely isolated from the world with a crippling fear, was not a man at all. To so selfishly think of healing your own pain by wishing for something like that because the woman you loved was happily in love with someone else and changing for the better is nothing less than spiteful.
I was shocked speechless that such words had came from the once tenderhearted and warm Jang Doo Soo, the man I had once adored so much in “Heart to Heart.” But as he continued to progress, my heart began to soften towards him again. I repeatedly dissected him before coming to the realization that he was a man who simply didn’t know how to handle the waves of emotion crashing over him from experiencing love for the very first time.
His heart had never been moved before. He had never experienced that kind of emotional pain. Wouldn’t it be obvious that Jang Doo Soo wouldn’t know how to appropriately handle it either? With that, I realized how much sense it made for him to say those words – not because he truly wished for it, not because those were his true thoughts, but because he’s just searching for a way to stop the pain.
Jang Doo Soo was, essentially, a grown man trying to handle real emotions with the experience level of a child. Knowing this, I slowly came to respect him again as he found his own way to cope with his broken heart while wishing for Cha Hong Do’s happiness from a distance.
In the end, while I think that the final twist could have been something entirely different to better fit the usually consistent tone of “Heart to Heart,” I also think the impact would not have been so strong. Due to the solemnity of the secret being revealed, Ko Yi Suk’s mother was forced to face reality, thereby healing her of her own psychological wounds, and Ko Yi Suk’s father, for the first time, bravely confessed his own wrongdoings.
All in all, “Heart to Heart” was a feel-good drama with life lessons on forgiveness and finding ones’ own happiness, spoken like a true expert from one of my favorite supporting characters, psychologist and director Uhm Ki Choon (Seo Yi Sook).
From the slow, quiet, heartwarmingly gentle love between Jang Doo Soo and Ko Se Ro to the heart wrenching, passionately healing, need-you-like-I-need-oxygen love between Ko Yi Suk and Cha Hong Do; from the difficult and damaging love between Ko Yi Suk’s parents to the careful, opposites attract relationship between Uhm Ki Choon and Ahn Byung Yul (Choi Moo Sung); even the incompatible, grating on each other’s nerves relation between Chairman Ko and Hwang Geum Shim (Kim Ae Kyung) and the unfaithful love between Woo Yeo Woo (Hwang Seung Eon) and her fiancé, these are just a small handful of examples of “Heart to Heart’s” successful portrayal of love in all forms, flaws and all.
It serves as a refreshing reminder that no matter how we act on the exterior and regardless of the situations we have faced, we’re all just human in the end. It’s the kind of drama that I’ll re-watch on the days where I’m battling my own inner demons and tackling my own wounds and insecurities for the strength it offers.
With the beautiful script, the wonderful directing, the perfectly suited OST, and the flawless portrayal of their individual characters from the cast, “Heart to Heart” delivers its intended message full of touching warmth and gentleness exactly as the title suggests – from their heart to my heart.
rughydrangea’s Final Thoughts:
When it became clear that the last big conflict of “Heart to Heart” would be focused on the fact that Hong Do “killed” Yi Suk’s brother, I was really worried.
That plotline just seemed far too big, too over-the-top, too soap-opera-esque for a drama whose greatest strength was its grounded, down-to-earth sensibility. I was worried that this plotline would make everything special about “Heart to Heart” disappear. I was worried that the simple triumphs of Hong Do finding the courage to move in the world would be overshadowed by hysterical family drama.
Now that “Heart to Heart” has finished, I’m still not sure if I was right to be worried. I do think that overall, “Heart to Heart” dealt with this storyline about as well as it could be dealt with. The performances were excellent, and though there was lots of screaming and crying (as one would expect when a plot centers around the death of a child), it never felt over-the-top. But… was any of this really necessary? This is a question I keep coming back to, and I just can’t decide. Was there something special this plotline gave “Heart to Heart,” something unique that would have been missing otherwise? For the most part, I think the answer is “no.” After all, what did this storyline show us? It showed us that Yi Suk can’t live without Hong Do—but we knew that already. It showed us that Yi Suk’s father is a miserable coward—but we also knew that already. On the positive side, it gave us an ending in which Yi Suk’s mother could finally break free of the past—but surely there are other ways we could have got to that point.
Ultimately, I am almost ready to write this plotline off as a mistake—a well-acted, well-directed mistake that doesn’t take away my love for this drama, but a mistake nonetheless. One scene stops me, however. The scene in question is Hong Do’s final meeting with Chairman Ko, in which she tells him that she is done apologizing, that she doesn’t want to hear his insincere apologies, and that she knows that she has won because Yi Suk is hers forever now. It’s a great moment, both for Choi Kang Hee, who plays it perfectly, and for Hong Do, whose simple, unashamed confidence is a victory on countless levels. It is so intensely satisfying to see her standing up for herself and the man she loves and refusing to feel bad about it. What a perfect illustration of how far she’s come since episode one, and what an amazing journey of healing she’s been on. If we needed the “Hong Do killed Il Suk, except she really didn’t” storyline to get to this moment, then I guess I’m okay with the storyline as a whole. This scene made it worth it.
As for the rest of “Heart to Heart”… Well, it was as wonderful as ever. The central romance between Hong Do and Yi Suk has quickly become one of my favorite drama romances, notable for how perfectly sincere and healing it was. These are two people who need each other, and they’re never afraid to say it. They are sweet, affectionate and simply wonderful.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the secondary couple, who ended up providing the perfect contrast to Hong Do and Yi Suk’s intense, all-consuming relationship. Jang Doo Soo was a character about whom I had very conflicted feelings for a lot of this drama’s run (when Hong Do says she doesn’t like you, that’s not a sign for you to pursue her more aggressively!), but he really redeemed himself with his love for Se Ro, which was remarkable in just how undramatic it was. There was no light-bulb over his head, no “Eureka!” moment in which Doo Soo suddenly realized that he was in love with Se Ro. There was only a slow process of coming to understand that he preferred his life with her in it. There’s something amazingly romantic about such a low-key love, in my opinion. It feels so real, so rooted in the surprising, unexpected rhythms of love that every person has experienced. This storyline was also wonderfully elevated by great performances by Lee Jae Yoon, who perfectly conveyed Doo Soo’s perpetual confusion, and Sohee, whose sparkling screen presence was a joy to watch.
In the end, “Heart to Heart” wasn’t a perfect drama. But what is? The simple fact is that I loved watching “Heart to Heart,” and once I finished an episode, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Yes, I do wish the final stretch of episodes had been constructed around a stronger storyline. But even if that story didn’t completely work for me, it still gave us a wonderful vision of just how much our main characters had grown and healed. And what main characters they were! Thanks to pitch-perfect performances, keenly observant directing, and smart, sensitive writing, Hong Do and Yi Suk are going to stay with me for a long time. There’s not much more you can ask of a drama.
Soompiers, what are your final thoughts on “Heart to Heart”? Are you sad to see it end? Is there anything you would have changed about it? Let us know in the comments below!
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