K-drama review: Reflection of You – dreary Netflix melodrama indulges in explosive, but unearned, finale

K-drama review: Reflection of You – dreary Netflix melodrama indulges in explosive, but unearned, finale

This article contains spoilers.

2.5/5 stars

Romance can easily make us take leave of our senses. Knowing this, the characters in melodramatic tales who are guided by uncontrollable emotion can be forgiven certain lapses of judgment – but everything has its limits.

Throughout its 16-episode run, the Korean drama Reflection of You has shown us characters guided by love and, more often than not, little else.

Most consumed by her heart’s whims has been Gu Hae-won (Shin Hyun-been), whose every action has been dictated either by her infatuation with Seo Woo-jae (Kim Jae-young), or her feelings of romantic betrayal, which she weaponises against Jeong Hee-joo (Go Hyun-jung), and later Woo-jae, once he recovers from his amnesia.

Hae-won is a broken soul. This we know, since the show’s make-up department makes it endlessly clear to us through a moribund facial complexion comprised of ever-present dark circles under her eyes, the grey pallor of her skin and her blank thousand-yard stare.

Yet among all the characters in this show, Hae-won is the only one who gets what she wants. Her love for Woo-jae was a thing of the past and even though she was able to carry on her marriage with the amnesiac Woo-jae, deep down she knew that what once was was no longer so.

Instead, her real desire – to get revenge on Hee-joo, the woman who sabotaged her love – is what drives her. From the moment she reappears in Hee-joo’s life, Hae-won goes to great lengths to be a thorn in her side. She is morose, vindictive and constantly in the way, but seldom a real threat to Hee-joo’s happiness.

Hee-joo just wants to keep her family together and, though the reappearance of Hae-won and then Woo-jae in her life troubles her, she never gives us the impression that she would fall back in with him.

K-drama review: Reflection of You – dreary Netflix melodrama indulges in explosive, but unearned, finale

Go Hyun-jung in a still from Reflection of You.

She cares more about her family, and as we are clued in on her past whirlwind affair, though hazy flashbacks limned by the lush fields and craggy cliffs of Ireland, we come to realise how toxic a figure Woo-jae really was, and, as he begins to reclaim his memories, remains.

With his floppy hair and soft features, Woo-jae is handsome, but with little insight into any other charms he may have, he comes off as only blandly attractive and thus hardly worthy of being the centre of an aching love triangle.

Furthermore, as we discover his negative traits, it’s hard to understand why Hee-joo and especially the wounded Hae-won would allow him to re-enter their lives.

Reflection of You is not a happy romance, and for this tragic story to reach its climax, Woo-jae has to be the bad guy. As the show approaches its endgame, he becomes an out-and-out villain and during one fateful evening, he meets his demise.

Neither Hae-won or Hee-joo deals him the fatal blow, but his passing turns out to be the final nail in both of their coffins as well.

The person with blood on her hands is Hee-joo’s daughter Lisa, who sneaks out to her mother’s workshop after seeing her being dragged there by an angry Woo-jae. Turned down by his former flame, Woo-jae has become a jilted lover and he begins to throttle Hee-joo. Happening upon this intense moment of violence, Lisa stabs him.

K-drama review: Reflection of You – dreary Netflix melodrama indulges in explosive, but unearned, finale

Kim Jae-young in a still from Reflection of You.

Hee-joo covers up the crime, dumps the body and tells Lisa she only caused a minor injury, but Hae-won, having by now divorced Woo-jae and as glum as ever, also saw what happened. With her previous wishy-washy tactics to make Hee-joo unhappy, Hae-won didn’t really seem to have her heart in it, but this time, she goes right for the jugular.

She is willing to keep what she saw to herself, but only if Hee-joo gives up her family and disappears, making it look like she abandoned them to go away with Woo-jae again.

Hae-won, her vengeance complete, now has nothing left to live for and later on, as she crosses a busy intersection one day, an old plot thread is revived: the bankrupt billiards hall owner who kidnapped Hee-joo’s son Ho-su reappears – and stabs her, leaving her to bleed out on the pavement.

K-drama review: Reflection of You – dreary Netflix melodrama indulges in explosive, but unearned, finale

Shin Hyun-been in a still from Reflection of You.

Probably the most effective moment in Reflection of You’s denouement is how Hee-joo disposes of Woo-jae’s body. Bringing one of the show’s most intriguing thematic motifs full circle, she dumps his corpse in her friend’s fishing lake.

Around this time, a panicky Hee-joo begins to suffer from auditory hallucinations, imagining she hears Woo-jae’s voice from beyond his watery grave, just like in the Irish legend Woo-jae told Ho-su several episodes earlier, about the church bells still heard emanating from the depths of the Sligo lake in which it was submerged.

Aside from a smattering of nice flourishes such as this, Reflection of You doesn’t earn its big dramatic finish, which sees Hae-won behave in a way that doesn’t gel with how she’s been presented in the rest of the show. Ultimately, it feels like an explosive way to wrap up a story that hadn’t been going anywhere for weeks.

K-drama review: Reflection of You – dreary Netflix melodrama indulges in explosive, but unearned, finale

Go Hyun-jung in a still from Reflection of You.

Reflection of You is streaming on Netflix.

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