The Reply franchise has become a cultural phenomenon in the Kdrama world. In the age of streaming where ratings have fallen, it has garnered 17.6% in the penultimate episode, a huge increase from the first episode of 6.1%, which is in itself remarkable for a cable programme, where ratings in the ones and twos are the norm.
The three seasons of Reply have generated huge fierce fan wars with regard to who the husband is. The first season was fairly obvious – Yoon Jae and Shi Won were too cute together not to be a couple.
The second season I wasn’t so invested. It was obvious who the heroine liked, but the second lead seemed swoony enough for the fans to get their knickers in a twist over.
In yesterday’s episode of Reply 1988, the Jung Hwan ship pretty much sinks when Deok Sun and Taec kiss and becomes a couple. This comes an episode after Jung Hwan makes a jokey confession to Deok Sun in front of Sun Woo and Dong Ryeong. He lets go of his first love after realising that besides not having the right timing, he also lacked the courage to go after her when he had a chance.
Fans of the series have scrutinised details in every episode in minutia, each camp interpreting in perfectly plausible ways to bolster their case. Jacket logos which look like airforce insignia, baduk plays, Forrest Gump plotlines – no stone has been left unturned. In fact, I’m pretty sure that fans have come up with theories that the writers haven’t even thought of.
To me, who the husband is doesn’t quite matter – both would have been valid choices, fitting Deok Sun in different ways. Taek, Jung Hwan and Deok Sun have also not been very forthcoming with their feelings. All three chose to preserve the friendship of the gang, rather than rock the boat. Perfectly understandable, if you ask me.
I don’t think it’s wrong to want the person you like to like you back. Deok Sun’s unrequited crush on Sun Woo has made her more wary about assuming that she could become a couple with another. She did send out feelers to Jung Hwan when she realised that he might like her, but as he had found out about Taec liking her, he held back in deference of the friendship. The sensible thing would be for the boys to hash it out, and let her pick who she likes, but even so, I think they probably didn’t want to risk fracturing the group should any ugliness occur. Taek also decided against confessing when he realised Jung Hwan liked Deok Sun too. If only polyandry was allowed… We’d get a very happy girl, and a bromance on the side, too!
I believe the fan wars were started because of the earlier flash forwards to the present where the husband acts more Jung Hwan-ish – being slightly sarcastic, instead of being sweeter like Taek – and that seems to (mis)direct fans. (His body language was more relaxed too, a vibe that Taek did not give at all, at least to me.) That might have been a planned misdirection, or the choice of the husband might have been changed as the series progressed, after all, Ryu Jun-yeol, the actor playing Jung Hwan was second billed, with Park Bo-Gum getting third billing. The interactions between Deok Sun and Taec also lacked fire. There was always a sweetness, of her looking after him, of him taking care of her quietly, but no sparks, which she had plenty of with Jung Hwan. It wasn’t till fairly late, that it seemed she noticed him as a man.
So there you have it. Love can come in many forms, at different times. The only criteria is that one takes the opportunity when it is presented, instead of overthinking it. Screw the consequences, let’s love now! (And until it’s officially screened tonight, no ship has truly sailed or sunk yet!)