A Business Proposal (2022) Final Thoughts
A rant by any other name will still sound like a rant.
I wish I liked this show more. I had hoped that after the initial setup that the show would eventually grow on me and I would finally embrace the hype. That regrettably never happened. Earlier on I was curious to know if I would ever understand the love this was getting but this experiment failed to yield any results. The combination of fluff, cheese and (supposed) hilarity never hit the spot for me in any consistent fashion. Regardless of my misgivings, I persevered right to the end and then during the finale it occurred to me what the problem was the entire time. The show was so absurdly derivative that it had no identity of its own. It was a hodgepodge of many things and a series of gags that could be relied upon. Once they ran out of gags and tropes to parody the series ran out of steam. A series of questions went through my mind as I was wondering how the various threads were going to be resolved in the finale. What was the point of having Ha-ri’s parents in the story? Her brother was barely a character. The family story barely registered a blip on the radar and it had even less relevance than the presence of Team One which was part scenery and part comic relief. And then there was the de facto love triangle or whatever it was trying to be. Why did Yoo-ri suddenly fade from view when she was single handedly responsible for some last minute mayhem? Why did Grandpa turn obstructionist when in previous episodes he couldn’t wait for his grandson to do his duty and maintain the family bloodline. He, the avid makjang watcher, became the caricature of a chaebol patriarch when he seemed to defy the stereotype at first. It gradually dawned on me that everybody in this show who wasn’t Kang Tae-moo or Shin Ha-ri was there in service of the romance of Kang Tae-moo and Shin Ha-ri. The support act was there to get it started, push it forward, get in the way or help it along. It was crowded for a 12-episode drama. Moreover there was barely a plot to speak of — just a lot of people heaving and hoeing, in the galley rowing a very large ship that had set sail with a rudder that was steering it in the direction of all kinds of detours.
Judging from the comments I saw around the web, the love for this piece of fluff was real. I accepted I was an outlier. However, it’s the case of “be careful what you wish for” especially when writers write themselves into a corner in the event that cliches don’t have much staying power. For a show built largely on deception and relied on deception to push the narrative all the way to the finishing line, the showrunners felt morally obligated to say to the audience, “Now, remember kids. Don’t do this at home. Lying is wrong and you could hurt a lot of people and no one will ever trust you again.” No matter how absurd the situation was to begin with, Tae-moo and Ha-ri had to pay for their charade and for prolonging it. Grandpa had to play his part and place obstacles so that it would look like the leads had to earn their way. It wouldn’t do for the show to give the impression that they approved of the deception though they certainly didn’t mind milking it for laughs all the way to the end. The thing is too that after a time the deception made less and less sense. It makes the show — only 12 episodes at that — feel longer than what it needed to be.
So apparently it is up to Grandpa, the patriarch, to bring some semblance of order into the chaos. In the end his role is to reprimand and brow beat the leads into honesty and good behaviour.
The finale though not terrible was obviously a rushed job and was bound to disappoint. It wasn’t as if I expected wedding bells to chime but throwing out more hoops for the leads to have to jump through at the eleventh hour… I dunno… suggests that the show is suddenly trying to take itself seriously and I should too. It’s a misstep because my mind starts to wonder all kinds of things. People who should have been there weren’t there to clean up after their mess ie. Yoo-ri. Grandpa was noticeably absent as well for someone who made such a song and dance. What we had to be content with were references to offscreen conversations. Even the proposal between the leads felt rather hollow — not that I believed for one moment that they wouldn’t be together but it would still have been nice not to have the wind taken out of their sails beforehand minutes before the time jump.
I don’t like it when C dramas pull the last minute separation trope in the last episode and I don’t like it when K dramas do it either. Sometimes it’s about female empowerment, sometimes it’s about having some breathing space. Sometimes it’s supposed to be some kind of endurance test I suppose. When it’s done with such regularity, the monotony shows a lack of imagination.
While I like the leads romance for the most part it does rely far too much on deception for mileage so that what might work in the beginning in terms of what’s expected in a contract relationship doesn’t have the same zest when it comes down the pike in the final act when confessions have been given. Why is Ha-ri still trying to hide Tae-moo from her parents… and that sort of thing. It doesn’t do much for character development and it does give oxygen to critics who say that their relationship lacks maturity. It’s the gamification of their relationship like the dodge ball competition she gritted her teeth to win. She was playing dodge ball and doing it as long as she could rather than taking the bull by the horns, doing the logical next step and owning her choice. In the end the cats came tumbling out of the bag and it was out of her control.
Despite the brickbats, it would be cranky not to give the cast their due for doing their utmost with very little. Kim Se-jeong is certainly a star in the making and so are Kim Min-gyu and Seol In-ah. Ahn Hyo-seop is better when he doesn’t have to pretend that he’s a first-class jerk. He’s likeable enough for me to root for his romance but in all frankness his performance doesn’t excite me. On the other hand, I wasn’t sold on the secondary leads initially because of how incompatible they are but seeing where Young-seo ends up gives me reason to think that there’s hope for them. I’m super fond of Lee Deok-hwa who is doing a nice run of grandfather roles lately but there’s a part of me that wishes a veteran of his calibre had been given a lot more to work with even in a show like this. After all, it is Grandpa who gets the ball rolling.