Start Up Finale: Why the writing FAILED Nam Joo Hyuk's Nam Do San, Kang Han Na's In Jae and the audience
Start-Up aired its finale episode over the weekend. While fans were prepared for Seo Dal Mi to choose Nam Do San over Han Ji Pyeong, the final few episodes did not do justice to the characters.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead:
Suzy, Nam Joo Hyuk, Kim Seon Ho and Kang Han Na took a final bow as Start-Up ended over the weekend. The tvN drama revolved around four individuals who want to make it big in their respective careers or so the promos promised. Start-Up begins with a self-made Han Ji Pyeong (Kim Seon Ho), who writes letters under the cover of Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk) addressed to Nam Dal Mi (Suzy) after she is separated from her sister In Jae (Kang Han Na).
Over the duration of 16 episodes, the four characters battle with personal and professional problems while making it big in the AI industry. Through the series, the infamous second lead syndrome took over, leaving fans divided over Team Nam Do San and Team Han Ji Pyeong. While the ending was obvious, Dal Mi was going to walk away with Do San, the writers did not give enough chances to Nam Do San to prove his worth, put audiences in peace with Dal Mi's choice and more.
Start-Up is undeniably endearing. The breezy approach makes the K-drama a light watch. However, writer Park Hye Ryun did not do justice with the series, at least in the second half of the show. Instead of approaching the series as a writer, Park Hye Ryun, unfortunately, treated this drama from a viewer's perspective. On one hand, this approach gave fans enough to learn about each character's insecurities, self-doubts and growth. But as a character on the show, especially when given a chance to pick between two men, Dal Mi wasn't offered the complete picture.
If that wasn't enough, as a viewer as well, the writer doesn't do justice to Do San. Pegging him as the male lead, Do San's character is beating around the bush with his own immature issues. The first half laid a good foundation, setting him on a path of exploring his own talents and watching him coming-of-age, with the support of Dal Mi. He gives "good boy" Han Ji Pyeong a tough competition when he develops the NoonGil app for Halmoni. However, as we approached the second half, the writer shifted to focus on Ji Pyeong and his coming-of-age. This left Do San hanging in the air. There's only so much romance that could keep the story going.
The leap only made things worse. Instead of the time shift, Start-Up could have advanced Do San's shift to the US and focused on him tackling his inner issues while balancing his successful professional life. The final few episodes emphasised on him returning to South Korea as a changed man. The writer could have spent a little more time in establishing scenes that helped viewers understand the catalyst behind the change. Did Dal Mi rub off on him, making him a better businessman? Did events at 2STO force him to take risks? Did he cross paths with failures? Did Alex mentor him well? These questions could have been addressed, giving Do San a better character graph.
Parallelly, Ji Pyeong's attempt to woo Dal Mi could have also been established. With passing references of Ji Pyeong spending holidays at Dal Mi's home hinting at the family's growing bond, I wondered if thoughts about Ji Pyeong's attraction led to Dal Mi's change in behaviour towards him. As Ji Pyeong himself says, "Three years is a long time. It's long enough for relationships to change." Didn't their mentor-mentee relationship grow into a friendship, at least?
While the battle for Team Do San and Team Ji Pyeong continued, a crucial member of the quadrant got lost. Seo In Jae/Won In Jae, played by Kang Han Na, felt like a character limited to an extended cameo. The character could have supported the pace of the storytelling, giving viewers a break from the prolonged love triangle. In Jae had a decent backstory that could have been explored in episodes focusing on her mending relationship with Dal Mi.
Start-Up could have been a perfect blend of emotions clashing with rationality in a working environment. The series had the potential of telling relatable day-to-day stories of four individuals, but it failed to hit the mark. The rushed ending, the unnecessary digression from the "Start-Up" to the toxic love triangle and the underdeveloped characters weigh Start-Up down.
What did you think of Start-Up? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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