[Quarter Review] Love on a Rooftop First Impression Episodes 1-25

General Summary:  This is a daily family drama about two main families and their extended connections.  The first family is a traditional family, which has a steeped history in ancient objects and tea-making.  As a result of fertility issues, the immediate family includes birth secrets including adopted grandchildren.  The second family is related to the first family as the second family revolves around a woman who was kicked out by the matriarch by the first family when she was pregnant with the child of the son of the matriarch…She returns back to the neighborhood as a successful business woman who has invested in real estate to grow her assets and begins to execute her plan for revenge of buying the first family’s traditional house and kicking the family out on the streets.  Meanwhile, the younger generation complicates matters as love begins its baby steps between the two.

 

First Impression:

Seung-Hye

In the first twenty-five episodes, we are introduced to our main heroine.  Like the predictable drama heroine, she is a hard working and cheerful daughter of a lower-middle class family.  However, what makes her slightly different is that she is adopted and she knows of her adoption.  As a result, she’s not naturally cheerful and bright.  Rather, her attitude in life and work ethic seems to stem from a sense of insecurity (desire to be accepted by her grandmother) and her desire to pay back her parents for adopting her.  As such, I can appreciate the Candy-ness of Seung-Hye even though the drama highlights her Candy-ness by having her win the “Kind Nurse of the Month” until she gets fired at the hospital at which she works.

Seung-Hye’s thought process becomes clearer when she goes through her first big hurdle and first battle against her love rival Se-Ryung.  Specifically, after she loses her job due to Se-Ryung venting her frustration, shock and anger at Seung-Hye, Seung-Hye kneels before Se-Ryung to beg for her job back at the hospital. When Do-Jin tries to stop her as it’s uncomfortable to see anyone exert so much power and reduce another human being to such a begging disposition, Seung-Hye yells at him.  She does not yell at Do-Jin because she is happy to kneel before Se-Ryung as it’s just her happy disposition.  Rather, she tells Do-Jin to stay out of the situation because she needs to do whatever is necessary to keep Se-Ryung happy so that Se-Ryung can reveal the truth and Seung-Hye can get her job back to take care of her family.

It is also clear that Seung-Hye is not a voluntary martyr.  Her family actually expects her to continue to provide financially for the rest of them.  Even up until Episode 23, her uncle drunkenly tells Seung-Hye that if she had just stayed at the hospital and gotten an employee’s loan, the family would not have suffered…This may have been true but does not take into consideration that Seung-Hye confessed to her younger brother that she had always been stressed as a nurse…Once she had accepted her termination, she actually felt stress-free for the first time in years…

Seung-Hye’s character develops through the first quarter from this martyr syndrome into a more normal human being that cares about her own desires.  With a little encouragement from her brother, father and Yunho, Seung-Hye opts to learn how to become a barista because she loves coffee rather than returning to the hospital even though Beom-Seok offers to reinstate her position.  This is all the more amazing because she decides to stick with being a barista even though her grandmother gives her an ultimatum of staying with the family or becoming a barista.  Dramaland lords take pity on Seung-Hye and her grandmother even decides to take Seung-Hye in as the official heir to the family’s tea making secret.

Other Characters

The other characters also get a decent level of character development.  However, the other two main male leads do not get enough character development to warrant their own specific section.  Rather, the first twenty-five episodes developed the characters around Seung-Hye.  For example, her father went from being a nice father who had, as a result of his upbringing, been so selfish that he allowed his family to financially suffer as he pursues his own passion into a man who resolves his own problems.  It did take almost losing his shop and almost getting jailed for him to return to reality, but he did despite his mother’s, wife’s and children’s efforts to shield him.

The Plot

In these episodes, we see Mi-Ja’s first attempt at revenge.  Mi-Ja is a self-made successful business woman who raised her only son alone.  Her history shaped her current goal in life, which is to get complete revenge on Soon-Im.

Originally, Mi-Ja and her mother had lived at Dong Rak Dang with Soon-Im’s family, where Mi-Ja’s mother was a maid.  However, when Dae-Ho started to fall for Mi-Ja, Soon-Im kicked both of the two women out of the house.  While, the women painfully walk away from their home, Mi-Ja realizes that she’s pregnant with Dae-Ho’s child and loses her mother to a freak car accident.

When the drama returns to the present, Mi-Ja has established herself as a restaurateur who also successfully invests in real estate.  She’s come back to Soon-Im’s neighborhood to force Soon-Im to reverse mortgage her house or lose the family house through a private loan.

First, Mi-Ja buys the building in which Dae-Ho has his shop and raises the rent.  (Junsae  rent, which is a lump sum deposit for a certain amount of time say one to two years…)  As Seung-Hye had lost her job in the first few episodes, the family struggles to find a way to pay for the increased rent.

Meanwhile, Mi-Ja continues to execute her plan by having her right-hand man offer to lower the required rent if Dae-Ho can find a specific traditional painting.  However, Mi-Ja has already planned it out where the original painting is with one of her people who pretends to be old with a broken arm, so that Dae-Ho signs his own sales contract and results in getting framed for fraud.

At the same time, Mi-Ja announces to the world that she’s Soon-Im’s successor in Soon-Im’s teas, which she sells at her store. When Dae-Ho’s wife Dong-Sook visits Mi-Ja’s store out of curiousity, Mi-Ja wins over Dong-Sook’s  trust by loaning Dong-Sook the shortfall between what the family has and the raised rent.

Luckily for the family, when Dae-Ho gets accused of fraudulently stealing the traditional painting from an old senile man seller, Seung-Hye gets an offer from Mi-Ja’s son Do-Jin to help save his dessert cafe for which he will pay her a year’s salary up front so that she can pay the settlement amount and save her father.

At the same time as the larger revenge arc, the drama presents an understated romance for the second generation.  Mi-Ja’s son is a doctor who fell in love with baking and came back to Korea to work for a large company named Kang Sol Food.  As such as in dramaland, the daughter of Kang Sol Food’s CEO has a crush on Do-Jin and renegs on the contract because she does not want Mi-Ja to hate her when Mi-Ja finds out that her precious son gave up his medical career to be a baker.

As a result, Do-Jin invests all of his life savings in opening his own dessert cafe.  When Mi-Ja finds out, she behaves as any Korean traditional mother does and goes nuclear.  However, when Do-Jin does not back down, she gives him one month to raise the same amount of revenue as he would have received as a salaried doctor or give up his dream.

It’s during this challenge that Do-Jin finds out that Seung-Hye has an incredibly sensitive palate (a supertaster) and ends up hiring her by saving her family in their time of need due to his mother (aka paying the settlement amount to the fraudsters that Mi-Ja hired)!  On the sideline, we have an hispter but internationally reknown barista who Se-Ryung (daughter of CEO of Kang Sol Foods) hires to head their food and beverage line…He ends up taking an interest in Seung-Hye when he realizes that her supertasting ability shines with coffee and decides that he wants to train her to become the world’s best barista.  Finally, Se-Ryung and Do-Jin have this awkward relationship where Se-Ryung has made it clear that she likes him, but he has not yet responded.

Quarter Review/ First Impression

I really like this drama and like it more than Love & Secret for the readers who followed that drama.  The writing is much tighter and more organic.  Additionally, there is less focus on unnecessary angst.  Even though it’s clear that Mi-Ja is a determined woman, bent on revenge, so far the writer has let up right before the angst gets too bad.  Specifically, most of the characters (with the exception of Seung-Ah) are not stupid.  They actively try to look for solutions for the daily problems that blow their way and the writers do not force a problem to stay unresolved just for the dramatic effect.

As a result, the drama keeps its slice of life tempo well, while providing a little bit of a fairy-tale in the current modern world.  Since it is a daily drama, we know that it will follow the proverb, “Good rewarded; bad punished.”  Therefore, we can follow the drama without worrying too much about the fact that the baddies win.

What allows this drama to keep my focus is the fact that the revenge plot seems almost realistic in its own way.  Mi-Ja looks like she’s going to win due to Dae-Ho’s extreme naivete and ends up losing because Seung-Hye finds another way.  I do think that the Do-Jin paying a year’s salary upfront was too extreme, but I would have understand and accepted the situation had Seung-Hye returned to the hospital and received an employee loan.

Before any reader wonders how easy it would be for Se-Ryung to reinstate Seung-Hye as a nurse when Seung-Hye had been terminated for “negligence” (for those who have not watched or followed the recaps, Se-Ryung got traumatized when her father almost died, blamed Seung-Hye and had her uncle who is the hospital director fire Seung-Hye who was her father’s nurse), Korea has a highly nepotistic society.  Even if you submit your resume to a large professional company, you have to attach your picture, list your parents, and list your parent’s professions.  It would not be as difficult for Se-Ryung to get anyone fired or rehired as the sole niece off the hospital director.

One thing that the drama could improve on is the romantic story line.  I love the focus on family, but it seems that the few attempts at romance seems disjointed.  We have Yunho actively trying to train Seung-Hye and Do-Jin randomly paying Seung-Hye a year’s salary to keep her close…Yet, there is not enough development to be convinced  that either of the two male leads sincerely have a romantic interest in her or vice versa.

Current Grade: 85%  | B

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