Mirae’s Choice feels like a rather odd creature–it’s madcap yet whimsical, it’s very plot-driven but has taken immense care to flesh out it’s main characters, and it’s a conventional rom-com yet tackles some real world and serious issues. It’s taken awhile for me to appreciate the show, and I’m still at the stage of admiring this from a distance rather than falling hard for its numerous charms, but that’s no fault of the show. This show has so much to offer, that I’m wondering why I’m not cheerleading this more than I am. Have I lost my mind?
Because the charms, they are aplenty. There’re main characters who are incredibly likeable, and more importantly, written with depth and care. None of them feel like filler. What they do and say has consequences, and just 6 episodes in, they’ve already showed a great capacity for growth. When we first meet our heroine Mirae, she’s resigned to a dead-end job. She’s flighty and dreamy although one gets a sense that it’s just less hurtful for her to stay in lala-land rather than be crushed in the real world. Fast-forward 6 episodes, she’s stepped out into the world and proven with gumption, self-belief and hard work, getting the job you want is possible. Her love interest Shin, who initially is so stubbornly straight-laced to the point of being detrimental to himself and others, learns that people matter too, not just principles. And I have nothing but nerd-love for a guy who’s idea of chivalry is to embarrass a handsy goon about his bad grammar. And don’t get me started on his encouraging Mirae to be Mulan, not Cinderella–progressive male lead FTW!
Lee Dong Gun and Yoon Eun Hye have a natural, mature chemistry that feels perfect for a show asking some tough questions about love. This is a pair that feels adult. How nice it is to see grown-ups who respect each other and enjoy each other’s company, instead of the pulling-on-pigtails crap that often passes for courtship in a rom-com. You might not believe me when you see them playing dress up like this..
What strikes me as the best thing the drama has going for it is its broadcast news setting and the opportunity it provides for raising some fascinating questions. Is there room for serious journalism in the era of chasing ratings and viewership numbers? Does entertainment trump real news? Although there might be prestige in hard news, is there any profit to be made? Shin, with his stubborn commitment to telling the truth, is an ageing holdover who is shafted to lightweight morning TV in favour of a younger anchor. At the crossroads of his career, he faces a choice of whether to adapt or hold fast. In contrast, his younger love rival, and future CEO of the station, Se Joo (Jung Yong Hwa), is already learning how to balance competing interests.
Then there’s Yee Kyung (Han Chae Ah), an ambitious reporter who plays up her sex appeal and feminine servility to get ahead at work. Patriarchal bargaining is a survival strategy many women use and I love that’s its being depicted here with compassion and nuance. Yee Kyung is fully capable, but when faced with the choice of showing more leg or losing an assignment, she caves. She isn’t happy about it, and we see her die a little inside when having to listen to her sexist PD drone on defensively about how sexiness is an art. I hope we get to spend more time with Yee Kyung’s and Mirae’s struggles at work and explore these facets, rather than having them just fixate on their love lives.
Ultimately, what I don’t like about the show is the time-travelling element, which for a show with a plot that hinges on it, is kinda problematic. The character of future Mirae is neither likeable nor sympathetic and feels very alien to the rest of the drama. She’s like every annoying, nosy auntie you’ve ever had the displeasure of running into at a wedding, the kind that’s all in your face about finding a husband. There’s enough meat in the setting and the characters alone that makes me wonder if the time-travel is even necessary. For one, it confuses things, and I’d rather spend time with Mirae and her journey of growing into her own, and making her own choices on her own terms. In any case, I do believe that that’s where we’re heading anyways. I just wish future Mirae would disappear.
Although it does some things better (the whimsical, playful tone, the character dynamics) than others (the time-travel element), the show as whole serves up way more than I ever expected it to. And that alone makes this a keeper.