Growing up, my idea of fairy tale romances was largely informed by Bollywood movies. Despite being too young to even grasp the concept of love, it has kind of been my benchmark.
Granted, storybooks like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Beauty and the Beast” were enchanting, but the Hindi movies tugged at my heart.
That said, since I became a K-drama fan last year, I’ve realised that I have been missing out. Honestly, I regret those secret eye-rolls when my colleagues were raving about them in our staff meetings during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Now, before naysayers argue that it is all fantasy and far removed from real life, I get that.
But I love the escapism the shows provide. They leave your heart skipping a beat while developing crushes at the drop of a hat.
To date, some of my best-binge-watched series include “The King: Eternal Monarch”, “Crash Landing”, “Tale of the Nine Taled” and “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God”.
At the moment, I’m waiting impatiently for the final two episodes of “Destined With You” to drop.
The 16-part fantasy romance stars Jo Bo-ah, Rowoon, Ha Jun and Yura as the main cast.
In the first episode, Lee Hong-jo (Bo-ah), a young but passionate staff member of the Department of Greenery at Onju City Hall, works tirelessly to keep the public happy by addressing their concerns. One of which, is the tearing down of a derelict old building.
But her efforts are met with resistance from high-flying lawyer Jang Shin-yu (Rowoon). Her tenacity eventually wears him out a little and he helps steer her to Eun-wol (Kim Hye-ok), who can give her permission to proceed.
Unbeknown to Hong-jo, he knows Eun-wol, a shaman, very well. Shin-yu, who comes from an affluent family, has been battling a family curse, where he is haunted by a bloody hand.
He doesn’t quite understand his destiny until his path crosses with that of Hong-jo and, through their interactions, he ends up handing her a box containing a powerful book of spells.
Hong-jo tries her best to fit in with her peers. But she’s constantly excluded from the lunches and dinners by Gong Seo-gu (Hyeon Bong-sik), who is the team leader of the Environment and Greenery Department of Onju City Hall, and the other two members: Son Sae-byeol (Park Kyung-hye) and Yoo Soo-jeong (Miram).
A loner, Hong-jo ends up befriending the community she works with. She is passionate about her work and, along with the two female staff on the team, has a secret crush on Kwon Jae-kyung (Ha Jun), the right-hand man to the mayor.
The situation is compounded when Shin-yu joins City Hall as its legal representative.
Not long after handing Hong-jo the box, he asks her to help with one of the spells to remove the curse. But she first uses the book to cast a love spell on Jae-kyung.
As fate would have it, it backfires as Shin-yu ends up drinking the love concoction.
Plot twist: he’s dating the mayor’s daughter, Yoon Na-yeon (Yura), who also happens to be a school nemesis of Hong-jo.
What’s great about the script, is that the writing team builds a narrative around all its characters. The viewer gets a sense of who they are and becomes more invested in their respective journeys.
Rowoon’s character is a checklist for every girl’s dream guy: rich, handsome and tall. But Hong-jo doesn’t give him the time of day, even after he points out that he’s become a victim by drinking her love potion.
And so several of the episodes centre on this love-hate dynamic between the two of them. The situation is compounded by Jae-kyung moving into a vacant apartment below Hong-jo.
And then there’s the unresolved matter of Na Jung-beom (Ahn Sang-woo), the CEO of Green Landscape Garden, who has taken an unsettling romantic interest in Hong-jo.
Talk about drama and then some. That’s probably why these soap-esque TV series work so well.
The supporting story arcs with Honj-jo’s team leaders fancying one another, her female co-workers turning green with envy about her having her pick from two of the hottest guys at the office, Shin-yu’s actress mother feeling neglected by her busy husband and his new assistant attempting to get close to him, offer comedic relief.
The storylines are handled so dexterously that they don’t overshadow or dilute the overarching plot, which is about two lovers from a troubled past life finding happiness in this one.
The chemistry between Rowoon and Bo-ah is intoxicating. They take streamers on an emotional roller-coaster with the bumps in their journey. In fact, the entire cast play their part with commendable finesse.
Overall, “Destined With You” is a bewitching offering with a solid script and direction.
∎ “Destined With You” is streaming on Netflix.