A year before his military enlistment, Rowoon is on a roll. Destined With You, the fantasy romance that he headlined with Jo Bo Ah, ended its 16-episode run on October 12 on a high note, with netizens still abuzz about the intense chemistry between them. And Rowoon’s fans won’t have to wait long for another dose of Rowoon charm and the trademark visual of those finely arched eyebrows. The Matchmaker, a historical drama with him in the lead role, starts October 30.
When the last two episodes of Destined with You streamed on October 11 and 12, it landed no. 2 on the Good Data Corporation’s list of dramas that generated the most awareness among viewers; Rowoon and Jo Bo Ah were no. 1 and no. 2 respectively among the most buzzworthy actors.
This did not come as a surprise to avid K-drama watchers, more specifically followers of the heartthrob Rowoon. Pairing him with Jo Bo Ah was smart casting.
In the series, Rowoon plays hotshot lawyer Jang Shin Yu, while Jo Bo Ah is Lee Hong Jo, a 9th grade civil servant who works at City Hall. The two are connected by a forbidden book kept in a wooden box for 300 years.
Shin Yu and Hong Jo’s first encounter happens in a haunted shrine in Mount Onju that is owned by his family. Hong Jo, who is part of the park maintenance team of city hall, is tasked with demolishing the shrine, while Shin Yu, on orders of his family, must restore it. The shaman-caretaker Eun Wol tells Shin Yu that the owner of the wooden box found in the shrine has shown up. It is Hong Jo.
When their paths first cross, Hong Jo mistakes Shin Yu for a grim reaper because of his all-black suit and serious mien—an oblique reference to Rowoon’s 2022 drama Tomorrow. Hong Jo is a lovable character who enjoys her work and truly wants to help people; Shin Yu is a cold, brooding lawyer.
Fantasy elements are introduced in the first episode: There is the Red Hand that caresses Shin Yu’s hand and cheek, and a blood moon looming over the haunted house that is up for demolition. Shin Yu has tremors in his right hand caused by a genetic disorder brought on by a curse.
Flashbacks show that Shin Yu as Mu Jin and Hong Jo as Aeng Cho had a forbidden love during the Joseon era. The Red Hand belongs to Aeng Cho, a shaman during the Joseon era who left behind the spell book before she died. She has placed a curse on Mu Jin, and it can be broken only when either of them dies.
Shin Yu sees past-life revelations in his sleep, which include an appearance by a younger Aeng Cho.
The wooden box contains a book of spells, ranging from how to cast a love spell to curing diseases. Both realize that the cure to Shin Yu’s illness lies in the book. He tells Hong Jo that she can have the rest of the book except the “cure disease” spell.
Meanwhile Hong Jo has a crush on Kwon Jae Kyung (Ha Jun), who works as adviser to the city mayor. Using the love spell, Hong Jo makes a love potion that she puts in a glass of water for Jae Kyung, who is seated beside Shin Yu in a meeting, but it is Shin Yu who drinks the water instead. He finds himself falling for Hong Jo. The series is fun to watch because there are swoon-worthy moments in each episode that are spiced up with hilarious scenes between the main leads.
There are swoon-worthy moments in each episode that are spiced up with hilarious scenes between the main leads
Shin Yu and Hong Jo visit shaman Eun Wol, wanting to know if there is a way to break the love spell cast on Shin Yu by mistake. Eun Wol tells Shin Yu that he has no power over this, that everything is up to Hong Jo.
Just as Shin Yu is gradually developing strong feelings for Hong Jo, the tremors in his hand stop.
However, while the chemistry between Rowoon and Jo Bo Ah is the drama’s main strength, much of the first half is wasted on a constant push-and-pull between Shin Yu and Hong Jo. Details about their past lives are not presented until episode 9, so that the resolution of the storylines is crammed in the last two episodes.
There is also the confusion resulting from the chemistry between Ha Jun’s Kwon Jae Kyung and Jo Boa Ah’s Hong Jo. In contrast to Shin Yu’s fluctuating moods and personality, their vibe onscreen is so palpable, it makes one wonder if destiny is playing a trick on the star-crossed lovers. Add to this the plots surrounding the side characters, which make the narrative drag. What helps move things along is the stalker storyline. But even this is not fully exploited.
Despite the flawed writing, the actors work well with what they are given, delivering strong performances.
As a netizen said, “Rowoon (has) come really far as an actor and was getting better and better as the show went on. He really sold the emotional intensity when it was required, and equally really believably portrayed ‘man now free, unburdened and hopelessly in love.’ I started watching this show in part for Rowoon, so I’m glad to be walking out of it as an even bigger fan who’s very excited to see his future projects…Jo Bo Ah isn’t going on my favorite FL’s list any time soon, but I thought that JBA really put in the legwork to make such a not-so-well written character into someone who was tolerable at worst and someone you could sympathize with and cheer for at best.” (Lapislazulli in Dramabeans)
There cinematography is also great. The framing of Shin Yu and Hong Jo on the bridge when the sparklers are going off is breathtaking, creating the magical romantic feeling that until that moment was lacking in the series. The outdoor scenes showing the lovers in their past lives capture the beauty of the countryside.
In the end, despite some flaws in the writing, we get the happy ending that we have expected, and netizens have been flooding socmed with comments about the chemistry between Rowoon and Jo Bo Ah:
“I won’t ever stop admiring and praising all these chummy and lovey-dovey romantic scenes of how rowoon and boah worked together to deliver this naturalness and realness. It’s just amazing.” (@k@kdramatreasure)
“Destined with You was my fave romcom drama this year tbh. It was outright hilarious, it was fluffy, it was angsty and rowoon and boah’s chemistry was amazing.” (@ririndrama)
“The writer and director came up with so many creative ways for them to kiss I was swooning so badly.” (Janelle @markleebestie)