Rowoon trending again: Sheer chemistry

‘She Would Never Know’ works because there is comfort in the predictable

Rowoon and Won Jin Ah in 'She Would Never Know' (Official poster)

IT is the season for courtroom and lawyer dramas. Of late, two such lawyer-driven prime time dramas headlined by A-list actors have been climbing up the ratings charts. Another one has just ended. But, this is not an article on them.

And, before netizens bring up our beloved Attorney Woo—on Netflix Wednesday and Thursday nights—I would say outright this also isn’t about the drama she leads that is now only two episodes away from the finale. (Our favorite lawyer, in a league all her own, will be the subject of another article soon.)

This one also isn’t about another crime procedural or suspense thriller. Yes, dear reader, we are talking romance.

Let us take another look at She Would Never Know that is headlined by the tall, handsome, and squeeable (nakakakilig, in the words of avid local K-Drama fans) Rowoon, and the smart and pretty Won Jin Ah. It first aired in 2021 with the title Sunbae Do Not Put That Lipstick On to lukewarm reception from netizens, but it gained notice and started trending when Netflix picked it up after its regular run and gave it the teaser of a title She Would Never Know (SWNK).

Why the change in audience reception of this rom-com? Does it explore new territory in the realm of love? Or, does it send viewers’ temperatures rising because the amorous assignations (past the second half) of the OTP (one true pairing) seem all too real?

Lovingly lit up frame after frame in their scenes together, Rowoon and Won Jin Ah have such palpable chemistry that even at the start of the drama, the viewer gets the feeling that they will end up together. The two actors are so well matched that even as their affair takes a painful turn, the viewer is hooked and left hoping that their separation will not be permanent. Credit it both to direction and the OTP’s stellar performances.

SWNK does not really present anything new. This love story uses all the tropes (K-drama speak for clichés) in romantic drama’s arsenal. It is set in a cosmetics company where a dashing rookie employee Chae Hyeon Seung (Rowoon) is fascinated by his sunbae Song Ah (Won Jin Ah), and boldly pursues this senior co-worker even as he tries to gain a foothold in the company.

But the age gap is not considerably wide. Hyeon Seung tells Song Ah, “You are not much older than me.” Her matter-of-fact rejoinder: “I am older than you by two years here (at work),” or words to that effect.

The stage is set for 16 episodes of an office romance that teeters between guardedness and persistent overtures

So the stage is set for 16 episodes of an office romance that teeters between guardedness on Song Ah’s part to Hyeon Seung’s persistent overtures in a workplace where secrecy is the norm among dating couples.

In the first few episodes, our rookie accidentally espies an intimate though rushed exchange between his sunbae Song Ah and their team leader Lee Jae Shin. To his chagrin, Hyeon Seung, on a subsequent visit to his sister’s elegant and tres expensive bridal shop, discovers that Jae Shin is there to accompany his fiancée, who had commissioned her wedding dress.

Eventually Song Ah discovers that her boss and erstwhile lover has been two-timing her and is set to marry the sister of the company’s big boss. Working closely with his sunbae and aware of her crushed spirit, Hyeon Seung lends emotional support while working hard to develop marketing strategies for the company’s new products.

As our OTP naturally gravitate towards each other and as they successfully work together, she finds in our rookie a gallant although sometimes annoyingly persistent suitor. Feelings between them escalate and they become lovers.

But, our OTP does not blissfully walk the corridors of love unchallenged. Once their co-workers realize that the two are seeing each other, they give the two a wide berth and are supportive, albeit discreetly.

The challenge to the lovers comes when Song Ah receives an offer to transfer to their office’s newly set-up European branch. It is a promotion, but unknown to her, it is also her two-timing ex-lover’s effort to separate her from Hyeon Seung for his own selfish reasons.

However, Song Ah, now secure in her affair with Hyeon Seung as they also work well together, can’t entirely put aside the offer to go to the new branch in Europe. She decides to accept, leaving behind a devastated Hyeon Seung. This career move would mean being away for five years; she ends their relationship.

The story arc is far from novel, but viewers just keep following the ups and downs

The story arc of this romantic drama is far from novel, and the 16 episodes are loaded with tropes, but viewers just keep following the ups and downs of this relationship (mostly on the part of the loyal and loving Hyeon Seung) that are so painful to watch while the lovers are apart.

But, as if to give solace to the show’s loyal followers, our female lead realizes that she cannot really forget her ardent lover. She decides to return to home office. She comes back to find Hyeon Seung still unattached but wary and very cold towards her.

His sister (a convenient and gentle character thrown in for good measure) gently tells Song Ah that Hyeon Seung was so badly hurt by the breakup, he could be afraid to start again where they left off.

In the end, determined to win back Hyeon Seung, Song Ah pursues the former, this time determined to show him that she missed him and loves him still. She takes up his challenge “to try and win me over if you can.”

By episode 16, it is a wrap.

To be sure, SWNK does have its critics, and one even observed that what “starts with a formulaic slice of romantic drama, where everything else is predictable and a cliché, would have been a lot better if it had only 10 episodes.”

But I hasten to add that She Would Never Know works for us viewers because there is comfort in the predictable. The drama with a very decent cast of supporting actors, glossy production design, and a color palette befitting a high-end cosmetics company, provides just enough relief after a stressful day.

It grows on you as you realize that you’ve been through such similar episodes in your own life, or your best buddy is in the same boat—like a martyr waiting for his undying love to be reciprocated.

We all need romance, especially in these challenging times. An honest-to-goodness romantic comedy with all the tropes thrown in for good measure is what She Would Never Know is all about.

Credit: iQIYI 爱奇艺/YouTube

Read more:

Why Extraordinary Attorney Woo is most talked about today

Twenty-five Twenty-one: The ending that broke our hearts

About author


After saying goodbye to daily deadlines in 2009, WINNIE DOROTHEO VELASQUEZ worked from home editing manuscripts and writing on subjects close to her heart. She discovered the world of K-Drama in the early 2000s. Today, she cooks, does some gardening, and is training Cookie, da mutt-with-the-mostest.

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