Twenty Five Twenty One: Twenty Five Twenty One
April 3, 2022 7:31 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

In a time when dreams seem out of reach, a teen fencer pursues big ambitions and meets a hardworking young man who seeks to rebuild his life.

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FIRST IMPRESSION REVIEW: 10 Reasons To Watch “Twenty Five Twenty One” Starring Kim Tae Ri And Nam Joo Hyuk -- "“I’m just 18, too young to lose anything,” or so she thought. Na Hee Do (portrayed by Kim Tae Ri) is a high school athlete who’s part of the fencing club—she’s young and hopeful—but suddenly gets stripped off her dream when the IMF crisis in Korea mandated several schools’ sports clubs to close down due to the country’s financial situation. In an attempt to join another school’s fencing club, Na Hee Do plans different (not-so-good) ways to get expelled and be forced to transfer. In the middle of it all, she meets Baek Yi Jin, a 22-year-old part-timer whose family lost everything, forcing him to fend for himself and not be a burden to his parents. Here’s a take on the first episode, with 10 reasons why you should start watching the series on Netflix."
posted by oh yeah! (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think the series could have done without the framing device of present-day Na Hee Do's daughter reading her diaries - every time the show cut to the present I just wanted them to get back to the real story. And I don't know about the 5-year age gap between Na Hee Do & Baek Yi Jin - I think I liked the intense-friendship part of their relationship more than the idea of them as an actual couple. They did develop it slowly enough for me to get used to the idea, I guess, but, still.

But I really enjoyed Kim Tai Ri as Na Hee Do -- she was so scrappy and intense, I loved the way the character was always all-in on whatever she devoted herself to. (Which is probably another reason the framing device didn't work - how am I supposed to care about boring adult Na Hee Do in comparison to the young fireball?) The bond/rivalry between her and Ko Yu Rim was something special.

I don't think the show stuck the landing. As finales go, it's not the worst, but, it just fell flat somewhere. Probably the fault of the framing device.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:28 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Up until, and including most of, the last episode, I thought this drama was beautifully written and acted. I love emotionally cathartic scenes and this show did that so well. Early on it was clear that the two leads wouldn't end up together and that Na Hee Do’s daughter was not related to Baek Yi Jin. I was satisfied with their friends to lovers story (even if they were only lovers for 1 year out of their 4 year relationship), and I was super happy with the friendship between Hee Do and her rival Ko Yu Rim. But I feel like the writers dropped the ball in showing what happened after Hee Do’s retirement from fencing to present day. Hee Do broke up with Yi Jin, at least in part, because she grew up alone and could see that she would also be alone with Yi Jin, yet she married someone who frequently travels and was absent throughout the show. In the end, Hee Do was still alone – her husband and daughter hadn’t returned home and there was no reference to the whereabouts of any friends, including Yu Rim. Hee Do completely gave up on fencing after winning many gold medals and being a National star, unlike Yu Rim who was running a flourishing fencing academy. The writers could easily have shown Hee Do partnering up with Yu Rim. Instead, I felt like they intentionally portrayed adult Hee Do as alone and, as oh yeah put it, boring. Yi Jin isn’t shown in present day except a quick shot over the shoulder to let us know Hee Do is still his computer login security question, so did he never move on? I felt like we’re meant to conclude that breaking up with your first love will result in a life that lacks passion and the possibility of future love. That’s too bad, because if it wasn’t for the ending, I would strongly recommend this show.

Regarding the diary device – in this show, I found it a little weird because learning about her mother’s first love seemed like an act of sabotage against her father. That might have been okay (?) if the writers had made it clear that the marriage was over and her mother was shown reconnecting with 45 year old Yi Jin (or, as the internet was speculating, with Gong Yoo) – or if the father had returned home and we (and the daughter) were allowed to see that they had a happy and loving relationship.

Today I read this analysis of the show and why the ending has so many kdrama fans feeling bereft.
posted by kbar1 at 2:42 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Early on it was clear that the two leads wouldn't end up together and that Na Hee Do’s daughter was not related to Baek Yi Jin.

Yeah - at some point I started to wonder if they were going to give him a tragic early death, but, that seemed like something Hee Do's daughter would have known already or found on the internet, so I wasn't super worried about it. And I agree about the absentee father being a flaw of the show -- it felt like they were setting up a 'Reply 1997'-like "who's the husband?" mystery at first, but then he just stayed anonymously off-screen. It reminded me of watching the 'True Blood' finale where Sookie just ends up Married-to-Some-Guy-Who-Isn't-Bill-Or-Any-Other-Former-Love-Interest.
posted by oh yeah! at 3:47 PM on April 5, 2022

Thanks so much for posting this! I've been trying to digest the ending for the last 3+ days and even though I still have my issues with the execution, I think I understand the director and writers' intentions better now. These perspectives really helped me: 1, 2

My major problem is still the multiple disconnects between the intention of the creators (I think the 2 linked pieces hit the bullseye) and the reception/perception of the audience, which I felt wasn't handled well enough by the writer, production and publicity, and resulted in the collective trauma/whiplash.

Expectation setting: the hyping of the romance & baby daddy mystery to increase ratings was in direct conflict with the writer's intention was to paint melancholic and beautiful memory of first love, transience of youth etc. I wish they had been more forthright about it from the start - for instance I loved the twist in Light in Your Eyes, Red Sleeve and other "tragic" endings. I think the script tried to a certain extent but I'm pretty sure they also kept key details ambiguous purposefully (Heedo's invisible husband, her shop name 2521 etc.) - probably a bad habit from the Reply series. The production only realised they messed up at Ep 14 when fans reacted really badly to the 2009 interview ("congrats on your marriage") and had to put out a statement about the main couple breaking up, but by then the fan theories were already totally out of control. I think this was handled extremely badly by TvN and they kind of deserved the backlash. The lead's stratospheric chemistry probably added to the problem.

Modern day framing: I recognise the necessity of this given the 2521 song, i.e. how the whole drama is essentially about reminiscing of the brilliant impermanence of youth, but the modern scenes were badly done. They filmed all of those in the beginning and you can really tell. Agree that there was zero continuity between younger and older Heedo. Maybe if the older actress had a chance to study Kim Taeri's interpretation of the character? Or they cast a better actress...?

But I feel like the writers dropped the ball in showing what happened after Hee Do’s retirement from fencing to present day.

100% agree - the whole drama's pacing was off. Wish they had more slowly and deliberately sprinkled scenes about the cracks in the romantic relationship and their incompatibility and started it earlier than Ep 15. The ending (2009-2021) was super rushed and there was no emotional closure and/or character growth after that traumatic breakup, which was what most of the reasoned critique I've read (not the "happy ending at all costs!1!1" crew) complained about, not necessary that they broke up. I guess you can argue that wasn't the story they wanted to tell? But when you incur a 'debt' (traumatic breakup) with the viewers you arguably need to pay it off by giving some closure (Heedo and Yijin's growth and future happiness apart).

I feel the pacing problem is connected to the writer trying to convey too many different things (fencing rival arc, Seungwan's arc, arc about quitting fencing, second couple, Yurim's family...) and thus skimped on the main couple in the latter half. There were so many messages (all worthy ones) that the one about their awkward transition from friends-and-soulmates to not being right for each other as lovers was lost in the telling.
posted by monocot at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

This was so good until those last couple of episodes. At the risk of repeating what kbar1 already wrote, yes, it was obvious from early on that Hee Do and Yi Jin weren't going to be a long-term couple. We didn't need several gut-wrenching scenes of them breaking up. The break-up wasn't helped by the bizarre depiction of the 9/11 aftermath, where it was implied that there was chaos in hospitals and mass deaths daily for months after the attack.

It was odd that Hee Do didn't keep up with any of her friends. I don't recall Min-chae showing any indication that she knew them. Hee Do and Yu-rim's friendship was so intense that you would think Min-chae would know her as Auntie Yu-rim.

Not the story the writers wanted to tell but I wish it ended with present day Hee Do and Yi Jin reconnecting and rekindling their platonic friendship (perhaps a dinner scene with Yu-rim and Ji-Woong and Seung-wan and Yi-hyun so we can catch up with everyone) now that they are forty-something adults.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:12 PM on July 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oh, I almost forgot... Shout out to the actor, who was born in Northern Ireland but grew up in Montana, who played the referee. That accent was unique!
posted by plastic_animals at 7:33 AM on July 27, 2022

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