It’s been a long and frustrating emotional roller coaster for Who Are You: School 2015 fans. If I had reviewed this drama a few weeks ago, I would have given it an almost perfect score. This show had so much potential as the most recent installment of a very successful series. But, as much as I want to give it a 10/10, the flawed writing and last few episodes dragged it down.
Dramakook’s enjoyment: 7/10
Objective score: 8/10
This drama was an immediate hook for me. The twins are played by talented Kim So Hyun. I remember when I first saw So Hyun’s acting; it was in I Hear Your Voice. She played the younger version of the female lead, and her crying scenes immediately caught my attention. She acts so naturally that there’s no doubt she’ll be the next big star in the Hallyu wave. I started this drama because of her, and her character portrayals never disappointed me. I could tell if she was Go Eun Byul or Lee Eun Bi immediately, not only by looking at her makeup and hair style; she became two completely different people (and it helped that the characters themselves were so different too).
I loved the idea of twins. With that, they could show two different lifestyles that students lead: popular/outgoing vs. bullied/quiet. Unlike its predecessor (School 2013), School 2015 (abbreviated S2015 from now on) focused a lot more on the romance. Much of the story was spent sorting things out in the love triangle between Lee Eun Bi, Gong Tae Kwang, and Han Yi An. Maybe a little TOO much time was spent dragging us in circles, leading us on, and making us guess who she would end up with. That was probably its biggest downfall.
As I’ve seen online, most fans favor Gong Tae Kwang over Han Yi An when it comes to shipping with Eun Bi. Why is that? Isn’t Yi An technically the first lead? I don’t agree with the whole first lead, second lead idea. What is the definition of a second male lead? Is it the guy who does not get the girl at the end? Is it the guy that the girl falls in love with second? Is it the guy that gets less screen time? If it’s the last one, then I believe Tae Kwang is the first lead because his story is given much more time and depth than Yi An’s is. Part of the reason that most people like Tae Kwang is because of the acting, which I’ll talk about later, but another huge part of it is because the writers simply developed the character of Tae Kwang more thoroughly and made the ship more believable. What the writers created at first to complete the love triangle, slowly grew and developed into a more interesting, relatable character.
His character arc suddenly became so much more fascinating and compelling to watch. At first, he was just this crazy blondie that had no friends and anger issues. Then we watched him become the poor boy who witnessed his parents’ divorce, the little puppy who fell in love with the real Eun Bi—for herself, not for who she was pretending to be. He was the first one to know her real identity, the first one to call her by her real name, the first person she didn’t have to lie in front of. He was also the guy who was rejected even when Yi An ignored Eun Bi, and that made us furious. We saw him get hurt over and over again and just wished he wouldn’t get hurt even more.
This is where the writers made a huge mistake. Why lead us on until the very end when you’re going to sink the ship anyway? They probably used him just for ratings, dressing him in a suit for the second time and making it seem like there was hope for TaeBi shippers until the last episode.
If they intended to end with YiBi, they should rethink their approach. There was so little development in Yi An and Eun Bi’s relationship. The way they put them together was not believable, with Eun Bi making unrealistic choices. People could not understand how Eun Bi even liked Yi An romantically because half the time he ignored her and treated her terribly. However, with Tae Kwang and Eun Bi, viewers can see how they progressed. Their interactions were much more feasible. If they were to restructure the story and YiBi had to be endgame, they should put more time into developing a more realistic relationship between Yi An and Eun Bi, not baiting us with a ship that would eventually sink (just for ratings). They would’ve been more successful in ratings with building a better, believable OTP. In the end, their little bait had already morphed into a shark that snagged almost everybody’s hearts with it, and it was way too late to get them back.
Besides the convoluted love triangle, there were other conflicts actually involving school, like the Soo In mystery, Kang So Young’s bullying, and Park Min Joon’s family issues. The Soo In mystery placed emphasis on friendship and the bystander problem. Many students see things happen but never say a word, and that word could have saved a life. Kang So Young’s harsh bullying brought to light the extremity that bullying has evolved into and the role family plays in the childrens’ decisions to do what they do. So Young’s motivation and anger to torture Eun Bi came from her parents and their cold attitudes toward her. Children who have no say at home tend to redirect their anger to peers at school. Min Joon’s dilemma also highlighted parents’ importance in a child’s life. His mother lived seeing only his education and success, and that blinded her from giving her son a fulfilling childhood. Only when So Young got a higher score on a test than him did Min Joon realize his serious studying problem. “I went to the library because I realized I don’t have anywhere else to go”- Min Joon confides in Teacher Kim. S2015 also strengthened teachers’ bonds with students.
We can see Teacher Kim and Tae Kwang getting closer throughout the drama. In the beginning, TK toyed with Teacher Kim; he purposely caused a car accident with the teacher, which made the teacher’s debt and insurance situation even worse. But eventually, Tae Kwang went to Teacher Kim with problems of his own, and they became bros that could tell each other anything.
Tae Kwang’s growth as a person also played a major engaging part of the storyline. He started communicating with his mom, finally accepting the reality of the divorce, and even attending his mom’s wedding. I’m really glad he had his happy ending making up with his dad. That was the most heart-warming scene ever. I couldn’t stop smiling when they were eating together. :))))))
The overall storyline was very appealing with the exception of the annoying loops and indecisiveness of the pairings. I will interpret the ending as open ended with all of them remaining good friends. (BECAUSE I CAN)
There were a lot of characters they introduced us to, but only a few students’ stories were delved deeper into.
Lee Eun Bi
I can safely say that the main character was Eun Bi. Almost everything revolved around her. She was harshly bullied in Tongyeong; she became an outcast at school after she stood up for a fellow student who was also bullied by So Young. Eun Bi was an innocent and naive girl at first, not talking back to So Young for fear of being hurt even more. After experiencing such torture, she even resorted to suicide to get away from everything. Fortunately, Eun Byul saved her, and Eun Bi started a new life as the popular girl at school with great friends and two handsome boys after her. When So Young transferred to Sekang High School, Tae Kwang gave Eun Bi the strength to be like Eun Byul and fight off the bully. She learned to stand up for herself and acquire a few qualities from her sister.
We saw Eun Bi grow from a vulnerable little girl to someone who could defend herself when she needed to and someone who could finally live peacefully. In the end, she replaced Eun Byul but didn’t quite become her. She still needed her badass sister to finish off So Young. Apparently, she didn’t mature enough to handle the bully herself…
Go Eun Byul
Eun Byul was very interesting, being the polar opposite of Eun Bi. Eun Byul was never afraid to say what was on her mind, maybe a little too straightforward with her words. She was kind of mean to her friends and seemed like she took Yi An for granted. In the beginning, she was a very mysterious character. She was constantly scared of something, someone following her. She never talked about the problem with anyone and even unleashed her anger on Yi An. It was only until her reappearance in the second half of the drama that the reason for her quietness was revealed: the Jung Soo In incident. After coming back (what was she doing the entire time anyway?), Eun Byul finally realized that she needed to confront the situation and resolve it once and for all.
Eun Byul basically acted like Eun Bi’s guardian angel (or, guardian devil) when she came back. She was so boss when she attacked So Young and protected Eun Bi from all enemies. I think we could just say Eun Byul was this alternate person that Eun Bi turned into in order to fight off So Young because once the bullying situation came to an end, Eun Byul was just tossed off to the side with “studying abroad” as a convenient, yet pitiful plot device. Eun Byul never really existed… it was all Eun Bi. At least, that’s what the writers made it seem like. (And Yi An was just confused over which side of Eun Bi he liked better, but it’s all the same person, so he was actually hospitalized to help his mental illness. I knew there was something wrong with him when he didn’t cry when he found out that Eun Byul “died” and visited her ashes, lol).
HAN YI AN
In this Tae Kwang-biased review, you can imagine talking about Yi An isn’t a very exciting thing. Even the writers seemed to favor Tae Kwang because Yi An doesn’t have much of a story. All we know is his mother died when he was really young, Eun Byul comforted him, he injured his shoulder… is there anything else? Nevertheless, there is some character growth behind this shallow being.
Yi An’s had a long one-sided love– he’s liked Eun Byul since they were children, but she never seemed to care about him as much as he does for her. He made the mistake of not even confessing his feelings for her, so he never got the chance to be in that kind of relationship. When Eun Bi suddenly came along and was so much more approachable than the cold Eun Byul he knew before, he felt like he had a chance to chase after what he wanted. He grew to realize he couldn’t be late in his confession again; Eun Bi was a second chance for him. When he saw Tae Kwang going for her, he realized he needed to take action. So, he stood for what he wanted and grabbed a hold of Eun Bi’s heart, unfortunately for Tae Kwang. Yi An became a guy who wouldn’t give up, which we can see at the end when he keeps swimming with only one arm.
(But I still don’t get how he just tossed aside his 10-year crush on Eun Byul….)
GONG TAE KWANG
Tae Kwang is the real hero of this drama, bringing up the ratings with his awesomeness. He was a complex character that we empathized with and felt emotions with. In the beginning, he couldn’t care less about anything. He did nothing at school, got into fights carelessly, and fought with his dad every time they crossed paths. He had a pretty messed up life. But then Eun Bi showed up, and he became curious about her. She was really nice–unlike the old Eun Byul who didn’t even pay attention to him. She talked with him, the crazy guy with no friends, so he started caring about where she was and what she was doing. Slowly, his interest in her became feelings for her; he started to appreciate life, he started having fun with her.
Because of Eun Bi, Tae Kwang became more human, and he started caring about his own life. He tried to call his mom, and he tried to confront his dad without immediate yelling. He shed the shell of a lonely, problematic boy and grew into a mature boy who confronted the unanswered questions that were facing him the entire time. He softened into the little puppy we cheered for in his scenes with Eun Bi. Regrettably, Eun Bi stayed strong in her love line with Yi An….and rejected him twice. T_T At least Sung Jae became super popular after this because almost everybody supported him. ;D
Kang So Young
Gosh she was so hate-able….which goes to show how extremely awesome Jo Soo Hyang’s acting was!!! But seriously, I wanted to claw her face apart because her I’m-so-much-better-than-you facial expressions were very very irritating.
I’m not sure if she was the main conflict of the story because she also seemed to be thrown out the window in favor of the always infuriating love triangle. The drama started out with a BANG addressing bullying, but then it sorta died out in the middle. So Young was a frustrating character, but her parents were the roots of the problem. Feeling suppressed at home, So Young decided to take out her anger at school, where she felt powerful and controlling. She kept going on until the very end (and I mean the VERY end) where she suddenly felt sorry for everything, and that was it. What?! That’s it? Where’s the punishment? Yeah, that was it. Thanks for a great wrap-up writers. -_- At least you offered some philosophically inspiring ideas about apologizing and being alive and stuff.
Park Min Joon
Min Joon was one of the more major minor characters, if you get what I mean. Although a smaller role, his story was expanded a little, just to keep the problems rolling and the story going (it rhymed, hahahaha). He was the class president and excelled in all his academics–and only academics. His mother strictly watched over his studies and even held illegally-charged tutoring sessions for students who were less intelligent than Min Joon. When “lowly country student” Kang So Young suddenly started doing better than him, he felt pressure from not being the best, for the first time. This experience, along with his mother’s extreme disappointment and scolding, drove Min Joon to sacrifice integrity and tinker with the other students’ computers for a project.
That was the worst choice he could make because the guilt followed him everywhere, and his mother’s constant pressure didn’t help. He was driven to severe anxiety, so he even skipped school for a day. In the end, he found comfort in Teacher Kim who was ever understanding and willing to help. Instead of just studying, Min Joon started experimenting with other fun things like sports and music. It was a happy change for him. 😀
I’ve already touched on Kim So Hyun’s acting–daebak!
But, Yook Sung Jae may just be the next big male star in the acting department. Although he’s an idol (BTOB), he’s got hella acting chops. Throughout S2015, he never lacked in any performance. He showed us sadness, happiness, and anger in a way that made us feel sad, happy, and angry. He outshined Nam Joo Hyuk by many miles, which is another reason for a Tae Kwang-biased drama fanbase.
Nam Joo Hyuk accepted this lead role fresh off of only one supporting role (Surplus Princess). A disadvantage of this was the amateur acting. In the beginning, his face was always the same; he had trouble expressing with his face. However, I will acknowledge that it has gotten better since then. The ending showed much improvement, and I could actually enjoy his scenes a little more. (read: “hate his scenes a little less”)
LEE PIL MO! After being an epic cap in Pinocchio, you’re a really amazing, supportive teacher in S2015. Thanks for being so awkward and adorable!!
And the students of Year 2 Class 3… thanks for reacting to everything hilariously and making things fun!
**Scroll down to the bottom to see my final thoughts!**
[SPOILERS UNTIL END OF HIGHLIGHTS]
So Young’s birthday cake… poor Eun Bi 😦
Class trip! Eun Bi?
Shirtless Nam Joo Hyuk :O
Living a new life 🙂
He used to be a troublemaker…
Memories are back!
“Does my face really look like this?” – Tae Kwang
He used to be a happy child…
“Don’t believe anything I say” – Eun Bi
“I really want to be alone” – Tae Kwang
He’s always there for her
“Can’t I be that person [who calls you by your real name]?” – Tae Kwang
“What are you doing?” “Photosynthesis.” XD
Is she Go Eun Byul or not???
Whoa there O_O
Teacher romance ❤
“You look like this dumpling” – Tae Kwang
Meeting at Tongyeong…
“Hi Lee Eun Bi. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lee Eun Bi or Go Eun Byul. You can be whoever you want in front of me.” – Tae Kwang
Me: *heart breaks into a million pieces*
Crying on Tae Kwang’s shoulder… WHY DON’T YOU SEE, EUN BI?!?
Locked inside the classroom!
He finally went to see his mom :’)
Confession… and rejection. 😦
Eun Byul is back!!!
New hairstyle 😀
Children protect their mother XD
A beautiful, beautiful…. stupid fanservice that lead us on. But I’m not complaining XP
They were almost there…. 😥
Can’t forget the kiss *squeeeealll*
Them chubby cheeks
“This is just the start” – Yi An.
Me: ONE EPISODE LEFT, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
We love you, teacher!
T_T he’s gonna miss his dad
Another hug.. why do you kill me?
Finish her off, once and for all!
Bae Soo Bin, the epically strict new homeroom teacher
T_T x9000. “Just know my heart” – Tae Kwang
Swimming with one arm, gogo
Go Eun Bi!
That smile 🙂
“It’s okay if you’re hurt… because you’re 18 years old.” – Eun Bi
Smiles all around 🙂 🙂 :)))))))))))))
The ending was very warm and feel-good, even though it was very disappointing in terms of writing, character development, and pairings. The last lines spoken by Kim So Hyun were especially inspiring because all of this drama and its shipping war revolved around teenagers, who have so much life ahead of them so anything could happen. I’ll give it to the writers for making the ending pretty impactful, but they’ve got a lot of improvement ahead of them. Over the course of reviewing this drama, I’ve gotten over my sunken ship. So let’s move on and look forward to future dramas from Kim So Hyun and Yook Sung Jae (and maybe Nam Joo Hyuk if he gets better). Let’s learn to get up from this fall, like Eun Bi said. Goodbye School 2015.
TROLOLOL. JUST KIDDING, I’m shipping them now:
How do you feel about the ending? Were you team YiBi or team TaeBi? Share your thoughts below!
(or not, so we can say goodbye to that horrific ending.)
(just kidding, please do comment)