Unexpectedly Refreshing—a gem of a drama that you will not regret watching.
This was one special drama. I was totally unprepared for how much this drama touched me. And I am not sure if it was because of the issues it tackled in anger management, paranoia, post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive, or if it was in how Jung Woo (truly a gem of an actor) and Oh Yeon Seo each executed their roles. Either way, it worked and worked brilliantly from the writing to the acting and directing, a pleasant surprise that hooked me from the first three episodes. I found myself quickly both invested and routing for Noh Hwi Oh and Lee Min Kyung to overcome the pain and heartbreak that appeared to be eating at them. I continually felt time stop when I watched this drama, with my rude awakening coming with each episode's abrupt ending (abrupt in my mind's eye). I never wanted the episodes to end.
I wasn't sure what to expect with Mad For Each Other, but before I knew it, I found myself wanting more, much more than the half-hour snippets three times a week. I liked how fluidly everything flowed, graciously balancing the comedic, crazy, and serious moments; light with a somber undertone in how it tells the story of two people scarred by those around them to the extent that they cannot live their daily lives without coming across something that triggers them emotionally or mentally.
There is a lot to like in here, but what I found most pleasing is how both Hwi Oh and Min Kyung recognized they weren't okay, be it emotionally or mentally, and seriously seek out and are committed to getting the help they need to get back to being better versions of their former selves without pouting or trying to lay blame on others for their predicaments. That they both do it at the same doctor's office is what brings on the laughs, craziness, and waterworks, as even the visits to the psychiatrists are marred with those moments that make the viewer laugh, cry, and be memorized by the fragility of it all.
Getting insight into the past traumas that changed Hwi Oh and Min Kyung was quite disheartening, especially Min Kyung's story with her ex-boyfriend Kim Nam Hee turned psycho. Not that Hwi Oh's is any less so, on the contrary. In a way, their situations mirror each other. To be lied to and betrayed by the person (s) you trust the most, and not only that, to be threatened and used for that love is not an overcome if even one can overcome something like that at all.
In that sense, Min Kyung's paranoia and traumatic disorders become even more understandable as one get's a glimpse into what made her a fragile person. But so does Hwi Oh's inability to control his anger for being so easily slighted, accused, and shunned by the colleagues he swore an oath to protect and lay his life down for, family members and friends could do more than trigger anger. One can't help but empathize and rally behind them. I loved how expressive they all were and so in tune but more so that they were not too ashamed to admit their mistakes and take action when needed most.
But as much as I loved Hwi Oh and Min Kyung's bickering, fights, distrust, and even distress at each other when they first met, I couldn't help but love how those fights and distresses enabled them to see each other's truths but even better see each other's truths in each other. And before they even knew it, they were not only rooting for each other but deeply caring for one other on their road to recovery as the anger became laughter, and the fear and dark sunglasses became trust and rosy. And, boy, do they have chemistry; the moment they finally get together is golden; I love how tender, and protective Hwi Oh gets of Min Kyung. But recovery is a journey; it's not a straight, steady road. This was undoubtedly my favorite moment of the drama, taking the time to show us, the viewers, how fragile recovery is to those afflicted by mental and emotional issues. That there will always be ups and downs, discoveries, and setbacks.
And in the case of Hiwi and Ming Kyung, it's the fragility of their trust in each other that quickly crumbled just as quickly as it was developed at the resurfacing of ex-partners. On second thought, it's not even the ex-partners but the painful memories and helplessness it drudged up. Luckily, despite the halting progress and discouragements, they can look back and see that those painful memories are just pieces of their lives and draw new strength from them rather than have them be stumbling blocks.
I admire the matter-of-fact tone the drama takes to raise awareness and push acceptance of social taboos in Samantha's (Ahn Woo Yeon) or an extramarital affair, physical and sexual abuse, and assault. But what's even more admirable is how everybody from the part-time clerk (Lee Soo Hyun) to Hwi Oh, Min Kyung, the apartment association ladies (Baek Ji Won, Lee Hye Eun, Lee Yeon Du), handle and process these taboos. Despite their initial shock or even disapproval, they're quickly able to work through whatever misgiving they have to acknowledge; just because some people are different, it doesn’t mean they are inferior. And I think it's because they realized the crippling effect of fear and pain, which gave them the capacity to be compassionate, loving, and understanding. That's the thing about pain; it brings people closer because one cannot really understand how people feel unless they've experienced the same or equivalent kind of pain themselves.
There are many reasons why I loved this drama. Still, the biggest is the ease with which it articulates the overwhelmingness of mental and emotional health illnesses and the pain of being ostracized by society. And I cherish the messages it left me with. The journey to full recovery takes time, and no matter how steep the road, maybe there is an end to it if one stays the course; recovery includes getting better and achieving a full and satisfying life. And that people are often judged because of their differences. The reality is that people will always be different from one another; this doesn’t mean those who are different are “wrong”; on the contrary, it's those differences that make the world far more interesting— a gem of a drama that you will not regret watching. Watch all episodes here.