I was ready to give Love in Spring a solid 4 out of 5 while I was watching the 10th episode.
I’ve come across a lot of shows with a cross-dressing premise (with usually the female lead presenting as masculine, but there are different variants too) where the protagonists, after homosocial interactions and maybe a bit of gay panic, end up in heterosexual relationships. I was not a big fan of the queerbaiting that formed a big part of these plotlines, which is why I had been excited for Love in Spring. After all, this would subvert the cross-dressing trope to give us a same sex relationship (with an engaging action-filled side plot), right? Not quite so.
As I write this, I am filled with frustration at the failed promise. Everything in the initial episodes was leading up to a happy ending for the protagonists, Hye Seong and Geum Seong. You could tell Geum Seong was in love with Hye Seong, and the latter too seemed to be catching feelings despite him knowing the marriage was just a façade to hide himself from Seo Yoon, his former master.
The side plot has a political backdrop, and is heavily connected to Hye Seong’s past that he can’t remember. While I don’t want to give too many spoilers about it, suffice to say it rarely gets brought up, save for in one or two scenes per episode, before the halfway point. After that, it seemed like Love in Spring became a different show entirely. What was initially about the budding relationship between a couple mired with deception by one of them, became an almost solely political drama, while the relationship itself was pushed aside. Even then, the action bits themselves were resolved almost too quickly, as if subplots were introduced and conflicts created only for them to be cleared up in the next scene or episode.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that it felt like two different shows with two completely different plotlines were smashed together to form an incoherent whole. The culmination of the final episode felt so unsatisfying I was almost sure there was something more to it, and it had just been me who had somehow missed out on the “actual” ending. Sadly however, reading other reviews of the show proved that I wasn’t wrong, and that was really how it ended.
I am not always against an open or ambiguous ending. When done right, it provides a feeling of yearning to the viewer, and gives them a chance to conjure up their own hypothetical endings, which is a fun part of being in fandom. When not done right, as I unfortunately have to say about Love in Spring, it leaves the viewers confused more than anything. The cherry on top of the frustrating cake was how badly the relationship between Hye Seong and Geum Seong reached its conclusion.
I had had a suspicious feeling we would not get an overtly happy ending between the two, even before the last episode. They had been shifting from a romantic relationship to a bromance, to something that could not even be called that (an alliance with common goals perhaps?), so I knew to brace myself for the eventual ending, which was still somehow more disappointing than I had predicted.
Had this show come out 5 years earlier, before the boom in Asian BL series, it might have been a revelation. Back then, we were not used to same sex relationships, and any interaction that was loosely queer seemed like a gift. However, Love in Spring did not come out 5 years ago. It came out now, when we have already seen depictions of bad, average, good, and great queer relationships, including Korean ones. In an atmosphere where we are used to, and expect shows to deliver decent plots along with decent relationships, Love in Spring takes a tired approach.
Rating: 2.75 out of 5