The Korean BL A Shoulder to Cry On is everything its title promises.
It’s a true shoulder to cry on.
Having yet to read the manhwa (Sonyeoneul Wilohaejwo by Dong Mul) from which the series is adapted, I went into it with few expectations. I came out of it needing to hug the people closest to me.
Starring Omega X members Kim Jae Han and Shin Ye Chan, it tells the enemies-to-lovers story of a scholarship archery student, Lee Da Yeol, who is wrongly accused of fooling around with another student, his accuser, the popular Jo Tae Hyun. Thus begins a push-and-pull relationship that unfolds in unexpected ways.
In my initial review of this series, I talked a lot about how off-putting the first two episodes are, which was echoed in the viewer’s response online. It was awkward. It was frustrating. And yet, there was an interesting thread of ‘something’ that made it impossible to look away from, an underlying current of emotion that reached through the screen and said, “Just wait.”
And I was broken. I was healed. I was satisfied.
Although this is billed as a hate-to-love story, this trope doesn’t stand out with A Shoulder to Cry On. Instead, it’s a hurt/comfort love story about two boys who must face themselves to love each other.
Da Yeol and Tae Hyun’s story unfolds episode by episode, like a stack of blocks representing a specific emotion. Each episodic sentiment is stacked neatly on the other, building towards darker truths, secrets, and feelings that are exposed slowly. Each new block makes it inevitably clear why the episode before it made the viewer feel a certain way. The first episode is supposed to be off-putting, relaying the awkwardness of the relationship Da Yeol and Tae Hyun initially have. Episode two introduces a thread of curiosity and sympathy. Episodes three and four dive into darkness, revealing the emotional abyss Tae Hyun, in particular, exists in.
A Shoulder to Cry On is a big story about losing oneself to the darkness of depression and the fight to free yourself from it when you’ve become comfortable with the numbness, especially when you’ve found security in blaming yourself, as Tae Hyun has. And it’s a story about finding a thread of hope and comfort in an unexpected place. For Tae Hyun, that’s archery athlete Da Yeol. Da Yeol may not be the most open character, but his not being good with others is what makes him so good with Tae Hyun. We don’t always need people who say the right things in our lives. Sometimes we need people to say the hard words first, followed by the perfect ones. That’s what these two give each other–insight into the darkness within that’s searching for the light to break free. Even if that means facing pain and hurting worse first.
And that’s where one of the most interesting dynamics of this series lies. At first, it’s easy to assume that Da Yeol is the character with the most emotional issues. Unlike the outgoing class president, Tae Hyun, Da Yeol is an introverted, socially awkward character with few friends. He spends more time talking to himself than to those around him. But, in actuality, the true darkness lies in Tae Hyun. An orphan who tragically lost his adopted mother, Tae Hyun has spent years neglected by his father and targeted by his aunt who blames him for her sister’s death to assuage her own guilty feelings.
Neglect creates a wall that is difficult to break. It’s hard to let yourself love someone or admit you can love someone when you think you don’t deserve it. It’s a wall that Tae Hyun has built around himself. It’s a wall that Da Yeol manages to crack.
Unfortunately, loving someone with emotional issues and depression is difficult. For Da Yeol, it’s even more complicated because he’s also facing himself, his sexuality, and what he wants from life. While Tae Hyun finds forgiveness in Da Yeol, Da Yeol finds himself. He not only realizes he has feelings for Tae Hyun, he faces the fact that his life goals aren’t what he thought they were. His fear of failure has pushed him to succeed in something he isn’t truly happy doing. Tae Hyun opens Da Yeol’s eyes to this.
Depression and uncertainty are both dark places to find oneself in. The dark is terrifying. It’s difficult to see past, but just like how the eyes start to adjust the longer a person stares into the darkness, those who stand in the dark find it easier to recognize each other. There’s hope in that.
It’s in this darkness that Tae Hyun and Da Yeol find each other. It’s there that they pull each other free of it.
There’s ups and downs in the process. Pain. Heartbreak. Time passes. They mature.
But, in the end, what makes this story powerful is that they don’t abandon each other.
Tae Hyun saw a light in Da Yeol. He reached for it. He almost lost it out of fear. But then he grasped onto it again.
They became each other’s shoulders to cry on.
For a drama about overcoming trauma and falling in love with the person you find comfort in, check out A Shoulder to Cry On now on Viki.
Rating- 4 out of 5
2 thoughts on ““A Shoulder to Cry On” Series Review (Ep. 3 to 7)”
Has this writer seen the last episode (# 7 – which according to most people is the finale even though there is still 2 more episodes according to MyDramaList)? After investing in watching this supposedly BL series, it was good until the 1st time jumped at the end of episode 6. When the last episode aired, there was another time lapse and also another one at the end. Why would the writers or producers decide to squish a whole 3 years in the final episode. They could have made a season 2. Also, after 6 years of Da Yeol and Tae Hyun knowing each together, they only end with a kiss on the earlobe. 😠 They still had issues of intimacy in any form until the end. This series should be reclassified as a Bromance and not a BL.
Also, they should never cast any still active K-Pop Idols from the same singing group, as main leads of a BL series, because if they are not allowed to go even for a brief peck or kiss, it is an insult to BL fans everywhere.
Through the first 5 episodes- this is a contender for BL of the year- for those that like a little darkness that is- time skips must be carefully done and there was not need- but I know this is a Kdrama staple.
Big thumbs up for actors and their coaches as I felt they did a good job portraying some complicated people. Particularly the actor playing the bully- he shifted many times.
In this case, ending at ep 6 would have been a good idea. Instead it is the usual issue of – ok now we’re a couple- now what? The script, director and actors have no answer- it joins the awkwardness of Thai series Sotus and 2gether- better to show things in clever way such as Cherry Magic if afraid to show actual desire and intimacy between two people who have been yearning for years…..
I would still give this 4/5.