A Difficult Goodbye: Secret Love Affair Series Review

I am going to miss this one. JTBC’s Monday / Tuesday noona romance-melo-awesomeness Secret Love Affair aired its final episode this past week and I am going to need some recovery time. If it is not already apparent, I really enjoyed this drama. I really, really, really liked it. Maybe I loved it. Sigh. Which is why I am rambling. Imagine when I get to the actual review. Insert random picture of Yoo Ah In:

Yoo ah IN 1

For a look at the series halfway through check out this post.

Warning- Series spoilers ahead!

The Good

The leads

Yoo Ah In as Lee Sun Jae and Kim Hee Ae as Oh Hye Won nailed it. I believed in the story they were trying to tell and I fell in love with their characters. While Sun Jae and Hye Won were engaging in less than…um…morally upright behavior they were able to make me give a damn about them, which is an amazing feat. Both actors played a big part in humanizing the otherwise socially unacceptable subject of an extra-marital affair, and for that I applaud them. While they did not make me come out of the show thinking that having an affair is in any way “right” (which in the end I do not think was the message of the drama to begin with) I felt like I was able to understand how their characters came to that place and time in their lives. Which, if portrayed by a lesser set of actors, could have been a complete s***show, pardon my asterisked French.

Secret Love Affair 3

It also didn’t hurt that they had amazing chemistry. This is the first drama I have watched with that big of an age gap between the leads, yet it did not freak me out one bit. Okay, maybe at first but I was over it as soon as I watched Hye Won fall in love with Sun Jae over music. By the end of the series I was rooting for them to be together, love affair be damned.

The word of the day drama

Deep. Yep, I am going there. To me this drama was deep. It was mature and it was deep. The plot was deep, the aura of each scene was deep. The ending (god bless the ending) was deep. It was just….deep (quick- drink every time I write deep, you will be drunk before this review is over). Secret Love Affair is the type of story that begs for viewers to analyze and dissect the deeper meaning (or meanings) behind the entire story, individual scenes, and character motivations. Seriously, it was hard to watch this show and not find subconscious meaning as the scenes unfolded. When you have such strongly written lead characters you can’t help but try to understand them, and when the show consistently delivers on their character growth in a tantalizing way you can’t help but try to keep up with their evolution and the truth behind it.


One scene comes to mind when I associate the word “deep” with this show, and that is the moving few minutes when Hye Won and Sun Jae listened to Billy Jeol’s Piano Man- all of it. Yep, there was a scene that consisted of two character’s listening to a song. And they just sat there. But it was so much more. Which says something, because if another drama had done this I would have yawned, checked my phone, picked up my Rubik’s cube, looked out the window a couple of times (can you tell I am easily distracted) and then sat back down. But this scene had me nearly in tears, eyes glued to the screen. It was….drumroll please….deep.

On a side note- The direction (An Pan Seok) and the writing (Jung Sung Joo) deserve a standing ovation, because in the end they drove the “deep”. Kudos to both of you, I will be paying attention to your future work without a doubt.

The Bad

Supporting characters: growth needed

Okay, this point may be unpopular but I felt like the supporting cast had zero character growth. Zilch. They pretty much acted the same way from the start of the program to the finish (well, maybe Da Mi is an exception). While our leads loved and learned, the rest of the cast plodded along committing their scheming acts and making their desperate decisions. I would have liked to have seen at least one other character show some growth, but they didn’t. At least that was my perception. I am going to assume jail time will shove a few of them towards some life lessons, but I would have liked to have seen a little bit of maturity picked up in the lead up to prosecution. But hey, maybe that was the point. Hye Won and Sun Jae exist in a world where no one else changes but them. Do you see how I am trying to make a bad point a good one? See, I am digging deeper again. Aish…. I love this show too much.

So what did you think? Loved it, hated it? Let me know – we can always agree to disagree. Cheers.


5 thoughts on “A Difficult Goodbye: Secret Love Affair Series Review

  1. I liked it but didn’t love it. I was expecting something completely different when I first started watching it; I didn’t realise it was going to be so dark (visually) and understated. I have to admit, I’m not great with slow scenes. The scene where they were listening to that Billy Joel scene? They listened to the ENTIRE song! They could’ve shown what they needed to show in half that time. To me, it’s just a waste of space. That said, I did appreciate the camera work and the actors in some of those scenes where they filmed without cutting. There was one scene in ep 15 where they were walking down the street, it went for about 3 minutes and was filmed in one shot. Good job, all involved in that.

    Sometimes I felt like I had no idea what was happening (i still don’t get the point of the guy at the School who told Joon Hyung to sue Hye Won; what did he even do in this show?), and I really didn’t care all that much for the political machinations that were going on. I was pretty much just watching the show for Seon Jae and Hye Won’s relationship. You’re right, in that no one changed at all. I don’t think they were supposed to; they just needed to be caught with their crimes, which hopefully they were, although we never found out what happened to the Chairwoman and Chairman.

    It ended in a way you’d expect it to; it fit with the rest of the show. We can assume that they ended up together again once Hye Won was released from jail but personally, I hope Seon Jae finds a whole new life elsewhere away from her and her baggage. And yes, she’s trying to get rid of her old life by going to jail but that’s not something she can just will away. There would still be a lot of obstacles for them to face, and Seon Jae is too young to have to deal with that. I want him to see the world, see what he can become, and leave her behind.

    And I guess that sounds stupid if the reason for me watching the show was for their relationship, ha ha, and I really loved them together, but logically, Seon Jae would have a better life without her.

    • Great points! I still don’t really know what that guy who suggested a lawsuits point was…but overall I really enjoyed this drama (long scenes and all). I usually can’t sit through long scenes because I get bored easily, I never seemed to have that problem with SLA. I don’t know if it is because I just became so invested in the main characters or because of that “deep” word that kept me analyzing each interaction. Whatever it was I liked it.

      The ending did seem to indicate that Hye Won and Sun Jae would end up together post- prison. I completely agree that logically Sun Jae would have a better life without her. But alas, the character’s did not really follow logic or what was best for them in this story(heck- the entire affair was a really hard thing to get behind. I loathe those who cheat no matter the circumstance).

      Thanks for sharing your point of view on the show, you made some great points!

    • Maybe it is just me, but, I watch this show thinking even if the story is a bit dark and serious I will feel engaged. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Although, I like realistic films or movies I would also like it be not tedious. The actors are great but I found the entire series tedious. I tried watching it up to its 10 episodes and just skip to the ending but even in the final episode I have to fast forward it because it is simply too slow pace for me that I got bored and tired. I just ended up going to the real end to see what was the final destination of the characters after their journey and even at that it was open for interpretation…maybe really too deep for me that I am glad I skipped watching all of the episodes and glad I knew the ending.

  2. I just watching the end of the series recently and I’m still soaking it in and mulling it over. But I totally agree with your point about the supporting characters, and I was particularly disappointed that Young Woo didn’t go anywhere, since I thought her and Hye Won’s relationship was so fascinating.

    And that Billy Joel scene! I know what you mean, coz I cringed (Billy Joel..blearrrgh) while simultaneously SOBBING MY DAMN EYES OUT and thinking what the heck has this show DONE TO ME AND MY LIFE. And that came at a point where I had somewhat became detached frm the show too. So I was like WTF is going on? Am I PMS-ing?!

    I read this excoriating review by someone who had nothing good to say bout the show, like ZERO. Which is hilarious, but also somehow not surprising. It’s a show where you either think it’s amazing or you don’t get what the fuss is about.

Ramble On...

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