Operation Proposal: Series Review

Ah. Another wonderful drama brought to a satisfying conclusion. Of all the shows I’ve seen this year, Operation Proposal has owned me the most emotionally. I was completely invested in the characters’ journeys and celebrated every small victory with a whoop and a holler (even at three in the morning). The premise could get a little frustrating in its repetition, which is why I feel it’s a series better marathoned than watched in installments as aired. Operation Proposal is light in atmospheric tone but heavy in its thematic weight, which keeps it from being meaningless fluff.

On Episode Sixteen

I’ve been hovering around Dramabeans for the past few weeks, dropping comments on Operation Proposal recaps and being a general lurker and whatnot, and it seems like the general consensus is that the Mortal Consequences were brought on too late in the story. But I absolutely disagree with that. The life and death stakes fit the timeline of the drama perfectly because they occur in the finale. It’s the culmination of the Big Conflict that’s been driving the plot for the show’s entire run, and what better way to end on a bang than to kill off characters?

I mean, really, what can you do to top that emotionally or dramatically? There’s confessions of love, crying tearfully at funerals, touching reunions between father and son. What more can a girl ask for? Operation Proposal is no Padam Padam in which the hero dies every few episodes – there’s only one shot at a killer (snerk) car accident plot line, and it seems absolutely fitting that it was allowed to be the twist that left the series on a cliffhanger into the finale.

Overall, the ending gave me everything I wanted it to. I got my happy ending, and no one had to remain dead for too long. As a plot device, amnesia (as cliche as it is) works really well in finale episodes. In both Operation Proposal and Boys Over Flowers, the trope is used for callbacks to earlier scenes we might have forgotten and scenes that we still smile to remember, making flashbacks both poignant and logical plot-wise. I do think Baek-ho’s memory returned a bit too abruptly (was the heavenly interference really necessary?), but it didn’t leave me feeling as if the whole situation was a total copout. What matters is that the immediate issues were tied neatly into a nice, little bow, and though each character’s future wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter, the writing gave me confidence that they’d all find some way to happiness in the future.

On the Characters

This drama was really a Yoo Seung-ho vehicle, wasn’t it? As fantastic as the secondary cast was, the real star of the show was Yoo Seung-ho from minute one. His acting was powerful and felt absolutely sincere, and he brought the character Baek-ho to life with his charm and rivers of tears. Yes, Baek-ho was flawed, but that made him believable. (Well, if you can believe that a boy as attractive as Baek-ho wouldn’t be scouted as some form of celebrity, that is.) While I found his character completely frustrating in the first half of the series, Baek-ho’s assertiveness in episode ten cemented my love for him. It was at that point that I stopped sympathizing with Yi-seul jumped fully onto the Baek-ho train.

That’s really the problem with this couple, though, isn’t it? You can’t feel like one is a victim without hating the other. As soon as Baek-ho declared his feelings, Yi-seul became unlikeable. She was still spunky and sweet, but her wishy-washiness drove me up a wall. The only saving grace to those long episodes of wanting to tear her hair out was that she admitted her faults and owned up to the fact that she was the one that ruined any chance at their relationship. In the finale, Yi-seul fully realized that she had been the one running away all along (though if she’d listened to my yelling, she’d have known that in episode eleven, but whatever), and finally found the courage to pursue a relationship with the boy she’d loved forever.

And I love that Yi-seul still stuck to her guns though Baek-ho couldn’t remember her and treated her coldly. The montage of her quiet assistance despite his protests almost made everything worth it – all the tears, and the angst, and the running around in plot circles. For once, it was Yi-seul fighting for the love that Baek-ho had been trying to save all season long, and while I wish the revelation would have come a bit sooner, it’s better late than never, I suppose. I appreciate that their story didn’t end in a wedding, because as a couple, they still have a long way to go before they can reach the altar.

As far as the side characters go, I found the quintet of friends really endearing. The bond that they shared felt real and fully fleshed out, and together they meshed as an adorable ensemble. The Jin-joo-Chan-wook storyline was sweet, but didn’t ever get me emotionally in the gut, and I found it odd that Tae-nam’s sudden rise to riches wasn’t ever fully explained. Also, I never found Coach to be a sympathetic character because he was so damn perfect. I was so in love with Baek-ho that I couldn’t even find him attractive. But I adored Chae-ri – her transformation from frivolous heartbreaker to woman of sincere speeches and unattractive boyfriends was perfectly plotted, and it’s definitely Kim Ye-won’s best performance so far.

Another thing the show did well was utilizing the guest characters. Each freshly introduced character had a significant impact upon both the timeline of events and the central characters themselves, and no performance felt like a waste of screen time. Each one of the guest story lines was well plotted and well characterized, making even the cameos really poignant moments. And I love a smart drama that knows how to use every character it creates.

Final Thoughts

Operation Proposal had no scheming chaebols, no cancer, no irrational in-laws – seemingly the only obstacle that stood in the way of the main couple was their own insecurities. But if that were true, it’d make the drama a much less interesting ride. Fate and timing were dead set against Baek-ho and Yi-seul’s romance from the very start, which made their story relatable. Everyone’s thrown their hands in the air and yelled at the sky, “What the hell did I do wrong?” at least once, and the helplessness that Baek-ho feels, though he’s in control of his actions and of his time traveling (more or less), is universal.

I know that not everyone loved Operation Proposal, and maybe it’s not a drama for everyone. It’s not just a love story, it’s a character study on the effects of really shitty timing – the characters give up, lose self-esteem, and wail buckets of tears because fate screwed them over, but ultimately the key to their happy ending was always in their own hands. The show is light, sweet, and fun, and the cast is endearing. The message that the show ends on is profound: as the conductor says, rather than changing mistakes made in the past, it’s more important to have the will to change the present.

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