I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Cheese in the Trap. I didn’t think the plot and characters would be deep enough for me to really like the show, but I was wrong. To me, college life and love doesn’t sound all that riveting but that was actually part of its appeal. It was an uncomplicated yet still interesting 16 hours. The simple college-age students weren’t that simple after all and I’m pretty sure that’s why I became hooked.
These kids, in their early twenties, have so much to contend with. Our hearts go out to them as we watch them battle the stress of small bank accounts, part time jobs, other students helping to make or break their grade, plans for the future, old and new friendships, teachers and their “what I say goes” attitude, belonging to a family unit, budding first love/romance… The list goes on and on. Theses are people who are caught between the life of a teenager and that of an older, established adult. Not a comfortable place to be.
I can’t really tell you about the plot because I don’t see this Kdrama as really having one. How can I explain this? We watch characters, not a story. The writer just took the everyday college life of individual people and meshed them together. It’s a very even keel, naturally progressing story. Characters are there because they just are. It’s kind of like the writer thought up these people and left them to decide, on their own, what happens. Not a single part of it seems far fetched. It honestly felt like I was watching the lives of real people unfold.
I can’t really explain a non-existent plot but I can tell you about the people…
Hong Seol is a hardworking student who doesn’t like to rock the boat. It’s not that she allows people to take advantage of her as much as it’s just not worth it to her to argue. Although she’s a business major in her third year of college she still doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. Her parents own a noodle shop and her younger brother is taking a break from school abroad. She also has two close friends from high school who always have her back.
Handsome and wealthy Yoo Jung is also a business major but he’s in his last year of college and interning at his father’s extremely large company. He’s a fairly quiet young man. Instead of talking he prefers to do things in secret and that too often backfires on him. He’s very insecure and feels like the people around him only want to be friends for what they can get out of him. Hidden behind his dazzling smile is a dark side very few people know about. He has a sneaky way of displaying anger and aggression. Yoo Jung wants to get even with people he feels have wrong him, or his loved ones, but he doesn’t want to take the blame for their pain. He cleverly sets things up so it looks like his revenge is just a natural consequence of that person’s actions and that way he doesn’t have to feel bad about anything. But the writer gives the audience hope when Yoo Jung realizes he tramples on people’s hearts and decides to try and fix that part of himself he doesn’t like.
Baek In-Jo had a very promising future ahead of him as a pianist until his hand was severely injured, along with his heart. After being abused as children, he and his older sister, In-Ha, were raised in Yoo Jung’s house as part of the family. In-Ho and Yoo Jung were very close growing up but as young adults there’s a lot of hurt and anger between them. Both feel wronged by the other and the pain of betrayal seems to be too much for either one of them to fix.
Baek In-Ha has had the attitude of entitlement since she was a little kid. The worst thing that happened to her was going to live as a part of Yoo Jung’s immensely wealthy family. Because she was spoiled, she grew up to be a horribly selfish woman, out to get every single good thing life has to offer handed to her on a silver platter. When things don’t go her way, she throws a fit, her temper tantrum mimicking that of a five year old’s. Pretty much, the only thing on her mind is me, me, me!
Yoo Jung is played by Park Hae-Jin. I saw him in My Love From the Star but remember him best from his role as the scheming Doctor Han in Doctor Stranger. He was so serious in that drama, very seldom cracking even a wry grin. I’m so glad we get to see his twinkling smile in this.
Kim Go-Eun has only acted in feature films up until now, Hong Seol being her first Kdrama role. She turned down the role of Han Seol at first because of scheduling issues but the director adjusted the shooting schedule just so she would accept, and she agreed to do it.
Baek In-Ho seemed so familiar to me but I couldn’t remember where I had seen him. Then, I searched for things Seo Kang-Joon had been in and was surprised that I had seen so many, five to be exact. I think he is perfectly cast in this. He also did a fair job “playing” the piano. I don’t think he really played everything it showed him playing but now and then it looked authentic.
Lee Sung-Kyung’s first Kdrama role was that of Oh So-Nyeo in It’s Okay, That’s Love, which is on my top five favorite Kdramas list. I think she does an amazing job playing the beautiful, materialistic Baek In-Ha in this show. Her voice and facial expressions nailed that spoiled brat attitude.
This story is told in the style of a comic in that we’re able to hear the internal dialogue, like reading a big thought bubble over the head of a character in a comic. The opening credits are drawn with panels, like a page in a comic book, and then quickly change to real shots of the actors. Quite clever. They didn’t just take the idea of the webcomic and use it to film a Kdrama, they actually turned the comic into a show.
Cheese in the Trap is responsible for bringing us a new genre of Kdramas. It’s being called a “romance thriller”. Personally, it doesn’t fit my idea of a “thriller” but I can kind of see where some people may get that feeling. Never knowing when Yoo Jung’s dark side is going to pop up keeps us alert and second guessing him once we discover that part of his personality. And watching it surface is a bit unsettling at times, but I wouldn’t classify the show as a thriller.
As I previously mentioned, Cheese in the Trap is 16 episodes long with a 17th thrown in showing “the making of” and some behind the scenes stuff. Just a little extra fun.
This drama has a very large soundtrack. Most of the songs sound like what college age students would listen to. The instrumental scores, romantic ballads, and up-tempo songs are quite decent and lend themselves, perfectly, to what it might sound like if college life had background music.
The main setting of the show is the college the kids go to. It’s a nice school with a beautiful campus. We also get to see the huge contrast between Yoo Jung’s large, expensive apartment and the tiny, run-down one Hong Seol lives in. An overwhelming amount of this drama is filmed at night. I’m not sure why that is. Could it be that there’s lots of night scenes in the comic? (I don’t know. I haven’t read it.) Maybe the fact that it wasn’t summer made the days shorter with less daylight hours to film in. There are so many outside night scenes, it was impossible to not notice all of them.
Soon Ggi is the author of the Cheese in the Trap webcomic. He and Kim Nam-Hee (who wrote the tear-jerker Kdrama Stairway to Heaven) teamed up to create the screenplay for the drama. Since the webcomic was still going strong when the last episode of the show aired, the ending of the drama isn’t really an ending. Instead of a period the show sort of has a “…” feel to it. We get to decided what happens. However, maybe if the webcomic continues, a couple years from now we’ll get a Cheese in the Trap part 2 Kdrama allowing us to see if what we thought would happen really transpired after all. I’d watch it.
Characters who seem very real
The story is so natural it makes you feel like there’s no writer
Allows for a sequel
Way too many night time shots