BY Adrienne Stanley | Jan 12, 2016 02:38 PM EST
"Cheese in the Trap" is an enthralling Korean drama, in part because it is a refreshing tale based on a popular webtoon, but largely due to the brilliantly nuanced interactions of its stars, Kim Go Eun and Park Hae Jin.
Kim Go Eun portrays Hong Seol, the tenacious heroine whose skepticism about her own beauty fuels her bewildering encounters with her perceived adversary-turned-boyfriend, Yoo Jung (Park Hae Jin).
While many K-Dramas rely on women who fall hopelessly in love with a doting and wealthy heir, Seol questions Jung and his motivations, assuming that he wants to seek revenge for her assumption that he was responsible for changing her course schedule.
Seol did not enroll in college to meet a wealthy husband, but to obtain a better life than she was born into, evoking the self-improvement themes of recent dramas like "Oh My Venus."
She defies the stereotype of the K-Drama Cinderella or the archetype of the Candy Girl, a character that affectionately references heroine of the 1975 Kyoko Mizuki manga that was repeatedly evoked by Gong Hyo Jin in "Master's Sun."
Their dynamic is startlingly realistic, in the same vein as the cringeworthy, "push and pull" relationship of Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol) and Duk Sun (Hyeri) on "Reply 1988," but much easier to watch.
Like Jung Hwan, Yoo Jung is an intelligent and popular student, who hopelessly watches as the object of his affection falters.
However, he is willing to shed his veneer as a brooding academic, to step up as a black knight savior for Seol, when she is almost unwittingly seduced by a classmate in a moment of drunken inhibition.
Romance is sparked by his interference and repeated attempts to appeal to her, followed by his indifference, but Seol has few moments where she is a damsel-in-distress, as the drama maintains the personality she established in the web comic.
"Reply 1988" is swiftly approaching its conclusion, but "Cheese in the Trap" will likely emerge as the next top romantic series on tvN.
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