K-Drama Premiere: “At Eighteen” Evokes Nostalgia And Presents Different Struggles Youths Are Going Through
It is the age when adults say you are too young to do this and that but should be old enough to make decisions of your own.
At Eighteen takes viewers back to the time when we begin to view the world in a different light. Gone are the days when we have no cares and worries but now start to wonder what the future would be like. Sure there are people and places that remain, but situations are slowly starting to change. This school drama has a good mix of reality and nostalgic feels.
Pilot Week Rating:
At Eighteen Pilot Week Recap
Choi Joon Woo (Ong Seong Wu) arrives at his new place. While on his way to his new school riding his bike, an incoming car almost hits him. Yoo Soo Bin’s mom checks from her side view mirror if the young man is injured. When she determines that no harm has been done, she drives away. After saying goodbye to her mother, Yoo Soo Bin (Kim Hyang Gi) greets a couple of her classmates. While talking to them, she spots Choi Joon Woo. Wanting to know if he is really okay, she excuses herself and approaches him.
She apologizes for almost hitting him and introduces herself. When she receives a minimal response from him, she bids him goodbye. Soo Bin goes back to her classmates who ask if she knew the young man. She tells them about the almost-accident, and they go on their way to class.
Oh Han Kyeol (Kang Ki Young) points him out to Joon Woo and instructs to follow him. Ma Whi Young (Shin Seung Ho) brings him to a room where he could change into the uniform. For his first day, he has to wear a secondhand uniform whose name tag says a different name. He gives Joon Woo some information about the class’ daily activities and they arrive to their classroom.
Ma Whi Young says he transferred because of his parents’ work. But Joon Woo interrupts him and says it is not the reason. Joon Woo is about to tell the class but Whi Young cuts him off. He asks the class to help the new student and assigns him a seat.
At the lockers, Joon Woo confronts Whi Young his reason for telling the class that his parents’ work made him switched schools. He says it is because he seemed uncomfortable and Joon Woo counters that it is not okay to lie though, no matter how uncomfortable it gets.
Lee Ki Tae butts in when it becomes obvious Whi Young gets flustered by Joon Woo. He says the class president was just being thoughtful.
Soo Bin calls Joon Woo “checkered shirt” and tells him they are in the same class. Joon Woo acknowledges that he remembers her as the person he met in front of the school gate. Whi Young inquires if they know each other and Soo Bin replies yes, sort of. Ma Whi Young introduces Soo Bin as the study leader and Lee Ki Tae adds she is Whi Young’s girlfriend.
Soo Bin corrects this and says she is not his girlfriend, but they are friends, to which Whi Young insincerely acknowledged. He tells Joon Woo that they’ve known each other since they were kids. Yoo Soo bin then adds Joon Woo to their study group. Students, especially those in Joon Woo’s class, soon find out the reason he left his old school. That he is forced to transfer due to theft and assault cases.
Joon Woo delivers items to Ma Whi Young’s math academy class and enters an empty room. He puts the snack items in a corner and picks up the trash, which the teacher asks him to do. On his way down, the garbage bag breaks and as he tries to fix it, he notices something odd is inside. He investigates and sees an expensive watch. Ma Whi Young calls him and says that he has thrown something away by mistake. He gets the bag, and when he returns it to Joon Woo, the watch is no longer there.
The next morning, Joon Woo is summoned to the Vice Principal’s office. Whi Young’s academy teacher accuses Joon Woo of stealing his watch but Joon Woo insists he did not do it. While they are in discussion, Whi Young arrives and asks his teacher if perhaps he just misplaced it. The older man is adamant that he did not lose it somewhere.
The incident soon spread among the students and they talk about it during lunch time. Soo Bin asks Whi Young if Joon Woo really stole the watch and he replies that it seems to be true. She mumbles that he does not appear to be that kind of person. Oh Han Kyeol talks to Whi Young and says since there is not much evidence against Joon Woo, nothing bad is going to happen to him. But the vice-principal is angry. He also wants Joon Woo to transfer to another school. Oh Han Kyeol reminds Whi Young that Joon Woo has only been in their school for one day so they can’t just send him away so soon.
Joon Woo asks Whi Young if he believes he stole it, to which the latter responds no. Back in his house that evening, Whi Young scratches his arms and his mom tells him not to do it even if it itches so bad because it will make his atopy worse. She proceeds to tell him his older brother has beaten the smart students in America. She says she is so happy, and he just needs to do well like his brother so she could keep being happy.
The Vice Principal wants to talk to Joon Woo’s mother, but he can’t bear to text her to come so he asks his co-worker to be his stand-in dad. Both are surprised when Joon Woo’s mother shows up. In the Vice Principal’s office, Joon Woo’s mother insists that she will transfer her son to another school. Oh Han Kyeol tries to convince her, but she says she is doing it not because she believes her son did something wrong, but due to the fact the school is not willing to protect and accept his son.
He is asked to write an apology letter and as he is about to hand it in, he overhears Ma Whi Young telling Oh Han Kyeol that he believes Joon Woo stole it because Sang Hoon saw it. Joon Woo confronts him but he denies involvement. He reveals he knows Whi Young did it, which angers the latter. Whi Young asks what he will do if it is indeed him. Joon Woo tells him that he just wants him to be honest. Joon Woo turns in his reference list to Soo Bin, and gives Oh Han Kyeol a drawing of a ladybug instead of an apology letter because he did nothing to apologize for.
Soo Bin has to rush so she could meet up with the private tutor her mom contacts for her. During their meeting, she tells the tutor she has no plans of having a private session. She also say she might hurt her reputation if she is the only student to not be admitted in Seoul National University. Her mother finds out and ends up begging Ma Whi Young’s mother for a spot for her in his Math academy class.
Meanwhile, in the next morning which is Joon Woo’s supposed last day in school, he comes in early. He corrects the reference list and hand it to Soo Bin. A commotion in the lockers area draws the both of them to that direction and discovers that the teacher’s watch is in his locker.
Fed up and frustrated, Joon Woo walks out of school. Oh Han Kyeol yells after him that he is not solving anything, as he is only running away from it. That night, he has a conversation with Whi Young. He asks him what he means when he says people like him. Whi Young explains that he is the kind of person who will not amount to anything because he will just be content with everything.
He goes to his father’s place and meets his new family. What hurts more is that he did not even recognize him. His mother tells him it is not his fault that things turn out the way it did because the blame is on her. As he mulls things over, he remembers Oh Han Kyeol telling him he is just running away. He thinks about his mom and realizes that even though things are difficult, she did not run away from him. Joo Woon surprises everyone when he shows up the next morning in class.
At Eighteen Pilot Week Afterthoughts
At Eighteen impressed in its premiere week. The pacing might have been quite slow, but it was necessary to highlight the situations the characters are in. The drama tried its best to present this all-too-familiar situations, in a manner that you can’t help but be curious on how the characters would deal with it.
A transfer student struggling to find his footing in the new school he is in. He once again finds himself in trouble for something he did not do. Another student, who is content with what she has, needs to do more because her mother says so. Then there is this boy who is already on top, but can’t find satisfaction due to the pressure of living up to his parents’ expectations. At Eighteen sheds light in the stories of these characters in a way its viewers can empathize with.
Ong Seong Wu was a welcome surprise in this drama as he carried out his character well. He was able to express the nuances of a young man who is confused and troubled. Choi Joon Woo is alone and he feels desolate. He is aware that he is awkward but it did not bother him. Joon Woo finds joy in simple things just like the way his face lit up smelling his mother’s cooked meals.
He craves companionship but he is not desperate for it. Here is a boy who has to grow up faster than anyone to deal with the loneliness of so her mother could concentrate on making a living for the both of them.
Kim Hyang Gi’s character is also someone whom viewers can sympathize with. I understand her mother’s desire to get the best for her. But not to the point she refuses to listen to her daughter. It becomes quite exhausting having to deal with a parent whose heart is in the right place, but whose means are quite skewed. I was feeling Soo Bin in that car scene. That was the time when she realized that her mother would resort to anything desperate. Her mother would swallow her pride so she could get her into Whi Young’s academy class. It was heartbreaking and frustrating at the same time.
Whi Young is a character I need sometime to warm up to. While I can see he has, by far the worst situation having to deal with his parents’ unreasonably high expectations, I could not comprehend why he had done the things he did. I get that Joon Woo poses a threat. But it felt that from the get-go he was out to bring him down for reasons I have yet to understand.
At Eighteen truly brought me back to that time when confusion seemed to be a companion. The time when I had to deal with problems both in school and at home. That time when you felt everything and everyone was against you. Watching it unfolding right before me made me realize that it is a necessary rite of passage to sail through life.
At Eighteen airs on jTBC every Monday and Tuesday at 9:30PM KST.
Image source: jTBC