The Eighth Sense, the latest hit Korean BL drama, has come to an end, and I thought I would share a few thoughts on it. I haven’t been keeping up with my BL dramas this year, so it surprised me that as soon as I found out about this BL, I jumped to start it. From the drama’s opening with the graphic typography of the credits and the amazing post-rock OST, I knew this drama would aesthetically be everything I wanted and more. It’s a stunner to watch.
Now on to discussing the story, but before that, let me ramble a bit about the concept of the “eighth sense.” With a title like The Eighth Sense, I was intrigued that the story would use such a metaphorical or philosophical concept for what appears to be a simple story about two young men who meet in university and slowly (or quite quickly) fall for one another. Now, the concept of the eighth sense is not a scientifically recognized one; there are only our five traditional senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) and the argued additional senses such as proprioception (body awareness) and vestibular (balance). However, the idea of an “eighth sense” is often used in a philosophical sense to refer to a heightened awareness or intuition beyond those traditional senses. (Yes, I had to do my research.) But again, with a concept like this, I had to think about why and how this story was using it, and that made me think about comparing the eighth sense to the concept of falling in love. It made me think about how love is not just a feeling but a heightened sense that allows us to experience the world in a deeper and more meaningful way. Just as our other senses allow us to perceive the world around us, the “eighth sense” of love enables us to connect with others on a profound level and experience the world through their eyes or perspective. And I believe this does relate to our story of Jae Won and Ji Hyun.
Jae Won is our senior university student who has returned to graduate after being away in the military. His return to the university appears to be a little disorienting, an adjustment, but the minute he spots Ji Hyun working at the small bar he’s visiting one night, he approaches him. They immediately connect over the fact that they attend the same university, and Jae Won offers himself as a senior friend Ji Hyun can rely on as he too adjusts to being in Seoul for school. Their connection is instant, and the false pretense of being friends is cute. However, we know they are immediately attracted to one another, and their swimming around each other is cute as well. And yes, I’m saying cute because that’s how I felt in those beginning moments with Jae Won and Ji Hyun. It was all so cute.
Then, something shifted for me. Something that the opening teased for us was the surfing accident that would later rock us in episode 6. To be honest, since the start of the drama, I have kept looking for something about this young love story that would be different. I kept thinking—with the title of The Eighth Sense, the way our couple coupled so quickly, the way they showed Jae Won seeking treatment for his mental health struggles and the trauma of his younger brother’s passing—that there was something else going on. That we weren’t seeing the entire story and that there was something about Ji Hyun and Jae Won’s relationship that seemed almost unreal. As if Ji Hyun never existed, or if he did, he had already passed away. It was so surreal for a second there in episode 6 when they journey off to the beach for time alone, open up to one another, and further solidify their relationship, only for them to then experience the surfing accident. However, the way the drama showcases this moment is weirdly beautiful and harrowing. Then there’s the moment of Jae Won and Ji Hyun in their wetsuits sitting on the beach overlooking the sea, quickly replaced with a lone Jae Won overlooking the sea as he pats at the space beside him that once held Ji Hyun. This episode, this moment, this ending of this episode excited me! It seemed to have revealed to me that I was right to read into the drama as I had, with the expectation that there was something different and unique to their story. I thought we would find out at the start of the next episode that this was, in fact, the retelling of a time with Jae Won and Ji Hyun before Ji Hyun died in the surfing accident, and the reason he was seeing a therapist was for that trauma. However, that isn’t the case; it really is the trauma of him losing his younger brother. Then, I tried to make up the storyline that it was actually a Fight Club situation where Jae Won had created Ji Hyun to cope with the death of his younger brother. I don’t know! I just read way too much into this drama because I was excited by how beautifully it was shot and the title! But actually, the story ends quite simply. The two recognize that healing from trauma isn’t simple and that it can continue to affect you and your relationships depending on triggers and new traumas. And yet, that shouldn’t stop you from genuinely forming relationships. So, they say yes to this, to one another, and to the end of our story.
So, I did deflate a little after finishing the drama, not because of anything the drama itself did, but because of what I wanted the drama to do. Again, this didn’t take away from what the drama did well, but it did take away from my overall enjoyment of it. Do I think I would have loved the drama more if I hadn’t placed so many unnecessary expectations on it? No, I don’t think so. Though the story told was done sufficiently, I still think it wasn’t that original in the end and relied heavily on its aesthetics and our cute leads. Is that bad? No, of course not. All stories do not need to throw in a supernatural element or a sad twist. I know this; I do, but I do think this story would have had tons of room for it.
Also, what happened with Jae Won’s brother, and what’s really going on with his relationship with his family? Did they intentionally leave this vague and unclear to leave the option for a second season? If so, I wouldn’t mind that at all…I think that would be nice to explore and see in a season 2.