Episode 2 of Now, We Are Breaking Up begins after K Fashion Week has drawn to a close, with Jae-guk arriving in Seoul for a short stop before he returns home to Paris.
An emergency meeting is called by The One’s CEO to discuss Sono’s (the sub-label Young-eun heads design for) fall from first place for sales in the last week. Young-eun is also drilled on The One’s 30th anniversary event now that competitor brand, Lucia, is hosting a huge show on the same day.
Since foreign brands are taking over the Korean market, Olivier was intended to be their edge over Lucia, and Young-eun is blamed for losing the deal. Chi-sook also uses this as an opportunity to pretend like it happened because Young-eun didn’t wait for her to run the proceedings with Olivier.
Young-eun doesn’t crumble under the pressure, already armed with a new plan to harness the combined following of popular influencers and celebrities to promote the anniversary event. At the helm will be the most popular of them all, an influencer named Hye-rin.
The CEO cuts the meeting off there, wanting to speak with Young-eun privately. He admonishes her for taking charge with Olivier instead of staying in her place and spoon-feeding Chi-sook advice. Chi-sook herself joins them and her father implies that she should continue meeting Jae-guk.
Do-hoon, who is organising PR efforts for the anniversary event, gets a call from Hye-rin’s team to inform him that she wants to switch sides to Lucia. He heads straight to his office, having to bring along Jae-guk, who was in his car when he got the call, for an emergency meeting with Young-eun and Chi-sook.
When Chi-sook arrives asking for Do-hoon, she is devastated to find the real Do-hoon instead of Jae-guk and refuses to believe that he is himself. She only stops her verbal punches when Jae-guk, motivated by the prospect of seeing Young-eun, appears before them and joins their meeting.
Young-eun introduces Jae-guk to Chi-sook, helping her connect the dots to realise that he’s the blind date she skipped. Jae-guk is irked by Young-eun’s obvious attempt to avoid his advances.
Jae-guk tries to talk to Young-eun after the meeting but she makes it clear she wants to end their interaction there and heads off. His mother calls and he meets her for the first time since coming back to Korea over coffee, though he is cold and distant. She insists that he should keep meeting Chi-sook so that he can settle down. This draws his ire, and he blames her for causing his older brother’s death by keeping his brother from doing the same thing with the woman he loved.
Jae-guk walks out abruptly. Young-eun’s mother, who happens to walk past at that moment and knows Jae-guk’s mother from their shared cooking class, remarks on how much of a catch Jae-guk is. On his way out, Jae-guk messages the celebrity, Shin Yoo-jung, to let her know he’s back in Korea.
Young-eun’s mother goes to meet Young-eun, who is buying her father a new suit for his retirement celebration. It’s expensive, but she assures her parents she can afford it and organises installments for the bill.
That night, Young-eun mentions her dire finances in a call with her friend, Park Hyo-joo. Now that her father is retiring, she’ll be the breadwinner for her family.
The next day, everyone is busy with event preparations, and Do-hoon struggles to keep Hye-rin onside even as she demands more and more. At her fitting appointment, Hye-rin is dissatisfied with the clothes she is given to wear for the event. Hye-rin wants to alter the designs and becomes cruel when Na-ri tells her that’s not an option. Hye-rin issues an ultimatum, saying that she won’t attend the event if the designs aren’t altered.
The design team and Do-hoon set about trying to find a last-minute replacement for Hye-rin. Young-eun makes a last-minute heartfelt plea to Yoo-jung to appear as their main celebrity.
Jae-guk, who has been relaxing at the office, approaches Young-eun after everyone else has left. He notices the picture she uses for her phone’s background and comments on the bad exposure and composition, declaring the unknown photographer to be an amateur. Young-eun, on the other hand, finds its flaws charming and authentic.
We flashback to Paris ten years ago, where Young-eun spots the photo in a street vendor’s collection and buys it on the spot. She’s in Paris to study fashion alongside Chi-sook. Although, it’s more like Chi-sook has fun while Young-eun does the work for both of them. Young-eun, whose education is funded by Chi-sook’s father, can do nothing but play along.
Back in the present, Young-eun enlists Jae-guk’s help to get the clothes back to The One’s office to prepare for the event. They end up in an elevator and Jae-guk presses for Young-eun to consider exploring their relationship. She’s firmly against it, knowing that she’ll be shunned in the industry if she dates the man Chi-sook has been set up with.
Jae-guk reveals he is leaving for Paris tomorrow and urges Young-eun to be honest with him. She presses her lips to his briefly in response but steps back when he leans in again, telling him to leave their relationship there.
We flashback to Paris again to see that Jae-guk was the amateur photographer that took the picture Young-eun cherishes.
At the anniversary event, Yoo-jung makes an appearance after receiving Young-eun’s message and a call from Jae-guk asking her to attend.
At the same time, Jae-guk attends the tenth anniversary proceedings for his brother’s death. During the taxi ride home, Jae-guk speaks to Yoo-jung over the phone. She reveals something about Young-Eun that leaves him in shock.
At a catalogue photoshoot the next day, Young-eun shows up to find that Jae-guk is their photographer. She displays some warmth towards him for the first time right before he asks her if she knows Yoon Soo-wan, his older brother. Young-eun’s internal monologue describes Soo-wan as the object of her passionate youth. To Jae-guk, she says that Soo-wan is the person she’s still trying to break up with.
The Episode Review
Lukewarm. That’s pretty much Episode 2 in a nutshell. Even the big makjang-style twist they left us on is not enough to foster viewer investment. The whole one-lead-dated-the-other-lead’s-dead-sibling-so-now-their-romance-is-sort-of-forbidden device lands as contrived at best.
The only time such a tired trope becomes watchable is when the leads have enough romantic tension to keep you devoted to their happy ending no matter how crazy the twists get. But romantic tension completely exits the room whenever our leads are in the same place.
It doesn’t help that Song Hye-kyo’s delivery of Young-eun is rather stiff, and not once did it seem like Young-eun had any strong romantic or sexual interest in Jae-guk. On top of that, neither of our leads managed to imbue the elevator “kiss” with a single passionate emotion. Are we sure these characters actually like each other?
This isn’t helped by a muddled plot. So far, every fashion industry hardship and strained personal relationship feels rushed and superficial. It would have been great to see more of Young-eun’s team and flesh out those characters instead of introducing a dead brother/lover.
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