XX (엑스엑스)
MBC (2020) 5 Episodes
Feminist Melodrama
Grade: B+
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

(Some Spoilers)

I stumbled on this short Korean drama, called rather strangely XX, from early 2020, and since I had heard nothing about it online, no buzz whatsoever, I didn't know what to expect, but out of curiosity dove in to find out what it was all about.

My first impression was that the two lead actresses, Hani and Hwang Seung Eon, were VERY believable in their parts, and extremely pretty. I'm not sure if I've ever seen them in anything else, but they were perfect casting for their roles. Both played ambitious characters who had had a past together as friends, but not in the way you might expect going in. Flashbacks during the drama slowly revealed what made them the business-inclined, feminist working women they were in the present day. Each of the five episodes averaged around 50 minutes long, so you could easily watch this entire drama in one or two sittings - perfect for when you are between longer dramas and desire something interesting to watch while you're waiting for the next masterpiece to show up on the schedule.


The Story:

Intelligent, and rather quiet, self-possessed Na Na (Hani) is the head bartender and manager of a popular, but out of the way city bar and nightclub called “XX”. In this profession she is known throughout the city as an entrepreneur type of business person who has been very creative and successful in unorthodox ways, like creating new drink cocktails (watch out for that one called "Between The Sheets", uh oh!), and deliberately keeping her bar dark inside to make customers feel like they've entered a private place where their conversations will not be monitored. In many ways she owns the bar, since the real owner never shows up to check on things.

Then the unseen owner sells the nightclub without notice to a rich young woman named Roo Mi (Hwang Seung Eon), whose wealthy father has given her the money to invest in her own business. She makes a dramatic appearance at the bar and announces she's the new owner, which leaves Na Na in shock, since she had known Roo Mi years earlier and they had been friends. Roo Mi had stolen Na Na's boyfriend at the time away from her, and their friendship had dissolved into bitterness.

Now years later, Na Na tries to be professional with Roo Mi, but the new owner certainly likes to challenge her old friend right away. For instance, she wants to dramatically change the appearance of the bar, brighten it up with expensive lights so customers no longer feel any sense of privacy while drinking, and she wants to put up a bright neon light outside, which Na Na considers tacky. Na Na flat out tells Roo Mi that if she wants her to stick around as head bartender / manager she should do away with those updating ideas immediately. Nothing is going to change at XX, demands Na Na! Feeling in a bind, Roo Mi tentatively agrees and things calm down between them. For awhile.

Then Na Na discovers that the man Roo Mi is currently seeing, a lawyer named Kyu Min (Kim Joon Kyung), is married with young children. Na Na devises a way to let everyone at this evil dude's place of employment discover that he is cheating on his wife, and of course that abruptly ends the adulterer's extra-curricular romance with Roo Mi. (This girl has guts! I kept saying, talking back to the TV,
LOL). Maybe there was a little "getting even" in that situation on Na Na's part, since years earlier Roo Mi had stolen her boyfriend too. Through all this Na Na is learning real lessons in humility, and though it's painful to watch, the audience's sympathy grows toward her, as we see her straighten out her life and clean it up.

Na Na's male co-worker at the bar serving drinks is a nice young man named Dan Hee (Bae In Hyuk - he played my favorite character), and it's obvious he cares about her a lot, but he never makes any romantic moves toward her at all. They remain trusted friends and co-bartenders at XX. Perhaps Dan Hee thinks that Na Na is romantically involved with someone already, because he knows she has a male roommate named Jung Deun (Lee Jong Won). Only later does he find out that the roommate is a gay man, and then he is relieved and finally gathers the strength to let Na Na know that he cares for her in a romantic way.

Just when it seems things are calming down in everyone's lives, who should come back into their lives but the old boyfriend named Tae Hyun (Shin Jae Hwi) that Roo Mi had stolen away from Na Na years earlier. Turns out he's just as slimy as ever and he comes back making mischief in both their lives, both personally and professionally. (I kept yelling at my TV again, to both girls, "Slap him in the face! He needs it!" LOL).

Will everything resolve itself peacefully, or will the sleazy old boyfriend ruin everything for everyone? Check out XX to see the final - and very fun - scenes! Enjoy.