You know that famous saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”?
This is what watching Chocolate is like.
A mildly infuriating experience that you swear won’t be the same every single episode – but shockingly is.
I honestly feel like this series could be an on-par contender to those death-revival isekai anime series like Re:Zero where the character repeatedly fails before finally getting it right.
Only regarding Chocolate and our main protagonist “Cha Young” – you purposefully ignore doing the right thing in favor of causing more chaos and confusion. Just to see how much the male lead can take before finally emotionally breaking down from the constant hot and cold signals.
So essentially, this drama starts with an emaciated little girl stumbling upon a seaside restaurant. The restaurant is warm, and everyone inside is smiling and laughing quite often. We are made to believe this is a happy place, valued by the local community.
After trying to eat food left out for the local cows, our main female lead Moon Cha Young meets our male lead, Lee Kang.
Lee Kang, a delightful young boy who dreams of being a chef, offers the sad looking girl a meal. She eats it happily, and Lee Kang tells her to come back in the afternoon for a special chocolate treat.
Spoiler alert: she never shows up.
Apparently, Moon Cha Young is competing in a pageant, or is intended to be an actress or something of the effect (the explanation given by the drama was very vague in itself) and is not allowed to eat.
Despite this, there were these undeniable undertones of abuse and loneliness radiating from this little girl when the two meet.
The Moon family soon leaves the oceanside town, and returns to Seoul. That same day, male lead Lee Kang’s estranged paternal family shows up to cause problems and flaunt their money.
Lee Kang meets his cousin for the first time, Lee Joon – a mean-spirited boy in a suit who throws rocks at an injured puppy. The two boys get into a physical fight which ends with Lee Kang tackling Lee Joon off a small pier and into the murky ocean water.
What can be presumed to be hours later, both boys are at the local hospital. Kang is unconscious and bloodied, while Joon is fully awake, barely injured, and being doted on by the entire hospital staff.
In a moment of desperation for her son’s life, Jung Soo Hee decides to announce that her son is also a part of the chaebol family – and proceeds to move her and her son to Seoul soon after.
I can understand Jung Soo Hee’s sentiment of not wanting Kang to be involved with that family, only to realize after the hospital incident that their money and influence may give Kang a better life than she ever could at the seaside restaurant.
There is a (5) year time skip, and Lee Kang’s mother has passed away.
He holds a small memorial for her in a dimply lit apartment room alone. We see Cha Young again as well, who has decided to become a chef due to her encounter with “Peter Pan” Lee Kang years ago.
She may or may not be an orphan as well – it seems.
During a chance encounter at his family’s hospital, Cha Young meets her now declared childhood first love.
After much back and forth on whether or not its him, a flashback of Cha Young visiting the seaside restaurant a year later, and hearing about a scar Lee Kang received the day they met confirms Kang’s identity for her.
After much deliberation (and light stalking around the hospital), Cha Young finally decides to formally approach Kang and tell him her identity. Only now, Kang has been sent to Libya to (possibly) die because his – aunt, uncle, evil throwing rocks at a sick puppy ne’er-do-well cousin, and – complacent grandma want him out of the way.
…despite finding Kang in the first place and forcing their way into his peaceful life.
Cha Young is visibly upset by this news of a missed opportunity, and by chance meets Kang’s best friend who was never properly explained or introduced – Kwon Min Seong. Soon after this, we cut to Kang in Libya getting blown back from a close-proximity landmine explosion.
After pleading with Kang’s lying uncle to not pull his best friend off of life support in a foreign country, Min Seong goes to Cha Young’s restaurant to eat and watch her work.
(Remember – she’s a chef)
The two get closer after a miracle – a conversation between Kang and his mother in the afterlife gives him the will to live. Kang tells his mother in limbo that he still has things to do, and this takes place in the beloved Bada seaside restaurant.
So, you’d think with a second chance at life, Lee Kang would quit being a neurosurgeon, leave Seoul, sever ties with his father’s family, and become a chef like he always wanted, right?
Wrong! He goes right back to being his chaebol family’s obedient lapdog.
Oh, and Min Seong and Cha Young begin dating.
And by begin dating, I mean Min Seong gets rejected, waits 100 days, asks her to accept his feelings on Christmas by text message as he stands outside in the snow watching her sit inside a cafe, and then gives her a tight hug and won’t let her go – before confidently declaring to a now resurrected Lee Kang who is back in Korea that Cha Young is his girlfriend.
Cha Young starts acting weird and feeling guilty (?) that Lee Kang is around and wants to break up with Min Seong.
Cha young decides to lie to Kang and tell him she loves another man, while realizing she loves Kang so much that she needs to immediately quit her job, pack up her life and move to Greece of all places so that she never has to set eyes upon Kang again.
Yes, you read that right.
Instead of just telling him she’s the little girl from years ago and getting to know him, Cha Young decides she “loves him too much” speak to him, and then moves to Greece.
Three – five years later (who’s counting anymore) Cha-Young’s no-good brother Tae Hyun follows her to Greece.
Tae Hyun breaks an 8,000€ glass of champagne, and takes all of Cha Young’s saving to pay for it.
In a last-ditch attempt to reclaim her life, Cha Young enters a cooking competition to win her money back. Or exchange the bottle for her saving already spent.
(It was unclear.)
Lee Kang shows up day of the competition, and volunteers as a judge because his best friend Min Seong is now terminally ill and despite breaking up four years ago, wants to taste Cha Young’s dumpling soup one more time.
Don’t ask why or how Min Seong was suddenly sick, or why he wanted to taste his ex-girlfriend of four years’ dumpling soup when he is currently engaged and in a serious relationship with another woman.
You will find no answers (nor logic) here.
Lee Kang berates Cha Young’s food, calls her all but a fraud, destroys her credibility in the Greek cooking world, and then has the nerve to show up at her job later to aggressively harass her some more.
After a lengthy guilt trip, for whatever reason Cha Young goes back to South Korea and cooks the dumpling stew for Min Seong with the mystery illness.
Lee Kang was supposed to hang out with his good buddy Min Seong, but gets manipulated into working a car accident-filled ER shift when his evil uncle already had his working credentials and privileges at the family hospital revoked.
Min Seong decides that he can finally die happily after tasting his ex-girlfriend’s dumplings once more, and promptly does so.
Lee Kang learns the news, and decides to sit in the rain while fishing and cry.
Cha Young shows up, mentions that she gave Min Seong the stew that made him want to die happily, and then proceeds to sit on the ground in the rain and cry her heart out over a man she (presumably) never loved’s death.
Now deceased best buddy Min Seong ‘s dad (and random hospice director) calls and asks Kang to please show up to his son’s funeral and pay his last respects. Kang stops his temper tantrum and offers to give Cha Young a ride (to wherever) before heading to the funeral.
Apparently, Lee Kang was tired.
He continually nods off and almost swerves into oncoming traffic multiple times. Cha Young never says anything while this is happening, or offers to drive. She just stars at him when he finally pulls over after almost getting the pair into a car accident multiple times.
Cha Young stares at, and the proceeds to caresses Lee Kang’s sleeping face.
Just as Kang wakes up thoroughly creeped out, truck-kun strikes again and hits their safely parked car.
The truck driver then looks on at the two unconscious people bleeding profusely from the head, and decides to drive off into the night as if nothing happened.
Lee Kang comes to, notices Cha Young is unconscious, and driver her to the nearest hospital.
…Kang then decides Cha Young needs brain surgery, and forces his way into the local ER.
He staples his own stomach wound with one arm, and performs a successful brain surgery with blurred vision on Cha Young before passing out…only then to be taken in for his own brain surgery.
Because brain surgery solves everything in Chocolate, apparently.
Forget about the gallon of blood loss he spilled on the floor due to a hit artery and still-open stomach wound.
…A year passes, and while coming in for a checkup, Cha Young is asked by evil ne’er-do-well cousin Lee Joon why she’s avoiding Dr. Kang.
Joon brings up that he performed a surgery on her despite being unwell himself, to which Cha Young blankly stares back at the man.
After leaving, Cha Young immediately starts monologuing about how much she misses Lee Kang, and wonders how he is doing.
At this point, I have to turn the drama off.
It’s only been 4 ½ episodes, and we’ve had 10 years’ worth of time skips, 3 – 4 killed off loved ones, and a multitude of unnecessary brain surgeries that feel like insurance fraud at this point.
What is the point of all this?
Why won’t Cha Young just mention that she was the little girl from back then who Kang fed?
Why does Lee Kang keep working as a neurosurgeon when he clearly doesn’t want to?
(And it can’t be for his deceased mother, who is still disrespected by his deceased father’s side of the family each and every day he remains employed by the hospital.)
Why is Lee Joon still so incompetent? Despite saying he doesn’t need his evil father and mother to sabotage his cousin, Joon is still complacent and rolls over each and every time they present him with a new scheme?
I need answers to questions and scenarios this show poses just for the sake of miscommunication, melodrama, and an ongoing slow burn of insanity.
So, is Chocolate a good kdrama that’s worth watching?
No, absolutely not.
It is a nonsensical kdrama that seems to have mixed and melded every single cliched trope and archetype to create a franken-series of insanity.
I physically felt pained and frustrated watching a simple missed opportunity by Cha Young turn into years of loathing, hatred, and resentment for her on Lee Kang’s part.
All of the elements for a great story and setup were there, but Chocolate continually fumbles the ball at the goal line of satisfying plot deliverance.
Only for the star quarterback who almost made the touchdown to be hit by truck-kun, isekai’d into another nonsensical time loop to repeat the same mistakes over and over again for years to come.
(The cooking scenes were really nice though! ☺)
But, tell me your thoughts.
Have you had a similarly frustrating experience while trying to view the Netflix kdrama series Chocolate?
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