Nevertheless: On Red Flags, Toxic Dynamics, and All the Subtleties in Between
Nevertheless tells of a blossoming romance between a love cynic who doesn't believe in destiny and a commitment-phobic who doesn't believe in relationships. Here, we see stories of modern dating through the intricacies of friends-with-benefits and no-label relationships. If you haven't caught up just yet, tread this article carefully for all the spoilers ahead. But fair warning, this Kdrama isn't about heart-fluttering moments and fairy tale romance. It's a little more somber than that.
Nevertheless portrays the realism of love and relationships with characters who are deeply flawed but feel all the more human. It shows how people can be both victims and perpetrators of the toxic dynamics they're stuck in. It's not a story of a strong leading man that will sweep off the feet of the shy, reserved protagonist. And although it may appear that way, Nevertheless takes familiar tropes and presents them in a real-life setting. A relationship that's a little more complex than its often 2-dimensional treatment in media.
The romance starts with an end as Yoo Na-bi becomes jaded with love due to a past lover. Then enter: Park Jae-eon, who's friendly, charming, and kind—a face we're unsure ourselves if it's a ploy for the way he leads on others (*cough* playboy *cough* campus flirt). They start an uncertain romance with labels up in the air but with all the strings attached. Both struggle with sharing their true feelings throughout the ordeal until it inevitably implodes on their faces.
Prior to the central relationship, let's take it back to Na-bi's ex-boyfriend, who was essentially a textbook asshole. He was manipulative, emotionally abusive, and even a cheater towards the end. He's the one you often see in these series and wonder why the hell the main character hasn't dumped him yet. And thank god she did. But comes in Jae-eon who's harder to read than that.
In reality, a red flag isn't always like Na-bi's ex who would outwardly berate her but instead, a red flag is someone you often wouldn't realize is bad news 'til you're actually out of it. Subtle yet scheming. Sweet yet controlling. Jae-eon is the type that asks for her attention one day but turns cold and ghosts Na-bi the next day. He's the type who only takes the boyfriend role if it's away from prying eyes but acts indifferent when everyone else is around. And he's the type who doesn't take responsibility for his actions but makes it up in flowery words and charming gestures to stir away from the problem.
And I don't blame Na-bi. It's easy to be drawn to Jae-eon. After all, he is a nice person to his friends, right? He can't possibly be a red flag under all that, right? But that's the trick. That's where the allure comes in. And who's to say that the way someone treats their friends defines how they treat their partners? If Na-bi's ex was peak toxic, then Jae-eon is probably the runner-up and, most likely, a different brand of toxic.
Jae-eon won't say things like "I wish you wouldn't make such arbitrary decisions" over Na-bi simply putting on green nail polish, but he will refuse to apologize and give an "if that's what you want" response to her ending things due to his sketchy ways. Sure, he won't complain that putting on acondom will "confirm the sincerity of their relationship," but he will date other girls and make them seem crazy if they grow attached.
As cheesy as it sounds, accurate representations of red flags are just flags when you're wearing those rose-tinted glasses. But all that instability reaches a breaking point too. And it appears in a long-awaited confrontation scene under the rain. Jae-eon appeared before Na-bi's building after she had just hung out with Do-hyeok, the second love interest to Na-bi (as if it wasn't messy enough).
He appears unstable and angry—the opposite of his usual composed self. He asked if she had regretted their relationship. And she says: "Yes, I regret it. You, this messed up relationship, and everything we did. But I won't blame you since I brought it upon myself. I knew there was no happy ending for us, but I was an idiot for getting my hopes up and thinking you could be sincere."
If this were any other Kdrama, I probably would've hoped to see them again, assuming he had redeeming qualities. But moments prior, we see Jae-eon grab her arm roughly and say, "Am I boring to you since you have someone else now?" at the thought of Na-bi possibly choosing Do-hyeok. As if she was in a tug of war between the two love interests, as if she hadn’t given him many chances before. And you might think this was the final scene. . .But oh boy, it's far from it. Nevertheless ends with Jae-eon still getting the girl. Na-bi chooses him despite knowing she'd get hurt.
I know the public has their own thoughts on the matter, so I leave it to them for the full-blown analysis. But I will say this: You cannot find comfort from the same people who cripple you. And you cannot heal from the same place you got sick. If it were up to the rest of us, we would've loved to see a single Na-bi that chooses herself. But nevertheless, we just hope Na-bi is happy at the end of it all.