There are some TV shows that make you wonder why the main character isn’t in therapy, and then there’s “The Eighth Sense”, which starts off with a scene where an exasperated mental health professional asks the hero to spell out his troubles.
Directed by Werner du Plessis and Inu Baek (who produced “To My Star”), the ten-episode series follows Jae Won (Lim Ji Sub) as he returns to his Seoul campus after completing his mandatory military service. The final year student becomes attracted to freshman Ji Hyun (Oh Jun Taek), who works as a part-time employee at an eating joint. Equally interested in the handsome senior, shy country-boy Jun Taek joins the surfing club after spotting Jae Won in promotional posters. However, Jae Won’s past baggage and mental health issues make their romantic story more complicated than the average campus couple.
The Eighth Sense” gets a lot of its ingredients right, from its cast to its music and cinematography, resulting in a series that looks and sounds great. Although Jae Won and Ji Hyun don’t have a typical “meet cute” first encounter, the first two episodes establish a palpable attraction between the two characters. As they go on a trip with their club, they grow closer, and the surfing subplot is both integral to the story and adds freshness and depth to the series.
Oh Jun Taek, played by Ji Hyun, is absolutely endearing as the introverted, hard-working character who gradually transforms into a more confident and assertive version of himself, unafraid to stand up for himself when mistreated. Lim Ji Sub’s Jae Won, on the other hand has a slightly dual-toned personality and the actor captures his varied emotions aptly. He’s lively, carefree, and caring around his friends, but in reality, he struggles to keep up appearances and relies on prescribed medication to maintain his mental health. Jae Won’s growing friendship with Ji Hyun becomes his safe space and their chemistry is riveting. However, the series puts a lot more focus on their parallel lives on campus with their own set of friends, and while all those interactions were engaging, it definitely makes you wish the lead pair were given more screen time together too.
While the inclusion of therapy was laudable in the plot, the actor playing Jae Won’s shrink felt more like a fortune-teller offering words of advice than a mental health practitioner. Lee Mi Ra delivers a standout performance as Yoon Won, the surf club president and Jae Won’s drinking buddy. She’s one of the most lively characters in the show and unexpectedly delivers one of the most emotionally-charged scenes, where she breaks down over her struggles with finding a job. Jung Seo, who plays Ji Hyun’s boss at the eatery, makes an entertaining cameo as a wise and outspoken older woman who loves listening to college kids’ problems and is always happy to help them out. On the other hand, Park Hae In’s portrayal of Jae Won’s ex-girlfriend, Eun Ji, is slightly generic. She’s oddly oblivious to his lack of interest in her and needlessly cruel to her juniors.
Episode six marks a definitive point in Jae Won and Ji Hyun’s relationship, and there’s a beautifully shot collage in the last few minutes. However, the episode ends with a completely unexpected twist, one that’s believable even if difficult to accept. One of the primary conflicts in “The Eighth Sense” stems from Jae Won acting unlike his usual self, which causes a lot of pain and confusion for the innocent Ji Hyun. Trauma shouldn’t be used as an excuse to behave in unacceptable ways, and the writers could have chosen a better climactic conflict rather than the cliched trope where someone hurts people they love because they think it would protect them.
The makers use Conan Gray’s song “The Story” in episode nine, which perfectly marks another turning point for the protagonists and the story returns to the uplifting romantic mood of the first half. Werner du Plessis and Inu Baek could have actually ended things with episode nine if they wanted to, but episode ten is a sweet, fun addition that gives viewers a better curtain call. Like sea waves that swallow anything you carve out on the sand, episode ten washes out any disappointment viewers may feel in some of the previous episodes. Ji Hyun is like a warm ball of sunshine that helps calm down Jae Won’s stormy heart. “The Eighth Sense” is worth a watch and has a high re-watch value.
It’s a 8.5 on 10 from me. Stream the series on Viki.