This article contains spoilers. 4/5 stars All good things must come to an end, but sometimes that end arrives a lot sooner than you’d like it to. Na Hee-do and Back Yi-jin, the protagonists of coming-of-age romantic drama Twenty-Five Twenty-One played respectively by a scintillating Kim Tae-ri and a charming Nam Joo-hyuk, finally found their way into each other’s arms, as we always knew they would, only to be torn apart by the close as we’d always hoped they wouldn’t be. It’s been an emotional, endearing and frequently hysterical journey, with only one major misstep that came late in the game – we’ll get to that in a minute. The romance worked like a charm, but this was the rare show that offered the full package. The side characters and friendships were equally important as the lead couple, the gags were great and the period detail gave the story a colourful and relatable backdrop. Twenty-Five Twenty-One midseason recap: Netflix K-drama gets it all right Setting the story in the world of fencing was a novel and extremely effective choice that supplied tension throughout its run and underscored the alternating rifts and bonds between the main characters. The story starts in the present , with Hee-do in her early 40s (played by Kim So-hyun), before skipping back to the late 1990s when she was a high-school fencer and about to meet Yi-jin, then a jobseeker in his early 20s, for the first time. Over 16 episodes, we’ve followed their professional and personal highs and lows and waited to see where Yi-jin and Hee-do would wind up when they reached the ages of 25 and 21 to which the drama’s title refers. Sadly, perhaps inevitably, the title not only foreshadowed where the flashback narrative would end, but that their relationship would also come to an end. While the break-up may not have been a surprise, the way it came about certainly was, and not for the right reasons. After kicking off the show in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s (an event handled carefully and well integrated into the story), the series-long flashback wound to a close around a questionable sidebar in New York, in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Narratively, the diversion makes sense. Yi-jin and Hee-do are deeply in love, but by then we already know they’re not going to stay together so something’s gotta give. There’s no sign of Yi-jin in the present and a brief television interview between them in 2009 indicates they’d broken up long before that. That something turns out to be 9/11, an event that compels Yi-jin to travel to New York on the day he and Hee-do are supposed to go on an anniversary trip. He covers the crisis for weeks and then months, growing more morose over time. 8 new Korean drama series to look out for in April 2022 The physical distance between Hee-do and Yi-jin is soon matched by a growing emotional chasm, and when Yi-jin decides to take a full-time job as a correspondent in New York, he sounds the death knell for their relationship. Co-opting a historic national tragedy from another country to set in motion the denouement of a mostly romantic story is seriously problematic. Unfortunately, Korean media has a habit of introducing disastrous historical events – though mostly home-grown ones – late in narratives to explain or motivate character behaviour, in the hopes of triggering an emotional response in viewers. In essence, national trauma is weaponised as an emotional deus ex machina. Twenty-Five Twenty-One doesn’t get a pass, but the show built up so much good will that this head-scratching diversion wasn’t able to burn through all of it. Still, there’s no doubt it deflates the show’s landing, which had all the makings of a heart-rending climax. The cast is so compelling and the audience was so invested in the characters that the show hardly needed a big outside event to close its story around. There were a million simpler ways of triggering Hee-do and Yi-jin’s break-up, an event that in and of itself is a big, beautiful and bitter-sweet pill to swallow. 9/11 turned it into a sour gulp. That misstep aside, the show frequently soared. Beyond Hee-do and Yi-jin, the fencing friendship of Hee-do and her idol Go Yoo-rim (Bona) was equally emotional and cathartic. Their tense competition final showdown earlier in the season as bitter rivals was matched in the penultimate episode by their showdown in Madrid as best friends representing different countries, after financial difficulties forced Yoo-rim to go to Russia. The close battle ends after several simultaneous strikes, but rather than being greeted by shouts of victory the pair give each other a long hug that’s enough to move the stoniest heart. A graceful transition to the present sees Hee-do’s daughter tearfully watch a video of the game on her tablet. Beyond these big moments – both good and bad – Twenty-Five Twenty-One may well be most remembered for the utterly charming smaller moments around them. Who could forget Hee-do and Yoo-rim making a toilet roll mannequin to fool the press, or Hee-do’s flushed reaction when Yi-jin stuffs a bun in his mouth to avoid a kiss when she leans in to pluck a thread off his collar? Twenty-Five Twenty-One is streaming on Netflix.