JTBC’s latest K-drama Nevertheless, starring Han So-Hee (The World Of The Married) as Nabi and Song Kang (Love Alarm) as Jae-Eon has been trending since its pilot was released on Netflix over a month ago. Contrary to the usual 16-episode K-drama format, however, Nevertheless,’ ending came a little too soon; its 10th and final episode aired last 22 August. And spoiler: Nabi and Jae-Eon ended up together despite the red flags in their relationship.
While it's expected for most stories to have the two leads meet a happy ending, Nevertheless,' finale received mixed reactions. This got us thinking: why did Nabi choose Jae-Eon instead of Do-Hyeok? Our thoughts below.
P.S. Nevertheless, webtoon ending spoilers ahead too!
But first, a recap
Yu Na-Bi is an art major who recently broke up with her boyfriend after she finds out he was cheating. While wallowing in her heartbreak, she meets Park Jae-Eon, an attractive junior from her school whom she immediately gets smitten by. They start flirting but Nabi gets cautious when she hears from friends and acquaintances that Park Jae-Eon doesn’t ‘date’ but rather just sees girls as conquests. Still, her attraction for him grows stronger each time they interact. They soon become ‘friends with benefits’.
Nabi is aware of her ‘label-less’ relationship with Jae-Eon and its implications. She’s okay with it at first despite having reservations. Their setup is consensual and they keep things lowkey especially around their schoolmates. However, when she realises that she wants a real relationship with him but he doesn’t (she also finds out that Jae-Eon is still hanging around his ex Seola despite being with her), she immediately distances herself from him. Things get even more complicated when Nabi’s childhood friend Do-Hyeok (Chae Jong-Hyeop) comes into the picture.
Do-Hyeok is everything that Jae-Eon isn’t. He’s caring, considerate, and has his eyes set only on Nabi. Yet even with a more ideal guy in front of her, Nabi knows in her heart that Jae-Eon is the one she’s yearning for.
In the most recent episode (Episode 9), Jae-Eonasks Nabi to be his girlfriend. However, Nabi finds out that Jae-Eon might’ve only done so because he sees Do-Hyeok as a threat. Nabi finally sees Jae-Eon’s true colours and asks him to never show himself in front of her again.
Jae-Eon, looking dejected, says, “I lost Nabi for good,” as the episode ended.
The webtoon ending
With one more episode to go and that shattering Episode 9 ending, we imagined so many directions where Nabi and Jae-Eon’s story could go — one of which is the Nevertheless, webtoon ending.
In the source material, Nabi and Jae-Eon actually part ways for good, with Nabi surprisingly ending up with Do-Hyeok. It’s one of the very few stories where the protagonist ends up with the second lead, which makes Nevertheless,’ webtoon quite unique. What’s also interesting about this conclusion is Nabi’s change in personality; she becomes more guarded and cautious about relationships in general. She even starts doubting Do-Hyeok every time she sees him talking to other girls despite Do-Hyeok always showing his devotion to her. Ultimately, the webtoon’s ending explores what toxic relationships do to people and how hard it is to recover from brief yet impactful encounters. Nevertheless, the K-drama, diverted from this ending.
Is Park Jae Eon really a walking red flag?
K-dramas with the usual 16 episodes tend to feel dragging. But Nevertheless would’ve been fleshed out better if it had more than 10 episodes. This is because as compared to the webtoon, Jae-Eon’s actions in the drama — or at least some of them — aren’t enough to be considered as red flags, in my opinion. It only seems like it because we tend to watch dramas to get a taste of a pure and idealistic kind of love much like what Do-Hyeok as a second lead offers.
Not a red flag: Jae-Eon not wanting labels in a relationship
Now before you start protesting, hear me out. I keep seeing people calling Jae-Eon a red flag simply because he wants nothing to do with labels. If this was the only basis, I’d say he’s no different than any casual dater in their 20s. Some people around this age range consider exclusivity as part of being in a serious relationship. And maybe for those who are more conservative, there’s no other option than this. But the reality is, there are people who just ‘date and go’. Jae-Eon staying by Nabi’s side, even hanging out with her during her birthday, is more commitment than what others would’ve given considering their label-less relationship.
A red flag: Jae-Eon being condescending towards his past conquests
However, some of Jae-Eon’s actions shouldn’t be tolerated no matter how ‘casual’ your setup is. For one, there was a scene where Jae-Eon and Nabi were approached by a girl who was implied to be one of his past flings. Nabi saw that the girl has a butterfly tattoo on her inner arm (butterflies are Jae-Eon’s ‘thing’), which is in the exact position where Jae-Eon drew the symbol in Nabi’s arm when they first met. But that's not where the red flag comes in. While using the same move over and over towards the girls you’re pursuing isn’t exactly a bad thing, talking about these girls condescendingly when things are over is.
When Nabi asks Jae-Eon about the girl, Jae-Eon immediately dismisses it, saying that it might be because the girl wanted to get a reaction out of him. His expression was also filled with spite, like he was proving to Nabi that he was the one being chased after, even if all the other girl did was casually invite him to hang out. The girl didn’t even insist when he said no and just went her merry way. So why was Jae-Eon acting like the girl was such a nuisance?
In another instance, Nabi catches him kissing another girl (prior to when he and Nabi were a ‘thing’). Jae-Eon says it was just a game and that it was the girl who wanted to try it out. He always makes it seem like the girls he’s flirting with were the only ones who liked the interactions and he was not an active participant in the acts.
Not a red flag (sort of): Jae-Eon still hanging out with his ex
While the drama showed Jae-Eon being iffy about his past flings, however, he remains friendly with his ex Seola. This pushes Nabi to her limit, which eventually leads to her distancing herself from Jae-Eon. Even so, the drama doesn’t show whether or not there was still something more going on with Jae-Eon and Seola while Jae-Eon was ‘with’ Nabi. Seola even admits to lying about being with Jae-Eon. Sure, hanging out with your ex is clearly a big no-no for most people, but the fact that Seola and Jae-Eon’s relationship is nothing more than just a friendship of convenience shows that there’s more to Jae-Eon’s feelings about Nabi than what we see from Nabi’s perspective.
A red flag: how Jae-Eon met Nabi
When Jae-Eon and Nabi first met, Jae-Eon also cancels his date with someone without thinking twice since he found Nabi attractive (and finds her name amusing since nabi means 'butterfly' in Korean).
Why we think Nabi chose Jae-Eon in the Nevertheless K-drama ending
Each episode’s label is very telling. We get upfront statements like ‘I Know It Isn’t Love’ followed by, ‘Nevertheless,’. This immediately clues us in on Nabi’s thought process in each episode. It indicates that she’s aware of every single thing that Jae-Eon is doing and how it makes her feel, and yet she’s willing to make it work and take risks despite this awareness.
If we look at Episode 9, the title goes ‘I Know It’s Over. Nevertheless,’ which gave us a clue about the ending. Will Nabi take Jae-Eon back despite saying she doesn’t want to see him again? Will she eventually believe that he sincerely wants to formally go out with her even if she learned that one of the reasons he might’ve done so was Do-Hyeok’s presence? Somehow, all the signs pointed to yes. And as confirmed, Episode 10's title, 'Nevertheless, I Still...' already cued us in to Nabi's finale decision even before we hit play on the episode.
Looking at all of Nabi’s romantic relationships, Jae-Eon is the only one that knows the ‘real her’. Her ex was manipulative and insincere. Do-Hyeok, on the other hand, puts her on a pedestal, making hers cared of disappointing him. With Jae-Eon, she's vulnerable yet still in control, she seeks warmth yet understands their boundaries, and she’s a lot more honest with the things she want and don’t want. It doesn’t make their relationship 100% healthy, but Nabi is more in command of her actions with Jae-Eon than her other relationships. She is aware of Jae-Eon’s effect on her and even carefully considers her response knowing that there will be consequences. Her decisions are not always agreeable, but just like the episode titles suggest, she has full agency over her decisions in relationships.
It’s definitely wrong for Jae-Eon to feel provoked after seeing Do-Hyeok as competition. But it did help him finally take his feelings for Nabi seriously. Even Seola, who seems to be the only person who knows Jae-Eon’s true nature, made it clear that Jae-Eon finally found his match in Nabi.
How the series *actually* ended
In the end, both Nabi and Jae-Eon decided that despite all the ups and downs of their relationships, they are finally willing to give it a shot. Nabi said she might get hurt and regret it but she knows the situation better now.
The final scene showed Nabi and Jae-Eon going on a date. Nabi caught a glimpse of Do-Hyeok in a restaurant they passed by and gave Do-Hyeok one last longing look, as if thinking of what might have been if she chose him, before holding on to Jae-Eon and going their merry way.
If it were up to us, we’d prefer it if Nabi ended up choosing herself and moves on to find someone more deserving of her. But as we predicted, the drama deviated from the webtoon’s ending and made Jae-Eon and Nabi find their happy ending in each other, nevertheless.