Netflix's XO, Kitty Was An Unexpected Delight
XO, Kitty was a convoluted mess, and I couldn't get enough of it.
XO, Kitty stars Anna Cathcart reprising her role as Kitty Song-Covey in the spin-off series to the To All The Boys movie trilogy. After the events of the last movie, Always and Forever, where the Song-Covey family travels to Seoul, and Kitty meets Dae (Choi Min-Young), the two are still going strong in a long-distance relationship for the last four years. However, the novelty of the distance has worn off.
Immediately we find out that Kitty applied and received a scholarship to the Korean Independent Seoul School, Kiss for short, for her junior year of high school. Not only does Dae attend KISS, but her mom also used to go there, making this the perfect opportunity for Kitty to spend time with her boyfriend and learn more about the mother she's never met. However, things quickly goes awry when she gets to Korea.
I'll admit I didn't even watch Always and Forever, so I had yet to learn who Dae was. I also don't watch many movies or shows in other languages because I'm always busy, and watching something where I must focus on subtitles is too time-consuming. I don't want dialogue to be lost in translation in English dubbed versions, either. With these things in mind, I am not this show's target audience, and I still loved it.
XO, Kitty has a relatively simple concept – surprise her boyfriend and learn about her mom. Somehow, the show becomes incredibly convoluted in the best possible way.
In To All The Boys, no matter what happened, it was a given that Lara Jean would end up with Peter, and I was expecting the same for XO, Kitty. I was wrong. Kitty's relationship with Dae loses trust, she questions her sexuality when she gains a crush on Yuri (Gia Kim), and Dae's best friend Min Ho (Sang Heon Lee) falls in love with Kitty. It's a K drama-style mess.
Regarding her mother, Kitty tries to connect with her by visiting the same places, but that somehow turns into the search for a long-lost sibling. Then it turns out that Kitty didn't uncover a Song-Covey family secret, but that of the school principal, who also happened to be her mom's best friend and Yuri's mother, Jina Lim (Yunjin Kim).
As complicated as all that sounds, Jenny Han and the other show writers said, let's pile more on. There's insight into the complex family dynamics for just about every character. Kitty's gay best friend, Q (Anthony Keyvan), gets an entire side storyline with a French boyfriend and a cheating scandal. Even with the intertwining storylines, I was never confused or lost. Although some of the storylines had a level of predictability, there were moments of shock I never saw coming.
Something disappointing was the abandonment of the title concept. At the start of the series, Kitty is seen sending emails to her sisters about her adventures in Korea, signing them "XO, Kitty," but that concept is abandoned. There was a gift and a sticky note with the signature, but the moments were brief and overshadowed by a necklace. To All The Boys always had the love letters as the guiding force for the stories, but the XO, Kitty signature felt like an afterthought.
However, one of the most successful aspects of XO, Kitty, was Anna Cathcart as Kitty. Just like in To All The Boys, she stole every scene she was in, and Kitty's matchmaking skills were at an all-time high. Her character felt like a believable and natural transition from her childhood persona in To All The Boys. Even some of her more fantastical beliefs seem plausible considering the literal movie-esque experiences she witnessed her older sister go through, which is funnily brought up throughout the series.
With the endless amounts of sequels, no one asked for, XO, Kitty seemed like it would become another disappointing money grab to expand a fan-loved franchise, but that wasn't entirely the case. XO, Kitty stands on its own as a fun and complicated rom-com that may not have been perfect, but you're instantly invested in each character's journey, making it a must-see.