As strong as Episodes 1-9 were, Episodes 10-12 fell totally flat. In a show that had only characters in shades of gray, I was actually starting to cheer for TH. Then he hit the skids with the comment, “I’ll be the villain…” in Episode 9, and he dutifully followed through on that in Episodes 10-12, transforming into an even bigger jerk than he had previously been. Dude, what were you thinking, getting all buddy-buddy with KSH and taking advantage of your loyal friends? Not to mention disappointing Na Ra and RJG.
The closer TH got to being business partners with KHS, the closer I got to dumping this show. Everything had gone so well–and then the show started to tank. Had I not been so invested in this show, and entranced by the fine acting of almost the entire cast, it would have probably ended for me right there. Fortunately, I persevered–and was greatly rewarded by the best two hours of Kdrama I have seen so far in Episodes 13 and 14. Then the show wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste in Episodes 15 and 16, but still had a pretty good ending as Kdramas go. Heh, the bar is not set real high, TBH!
I really liked this show overall. I was already a YKS fan. Not only is he a great actor, but he consistently picks interesting projects. It’s shocking how underrated and overlooked this show and his previous drama “Beyond the Clouds” were. I am always on board to see what his next drama or movie will be. He did a movie recently called “Red Carpet”–which is on my list to watch and review for this blog as soon as it gets subs over at Dramacool. In this movie, YKS plays a frustrated erotic movie director who has bigger dreams for his life and career. Based on his previous movies/dramas, I don’t think there will be any borderline porn scenes that might make me squirm–but I am expecting a slightly off-beat story that I’ll enjoy. I have no doubt this movie will be overlooked by the mainstream media too.
The scenes in the first two episodes where TH had not eaten for days, and the way he looked at the food that had fallen on the ground or was set out in the trash was some exceptionally fine acting–as was the scene where he took the 5000 Won note and bought some stew at Halmoni’s restaurant. But YKS was not alone in having some great moments in this show. Lee Beom Soo definitely brought his A-game to portray one of the most interesting and complex villains I’ve seen so far in a Kdrama. Park Ye Jin who played RJG’s long suffering girlfriend Mi Joo was also an unexpected surprise. She brought a lot of emotional depth to Mi Joo, giving off a tragic vibe without making it seem like she was a character to be pitied. Another fine performance worth noting was from Kim Hyung Ku, the young actor who portrayed Mantis. In an ensemble of veteran actors, he showed he could not only hold his own, but have scene-stealing moments as well. I will be watching this fine young actor’s future closely. He also seems to pick interesting and different projects–and being able to do that early in a career is a sign of even better things to come.
I was disappointed that the thread about RJG’s missing daughter seemed to get lost in the scheme of things. I would have really enjoyed seeing their reunion and reconciliation. Yeah, I know supposedly MJ went and visited her and she was okay, but that was not the resolution I was looking for. As for the romance in this show, the supposed OTP of TH and NR is a total bust. Zero chemistry. I think that was why the ending didn’t seem surprising. Now RJG and MJ—whoa! Those two and their angsty, longing gazes at each other, the sacrifices each was willing to make for the other….I loved every minute of those two together on screen, and the instrumental soundtrack behind them was perfect.
I could have used a few more episodes to wrap this show up–I have a hunch the webcomic took a lot longer to resolve things. A second season would have been welcome too, but the ratings wouldn’t support that project, plus reassembling this ensemble of fine actors and actresses would be impossible. I would love to read the translated webcomic now; I have a feeling there was a lot more detail and character development that the show just couldn’t fit into 16 episodes.
I was always more invested in TH and his interaction with the homeless guys more than the revenge against KHS and all the machinations involved with that. It was highly irritating to find out TH went to jail (never explained for exactly what, although TH committed plenty of illegal acts to choose from) and then didn’t even bother to respond to Na Ra’s letters! TH remained true to his own self-centered nature right to the very end. Na Ra, take it from Shamrockmom: you need and deserve a better boyfriend!
I had some mixed thoughts about the fight scene in Episode 16 where KHS is about to stab TH with the knife–and is shot by the cops. It seemed so anti-climactic and out of character for the show to get the police involved after not really seeing any police presence for several episodes despite no lack of illegal activity by multiple characters. Some commentators felt KHS wanted to go out in a “blaze of glory”. I definitely agree with that, but I think there were also other motivations at work here. KHS would surely not want his brother to see him go to prison. His overriding MO was to get payback for his family’s bankruptcy and demise, including the death of his father. He wanted to protect his little brother–even if that meant roping him into a revenge scheme Se Hoon had no absolutely no stomach for. KHS would sooner die than go to prison where he would not be able to be in control–especially of Se Hoon. I felt kinda sorry for Se Hoon at the end. Now he is truly alone; his family is completely gone, he’s bankrupt, his girlfriend Jung Min is probably not too happy with all the lies he’s told her…KHS left quite a mess for his little bro he tried so hard to protect.
There was one line in this drama that I want to highlight, because I felt it was so relevant not only in the show, but to RL. Mi Joo makes a great point when she tells TH that one thing RJG was guilty of was always thinking about doing something, but never acting on that thought. I’m so guilty of this myself I can hardly write it out. We have a name for it at Shamrockmom’s House “I’m a-gonna disease”. I’m gonna do this or I’m gonna do that….but it never seems to actually happen. Especially when it comes to contacting some friends from long ago that I need to do. I need to fix this, ASAP.
Even with a less-than-perfect ending, and a couple of frustrating episodes, this is a show I’d recommend in a heartbeat. Great storytelling that rarely drags, fine acting performances by the cast, and an exceptional soundtrack should put this drama on your watch list. I think this would be a great show to recommend to potential male viewers who normally roll their eyes at the soapy fluff they erroneously believe Kdramas to be. No silliness here–just a morally complex tale of survival that offers no preachy or easy answers to the viewer.