Holy shit, somone give this show all the Korean Oscars known to man. The nuances in the characters – the extended scenes in which nothing is happening, expect what’s happening in their head, reflected on their faces – holy God! This is mesmerizing tv. Not only is it an interesting plot – and unique – but it’s sooo subtle. It’s slow, but in the best simmer way. There are main characters, but even the side characters are massively important to you while viewing. Everyone is connected, developed, full of their own stories and pain and personalities.
If you’ve already watched this amazing show, you know those moments where (anyone of) our characters are on the phone, holding back everything, but the person on the other end knows them enough to know what their sighs or hesitations mean… that slow motion development of inner conflict without words… Jesus. It’s good. Even if the plot had sucked (and it didn’t), I would have been won over with the character development. Escaping obvious tropes and cliches, the people in this show suffered silently and then together and then silently again. Family, friends, lack of, all determined how they approached letting people in. And letting people in – really in – to your inner world was the key focus of this show. The few people who break down your barriers, or who you surrender your castle to, these are the people who really know you and who also can really hurt you. They are your true reflections.
Overall Rating – 9.5/10. Being Jealous of a Close Knit Community of Alcoholics for 16 Episodes.
More thoughts on plot and characters – which include SPOILERS… below….
Double Standards, people. Let’s just talk about it.
Seriously… such a double standard. I’ve been watching K-dramas for a long time and they have no problem whatsoever throwing a young man into an older woman’s arms. Noona romances galore. Secret Love Affair, I Can Hear Your Voice, My Sweet Seoul, My Lovely Sam Soon, the list is long. But can a middle aged dude hook up with a younger woman? NOPE. I realized right away this wasn’t going to be that kind of a love story – even though it WAS… the chemistry was spot on, the longing, the tension, the silences and stares and sultry avoidance and secret messages to each other. More than half the show, our leading male looked like he needed to bite down hard on a leather strap to keep from exploding with desire. And our stalker female lead, she was insanely obsessed with him… and that’s putting it mildly.
And I’ll admit, I was conflicted because the story was amazing because they DIDN’T hook up – it wasn’t that kind of love. It was two people becoming obsessed with each other in a strictly platonic way. They became embedded into each others lives. They became each others protector. She was his guardian angel. He was her white knight. The story was PERFECT that way.
But I can’t help it… I can’t help but wonder if the roles were switched, if they wouldn’t have given us a different story.
Instead, we got a love story of three brothers. Could the brothers have been any more lovable? The bumbling other brother, optimistic despite numerous set downs, sensitive and eager. The youngest brother, the artistic and temperamental one who struggles to accept the love of an artistic and temperamental girl. And of course our lead male, the middle brother, the rock of the family… patient, reserved, and repressed, always doing the right thing, holding his tongue, watching over everyone.
The neighborhood stories were equally compelling. The bar owner who had never gotten over being abandoned by her first love. Who cried herself to sleep at night but went to work with a cheery disposition. The monk who had left her behind to seek enlightenment. The mother of the three brothers, who kept an eye out on all of them – checking in at the monastery, feeding our bar owner, cleaning up after her sons. Nothing was overblown in this show. It was just a realistic portrayal of the complications of life.
In the case of our leading lady – a very shitty life. Our sad leading lady – the quiet, wary, and exhausted young heroine whose live was so pitiful and desperate that morality meant very little to her if she could survive another day – was FASCINATING. And so pitiful. Abused, physically and emotionally, since childhood… abused, physically and emotionally in young adulthood. She’d barely been hanging on. Hunted down by loan sharks. Struggling to care for her deaf grandmother and brother. Always an inch away from being homeless or dead. The girl did not have the same priorities as anyone else in the show because her basic meets were not being met – she was surviving on stolen coffee and ramen. And in the grand tradition of K-Dramas, there was a great deal of “looking the other way” from everyone. Clearly she was being beaten – and badly – but no one was calling the authorities or checking up on the situation. If my coworker came to work with broken fingers and a busted up face, everyone would be up in arms and all over it… but that is not the K-Drama way. Black eyes and bruises are merely observed and not commented on.
This actress was phenomenal as the broken young lady who held it all in. Watching her change, as she began to spy on her boss and witness a bigger, kinder world… was mesmerizing. You could feel it breaking her heart. Feel her jealousy and longing for that kind of life – that kind of support – that kind of love. It was deeply touching.
Speaking of complicated characters – you had the son of the loan shark… who had, at one point in their childhoods, sweetly looked after our leading lady, both of them battered by his father. When our leading lady kills his father, protecting her grandmother from being beaten to death, our young man flips his coin – becoming the very monster his father was. He becomes a loan shark and now is the one beating our lead female, tormented with love and hate for her. This actor was stellar… because he was a monster, but you could see the cracks in him… you could feel the conflicting desires inside him, the self loathing, the frustration. He was almost (almost) sympathetic. I’ll be keeping my eye out for this actor -because I believe he deserves a leading role soon and we will all be blown away his performance.
Our other villain is the odious business man who has been sleeping with our leading man’s wife. He’s a competitor, vying for the same promotion as his rival. He’s devious and calculating and insecure. And he was very fun to watch. His smug smile, his shifty eyes, his quickly changing emotions. He was a character I loved to hate.
We also had the cool as cucumbers wife of our leading male. Successful, gorgeous, and sly. She’d been having an affair for over a year – but when things go sour, she is forced to return home and mend her bridges with her husband. I understood why our leading man decided to stick it out with her. They had been married for years. They had a child together. Marriage can be unexpectedly hard and disappointing. I found it rather comforting that they slowly and carefully attempted to heal their broken hearts. Though I admit, part of me wanted him to kick her to the curb.
Let us close with praise to Lee Sun-Kyun – who played our leading male. This is his best show since Coffee Prince. What a wonderful character. Perfect for his voice (what better person to listen in on for hours a day?). Perfect for his acting ability – so many emotions coming through that face, the sighs, the eyes, the tightness around the mouth. He felt weighted. And so real. I was ready to sign up for the Lee Sun-Kyun stalking program after watching this show.
Though everyone (and I mean everyone) was exceptional in this drama – our leading male, our Mister, was the shining star. Truly breathtaking performance of an A-List Actor giving us an amazing, memorable character that we won’t forget.
So… get over to Dramafever and watch this moody, broody show filmed mostly on the dark streets of Seoul. You won’t be sorry.