Review: Heirs

THE SHORT VERDICT:

A teen melodrama dressed up to pass off as a posh teen rom-com.

At first glance, this show might look like it wants to do too much, what with its over-bloated, gigantic cast. In actual fact, though, the show doesn’t really want to do anything except provide a platform for its OTP to go through the requisite angsty steps (angsty coz this is ultimately more melo than rom-com) to get to their happy-ever-after, which was a given from the very beginning (ok, the happy ending’s sorta more rom-com).

On the plus side, Kim Woo Bin is the resident scene-stealer (and he steals those scenes, so well), while several other secondary characters are likable and amusing. Just don’t expect a properly fleshed out story or robust character & relationship development arcs.

Pleasant enough but far from cracky, Heirs is a show that never fired up my emotions one way or the other. I neither hated it nor loved it. And indifference, I realize, is really not a very inspiring place to be.

OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.

THE LONG VERDICT:

Oh, this show. I wanted to like this, I really did.

As we entered the first couple of episodes, I assumed the slow pace was simply an effect of us being in the set-up episodes, and that once the necessary pieces were properly put in place, that we’d really get started on our story.

I was so wrong. By the time we were 12 – TWELVE! – whole episodes in, it hardly felt like we’d gotten our foot out the door. Which wouldn’t be such a problem if this were a long-running daily with an episode count upwards of 150. But Heirs, at 20 episodes long, seemed to take forever and then some to get going in earnest with its story.

In that sense, watching Heirs felt like watching an American soap which goes on indefinitely, season upon season, and no one and nothing essentially changes from episode to episode. Kinda like Grey’s Anatomy, which I followed for something like 3 seasons. For each of those seasons, our female lead was still in love with McDreamy, pretty much. The episodes just went in circles around that one theme. And I felt like that’s what Heirs was doing; going in circles a lot, but with nothing substantial happening, for way too long.

Take, for example, the 3-way stare-down. One too many stare-downs made for ineffective, boring cliffhangers. Especially since everything else in the story stayed essentially the same.

3-way staredowns as cliffhangers only work for so long before getting old. Very, very old.

To add to the plodding feel of the story’s pacing, I felt like it was too melodramatic to be enjoyable. Almost everything felt heavy & slow: in atmosphere, in movement, in character and relationship development, just.. everything. While I was watching this, it didn’t feel like a miniseries, coz, well, a miniseries needs to move faster than this.

And then after episode 12, Stuff did happen. The only problem was, there was very little explanation for so many things. Complete character turnarounds were left largely unexplained, signalled only by a change in hairstyle. Apparently when you get a lobotomy, a new hairstyle comes with the package?

Woobie looks great either way, but still. Bad writing, Show *smacks wrist*

To continue enjoying watching the show, I learned to accept that in the world of Heirs, Not Everything Makes Sense. Not every effect needs a cause. Stuff happens, sometimes. Just because.

So instead of doing a proper breakdown of the show, I thought I’d just give you a couple of highlights: things I liked, things I didn’t like, and things I would’ve liked.

On a side note, I thought I’d mention that while certain tracks on the OST nearly drove me batty with overuse as I watched the show (Love is the Momeeeennnt, anyone?), I realize there are some tracks on the OST that I actually rather like. (Who knew, right?)

[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]

THINGS I LIKED

1. The relationship between Tan’s mom and Eun Sang’s mom

These two were hilarious together.

They often shared comic scenes, such as the one above, where a mild tussle between a hungover, suspicious Madam Han (Kim Sung Ryung) and a hastily contrite Madam Park (Kim Mi Kyung) escalates into a full-on pillow fight, which then suddenly turns on its head into a magical, dreamy moment as the pillow explosion brings on floaty, slo-mo feather snow. Ha.

The two women freeze in wonder, until Madam Han realizes that the feathers aren’t goose down but chicken feathers. She purses her lips that she can’t return the pillow now, but brightens that she’s now in the mood for chicken and beer. HA. Irreverent, light and very, very amusing, I could’ve watched these two and their antics for episodes on end.

Aside from the comedy, though, theirs was one of the most endearing relationships in the show. Beneath the petty disagreements, these two genuinely cared for each other.

I loved the scene in episode 19 where the two women reunite. Madam Han, upon stepping out of the car, cries, “Ahjumma!” And the two embrace like long-lost sisters – or lovers. Heh.

Madam Han proceeds to unleash a tirade of protests at Madam Park for leaving so suddenly: “How could you do this to me? How could you leave without telling me?” … “Ahjumma! Did you miss me or not? [Madam Park nods, smiling] Liar. How could you not send me a text?”

How cute are they, right?

And if there was any doubt before, the depth of their friendship and affection is plain as day as they catch up with a heart-to-heart talk over drinks.

To Madam Park, Madam Han expresses her regret at how she’s lived her life, coveting another woman’s husband, home and life, and therefore bringing about her own paralysis at being unable to properly be a wife and mother.

Madam Han’s regret overflows into big, heaving sobs as she sits on the beach, and Madam Park does what any good friend and soulmate would. She simply sits with her.

Heartwrenchingly, heartwarmingly lovely, these two. Loved them.

2. Bo Na on her own, and Bo Na with Chan Young

I hafta say, Bo Na was one of the most likable, lovable, amusing characters in the show. Major credit goes to Krystal’s delivery, coz on paper, Bo Na could’ve easily been an annoying, irritating character instead.

As a character, Bo Na’s uber full of herself and superficial. To top it off, she’s also an obsessive, possessive, hyper-jealous kind of girlfriend. Yet, Krystal made her entertaining and harmless, and basically showed us that being a cheerful, clueless, happy teen was way better than being angsty like everyone else.

I loved the running gag that Bo Na was so convinced of her charm and irresistible allure that she always automatically assumed that the boys were falling over themselves for her.

Classic case in point: the scene in episode 8 (above), where Bo Na finds Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho) standing outside the school studio and immediately assumes that he’s there waiting for her.

She huffs, “Hey Kim Tan! I really don’t like you following me like this. You still haven’t gotten over me?”

Amused, Kim Tan plays along, “I guess not.”

Bo Na cluelessly and haughtily puts him in his place, “I knew it. Hey! I’m really happy with Chan Young right now.”

Some teasing back-and-forth ensues, and Kim Tan says, “You’re still cute, Bo Na.”

Bo Na mutters to herself, “At least you have eyes.” (HA.) Then she turns to set things straight with Kim Tan, “Just in case you were wondering, I don’t like you anymore.”

Kim Tan doesn’t miss a beat, “But I like you.” Perplexed, Bo Na starts to raise her voice, “Hey! I have a boyfriend!”

“Does he know that I like you?” Agitated, Bo Na cries, “He shouldn’t know that! Gosh! Can you please get over me?” And flounces off in a huff. Hee.

Without fail, Bo Na’s Princess-of-her-own-world way of approaching everything made me giggle.

Even more than that, I loved Bo Na’s childlike lack of malice. She got huffy quite a lot, but she never stayed angry for long, nor did she hold grudges.

One of my favorite Bo Na scenes around that theme is this one in episode 14, where Bo Na makes up with Ye Sol (Jun Soo Jin).

As she’s handing out invitations to her make-up party with Chan Young (Kang Min Hyuk), Bo Na spots Ye Sol at her locker. She calls out, “Kang Ye Sol!” but Ye Sol, guilty for the part she played in causing the pair to break up in the first place, hurriedly turns away, pretending not to hear her.

Bo Na gives chase, demanding, “Why are you leaving when I’m calling you?”

Ye Sol offers lamely, “I was just standing here.”

Bo Na huffs matter-of-factly, “If I run towards you, you should run towards me! I’m having a reunion party with Chan Young. You have to come! You’re the reason we broke up.” And then adds, “I’m sorry.”

Ye Sol chokes out, “Me too.”

Both girls tear up as they embark on a hilarious, heartwarming round of arguing over who’s sorrier.

“I’m sorry more.”

“I’m more more sorry.”

“I’m more more more sorry.”

I’m more more more more more sorry.”

“I said I’m more sorry.”

“I’m sorry more!”

So. Cute.

Not only do I love that Bo Na doesn’t hold a grudge, but she’s the first to extend the olive branch to Ye Sol. And she’s the first to apologize too. I luff this girl.

And I luff her with Chan Young too:

When I first met this couple, I seriously wondered how Chan Young put up with her obsessive-possessive tendencies. As I got to know Bo Na better as a character, though, I began to see why Chan Young felt so much affection towards her.

One of the things that sticks in my mind the most about this couple, is what Chan Young says in episode 7, in response to Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye) urging him to leave before Bo Na gets angry.

Smiling, Chan Young declares, “Bo Na never gets angry. She’s just acting cute.” Ha. And aw.

I enjoyed that both Bo Na and Chan Young were quick to show each other affection. Bo Na was refreshingly open and honest about her adoration of Chan Young. And Chan Young was wonderfully tolerant of her many rants and mini tantrums, coz he could see that behind it all, she had a good heart.

I thought Bo Na and Chan Young were super cute together, and I would’ve happily watched an entire drama with them as the OTP.

3. Kim Woo Bin, Kim Woo Bin, Kim Woo Bin

It’s no secret around these parts that I am completely smitten with Kim Woo Bin. ❤

I mean, he’s the entire reason that I live-watched Heirs at all, since prior to this, I’d always preferred to marathon shows after they were done. I knew, though, that even if Heirs stank and stank bad, I would stick with this show to the bitter end. All for Woobie, y’know.

Let’s just say that Woobie did not disappoint. I know, I’m a biased fangirl, so my opinion is probably biased anyway. But I’ve heard multiple other people (some who weren’t even KWB fans to begin with!) echo the same sentiment: Kim Woo Bin was excellent as Young Do in Heirs, and stole every scene he was in. Heck, he practically stole the entire show.

Let me state upfront that despite the fact that Young Do’s character was one of the few (the only one?) who enjoyed an actual development arc in Heirs, that I still found the writing around his character (and practically everything else, really) lacking.

Young Do’s development as a character was patchy at best, and the jerky writing would at times give us hints of character depth beneath the surface. Ultimately, though, the writing failed to connect the dots for the audience. Partway through the show, Young Do appeared to get a lobotomy, and his personality shifted so massively that I felt like I had drama whiplash.

Despite all of that, however, Kim Woo Bin gave us a solid, nuanced performance, and made Young Do much more fascinating in delivery than on paper.

Woobie Awesome: let me count the ways.

#1. The Pretty

Kim Woo Bin looked amazing in Heirs. Whether he was without his shirt,

Rawr. That’s 12kg (26.5lb) of muscle he put on, and it’s so, soooo delicious. ❤️

or in a full tux,

Eeeee!!! So, soooo handsome. I swoon. ❤️

or anywhere in-between,

Woobie in a crisp white shirt = so swoony. Thud.

he always looks fabulous.

Even when the writing made no sense whatsoever, I could always count on the Young Do pretty to give me something to spazz about.

#2. The Charismatic Bad Boy

It’s true that Young Do was written as borderline psychotic in the first half of Heirs.

Angry, sullen, and with obvious violent tendencies, Young Do was Dangerous with a capital D. Alarmingly, Young Do seemed to take actual pleasure in inflicting physical pain and emotional torment on others.

On paper, there were so many reasons to be disturbed by Young Do rather than drawn to him. It’s purely Kim Woo Bin’s charismatic charm that made Young Do inexplicably alluring instead of intensely abhorrent.

It’s like I knew in my head that Young Do was behaving in deeply disturbing and terrible ways. But my fangirl heart couldn’t help but be fascinated and rather mesmerized by him anyway.

Knowing that he was being schooled by a terrible, abusive father (Choi Jin Ho) didn’t make Young Do’s behavior any less excusable, but it did at least give me a reason to feel sorry for Young Do.

One of the things I liked the most about Young Do was how ballsy he was.

From declaring that his step-sister-to-be Rachel (Kim Ji Won) was totally his type, to bringing in his father’s ex-lover to derail the family portrait-taking, to storming Kim Tan’s house wearing a motorcycle helmet and a whole lotta swagger, Young Do is ballsy and bold, with a bit (or a lot!) of brash on the side.

It is that boldness, that Kim Woo Bin plays with unhurried, measured, drawling deliberation that makes Young Do’s bad boy so charismatic and mesmerizing.

I (we?) just couldn’t look away.

#3. The Facets and Nuances Beneath the Surface

In part, it was the writing which gave us glimpses into Young Do’s psyche, and in part, it was Kim Woo Bin’s thoughtful, nuanced delivery which added layers to Young Do that weren’t in the script.

Combined, these 2 factors gave us insight into Young Do the character beneath the bad boy surface that felt mostly credible. This, despite the massive, inexplicable shift in Young Do’s personality in episode 14 after a shower and hairstyle change. It’s to Kim Woo Bin’s credit that Young Do still kinda-sorta felt like the same character despite the extremely jerky writing.

Here are a couple of Young Do highlights that I liked.

Hallway Confrontation

I liked this quick scene in episode 5, where Young Do confronts Rachel in the hallway on the rumors that Kim Tan is back.

Leaning casually on Rachel’s locker, Young Do asks, “Is it true that Kim Tan is back?” Angrily, Rachel tantrums, “Why is everyone asking me? This is so annoying! I said move!”

Without losing an ounce of cool, Young Do remarks in smooth, almost soothing tones, “So my sister doesn’t know either. That’s why she’s annoyed.”

So. Cool. Ahhh!!

And, Young Do shows that he’s pretty good at reading people. Or just reading Rachel?

On a side note, I also wanted to say that I actually rather liked Rachel as a character, even though she’s mostly portrayed in bitchy tones.

I find that Rachel actually has shades of vulnerability about her, like she’s trying to stick to her guns and prove that she’s all that, but it’s all just empty veneer, and she’s more fragile inside than she’d like to admit. In that sense, I always sort of felt sorry for her, even when she was being her bitchiest.

Credit to Kim Ji Won for bringing out shades of vulnerability and fragility in such a petulant character.

Because I was lonely

In a quick scene in episode 8, Young Do goes to the cafe where Eun Sang works and catches her ignoring another one of his calls.

Eun Sang asks defensively, “What do you want to say?”

Smiling his usual sardonic smile, Young Do answers, “Nothing.” As he averts his gaze though, Young Do softens his tone as he admits, “I’m just here because I’m lonely.” He then quickly recovers with a cheery, “Oh yeah. I dropped the lawsuit.”

Kudos to Kim Woo Bin for managing to give Young Do’s quick, matter-of-fact admission such a sense of pathos, even though we don’t have a strong reason to feel sorry for him.

It’s the little things

This section isn’t quite about a particular scene. Rather, it’s a small collection of moments where Show and Kim Woo Bin together show us there’s more warmth to Young Do than meets the eye.

Like the quick scene above, where Young Do happily and warmly pats his dog.

Or here, where Young Do looks intrigued by Eun Sang, who’s just chirpily delivered fried chicken to the guys at the bike shop:

Or here, in a follow-up scene, where Young Do orders fried chicken too, just to get her number.

Amid the cocky veneer that he wears as they talk, there’s a moment where Young Do quietly watches Eun Sang as she nervously completes the transaction, and his gaze is intent, but soft and curious. Likey.

Or this moment where Young Do spies Eun Sang sitting outside the convenience store, and smiles to himself, pleased to see her.

It’s in the little moments like these, where Kim Woo Bin injects Young Do with glimpses of personality and softness, and I appreciated that a lot.

Fave Young Do Scenes

With Young Do, I felt that his main arc was never about romance or bromance, though there are many viewers who would’ve liked to see more of those elements at play in Young Do’s story.

Rather, I felt that Young Do’s main trajectory was of healing, reconciliation and growing up.

Here, I just wanted to highlight a couple of my favorite Young Do scenes around that theme.

Young Do’s meal with Eun Sang’s mom

This is truly one of the most heartbreaking yet heartwarming scenes in the entire show. And possibly my favorite scene of the entire series.

In episode 18, Young Do goes to visit Eun Sang, who isn’t home. He gets invited in by Eun Sang’s mom, who feeds him.

Urged by Madam Park, Young Do begins to eat, cautiously and uncertainly. He just keeps putting rice into his mouth, and Mom anxiously pushes the banchan toward him. Young Do swallows and choke-whispers, “Thank you.”

He chews studiously as his eyes fill with tears. He tells Mom, “It’s delicious” and she smiles.

When Mom asks if he’s a good friend of Eun Sang’s, Young Do pauses before answering honestly and a little hesitantly, “I like Eun Sang.” Mom says nothing and Young Do continues to eat gratefully. Aw.

It’s a profound moment for Young Do, who hasn’t tasted a mother’s food nor felt a mother’s warmth ever since his own mother left.

I love Young Do’s hesitant honesty, and his sincere, tearful gratitude in this scene. I love how uncertain and vulnerable he allows himself to be, in the face of a mother’s gentle care. I love how simple it is for Eun Sang’s mom to extend that care towards him. And I love how it’s something so simple that gets Young Do in the heart.

Heartbreakingly, heartwarmingly good.

I lived wrongly

Young Do’s deepest emotional pain stems from being abandoned by his mother, and he’s masked that pain for so long with his anger and rage that it’s a profound moment when he sits in the cafe where he would’ve last seen his mother, confronting and pondering the words that she’d scrawled to him on the graffiti-ridden wall, “How are you, Young Do?”

As Young Do leaves the cafe, he finally answers in voice-over, “Not good. I feel that I’ve lived wrongly.”

What a great character moment, where Young Do finally confronts his pain and admits that it hurts; admits his wrong.

Kim Woo Bin doesn’t even speak during the scene, but his eyes and his face speak volumes.

Young Do’s reconciliation with his mom

In episode 20, Young Do goes to his mother’s cafe and finally walks through the door. There’s a moment where she stares at him in recognition, and calls out his name, “Young Do ya..” and Young Do can only manage a hesitant, polite “Annyeonghaseyo..”

Tearfully, Mom (Choi Ji Na) asks if he’s been well, and Young Do lets a silent tear fall as he answers in voice-over, “No.”

Mom approaches to touch the face of the son whom she hasn’t seen in years, and remarks that he’s grown tall and handsome. Young Do’s tears fall freely and he whispers, gently, brokenly, “Omma..” And then again, trying the words out for the first time in years, “Omma..” Oof. Tears.

Mom holds him close in a hug, crying out her apologies and broken explanations, for not waiting, for not coming back, and Young Do quietly, gently hugs her back.

So much emotional goodness, in this one scene. And Kim Woo Bin said so much, without saying much at all.

Kim Woo Bin shot up everyone’s radar with this drama, and as we’ve seen, it’s with good reason.

THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE

Honestly, there are so many things that I could talk about in this section, coz this drama could have done better in so, so many areas. The entire cast was terribly under-utilized, and random plot points and numerous underdeveloped arcs meant a great number of talented actors were wasted.

But I will only pick 3 things to talk about here. These are my main beefs with a show that could’ve been so much better.

Maybe Some Other Day (hur. See what I did there with the OST track?), in some other parallel universe, Heirs could maybe be a better drama.

1. The way women are treated in this show

With few exceptions, the women in this drama — Madam Han, Hyun Joo, Eun Sang — were treated like objects. I’m just going to touch on each of their situations briefly, coz delving into too much detail would be too frustrating an exercise for me, and for you.

Madam Han

Madam Han, a prisoner in her own house, with no power to live properly as a mother to her own son. And when she finally plucks up the courage to leave, she’s not even allowed to leave as she pleases, but is instead sternly dictated a place to stay by Evil Dad (Jung Dong Hwan) until she feels better:

“You were able to come here when you wanted to. But it’s a different story when you’re leaving. Go to America. Stay there and see the American sky until you feel better.”

Ew. No thanks.

Hyun Joo

Hyun Joo (Im Joo Eun), a prisoner of her non-relationship with Won (Choi Jin Hyuk), made to feel so inferior and unworthy for liking him, and he doesn’t do anything to fight for her right to like him either.

Won consistently chooses the company and his corporate success over Hyun Joo, and prioritizes her down the line as if she has no will or decision-making capacity of her own.

When Hyun Joo finally chooses to let him go, Won bangs on Hyun Joo’s gate, yelling, demanding that she come out when she clearly doesn’t want to. SO DISTASTEFUL.

And Won pleads with Hyun Joo to go to America for 3 years, so that she won’t see him hitting rock bottom,”Don’t read about me. You can’t find out that what I got for losing you… was really stupid.”

So basically, Won’s pride is of more importance than 3 years of Hyun Joo’s life. Not cool.

Eun Sang

Being our female lead, Eun Sang perhaps represents the female population of our cast the most. Which is terrible, coz she gets treated like an object the most.

All the 3-way stare-downs (and there were many!) were about Tan and Young Do brandishing their power, and she was the pawn of choice. Eun Sang was often the subject of wrist-grabs, trip-ups, or worst of all, forced skinship.

Case in point, these kisses.

First kiss:

To top it all off, Tan accompanies “romantic” moments like these by saying stuff like, “Because I like you. So I’m going to interfere in your affairs at school. I’m going to invade your privacy.”

And right after the kiss above, Tan threatens Eun Sang that he’ll really go crazy and kill whoever calls her, if she answers her phone.

Whut. Are you kidding me? That’s awful.

Or how about that second kiss in episode 16, where he practically shouts, “I said I will come for you. I said to wait for me. Stay where I tell you to stay. Wait when I tell you to. Stay when I tell you to stay. From now on, go to school and get off school with me. Listen to me. Okay?” Um. Those are not romantic words.

And then, he zooms in to practically grind his lips on hers, while her brow is all furrowed up, and through it all, Eun Sang looks like she’s enduring the kiss.

The music tells me this is supposed to be a romantic moment, but I feel more like Tan is branding Eun Sang as his, with this kiss. Shudder.

But wait, there’s more.

Hands-down, the moment above all other moments, where Tan treated Eun Sang like an object, is in episode 17, where he decides to let Eun Sang go. And then tells Young Do, “You take her.” You take her?!???

Well, if that’s not telling of how Tan objectifies Eun Sang, I don’t know what is.

Ugh. That made me so bleepin’ mad, I tell ya. And left such a bad taste in my mouth too.

2. Tan’s selfishness and self-centeredness

With more than 150 kdramas under my belt, let me just say upfront that I am very capable of rooting for the cold, selfish chaebol jerk who gets transformed by True Love.

The problem with Kim Tan was, he never really changed. He was selfish and self-centered pretty much all the way through this show, and I found myself asking the question at regular intervals, “Am I supposed to like this guy???”

While gathering my thoughts for this review, I found so many — so, so many! — examples of Tan’s unsavory behavior that I shocked even myself. I’m going to try to narrow it down for this review.

Here are my top 3 beefs with Selfish, Self-centered Tan.

#1. He treats his fiancee like crap

Too lazy to rebel properly, Tan has allowed himself to get engaged to Rachel, by arrangement of their parents. Which I can understand, given the chaebol circumstances.

But then Tan proceeds to treat Rachel like crap at every possible opportunity, and is impossibly mean and unkind to her. He basically treats her as if she has no feelings whatsoever, and that just sucks.

All he cares about is his own disdain for the engagement, and never takes into consideration the fact that Rachel was a pawn in this transaction as well.

Mean Tan is not at all attractive and I have no clue what Rachel sees in him.

#2. He’s malicious when it serves his purpose

In episode 10, when the war escalates between Tan and Young Do, Tan takes the matter to Young Do’s dad, and apologizes for hitting Young Do. Twice.

Tan knows full well how Young Do’s dad is probably going to whip the living daylights out of Young Do for allowing Tan to hit him, and yet he walks away from his meeting with Young Do’s dad with the most satisfied smirk on his face.

GAH. He willingly went there – to that deep, dark, evil place – just to win. That seriously made me question whether Tan was really the hero of this story, coz honestly, that’s just so uncool it’s practically evil.

And I found myself asking the question all over again, “Am I supposed to like this guy???” O.O

Coz the thing is, I know Young Do behaves in many very disturbing ways too. But hey. Young Do’s not this drama’s hero. Tan is. Well. He’s supposed to be, at any rate.

#3. It’s basically all about him

So I’ve described in some detail how I feel about Tan as boyfriend material (hint: not good).

On top of the manhandling and forced skinship, Tan regularly uses his power to manipulate and corner Eun Sang, in hopes that she will respond to his advances.

Like in episode 7 where he says to her, “Leave my house tomorrow. Or can you not do that? Do you want to keep going to school? Then like me — if possible, for real. I like you.” Ugh.

Or in episode 10, where we get this telling exchange between Eun Sang and Tan.

Eun Sang: “Didn’t you know? If your mother finds out about this, my mom and I… will have to live on the streets. So can you please cut the crap, Young Master?”

Kim Tan: “Do you really take my heart for granted? My feelings mean nothing to you? My life means nothing to you then? Do you fit with me? Do I fit with you? Yeah! You’re right. You don’t fit with me. I’m too much for you. You know why? It’s not because you hurt my pride. It’s not because you mentioned about my family problems and hurt me. It’s because I took the courage for you. But you didn’t do anything for me. Fine. If that’s what you want, then I will just leave you alone. I thought you were a good dream. But you were just a bad one.” And he walks away.

Seriously?!???

Basically, Tan is an inconsiderate, selfish ass.

And in episode 17, when Eun Sang disappears, Tan sinks into the hugest poor-me depression, ever.

Instead of doing anything at all constructive to help Eun Sang or find her, Tan wallows and wallows.. and wallows some more. 

To Young Do, Tan says, “I ruined her. Because I liked her… I pushed her off the cliff. Home, school, friends… Even her future…. I ruined it all.”

And just when I begin to feel a little sorry for him, he says to Young Do, “You take her.”Argh.

And really, it feels like at least a good chunk of Tan’s angst was a pity party for himself rather than pure remorse for Eun Sang’s wrecked life at his hands.

In response, Young Do grabs Tan by the collar and practically shakes him, “What did you just say, you bastard? You want to die? Do you even deserve to break down?” Yes, please knock some sense into the stupid self-centered boy.

Honestly. It’s a mess that Tan created with his obnoxious self-centered ways, and now that it’s all gone to pot, he’s crying about it and wallowing in his misery.

I was exceedingly annoyed by Tan’s wallowing, precisely because it was all about him. He cared more about himself than about Eun Sang.

Tellingly, at his most desperate, he pleads with Won, “When can I go to America? I’m dying. Just let me go. Please help me.” Ugh. Ugghh.

Listen. Through lots of kdramas, I’ve come around to care for many a jerk-wad chaebol as they chart their development journeys and get transformed by their True Loves. Just, Tan is not one of those.

18 whole episodes out of 20, he’s still wallowing in self-pity and only cares about himself. Just, no.

3. The deterioration of a heroine

As our heroine, Eun Sang started out strong. She had a strong stubborn streak, was prickly, and had very clear ideas about what she wanted in life.

I liked it when in episode 4, Eun Sang refused to give Tan her number and even called him out for treating his fiancee badly. Good for her! 

As the show wore on, though, Eun Sang eventually evolved into a helpless damsel in distress who was constantly in need of saving.

And she almost always had a horrified, tearful expression on her face too.

Eventually, in the later episodes, Eun Sang recovers some measure of her previous sass, but it feels like too little, too late. Like an afterthought, almost.

I would’ve preferred Eun Sang to have retained her strong willed personality all the way through. Coz why does she need a personality change just because she falls in love with a boy, right?

WHAT I WOULD’VE LIKED

Again, there are so many things I would like to wish for in this show, instead of the heavy and largely pointless angst that it served up.

Again, I’m going to limit myself to picking just a couple of the most major things.

1. More time on resolution between Tan and Won

If I had my way, I’d have liked to have had more screen time dedicated to resolving the tension and bad blood between Tan and Won.

Through much of the show, Tan is doggedly seeking Hyung’s approval and acceptance, and this thread is never resolved in a satisfying, robust manner.

I’d have liked to see the relationship slowly evolve and heal and the two brothers tackle their issues one by one, to move from enemies on opposite sides, to brothers in the thick of a genuine, heartfelt bromance.

2. More time on resolution between Tan and Young Do

Again, I’d like more thought and screentime dedicated to the resolution of the strained friendship between Tan and Young Do.

From the beginning of the show, we’re shown that the two used to be close friends, only to end up as enemies when Tan inadvertently plays a part in Young Do missing the chance to see his mother one last time before she left. That, and Tan’s admission to Young Do about his parentage.

I’d have liked to see these two find a way to work things through, to finally and properly resolve their issues and arrive at a place of acceptance and forgiveness. And yes, bromance too.

3. More time on parent-child resolutions and reconciliations

There are so many strained parent-child relationships in the show, and not enough resolution.

I’d have liked to see more concrete steps in the reconciliation between Young Do and his dad, for instance. Sure, we get a hint that Abusive Dad becomes a bit more of a Concerned Dad by the end, but I would’ve liked to see more of how that developed.

The same goes for the strained relationship between Rachel and her mom (Yoon Son Ha), Hyo Shin (Kang Ha Neul) and his parents, and Tan and Won’s epically strained relationship with Evil Dad.

I’m not asking for everything to be wrapped up neatly with ribbons and bows, coz c’mon, we’re talking about teenagers and their parents here. But a more concrete look at some progress in each of these relationships would’ve been nice.

Bonus asks

While I’m at it, I couldn’t resist putting in an ask for more of this:

A proper noona romance between Hyun Joo and Hyo Shin couldn’t have hurt, could it? It would’ve been way funner than the sad-sap stuff we got between Hyun Joo and Won.

And more of this:

Young Do and Rachel were interesting together.

A loveline between them would’ve been fun to watch. Or even a fleshed-out sibling-esque sort of affection would’ve been great to watch too.

Basically, I liked seeing them spark off each other.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Most of the time in Heirs, while each plot point is sort-of-maybe explainable, it all feels like we’re swinging from one branch to another through a forest that’s made up of trees representing a sea of teen moods.

I feel like this today = swing this way! And tomorrow I feel like that = swing that way!

It’s haphazard and zig-zaggedy and gets you from one point to another, but it doesn’t really make a coherent throughline. Nor does it ensure that loose ends are taken care of either.

I blame the writing.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

A show that, despite its best intentions, wasn’t quite able to bear the weight of the crown that it made for itself, hur.

Ultimately underwhelming. More for diehard fangirls and -boys.

FINAL GRADE: C+

TEASER:

MV:

223 thoughts on “Review: Heirs

  1. Pingback: Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about the shows that you didn’t review? [Part 2] | The Fangirl Verdict

  2. Gloglo

    I watched Heirs a couple of months ago for the first time and enjoyed it quite a lot. That’s why I was kind of surprised when I read this review and the not very positive comments, which, to be fair, brought up very valid points… I was intrigued: what did I see in this show that I liked so much? Did I drink too much of the old vino and stared at nothing but Lee Min Ho’s gorgeousness for the whole 20 episodes? It wouldn’t be the first time… anyway, I decided to watch Heirs again, this time with more of a critical eye. I have just finished my second viewing and I have to say that I still liked this show a lot… I usually have a hard time with the first couple of episodes of any given drama, but for some reason during my two viewings of Heirs I binged watched the first 8 episodes in one go. I was completely hooked.

    In this last viewing I found myself trying to identify those things that I enjoyed or did not bother me and might have peeved others. Here is my list (*Apologies: this gets a bit long)

    Lee Min Ho: Let me be clear about this: I don’t rate LMH as an actor. For me he’s like this matinee idol type who tends to play the same role over and over, sometimes very unconvincingly… Saying that, he was great here. Better than I’ve ever seen him, so I was not surprised to find out that Kim Eun Sook wrote the part of Kim Tan with him in mind. LMH is indeed very watchable, even at his cringiest. I admit I’m partial to his charm though, so yes, perhaps one needs to be a fan of the man to enjoy this show as much as I did 😉

    Melodramatic scenes: In Heirs much ado is made about nothing. One just has to roll with it. If you are someone who doesn’t get invested in an event as banal as the new girl locking eyes with the two high school “alphas” who are about to clash horns, chances are this is not the show for you.

    Heavy dialogue and long stares: Heirs has a lot of intense looks, glaring and lapidary sentences delivered slowly and dramatically. It didn’t bother me. In fact, in some of these scenes I was rather touched, particularly with anything going on with the love triangle. Young Do’s character hit me in the feels big time for most of the show, so I’m indeed not surprised he’s so very popular with most viewers… but more about him later. I have mentioned before in other comments section here that Kim Eun Sook often tells the story in her dialogue rather than in her action. I’m not talking about plot exposition, but rather character intentions or changes being revealed in this way. Many don’t like this kind of writing and prefer less words and more action. I completely get that.

    Kim Tan’s character arc: I really liked how this character was handled. It is textbook hero’s journey: He had many obstacles to overcome, a darkest hour, a triumph and a return to the ordinary world as a changed man, a man who has learned to fight and has won the first battle of his adult life. The boy that we find in the USA has no power and nothing to fight for. Eun Sang was his call to adventure. Tan’s journey is about rebellion, and his ultimate goal is overcoming all the obstacles which prevent him from dating Eun Sang. He becomes more confident, as he, one by one, slays all the dragons, like the school hierarchy, family expectations, Young Do’s and Rachel’s antics to sabotage his plan and so on. Tan’s old bully-boy ways will be his weapon and help him get results at first. In the end though, he will realise that his aggressive approach will not be enough to keep Eun Sang by his side. This is his darkest hour. He almost abandons the fight, until he finally finds hope and gets his treasure: Eun Sang comes back to join him and fight by his side. The aim of this show was never to turn Kim Tan into an full fleshed adult, but simply make him reach a first milestone. He’s only 18 after all.

    Kim Tan is a likeable hero who ultimately forces the adults in his life to behave like proper adults, even if it’s just for a moment. I really liked him for that. He has also a provocative and insurgent side which was appealing. (Young Do has it too, but instead of using it to deflect attention or protect others like Tan, he uses it to hurt) Tan is not afraid of exposing or punishing those who behave badly, like Young Do and Rachel. I mean, I don’t really get why Kim Tan needs to treat Rachel any different from the way he treats everyone else. How is an 18 year old man supposed to treat a young woman he’s forced to have a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with?… Besides, Tan and Rachel’s engagement was always a business deal. It is actually Rachel who starts making unfair relationship demands, and in the end completely betrays Tan as a friend. And as for Tan being a bad boyfriend to Eun Sang, well yes, Tan is overbearing and tries to control her in order to protect her, but that is precisely the lesson he will ultimately learn: that, no matter how much Eun Sang loves him, he cannot fight for her or force her to fight a battle she doesn’t want to fight. And yes, in the fantasy world of drama, unlike in real life, forced kisses and possessiveness can be swoony and romantic, for the viewer that is. There. I said it.

    A touch of gender politics: Tan’s mother and Won’s girlfriend are both treated badly by the men in their lives. They are both victims of men who either neglected them or gave up on them in order to “bare the crown.” They are the casualties of this patriarchal and cut throat world they live in. Tan’s mum at least ends up with Tan by her side. It’s worse for Won’s girlfriend, who has to finally resign herself to Won choosing his company over her.

    Eun Sang’s journey: Eun Sang’s life is difficult. She has dreams of a better life, but she has many responsibilities too and can’t just go and leave her poor and disabled mum behind. Tan soon becomes instrumental to her happiness in the same way Eun Sang is to Tan’s happiness. They become each other’s worlds. I don’t think the show turns Eun Sang into a damsel in distress. We all know that in the real world she is far from being a helpless girl, but a mature, sensible and principled young woman, unafraid of hard work and with solid relationships. Eun Sang is indeed poor and frustrated with her lot, but she’s not defenceless. It is only when she steps into Tan’s crazy world (abusive fiancée, weird school and weirder family) that she becomes helpless. This is a part of her journey: She needs to feel powerless before rising and mustering up the courage to fight by Tan’s side. She also needs the good advice that Won, rising to be the adult that he needs to be, gives her. In the end Eun Sang learns not only to challenge the rich, but also to understand and even sympathise with their “crown bearing”. Her character growth would not have been half as impactful had she been more combative. Her strength always lied on her good sense and temperance. I think Park Shin Hye was excellent playing this role.

    The balance between rival and hero: Much has been said about how great Kim Woo Bin is as Young Do and I wholeheartedly agree. He is just brilliant. I was in tears for most of his screen time… But something that I really enjoyed was the rival/hero balance this drama had. Both Tan and Young Do are perfectly matched in terms of history, background and humour. The “ bad boy” irreverent aggression they both share makes Tan, the more romantic and mature of the two, edgy and attractive. By the same token, Young Do, the more intelligent of the two, is rendered increasingly more attractive as he displays the romantic traits we associate with Tan. The fights and confrontations between both characters are that much more enjoyable and exciting because of this.

    Great secondary plots and secondary actors. There was no secondary plotline I didn’t root for in this show. These stories took the right amount of screen time and all were in service of the main plot, which I really appreciated. As for the rest of the cast, I can only say that they were perfect. I really enjoyed Tan’s mom. I haven’t seen her in anything else but her performance really stood out for me.

    Turning a blind eye to awkward kissing: Skinship in kdramas is something I’m still getting used to… In many of them, kissing feels tokenistic, and it makes me wonder whether perhaps there is some sort of convention I’m unaware of. Or maybe it is just a case of bad direction… I wouldn’t blame the actors as love scenes tend to rely heavily on the way they are filmed and edited. Saying that, I have heard that LMH was told to go all out and smooch away in that broom cover scene, but that PSH was never given the memo and could not hide her surprise and discomfort at LMH’s “attack.” I wonder how much truth is in that rumour… One would believe actors discuss these love scenes thoroughly both among themselves and with the director before filming, since the camera never lies and, if something weird is in the actor’s mind, it will definitely capture it. Actors do seem to be more natural at screen kissing than actresses in kdramas. I haven’t seen any passionate kiss from any actress in kdramas yet apart from Park Min Young, of course… In Healer she almost gave me a heart attack when she grabbed Ji Chang Wook’s face during a smooch, so go figure.

    Reply
    1. Natalia

      Hey Gloglo, I did not like Heirs but your review of it almost made me change my mind (sort of…).
      No, really I didn’t like it and to me, the fundamental reason is that Kim Tan is indeed an 18 year old boy but he looks 30.This might have been a much better show if a real 18 or 20 year old was the lead.

      Reply
      1. Gloglo

        Hi Natalia. First of all thanks for reading my very long post.

        I completely get what you mean. It’s kind of silly having actors so old in a high school story. On the other hand, a part of me likes Min Ho so much in the role that I completely go with having the median age of the actors tweaked to fit his 18 year old. As I said, liking LMH in this role is a big part of enjoying Heirs I think. To be fair, all the actors playing young parts made great efforts to portray youth in many fun ways. Krystal and Park Hyung Sik and even Kim Ji Won come to mind. Min Ho and Woon Bin doubled the swagger and the cockiness.

        Reply
  3. Jesse Gray

    Ah, once again, you have saved me from investing time in a dud. I was somewhat intrigued by the premise, so I gave it about ten minutes. But at the end of those ten minutes, I was skeptical about whether the show had the chops to be worthwhile. Only one course of action: Google, “Heirs review”, happily spot “thefangirlverdict” at the top of the search list, and read what kfangurl has to say. Suspicions confirmed, disaster averted.

    Thank you for watching so folks like me don’t have to. Honorable mention to the copious comments that affirm your stellar review.

    Oddly enough, I actually found a western show that seems to have some merit. Fittingly called “The Unicorn”, it is a rare show outside k-dramas that seems to have some sensibility and a hint of originality. No doubt I’ll be on the hunt for a suitable k-drama again though. 🙂

    Thank you for the save! 😀

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Jesse!!! What a happy surprise to see you back around these parts again – it’s been a while! 😉 And, what a surprise, that you even considered watching Heirs at all.. this doesn’t strike me as your type of show? 😅

      In terms of other shows that you might like, I won’t suggest anything that I’m currently watching (since, as we learned, I shouldn’t recommend you a show that I haven’t finished coughWeathercough), but have you dipped your toe into any of the ones that made the list on the “regular guy” male lead post that I did? I have hopes that there’ll be at least a few shows on that list that would work for ya! 😄

      Reply
      1. Jesse Gray

        Hey KFG! It has indeed been awhile. Between work and (hopefully) moving into a new place, life hasn’t given me a lot of time to come up for air.

        I wouldn’t exactly say that I “considered” watching Heirs–I had about an hour of free time and decided to browse Netflix. It came up as a recommendation, so I shrugged and gave it a whirl. (If I remember correctly, I was interested only because it seemed to indicate that both sides of the couple came from money. That’s not a typical dynamic so my curiosity was…somewhat mildly piqued.)

        Oh come now–plenty of folks enjoyed Weather! It had a great trajectory! No way to know it would kinda nosedive on the homestretch. 😉 I’d still roll with your recommendation without hesitation–the odds are in my favor! 😀

        I have definitely not forgotten the “regular guy” list; some of those titles are at the top of my to-view chart. Alas, some of them aren’t as accessible as the shows on Netflix; Heirs was purely an indulgence of convenience. I’m hoping that after the move (December) I’ll have the chance to settle a bit, and that will entail either finishing NIF or exploring a new show. Maybe both, depending on how the holidays go. 🙂

        I’m sorry I haven’t been around much, but hopefully the tides will turn again, and I’ll have the chance to get an Air B&B in Dramaland. 🙂

        Cheers!

        Reply

Leave a Reply