To be perfectly honest, She is WOW is pretty different from your typical kdrama. Irreverent and saucy much of the time, and dark, bittersweet and even a little bit mysterious the rest of the time, this show is not for everyone.
I picked up this drama coz of the modest measure of positive buzz that followed it while it aired, and the bottom line, for me, is that while I don’t think this drama is quite my cup of tea, in its own irreverent way, it manages to still be a thought-provoking show that asks some hard questions.
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE
So what makes this show so different from a typical kdrama, you might ask?
Basically, most kdramas work overtly to build family values and bring us the warm fuzzy love feels, whether in romantic, bromantic, platonic &/or familial forms. This drama, on the other hand, adopts a much more satirical tone and, well, subverts it all, pretty much.
With titular main character Go Ah Ra (Oh Hyun Kyung) and her husband Jung Han (Park Sung Woong) spending pretty much all 12 episodes of the drama going to ridiculous lengths to protect their for-show-only marriage, Show shines the spotlight on a very thought-provoking theme indeed. That is, the lengths people go to, in order to show the world their just-so, oh-so-wonderful, picture-perfect life.
It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about before, and that happens a lot in the world today, with social media.
People put on their best poses and brightest smiles for photos that get uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram &/or [insert your social media platform of choice], but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily are living the happy lives that they are showing the world.
All we see are the ecstatic smiles. What we don’t see, many a time, is the frustration and tedium and even heartache that really goes on in people’s lives.
Sure, the show exaggerates this phenomenon – & perhaps it’s not even that exaggerated for some people, really – but it definitely brings out the point, and that point is thought-provoking indeed.
Why do we bother so much with the face that we show the world? Does it make us happier if we appear happy to the world? Does it really make us more successful, if people think we are successful? And perhaps most thought-provoking of all, is the question, “Is it worth it?”
Layered on top of this theme, there’s also the accompanying point: when we see other people’s happy facades, most of us tend to covet that “happiness” for ourselves. The question is, if/when we do get what we covet, does that really truly bring us happiness?
One key example of this in the show, is lonely Ah Ra coveting the handsome General Choi next door (Han Jung Soo), who, despite having a loving wife (Ahn Sun Young), can’t help but fall for the top star, who slyly and oh-so-deliberately unleashes her coquettish charm on him.
While it’s played mostly for (ironic) laughs, in the end, the affair further complicates Ah Ra’s already complicated life, and she dumps the poor, smitten General, who’s fallen out of love with his wife in the process and in the end he basically loses, well, everything.
Again, in itself, this is a thought-provoking lesson on choices and consequences. That, and never believing an aging, fading top star desperate to convince herself – and others – that she’s still got her mojo.
LEVEL OF ENGAGEMENT
A Positive Trajectory
Given the show’s jaunty pace and tongue-in-cheek vibe, I was actually quite happily engaged with the show’s narrative, up till about episode 6.
Experimental, impertinent, and sometimes downright saucy, Show felt like a guilty pleasure sort of indulgence, as it unleashed unexpected twists and turns with each episode.
Some highlights for me include:
- The execution of General’s sexytimes with the wifey for their Make A Baby Project in an early episode, is full of suggestive parallel symbolism, and was a hoot to watch, for the audacity alone. Very cheeky and quite funny.
- General Choi delivering the sexy kisses in episode 3 – Mmm. Han Jung Soo can definitely kiss.
- The bed scene in episode 3, between General Choi and Ah Ra, is full of rawr. After some seriously sexy build-up, though, the scene gets completely turned on its head when Ah Ra bursts out laughing at the size of the strapping General’s, er, package. Which she likens to a pencil. Pwahaha! Way to whip out the unexpected, eh? But also, poor, mortified General Choi. Snicker.
Amid all the shenanigans, I eventually developed the softest spot for Ah Ra’s and Jung Han’s son Min Gyu (Jin Young).
Fresh-faced and audacious, Min Gyu brought a nice quotient of fresh to the show’s overall flavor.
With both Mom and Dad too preoccupied with keeping up appearances to actually care about him, Min Gyu effectively becomes an outcast in his own family, and the scenes centering around that idea of Min Gyu being marginalized by the two people in the world who should have been caring for him, were some of the most poignant in the show, for me.
At the same time, this raised another key question in the show: What makes a family? [SPOILER] If you can’t acknowledge your father or your mother and have to pretend you’re somebody else, does that still make you a family? [END SPOILER]
Min Gyu’s fairly random romance with teacher’s assistant Nan Hee (Yang Jin Sung) also added equal measures of cute and bittersweet to the show, even though some of their scenes felt too protracted and quite arbitrary.
Where It Started to Go Downhill
As Ah Ra’s and Jung Han’s lies start to catch up to them, everything starts to unravel by mid-episode 6.
And as everything unraveled, more and more complications and side characters got introduced to our narrative, to the point that I actually felt confused about who was supposed to be involved in what. I even became convinced that I wasn’t actually following everything there was to follow.
Eventually, I just kinda stopped caring. It didn’t help that tonally, the show also became a lot darker and a lot less fun to watch.
IN THE END
By the show’s end, everything got decently wrapped up with several casualties on the side, even though I questioned the logic of some of the story’s developments.
The manipulative fake-out was used more than once in the final episode, which is a device that I
despise abhor disdain don’t appreciate, in principle.
The final episode’s sudden emphasis on family also felt unnatural and forced, after the show’s earlier flagrant treatment of the concept of a family and what that means.
So while the show started well, to me, it lost its grip on its tone midway through its run and never quite recovered from it.
Ultimately, though, She is WOW dared to be different, and dared to experiment, which is commendable.
Although this show is sort of touted as a show about affairs and infidelity, it managed to make some pretty hard-hitting, shrewd statements about facades and truth, and provoke thought in a way that few kdramas manage to.
Not a bad achievement at all, for a show that didn’t quite live up to its potential.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Starts out outrageously bold & zippy, and even manages to be thought-provoking. Too bad Show loses its way towards the end.
FINAL GRADE: C+
For those who had a soft spot for Min Gyu’s bittersweet romance with Nan Hee, here’s a little MV for ya.