Although I really do enjoy the occasional well-done melodrama, somehow, revenge melodramas remain steadfastly in the category of “not quite my kinda thing.” To date, I haven’t yet seen a revenge melo that I unequivocally loved. I guess I mostly find them just a little too intense, and extreme and, well, kinda crazy, as a general rule.
Without all the positive buzz around Nice Guy as a drama, and without the added push of LUFFING Song Joong Ki in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (so, so adorable!) and then being a sad puppy that he’d gone away to the military, I probably wouldn’t have touched this drama with a ten-foot pole.
Despite being the revenge melo outsider that I am, though, I managed to enjoy this one.. quite well.
The dictionary definition of melodrama reads: a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions.
Let’s see. Sensational flavor? Check. Exaggerated characters? Check. Designed to appeal to the emotions? Check.
Nice Guy is definitely on the soapy end of the Melodrama Scale. Which means that there were a number of things that I found myself having to adjust my viewing lens for, in order to enjoy the show. Here’s a quick list.
STUFF THAT I HAD TO OVERLOOK
- Logic lapses. Whether in a character’s rationale or within the plot itself, logic often wasn’t this show’s strength.
- Lots of tropes. Murder, noble idiocy, manipulation, affairs, amnesia, Show had it all. Show’s a little heavier-handed with the tropes than I prefer. Plus, So. Many. Dysfunctional. Relationships. SO MANY.
- Show is also heavy-handed with coincidences, which makes the knitting together of the narrative feel rather lazy at points.
- Some actual hysterics at points in the story. I don’t care for hysterics, and this was used in a somewhat OTT manner, as early as episode 5.
STUFF THAT MADE IT WORTH WATCHING
Once I managed to adjust the dial in my brain to accommodate the various elements I just mentioned, I found that there was a fair amount of stuff to enjoy.
1. Convincing Set-Up
Show does a convincing job of setting up why an otherwise sane and normal person might go on a crazed revenge mission.
The way Jae Hee (Park Si Yeon) makes use of Maru (Song Joong Ki) again and again is sickening. And Eun Gi (Moon Chae Won) has to put up with some crazy parenting from her emotionally abusive father (Kim Young Chul). So much so that I actually managed to buy why they’d get obsessed with revenge.
2. Committed, engaging performances by our leads.
Even when I didn’t buy their warped logic, and even when they were behaving terribly and I felt intense dislike for some of them, our leads remained intriguing and interesting.
Song Joong Ki
Song Joong Ki, in particular, totally hits it out of the ballpark with the looks in his eyes. The hurt and resignation and disbelief when he shows Maru’s vulnerable side, is as arresting as the look of mounting steely determination in his eyes when Maru’s being a hardass.
Not only that, we often see his gaze changing in degrees, and very quickly too. From affectionately supportive, to deadened, to determined with a side of malice, all within seconds. It’s brilliant, and quite remarkable to watch.
Moon Chae Won
Moon Chae Won is also excellent as Eun Gi, and makes Eun Gi come across as a morbidly fascinating character who’s living very aggressively, teetering on a very dangerous edge, as if she’s got nothing left to lose.
Park Si Yeon
Park Si Yeon regularly made me want to puke at Jae Hee’s “poor me” attitude, and her selfish, conniving ways. Which means she did an excellent job of the role, heh.
3. Pretty Cinematography
On a more aesthetic note, Show is quite lovely to look at. Clearly, a lot of thought went into camera frames and angles, and I found it a nice touch. What can I say, I like my Pretty.
Just look at how gorgeous this shot is:
4. Engagement Level
Warped logic, tropes and all, the story itself remains engaging. The multi-faceted relationships, driven by conflicting motivations, with the conflict often warring within a single character, make the story feel layered and interesting.
It’s true that I actually started to tune out a little at the episode 9 mark. The plethora of melodramatic stuff that Show was serving up was designed to keep me engaged and interested, but had the opposite effect of making me go numb, somewhat.
Even so, Show manages to remain engaging in a pretty solid manner most of the way through.
CLOSING THOUGHTS [SPOILERS]
Did I buy everything Show was selling me in the finale episode? No.
Did I think it was stretching the limits of my ability to suspend disbelief? Definitely. Maru getting stabbed at the crosswalk, while Lawyer Ahn (Kim Tae Hoon) just walks away. And then Maru just continuing to hug and talk to Eun Gi as if nothing’s wrong, and Eun Gi can’t even smell the blood that’s flowing out of him? Riiigght.
See, writer-nim steadfastly continued with the use of weak logic, all the way to the very end.
But, was I relieved that Maru didn’t die, even though all the signs had pointed to his very likely death? Well, yes.
The mental hoops that I jumped through, in order to reconcile the ending in a way that would satisfy my head and my heart, went sorta like this:
At least Maru doesn’t die. The fact that he survived sort of makes it worth the convenient amnesia. At least the amnesia is plausible given that he got brain surgery. Does he remember Eun Gi? It’s hard to say. Some viewers believe he does remember her and is just pretending to have amnesia. I’m going to go with the idea that his brain doesn’t remember, but his heart seems to. That’s probably why he keeps going to her bakery even though the food supposedly tastes bad. Otherwise I can’t reconcile why Maru would pretend not to know her.
Yup, quite a few hoops..!
Ultimately, Show’s ending was stronger thematically- rather than narratively-speaking.
So, never mind the narrative weaknesses, here are Show’s ending themes, which I genuinely liked:
That there’s hope in starting over, and in doing what’s right;
That the search for victory isn’t as important as the search for peace.
Now that’s the kind of stuff I can really get behind.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Engaging, even if logic takes a beating. Worth the watch for Song Joong Ki.
FINAL GRADE: B
For those who don’t mind spoilers, here’s a nice MV featuring Song Joong Ki on vocals, titled 정말 (Really).