If you checked out my 2019 Year In Review, you’d probably remember that I was in two minds about this rather popular show. I wanted to like it, and hoped to like it, mostly because so many other drama fans seemed to enjoy this show, but.. I never truly liked it, unfortunately.
I got 8 minutes and 43 seconds into episode 8 (yes, I checked, ha), before I realized that I really didn’t want to spend any more of my time on this drama. For the record, Show’s not terrible.. Like I said, lots of folks like this one (and you might, too). I just feel like this show wasn’t quite living up to its potential.
MY GENERAL TRAJECTORY WITH THIS SHOW
I had a whale of a time watching An Empress’s Dignity, so I feel like I know how to enjoy a good, insane makjang when I see one (when that show was good, it was extreme and ridiculous and delicious). So when I heard that drama fans were enjoying this show for (a) the makjang, and (b) the strong, badass heroine, I was intrigued. I mean, those were both things that I knew I could enjoy.
Truth be told, there were bits and bobs that I liked in this show, but I never could muster up true love for it. I tried on the heavily ironic lens that I mentioned in my blurb for this show in my year-in-review, but.. that didn’t make a difference, unfortunately.
STUFF I LIKED
1. Im Soo Hyang as Mo Seok Hee
Everyone was right; Mo Seok Hee is a pretty badass, awesome female lead.
She’s unpredictable, tempestuous, and occasionally does some pretty out-there things, but what I like about her is that she only acts out when provoked. Otherwise, she seems perfectly happy to be normal and gracious, like in episode 1, at the hanbok shop, when she was asked to wait. It was only when she realized that the previous customer was making things difficult for the shop assistant, that she stepped in and spoke up.
She’s not someone that is easily intimidated or bullied, and I liked that.
I also liked Seok Hee’s resilience and loyalty. [SPOILER] Case in point, her brush with prison, in episode 3. She refuses to be intimidated, even when facing a jail sentence that’s obviously engineered by the people who are working for her family, and even taunts the prosecutor while she’s being escorted into custody.
And while at the penitentiary, she intimidates and wins people over by turn, and even gets into a physical fight in order to stand up for a cellmate who’s being bullied. [END SPOILER]
Seok Hee’s eccentric and sometimes says more than seems prudent, but she’s clearly generous and loyal, and I liked the idea of her fighting to overcome all the unfair obstacles that her dysfunctional family underhandedly schemes to put in her way.
2. Yoon Do and Dad
My other favorite thing in this drama world, is the relationship between Yoon Do and Dad (Lee Jang Woo and Park Sang Myun). I just found Dad so very loving and sweet, and his unwavering Proud Papa support of Yoon Do is the most heartwarming thing.
[SPOILER] I found that I loved this relationship even more, when Show reveals in episode 5 that Yoon Do isn’t Dad’s bio son. The backstory of how Yoon Do and Dad became a family is just so perfectly poignant, in episode 5. We don’t get details on what happened to his family, but I do love the idea that they essentially saved each other.
Dad was drinking away his sorrows, probably from losing both his wife and son, and Yoon Do was a lost lamb with nowhere to go. Yoon Do collapsing in the water was just the thing to galvanize Dad into action, to save him, take him home, clean him up and feed him. Dad’s got such a good heart. And to think that all these years, he never asked Yoon Do what happened to his parents, believing that one day, Yoon Do would tell him, when the time was right. He’s such a sweet, good egg. [END SPOILER]
This relationship stayed more in the background than anything else, but I genuinely enjoyed all of the father-son scenes that I got.
STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
1. The writing can feel incoherent
This show has a rather B-production sort of quality to it, so my expectations weren’t exactly high, to begin with. Sure, there are logic stretches and the plot itself isn’t very inventive, but that, I was ok to roll with.
What bugged me, was that the writing sometimes felt quite incoherent, to the point that I sometimes had trouble believing that Show knew the story that it wanted to tell.
I legit almost dropped this show right after episode 4, because I was so dissatisfied with how episode 4 was handled. I spent most of the episode feeling lost, confused and bemused.
[SPOILER] I wasn’t clear why Seok Hee suddenly needed money for MC Distribution, and I wasn’t clear why the loan shark lady (Moon Sook) was her only option. I also also felt confused over what the difference was, between MC Group and MC Distribution, and MC Distribution is talked about so often, this episode. I also wasn’t clear on why TOP needed to take down the minister. Also, it seemed like an offense blown completely out of proportion, for the minister’s wife’s purchase of knock-off items, to cost him his entire job. [END SPOILER]
I like the concept of the show, and I also feel like it needed a stronger narrative where I wouldn’t feel lost on a regular basis. With some shows you know that certain details are being kept from you on purpose, and that Show would reveal everything at the right time. With this show though, so far, I don’t have the confidence that it even realizes that it’s not always telling a coherent story. I know it’s harsh to say, but with episode 4, it literally felt to me like someone lost several pages of script, and no one on the production team noticed, and they just kept on shooting anyway.
2. The makjang is too serious
My thing with this show is that it isn’t terrible overall, but it never grabbed me enough, either. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I think that the reason Show’s brand of makjang wasn’t hooking me, is that Show takes itself too seriously.
To be clear, I do like Show’s makjang plot points. At times I wished for more extreme makjang, but the level of makjang-ness in this story is pretty decent, overall.
What would’ve made a difference, I think, is if Show would’ve taken a more hammy approach to its delivery, and not taken itself too seriously. That would’ve made it so much more entertaining to watch, I’m sure.
This is one of those small things that makes a huge difference, so I’d count this as one of the bigger reasons why this show just didn’t end up working for me.
You know how some things are better appreciated in motion? With some shows, the stills just don’t do it justice; you have to actually see things unfold on your screen to appreciate the magic.
Uh. With this show, it’s the opposite for me, unfortunately. When it dipped, I felt distinctly meh about those episodes, and when it rose to the occasion and introduced a ridiculous makjang plot point, it was, to my eyes anyway, consistently better in concept than in execution.
Take the fish funeral at the end of episode 6, for example. In concept, it’s wild and absurd, and would’ve been SO good, if it’d been hammed up. But, it was a rather flat viewing experience for me, weirdly. Importantly, I had more fun telling my friend Michele about the impossibly serious and grand fish funeral, where Seok Hee sashays in from stage right in her flouncy red dress, unannounced and uninvited, tosses a single red rose in the water, and then literally dances away, exiting stage left, than actually watching it.
For me, this show was better in stills than in motion. Weird, but true.
Listen. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t watch this show. If you can enjoy the ludicrous plot points the way that they’re served up, then good for you. I think you might be able to have a reasonably good time with this show.
Unfortunately, I just don’t think Show’s execution is working for me. I’ll still think fondly of the concept of the fish funeral, though. That was audacious writing. *slow clap*