Review: Flower Of Evil

THE SHORT VERDICT:

If you don’t mind a heavy emotional emphasis in your mystery thrillers, this show might work for you. Show serves up a good amount of tension around its main hook, that Moon Chae Won’s character discovering that her perfect husband may not be as perfect as she’d thought. At the same time, though, emotions often take precedence over things like protocol, due process, and well.. good ol’ logic. Show makes up for it with a healthy serving of twists and turns which work to keep you on the edge of your seat – but these will only really work, if you’re not wearing an overly analytical lens.

Lee Jun Ki and Moon Chae Won put in excellent performances, and together, they share a chemistry that is engaging and compelling. I’d even go so far as to say that their chemistry as a couple is what holds the show together even when logic falls apart, because I am rooting for them that much.

I thought Show’s ending leaned a touch underwhelming, but I’d say this is still a solid ride.

THE LONG VERDICT:

If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’d know that I’m big on managing expectations and adjusting lenses, coz I think that helps us to maximize our enjoyment of our dramas.

I think that with this drama, it’s literally the key to whether you’ll enjoy this one or not.

On the upside, immediately, Show feels interesting and complicated, like there are many layers of truths and half-truths that are waiting to be revealed, and it’s all very intriguing. Even better, is that Show seems to move quickly; it serves up certain twists and developments a lot earlier than I’d usually expect, and that gives off a sense of confidence, like Show has a lot more stuff up its sleeves, and that’s why it can casually knock certain narrative milestones down, so early in its story.

A good amount of the time, I didn’t even know where Show might be heading next, with how fast Show was ramping things up to become more complicated and interesting. All very excellent things, in my opinion.

The thing, though, is, you have to be prepared to roll with a lot of logic stretches.

Stuff that helps

1. Thinking of the show as a more emotionally-slanted story helps a lot. 

This gave me something else to focus on, other than Show’s (sometimes glaring) logic stretches. And because often did an excellent job of hitting the important emotional notes in a satisfying manner, I felt more willing to close one (or sometimes both) eyes at stuff that felt overly convenient, or that didn’t quite add up.

Sometimes, the emotional ride got pretty intense, and I’d find myself pausing the episode in several places, just to let my heart breathe a little, so that I could gather some fortitude to continue. I’d say that’s a good testament to how strong Show’s emotional hook is.

2. The makjang lens helps – sometimes

I have a more detailed breakdown of this in a later section, but for now, let me say that I found that sometimes, the makjang lens actually helped a lot.

It helped me roll with extreme plot points and enjoy everything instead of questioning everything. However, for me personally, Show needs to hit a perfect makjang pitch, where things are exaggerated enough, and hammy enough, to make it feel appropriately, deliciously makjang.

..Which means that sometimes the makjang lens didn’t work so well for me, after all. But y’know, it’s still a good thing to keep in your toolkit, for this show.

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.

Overall, I found the OST very solid. In keeping with Show’s dual tone, the OST contains a good number of pumping tension-filled tracks, as well as songs that are emotionally driven.

In terms of tracks that amp up the drama, I find that I really enjoy track 7, Switched Destiny, for its dizzying strings mixed with male choral voices. That contrast really works for me. As for the more emotional ballads, I can’t say that they actually got under my skin or lingered with me, but I did enjoy the second track, In My Heart. It’s sweet and heartfelt, and fits Show’s emphasis on the emotional journey.

STUFF I LIKED

Lee Jun Ki as Hee Seong / Hyun Soo

I think I can understand why Lee Jun Ki picked this project. This show really gives him a chance to show us a different side to himself that I don’t think he’s shown us before. A loving husband and father by day, and a maybe-serial killer by night? So much range!

And Lee Jun Ki delivers on every count, as far as I’m concerned. In particular, I enjoyed how he plays our antihero Hee Seong / Hyun Soo with an undercurrent that feels half deadened soul and half amoral genius. Even though Hyun Soo is someone who struggles to connect with any kind of emotion, Lee Jun Ki manages to show us glimpses of Hyun Soo’s emotional landscape via mere flickers of emotion, and it’s really well done.

In true kdrama tradition, by the end of our story, we feel much more connected to Hyun Soo than in the beginning, and by that point, Hyun Soo’s also evolved as a character. What’s interesting to me, is that this change is slow enough, that I didn’t quite register that it was happening, when it was happening. It’s just that when I look at Hyun Soo at the beginning of our story, and compare him to Hyun Soo at the end of our story, the change is stark enough, that it makes me do a bit of a double take. That’s credit to Show’s overall handling, and also, to Lee Jun Ki’s controlled, excellent performance.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Even in his happy moments, when he’s with Ji Won and Eun Ha (Moon Chae Won and Jung Seo Yeon), there seem to be traces of deadened soul about Hee Seong / Hyun Soo. As in, it appears to me that the happiness isn’t something that’s truly coming from the inside of him. I find him fascinating.

E1. It seems too easy to assume that Hyun Soo was behind the murder of the village head and that’s why he disappeared 18 years ago. I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than that. But what? He’s got a fake mom and dad, who seem unwilling to play along with his charade of a new life, but they acknowledge that they are in the same boat. And, he seems to have them well under his control.

He’s unfailingly polite, but there’s something threatening about his cordial manner and even tone of voice, like he could destroy them, if he wanted to. Hmmm. And, he’s wary enough of being discovered, that he knocks out, binds and gags his old acquaintance Moo Jin (Seo Hyun Woo), and stows him away in his basement workshop. That’s.. going pretty far to keep a secret, as far as I’m concerned. And, what could he possibly do with Moo Jin, if he doesn’t kill him?

E2. Hee Seong can look absolutely soulless at times, and it’s quite disconcerting. The fact that he has to practice smiling in the mirror while watching a lecture on it, indicates that he has trouble understanding human emotion.

Given that Hee Seong has to actually learn how to express – and recognize – emotions like happiness, it occurs to me that, 1, he’s doing a very impressive job of keeping up his facade, with him being married, and to a detective, no less, and 2, he comes across as almost being a bit of a computer or robot, sometimes. There’s a moment this episode where he clocks Ji Won’s reaction, and when her level of upset hits a certain point, it seems to trigger a fixed group of behaviors in him, designed – and probably tried and tested – to calm her down and improve her mood.

E2. We definitely see more of Hee Seong’s double life this episode, with him playing the perfect husband and father upstairs, then taking time to taunt his hostage in the basement, when both mother and daughter are out for the day. At this point, though, despite Hee Seong’s problematic actions, I want to believe that he’s not evil.

Based on his conversation with Moo Jin, we learn that Moo Jin had bound, taunted and hurt him in the past, and Hyun Soo had promised that one day the tables would be turned. A lot of what Hee Seong / Hyun Soo says and does in the present, turn out to be echoes of Moo Jin’s words and actions in the past. So, I’m not sure how much to believe what he says to Moo Jin, since most of it could be empty threats made as payback.

E2. It’s quite disturbing to me, how Hee Seong / Hyun Soo teaches Eun Ha the benefits of being viewed as a nice kid; that others won’t suspect you when things go wrong. Yikes. Is Eun Ha going to grow up to be some kind of amoral genius, with this kind of guidance?

E2. Mostly, it seems to me that Hyun Soo is willing to live quietly under his new identity, unless he’s provoked. Moo Jin coming to his workshop basically meant his cover was in danger, which is, I think, why he’s kidnapped Moo Jin and is holding him captive.

E3. On a shallow note, I am digging Flashback Hee Seong / Hyun Soo with the ash blonde hair. Combined with Lee Jun Ki’s beautifully sharp elfin features, he literally looks like he stepped out of a manhwa. I wouldn’t mind more flashbacks of blonde Hee Seong / Hyun Soo, thank you very much.

E3. As spine-chilling as Hee Seong / Hyun Soo can be, with his mirthless threats to kill Moo Jin, it becomes clear that Hyun Soo, for all his sociopathic tendencies, is not the killing kind. He was never going to kill Moo Jin; he was just going to scare him enough so that he could get some kind of collateral from him, so that they’d be even and he’d be able to let Moo Jin go.

E3. In the flashback to when Nam Soon Gil had tried to kill him as well, Hyun Soo had been unable to go through with killing him, even in self-defense, and even with a literal ghost of his dad (with eerie black eyes, eep) urging him to do it. This is enough to tell me that Hyun Soo’s not the murderer that people have made him out to be.

Which brings me to say, even though Hyun Soo is an anti-hero and is doing morally questionable things like keeping Moo Jin captive and using threats and violence against him, I find myself rooting for him. It does mess with my mind somewhat, to realize that I’m rooting for someone to successfully keep someone captive.

That feels wrong, but at the same time, Hyun Soo is coming across as someone who’s been marginalized, bullied and misunderstood, and I can’t help but feel for him. And even though his life now is created under false pretenses, the family bonds feel affectionate and quite real, and I kind of want him to be able to keep enjoying that, rather than, say, go to prison.

E4. I really feel for Hyun Soo, that he’s literally haunted by his dead father. Those soulless black eyes are quite disconcerting, and the fact that he actually sees apparitions of his dead dad staring at him, is awful. Now that he says that Ji Won prevents his dad from appearing because his dad seems to be afraid of her, it becomes clearer why he’d fight so hard to stay with her. At this point, I’m still not clear whether he has feelings for Ji Won, but at least in my head I can understand why he would do everything he can, to protect the life that he has with her.

E4. I like how sharp Hee Seong / Hyun Soo is. Even though he doesn’t see Moo Jin place the voice recorder in his pocket, he knows by the tone of the conversation that Moo Jin’s likely recording him while digging for a scoop. Serves Moo Jin right, having his recording(s) deleted. Pfft.

E4. Hyun Soo’s flashbacks to when the villagers had taken him by force and held him down for an exorcism, are terrifying. They basically don’t treat him as a human being, but an evil object. Poor Hyun Soo. Even if he hadn’t had some kind of sociopathic disorder before, that kind of trauma might’ve caused him to develop one?

E5. For all of how standoffish Past Hyun Soo had appeared, we see that he’s actually a lot more caring than he’d like to let on. The way he stands guard outside the store until the power comes back on, after Ji Won mentions worriedly that another store had gotten robbed during the last power outage, speaks volumes. He doesn’t even know her, at this point, but he’s willing to endure the cold weather, while wearing his too-light jacket, to make sure she’s ok. That’s very kind.

Also, what Hyun Soo had said before, that his father’s ghost was afraid of Ji Won, seems to be inaccurate too. By the end of the episode, we see that his father’s ghost turns to walk away, not because it’s scared of Ji Won, but because Hyun Soo silently pleads with him to leave, because he wants to stay where he is. He stopped seeing the ghost, because of himself.

E6. In line with what we’ve seen before, Hee Seong / Hyun Soo doesn’t seem to be the killing kind. He agrees to kill Park Kyung Choon (Yoon Byung Hee) at the encouragement (more like goading) of his fake father (Son Jong Hak), but chooses not to do so, at the first sign that Park Kyung Choon can be trusted. It feels like he’s looking for a reason to let him live, rather than a reason to kill him.

And that’s a significant difference to note, even though it is rather disturbing that he would agree to the killing in the first place. It makes me wonder what Hyun Soo would’ve done, if Park Kyung Choon had been unrepentant and therefore a danger to him. Would he have been able to go through with it? He hadn’t been able to kill in the past, as we’ve seen.

E8. I really enjoyed the reunion scene between Hyun Soo and Hae Soo (Jang Hee Jin). Hyun Soo himself may not be capable of feeling much, but Hae Soo’s tearful reaction at being reunited with her brother is enough emotion for the both of them. We also finally get the full story of what had happened with the village head: Hae Soo had killed him in self-defense, and Hyun Soo had taken the blame in order to protect her. Hyun Soo may not say much or show much emotion on his face, but that act – which required him to essentially sacrifice his life, pretty much – was driven by care for his sister. That’s love.

I love the follow-up scene, of Hyun Soo showing Hae Soo photos of Ji Won and Eun Ha on his phone. That almost gives me little-boy-proudly-showing-off-to-his-noona kind of vibes. There’s a subtle satisfaction about Hyun Soo, as he tells Hae Soo about Eun Ha and how she takes after Ji Won.

E8. I like the little detail that Hyun Soo, despite not being able to feel much himself in the way of emotions, is so tuned in when he’s observing other people, that he picks up on Moo Jin’s attraction to Hae Soo right away. Somehow, that ability of Hyun Soo’s gives me a vicarious sense of satisfaction. I like feeling like he’s highly functional and even sharper than the average person, despite his emotional limitations.

E9. The intent, emotionless way that Hyun Soo can be, as he uses violence to intimidate someone (in this episode, it’s the bartender), reminds me of the Terminator movies. He’s like some kind of lethal, fearless robot. It makes him kinda scary, but because I’m rooting for him to find out the truth and clear his name, I find myself rationalizing his violence. Like, well, at least he didn’t plunge the pen into that bartender’s hand for real. Eep.

E10. The deal that Hyun Soo makes with the police is dangerous, and yet, the reason that he does this, is because he put himself in Ji Won’s shoes, and concluded that if it’d been her, she would never let go of the kidnapped victims. He’s putting himself in serious danger, for embracing Ji Won’s ideology; that seems pretty huge to me. He may not feel-feel things, but his actions say it all.

[END SPOILER]

Moon Chae Won as Ji Won

I have to say, I really, really enjoyed Moon Chae Won in her role as Ji Won.

Ji Won’s a bundle of contradictions on paper – she’s a sharp, analytical police officer; she’s an adoring wife who’s smitten with her husband, and who fell for him pretty much at first sight despite knowing nothing about him; she’s a loving mom; she’s an earnest daughter-in-law who’s eager to please – and yet, in Moon Chae Won’s hands, this bundle of contradictions meshes together in a way that feels believable. I can believe that Ji Won is a woman who exists, in all of her contradictions. Not only that, she comes across as pretty darn awesome too. Props to Moon Chae Won for making her come alive in such a palpable way.

One of the most compelling arcs in our story, is how Ji Won reacts to the dawning realization that there’s a lot more darkness to her husband than she’d ever imagined, and Moon Chae Won portrays all of these complicated emotions in a way that feels raw and true.

Really well done, I say.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E1. Ji Won is interesting to me, in that she seems to be a competent police officer, who’s able to pick up on clues that other officers miss, but she acknowledges that if she were in Ko Ae Young’s (Lee Un Jung) shoes, and knew that her husband was feeding her medicine in place of her vitamins, she would likely take the medicine anyway, so as not to shatter the life that they have.

This seems like a heavy hint to me. If not now, then at some point in our story, Ji Won is likely going to get to put this into action, when she starts to realize that there’s something off about her husband.

E1. Ji Won comes across as having an inner core of purity and simplicity, despite her status as a tough policewoman. She wants to trust in the good of people, and she wants to hope and believe in people. Even though her mother-in-law (Nam Gi Ae) is cold, she keeps trying to win her over, believing that all she needs to do is work hard at it.

E2. Ji Won also shows surprising rogue tendencies, when faced with the sociopathic killer, who tries to poke Ji Won’s eyes out with a razor. She takes over the razor and beats the killer up, and then casually instructs the killer to choose how she’d like to die, coz she’ll cut the chosen artery accordingly. That’s quite unexpected, to me, because Ji Won’s appeared to be more the by-the-books goody-two-shoes type so far. Perhaps she and Hee Seong / Hyun Soo both have vigilante justice in common..?

E3. I’m curious to know more about Ji Won. On the one hand, she seems completely innocent and guileless, like when she approaches an unfriendly Hee Seong / Hyun Soo and blurts out that she likes him, and at other times, there are hints of there being more to her, like when she teases her husband in the present, that she’s a woman with a past, and he wouldn’t be able to handle it.

E4. I like that Ji Won is analytical and perceptive when doing her investigation. Unlike other police officers, who’d only asked Hae Soo about Hyun Soo, she asks Hae Soo questions about the properties that she’d left alone, despite selling her father’s land. And, later on, when she asks Hee Seong / Hyun Soo to put on the raincoat, she also considers how the raincoat would have obstructed the victim’s view of the killer’s face. I like that she investigates without bias, and considers all possibilities. That’s cool. I like that about her.

And, I also like how earnest and hardworking she is, staying up to try to piece together the case.

E6. Just when I think that Hyun Soo’s in the clear, having survived the near-drowning, and woken up from his coma, we see that in his delirium, he’d let slip something so specific that Ji Won just can’t dismiss it as gibberish; that he won’t live as Do Hyun Soo anymore. Oops.

Ji Won is understandably rattled by that, and goes into investigative mode, even as she tries to manage her all-over-the-place emotions. All things considered, I feel like Ji Won’s handling it remarkably well. She’s not jumping to conclusions, even though she feels deeply disturbed. And to protect the interest of her husband and their family, she does her investigations privately. Yet, she is determined to bring Do Hyun Soo to justice – if her investigations prove that he’s done something for which he needs to be brought to justice for.

I do feel for Ji Won, though. What a deep shock it must be, to be faced with a strong hint that your entire life with your beautiful family, might be a lie. Her entire world is threatening to implode, and yet, Ji Won has to continue to stay strong and keep her wits about her. Her struggle to tamp down her emotions and act normal, really makes my heart go out to her.

[END SPOILER]

Ji Won & Hyun Soo together

One of the reasons I enjoy kdramas as much as I do, is that they tend to do well at making the emotional journey feel accessible, relatable and real. Because of this, I was not opposed to Show making the relationship between Hee Seong / Hyun Soo and Ji Won a main focus, even though Show’s premise has a strong mystery-thriller flavor.

And on this point, Show does not disappoint. At each stage of our story, the way Hyun Soo and Ji Won relate evolves somewhat, and the dynamic between them shifts in order to accommodate that. That shifting dynamic (mapped out in the spoiler section below) was very well done, I thought. The small ripples caused by fundamental shifts in feelings, beliefs and context, translated well into the marriage relationship, and the story points around it.

Additionally, Lee Jun Ki and Moon Chae Won are great together. They play their characters so well, and their shared chemistry is so solid, that I fully believe that Hyun Soo and Ji Won are a married couple who care for each other a great deal, whatever the circumstances around them might be. The tenderness between this married couple was a big highlight of my watch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Early cracks

E1. I believe that Ji Won loves Hee Seong / Hyun Soo, but at this point, I am not entirely certain that he loves her. He makes sure to keep her happy, and the loving husband act is all part of that, but only time will tell, if this relationship means more to him, than just being part of his cover.

E3. Now, we have Ji Won working on a case that puts her on her husband’s tail, since his old identity, Do Hyun Soo, is implicated. Even the coincidental run-in, at Moo Jin’s apartment, was quite gripping, with Hee Seong / Hyun Soo literally hanging off the balcony and trying to keep out of Ji Won’s sight, while trying to distract her by calling her – while still hanging off said balcony. Ack. 😱 I definitely held my breath during that scene.

E3. Ji Won’s starting to notice little things that link Hee Seong / Hyun Soo to her case; his black hooded raincoat, which he’d worn out the same night the murder happened, and the dish that he cooks for her, which is so similar to the one served by the Chinese restaurant where Do Hyun Soo had worked. So far, she seems to just put it down to coincidence. I’m curious to see what else she notices, and how it will all come together.

E4. About Hyun Soo’s recurring visions of his father’s ghost, and how Ji Won’s presence chases the ghost away, on a psychological level, I’m guessing that this is supposed to mean that Ji Won frees him from his fears; that being with her, he can relax, and the things that haunt him, don’t surface.

E4. In our flashback to how Ji Won and Hee Seong / Hyun Soo first meet, I have to admire Ji Won for not losing heart at his initial rejection, and just blithely carrying on to spend time with him, and even suggest to him that he might be the only person who doesn’t know that he likes her. I mean, a girl with a more fragile sensibility would’ve given up, but not Ji Won. She does feel embarrassed and hurt sometimes, but she absolutely doesn’t let it prevent her from reaching out to him. That’s ballsy, given how cold and distant he generally is.

E4. I have to say, it’s quite trippy to see Hee Seong / Hyun Soo lying in Ji Won’s lap, while she reads up on case notes that involve him, without knowing that Do Hyun Soo is right there with his head on her lap. It messes with my mind. 🤯

E4. The chase scene where Ji Won runs after Hee Seong, believing him to be Do Hyun Soo who’s just intruded into Village Granny’s (Park Seung Tae) house, is quite gripping. I keep wondering whether she’ll catch him, even though my brain says that it’s way too soon for something like that. How significant, though, that Hee Seong instinctively shields her from falling equipment with his own body, thus sustaining injuries. It seems to me that he does care about her, in his own way, even though he struggles to feel emotions.

And now that Hee Seong’s watch is found in the warehouse where he and Ji Won had had their tussle, surely she would latch onto the fact that the person she was fighting & chasing, was her own husband? I’m very curious to see how Show resolves this.

E5. Hee Seong really means a lot to Ji Won. The way she basically loses her mind while trying to find him, says a lot. She is literally desperate to find him and save him. It feels like she’d really go crazy, if something were to happen to him.

E5. During the flashback, too, it’s clear that Ji Won likes Hee Seong a great deal. Even when she hears that he didn’t finish school, and had spent much of his time fighting with others, and even when she hears that hitting others had felt good to him, and that he sees ghosts and doesn’t think he’s normal, she’s completely unfazed and undeterred. She genuinely believes that loving him a lot will solve everything. It’s quite naive of her to think that way, but I do rather like how pure and innocent she is.

E5. Hee Seong’s closing voiceover, that he’d always thought he was lucky to have met Ji Won, but now thinks, for the first time, that she should never have met him, is a distinct glimpse of consideration and empathy. Hee Seong may have trouble connecting to emotions, but he definitely cares about Ji Won.

Investigator mode

E6. The undercover investigation effectively balances out the cloak and dagger tension between Hee Seong and Ji Won. Hee Seong’s working to protect his life of normalcy, while he finds out the truth, and Ji Won’s trying to uncover the truth about Hee Seong / Do Hyun Soo, while hoping that her husband is innocent. And they’re both racing against each other, as they do so. This looks like it will be interesting – and maybe a little nervewracking.

E7. I’m intrigued by Ji Won’s current state of mind. She seems intent on outing Do Hyun Soo, and seems sly and almost cruel, in the way that she tests Hee Seong and baits him, with Do Hyun Soo’s belongings, and with the trip to Do Min Seok’s workshop. Of course, depending on how one feels about Hee Seong, one could also say that Ji Won is being clever and shrewd. In this moment, though, I feel rather sorry for Hee Seong, because it feels like he’s been wronged, and the cocoon of safety that he’s built for himself, is under threat.

On the other hand, Ji Won also sometimes appears conflicted, and even has to pep talk herself into not giving in to her emotions, so that she can continue to face off with Do Hyun Soo, in this game of cloak and dagger.

I am curious about Ji Won’s state of mind, when she sleeps with Hee Seong in the beginning of the episode. We see a single tear escape her eye, while Hee Seong isn’t looking. Is her heart in this, or does she have it in her mind that she’s sleeping with Do Hyun Soo, the wanted man? That is trippy and disturbing, to be honest. I feel like mostly like she is cognizant of the fact that she’s sleeping with Do Hyun Soo, but desperately trying to reclaim the fact that this is her husband, with whom she has a happy life.

Also, I’m not surprised that Ji Won put a GPS tracker on the new watch for Hee Seong. I would’ve been surprised if she hadn’t.

Protector mode

E8. The tension between Hyun Soo and Ji Won is evolving. From suspecting him of being a killer, and trying to corner him and test him, now Ji Won is working to protect Hyun Soo instead. It’s a very different kind of strain. Before, her suspicion of him had felt darker, and almost dangerous. Now, instead of that fear and suspicion of him, what Ji Won feels is hurt and what seems like a measure of despair. She alludes to having to leave him, even as she decides to help him live as Baek Hee Seong, and I feel like that’s driven mostly by his admission to Hae Soo that he doesn’t love Ji Won, rather than his deception around his identity. I suspect that if Ji Won were convinced that Hyun Soo loves her, that she wouldn’t leave him.

E9. One of the key things that has my attention this episode, is the state of the relationship between Ji Won and Hyun Soo.

I don’t think Ji Won had been planning to say anything to Hyun Soo just yet, about wanting to break up with him, but it feels to me like the feelings around his deception and his statement that he’d never loved her, are hitting her harder than she’d bargained for, and she just can’t keep up a facade anymore, that everything’s quite alright. She doesn’t feel like she can tell him that she knows his secret identity, and so she opts for a secondary half-truth, that she doesn’t feel the same for him anymore, and she plans to leave him.

In that moment, even though the reason given isn’t the full truth, I feel that Ji Won’s anguish and distress is very real. And even though Hyun Soo tries to keep his cool, I can practically feel his anxiety mounting, as he processes what Ji Won is telling him. It’s all really well-delivered by both actors.

E9. For all of Hyun Soo’s struggles with feeling emotion, I do believe that he sincerely cares for Ji Won and loves her, in his own way. The way he put thought and care into preparing the surprise fairy lights for her, in the flashback, and the way he reacted with a mix of awkwardness and wonder, when she’d asked him to say something to their baby, all feels very sincere. Hyun Soo may not feel love the way Ji Won feels love, but the way he seems to be at ease in her orbit, when he is not at ease elsewhere, is, I think, a big part of how he loves her.

And there’s the way he prioritizes talking to Moo Jin and Hae Soo about Ji Won’s declaration of their broken relationship, over an actual clue to their investigation. Our priorities confirm our emotions. The fact that Hyun Soo felt it was more pressing to talk about Ji Won, means that Ji Won’s more important to him than finding the accomplice in order to clear his name. That’s a form of love too.

E9. I do find it interesting how Ji Won finds ways to tell Hyun Soo important information related to the case, so that it’ll help him with his investigation, without her having to let on that she knows what he’s doing. The deliberate manner in which she drops thoughts about the case in front of Hyun Soo, while phrasing everything like a casual, I’m-thinking-aloud-what-do-you-think sort of thing, is nicely done. Hyun Soo doesn’t suspect that she knows, and yet, he gains important clues and triggers that help direct his efforts.

I like the complexity with which Ji Won’s feelings are being treated. Her situation is complicated, and it makes sense that her feelings are complicated too. Even though she’s told Hyun Soo that she doesn’t feel the same way about him anymore and plans to leave him, she still does miss him, when she’s had a particularly bad day at work. Her wistfulness feels so palpable, as she stands outside the police station, thinking back on happier times with Hyun Soo.

I do love that despite their recent issues, Ji Won and Hyun Soo have enough synergy to communicate even when he’s being held captive by Yeom Sang Cheol (Kim Ki Moo) and his men. His rough, non-committal response when Ji Won says that she misses him, clues her in to the fact that he’s quite possibly in a difficult situation. And she’s sharp and quick enough, to respond to the situation by asking him to reply to her questions using only Yes or No.

With that, she’s able to ascertain whether he thinks he’s in real danger. That went flawlessly, to the extent that the casual observer might think they’d agreed on a code word. But it’s not a code word that was the basis of them being able to navigate this situation with such unplanned synergy; it’s the years that they’ve spent together, getting to know each other, that was the magic.

E10. The dynamic between Ji Won and Hyun Soo this episode is very interesting and layered. She knows that he’s Do Hyun Soo, but now she trusts him and wants to protect him, even as she does her job as a police officer, to solve the case. Hyun Soo doesn’t know that she knows, and carries on with his cheerful husband facade whenever he speaks with her, and it tears her up on the inside, to see him dealing with so much, while acting like everything’s ok.

E10. In the scene where Hyun Soo comes running up to her in the park, his smile at making it in time, looks so carefree and natural and unrehearsed, which proves to me that he does feel things and express things; he just isn’t in touch with it. Ji Won’s tearful realization that she is all he has, is heart-pinching stuff. There’s so much compassion and tenderness in that moment, as she fusses over him to make sure he isn’t hurt.

I am glad that she takes back what she’d said to him, about not loving him anymore and wanting to break up with him. And when Hyun Soo tells her that he knows, I believe him, too. There’s something about Hyun Soo; he seems to understand people more than one might expect. Maybe it comes from all the intentional studying of facial expression; he seems so sharp and incisive, in reading people.

Hyun Soo seems genuinely concerned about Ji Won’s happiness too. When Ji Won talks about wanting to move to the countryside after the case is over, one might expect someone in Hyun Soo’s position to jump at the chance to going off the grid and disappearing, but instead, Hyun Soo expresses concern that being a police officer was Ji Won’s long-time dream.

E10. Augh. So much honesty in that phone call between Ji Won and Hyun Soo, and it’s so trippy that this happens with his voice being distorted and disguised, while she’s not supposed to know that he’s her husband. And yet, he tells her about the voice recording from his mother, which he’d kept secret all these years, and then he says that he doesn’t want to lie to her. It’s only after the call that he realizes that Ji Won had called him at 10pm, just like she’d said she would – except she’d called Do Hyun Soo instead of Baek Hee Seong. This feels like a secret message to him, that she knows.

Ji Won’s angry and emotional call afterwards, to the therapist who’d worked with Hyun Soo back in the day, speaks volumes about how angry and affected she is, by how he’s been failed by the people around him. He was a boy, innocent of wrongdoing, who’d been demonized and vilified by everyone as a murderer, and he’s had to reinvent himself completely, in order to live a normal life. Ack. That’s harsh, that he’s had to jump through so many hoops to have what most people have effortlessly – a normal life.

That said, both Lee Jun Ki and Moon Chae Won blow it out of the water this episode, with the way they deliver Hyun Soo and Ji Won and their very complicated, difficult plethora of emotions, as they go through multiple ups, downs and sharp lefts this hour.

Partnership mode

E11. Ji Won’s desperation to protect Hyun Soo really comes to the fore this episode, and I felt her distress acutely. The way she kneels and begs Jae Seob (Choi Young Joon) to allow her to stay on the case with tears running down her face; the way she elbows her way into the investigation, even after he’s told her to stay out of it; the way she runs with such intensity when they’re chasing down trafficking suspects; the way she rushes to Yeom Sang Cheol’s office in worry for Hyun Soo; the way she rails at Hyun Soo as she instructs him to run so far away that she’ll never be able to find him. It’s all very heartrending stuff, and I could barely breathe, watching her wear her heart on her sleeve, in wanting to protect the one that she loves.

And what an intense rollercoaster this all is for Hyun Soo as well. From the trepidation of going undercover, to the stress of having his cover blown, to the fear of actually dying, to the horror of realizing that Ji Won knows about his identity, to the desperation of fighting to save Ji Won from being strangled to death, to the regret and remorse for having hurt her, to the relief of reconciliation, and the affirmation of finally understanding that he does love her after all. It’s a wild ride for Hyun Soo, and vicariously, it’s a wild ride for us as viewers too, as we follow him on this journey. I know I could hardly breathe, at various points of this episode.

At first, I questioned how Ji Won managed to track Hyun Soo down in that taxi, but then I remembered that he’s still wearing the watch that she’d given him, so the tracking device would’ve led her to him. At the same time, I also wondered why Hyun Soo asked to go home, when he knew that he’d be arrested the next day. But, I rationalize that he must feel exhausted from all the running, and it’s understandable that he doesn’t want to run anymore. Plus, he doesn’t want to leave Ji Won and Eun Ha. I think that’s the bigger thing; he wants to be near his family, even if it means being arrested. That’s love too.

I liked seeing Hyun Soo and Ji Won sit and talk all night, telling each other everything. This moment feels like an important reset, where they finally get to know each other without Hyun Soo’s fake identity in the way. I really liked the honest vibe of this conversation. And what a breakthrough, that Hyun Soo feels empowered to tell Ji Won that he loves her. That was lovely. I’m encouraged that all that’s happened hasn’t driven Hyun Soo and Ji Won apart, and their love for each other is stronger than one might expect, given the initial deception.

[END SPOILER]

Jung Seo Yeon as Eun Ha

I thought Jung Seo Yeon was completely precocious as Eun Ha, and she really grew on me over the course of my watch.

I’ll admit that I didn’t take to Eun Ha right away; I felt like there was something about Jung Seo Yeon’s delivery &/or Eun Ha’s character that came off as rather fake. But, as I got deeper into my watch, I grew impressed with Jung Seo Yeon’s delivery of Eun Ha’s more challenging scenes, and now I count her as one of the highlights of my watch.

Kim Ji Hoon as Baek Hee Seong [SPOILERS]

Y’know, the moment I saw that Kim Ji Hoon was playing comatose Hee Seong, it was basically a dead giveaway that Hee Seong would eventually wake up. Otherwise, why bother casting Kim Ji Hoon, right? Because of this, I wasn’t even that fussed when I got accidentally spoiled while browsing my Twitter feed, that Hee Seong turned out to be a Big Bad.

I’ve not seen Kim Ji Hoon play a character remotely close to Hee Seong, and I thought it was a very interesting role for him. I thought he did really well. In the early stages when Hee Seong had just woken up, I truly believed that Hee Seong was barely able to eke out his words to his parents. And then, later, I must admit that I also rather enjoyed the OTT evil glowering that Hee Seong did, as he earnestly considered how to murder various people.

I thought that Hee Seong’s dark expressions, full of nervous dark intent, were well-played.

Yes, there are logic stretches involved by the bucketload – for example, it’s impossible that Hee Seong could’ve regained his faculties that fast, after being in a coma for so long – but I’ll talk more about that later.

All in all, even with the logic stretches, I found Hee Seong very interesting to watch. The way Kim Ji Hoon plays him, he really looks unstable and often not far from killing someone, if only for pleasure, and that was pretty fascinating to me.

STUFF THAT WAS OK

Seo Hyun Woo as Moo Jin

I’ve got Moo Jin in this section because my feelings towards him fluctuated quite a bit, over the course of my watch.

Sometimes, I felt a bit sorry for him, but at other times, I felt frustrated with him. Sometimes I found his facial expressions quite entertaining, and at other times, I wanted to throttle him, just a little bit. I generally found him less than reliable, but then sometimes he’d surprise me by demonstrating a streak of loyalty or sincerity that I didn’t quite expect.

Here are just a couple of Moo Jin moments that stood out to me.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E3. Hee Seong and Moo Jin coming to an agreement and becoming reluctant partners is quite unexpected, and I anticipate that this frenemy odd coupling is going to be entertaining. Just Moo Jin’s incredulous looks alone, while Ji Won fusses over Hee Seong – who’d imprisoned him – and demands an apology from Moo Jin for beating her husband, are hilariously priceless.

E4. That’s an interesting nugget of information, that Moo Jin and Hae Soo used to date. So.. Moo Jin basically terrorized his girlfriend’s younger brother..? That seems weird?

E7. Moo Jin, with his release of his exclusive despite having agreed to work together with Hee Seong, coupled with his nervousness around Hae Soo, makes him look like an unreliable, sweaty, dubious mess. I don’t trust him much at all, at this point.

E9. Moo Jin seems more sincerely drawn to Hae Soo than I expected. He always seems like such a shaky, untrustworthy mess, more interested in snagging a scoop for his career, than in keeping promises made, that I’d expected him to walk away for real, when Hae Soo told him that she’s broken, and not the same person that he used to like. But then he surprises me by coming back with supplies for her bare apartment. This, even though she’s told him that she’s literally killed a person. He must really really like her.

E11. Brownie point to Moo Jin for stepping up and trying to save Hyun Soo, even though he’s scared and doesn’t have a clue in terms of what to do. He put himself in danger out of loyalty to Hyun Soo, and he deserves props for that. I don’t think starting a livestream while he was trying to not get caught by his pursuer was a very smart thing to do, since his whispers would’ve surely clued his pursuer in on his location, but I’m glad he survived.

[END SPOILER]

Jang Hee Jin as Hae Soo

Due to the nature of our story, Hae Soo is kept as a fairy mysterious, ambiguous character for a good chunk of time. I vacillated between trusting her, and being suspicious of every word she said. On the upside, this worked to keep up the tension in my watch experience, but on the downside, I never quite felt connected to Hae Soo as a character.

I thought Jang Hee Jin did a good job of portraying Hae Soo though, given Hae Soo’s complicated backstory and her resulting complicated emotional landscape.

Here are just a few examples to demonstrate how Hae Soo’s behavior hit me differently, at different points of my watch.

[SPOILER ALERT]

E5. How had the fish keychain come into Hae Soo’s possession, such that she’d be able to give it Hyun Soo for luck? Had she found it in their father’s car, or does she know more than she’s letting on? Is she the person who killed Park Kyung Choon’s wife, for example? Hmmm.

E8. I want to trust Hae Soo, but given this show’s nature, I do wonder whether I should believe everything she says. Perhaps there’s more that she hasn’t revealed? She does seem rather shrewd in handling both Hyun Soo and Moo Jin, in her soft and gentle way. Without her present, they would’ve probably parted ways after a blow-up. But with her intervention, Hyun Soo even expresses what’s on his mind, and thanks and apologizes to Moo Jin. That’s pretty impressive, as far as interventions go.

E9. I’m curious to know what Hae Soo might be hiding. Even though she seems sincere in wanting to protect Hyun Soo, there’s something mysterious about her that makes me think that there’s more to what she knows than she’s letting on. For now, she seems to hide behind her sweet noona persona, and that’s proved effective in getting Moo Jin and Hyun Soo to listen to her. But Ji Won isn’t buying it and she’s suspicious, and I’m with Ji Won on this one.

E10. With Hae Soo now seeking out hypnotherapy, and making exasperated statements to Moo Jin in private about wanting to protect Hyun Soo, and telling Ji Won that Hyun Soo is innocent, I feel like I can trust her. I believe that she does feel guilty for letting Hyun Soo take the fall for the killing of the village head, and I feel she is sincere in wanting to come clean and set things right.

And if that’s the case, I can see why she’d push Moo Jin away. There’s no point in her forming any kind of bond with him, if she sees herself being put in jail for murder.

[END SPOILER]

Dr. and Mrs. Baek

I spent much of my watch feeling intrigued by Dr. and Mrs. Baek, and wondering just how they were involved with our characters’ backstories. Dr. Baek always seemed so unruffled and fake-genial, while Mrs. Baek often looked uber nervous and twitchy.

Broadly speaking, I thought Show used both characters reasonably well, though how Dr. Baek’s arc ended rang a little hollow to me personally.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Mrs. Baek

E4. Hyun Soo’s fake mom is not as nasty as she first appears. In the scene at the pharmacy where he goes to see her, she does try to control herself, and even apologizes for hitting him. But the dismay of hearing that Ji Won’s investigating the case throws her, and she loses control again. And still, she does ask him to come by the house for dinner sometimes. She’s making an effort to be nice to her fake son, and somehow that makes my heart go out to her. She’s in a weird situation and she’s stressed, and her real son is in a coma; she must be feeling very messed up.

E7. Fake Mom losing it over Eun Ha being ahead in math, saying that it’ll only kill her and her mom, is.. weird and intriguing, to say the least. Does the real Hee Seong have an affinity for math or something? Still, it’s pretty heartwarming to see Fake Mom – well, Fake Grandma, in this case – bond with Eun Ha over food, in spite of herself. She really isn’t as harsh or heartless as she makes herself out to be.

Dr. Baek

E8. Dr. Baek seems oddly detached from his son’s misfortune, most of the time. In that scene when he’s talking to Hyun Soo about taking on Hee Seong’s identity, he’s so weirdly calm about it all. I wouldn’t have known he had a son fall into a coma recently, if Show hadn’t told me so. And it strikes me as particularly self-centered and heartless, to essentially sell his comatose son’s identity, in order to protect his career.

E10. I’ve said before that Dr. Baek seems oddly detached from the suffering of his son, and this episode, Hyun Soo articulates that for me, saying that he sees Dr. Baek as someone similar to himself. Ah. So Dr. Baek is also of the sociopathic disposition, where he doesn’t feel emotions or cares about people? That would certainly explain why his poor wife seems to hurt and traumatized after living with him for so many years.

E11. Dr. Baek is definitely the sociopath in our story. The way he’s double-crossing Hyun Soo is rather mind-boggling to me. I mean, he’s the one who gives Hyun Soo a big sum of money to engage with Yeom Sang Cheol, and he’s also the one to call Yeom Sang Cheol to tell him that Hyun Soo’s working with the police, and then offer double the money, for Yeom Sang Cheol to get rid of Hyun Soo. First of all, that’s quite evil indeed, to throw your fake son under the bus. And second of all, Dr. Baek must be seriously loaded; he seems to be able to produce very sizable chunks of cash at the drop of a hat.

[END SPOILER]

The police

I just wanted to say that it helps to think of the police in this show as bumbling drama detectives, as a default. That way, when they do dumb things like waste time scuffling among themselves, it’s easier to accept, and when they manage to actually do well, it’s a nice bonus. To Show’s credit, I’ve seen far worse, when it comes to bumbling law enforcement in dramas.

Tangential shout-out to Choi Dae Hoon, I must say that I thought Chief Lee was pretty cool in episode 11, with the way he stepped in to subdue the suspect. His moves were fast and decisive, and it made him look pretty badass. Add on the controlled way that he asks Jae Seob where Ji Won is, and then effectively chooses to look the other way, just makes him all the more appealing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Choi Dae Hoon be this cool. 🤩

STUFF I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH

Logic lapses

As I’ve alluded to earlier in this review, there are quite a few logic lapses and stretches in our story. As a general rule, the more logic lapses I noticed, the poorer my overall opinion of Show became. Because, while I get that the Show’s emphasis is more on the emotional journey, the more logic doesn’t hold up, the more a mystery-thriller really loses its grip, I think. This show could’ve been truly excellent, if it’d gotten a good grasp on both the emotional journey, and the logic needed to support its story.

First, here are a couple of logic lapses characteristic of the show, and then after that, I’ve put the spotlight on two different episodes; one, where the makjang lens really helped me to roll with the logic lapses, and the second one, where the makjang lens couldn’t help.

An initial sampling of logic lapses [SPOILERS]

E5. The search for the locksmith information at Park Kyung Choon’s house, which then leads them to the abandoned mall where Park Kyung Choon is keeping Hee Seong / Hyun Soo captive, is all too convenient, in that the timeline doesn’t appear to mesh very well with what’s happening with Hee Seong. With water levels rising so fast against him, it honestly feels like by the time they get the information and drive to the location and break in, that Hee Seong wouldn’t survive the wait.

E7. How does Hee Seong / Hyun Soo suddenly have the recording of the accomplice threatening the witness? There’s really no time for anyone to have passed it to him?

E8. The real Hee Seong waking up as a result of being taken off life support, is a real stretch. I feel like this isn’t medically possible?

When the makjang lens helps – a lot: Spotlight on Episode 12 [SPOILERS] 

Things get quite melodramatic and surreal this episode, and y’know, I actually rather enjoy it. I don’t even mind that some things don’t fully make plausible sense, because I feel like Show’s emphasis has always been less on how tightly and logically everything stacks up, and more on the emotional implications and impact of it all.

The flashback to how Hee Seong landed in a coma doesn’t make complete sense, in that I find it hard to believe that Hee Seong’s mom would stab her son, even if she felt horrified by his actions. We’ve seen how much she loves him, so I just don’t feel like that’s something she would do. Also, the stab wound that she inflicts on him doesn’t seem like something that would put him in a coma for so many years. It’d put him in hospital with some serious stitches, but a multi-year coma requiring life support? I find that hard to believe. And again, Hee Seong’s slightly dazed, noncommittal attitude towards burying Hyun Soo, is completely different from his reaction upon waking up from his coma, when he’d asked, all concerned innocence, about what had happened to Hyun Soo. Show hasn’t given us an explanation of his wildly different personas, so he either has some kind of psychological disorder, or Show’s suffering from inconsistent writing.

That said, I rather liked the High Drama of the entire scene. I guess I must be in the mood for makjang, coz I actually found the makjang leanings pretty enjoyable, heh. Mom stumbling on his murder keepsakes; Mom, reeling from the shock, thinks of killing herself with the murder weapon; Mom sees Hee Seong digging an actual grave in their backyard, preparing to bury Hyun Soo’s motionless body; Mom going berserk and stabbing her own son, putting him in a coma. It’s gold standard makjang content.

And then we have Hee Seong and his run-in with their deaf-mute housekeeper. I find it quite unbelievable that he’d have recovered so much of his strength so soon after coming out of his coma, especially since his coma has lasted for so many years. And yet, we see him stand up and walk – swiftly! – this episode, which is logically really hard to reconcile.

But, again, I enjoyed the makjang flavor of the entire event. I thought Hee Seong’s dark side-eye at Spying Housekeeper was deliciously threatening, and there was so much drama around Spying Housekeeper trying to resign from her job and blackmail Mom at the same time. Mom’s hysterics were appropriately theatrical, and then there’s the whole thing where Hee Seong rises from his wheelchair, and walks swiftly and threateningly towards Spying Housekeeper, who almost makes it out of the house – before she’s hauled back inside, after getting her foot out the door. Of course she has to be murdered by Hee Seong, who strangles her with her own scarf, right there in the living room. And it’s just quite perfect that Hee Seong then goes all dazed and noncommittal again, about how he really had no other choice in the matter. No wonder Mom’s all crazy, when she lives with this kind of crazy.

On another note, I was quite surprised by Jae Seob’s decision to let Hyun Soo go without arresting him as he’d previously declared he would. I find it a little hard to believe that he wouldn’t at least take Hyun Soo in for questioning, out of his duty as a police officer.

But, I like the emotional effect of it, as it gives Hyun Soo a new lease of life, and allows him to then work with Jae Seob to capture Yeom Sang Cheol and Dr. Baek. More importantly, it gives Hyun Soo time with Ji Won and Eun Ha, and I really did enjoy the emotional beats there. I loved how father and daughter turn into hugging crybabies when they’re finally reunited.

More than that, I love the new vibe between Hyun Soo and Ji Won. Now that the truth is out, they’re re-establishing themselves as a couple, with Hyun Soo telling Ji Won more about himself than he’d probably ever thought possible, and Ji Won committing herself to be with him, even if the world comes to know his identity. I found it all very moving and lovely.

On that note, I was glad that Hae Soo made it to the police station to make her confession about killing the village head, so I was rather surprised and dismayed, when she was stopped by Ji Won. My immediate instinct, is that concealing the truth is only going to complicate matters, and the guilt is only going to weigh on Hae Soo, in greater and more damaging measure, the longer she holds onto it. But, on further thought, I understand where Ji Won is coming from. Hyun Soo’s made the decision to protect Hae Soo by taking the fall, and if Hae Soo takes that away from him, it would make him feel bad and worry for her. Ji Won would rather Hae Soo respect Hyun Soo’s decision, and bear the guilt as penance. I don’t like it, necessarily, but I get Ji Won’s point of view.

Our episode ends on what seems ripe to be another makjang moment, with Hyun Soo and Ji Won showing up at the Baek residence, just as Dr. Baek and Hee Seong are loading a bag with Spying Housekeeper’s body in it, into the trunk of the car. This promises to be quite exciting, in a makjang sort of way, and I’m oddly enjoying it. All I need to do, is stay in the mood for some mad makjang.

When the makjang lens doesn’t help, after all: Spotlight on Episode 14 [SPOILERS]

I have to confess that I did not love this episode as much as I’d hoped. It’s not blithely makjang enough that I can just enjoy it for its hammy-ness, but when taken seriously, the plot holes and logic stretches are quite silly and glaring. I get that Show’s main thrust is the emotional journey of it all, and I’ll concede that Show does reasonably ok on that front, for me.

First of all, I am glad that Hyun Soo is just putting on a show for the CCTV cameras, so that Ji Won won’t be implicated in his escape, which means that he’d never meant to hurt her, and he didn’t actually want to take her hostage. At the same time, I am pleased that Ji Won gets VERY upset at him, because, well, that’s the normal human reaction I would expect from anyone who’s just been threatened at knife point by her husband. I am also pleased that even though Hyun Soo does his best to explain his intention to her, that she doesn’t easily buy it. All in all, these felt like reasonable and believable human reactions, and I am pleased about that.

..I guess that does say something, though, about how dramas generally tend to handle such situations, that I mostly expected this to be glossed over, and consider a normal human reaction to be a win, heh.

It’s pretty implausible, though, that the police who are standing guard outside their house, would completely miss them making their way up the open staircase. And it’s kinda daft that they don’t station officers to guard the side gate of the house?

Also. It seems to me that all the indications that Hyun Soo was unstable last episode, were misdirects that Show proceeds to completely ignore, in this episode’s version of events. I don’t like this style of storytelling, because it hinges on viewers forgetting or ignoring the details that came before. That makes Show feel like it’s got some kind of Dissociative Identity Disorder, coz I feel like if I questioned Show about what was shown in its previous presentation of the scene, Show would just give me innocent crazy eyes and say, “When did I ever say that..?” I might not be able to make Show ‘fess up, but I can dock Show’s final grade, so there.

And now, let’s talk about how Hyun Soo and Ji Won make a recording of his call to Yeom Sang Cheol when, 1, it makes no sense that he’d have Yeom Sang Cheol’s number, especially since Yeom Sang Cheol’s on the run and therefore would only use a burner phone or public phone and Hyun Soo doesn’t have his burner phone with him, and 2, Hyun Soo and Ji Won clearly did not take a laptop with them when they went on the run – and Show cannot convince me that Hyun Soo had that laptop hidden in his baggy Dad jeans. This is a big plot hole from where I’m sitting, because the recording of the phone call is the key piece of evidence that Ji Won uses to assert that Hyun Soo is innocent. And yet, all the circumstances around Hyun Soo and Ji Won’s ability to procure that recording, are so implausible. This is not makjang enough for me to just accept that it’s magic.

That said, I do appreciate the emotional beats between Hyun Soo and Ji Won, where he tells her that he really didn’t kill Spying Housekeeper, and they cry together, and then when he handcuffs her to the table in the hotel room to keep her from following him into a dangerous situation, and Ji Won tearfully urges him to stay safe. In these moments, I can feel how much these two care about each other, and I’m happily surprised that the way Show gets them over the hump of him threatening her with a knife, is solid enough to make these beats land well.

Also, what a reveal, that Do Min Seok hadn’t committed suicide, and that Hee Seong had killed him by hitting him on the head repeatedly with a rock. That makes Jung Mi Sook a more important witness than ever. Although.. I do want to know how the entire thing could have been believably disguised as a suicide? With Do Min Seok a known murderer, there’s no way the police would have glossed over the trauma to his head. And when it comes to suicide, it would be really difficult to kill oneself by using blunt force to the back of one’s head? This.. makes no sense to me.

I am also bummed at Hae Soo getting killed by Hee Seong. I mean, the whole thing could’ve been avoided. The moment she saw that the handles had been ripped off the doors and felt oddly uneasy about it, she should’ve hightailed it out of there, and made do without Eun Ha’s things. The fact is, she’s got a child with her, and safety would’ve been more top of mind than ever, so even the slightest discomfort – which she clearly feels, upon entering the house and seeing everything in disarray – should’ve been a trigger for her to leave first, and think about how to deal with the need for stuff later.

But ok, I suppose Hae Soo’s too innocent for that. And I get her intention to make Hee Seong believe that she’s Ji Won, in order to throw him off Ji Won’s trail. But perhaps Hee Seong’s not as smart as he thinks he is, because Hae Soo’s act as Ji Won is completely unconvincing. Why would Ji Won, a cop, just stand there and cower, waiting for Hee Seong to tie his hair into a man-bun before he stabbed her? That alone should’ve clued Hee Seong in to the fact that he’s got the wrong person. Plus, there’s the thing where he’s recently spied on Hyun Soo and Ji Won talking with his parents in their living room, so even though it’s dark in this scene, he’s already gotten a feel for her personality before, which should’ve been another clue that he’s got the wrong person.

When Hae Soo started apologizing to Moo Jin and saying that the necklace he’d given her was still so pretty after all these years, I should’ve guessed that she was going to die soon. Coz that’s what dramas tend to do; if a sad character suddenly gets happy all of a sudden and starts saying nice things to the people around them, they’re either going to get hit by a truck of doom, or they’re going to get stabbed. And true to tradition, Hae Soo does get stabbed. I guess I had fair warning?

SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]

Woof. This was quite the rollercoaster of an episode; I had to take a few separate breathers in order to finish it. That said, if you have more fortitude &/or appetite for tension and high drama, you might be able to inhale this in one sitting?

First of all, I’m glad that Hae Soo doesn’t die. Credit to Moo Jin wanting to flex his maybe-boyfriend muscle and going to pick her up even when she’d said she’d meet him at his apartment, because that’s pretty much what saves her life.

Also, credit to Ji Won and her colleagues for figuring out that Spying Housekeeper hadn’t actually left the house as indicated by the CCTV footage. Jae Seob thinking to question the food delivery guy more closely, deserves all the brownie points, because if he hadn’t thought to do that, they might not have uncovered the ruse so soon, or at all.

Eun Ha tearfully telling Ji Won that Hae Soo had told her to lock her door and only open it for her mom, is so pitch perfect. The little girl mix of innocence and fear is exactly what I’d imagine a child would feel, after going through what Eun Ha went through. Jung Seo Yeon is quite marvelous.

Hee Seong sprinkling rat poison in the suitcase of money, guessing that Yeom Sang Cheol would smell the money as has been his habit, is really devious, I must say. I mean, it’s clear that he wants to get rid of Yeom Sang Cheol, and this way, he doesn’t even need to fight him or pin him down or stab or strangle him. Hee Seong is an evil murderer, yes, but he’s also a smart one.

Hyun Soo taking the time and trouble to introduce himself to Jung Mi Sook and assure her of her safety, is so compassionate. The manner in which he speaks might look soulless and deadened, but the spirit in which he does this, is full of heart. I feel that this compassion for victims, and prioritization of their safety, is something he’s learned from Ji Won.

That said, I feel like the whole thing around faking Ji Won’s death is poorly done. If Ji Won knew there was a chance that Moo Jin would be with the Baeks when she called, she should’ve had someone else make the call to instruct Moo Jin to leave the Baek household without raising suspicion.

Instead, she calls him personally, and he greets her right away upon answering the phone, “Yes, Detective Cha Ji Won.” Pfft. Everything else she proceeds to say, telling him to answer only with a “yes” or a “no” is futile, since he’s already given away the fact that she’s alive. Telling Moo Jin any details of the investigation, knowing that he’s emotionally invested, is also a mistake.

He’s already so on edge that Hae Soo’s in critical condition in the ICU, feeding him information that the people in front of him likely had something to do with it, is just not very smart. It’s little surprise that he goes berserk and confronts the Baeks right there and then. (I hafta say, I shook my head at Moo Jin’s recklessness in this scene. But, it does amplify the narrative tension, so I’ll give it that.)

I did feel that Dr. Baek’s realization that nothing he could do would change his son, rather convenient. It feels rather out of character for Dr. Baek to get all tearful over this, because he’s heretofore shown that he’s the opposite of emotional, and in fact, might be the truest sociopath in our story. This sudden desire to throw himself under the bus to jolt his son into changing for the better, feels rather hard to believe, for me.

I felt really bad for Hyun Soo, when he’s led to believe that Ji Won is dead. His disbelief, fear and grief and overall distress is so well played. Lee Jun Ki really blew it out of the water with this entire arc. I could absolutely believe Hyun Soo’s deteriorating grasp on his mental faculties, as he starts to shut down from the shock of the news of Ji Won’s death.

Not gonna lie; it did give me some sense of satisfaction to see Hee Seong actually become fearful of Hyun Soo and run for his life. After all that he’s done to his victims, it just feels like justice is served, a little bit, now that the shoe is on the other foot.

That moment when Hyun Soo cries that he sees dead people, and therefore he can’t be sure that Ji Won is real, really hit me in the heart. His disorientation, his fear, and his vulnerability, in that moment, are so raw and palpable; it hit me all over again, how he’s suffered all this time, and it brought home how much it takes for him to take a step of faith in the moment, and believe Ji Won.

After Hyun Soo’s massive relief that Ji Won is alive, and given how much she means to him, I’m not at all surprised that he protects her with his own body, when Hee Seong gets hold of a police officer’s gun and aims it at Ji Won. I can only assume that Hyun Soo isn’t really dead, but in a coma, from that all-white scene at the end, since we still have a finale to get through. If Hee Seong’s dead, though, I’d be rather disappointed. He should live, so that he can stand trial for all the murders that he’s committed. Don’t kill off the murderer now, Show!

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

I’m guessing that this finale is going to be a case of “your mileage may vary.” I am sure there are viewers who love Show’s chosen treatment of its finale, but I have to admit that I felt mostly underwhelmed – and even a little bored – by this final episode.

After the adrenalin-pumping penultimate episode where I felt captive on the edge of my seat, this episode feels quite anticlimactic, to be honest. The Big Bad is dead; Hae Soo survives and stands trial for the murder of the village foreman, and gets acquitted on grounds on self-defense; Dr. Baek loses his sanity but seems happier; Mrs. Baek serves time in prison; Hae Soo decides to pursue her studies overseas; Moo Jin cries and swears he won’t wait for her, but ends up maintaining a long-distance relationship with her anyway.

The main source of (intended) narrative tension this episode is Hyun Soo’s amnesia, which – sigh – is not my favorite decision Show has made.

After all that Hyun Soo and Ji Won have been through, where they’ve conquered mountains together while keeping the trust and love in their relationship intact, it feels like the narrative rug is pulled out from under our feet, to have all of that ripped away from the OTP relationship, in our final hour. I did not find this satisfying to watch, honestly, and also, I figured Hyun Soo would find his way back to Ji Won eventually, so all the time that’s spent with them giving each other space and angsting and trying to figure things out, felt borderline filler-like, to me, as if Show was keeping them apart until we got close enough to the end of the episode, where a reunion could close us out on a high.

However, I concede that given the amnesia route that writer-nim chooses, it does make sense to me that Hyun Soo would have trouble trusting himself, particularly in terms of whether he truly cared for Ji Won. It echoes the scene on the cliff in episode 15, where he cried that he sees dead people and therefore cannot be certain whether Ji Won is real.

Also, to be fair, Lee Jun Ki and Moon Chae Won do deliver the reunion scenes with hefty amounts of raw emotion that felt engaging and compelling. Because of how well they sell it, I did enjoy the actual reunion scenes between Hyun Soo and Ji Won, as well as between them as a family, with Eun Ha, despite feeling quite underwhelmed by most of the episode on the whole. Eun Ha’s enthusiastic declaration that Daddy’s her favorite person in the world, and how that hits Hyun Soo like a ton of bricks, is just the kind of stuff to grab me by the heart.

When I ask myself what I would have preferred to see in this finale, I think I would’ve liked to see Hee Seong survive the gunshot, so that he’d be able to stand trial and be accountable for his crimes. Also, I don’t think the amnesia was necessary. I would’ve liked to see Hyun Soo and Ji Won building on all the trust and love that they had established in their relationship while overcoming all their obstacles. Kinda like how they stayed up late talking in episode 11, after the truth came out that Ji Won knew Hyun Soo’s real identity. A reset in a similar vein to that, would’ve felt meaningful to me, without the added angst of amnesia.

I also would’ve liked to see Jung Mi Sook reunited with her husband, who’s been searching for her, for years. That would’ve been such an emotional scene, I’m sure.

Even though writer-nim and I had different ideas of what best served this finale, I do like the final note on which we end, because it shows us that Hyun Soo’s efforts to find and understand himself, have gotten him somewhere. Who among us can say that we fully understand ourselves, anyway? Hyun Soo’s like the rest of us; just, with a bit of an added handicap, is all. He may not fully understand the man in the mirror, but he’s making progress, with his most precious girls by his side, and in the end, that’s what really matters.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

A solid ride overall, despite being uneven in spots.

FINAL GRADE: B

TEASER:

MV:

PATREON UPDATE!

The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Flower Of Evil, is Start-Up. I’ve heard lots of positive comments on this one, which naturally piqued my interest. I’ve also taken an initial peek, and it seems very promising!

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can find my Patreon page here. You can also read more about all the whats, whys, and hows of helping this blog here. Thanks for all of your support, it really means a lot to me. ❤️

66 thoughts on “Review: Flower Of Evil

  1. Kay

    Great breakdown of this show 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it too. I did enjoy a bit more than you did as it struck all the right chords for me. While I like mystery crime thrillers fine, I usually find them lacking because they frequently don’t carry the emotional weight I like along with a heavily serialized story.

    Not so with Flower of Evil! The heavy emotional focus combined with the mystery and thrills was incredible to watch. Even better was that it included an angsty romance that I completely ate up! hehe The character journeys were amazing as was the fantastic acting from Lee Joon Gi and Moon Chae Won.

    And I definitely got a kick out of the little makjang side of the drama. It felt distinctly different from the bulk of it, but it cracked me up every time it went that direction.

    I too was mixed on the ending. I personally would have preferred to skip the amnesia in this particular instance (and I typically like amnesia! lol) just because of how much character and couple growth we had. But I did understand the positive aspects to Hyun Soo having a bit of a reset and falling for Ji Won again. So all in all, I loved this show. It was a thrilling ride 🙂

    Reply
  2. Small Bot

    I’m currently watching Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol on Netflix. I find that once I adjust my viewing lens to seeing it as a fluffy romance manhwa for young adults, it’s actually quite a charming and colourful little drama, albeit with a bit of over-acting. But that lens seems kind of important, as I’ve seen some musician friends drop it at episode 2.
    Please try to review once it finishes airing this week and if you happen to see it.
    And what is it with Kim Joo-hun and 2020? He’s suddenly present in a lot of dramas in 2020.

    Reply
  3. fufu

    I guess I enjoyed this more than you did. The pacing was good and I’m just a sucker for dramas depicting a good OTP. That combined made me enjoy even the finale.

    The OST wasn’t great but also not annoying and did enhance the emotional scenes.

    I really disliked some plot directions. I guess it also helped that I just roll my eyes when I do notice illogical stuff and gloss over it.

    Reply
  4. CarpControl

    Wow, with all the hype surrounding this show, and the astounding ratings on MDL; I almost felt BAD I didn’t like the show as much! A part of it has to do with how the show was marketed as a dark murder mystery, I didn’t think the melo-love would be an integral part of the story (actually screw that, it was ALL about the romance! I was a fool to think otherwise, because it featured a married couple with a child!!) The glaring logical-faults of the show left me pissed, because the hype had me convinced it would be perfect/ near-perfect, and the logical-stretches, medical lee-ways & finally the cheap trick aka ‘amnesia-card’ seemed extra-annoying. Am I really blaming people for raving/ gushing about the show as much as they did? Maybe yes. But, I do acknowledge a part of the blame lies with me and my misplaced expectations, as well!😭

    I am also not beyond recognizing the strengths of this show. Firstly, I am amazed how realistically the conflict and tension (between a married couple) was written and acted out. (actions, reactions, expressions and dialogue were ON POINT!) I knew LJG as a good actor, and thus, was blown away with MCW’s performance (& her character who wasn’t an airhead!) She wasn’t on my radar (and is now). Somebody mentioned ‘good vs. unnecessary’ angst, and this was the (very) good kind. I am happy they managed it without resorting to tropes like misunderstanding/ miscommunication/ in-law dramas/ noble-idiocy, etc. It was a beautiful journey and so organic (like you mentioned), that we don’t even realise the characters have come SO far from the first episode because their change/ growth was so gradual, fleshed-out and well-paced! Because this emotional journey was so smooth, I admit the finale-move appeared kinda out of the left-field, and I almost tore my hair out!🙄

    I loved the sound editing, that built the atmosphere of suspense quite nicely! Loved some of the unexpected plot developments too! However, I am sure my enjoyment would have been amped further, had I adopted the ‘makjang-lens’ quite early on. I wish the show had delivered an equally well-thought out ‘murder-mystery’ just as they had done with the ‘melo-romance’ bit. Also, despite LJG’s character not appearing as a traditional hero, I SHOULD have taken him to be the protagonist and rooted for him all along. I was left a bit confused initially, not knowing if I was ‘Team JiWon’ or ‘Team HyunSoo’, even though HyunSoo appeared to be an absolute darling (despite being morally-grey and possibly also a psychopath?) Realizing they were on the same page all along (in the last quarter of the show), made me question my conflicting allegiance; ‘was I watching the same show as everybody else?’ The show was clearly shown from both their angles, which is why we can relate to both their situations, but the whole ‘I am rooting for X’ factor is diluted, and reduced my enjoyment. Nonetheless, I am sincerely happy there was no love-triangle added into the mix. (yay) And I whole-heartedly agree the show is quite nice, and I am a victim of my own over-expectations!… Curiously, I also anticipated a B/B+ from you, @kfangurl, and I’m amazed how I wasn’t so off. Glad to see you on the same boat as me! Annheongaseyo to you too, @kfangurl! 😛

    Despite some of its shortcomings, I am not terribly mad at it. And I haven’t yet gotten over HOW perfectly pretty that petal-pink lipstick looks on JiWon! <3

    Reply
      1. reaper525

        True Guardian seems like a show CarpControl could like.
        And I don’t recommend my most hated show easily ^^

        Reply
        1. beez

          @reaper – Why did you hate Lookout? And why would you recommend it, if you hate it????

          This is perfect because I just asked you what type of shows you really like on the other thread. So you can tell me what you don’t like in this one.

          Reply
          1. reaper525

            The way he described what he thought about this one made me agree with you that Guardian might be his/her style. That is what I meant. Different people different peferences just bc I hate doesn’t mean CarpControl will.
            What I disliked? First of all Lee Si Young

            Reply
      2. CarpControl

        Thank you @beez & @reaper525 for your rec!…one of the reasons apart from reading kfangurl’s thoughts on shows, is the rec I find here on the comments sections, and that totally makes it worth it!
        ‘The Guardians’ sounds like an excellent concept (just read the synopsis) So excited to check it out.! I hope it isn’t derailed by bad acting or less than logical plot-developments! 😜

        No, I am technically not against romance. On the contrary, I do quite enjoy it. (and an occassional fan of the fluffy, no-brainer kind as well)…I just don’t appreciate when the romance takes the centre-stage (because k-ent can’t say no to ‘romance’ heh?) and a crucial premise of the story (murder mystery here) takes a backseat, and is dealt with, in a half-hearted, half-baked manner…😬

        Basically, I liked FOE. Just hadn’t signed up for what it delivered. And what it did promise to deliver, kinda fell flat?🤷‍♀️

        Reply
        1. beez

          @CarpControl – Look out is pretty heavy at first. No romance at all. And done pretty great acting performances near the end. Speaking of fluff and great acting performances – have you watched Chicago Typewriter?

          Reply
          1. CarpControl

            Hey @beez, love how you personally like to get to know people’s tastes in dramas, and then recommend stuff to watch, accordingly! It’s so sweet! ❤

            Would you forgive me if I told you I started watching k-dramas just this summer (after a long break- 10 years)..and I have a never-ending backlog?! I am on a quest to finish the good ones asap, and CT is quite high on that list. Would get back to you with my reaction on @kfangurl’s page, after a month or so! 😀
            Ugh, so much to watch, so little time 🙈

            Reply
            1. beez

              @Carp Control – Ditto! I’m starting to think this is just how it is and always will be… never ending and never caught up.

              I don’t know why I enjoy so much knowing others enjoyed a show that I loved.

              Reply
  5. Elaine Phua

    So nice to see that many other viewers feel as I do, that the exciting plot and amazing depiction of a deeply passionate OTP relationship between a married couple who grow to understand each other more deeply and support each other to be awesome in every way outweighs the cheesy hammy or logic fail moments.

    Perhaps I’m biased because I have a daughter who’s about the same age as Eun Ha, but I felt so much for Lee Jun Ki as Hyun Soo, fumbling through his life feeling like an imposter but not realising that he is an awesome father and husband to the people closest to him. Eun Ha was incredibly adorable and precocious! After the OTP feels, the father-daughter feels made me bawl.

    The mystery was not bad, could have been better. But combined with the relationship feels, the show is quite special, flawed but special. So a B+ or A- for me!

    Reply
  6. Kun

    Wasn’t surprised by your rating as like you I did struggle with some plot points down the stretch. It was a bit sad for me because through the opening episodes until around episode 11 I was full on obsessed with the show and it was looking like my top show of the year but the last few episodes did knock down my rating and my love a little bit. Loved that you highlighted the otp relationship because this show really was them. One of the highlights of the show for me was the way Jiwon looked at Hyunsoo before she found about the deception. We saw this a lot through flashbacks and the early episodes and it always made me melt a little inside because the love she felt for him was so palpable and intense. Loved that you mentioned the coded phone calls (both the one where he was held captive by the trafficker and the later one where she basically let him know that she knows), they really emphasized to me just how deep their connection was and reaffirmed my love for how much Jiwon cares about him. Unfortunately as you mentioned logic does take a beating and while none of the things you mentioned really bothered me in the initial stretch I started to feel them more in episodes 13-16. That said, I really did enjoy every episode up until episode 16 where I almost felt cheated by the amnesia. The final episode really made me feel miserable even if the final scene brought me back because yes their relationship is that great. I struggled to rate the show because honestly I felt like the script, acting, directing, and music were for the most part fantastic but suffered in certain places especially towards the ending. At the end of the day I did end up rating it quite highly still because even with the missteps the story felt compelling and the otp is easily my favorite of the year. Also Jiwon is one of the best kdrama heroines ever.

    I assume you have heard of the grumblings about Start Up around episode 10 and in my personal opinion they felt extremely unfounded so hope you won’t be too discouraged by them. The few discussions I have had about the show have left me a bit frustrated with how biased fans can be and I do think this plays a large role in the grumbles you may have heard. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am enjoying watching it 🙂

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Thanks for understanding my rating of the show, Kun!! ❤️ I think most folks rated it higher, and therefore feel I’m being overly harsh on Show. 😅 I was originally going with something like B++, but the deeper I got into my watch, the more that mental rating slipped as Show’s internal logic slipped and slid all over the place, and by the end, it was the B that felt most accurately reflective of my feelings towards the show. 😜

      And YES, the amnesia was a disappointing narrative choice to me too! I felt like that screen time could’ve been used in better ways, and it felt like a bit of a cop-out, to have him suffer amnesia for most of the last ep. 😕 Thankfully, Show brought it back to the strong family bonds, or I might’ve ended up docking Show’s grade even further! 😝

      Thanks for weighing in on Start-Up! I’ve been a little concerned with the rumblings about E10, so it’s a relief to hear from you that you feel they’re pretty much unfounded, and that it’s mostly because of biased fans. That does help me feel better about continuing with Start-Up. Thank you!! ❤️😘

      Reply
      1. Kun

        It has unfortunately removed me away from the best part of watching airing shows, discussion 🙁

        For FoE 100% yes, the amnesia felt just miserable to sit through whereas the previous angst surrounding the deception and the lies hurt, but it hurt so good. They did an excellent job of portraying the angst ofc but I think this is where the distinction between good and unnecessary angst is. When its for a proper narrative and emotional reason like it was for most of the drama, even if it hurts its extremely compelling and engaging to watch. When its just used to fill up the last episode not only is it predictable, but it actively just makes me feel bad to watch. Really do wish they had used the last episode to continue that reset we saw a glimpse of in episode 11 because that scene was fantastic.

        The show was still just barely an A for me but it could have been so much stronger if the ending had been more rewarding. Still an A because I guess at the end of the day the logic fails didn’t derail me too much from my enjoyment factor which I can’t figure out if it was because I found the overall narrative compelling or the actors, perhaps it was a mix of both 🙂

        Reply
        1. beez

          @Kun – I feel your pain. So many Kdramas that could be rated A++ but then the last episode ruins it. So many shows I’d like to recommend to some of the people that only started watching Kdrama since the covid19 lockdown but I fear I’d be putting them off dramas forever or, at the very least, leave them not trusting my recommendations so I don’t suggest those shows. I, myself, have finally learned to just enjoy what a good-until-the last-episode-totally-destroyed-it show gives me and endure the final flub. 😥

          Reply
          1. Kun

            At this point I have gotten used to unsatisfactory endings, I think it helped that I got into kdramas after watching a lot of US shows and lets just say with how tv shows work here finding a good ending to a show is like finding a needle in the haystack. While I do find that kdramas have a different issue of sometimes starting very strong and then stumbling around the midway point, the single season format does allow for more shows to go out on a high note at least 🙂 Think its helped me appreciate shows even with a lackluster ending, and of course its always extra special when a good show goes out on a good note.

            Reply
        2. kfangurl Post author

          Absolutely agree with you on the difference between good and unnecessary angst!! I thought the amnesia in the last ep definitely veered into unnecessary angst territory. They could’ve done so many other things with that screen time! 🙄

          Reply
        1. kfangurl Post author

          Yes, that reset scene at the end of episode 11 felt so meaningful.. 🥰🥰 I could’ve used a lot more of that in our finale. 😜

          Reply
        2. beez

          @deliaerre – That’s it! That’s the trick. After an otherwise really good show totally ruins itself – I sometimes pick an episode and say “that’s the proper ending’.

          Reply
  7. lalarocca

    @kfangurl Thanks so much for suggesting the makjang-lite lens, because it allowed me to relax into the emotional relationships and plot intricacies without too much fuss about elements that don’t quite add up. Originally, my heart said A-, but the critic mind said B+ because of the latter. With the new lens, I now rest happily in the A- camp based on the strength of the acting of the two leads and their multi-dimensional chemistry – they make a 14-year marriage feel emotionally fresh – and the ability of the show to keep me engaged and guessing throughout. Lee Jun Ki and Moon Chae Won are jjang. 😉 Jung Seo Yeon was a treat. Great review.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Ah, I’m glad the makjang lens helped you enjoy the show, lalarocca! 😀 I feel the choice of lens can often make or break a watch, and I’m glad that in this case, it elevated the show for you! 🙂 Also, I very much agree that LJK & MCW managed to come across convincingly as a longtime married couple who still had strong feelings for each other. A very refreshing take in Dramaland indeed, considering that most shows focus on the initial courtship, mostly.

      Reply
  8. beez

    @kfangurl – You knocked this out of the park! I felt like I was rewatching the entire series except two scenes I don’t remember at all but I could’ve been doing my typical snoozing during those. 😴

    Lee Jun Ki and Moon Chae Won were amazing. Despite the makjaeng nature of the story, they felt like a real couple. In fact, other than Healer, they’re the first Kdrama couple that didn’t feel like I’m watching actors/strangers trying to pretend to be intimate or even comfortable in each others presence.

    Lee Jun ki is truly impressive in his acting in this role. slow claps I’d have lots to say about him but you’ve already said it. I’m blown away by his performance. And it’s my favorite role of Moon Chae won’s. She’s been good in other things that I’ve seen her in, but mostly unflappable in those roles. I could feel Ji Won losing it!

    I’d heard so many fangirl’s squeeing about Kim Ji hoon but when I’d Google him to see what the big deal is, I was left unimpressed. I’d never seen him in any other show before, but when I saw him wake up in Flower of Evil – fanning – swooning It’s notable that he doesn’t make me squee. He’s too scary for such frivolousness. It’s quite disturbing that my propensity toward bad guys may be at work here and in overdrive. Anyway, I see what all the fangirls mean. There’s something about him “live motion” that does not come across in still photos.

    I could totally believe Fake Mom stabbing her own son because we see that she has violent episodes. In the pharmacy when she lashes out, striking Lee Jun ki but then quickly – in a frenzy – apologizes. That told me that she was probably abusive to young Hae song. (Although I agree that where she stabbed him at shouldn’t have resulted in a coma.)

    “No wonder Mom’s all crazy, when she lives with this kind of crazy.” Quoting kfangurl’s review.

    See, I think Fake Mom created the crazy whether through abuse or genetically passed it on. Although as we saw, Fake Dad was also a psychopath so poor real Hae song never stood a chance. No, I’m not being sympathetic (to his fine azz) 😄 I’m just sayin’ the apple doesn’t fall… yadda yadda.

    Anyway, well done show. Well done review (although I would’ve given it a B+ myself based on the caliber of the acting).

    Reply
      1. beez

        @Snow Flower – Absolutely! No comparison. FOE is filet mignon (did I spell that right?) compared to Monarch’s last week’s ground chuck.

        Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Aw, I’m glad you enjoyed this review, Beez! Thank you for your kind words! ❤️

      Lee Jun Ki and Moon Chae Won were absolutely fantastic in this, I agree! And now that you mention it, I concur that this is my favorite role of hers that I’ve seen, so far. I also liked her a lot in The Princess’ Man, but this role showcases a maturity that wasn’t quite yet there, when she did The Princess’ Man. Of course, her role in The Princess’ Man didn’t quite require it either, so I still think she’s excellent in both. 🙂

      I’m probably one of the few that didn’t feel inexplicably drawn to Kim Ji Hoon’s bad boy serial killer. I don’t know why.. He does look nice with the man-bun. I guess the crazy-evil eyes and the nervous gnawing at his thumbnail just weren’t very attractive to me. 😂

      That’s an interesting perspective, that Mom didn’t just get infected by crazy, but actually contributed to the crazy in her household. Fair point! They were a crazy household, either way! 😆

      Reply
      1. beez

        @kfangurl “…. I guess the crazy-evil eyes and the nervous gnawing at his thumbnail just weren’t very attractive to me.” quoting KFG

        Thanks for the reality slap, KFG. I needed that.

        Reply
  9. Layika

    Thanks for the review.
    I had dropped it coz i could predict how it would end. After reading your review and then all the comments so far, i’m going to give it another shot.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Aw! I hope second time’s the charm for you, Layika! I do think that with the right lens and appropriately adjusted expectations, this is a solidly enjoyable watch. 🙂 That said, if it still doesn’t work for you on your 2nd try, don’t feel bad! Not every show works for everyone, after all. 🙂

      Reply
  10. lindie

    The behind the scenes story is Moon Chae Won was offered first(given her acting strength in melodramas. This is more her territory than Lee Jun Ki’s whose strength is action, sageuk and thriller) and Lee Jun Ki got his offer later. Even when he got the offer, he was reluctant to accept it until he had a couple of phone calls with Moon Chae Won. But also the writer, who convinced him to accept the role. The reason was he thought he didnt have the acting gravitas to pull it off. He is not married and has no kid in real life. How could he portray a husband of 14 years and a father to a 6 year old convincingly on top of an already complex role as a person with ASPD(?) and a maybe psycho? He also said he was afraid it would bring comparisons with his role in “two weeks”. He also credited Moon Chae Won many times in interviews and offscreen for helping him alot with the emotional beats(their romance scenes). So thanks to these two women that he got onboard and performed so well.

    To anyone considering whether to watch or not, I would say go into this as described by the production from the beginning, its an emotional thriller. 80% melodrama and 20% thriller. I assure you both are well done. For me, I enjoyed the drama because it had a heartbeat. Sometimes thrillers can feel too dry and technical. I enjoy them all the same like for example signal, secret forest, life on mars etc are some of my favourites. Even Lee Jun Ki’s own like Lawless Lawyer, Time Between Dog and Wolf and Two weeks are thrillers I enjoyed. But Flower of Evil is a different breed. But again, the makjang is not too absurd to the point where you feel like they are insulting your brain. I have enjoyed some makjang melos like Innocent Man(by Moon Chae Won) but this one, the melo is well done. The conflicts are not overdrawn. When they happen its easy to understand and empathise with both leads. Their romantic moments are not filled with cheesy lines, you feel for them when they cry, you swoon when they kiss, when they are angry at each other, you get mad along with them..its organic and natural. It doesnt feel like they are trying too hard or doing fanservice. There was no acting hole. All supporting characters had a presence. There was no scenes where I felt detached because a supporting character was poorly written. This tends to happen alot especially in krama melodramas and thrillers.

    In a nutshell I enjoyed it. I will be looking forward to the writer’s next piece. I am looking forward to Moon Chae Won and Lee Jun Ki’s next drama individually or better if they can reunite especially in sageuk. I want to see how they will be able to top their performances from this drama. I will be looking forward to the writer’s next piece. This is only her second drama and the quality was this high. I would rate this as a solid A. I want to see more dramas like this. The director is a guaranteed success. The guy directed Mother and Chicago Typewriter and both were excellent. He doesnt use overpolished cinematography but he knows how to use colour palettes well and matches OSTs to scenes very well. Also kudos to him for the constant zoom on LJK’s eyes. I love them and they got their screentime in this drama. Last note, We need more married couples in kdramaland. There are so underrated.

    Reply
    1. Sharra

      Thank you for sharing the background. I have to admit no knowledge of LJK but googled to see if he was married with children as he was amazing as Eun Ha ‘s father. There was never any doubt in my mind he loved her deeply. Amazing portrayal of he hasn’t experience d all that. And agree about his eyes so pretty😍.
      Loved MCW she matched him scene for scene.

      Reply
      1. lindie

        Jung Seo Yeon(Eun Ha) is an intelligent and naturally gifted actress. They said some of her scenes with LJK were ad-lib/improvised. Maybe that’s why they had such a natural chemistry. I can recall one scene with MCW in ep 14 when Hae Soo was stabbed and she stayed in her room and didnt open the door until Ji Won came. Her acting left an impression on me. The way she emoted was so natural. She reminds me a bit of Kim Yoo Jung when she was a tiny kid like her. Sometimes she acted so mature much more mature than her age. I think Eun Ha has lots of potential as as a child actress.

        Reply
    1. Snow Flower

      I enjoyed this drama thoroughly, despite the lapses of logic. The husband and wife romance was a very emotionally satisfying journey. Maybe because I always appreciate love stories of married couples…

      I thought that a twisty tango was a perfect metaphor for the relationship of our OTP. Once I figured this out, the music practically wrote itself.

      Reply
      1. Trent

        Very nice piece!

        And yes, the central relationship, between the two leads, was really great. It felt like it had a lot of weight and heft, in spite of the identity deception. That’s what gave them a path through.

        Reply
      2. kfangurl Post author

        Thank you for sharing, Snow Flower! ❤️ I really like it! 😃 I especially like how you move so seamlessly between the minor key and the major key.. it offers an interesting contrast and a consistent switching of moods which feels consistent with how the relationship dynamic between the OTP keeps shifting over the course of our story. 🤩

        Reply
  11. Sharra

    Yay. So for the first time I watched a show in real time! Thank you for a fantastic review.

    I really enjoyed this show as it was probably more of a B+ for me as I quite enjoy thrillers and loved the performance of the leading couple. There was this ease about them whether kissing or in daily interactions that led you to believe they were a couple who has been together for years.

    So I am going to start with MCW she was beyond amazing for me. You used to the word protector and that is how I saw her. From the beginning of their relationship where she senses the vulnerability in HD and just wants to take him under her wing to the almost end where she decides it his in his best interest to set him free. Many a time I had to pause and breathe just for her. The bed scene was superb a tear in her eye. Loving the man with her but all to aware that he there maybe a darkness to him and her whole world crashing around her. I think I appreciated MCW more as I am watching Start up and the FL acting is just adequate and I have no emotional attachment.
    LJK was so mesmerising from start to finish. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. There was always this feeling that there was more going on beneath the surface. One of the things I was never in doubt of was his love for Eun Ha.
    I really loved JWs detective friends and the fact that there wasn’t a hint of of one them harbouring a crush on JW was refreshing. They really were Comrades in arms.
    Agree that the end was underwhelming. LJks character was sophisticated enough to feel the guilt without the amnesia. Loved the book scene around not understanding why Jiwon didn’t like Moths but liked butterflies. That sentence encapsulated everything for me. He thought he was just keeping a record to help him with her likes and dislikes but actually he was mesmerised and devoted to her. Right at the start of their relationship Ji Won tells him you love me but you just don’t realise it and that sentence said it all. I just wished we had more of that and have to say the last scene with Eun Ha was super cute and left me with a tear in my eye. Again wish we had more of that.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Aw, congratulations on your first live watch, Sharra!! 🥳 It’s quite a different experience, isn’t it? Some of the biggest differences being, 1, you get to discuss it as it airs, with other fans in the drama community, and 2, you can’t binge it even if you wanted to. 😅 Glad you enjoyed this one so much!

      I agree; Moon Chae Won is so very good in this. Her world was crashing around her in slow motion, and she needed to keep functioning, even as her mind whirled over what this all meant to her and her family. Moon Chae Won portrayed all of the facets flawlessly. 🤩 As for Start-Up, I’ve only seen a bit of it, and I’ll say that Suzy seems to have improved. It’s just unfortunate timing that you’re watching her right after Moon Chae Won; they’re just not in the same league. 😅

      That’s a great point about Hyun Soo’s journal about Ji Won’s likes and dislikes. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it really is perfect. He didn’t know that he loved her, but she always knew. ❤️

      Reply
  12. Trent

    Thank you for your review, it allowed me to relive one of my absolute favorites!

    I was so so into this just a month or two ago, enough that it was by far my longest write-up of a show (over 5,000 words!). It’s been one of the top K-dramas I’ve seen this year (and since I just started watching them this year, ever).

    As you mention, I really think the key to this show is that it is both a mystery/thriller, and also (just as importantly) a character/relationship study, and both parts are equally important. I found the show’s ability to maintain a fairly consistently high level of tension and excitement over multiple episodes by peeling back successive layers of mystery to be quite impressive, and on the character/relationship side, both Lee Joon-gi and Moon Chae-won were outstanding. Moon Chae-won in particular was a revelation; that was a tough character and a tough role and she was amazing. I have not seen her before, but she’s definitely on my radar now.

    You are not wrong about the logic problems; some of the specific ones we are in agreement about, and for others, things that bothered you, I was like, no big deal, while there were things that bothered me that you didn’t mention. My general approach was basically that anything as intricately plotted as this was of necessity going to have some believability holes, and swallowing a certain amount of them in service of narrative momentum was just the price of admission. There are one or two that you specifically call out in your review that I agree are big ones that also gave me pause (I won’t mention specifics because of spoilers, and this is a show that is particularly sensitive to being spoiled); there is one other one that you don’t mention that was pretty tough for me to swallow. But not enough to ruin the show, by any means!

    The main narrative device that was the driver of the final episode is such a hoary old trope — I’m relatively new to K-dramas, but even I’ve already run into it in several other dramas — that I could wish the writers had not resorted to it. But since they did, I can appreciate that they did take advantage of it in a reasonably fulfilling way.

    I think that as far as I am concerned, one of the most impactful take-aways from this show is the emotional inner journey of Hyun-soo, as he learns that, contrary to what he has believed about himself for all his life, he is in fact capable of love, and that he does actually love his wife and daughter. He just didn’t recognize or realize that that was what it was before. And related to that, the relationship between Hyun-soo and Ji-won is really something; its portrayal and growth over the course of the show is ever so much more compelling than what is depicted in many a light fluffy rom-com (not to trash rom-coms, certainly, they can be fun, too). I’m getting all emotional again…

    Anyway, I really liked this, in case I haven’t been clear.

    Oh, and I’m still quite enjoying Start-up, looking forward to Eps. 11 and 12 coming out this weekend, so hope you find it enjoyable as well…

    Reply
    1. kfangurl Post author

      Hi Trent! Really glad to hear that you enjoyed this one so much!! That’s a good point, that rolling with believability issues can be considered part of the price of admission. For me, I’m ok to roll with some logic stretches, especially if this serves the emotional journey in important ways, but I also don’t want to give shows a free pass in this area, because I think too many logic lapses takes way from Show’s credibility. That’s why I docked Show’s final grade a bit, for its sometimes glaring liberties with logic.

      I actually agree with your point that melodramas can be much more emotionally fulfilling compared to the average rom-com. I used to think that rom-coms were my default favorite thing, but over time, I’ve learned that I do really enjoy melodramas when they’re done well.

      If you’d like to see more of Moon Chae Won, I really enjoyed her in The Princess’s Man. It’s worth a look. 🙂

      Great to hear that you’re still enjoying Start-Up! I’ve heard some rumblings about Show upsetting viewers at the E10 mark, so it’s a relief to hear that you’ve not only survived E10, but are looking forward to E11 & 12! 😀

      Reply
      1. beez

        @Trent – And let me add Moon Chae Won – my favorite roles of hers that are worth checking out are The Good Doctor and War of the Arrows although now, my most favorite roles of hers is this Flower of Evil.

        Reply
        1. Trent

          @beez – Thank you for the tip! (I’ve already got so many worthy additions to my future viewing list just from reading opinions on this site!) War of the Arrows in particular looks right up my alley, and it’s only a buck on Amazon Prime. I’m not surprised you feel Flower of Evil is her best, because as noted, I loved her in it too, but I won’t hold it against her in other roles 🙂

          Reply
          1. beez

            @Trent – don’t skip The Good Doctor. It’s so good that the American show of the same title is based off of it. The premise is a guy with autism struggles to be accepted as a doctor at a hospital. The Korean version is better and more realistic than the American version which allows him to participate in surgeries and things that just wouldn’t happen with his particular level of autism. They even show how loud noises can make him completely shut down and ball up on the floor in the fetal position, non responsive to his colleagues screaming for his help. The Korean version did not have him operating but rather using his unique ability to diagnose things that other doctors missed.

            Reply
      2. Trent

        @kfangurl – Thank you for the tip! In general, I have not so far been a huge fan of sageuk (with the exception of Kingdom, but hey, it had zombies, so), but I am kind of relying on all my sunbae here to direct me to the “good ones”. Hence, my joining the Chuno festivities. I’ve also been persuaded that I need to see Love in the Moonlight pretty soon (mainly because PBG and KYJ are both kind of adorable and I hear good things about them in it).

        I completely understand the rumblings of upset about Start-up, as “things” are definitely coming to a head by Ep. 10…but my general attitude toward Shows that have been mostly good through the first half and then hit the mid/late mid-point upheaval is that they can either power through strong, or go off the rails, and I’m on board to see which it is. So that’s where I’m at with this one. I like both of the male leads, and Kim Seon-ho is making a strong bid for “second lead syndrome”, so… (I first noticed him right before this when I watched him in 100 Days My Prince, and he may be a late bloomer, but I think he could have a bright future…).

        Reply
        1. Snow Flower

          Trent,

          If you like zombies, you can try Zombie Detective. It is not a sageuk. It is well balanced mix of comedy, melodrama, and mystery, which does not take itself too seriously and yet it works.

          I am also following Start Up live, and liking it a lot.

          As for Flower of Evil, I was not planning to watch it originally, because I did not like the serial killer trope, but I started it while waiting for episodes of It’s Okay To Not be Okay to become available, and was hooked instantly. It is definitely one of my favorites this year!

          Moon Chae Won was excellent in The Princess’ Man, so if you are ever in a mood for an intense sageuk romance, give it a try.

          Reply
          1. Trent

            @Snow Flower – Zombie Detective is on my list! It’s not that I have a great love of the genre (it’s just that they really pepped up Joseon court politics, if you know what I mean), but in the ZD case, I really liked the FL when she was in Netflix’s Extracurricular, and I wanted to see how she was getting on…

            I looked into The Princess’ Man when it got recc’d above, and it looks like Netflix and Viki don’t have it, and even Amazon Prime apparently only sells selected episodes, so I’ll have to get creative at some point down the line.

            Reply
            1. kfangurl Post author

              Hey Trent, I tried looking around for ya, but it seems like I’ve had no success either, on tracking down The Princess’ Man. I guess it’s quite an old show, that’s why. You might have to take a walk on the darker side, to get hold of it. 😜

              But, I did manage to find a subbed trailer so that you can take a look, and see if you find it interesting enough to track down:

              Reply
              1. Trent

                @kfangurl – Thank you for finding that…just that little snippet does impart an interesting taste, so I’ll put this on my list of things to be on the lookout for, maybe do a bit of active sniffing around for “alternate acquisition plans,” as it were..

                Also, just to circle back around briefly to Start-up: I can see Ep. 12 potentially generating more angst, outrage, and/or upheaval among a certain slice of the audience, but as for me, I kind of loved it. It actually got me hard in the feels at a couple of spots, and it’s setting up to payoff one of the things I was really hoping for. So we’ll see how it goes, fingers crossed that Show manages to bring it all home successfully.

                I look forward to seeing what you think, once you’ve made it through.

                Reply
            2. reaper525

              Zombie detective is enjoyable if you ignore the FL for the most part. But it is worth watching for Choi jin Hyuk and all the side characters. They are very entertaining. But the FL Park Joo Hyun is not very appealing in this one. So if you want to keep her in good memory you could swerve this one ^^

              Reply
            3. beez

              @Trent “…so I’ll have to get creative at some point down the line.” quoting Trent

              Welcome to the dark side, Trent. Mwahbwahhaa. Where your addiction drives you to do whatever it takes… 😆

              Reply
    2. Sharra

      So true ! Loving coming back to read other people’s thoughts and perspectives.
      Start up isn’t too bad liking most of the characters but with Suzy’s character I feel a bit like LJK character in FOE as I have no emotional response to her😂. Not seen any of her other dramas so might just give them a swerve if her acting has improved!

      Reply
      1. Trent

        @Sharra – My reaction to Suzy has been, she’s adequate, maybe mildly better than adequate, and she doesn’t detract from the show; plus, she does have a pretty face and a peppy aura, and I’m susceptible to those, I’ll admit it. I like Kang Han-na (playing her older sister) and wish the part weren’t a bit underwritten (IMO), and I like both of the male leads quite a bit. And I think it has a generally engaging plot so far…

        Reply
        1. Sharra

          @trent I completely agree about the older sister she is much more nuanced in her acting there is a vulnerability with it and I think this why I am struggling a bit with Suzy as I don’t see any of that nuance.

          The male leads are both fantastic. I also really Do San’s parent and his friends. They keep the plot engaging.

          Reply
      2. kfangurl Post author

        If you’re not opposed to teenaged characters and kpop dreams, Dream High is pretty great, and Suzy’s role in it works with her limitations. Her character is hilariously deadpan, and is often shown saying stuff like, “This IS my happy face,” and “This IS my excited face.” It’s by the same writer as Start-Up, and I really enjoyed it back in the day. So if you like the writing in Start-Up, Dream High could possibly work for you. 😉

        Reply

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