Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! This was a pretty mindblowing pair of episodes, but before we get into that, can we just take a moment to appreciate how handsome Pil Joo looks in this screenshot? He just has this hypnotic effect on me. 🤩
Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:
1. I’ve put up a brainstorming post here, where we can discuss what shows we’d like to consider for our next group watch – if you guys still want to keep the group watch going, that is. Please take some time to pop on over, to share your thoughts! 😃
2. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. I repeat: no spoilers for future episodes please!
We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
3. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this pair of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Grandpa Chairman coming face to face with his real eldest grandson is an event that we’ve been waiting for, all series long, and I must say, this meeting does not disappoint.
Watching these two come face to face like this, feels like watching an aging dragon, old but still in possession of enough stature and power to be a force to be reckoned with, and a young dragon, healthy, strong and yet with enough experience and maturity about him to be considered fearsome, circling each other, and just beginning to spar.
It’s compelling, edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff, because even though we know Pil Joo’s formidable, well, so is Grandpa.
It’s an almost throwaway moment, but outside the room, Ms. Han remarks that Grandpa and Pil Joo have been silent for an hour, and wonders what is going on. This means that Pil Joo’s rendered Grandpa speechless, for a whole hour. That’s quite something, yes?
Of course, when Grandpa does speak, he’s not at all amicable, and is extremely suspicious of Pil Joo’s intentions. What impresses me, is that no matter what Grandpa says, or how unwelcoming or annoyed he becomes, Pil Joo remains completely calm and unruffled.
There’s a soothing vibe about him which I really like. In response to Grandpa’s question of why Pil Joo’s revealing his identity now, Pil Joo says in serene, even tones:
“Grandfather, for me to make a bow to you I needed time to prepare.” … “When I revealed myself as a son born out of wedlock, I needed power to protect myself and endure the trouble.
As you know, I am in charge of eliminating people born out of wedlock. So I thought about how I could survive without being eliminated as one of them. I figured out a way… and prepared for it. It took me 20 years.”
He’s respectful, but also, steady as a rock, and I love it. And just as Grandpa tells Pil Joo not to address him as “Grandfather” without his permission, I am rather thrilled at how Pil Joo counters it calmly with a similar request, that Grandpa not refer to him as his grandson, without his permission.
HA. I’m sure Grandpa hadn’t seen that coming.
And then when Grandpa gets upset at the stack of incriminating evidence that Pil Joo presents him with, and demands, “Are you threatening me??,” I love how Pil Joo politely answers, “Yes, sir.” Ahaha. This is so great.
I love how Pil Joo maintains that composure, while suggesting a DNA test to confirm their relationship, and then stating his demand-request, that Grandpa sell him stock of Cheong A Bio at a preferential rate – and the consequences he has planned, if Grandpa refuses. Pil Joo is such a coolheaded badass. 🤩
I love that when Boo Cheon and Yeo Cheon interrupt this conversation, and Grandpa becomes furious at Boo Cheon for overturning his order for Yeo Cheon to work in exile in Myanmar, it’s Pil Joo – who’s just outright threatened him – that Grandpa turns to for input.
HA. That just goes to show how much Pil Joo is needed in Cheong A, much as the people of Cheong A don’t like to admit it.
And again, I love how unmoved Pil Joo is, in the middle of the storm, even as Grandpa loses his cool, and Boo Cheon and Yeo Cheon cower nervously in the face of his fury.
Also, trust Pil Joo to provide advice that sounds perfectly logical, but which, if followed, would only further Pil Joo’s own cause. He’s really savvy, our Pil Joo.
On the other hand, Boo Cheon’s clearly trying to establish himself apart from Pil Joo and Mal Ran, though it doesn’t seem like he’s getting very positive results, overall.
The way he talks about wanting to get rid of Pil Joo, and having the power to do so now that he’s Vice Chairman, feels like a child who insists that he doesn’t need to go to school, now that he’s learned his ABCs. It’s all very naive; he has no idea what he’s up against.
All those evil side-eyes that he keeps throwing in Pil Joo’s direction this episode feel so.. weak and ineffectual, honestly.
I’d say the same about Boo Cheon’s efforts to mend his relationship with Mo Hyun. He has no idea what he’s dealing with. He thinks that by spending more time with Mo Hyun, and driving her to work, will help to heal the rift between them, but little does he know that this is far too little, too late.
I do feel a tiny bit sorry for Boo Cheon, because he has no idea that he’s already lost Mo Hyun.
I’m suspicious of what it means, when Mo Hyun finds her family home’s gate ajar, when she arrives. Is there.. someone in the house with them, without their knowledge..? 😬 Eep. That’s creepy.
And if there’s someone snooping around, I suppose it would be someone sent by Grandpa Chairman..?
When the DNA test confirms that Pil Joo is indeed Grandpa Chairman’s grandson, I find the subsequent vibe between them very interesting.
After the initial displeasure, there’s a ruefulness about Grandpa, as he talks about how it must have been his son Soo Man, helping him to meet both his grandsons on the same day – Soo Man’s memorial day. In this moment, he almost comes across like a regretful old man.
I’m even more intrigued by Pil Joo’s tone of voice, as he answers Grandpa’s question about whether Pil Joo had stayed around Boo Cheon intentionally since the accident, and also even as he continues to remind Grandpa of his demand-request for Cheong A Bio shares.
Besides the unruffled calm, there’s also a distinct gentleness in his voice. I find that quite startling, actually, since this is a situation which is antagonistic in its nature. With that gentleness in his voice, it almost feels like Pil Joo’s a little bit sorry for Grandpa.
The way Mal Ran seeks Pil Joo’s approval for the reward that she’s giving him to celebrate Boo Cheon being appointed Vice Chairman, reeks of desperation.
Putting aside the actual words spoken, the scene between them vibes like a woman tearfully putting in a last ditch effort to persuade her man to stay, even though she knows that it is mostly likely futile.
Speaking of desperation, we do get some insight into why Boo Cheon’s so determined to get rid of Pil Joo. In his conversation with Secretary Oh, he talks about how Pil Joo’s probably biding his time, and waiting for Boo Cheon to become Chairman, which is when he will likely push Boo Cheon out, and reveal Boo Cheon’s birth secret, in one fell swoop.
However, Boo Cheon’s efforts to try and send Pil Joo to New York, are so obviously loaded with agenda. I’m surprised that Pil Joo’s able to keep a straight face, when Boo Cheon broaches the idea, with loads of fake enthusiasm.
Honestly, the more desperate Boo Cheon becomes, the more pathetic he comes across.
Ooh, Pil Joo’s unpacking of the situation with Grandpa for Mo Hyun, is so shrewd, and makes so much sense. Mo Hyun’s all ready to report Grandpa to the police, with the recording as evidence, but it never occurs to her that it won’t get her very far.
“Since Congressman Na is alive, you can only report it as attempted instigation to commit suicide. If you do, you will be revealing to the public… that Congressman Na is alive. It’s possible that Chairman Jang could have taken everything into account and told you on purpose to take it to the police.”
Pil Joo is such a discerning thinker! And this does add weight to the theory that whoever is possibly snooping around Mo Hyun’s family home, is actually sent by Grandpa Chairman. Could it be Secretary Ahn?
She’s certainly behaving suspiciously, swopping out what looks to be a recording pen from Mal Ran’s office, with a presumably fresh one. Hmm. 🤔
Also, Grandpa Chairman really is turning out to be a force to be reckoned with. Even though our Pil Joo has proven to be formidable on multiple occasions, his planned consequences for Grandpa Chairman not meeting the bank deadline, fails completely.
Not only that, Grandpa casually reveals that he knows that Pil Joo is the one who took Congressman Na from the hospital. Oooh. A worthy opponent indeed. I wonder what Pil Joo’s Plan B is, that he speaks of?
I doubt that it’s the divorce between Boo Cheon and Mo Hyun, though that is the main arc of this episode’s final minutes. Mo Hyun hears the full truth from Aide Yang, and realizes that her father had agreed to the marriage of convenience, and had even discussed the details with Mal Ran, long before Mo Hyun had even met Boo Cheon.
Oof. That’s got to hurt, and I’m sure it shatters any lingering hope that Mo Hyun has, that her father was an innocent party in all of this.
This is the truth that she’s been looking for, all this time that she’s insisted on staying on at Mooshimwon, despite everyone else telling her that it’s better for her to leave. To her credit, Mo Hyun wastes no time in preparing to leave, now that she’s gotten what she’d come for.
She tells Boo Cheon about what she’s learned, and broaches the subject of divorce, before letting Boo Cheon listen to the recording of Grandpa’s conversation with Congressman Na.
Even though it’s clear that Boo Cheon is devastated, and wants nothing more than for Mo Hyun to stay with him, I’m glad that he grasps the significance of the recording, and realizes that nothing he can ever do, will make that go away.
This is a shred of decency that I appreciate from Boo Cheon. Despite being a pretty shoddy husband, in this moment at least, he’s able to put himself in Mo Hyun’s shoes and understand that it would be impossible for her to stay on in the Jang family, given the circumstances.
And I’m glad that he sincerely apologizes to her, even there is nothing that he can do, to make things right.
The final scene, when Mo Hyun seeks out Pil Joo in his quarters, is so compelling.
After getting the surface formalities out of the way, of informing him of her divorce, and reminding him of his promise to be her divorce lawyer, if she should need one, she looks him in the eye, and tells him, in measured, considered tones:
“I know you took advantage of me to get revenge for your brother whom you lost in the water. I might not be able to forgive you even after many years. No matter how hard you try to deny, I know how much you love me.
So I want to say, ‘Pil Joo, forget everything here and just leave with me.’ However, I cannot fully understand the dire time and pain the boy who walked into the water had, so I couldn’t dare to tell you to give up on your revenge and leave with me. So I’m leaving you behind at Mooshimwon.”
Augh. There’s so much honesty, empathy and compassion, in those words.
She doesn’t shy away from speaking the truth – that she knows he loves her – and she doesn’t pretend to understand how he feels. And yet, she demonstrates respect for how he feels, and what he believes he needs to do.
At the same time, she does not even attempt to compromise what she feels she herself needs to do. It’s all very painful and poignant.
In this rare moment of unembellished honesty, it seems fitting that Mo Hyun demonstrate her reciprocation of Pil Joo’s feelings, by kissing him; a move which he accepts with an expression of sad wonder, but which he does not return – until she starts to move away, which is when he reaches for her hand.
Ahhh. That look that he gives her, for the long second that he holds onto her hand, seems to say so much; I’m sorry; I wish things didn’t have to be this way; I do love you.
And then, as he lets go of her hand, his expression changes to one of tearful gratitude, like he’s saying, “Thank you. This much.. is enough for me.”
AUGH. The heartache of this handhold, and this silent, pregnant moment of honesty.
It’s so little, and so much, at the same time. 💔
Guh. What. An. Episode. 🤯🤯 Even though this is my second watch, the feels still hit me hard enough to knock my jaw to the floor.
Before we get to the bigger events of this episode, I just wanted to say that Boo Cheon is a selfish prick after all. After all of his tears and compassion for Mo Hyun last episode, when she’d just told him that she wants a divorce and why, he backpedals this episode, and tells her that he can’t divorce her right now.
Clearly, his reasons are self-centered. He doesn’t lay it out so specifically, but it’s obvious that it’s because his reputation is at stake, and this is all just bad timing, for him. Wow. It looks like whatever selflessness Boo Cheon manages to muster up, his self-interest is always greater. 🙄
How shrewd of Pil Joo, to accelerate the plans for Boo Cheon’s chairmanship, in response to Boo Cheon’s efforts to pack him off to New York.
Not only does this drive home how much Pil Joo is needed here in Korea rather than in New York, and therefore put a stop to any talk of transferring him to New York, it also speeds up Pil Joo’s own revenge plans.
The milestone signaling Pil Joo’s time to act, had always been Boo Cheon being appointed Chairman. Bringing that milestone forward naturally brings forward the peak of Pil Joo’s plans: to reveal himself to Mal Ran, even as he reveals Boo Cheon’s birth secret to Grandpa.
And, how fascinating is it, that as Pil Joo assists in making Cheong A Bio the holding company with one hand, he continues to submit evidence against Grandpa Chairman to the prosecution, with the other.
Even though Grandpa Chairman tries to fight back by having masked men knock out poor Yong Goo (thank goodness he’s ok!) and steal all the files from Pil Joo’s secret stash, it isn’t long before Pil Joo impresses on Grandpa Chairman that he has many, many copies of the evidence that’s been stolen, and has Grandpa dutifully on the phone with the bank CEO, to arrange the loan that Pil Joo’s requested.
We see how much Mal Ran trusts Pil Joo as well. When ex-President Jang approaches her with information on this loan, and warns her not to let Pil Joo know that she knows, she instead goes right to Pil Joo, to ask him what the loan is for.
This demonstrates that she trusts Pil Joo implicitly; even when the evidence is stacked against him, she believes that Pil Joo must have a reason for it, and gives Pil Joo the chance to tell her that reason.
This time, though, Mal Ran does give Pil Joo an explicit warning, that if he betrays her, he will have to pay an unimaginable price. She says that she’s saying this because so many different people keep talking to her about him, and she claims that saying it out loud makes her feel better.
But the expression on her face indicates that she feels anything but better.
Her laugh feels hollow, and her eyes are red with tears; it seems that she is more uneasy than anything.
Mal Ran’s distracted soon enough, though, with Mo Hyun visiting her to inform her of her decision to divorce Boo Cheon. She puts her foot down and tells Mo Hyun to spend some time at her mother’s instead, but agrees to give Mo Hyun her share of property, saying that it’ll help her feel better.
I’m glad that Mo Hyun fights back, by reminding Mal Ran – oh so politely – that she is still keeping Boo Cheon’s secret, and therefore Mal Ran should also keep her manners towards Mo Hyun.
Ooh. Burnn. I love it when Mo Hyun manages to stop Mal Ran in her tracks, while playing Mal Ran’s game, using Mal Ran’s rules.
We get a quick glimpse of Grandpa Chairman deep in thought in his study, and in voiceover, he admits to his son Soo Man, that he’s afraid of what Pil Joo might do.
This is the first time we’ve seen Grandpa Chairman actually feel intimidated by Pil Joo, and so I find this quick scene significant. It definitely seems to foreshadow things to come.
The most shocking arc this episode, though, has to be Mal Ran sending Secretary Oh to his death.
Ugh. The whole thing is appalling, really. When she first starts crying in the car, it feels like she’s genuinely sorry to see him go, after all these years, but really, she’s just sent him off to die. It’s so messed up, I can’t even.
Like, if you’re so sad to see him go, then maybe don’t kill him? But no, she sends him off with poisoned coffee, and a suicide note in his pocket dressed as a letter from her.
Plus, she sends thugs to make sure that he drinks the coffee too, because, as it’s clear from the way one of the thugs waves his knife at Secretary Oh, that they will finish the job for him, if he doesn’t comply.
Which means that Secretary Oh drinks that coffee, knowing full well that it’s poisoned. Ack. I feel so bad for him. He’s worked with Mal Ran for literal decades, and therefore knows her ways all too well.
I have a gut feeling that even when she’d first handed him that flask of coffee, he’d probably known that it was his death sentence. And yet, he’d taken it and thanked her for it. 😭
Poor, sad Secretary Oh. He’d loved Mal Ran to his own detriment, and now, she’s literally killed him. 💔
The only silver lining to this, is that his final message, which he’d meant for Boo Cheon, actually gets sent, even though he’d died before managing to hit the send button, and even though Boo Cheon doesn’t even seem to think anything of the seemingly innocuous message, asking him to stay warm.
We do see Boo Cheon shed a few tears, though, when he hears of Secretary Oh’s supposed suicide note, which I’m sure would comfort Secretary Oh, if he knew.
Ahh. So the recording pens that Secretary Ahn’s been secretly swopping out of Mal Ran’s study, are for Pil Joo. Oooh. He’d probably bugged her study for a long time, waiting for just the right piece of evidence to show up, and now, it has.
Now, Boo Cheon’s conversation with Mal Ran, mentioning that he has two fathers, is just the thing for Pil Joo to serve up to Grandpa, to further tilt his world. The grandson to whom he’s entrusted Cheong A, isn’t even his real grandson.
Yikes. First, the DNA test proving that Pil Joo is Soo Man’s son, and then this recording proving that Boo Cheon isn’t?
Talk about a one-two punch. I hope Grandpa’s got a strong heart. 😜
And then, we have That Scene, where Pil Joo reveals his identity to Mal Ran; a moment that he’s been planning for, all these years.
It’s all so very deliberate, really. Pil Joo even dresses up in a tux for the special occasion. Also, when Mal Ran says with happy expectancy that whenever Pil Joo had invited her to have champagne with him, it’d always been very good news, I realize that Pil Joo’s been grooming Mal Ran for this moment, for a long time.
He’s trained her to expect good news when drinking champagne with him, so that he can bring her down from her highest high, to the lowest low. 🤯
Woah. That’s cold. But also, shrewd, no?
The entire scene is so very sensual and intoxicating, honestly. If you guys will indulge me, I just want to finish these episode notes by quoting what I wrote about this scene, in my Money Flower review:
The scene starts with her happy expectancy, met with his cordial welcome, and that soon evolves into a completely sensual sort of dance, where Pil Joo takes Mal Ran in his arms, and growl-whispers each slow syllable next to her ear, from what feels like the deepest recesses of his throat.
He takes his time with each slow caress of his arms, and each languid phrase he exhales from his lips, and the entire vibe is that of a man getting ready to make love to a woman.
All of her senses must feel tantalizingly awakened yet altogether drunk at the same time, from the seduction of his embrace – only for the entire moment to culminate, not in a sensuous kiss, but in the savored moment of his murmured reveal: he is the very Jang Eun Cheon that she’d been trying to get rid of all these years.
The scene peaks, with her drowning intoxicated senses struggling to wake up to and comprehend the horror of his words, while he continues to languidly smirk into her eyes.
Oh. My. Word. What a languid yet electric rollercoaster of a scene. It’s completely brilliant, and utterly immersive.
I felt thoroughly vicariously hypnotized by the slow seduction of Pil Joo’s softly lethal confession. Daze.
I had to upload my video again, so here it is:
“Flower Of Revenge,” my original composition inspired by the last scene of Episode 20 of “Money Flower.” I dedicate it to Jang Hyuk and Lee Mi Sook.
Very impressive! The dissonance is strong but never overbearing.
I was aiming for languid fluidity mixed with tension.
I’m listening to this after the ending of ep 23 and. This. Is. Perfect. Snow Flower, you are amazing <3<3<3
Thank you so much! I had fun capturing the mood of this scene.
It occurs to me that I neglected to convey how much I, too, enjoyed listening to your piece. Very much captured the feel of this show.
It is so perfect! It absolutely fits with the mood of that scene and the drama as a whole. Love it!!!
Here is my original composition “Flower Of Revenge.” It was inspired by the last scene of Episode 20 and it is respectfully dedicated to Jang Hyuk and Lee Mi Sook.
Oh, SnowFlower, this is AMAZING!! I like that unhinged lilt to it – and, ah, tightening drama. Sorry, I did once learn the piano but I can’t remember any technical terms. So just, bravo! Do you write soundtracks? You really could / should. 😍
@Ele Nash, thank you! I imagined Pil Joo and Mal Ran dancing a slow and tense tango. My dream is to have a piece featured in a kdrama soundtrack, but I don’t know what is the process and who is the right person to approach.
Oof, I just watched episode 21 and am completely suckered in. I feel sorry for everybody – even Mal Ran and (forgive me because I absolutely shouldn’t) evil Grandpa too! I love this show SO much 😍 Need to squeeze in episode 22 before tomorrow’s review. It’s OK to ignore work and my family, isn’t it?! Pilju’s more important, right?!
Hahaha! I feel you! First thing I did when work ended was to start on ep 22….
I just managed to squeeze it in – happy sigh!
Ok guys. I need an intervention. It is 1.19am on a Tuesday, there’s work tomorrow, I have a baby who’s going to be awake in a few hours’ time for milk, I need to wake up early to drop him off before I start work for the day but HERE I AM HAVING FINISHED EPISODE 21.And writing this comment because I need to gush about this show. Guys. I. Cannot. Stop. Watching. This. Show. It’s. Too. Good. Save me, someone. Save me!
Also, as I type all this, I’m listening to Snow Flower’s rendition of Death Star that was posted a few ep recaps ago. So good!! You’re amazing!! It’s on repeat!! Adding to the mood….
Ok. I have SO MUCH to say about ep 21 but I shall keep to 19 and 20 here. Already there’s so much to say about this pair of episodes. Sec Oh’s death?! I was honestly so naive and innocently thinking “aww there’s a shred of human decency in Mal-ran giving coffee to Sec Oh’ and then I realised “OH it’s his death sentence. Ok…”. I felt so sorry for the man. Just a pawn in this whole game, like Mo-hyun. Granted he was a killer and you know deserves bad karma or what but still. This show, makes me feel so much for everyone. Poor man, having been manipulated and twisted all the way. The way he knew he had to leave because he was a “threat” to Boo Cheon was so sad. His last text to Boo Cheon made my heart hurt. All that longing and a lifetime of love and care to give, ruthlessly repressed and shut off and nowhere to express it other than “it’s cold, dress warm”. </3 </3 </3
Mo-hyun was the epitome of grace and maturity and longing and heartbreak at the end of ep 19. The whole “I wish I could tell you to leave with me but I can’t so I’m leaving you behind in Mooshimwon” was literally so heart breaking for me just as a viewer. Also Jang Hyuk and Park Se Young were so good in this scene.
Poor Yong Goon – the show hasn’t yet revealed why Yong Goon is so dedicated to Piljoo, right? I don’t remember it. Anyway, that hospital scene was tough to watch. His “I’m afraid I’ll dedicate my whole life to you” – that regret, that pain, that knowing he would do it all over again if given the choice – whew that was some heavy stuff. And Piljoo – “it’ll be over soon” with that regret in his voice. Oof. That man knows he’s caused a lot of collateral damage in his quest and thirst for revenge.
Grandpa Jang – part of me wonders if the dragon is almost happy to have an enemy equal to him? This man, for all of his horribleness, is genuinely gifted and good and talented at building up a company from nothing to this empire. He may be old but this man’s mind is still razor sharp. And his children – Soo Man and Seong Man and their offspring Boo Cheon and Yeo Cheon – were probably disappointing. Pretty sure none of them could live up to his stature. So as much as I dislike the old man (and I really do), I can imagine he must be gleeful for a worthy opponent, at last!
THAT ENDING SCENE. That “seduction”. Just. Wow. I don’t have the right words. It was seductive, hypnotic – the best praise I can lavish on it is that my expectation of that reveal-moment was built up SKY HIGH throughout this show and it. did. not. disappoint. It took that sky high expectation and utterly smashed it. I applaud the director, producers and writers and music PD for it. Masterpiece. Flawlessly done.
I ought to end here, it’s 1.31am and I really need to sleep. My fellow Money Flower fans and Jang Hyuk fanclub members – goodnight and take care and stay safe and see you in these chats/ at the next pair of episode recaps!!
MC: First and most important, I hope everything goes OK for you on Tuesday. As someone who also has to plan drama watching around everything else in life, I can relate!
I, too, have been wondering what’s in it for Gong Yoo, uh, Yong Goo. MINIMALLY, a ton of cash, I hope.
As for everyone else, I can appreciate everyone’s individual “talents” and admire the long game that Pil Joo is playing, but ultimately the only one I can really root for in this show is Mo Hyun. And I have really come to respect the performance by Park Se Young, which I was critical of early on.
Now get to sleep!
Haha! I did! (soon after). Only survived the next day having napped at lunchtime. The things we do for this show…
@MC, that was a very good recap/analysis. This show really is on another level!
Death Star is giving me goosebumps when I play it!
One of us! One of us!
…what are we going to do in just a few days when we don’t have any Money Flower to obsess over?
Y’all have been having some good discussion hashing out The Badness of Pil-joo. I’ve been thinking about it off and on, and here’s something that’s been running through my mind. I am hesitant to shove this into a template specifically created by and for Western poetics (in the Aristotelian sense), when the work in question (Money Flower) doesn’t share a lineage with that template. But on the other hand, if the template provides some useful or interesting tools for analysis, why not give it a stab? I’m speaking here of classical dramatic tragedy, first in the Greek and then the Elizabethan sense. I’m guessing a bunch of us probably encountered at least the rudiments of the theory in high school or college, right? Tragic flaw, hubris; the function of tragedy being to inspire “terror and pity” in the audience, so that it can be purged by catharsis.
So I don’t want to make the strong claim that this is a classic tragedy, because I think that would really be stretching the evidence too far. BUT. I think it still gives a useful or illuminating framework for considering Pil-joo. One of the recurring points in y’all’s discussion is that Pil-joo consistently turns away from the normal world, the good life that he could have if he just walked away with Mo-hyun. If only he responded to her kiss, if he held onto her hand instead of relinquishing it. And yes, I feel that! I want that for our protagonist too! Just be normal and happy, dude!
But the essence of the tragic hero is hamartia, their tragic flaw that is a fundamental part of their character, and fidelity to which makes the tragic outcome inevitable. Pil-joo’s tragic flaw (to the extent he has one–maybe I’m reaching) is his devotion to what he conceives as his sacred duty to avenge his brother and mother, to right the wrong done to them. (And that’s another thing–the tragic flaw is very often a trait that otherwise and in moderation is something that is admirable or seen generally in a positive light).
What puts the hero on the path to tragedy is when they elevate the demands of their singular obsession–their tragic flaw–above all else; when they succumb to hubris in the face of the gods (Greek) or providential order (Elizabethan) calling them to desist, to turn aside and rejoin the common humanity. Money Flower doesn’t have gods or providential order as such, but I’d argue Mo-hyun is a reasonable proxy for both or either. She’s the one beckoning to Pil-joo to turn away, to eschew his destructive course (to Mal-ran, but also to himself), and to return to a normal world, one not distorted by obsession with vengeance. His hubris and his tragic flaw won’t allow it.
I think this also leads naturally to a consideration of his “badness.” The tragic hero is, in a sense, apart and other than the more common run of humanity. In pursuit of realization of their path, they often pay little heed to conventional notions of civility and morality. Hamlet drives Ophelia to suicide and sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths, for example. That’s not to excuse such behavior, of course; the tragic hero is caught up in great and terrible events, many of which they initiate and further.
So yes, Pil-joo is ruthless, and willing to subordinate almost all else in service of his vengeance. Parenthetically, this is why revenge tales are often morally ambiguous at best, and often turn into morality plays at then end, when the protagonist learns a lesson or has a redemptive turn (sometimes they don’t, of course; tastes differ, after all).
That said, I think there is still an observation to be made that Pil-joo is qualitatively different from many of the central actors in our viper’s nest. Grandpa and Mal-ran (and probably Sung-man at least) are certainly obsessed primarily with money and power, and have few qualms about pursuing those things. None of them quibble at a bit of discreet murder, even of innocents. I think Pil-joo has consistently shown us at least glimmers of a willingness to shield or protect innocents, or even those not wholeheartedly participating in the blood sport pursuit of power–he has acted to protect or shield Seo-won, and he’s certainly tried to warn and protect and free Mo-hyun (yes, admittedly, set that against manipulating her into the whole mess in the first place). And with our final resolution to come, I think it’s still quite possible that he continues to protect her and provide her ammunition, to the detriment of his own stated goal and “best” interest.
He’s complicated, is what I’m saying. Which is at least a goodly part of what makes this so interesting to watch.
Whew. Anyway, that got a bit long, sorry.
Trent… not long at all….very interesting observations. An antihero is difficult to wrap your head around. I’m still grappling with the character Vincenzo. I can’t say a lot because of spoilers, but this character is unlike most in Kdrama.
I found a couple of things about the conclusion of Vincenzo disturbing, for probably obvious reasons if you’ve seen it, but won’t say more because (as you say), spoilers.
@Trent @GeorgiaPeach Vincenzo! Is there a discussion about it on here I’ve missed? I NEED to discuss it with someone 😆 Piljoo is one kind of antihero-verging-on-irredeemable but, woah, Vincenzo… My gosh 🤯
EN … don’t believe there is one with FGV. And I haven’t gone looking for one because of lack of time to do that. Yes. I need to express some feelings about that drama too ! It flies in the face of my world view. 🤔🤔🤔.
I think KFG is between eps 14 and 15 on Vincenzo, so she should have her own review up in just under a month. I am hesitant to say anything in any detail because I don’t want to spoil her or anyone else before then.
I will just say (and this is obviously a personal thing) that I found the end of ep. 16 (particularly seen in context of the episode as a whole) as falling on this side of the line (i.e. morally justifiable, in context of the show), and events in the concluding episode falling on that side of the line (i.e. not so much).
Re spoilers, I haven’t watched that drama, don’t plan to in the near future but I already know everything that happens. Thanks twitter 🤨
Will wait for kfangurl’s no doubt insightful review and then vent! Agree with you both – it positively leapt over the line for me. My mouth is sill open. Probably for the best Song Joong-ki didn’t win the Baeksang then, even though he stuck impressively to the role to the very bitter end.
So good to know FG is watching Vincenzo and I’m really anxious also to read her take on the drama. And I was disappointed that Lee JoonGi didn’t win best actor for Flower. Goodness, Kdrama land is full to the top with serial killers! Watching Mouse right now. Makes you think every third criminal in Seoul is a psychopath! Looking for this trend to fade a bit. But with so many good actors wanting to sink their acting teeth into a sociopath role…it may linger 🤦🏻♀️🤷🏻♀️
Ah….more than a couple of things about the character. Guess we’ll have to find a Vincenzo blog to discuss it. Believe he makes PilJoo look like milk toast.
@GeorgiaPeach That made me laugh!
EN. It’s true!
@Trent You’re so brainy 😆 I’m like, I think Pilju is kind of wrong a lot of the time and I think maybe I shouldn’t love him as much as I do and you’ve come along and given a hefty weight to why. Thank you! A fatal flaw indeed. DramaFan below calls it Han. Although I get the western take (especially Shakespeare) I feel like in Asia, writers delve into the murkier world of the antihero with greater frequency and aplomb. I like that I’m never quite sure if the protagonist is in the right as it feels so much more human. I can’t wait for yours and everyone’s take on the ending…
It was amazing! Bravo! 👏👏👏
No, I really enjoyed this! Please keep sharing your thoughts! Agree that he’s complicated which gives us the ability to root for him (also Cheong A is downright evil). I would say more but I’m off to watch ep 22 and have my head blown off (I assume)!
IS THIS A GREAT DRAMA, OR WHAT? Two episodes of goodbyes. PilJu says good bye to his old identity and claims his rightful one. MuYoung says goodbye to the snake pit that is the Jangs. Drive Oh says goodbye to life and MalRa says goodbye to life as she has known it. And so does BuCheon. Ah but…grandpa snake says hello to a worthy opponent that he’d rather not face.
Trent…how’s this holding up for you? Told you it would!
With two episodes left (of course I have seen the next two episodes, did you have to ask?), Show is somehow managing to maintain the tension and interest level. Now it just needs to run through the tape for the last two…
(After eps. 21 and 22, I have some glimmer of how it might end things…I’ll see in a few days how close I was).
OK, so setting aside the sheer swooniness of Jang Hyuk (this is very hard for me to do because, egads, he is SO swoony 😍) my thoughts on these two episodes are predominantly about just how BAD Piljoo is. I mean, turning away from Mohyun’s implied confession of love – a pretty impossible love given the very messy way Piljoo manipulated her into marrying Bucheon – is one thing, but I really must say his treatment of poor loyal Yong Goo is frankly unforgivable. Yong Goo professes his own kind of love for Piljoo, admitting he thinks he could die for the man (bearing in mind this isn’t hyperbole, he just got walloped over the head and looks fairly concussed) and what does Piljoo say? Does he commit to keeping Yong Goo safe? Maybe send Yong Goo off to the bee farm to recuperate? No, no. He’s just like, ‘it’ll be over soon’. Humph.
Kfangurl, if Bucheon is a selfish so-and-so for refusing Mohyun a divorce because he wants his reputation to remain intact now he’s President, then I’d argue Piljoo is totally wretchedly single-minded to continue his revenge, basically throwing both Mohyun’s love and Yong Goo’s to the wind. I get it, he has been working for this for twenty years. Vengeance is the only thing that’s kept him alive, this idea of tipping Mal Ran and Cheong A on its head in some twisted notion of justice for the death of his brother, mother and his own ‘death’ of self.
However, hey Piljoo, what you want isn’t always what you need and you know, I think he needs Mohyun and Yong Goo and the love they can offer him and that in itself – to live despite Mal Ran believing he and his brother as children had no right to their life – would be a better form of vengeance. Maybe not such great TV… Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest because while I never want Piljoo to fail exactly, I also hate seeing him throw away his chance at happiness.
As for Bucheon, I LOVE Jang Seung-Jo’s side-eyes and when he glares at Yeocheon (when he dares venture that Bucheon really needs to be guarded around Piljoo) I laughed out loud! Ah, I’m sorry but I really do love Bucheon. Trent’s comparison to him playing chequers, trying to get rid of Piljoo by sending him off to US, while Piljoo and Grandpa Chairman play a tense game of chess – or Go – is perfect. The message from Secretary Oh to wrap up warm. Yes, yes, winter is coming Bucheon! Eek!
Lastly, kfangurl you hit it so right with your summation of that tightly wound ending between Mal Ran and Piljoo. Gosh, it was just brilliant and horrible and kind of hot, and oh so very very wrong. Yeah, a triumphant moment for Piljoo but really the lowest of lows in terms of manipulation. Mal Ran deserves it, totally. But Piljoo, you could have been dancing for real with Mohyun. Is this vengeance worth it? Drama-wise, eeeeeee, of course yes, yes, yes 😁
@Ele Really love this reflection! Many perspectives in these strings can be true, and often simultaneously. I keep pushing away the notion of a tragic Pil Joo, because, more sadness than I want to deal with. Yet every step closer to success feels like a step towards loss for him, as well.
@Leslie Yes, I worry for his soul! I love him but through this watch I keep asking myself, but why are we rooting for him to get his revenge when it’s costing him (and those who love him) so much? I’m just interested in what kind of hero he really is. He’s certainly not conventional, an antihero on the very edge of what’s heroic and what’s plain bad…
Fair points but neither Yong Goo or Mo Hyun have tried to strongly discourage Piljoo from following his path. In fact, they have been mostly enablers (Well in the case of MoHyun Im referring to after she learned his intentions) In other “revenge dramas” there are characters that play that role right? Those who constantly warn our “anti heroes” they are going to burn if they continue playing with fire, and offer the option to escape. Both Yong Goo and Mo Hyun have sort of weakly “mentioned” the possibility to Piljoo but it has always felt like such a remote possibility. Its like they both understand, respect and may I say even cheer him in in his revenge? This is the reason why I don’t get this feeling at all. I would be (like them) very disappointed if Piljoo ever swayed from his revenge as I am fully engaged with it. Very different from other stories where there is more “conflict” within the “avenger” as he walks that fine line between revenge and justice. There is an internal struggle for the avenger’s soul. With Piljoo there is very little of that. It is a self destructive path yes, but he is so unhesitant, it convinces me that there never was and never will be another option for him.
@DramaFan Ah, but that’s what I mean: why isn’t he more conflicted?! He makes great drama, but really, when I properly get past how utterly compelling he is in his determination and brilliance, outwitting the wiliest of the Cheong A vipers, I wonder if he’s really become quite a brutal, ruthless, manipulative person. As savagely single-minded as Grandpa Chairman and Mal Ran… And I don’t think that’s a “good thing” that we (or Mohyun or Yong Goo) should be cheering on – and yet we are, I am!
Yeah and somehow I have not regrets 🙈 but I’ll get back to you on this 🤔 I’m going to ponder some more.
Loving this discussion on Pil-joo. He’s such a tortured conflicted soul. Heavy laden with survivor’s guilt and just all that childhood trauma, thirst for revenge, living in such a viper’s pit which is Mooshimwon and working for the Cheong-A group which is enough to sear anyone’s soul (plus all the bad stuff he’s done for them!), I kinda feel that the show has to end in a tragic death for him. Even if he gets his revenge I don’t really think he can live a happy life. Once his life’s mission is completed, I don’t see what he has to live for. Mo-hyun, possible, but even then what he’s done to her – I can’t see them having a truly peaceful, all is forgiven kind of happy ending together. I agree it’s a self destructive path.
Agree with Ele that Piljoo is downright bad too. He’s just as bad as all of them. He’s not a “when they go low we go high” kind of man. BUT, I still love him and I’m rooting for him. This tortured antihero has got me. I love it! I’m guilty of cheering him on….
Sometimes he horrifies me a bit, because he is too cerebral and cold, we know he has limits and has tried occasionally to prevent colateral damage (with Seo Won for example) but his ability to manipulate others so easily is scary. But other times I feel Im no one to judge him. Im no saint and I think there’s worse people than him out there lol. He is too smart, almost to a genius level, that in conjunction with his capacity for manipulating and using others makes a dangerous combination. But, I also think he could’ve easily been much worse. Piljoo could’ve justified his own sociopathy with the damage they did to him. But he hasn’t. He still has retained some decency imo, despite everything. And a sense of “responsibility” and maturity that, Bucheon, in contrast does not possess (Bucheon, the one who blames everyone for his pain, not acknowledging his own responsibility in the whole thing). Piljoo knows very well “Im not a good guy, Im broken, dead inside and I don’t deserve anything”. If you notice he is not expecting much from life. Just to fulfill what he has accepted as his fate and then go (very sad, imo). So is the glass half empty or half full? Is he “so bad” or is he simply a deeply damaged and disturbed human? I have not gone through what he went through, so I don’t know how I’d react, especially if I had his brain. Being an evil genius has to be tempting. Its a good thing Im not even close to that 😈 OTOH Im thinking of how the concept of korean “Han” may fit this story and Piljoo (even more so than it fits Chuno, which has always been mentioned as an example of Han) Han = that unique korean concept, described as a sort of need for revenge, grudge that is self destructive but also a source of vital energy. A reason to exist and a motivation to thrive, advance. In this concept the “avenger” has to satisfy the grudge.
Thanks DF for mentioning han. My Korean friends say even they don’t understand it, but that it is real. Righting a wrong that’s done. It’s a level of consciousness that I don’t understand.
@DramaFan That’s so interesting about Han and definitely describes Pilju well – he definitely thrives in his revenge. Has he ever looked more alive (and kind of happy) than when outmanoeuvring Grandpa Chairman or ‘seducing’ Mal Ran? Ah, it’s what makes him so mesmerising and so completely ruthless. Yes, he does flicker with guilt, sadness, but it’s never enough to steer him away from his vengeance. I feel like, yeah, no murder and, yeah, a degree of trying to protect innocence but oftentimes (as in Yong Goo’s case) it’s a bit too passive. A bit like, oh here, I’ll let Grandpa Chairman know that I have tons of dirt on him, but I won’t better guard where there dirt is (protected only by a shelving unit and a not-overly-convincingly-menacing Yong Goo) even though I know Grandpa Chairman is a murderous so-and-so and likely to try and thwart me. He makes an equally faulty manoeuvre in relation to Bucheon next ep. So, I don’t know, sure we can’t readily comprehend the truly awful traumas he’s suffered and they do go a long long way in why I root for him, but in the same breath I at least want to acknowledge that as I gleefully enjoy watching him take down Cheong A, there’s been a cost to himself and to those who love him and maybe I should weep for that.
Of course, but just one more thing. Wasn’t Yong Goo the one beating up all those guys to get their confessions on early episodes? I don’t think he was supposed to be fragile. But I understand your point and of course, there had to be risks and consequences to confronting such a ruthless family. I’m glad they show that, otherwise it wouldn’t be understandable why Piljoo had to take so many years to carefully prepare that revenge.
@MC I am cheering him on too! I adore a conflicted antihero and think @Trent above has done a much better job of explaining why 😍 Now, you rest up, MC – though I totally understand the pull of discussing Money Flower / Jang Hyuk over sleep 😆
So much for my musings last thread about whether Secretary Oh, as loose canon, would be instrumental in Show’s resolution. 😲 It struck me that though the suicide note was Mal Ran’s doing, there was truth in it. Secretary Oh has been depressed about his life – especially the murdering. But he’s also been an exploited lover, invisible father, and disposable factotum. His compliance with his own murder is akin to suicide. There was no loose canon in him at the end. Tragic, and I offer a sincere R.I.P. Secretary Oh.
I’ve been appreciating KFG’s screen shot of Pil Joo in the blog sidebar since the group watch started, and now I know the scene it comes from. I gasped when Pil Joo entered the room in the most gorgeous suit of armor, er.. tux, secured his tie, and took center stage in the showdown with Mal Ran. Breathtaking.
What followed was one of the twistiest drama seductions ever. Thrilling. Chilling. Pil Joo’s sangfroid is legit scary.
With most of the big reveals behind us, it’s so great that this drama keeps warranting the question: what can still happen next?? And, have the assurance it will all be worthwhile.
I want to briefly acknowledge the tragic life and death of Driver Oh. He did terrible things, to be sure, but at least he seemed to have something of a conscience. I think Boo Cheon, somewhere down inside, does know that this was his father he was saying goodbye to, and it will be interesting when this information does come to the fore.
To me, the interesting features of Pil Joo’s reveals to the Chairman and Mal Ran is that he dressed them up in exactly what they would otherwise want from him. In the Chairman’s case, it was in the form of a respectful bow. And, Mal Ran, not love exactly (I don’t think she is familiar with the emotion) but in the guise of being wanted.
And now, once again, it’s time to get down to what is really wrong, really wrong.
Too. Much. To. Say. I’m worried I’m just going to fill the chat with all-round squeeing. So for now I’m just going to say, gah, Jang Hyuk 😍 And another perfect top screenshot, kfangurl 😍
The ending of E 20 is the second best moments of KDrama. This scene with Mal Ran is just too good. These two actors are fantastic in this scene. I wonder how many times they shot it to get it this perfect?
What is the best moment of Kdrama?
Jang Hyuk and Lee Mi Sook are fantastic indeed!
RIP Driver Oh. I think Boo Cheon is truly his father’s son because he resembles Driver Oh the most: insecure, willing to be dominated, possessing a cruel streak, but still capable of being a loving father.
I think Pil Joo figured out what happened to Driver Oh.
No one is quite like Jang Hyuk….The last scene of Episode 20 should be required viewing for aspiring actors and directors.
It was soooo hard to stop at episode 20.
I had to sit down and think about what I’d watched! And go back and rewatch some of the scenes! So intense! So many revelations!
Jang Hyuk is amazing, amazing, amazing!
I’ve always thought Jang Seung Jo looked like a tragic angel in some his other shows like Encounters and Chocolate. I can’t help marveling at this edgy Boo Cheon who I feel is headed for total tragedy.
I’m holding on to my hat, I’m sure it’s going to be a very bumpy ride!
Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh. That was a couple hours of flat-out on-the-edge-of-the-seat drama. Whew!
First. The ending of episode 20 was… I dunno, I don’t have words. I obviously expected the big reveal to Mal-ran to be something special, as I’m sure we all did, but in the event, well. It far exceeded my expectations. I suppose it is a failure of my imagination that I did not contemplate that our writer could be so viciously, devastatingly ruthless. I also had not reflected on the fact that, given the powerful sexual undercurrent between Pil-joo and Mal-ran that we’ve previously spent a fair amount of time analyzing (even setting aside the unresolved “are they or aren’t they?” question), of course the most powerful, debilitating stroke would be delivered by tapping into that sexual undercurrent and enlisting it as a force multiplier, as it were. The way he dresses up, pours the champagne, takes her so tenderly into his embrace, then whispers so “lovingly” in her ear. I was almost paralyzed for the entire scene. Masterful.
Backtracking, I loved the clash of the heavyweights, finally, as grandpa and Pil-joo came to grips. I suppose I had been lulled a bit by Pil-joo always seeming to have the upper hand, but I should have recollected that grandpa did not build a chaebol empire with a Boo-cheon level will or intellect. Of course he’s going to be a much more formidable opponent. When he staged that strike on Pil-joo’s “secret” hide-out, effortlessly overcoming his right-hand man and cleaning out all his informational ammunition, I was seriously worried. But of course our man Pil-joo really does have a plan B (and probably C, D, and E, too). I love that exchange between Pil-joo and President Woo, where President Woo tells Pil-joo that grandpa told him he’s doing this to Pil-joo because he needs to be “disciplined,” and then asks Pil-joo what he’s doing, and Pil-joo responds that he’s doing this because grandpa likewise needs to be disciplined. The audacity!
I absolutely agree with KFG about the end of episode 19: that was a really amazing, mature, even (dare I say) loving insight by Mo-hyun. She acknowledges that she knows he loves her, she wants to tell him to give up this destructive course, let us flee together. She can’t understand the sorrow and pain of the teen who walked into the water that long ago day, but she respects his agency and will allow him the freedom to make his choice and stay his course if that’s what he must do. So poignant…
(Here I must interpose, however, one of my few serious criticisms. The music soundtrack for this show has been so so good. And for the most part, I’ve trained myself not to take too much note of overly obtrusive pop numbers played as accompaniment to moments of deep romantic connection. But I swear, the song they insisted on playing over that last scene (from right after her kiss/about the time he grabs her hand) was just so jarring. Really, it significantly diminished the force of that final moment to have a bombastic “love” song swelling to a crescendo at that moment. Gah. I’m probably the only one that hated it, but…I feel better venting, so.)
Another thing I loved… Boo-cheon, who really is playing checkers while grandpa and Pil-joo are playing chess, joking-not-joking trying to chivy Pil-joo into heading off to New York for a few years, and every time he does, Pil-joo never says no, but he never agrees, he just kind of looks at Boo-cheon with a sort of latent smirk that says clear as day…”yeah, right, you know that’s never going to happen, right?”
Alright. Where is this thing headed? Four more episodes. LET’S GOOOOOO….
@Trent I had the same thought with the music! I was like, woah, what’s this music about? Where’s our lovely usual swirling piece gone? But I was so swooning of Pilju that I only cared for a microsecond. LOVE your analogy of Bucheon playing chequers while Grandpa Chairman and Pilju are cat-and-mouse strategizing over chess – or should that be Go? It’s so satisfying watching them try to outmanoeuvre one another. Just who has the upper hand? Even Pilju has a quiet smile when he realises Grandpa Chairman was ready to stop him releasing info to the press. Like he’d have been disappointed if Grandpa Chairman wasn’t fighting him.
Yes, I think Pil-joo would not have the reputation and track record that he does if he got caught totally flat-footed by grandpa, or if he underestimated him. I am sure he has (just like playing chess, or Go (another good game analogy)) gamed out in his mind each sides’ moves several steps into the future. (If he does this…I will counter with this, so I better get this prepared to go, etc etc.).
Yes, I bet Pilju has plan Bs for any potential manoeuvre. He’s a grand master of strategy!
“Hello. My name is Kang Pil-joo / Jang Eun-cheon / Jo In-ho. You killed my brother. Prepare to die.”
Lol! It took me a minute but I understood the reference 🤣
I, too, agree that the music choice was not ideal. The score has been excellent and even incorporates avant-garde elements (stray sounds in the backgrounds) and so this much more conventional choice I found….puzzling.