THE SHORT VERDICT:
There are a number of ways to approach this show: as a modern adaptation of the novel by Louisa May Alcott; as a mystery-thriller; as a dark commentary on socio-economic inequality.
However, I find it most effective to approach this one as a stylish makjang, because I feel that that’s the lens that gives me the most enjoyment, of this show.
Show is darkly atmospheric and consistently intriguing and twisty – and it’s all pretty engaging and satisfying, when viewed with a makjang lens.
Our cast is strong across the board, with our primary cast putting in great performances, but I have to confess to being most fascinated by the deliveries of Uhm Ki Joon and Uhm Ji Won, and to being most dazzled by Wi Ha Joon’s very handsome face. 🤩😁
Overall, adjustment of expectations is a must – and very worthwhile.
THE LONG VERDICT:
After watching this show, and having my initial expectations subverted quite thoroughly, I feel like the best analogy I can give you, about my watch experience is this:
It’s kinda like going to Disneyland and getting on what you think is going to be “It’s a small world,” based on the source material.
Then, as the ride sets off, and you start to register your surroundings, you think that it’s maybe more akin to a Sherlock Holmes mystery type of ride, perhaps. And then, you realize, in the final stretch, that this was always Space Mountain, after all. 😅
If you’ve never been on the Space Mountain ride, it’s basically a rollercoaster that takes place in pitch darkness. Because of that, you never know when you’re about to take a sharp left or a deep dive.
It’s lots of fun, as long as you’re safely buckled up, and ready to be thrown in a gazillion different directions.
That about sums up my watch experience of this show quite well, from where I’m sitting. 😅
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Overall, I felt the music in this show was pretty eclectic and atmospheric, and worked well in supporting our narrative.
If I had to pick a favorite track, it would be Your Apartment, which I feel is one of the most atmospheric and signature, among the tracks that Show uses.
It’s got a very entrancing yet rather dark sort of vibe to it, that I feel matches perfectly with Show’s tone.
Here it is as well, in case you’d prefer to listen to it on repeat. Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a few things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Show is a makjang queen at heart
This isn’t obvious at first, and you might be tempted to think of Show as a mystery-thriller, but the deeper you get into the story, the more clearly you’d be able to see, that Show has a makjang-loving core.
It’s at about the episode 8 point, that Show reveals that it’s a full-on makjang, and gloriously, disdainfully proud of it.
My advice is to be prepared for it, and then to roll with it. It’s the best way to enjoy this one, really.
Also, if you really, really just don’t like makjang, then maybe this one’s not for you?
2. Use a blurry logic lens
Because Show is a makjang at heart, logic does not apply as it would a non-makjang drama.
It’s best to just be prepared for logic stretches, and not be too fussed over them, when Show serves them up.
I’ve actually come across comments dissing the writing in this show, but y’know, you can’t use a straight-up logical lens on a makjang world. Or rather, (I think, anyway) you shouldn’t, because then you’d make your own watch experience a negative one, for no real good reason.
3. This is not a romance.
Although we have two key male characters in Wi Ha Joon and Kang Hoon, this is not a romance by any means, and if you’re able to come to terms with that early, that would be helpful, I think.
Nothing worse than expecting and hoping for romance, and being disappointed time and time again, with each interaction between your perceived key pairing.
4. Don’t be too quick to judge
I’ve come across viewer dissatisfaction with the behavior of our key characters, and I think there are 2 things that might be helpful to keep in mind here:
(a) They’re just ordinary people like you and me
I’ve seen comments around how folks wish In Joo and In Kyung (Kim Go Eun and Nam Ji Hyun) would be smarter about things, but to be honest, if I imagine myself in their shoes, faced with the same situation, I don’t know that I would do any better than either of them, really.
(b) The effect that experiencing poverty has had on them, is not to be underestimated
During my watch, I came across a tweet (which I now can’t find, sorry), that basically said that it’s hard to understand our protagonists and their thoughts, feelings and actions, if you’ve never been painfully poor yourself.
I find that thought-provoking, and I do think that that’s something that would be useful to keep in mind.
It really is easy to judge other people for their actions and decisions, when we ourselves haven’t tasted the kind of poverty that has defined their entire lives.
Thinking of them as flawed and gray helps.
5. Show turns into quite a wild ride
..so just buckle up and enjoy it, without trying to think too hard about the nuts and bolts of the story world, because that really is the best way to enjoy makjang. 😁
IS THIS SHOW RELATED TO THE NOVEL BY LOUISA MAY ALCOTT?
Well, yes.. if you want it to be?
That’s the short answer.
The longer answer is, while Show has been promoted as a modern retelling of the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, it’s a much looser adaptation than one might first imagine.
Similarities and differences
We do have some similarities between our characters and their situation, and those in the book, but there are quite a few differences as well.
[SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE SHOW AND THE NOVEL]
For example, there are 4 sisters in both this story and the novel, it’s just that – as learn in Show’s mid-stretch – one of the sisters had died in infancy, whereas in the novel, Beth had died as a young lady.
Youngest sister In Hye is good at art, just like youngest sister Amy in the novel, but where I remember Amy to be a more cheerful personality, In Hye is much more reserved and distant.
Eldest sister In Joo seems much more conscious of her desire to get herself and her siblings out of poverty, which is rather similar to eldest sister Meg in the novel.
Middle sister In Kyung, who’s spent time being a companion to a rich relative, is like second sister Jo in the novel, who’d done something similar as well.
And of course, there’s Jong Ho, who is friends with In Kyung. That mirrors Laurie’s friendship with Jo, in the novel. And similar to the novel, Jong Ho likes In Kyung romantically, while In Kyung doesn’t appear to notice.
The small difference here, is that Jong Ho is Rich Aunt’s neighbor, and not the girls’ direct neighbor like in the novel.
And, unlike the novel, where the girls’ mother, Marmee, had been a paragon of virtue, Mom in our story is irresponsible and selfish.
My conclusion is that you absolutely don’t need to know anything about the novel, to enjoy this show, but, if you do know the novel, then you might find it a bit of a thrill to identify bits of inspiration like these.
A different perspective
During my watch, I came across this blog post on Bitches Over Dramas, which I thought was quite interesting.
I’m talking specifically about her overview in the beginning of the post, where she talks about how Louisa May Alcott had used her family life as inspiration for the novel, but had rewritten many elements to essentially add warmth, shine and wholesomeness where it was lacking in real life.
I’m intrigued by the idea that this version of events that we’re seeing, might just be closer to the truth of Louisa May Alcott’s real family life, than what had been portrayed in the novel.
Of course, I doubt that Louisa May Alcott’s real family life had actually been a makjang like this show eventually turns out to be, but still. The idea is intriguing, yes?
Digging deeper for drama-novel alignment
I also wanted to say that I came across this thread on Twitter, which would likely interest those of you who’re fans of the novel.
There are other threads besides this one as well, and the author of the tweets takes pains to break down how this show lines up with the novel.
The author of the tweets has laid out some interesting details for consideration, which I thought other fans of the novel would find interesting.
Again, I don’t think that not having read the novel would actually impede your ability to enjoy this show.
A SMALL TANGENT ON THE SINGAPORE SCENES
As many of you know, I’m from Singapore, so it was definitely of interest to me, that our characters spend some time in here, during our story.
And I just wanted to say that this is Singapore, but it also isn’t, in the sense that most of us regular folk don’t live in that very shiny, very glossy, very expensive part of Singapore that gets featured this episode.
I was also surprised to see local actor Adrian Pang as the hotel manager who welcomes In Joo with a long spiel, although I don’t know what I should be.
After all, this is a collaboration between Korea and Singapore, and it makes sense that this should provide a platform for local actors to also get some international exposure.
It’s just.. I personally don’t care for the very affectatious manner in which the local actors are directed to speak.
I cringed through the entire time Adrian Pang’s character was speaking, as well as the entire time Bridget Fernandez’s character, Ms. Foster (the lady assisting In Joo), was speaking too.
I don’t know who wrote their lines like that, or who decided it would be a good idea for them to speak like that, but seriously, we don’t talk like that here in Singapore, I swears! 😅
Anyway. Because food is our national obsession here in Singapore, it’s my silver lining that our iconic kaya toast gets a bit of screen time. 😋
STUFF I LIKED
I’ll be doing a quickish macro view of the things I liked and liked less in this show, before delving into characters and relationships.
Show’s creation of an atmospheric drama world
I found myself getting sucked into this show from the very first episode, and I think a good chunk of credit goes to Show’s deft creation of an intriguing, atmospheric story world.
There’s something about the color palette, lighting, framing and music that comes together to give me almost dark gothic fairytale vibes, particularly in the dimly-lit scenes.
Of course, that’s only one part of the puzzle, that made this one a positive watch experience for me. There’s more, which I’ll talk about next.
Show is well-paced
This is definitely one of the things that kept me fully engaged during the course of my watch.
Show keeps a brisk pace and doesn’t let up, which often means that Show takes our narrative farther than I expect it to, and faster, as well.
That totally makes my level of intrigue and interest, as I’m watching, stay high – and get higher.
For example, with In Joo (Kim Go Eun) discovering that two billion won that Hwa Young (Choo Ja Hyun) has left for, her being such a central plot-line in our story, I was really surprised to find that, as early as episode 3, the net had already begun to close in on In Joo and that two billion won that she has in her possession.
This made me curious to see where our story was going to go, because at this point, there’s so much more story to go, In Joo’s already on the verge of losing the money.
Show’s general handling and execution
When I think of Show’s handling and execution, I mainly think of how it maintains its levels of intrigue, and how it manages its twists and turns.
Through its run, Show consistently drops a variety of clues about various characters, such that we are able to come to some reasonable conclusions in our minds, based on said clues.
And yet, very often, Show manages to subvert our expectations, thus making for an engaging and thrilling ride, where we think we know what’s coming next – but more often than not, we’re wrong. 😅
That results in some surprising twists and turns, which I enjoyed very well, for the most part.
At the same time, Show also does a nice job of fleshing out our main characters and their relationships, and I felt that overall, Show managed to strike a good balance between the intrigue and the character development.
That’s pretty hard to do, I think.
There are way too many twists and turns for me to even think about covering them all, but here’s an early-ish one that I thought was particularly well-managed, in that it felt like such a surprise reveal, and yet, this new version of events still fit so well into the context of our story, at the same time.
E4. What an interesting version of events we hear from Sang Ah (Uhm Ji Won), though, that she’d been the one to give Hwa Young that pair of heels, and that she and Hwa Young had been close enough to share meals regularly.
That’s a twist that I hadn’t seen coming, particularly since In Joo had verified with the shoe shop, that Director Shin (Oh Jung Se) had purchased a pair of those heels.
Very cleverly done, Show! 🤩 This way, the twist feels like it comes out of left field, but still makes complete story sense.
Show is thought-provoking
Even though much of its screen time is dedicated to serving up twists and turns in our story, Show still manages to serve up some food for thought, which I thought was a very nice touch.
In this spoiler section, I touch on one early thought-provoking nugget which lingered with me.
I’ve created a section on themes and ideas further down in this review, which lists more food for thought, that jumped out at me during my watch.
E1. It almost feels like a reward for her loyalty, when In Joo finally finds that bag of money that Hwa Young’s left for her.
And, it feels poignant, that the note that Hwa Young leaves her, not only thanks her for having been good to her, but also, tells her to live in that apartment with nice windows that she’s always dreamed of, for her and her sisters.
In this context, it becomes clear to me that this isn’t about greed, really; it’s about fulfilling dreams which had heretofore looked completely impossible. It’s about understanding and solidarity.
Which, I believe, is why In Joo breaks down in tears, in response.
It’s viscerally moving stuff, isn’t it?
..It’s just complicated by the fact that this is stolen money, and therefore, In Joo could get into a Very Precarious Situation, if she were to use it.
And, it also makes me think about the morality of the issue.
Does the rationale and intention – that it’s about understanding, solidarity and dreams – make it any more right, that In Joo keep that stolen money?
Show serves up a number of cameos, not only from k-stars, but also, from local talent from Singapore.
My two favorite special appearances, though, have to be the ones by Song Joong Ki and Oh Jung Se.
Eee! 🤩🤩 They’re both so good, for different reasons.
Song Joong Ki!
In episode 2, Song Joong Ki’s brief appearance as a sales rep at that fancy Italian shoe store is oddly perfect. 🤩
And that’s not even taking into account the fact that his character’s wearing a name-tag with the name Park Joo Hyung on it, which is Vincenzo‘s Korean name, before he became Vinny. 😁
It makes me think that Vinny’s managed to find his way back into Korea, with his cover being a sales rep at Bruno Zumino. 😁
Oh Jung Se!
I also really loved seeing Oh Jung Se as Director Shin. 🤩
Not only does he look very dapper in all those sharp luxury suits, he’s completely commanding as the powerful but low-key oily Director Shin.
Even when Director Shin was being weirdly inappropriate with In joo, I found Oh Jung Se completely magnetic, and I couldn’t look away. Very excellent stuff.
STUFF I LIKED LESS
Show’s approach to handling information
Show doesn’t do this all the time, and this could also just be a “me” thing, but there were occasions when Show would treat new information as if it was old, and I personally felt rather thrown by that.
To be fair, maybe Show did that on purpose, perhaps to keep viewers on their toes, or perhaps to intentionally create an unsettled sort of feeling.
Maybe some viewers would actually like this approach, but I personally found it rather distracting.
I found this most obvious in episode 7, where Show would casually throw out what felt like new information nuggets to me, as if it was yesterday’s news.
For example, I was completely thrown in episode 7, when In Joo and In Kyung conclude together, that they need to visit Do Il’s mother – and it turns out that Do Il’s mother is serving time for murder.
I don’t know if I’d managed to miss such a big piece of information, or if Show’s bringing in something new but passing it off as old, like, “Oh, this old thing? I got it aaaages ago!” 😅
And then there’s that almost throwaway tidbit, that Do Il (Wi Ha Joon) had set a Truck Of Doom on two of Secretary Go’s (Park Bo Kyung) trusted aides, off-screen, in order to (a) warn her &/or (b) get her to find Rich Aunt’s killer, and I just got even more confused. 😅
THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]
Here are a handful of themes and ideas which stood out to me extra, during the course of my watch.
Poverty and how it affects you, your relationships and your chances of success
E1. Besides the unnies’ love for their sister, there’s a layer of pride at work too, as we see from the way In Joo refuses to let In Hye (Park Ji Hu) take money for helping her classmate Hyo Rin (Jeon Chae Eun) with her art.
She doesn’t want people to look on In Hye as some kind of disadvantaged child – and it’s implied that she herself had been looked upon as a disadvantaged child; a beggar, as she puts it.
Based on what we see in terms of the social dynamics at work, there seems to be at least some truth in In Joo’s assertion that this is basically a vicious cycle, that starts in pity, but ends with disgust.
The way In Joo’s an outcast at work because of her poor background, seems to back up that thought.
The way that In Joo’s friend Hwa Young is an outcast, for essentially the same reason, seems to back up that thought too.
The question of morality and poverty
E3. I do think that Show’s done a very solid job of painting a picture of our sisters’ painful family circumstances, that have made it such that In Joo’s first thought on how she would spend her money if she were rich, is that she’d buy a winter coat.
That tells us already, that she’s always wanted a proper, warm winter coat, but has never been able to afford one. That also tells us that she (along with her sisters, most likely) has been cold every winter that she’s endured, her entire life.
That’s harsh, and, putting myself in her shoes, I can understand how this two billion won, suddenly appearing within her grasp, is so overwhelming and mind-boggling, and at the same time, so tempting.
Finally, there seems to be an actual way out of this cycle of poverty which has defined her life.
It’s human nature to be tempted to take it, and it’s also human nature to be tempted to leave Hwa Young’s death as is, rather than dig into it, because it’s becoming scary and dangerous.
E4. It seems significant to me, that this episode, when In Joo tells In Kyung that she’s going to use the money to save In Hye, In Kyung doesn’t object.
Last episode, she’d objected vehemently, on principle, and had even threatened to sever ties with In Joo, if she used the money.
But now that it really is a matter of life and death, it’s not so easy for In Kyung to maintain that stance – which backs up that idea that Show seems to be putting forth, that it’s easy to judge, when your life isn’t being wrecked by poverty.
The choice to become rich
E4. In a way, Park Jae Sang’s (Uhm Ki Joon) story echoes Rich Aunt’s (Kim Mi Sook) own experience, in that she says people become rich by choice, and she’d chosen to become rich rather than to get married.
Park Jae Sang had chosen to become rich, rather than be a good son – or a decent human being, it sounds like.
But is that really the only way out of poverty? To forsake your morals (in Park Jae Sang’s case) &/or family (in Rich Aunt’s case)?
The difference between being rich and poor
One of the key ideas that Show seems to be exploring, is that perhaps being calculative about money and what it can do for you, isn’t so easy to avoid, when one is poor.
And on the flip side of that coin is the idea that perhaps having a sincere, tender heart really is a luxury that only the rich can afford.
The conversation between Hyo Rin and In Hye seems to reflect that.
While In Hye’s sick of the poor conditions in which she lives, Hyo Rin seems to find it novel and at least somewhat charming.
And, while In Hye’s found her sisters’ care, affection and support suffocating, Hyo Rin has more appreciation for that care and affection – perhaps because she’s never had to live while burdened by such love, and the good intentions behind it?
E4. I do think In Joo has a point when she says that someone as wealthy as Sang Ah could never truly be friends with poor people like her and Hwa Young.
This does have a ring of truth about it, particularly since Sang Ah looks upon Hwa Young and In Joo more as paid company than anything else.
Plus, Sang Ah isn’t upset at Hwa Young’s death per se, but at Hwa Young’s attitude, in dying. That definitely says something, doesn’t it?
Unconditional love vs. love that’s earned
E4. It’s interesting to me that In Kyung is offering In Hye unconditional love – that she loves In Hye just for being herself – but In Hye is looking to earn love, from being an accomplished artist.
Is it human nature, to want to earn love, and find it uncomfortable to receive unconditional love?
SPOTLIGHT ON CHARACTERS / RELATIONSHIPS
Kim Go Eun as In Joo
I feel like when it comes to In Joo, viewers fall into two main camps: those who are sympathetic towards her, and those who find her frustrating (some say stupid).
Even though there were times when I found In Joo’s actions frustrating, I mostly felt sympathetic towards her as a character, because I honestly can’t say if I would do any better, if I were in her shoes, and faced with the same dilemmas.
Also, In Joo proves that she’s basically all heart, and as she makes choices that support her heart values, I can’t help but give her props, for being true to herself, and the people whom she cares about.
In this spoiler section, I zoom in on the various scenes which I feel help us to explore &/or understand these key aspects of her character.
E1. It becomes clear that In Joo’s affection and loyalty to Hwa Young is real and true, given the way she makes a public stand for Hwa Young, to stop all the gossip, and has that resignation letter ready, long before she discovers that bag of money that Hwa Young’s left for her.
I think it says a lot, that In Joo would quit her job, in order to stand in solidarity with Hwa Young, who’s dead, when she herself is basically living in poverty. It’s not like she can easily afford to lose that job, or that it’s that easy to find another one, right?
But she does it anyway, because that’s where her heart is.
E2. Even though In Joo immediately gives me somewhat “tough defiant girl” sort of vibes, there’s also a softness about her, which I also find intriguing.
Her defiance comes through first, like in the way she stands up for Hwa Young to the rest of the colleagues, and in the way she puts in her resignation, even when she doesn’t have another job on hand.
And, it also shows in the way she lays down her conditions to Director Shin, in agreeing to work with him to reveal the truth about Hwa Young. He’s much more senior, but that doesn’t stop her from making it a condition, that he not refer to Hwa Young as a thieving bitch.
Plus, she’s sharp and methodical, when it comes to going through Hwa Young’s things, and sifting through everything to find information that isn’t immediately obvious.
Also, she figures out that the pair of fancy shoes that Hwa Young had said she’d bought for herself, were actually a gift from Director Shin. I like that she’s smart that way.
The softness in In Joo comes through, as a deeper layer, like when she shows that she’s nervous and scared, or when she tells Choi Do Il (Wi Ha Joon) that she’d thought that they could be friends.
There’s a fragility that shows through in her quiet moments on her own, like the tears sheening in her eyes, as she downs a beer, and thinks about things.
And it also shows through in that scene with Director Shin, when she doesn’t do more than squirm, even though he’s majorly overstepping the boundaries of her personal space.
E4. I am not surprised that In Joo agrees to Secretary Go’s violent proposal, even though there’s no guarantee that, (a), Secretary Go would fulfill her end of the bargain, or (b), In Joo would even survive the beating.
I guess that’s what desperation does to you, isn’t it? You agree to things that you don’t actually have confidence in, because that’s the only way out that you can see.
In Joo sees that money as the only way out, for her to save In Hye, and that’s why she recklessly and fearfully agrees to be beaten by Secretary Go.
It may not be very prudent, sure, but it speaks volumes about how much she cares about In Hye. She is literally willing to put her life on the line in order to save her sister, and she does it without hesitation too.
That is a great deal of love, right there, and I do find that touching.
E4. Despite all the red flags, In Joo agrees to take on the job with Sang Ah, and I think it’s in the same spirit as when she’d agreed to let Secretary Go beat her.
She would literally do anything if it would enable her to save In Hye, at this point, and that’s why she’s saying yes to Sang Ah’s offer, even though she knows she’s putting her life on the line all over again.
E5. As a viewer, I have to admit that it’s hard to watch In Joo being so overly open and trusting with the people around her.
It’s like, as she lays her cards out in that guileless way of hers, I often feel like grabbing her and covering her mouth for her, so that she won’t divulge anything that would put her in danger.
But that’s easy for me to say, as a viewer who has access to more information that she has. In fact, I can’t say for sure that I’d do any better than In Joo, if I were to find myself in her shoes. 😅
E6. I have to admit that I’m rather disappointed, when In Joo promises Hyo Rin that she would absolutely ask for her permission if she needs that memory card, and then, immediately turns around and gives her sleeping pills, so that she can then steal said memory card.
I dunno; I guess I’m a little slow in coming around to the fact that In Joo is more morally gray than I’m used to, in my protagonists?
I don’t know what made me think that she wouldn’t be; after all, she’s the one who’s trying to basically blackmail 70 billion won out of Park Jae Sang, with Do Il’s help. 😅
And then there’s the thing where In Joo goes to Hwa Young’s apartment, in order to pull that goldfish trick, so that she can see who gets activated when it comes to Hwa Young’s apartment – and gets targeted for elimination by Secretary Go instead.
That feels like In Joo’s plan, to outsmart the people on her tail, backfires quite spectacularly, doesn’t it?
The thing is, she doesn’t even think that it’s backfired in any way, judging from the sly smug look she wears, while fake-crying over the spilled goldfish.
And, even though Do Il speaks up in front of Park Jae Sang and Sang Ah, to say that he will make sure In Joo doesn’t give them any problems, while Sang Ah states that In Joo works for her, and she will therefore take care of In Joo herself, it absolutely doesn’t feel like In Joo’s out of danger.
E8. To be honest, if I were in In Joo’s shoes, I would believe that Hwa Young’s somehow alive. And, I also would likely believe the warnings, from both In Kyung and “Hwa Young,” that Do Il is dangerous. (And he kinda is, right, since he’s been tasked to kill her?)
And so, I can’t blame In Joo too much, for following the instructions that come from the person whom she believes to be her only friend, Hwa Young.
Since In Joo goes to that apartment believing that Hwa Young’s leading her there, and since she’s decided to trust “Hwa Young,” I can believe that she’d take that iced blue drink, to be something that Hwa Young had left for her, to refresh her after all that she’s been through.
E9. I’m glad that we get some insight into why In Joo chose to essentially run away from Do Il, and I like the insight, in that it means it’s not that In Joo doesn’t trust Do Il; it’s that she misses Hwa Young so much, that she was desperate enough to take the sliver of a chance to see her again, even if it meant a great deal of risk.
That feels in line with In Joo’s character; she’s such an emotionally driven sort of personality, and cares so much for those that are near and dear to her.
Nam Ji Hyun as In Kyung
Somewhat like In Joo, In Kyung’s also a mix of hard and soft, but that hardness and softness comes together in a very different manner, and honestly, In Kyung really lands as a very different kind of personality, compared to In Joo.
Where In Joo strikes me as being all heart, In Kyung strikes me as being all passion and principles.
She’s not just determined to reach the goals that she’s set for herself, she’s legit dogged about it, and I do feel like that’s her strength – although sometimes it can also come across as her weakness.
Over the course of our story, I couldn’t help but admire In Kyung, for managing to achieve what she achieves, given that she’s always had so little.
E1. With all that In Kyung has to deal with, I’m not even that surprised that she’d developed an alcohol dependency; she probably needed that in order to cope.
Aside from that, she appears to have a lot of potential when it comes to work, judging from the way she analyzes the case, when instructed to do so.
It’s just quite unfortunate that she has an alcohol dependency, which interferes with her work, and which results in her suspension this episode.
For the record, I don’t think it’s wrong for her to be disciplined for this, because you certainly shouldn’t be drinking at work.
But I do feel sympathy for her, because it looks like she’d struggled to cope, and that’s how she’d started taking regular sips of alcohol to begin with.
E2. I’m actually quite intrigued by In Kyung as a character.
She appears soft and tender at first glance, not only in the way that she speaks and carries herself, but also, in the way she reflexively empathizes so hard, with the people in the stories that she covers.
That empathy is why she’d started drinking in the first place; so that she would be able to numb the pain, and wear a poker face while covering those stories.
I feel like that says a lot about her personality, that repeated exposure isn’t the thing that numbs her to these people’s pain; only alcohol does the job.
At the same time, there’s a steeliness about her, which almost feels at odds with that softness.
Like the way she doesn’t flinch when talking about her suspension, both with In Joo and Rich Aunt.
And the way she presses in and continues to give her respects at Kim Cheol Seong’s (Cha Yong Hak) funeral, even while his family members kick up a fuss and try to chase her away.
She’s like velvet and steel, at the same time, which makes her a very interesting personality.
E3. The only person who appears to have a clean-cut moral compass in our story world, is In Kyung, who is steadfast in her division of right from wrong, regardless of the benefits that might come from closing one eye to the truth.
Like, when she realizes that In Hye’s sold her painting to Hyo Rin, in exchange for favor and support from Hyo Rin’s parents, she’s so upset that she’s driven to drink – which results in that drunken shouted spiel, from the top of that lamppost.
She would rather take on the full burden of In Hye’s future – even if it kills her – than allow In Hye to compromise her principles.
That says a lot about In Kyung and her values, and, I find it thought-provoking that the way In Kyung stands so strongly behind her principles, actually feels like a weird and uncomfortable fit in this drama world.
It literally feels like she doesn’t belong in this story world, where everyone else is a different shade of grey, and she’s the only one who is all white, ie, all good.
But perhaps part of the reason for that, is because she hadn’t been old enough to remember what In Joo remembers, about their baby sister’s death, and how it had been the lack of money that had made it impossible to save her.
I do think that that would make it easier for In Kyung to look at the world as black and white, whereas In Joo clearly isn’t.
As we close out the episode, I’m not terribly surprised at the fact that In Kyung’s threatening to report In Joo if she decides to use the money, but it still does feel rather sad, that the two sisters, who’ve always been so close, are now on opposite sides.
E7. As In Joo and In Kyung press in to their individual chosen paths, I feel like it’s In Kyung who has more determination and focus, in achieving her goal.
She wants to expose Jeongran Society and take down Park Jae Sang with it, and she’s like a determined dog with a bone, with the way she’s going about her investigations.
I mean, she even gets herself bitten by that dog on purpose, so that she and Jong Ho can gain entry into Choi Hee Jae’s hut. Yikes.
Jong Ho is right, she is kinda nuts.
But I do feel like In Kyung might have a firmer grasp of her goal, than In Joo, who’s still got that flaily, wobbly quality about her, even as she prepares to go to Singapore to get that 70 billion won, in order to protect herself and her sisters.
E9. Even though In Kyung literally asks Choi Hee Jae (Kim Myung Soo) to include her in his plans to kill Park Jae Sang, I don’t think of In Kyung as murderous, per se.
I think the whole thing about her calling Choi Hee Jae and saying that she wants in, on killing Park Jae Sang, is to show how cornered and desperate she is.
She finally understands the extent of Park Jae Sang’s influence, but she is also getting a good sense of the extent of his evil, and his impact on the world at large, and because he seems to be above the law, the only way she can see, of stopping him, is to kill him, just like Choi Hee Jae says.
So yes, it’s rogue justice, but it’s rogue justice that I feel I can understand, because wherever possible, In Kyung’s tried to go about it within the confines of the law, but she’s consistently failed, and that’s caused her to turn to rogue justice.
I actually feel like In Kyung’s the MVP among our sisters, this episode, because it feels like she gets the most done.
I mean, she manages to sneak into the psychiatric hospital to talk to Won Sang Woo (Lee Min Woo), which I’m very impressed by, given how heavily guarded he is. AND, she manages to get him out, too, which is even more impressive.
And of course, she saves In Joo from being thrown off a building in Singapore, to certain death.
I’d say that’s pretty darn accomplished, given the circumstances.
Park Ji Hu as In Hye
Of the three sisters, I found In Hye the hardest to read, because she’s reserved by nature, and tends to keep her thoughts and feelings mostly to herself, while keeping a pretty neutral expression, as her default.
And while In Hye is more in the background compared to her two sisters, I appreciate that we do eventually get a sense for what makes her tick, and what she’s about.
E2. I do wonder whether In Hye known that her painting of Hyo Rin, would be submitted as a self-portrait by Hyo Rin, at the competition. Did she accept payment to be Hyo Rin’s.. ghost artist?
I honestly don’t know what to make of In Hye just yet. She seems so fiercely private, with a very strong desire to be independent, and not be a burden to her sisters.
That fierce desire makes me wonder if she’d dip into the wrong side of the law, in order to achieve her goals – like in agreeing for her work to be submitted in Hyo Rin’s name, for example.
E3. I’m.. intrigued by In Hye and her decision to align herself with Hyo Rin’s parents.
She seems to fully understand that what she’s doing has some shady tones to it, but she also seems prepared to engaged with said shady tones, as long as it gives her the means to exit her poverty-stricken situation, and gain the independence she craves.
In Hye seems genuinely bedazzled by their seemingly perfect lives and their apparent magnanimity and kindness towards her, and that does worry me.
I can see why In Joo and In Kyung would be worried about her mixing with Park Jae Sang and his family.
E6. Of the three sisters, it’s oddly In Hye who appears to have the most leverage, at this point in time.
At least, she’s got Hyo Rin’s cooperation in trying to figure out the source of the image that she painted, of the woman hanging in red heels.
And, she does seem to make some headway, in using the death orchid as a tool, to help Hyo Rin tap into her memories.
That’s smart and shrewd of her, I feel.
Wi Ha Joon as Do Il
First things first, my friends; Wi Ha Joon is very, very handsome as Choi Do Il. I mostly just really liked having him on my screen, because it meant that I got to gaze at him 🤩 – never mind what else he was doing, ha.
Ok, but seriously, Show makes Do Il mysterious for almost our entire ride, and while that does help to keep the intrigue going (so I do understand the intent behind it) – like, do I trust him, or is it not safe to trust him?? – I just never was able to feel settled, around his character.
Well, until maybe the very end, because, well, we were at the end. 😅
Which means that every time he smiled, my fangirl heart bloomed with satisfaction, but my brain refused to go with it, because my brain was all – BUT CAN I TRUST HIM?!?? 🤪
So honestly, I don’t have much else to say about Do Il, because all through my watch (as you’ll see in the spoiler section below), all I could think about was, (1) dang he’s handsome 🤩, and (2) CAN I TRUST HIM??? 😁
E2. I’m still making up my mind on what to think about Do Il.
Sometimes, he strikes me as a pretty decent guy, like when he listens to In Joo’s findings about Hwa Young, and goes through the evidence that she finds. That’s not his primary focus, but he shows an interest and an open mind about what she has to say, and that feels nice.
On the other hand, he’s coldly matter-of-fact, about how he’s only interested in money, and that money is the most sacred thing, in life.
The fact that he would overlook a very probable murder, in favor of finding money, makes me think that he could very well throw In Joo under the bus with a smile, if it were for the sake of money. 😅
Meaning, I think it would be best to not trust him too much, at least for now.
E3. This episode, I’m surprised that Do Il’s first question to In Joo over the phone is about whether she’s ok, because doesn’t that mean that he’d known something was up, when he’d called Director Shin’s phone?
I’d really like to know more about Do Il, and exactly how he knows what he knows.
I’m also curious about just how trustworthy he is, because he seems mixed up enough in the shady stuff to be considered someone In Joo should keep a distance from.
At the same time, he shows regular glimpses of decency, like when he gives In Joo advice, and also, when he shows interest in her safety.
I mean, if he’s one of the shady people, then why would he create a cover story for In Joo, and coach her on said cover story so intently, right?
This is the kind of stuff that makes me want to trust Do Il, but.. I’m still not sure if it’s safe to do that right now.
E5. I have to say that I am honestly very confused about whether to trust Do Il.
Sometimes, he seems so trustworthy, with the way he shows concern for In Joo’s safety, and the alternative plan he provides, appears so sound.
Plus, his handsome smiling face also sways me, can’t lie. He looks like he’s sincere, which tugs at my desire to trust him, but as we learn this episode, looks can be very deceiving.
And, logically speaking, I find it hard to believe that he would agree to split the money with In Joo 60-40, in In Joo’s favor.
Would he agree to something like that, where he’s doing the heavy-lifting to keep In Joo and the money safe, and yet receiving less than half of the money, in return?
This is something that makes me nervous, because my brain protests that if he’s really all about money like he’s stated, then it seems quite possible that he might betray In Joo later, for money – because their current arrangement isn’t really that advantageous to him. 🤔
E10. Even though I recently decided to trust Do Il, I have to admit that Show really had me going for a while there, with Do Il’s supposed plan to betray his father and In Joo. 😅
It’s a pretty great plan though, in reality, because Do Il manages to stay loyal to his father and In Joo, while taking Park Jae Sang on a ride, making him believe that he was cooperating fully with Park Jae Sang’s demands. Clever.
And I have to say, even though Park Jae Sang ultimately doesn’t get taken down because of it, I did really enjoy the shocking video reveals, during his campaign speech.
That look of shock on his face is quite priceless, and very excellent. Very good going there, Do Il!
Kang Hoon as Jong Ho
I actually don’t have a great deal to say about Jong Ho; I just wanted to give him a shout-out, for being a harmless, genial, trustworthy sort of presence, in our drama world.
Kang Hoon makes him quite a perfect puppy dog, who’s clearly been crushing on In Kyung for a long time, and I simply had no reason to dislike him, or object to him in any way. 😊
Uhm Ki Joon as Park Jae Sang
I have to say, I’m actually quite surprised by how fascinated I ended up being, by Park Jae Sang as a character.
From fairly early on in our story, Show gives us hints that Park Jae Sang’s not quite the picture of wholesome virtue that he projects to the world at large, so it’s not like I’m surprised that he’s not all good.
It’s more like, I’m surprised by the layers that Show imparts to his character, so much so that now that I’m done with the show, my fascination with his character is one of the things that lingers with me.
That’s pretty impressive, because with so many shows going through my drama plate on a regular basis, it’s really not all that often, that a character will linger with me – particularly if he isn’t a swoony romantic male lead. 😉
I’ll talk more about him in his section with Sang Ah, and also, in my notes on the penultimate episode, but for now, there’s just one thing that I wanted to mention, in the spoiler section.
E3. I’m actually really quite surprised at the backstory that we get of Park Jae Sang.
The way he’s been presented to us, I’d assumed that he’d been born of money, so it’s quite startling to me, to realize that he’d been born poor, and had betrayed his way into money.
Woah. AND, he specifies that it’s betrayal of someone who’d loved him the most in the world.
E4. And we learn, this episode, that Park Jae Sang had exchanged his father’s death for his present riches and success.
Dang. That’s cold and disturbing, particularly when he talks about it so genially. 😳
Uhm Ji Won as Sang Ah
Aside from Park Jae Sang, Sang Ah is the other character whose characterization lingers with me, after my watch.
There’s something about the way Uhm Ji Won plays her, with that breathy, little girl sort of quality, and that syrupy sweet smile and voice, that makes her seem not only rather unreal, but also, oddly sinister.
Again, I will talk more about her in her section with Park Jae Sang, as well as my sections on Show’s final stretch, but for now, here’s a look at my evolving impressions of her, over the course of my watch.
E3. There’s something about Sang Ah, that makes me think that she’s hiding a coldly evil heart, underneath that ready, elegant smile.
Even the way she calls Secretary Go after In Joo’s visit, and pointedly mentions that In Joo’s wearing expensive shoes and carrying ready cash, feels vaguely threatening, to my ears.
E4. This episode, I’m quite weirded out by Sang Ah. Like, could she be the Big Bad behind Park Jae Sang?
There’s that entire room full of the death orchid, which is famously rare and hard to cultivate. The fact that she has a ready supply, which had been cultivated by her father, makes me suspicious.
And then, there’s the way she gives one of the death orchids to In Hye, which appears to cause that reaction, and which eventually leads to In Hye passing out.
On top of that, there’s the whole way she seems to be grooming In Hye for something, with the way she asks if In Hye can keep a secret, and with the way she gets In Hye to start drawing that secret portrait of her.
All of that makes her appear Very Suspicious Indeed.
E4. With the way Show has Jong Ho talking about the effects of the orchid on a person just from smelling it, I have to wonder if Sang Ah had offered the orchid to In Hye, knowing that if she smelled it (which is such a natural thing for people to do, when offered flowers), it would trigger her heart condition?
..Which would then have presented the opportunity for Park Jae Sang to charitably sponsor her treatment, and come out smelling like roses for that touching moment in the documentary that he’s filming?
Sang Ah strikes me as the quietly manipulative sort, so I wouldn’t put it past her to do that, and then act all shocked and horrified, when In Hye fainted.
E4. The fact that Sang Ah swans in there and doesn’t lose her genteel demeanor even after seeing In Joo so beaten up, makes alarm bells go off in my head.
Surely this means that Sang Ah’s used to this kind of violence, and that’s why it doesn’t shock her in the least?
That’s why I’m so nervous about how she’s acting all nice to In Joo and offering her a job as if she genuinely likes In Joo and would like to be friends with her.
I’m also intrigued (and rather repulsed) by the idea that in thinking about Hwa Young’s death, Sang Ah’s main response is to feel upset – because Hwa Young’s attitude insulted her.
That’s a pretty bizarre and heartless way to think about things, especially when Hwa Young had died, no?
E5. I’d always had an inkling that there’s more to Sang Ah than meets the eye, but seeing her up close, I feel even more convinced, that In Joo has no idea who or what she’s dealing with.
Sang Ah’s crazy mood swings and outbursts, coupled with her tendency to use power trips on people, and her elaborate effort to tug at In Joo’s sympathies in order to gain her loyalty, feels like way too much for In Joo.
In fact, I only needed to see 2 seconds of In Joo working in that household, to conclude that In Joo’s in over her head. 😅
Sang Ah’s clearly a master at this.
She takes hold of people’s emotions, then toys with them, and wraps those emotions around her little finger, and then proceeds to do this whole push-pull thing, so that her victim never knows if they’re coming or going with her, so that Sang Ah is always in control.
And, Sang Ah looks like she’s scary-good at it, too.
E8. On hindsight, it becomes clear that while Sang Ah had acted like a helpless victim, she’d somehow still been able to mastermind the whole Singapore plan, as it went into motion.
It boggles my mind, to consider the depth and breadth of this plan, which had to have been hatched in incredible detail, in order for it to run so smoothly without a hitch.
I conclude that Sang Ah is an evil genius, because how else could she have pulled this off, and so well?
Park Jae Sang and Sang Ah
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that out of the all the man-woman relationships in this drama world, I was most fascinated by the marriage and relationship between Park Jae Sang and Sang Ah.
On the surface, they look like the perfectly happy golden couple, but in this sort of drama world, it’s not even a surprise – or a spoiler – to say that all is not as it seems, in private.
What surprises me, and captures my attention, is the depth and range of the facets of this relationship, as Show peels back the outer layers, to reveal to us bits and pieces of the inner workings of this relationship.
I talk more about all that, in this spoiler section, as well as in my remarks on Show’s finale stretch.
E3. The more we see of Hyo Rin’s parents, Park Jae Sang and his wife Sang Ah, the more I feel like there are darker intentions beneath those easy, polished, effortless smiles.
For one thing, it sounds like they’ve handpicked In Hye for this purpose, and Secretary Go even apologizes for not doing a thorough enough background check on her.
And, it’s clear that they’re using In Hye as a PR tool, trotting her out for interviews and photoshoots, so as to emphasize their generosity and philanthropy.
It makes me think that they’ll be quick to throw In Hye away, once she is no longer of use to them.
E5. The relationship between Park Jae Sang and Sang Ah is quite fascinating to me.
She makes him out to be the head of her household, and the one who sets the tone of the role that she plays, but at the same time, she tells him that he’s but her manservant.
It’s early days yet, but this sure looks like a power struggle to me.
Sang Ah may have chosen Park Jae Sang to play the role of her husband and future President, but it sure looks like he’s not content to just be her manservant, judging from the way he continually works to exert his power over her, like the way he insists that Do Il bring her back from Singapore, immediately, just because he orders it.
E7. Watching the relationship dynamics between Park Jae Sang and Sang Ah, is, in itself, an unsettling experience.
They each have very fixed ideas about who wears the pants in the relationship, and as far as I can tell, they don’t agree on the answer.
Park Jae Sang may use sweet words to persuade Sang Ah around to his point of view, so that she’ll help him, but ultimately, when that doesn’t work, he resorts to locking her up in her room, for days on end.
It’s like watching two unstable psychopaths circle each other, waiting to see who will deal the death blow first. 😬
E9. I have to say, I was completely blown away by the intense, electrifying chemistry between Sang An and Park Jae Sang, in that scene where she takes him aside and asks him to kill In Kyung for her.
Aside from the bizarre dysfunction of the request, the unresolved sexual tension between them (unresolved at this point, anyway – thanks Trent, for pointing that out!) is positively molten.
And now, I suddenly want these two to star in some sort of show together, where this chemistry is front-and-center of our story, and not an idle afterthought, like it is in this drama.
The three sisters
I thought it would be remiss of me if I didn’t at least mention the relationship among our three sisters.
Even though all three of them are very different in terms of personality, and therefore disagree more than a few times, over the course of our story, I appreciate that Show is consistent in demonstrating that at the end of it all, these sisters still care about one another.
Even when they go through a phase of not being on speaking terms, the love between siblings never actually leaves, and I liked that a lot.
And, these sisters are literally willing to risk their lives for one another, and that’s something that I found very moving as well.
In Joo and Do Il
This is where I think I’m very likely the odd duck in the corner, who wasn’t actively rooting for Do Il and In Joo to have a loveline with each other.
Mainly, I think I just struggled with the whole question of whether In Joo could trust Do Il, so my mind never went beyond that line, to consider a romance.
Because, in my head, if she can’t be sure whether to trust him, then she should certainly not romance him. 😅
And so, even when he flashed his handsome, stunning smile at In Joo, I couldn’t trust that there was anything genuine there, and therefore probably missed the sparks that everyone else saw.
That said, there were a couple of things in episode 9, that did give me pause.
E9. In the scene where Do Il’s got In Joo’s head in his lap, I can’t help noticing that he’s stroking her hair, almost absentmindedly, even as he holds her head, and that really does make me sit up.
That’s definitely the kind of gesture that you tend to reserve for those for whom you have a closer and more intimate relationship with, isn’t it?
At least, it makes me look at Do Il differently, in terms of his feelings towards In Joo.
And, it does feel rather momentous, that just as In Joo is on the verge of passing out, she gives Do Il the key to the locker where she’s stashed the money, and asks him to make sure her sisters are taken care of, if she doesn’t wake up.
Plus, when she’s fully sober again, and in a rush to return to Korea to find In Kyung, she makes that same decision to trust Do Il, all over again.
That’s an indication that she really does trust him, and I find that I’m cautiously inclined to do the same and trust him for real now.
Plus, he does eventually come to her rescue at the psychiatric hospital, after she gets captured and tied up by Secretary Go’s people, so that validates my decision to trust him, at least a little bit?
In Kyung and Jong Ho
I wanted to give the Jong Ho-In Kyung relationship a shout-out, because I did enjoy how much they trusted each other, even when things got crazy.
There was never a moment when Jong Ho backed away from In Kyung because he thought she – or her life – was too crazy for him.
He’s just this quiet, supportive, unwavering rock next to her, and I liked that a lot.
In Hye and Hyo Rin
In terms of interpersonal relationships, the most significant one in In Hye’s life, is her friendship with Hyo Rin.
I have to say that Show surprised me with its treatment of their friendship – in a good way.
One of the things I’m most surprised by, in episodes 9 and 10, is the depth and strength of the friendship between Hyo Rin and In Hye, and I think the reason for that, is because I’d always viewed their friendship as something that had been bought, kinda?
Because Hyo Rin’s parents had essentially paid In Hye to be Hyo Rin’s companion, it had always been in my head, that this was a transactional thing for In Hye too, and that she could well betray this friendship, if the conditions were conducive for her to do so.
And so, when Show causes In Hye to disappear from school, before the appointed time that she and Hyo Rin had planned to leave together, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps In Hye had decided to take the money and run, on her own.
But, contrary to my expectations, Hyo Rin and In Hye are more committed to each other than I’d imagined.
I’d thought that Hyo Rin had told Sang Ah that she’d given In Hye the money and told her to travel, because she didn’t want to admit to Sang Ah that she’d herself been planning to run away, but as it turns out, that’s not the case at all.
She’d known in her gut that In Hye wouldn’t leave without her, and that’s how she’d come to the correct conclusion, that Sang Ah had taken In Hye.
And In Hye, being locked up in that closed room all by herself, is calm and cooperative with Sang Ah. And when she thinks that Sang Ah’s there to kill her, she requests that Sang Ah not tell Hyo Rin or her sisters, that she’d died, because she doesn’t want to hurt them.
And then, after In Joo and Do Il get them both to safety, one of the first things they do, is act on their plan of running away together.
Wow. That’s really more profound of a connection between them, than I’d expected.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PENULTIMATE EPISODE [SPOILERS]
Hm. I have to admit this was a rather odd penultimate episode for me, in the sense that it feels significantly more muted than the last couple of episodes, particularly if we’re thinking on the makjang scale of things.
Show manages to feel rather subdued this episode, even as it still gives us several important reveals, which I would classify as being in the more makjang sort of space.
That’s quite a skill, I suppose? I didn’t know muted makjang could be a thing, and yet, here we are. 😅
There are a couple of things, this episode, that strike me extra, and those are the things that I’d like to talk about first.
The first thing that caught my attention – and this might be THE thing that caught my attention the most, this episode – is the unveiling of the dynamic between Park Jae Sang and Sang Ah, leading up to his death.
Last episode, when we’d seen the video of him jumping off the building, I’d assumed that somehow, Sang Ah had created that illusion; that he hadn’t actually been willing to die.
But Show tells us a completely different story this episode, and I’m quite stunned by it.
I’m stunned to realize that Park Jae Sang had willingly walked off that building, all because Sang Ah had indicated that that was what she wanted.
All she’d had to do, was present him with a death orchid, and he knew immediately, that she wanted him to die, and he didn’t hesitate, even for a second. He didn’t protest or try to negotiate.
She’d asked him to die, and die, he would.
Woah. I find that very mind-bendy, to be honest.
It makes me think that he’d been prepared to die for her, from the very minute they’d decided to get married.
It feels like he’s known, all this time, that there would come a day when she would want him to die, and he’s been prepared to meet that moment head-on, for years.
That boggles my mind, seriously.
In fact, the entire dynamic of their relationship boggles my mind.
The fact that Sang Ah is sad to see him go, and actually grieves his death, makes me feel that she actually does have feelings for him. Sure, those feelings are weird and dysfunctional, but it does feel like there’s actual affection in there. Some twisted love, even – maybe.
And, for all of Park Jae Sang’s control issues that we’ve seen displayed quite regularly, the fact that he’s given her control over his very life, and abides by that control without question, demonstrates that he does care for and love her, in his own twisted way.
I’m officially morbidly fascinated by their relationship, and am rather disappointed that we don’t have a whole show with them as our protagonists, so that we can explore their relationship dynamics more closely.
As an almost afterthought, it occurs to me that among the various Jeongran Society members that we’ve seen receive the death orchid, Park Jae Sang is the only one whom we’ve seen, who’s been so ready to obey the death warrant.
That’s walking the talk, in a way? After all, the demand that they’ve made on Jeongran Society members, is that members need to give Jeongran Society full authority over their lives – and their deaths.
Fascinating, to say the least.
The second twist, for me, was the whole thing with Do Il throwing himself under the bus, to save In Joo.
Ok, so full disclosure: by the time I watched this episode, I’d already been spoiled (by tweets and YouTube thumbnails) for the fact that Do Il does have feelings for In Joo.
And, while the romantic in my doesn’t appreciate that Show’s been toying with this possibility all series long without actual confirmation until this final stretch (because, how interesting would it have been, to have explored an actual romance between Do Il and In Joo?), the practical corner of my brain says that it does make narrative sense.
What I mean is, Show had clearly prepared this development as a narrative twist, and the only way this could actually BE a twist, is if we didn’t know ahead of time, that Do Il had feelings for In Joo.
It’s only in a situation where we aren’t sure of Do Il’s feelings for In Joo – or even where his loyalties lie, for that matter – that this twist would actually land as a twist.
Because, if we knew that Do Il had feelings for In Joo, there would be no surprise, right?
At the same time, setting it up such that Do Il has feelings for In Joo, is the only narratively sound reason that I can think of, to explain his behavior, and therefore make this twist actually plausible.
All that to say, I geddit, I do. Even though the romantic section of my fangirl brain is pouting for the could’ve beens, in terms of a romance dynamic between Do Il and In Joo, I’m willing to roll with this, because it makes sense, at least in terms of character motivation.
I’m bummed though, that the only conversation we have between Do Il and In Joo is more about In Joo asking where he’s been, and why he hasn’t contacted her, and him telling her that she’s the only who hasn’t been picking up her phone.
Given that Do Il gets arrested soon after, it feels like a huge anticlimax, if this is indeed the last conversation we have between them.
And it really could be the last conversation we have between them, isn’t it, given that Do Il’s now been taken into custody?
AND THEN, we have In Kyung resurfacing on TV, in a surprise turn of events.
This was a twist that didn’t land so well for me, because while it’s a nice idea that she’d managed to talk Jang Sa Pyeong around, such that he would become her witness instead of her tormentor, it feels too.. easy, the way it’s portrayed?
But anyway. I suppose it’s because we’re running out of screen time, and that’s why writer-nim had to pack Jang Sa Pyeong’s turnaround into a compact, convenient little package.
More importantly – and more interestingly! – we have the final twist, that HWA YOUNG IS ALIVE, AFTER ALL.
Woah. That’s kinda crazy, honestly, because it seems that Hwa Young’s managed to survive even Sang Ah’s murderous intent. How did she manage that? Also, if Hwa Young didn’t die, then who did? Because there was definitely a dead body hanging in her apartment..?
I’m super curious to find out, and I hope that Show has a suitably good explanation for this very makjang twist.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Well that was quite a journey.
I have to say, this finale worked out to be pretty great – provided you don’t question the logic and logistics too much.
Honestly, I wasn’t planning on questioning it much anyway, since, by this time, I knew to keep my makjang goggles firmly in place, as I made my way through this finale.
If you know makjang, you’d know that makjang and logic are not natural friends.
When a show goes makjang, logic is often wildly stretched (or sometimes completely thrown out the window), and thrills, spills and the entertainment factor, are all that matters.
And, was I entertained by Show’s final twists and turns? Why, yes. Yes, I was, and therefore I don’t feel that there’s anything to complain about, really, since I’ve already accepted that Show is a makjang drama queen at heart and therefore isn’t required to make complete sense. 😁
First of all, I appreciate that Show provides an explanation for Hwa Young’s apparent murder / suicide, and tells us whose body had been found.
And while it’s a stretch that there would be so many CCTV cameras in Hwa Young’s apartment, providing so many angles, I rationalize that Hwa Young had probably invested in hidden cameras, which is how we got all that footage of Sang Ah killing Hwa Young’s stand-in.
I also like that Show explains that Hwa Young’s appearance in front of In Joo at the hospital in Singapore, hadn’t been a dream – and that’s how the sneakers had been real. That was a nice touch, I thought.
Sang Ah deciding that it was time to kill Jang Sa Pyeong, Hwa Young, In Joo and possibly In Kyung, before she dies as well, is kind of out there, but it kinda works, if I think about Sang Ah as a sociopath who now finds herself cornered, with no way out.
I would believe that Sang Ah would prefer to choose her own dramatic ending, than be stripped of her power and influence, and put in jail for 20 years.
I would also believe that In Joo would get off a plane in a bid to save Hwa Young, but it is quite a stretch, that In Joo would be able to guess that Sang Ah had actually killed her own mother. I mean, In Joo’s shown, time and again, that she’s not the quickest nor brightest analytical mind out there, right?
But, because it’s all so dramatic and twisty, I’m willing to just roll with it, for the drama of it all.
Yes, it’s a stretch that In Joo and, Hwa Young especially, would suffer so little in the way of burns, after being sprayed with highly concentrated hydrochloric acid, but I appreciate the sentiment, that In Joo is willing to risk her life to save her friend.
I also appreciate the intended irony, that Sang Ah, in dancing to the corner to watch the acid show, in the time she has before her own lungs succumb to the acid in the air, actually ends up trapping herself, while In Joo and Hwa Young manage to dash to safety.
And, I suppose there’s intended lashings of poetic justice there, that because Sang Ah tries to drag In Joo back into the acid, she ends up falling into a pool of the stuff, and dies a horrible death.
It’s a dramatic end, for sure, and one that I think Sang Ah would have approved of, as director and puppet master, since she’d had such a taste for drama. Although, I’m pretty sure she would have preferred it if it was someone else drowning in acid. 😅
The backstory that we get through the General’s memoirs is really pretty out there, and I find it altogether quite hard to believe, especially the part where they managed to find their way home, after finding the death orchid. Like, there’s no connection, is there?
But I get the intended irony, that they hadn’t set out to build a murderous society, but that’s what Jeongran Society eventually became, because it had been managed in the wrong hands.
I’m slightly bummed that Do Il says goodbye to In Joo and heads off to Greece without any way for her to contact him, but it is rather comforting to hear him say that they will see each other again.
That makes the goodbye feel temporary instead of permanent, and it does feel like a good thing, for In Joo to have some time on her own, to figure out her next steps, and what she’d like to do with her life, now that she’s gotten it back.
It’s a nice touch that Rich Aunt had left the apartment to In Joo, since it had always been In Joo’s dream to own an apartment by the Han River.
Additionally, I really do like that In Kyung comes to the conclusion that she does like Jong Ho after all, and is happiest when she’s with him. Aw. That’s nice, and I’m happy for Jong Ho, who’s been such an unwavering source of support to her, all this time.
In principle, I like the final twist that Show serves up, that Do Il had helped In Hye and Hyo Rin make their getaway, and had even made arrangements for the 70 billion won to be kept in an account under Hyo Rin’s name, with an implied promise that they would come together to withdraw the money, once Hyo Rin comes of age.
However, I don’t know how I feel about them getting to keep the 70 billion won, since, despite what Do Il and In Hye say (that the money had been In Joo’s to begin with), that money wasn’t In Joo’s, really.
That money isn’t traceable, sure, but it’s money that had been embezzled by Sang Ah and her crew, and therefore, it’s money that rightfully belongs to other people.
That does niggle at me, that our main characters get a new life with this money, but this money isn’t money that truly belongs to them. 😅
Looking beyond that, though, I do appreciate the note on which we end, where In Hye talks about each of them finally getting to go after their dreams, and live for themselves, and not anyone else.
After all is said and done, that does feel like Show’s main message, in the end; that we all should have the right to live for ourselves.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
An entertaining and rather wild ride, with the right lens.
FINAL GRADE: B++
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Little Women, is Love Is For Suckers. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m happy to say that I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about this one. 😁 My E1-2 notes on Love Is For Suckers can be found here.
Here’s an overview of what I’m covering on Patreon right now (Tier benefits are cumulative)!
Foundation Tier (US$1): Entertainment tidbits + the first set of notes of all shows covered on Patreon (2 eps for kdramas, 4 eps for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): Love Like The Galaxy [China]
Early Access Plus (US$10): +Love Is For Suckers
VIP (US$15): +Love In Contract
VVIP (US$20): +If You Wish Upon Me
Ultimate (US$25): +Love Between Fairy And Devil [China]
This Kdrama named after Louisa May Alcott’s book of the same name ‘Little Women’ is nothing like the book but rather dark and sinister.
This show gets an A from me. Despite its flaws, it is decadently, fiendishly entertaining and has blockbuster level production values! I also felt there was character consistency. In Joo’s trusting, clueless, loyal character meant she occasionally made foolish decisions but it also meant that she persisted out of love for Hwa Young and her sisters in uncovering more of the mystery. I would argue also that her flailing
The smartest cookies in the drama were Choi Do Il and Hwa Young who showed calm, meticulous forward planning. But they also had a healthy sense of self-preservation and weren’t intending on taking down Jeongran at first. It was In Joo and In Kyung, all heart and passion for different things – In Joo cared about personal relationships ie uncovering the truth about Hwa Young’s death and protecting In Hye, while In Kyung cared about justice in a bigger sense of getting restitution for the Bobae victims. Both these sisters didn’t have self-preservation instincts and that’s why when they worked together they dealt so much damage to Jeongran haha. In Joo being so lovable also inspired Do Il and Hwa Young to help her which is her superpower.
I came into this drama hoping for the same warm, family feels as the novel, which I read many times as a child. After the first episode I had to go back and look at the tags — oh, it’s a mystery thriller. I wish I would have added makjang to my lens, then it all would have gone down much easier. That said, I did enjoy this one. I love Kim Go Eun in anything she does (I also haven’t watched Cheese In the Trap). And thanks, Fangurl, for making me laugh out loud with your comparison of this Show to the amusement park ride Space Mountain!
I think KFG in your review you set out extremely well the show’s soul with finesse and precision. As such, show in a way reminds me of Steve Miller’s song: Take the Money and Run.
On MDL, I did comment as follows (and a big thank you to phl for her supportive comments):
All in all, Little Women is the best out of those dramas that have come before re a mythical tree and flower (yes, there have been others).
Overall, a very fine piece of entertainment that took on a makjang flavour, which I actually enjoyed. Everyone was bonkers. However, I found the final episode a bit of a let down – just one too many kidnappings and a rushed rationale about getting ahead in the orchid society.
There was some terrific performances in this – Uhm Ji Won as Song A was a real delight as the crazed daughter, wife and mother. I thought KGE used wonderful facial expressions to great effect.
The moral of the story – all good things come to those who wait?
Now to my other Little Women story 😊 I mentioned on MDL this morning re episode 8 of One Thousand Won Lawyer (which was both sad and beautiful at the same time), that this was the best episode of the year, surpassing even the best scenes in Love Like a Galaxy, Be My Princess, Reset, Rainless Love in a Godless Land and Attorney Woo.
I then got a response criticising me for clearly not seeing the best dramas of the year: Alchemy of Souls and Little Women.
It’s always interesting how we see things. I did enjoy Alchemy of Souls immensely and Little Women too – and there were some amazing moments in both these shows. However, I didn’t quite rate them as highly as the ones I mentioned, but they were very close.
Perhaps my favourite show this year is Glitch, although the Taiwanese drama Rainless Love for me in terms of how they used local mythology in a current setting, was superb.
Very complex and thoughtful review Fangurl. That was a wild and crazy ride. While I must confess to being quite disoriented with who was bad and who was good, I could not stop watching. I so enjoy Kim Go Eun and Wi Ha Joon gracing my screen.
I started into this with high hopes on the back of My Liberation Notes, but it just got too dark too quickly. I guess I was expecting something lighter.
Great write up and review! Thank you for the effort you put in to it.
Yeah, I really enjoyed this one, and looked forward to it every weekend. Very stylish, great cast, twisty and well-paced plotting that doesn’t bear close examination but is absurdly entertaining as long as you’re willing to just grab on and enjoy the roller-coaster.
I so enjoy watching Kim Go-eun do her thing, whatever it’s in. I have yet to see anything in which she features where she hasn’t been great. (This is one of the main reasons I have and will continue to avoid Cheese in the Trap, of course…). But the rest of the cast was great as well; yes, Wi Ha-joon is very handsome, very dashing (I personally am convinced that he fully intends to go back and see about starting something with In-joo after things have cooled down and she’s had a chance to get settled).
I was shocked when Elaine over on our mini Robot rewatch pointed out Um Ki-joon is playing the professor there (it’s that terrible haircut!); so different than the smoothly evil Park Jae-sang here. And yes, very twisty messed up relationship dynamic he and Sang-ah have. It’s a bit of a stretch for me personally that he would be so utterly unquestionably willing to just climb up all those stairs and walk right off the roof with no question or hesitation, but it’s makjang, Jake, what are you gonna do?
Anyway, I feel like this has definitely been one of the drama highlights in a year that has had some good ones, so yay!
I also started watching the show through the mystery/thriller lens, but had to readjust to Gothic novel/makjang around the halfway point. I admired the production design and direction very much. The topic of poverty and its crippling effect also resonated with me. The plotline of Hwa Young grooming a suicidal woman for her own revenge plan did not sit well with me, and neither did the fate of the 70B won slush fund. This was my first exposure to Wi Ha Joon, and I got motivated to finally watch Squid Game (which I found very thought-provoking and we’ll executed).
No way! You haven’t seen Romance Is A Bonus Book? Unless you despise romance stories, you simply must watch it, asap. Such a warm warming show. Wi Ha Joon plays the secondary ML.