THE SHORT VERDICT:
For a good portion of its run, I found Reborn Rich to be an utterly engaging, absorbing rollercoaster of a ride.
With fun twists and turns that I mostly didn’t expect, and some excellent performances by our cast (Lee Sung Min is STELLAR in this! 🤩🤩), I found myself lapping this up with relish, each and every week.
Your mileage may vary, but I personally didn’t enjoy the last 2 episodes as much as I did the first 14 that had gone before, even though I understood the narrative positives, for taking the direction that Show chooses.
Overall, I still found this to be a solid watch, and I’d say that Show is still a worthwhile spend of your drama hours.
THE LONG VERDICT:
It’s been about a day since I finished watching Reborn Rich, as I type this, and I realize that while this show captured my imagination in a big way, it never did quite capture my heart.
I’m thinking that that probably has something to do with how twisty and turny our narrative is; it feels like there’s a lot less time to build an emotional connection with our characters, when our attention is so focused on what’s going to come next, and how, and why.
That said, this could totally just be a “me” sort of thing, and other viewers might have a completely different experience than I did.
Let the record show, though, that despite my relative lack of emotional connection with this show, I did still enjoy it very well overall, and would recommend it.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album, in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
I would say that out of the various tracks, it’s Track 1, Gravity, that stands out to be me the most. There’s a rock-edged vibe about it that definitely helps to amp up my excitement, while watching the show.
Here’s Gravity on its own, in case you’d prefer to just listen to that 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 doesn’t appear to be too fussed about the construct of the fantasy
Some viewers found it hard to wrap their heads around the fact that Song Joong Ki plays both Hyun Woo and Do Jun, and that through a good portion of our story, Hyun Woo and Do Jun exist in the same world, and are played by the same actor, and nobody around them seems to notice.
If stuff like this bothers you a lot, then this show might not be for you, because Show never does seem fussed about it, and never actually attempts to explain it. It just is.
Knowing that this is Show’s stance on the matter, helps.
2. Show doesn’t invest a lot of time on the emotional side of things
This wasn’t one of my favorite things (more on that later), but I did find that adjusting my viewing lens, to a heightened melodramatic, almost makjang one, where emotions are typically painted in big, broad strokes, and nuances and realism are not important, helped.
3. It’s helpful to keep your logical lens at a rather blurry setting
..because Show can be a little loose with the way it handles its logic, and it’s just more fun to roll with it, than spend time nitpicking at it. 😁
STUFF I LIKED
I’m going to do a quick macro look at what I liked and liked less in this drama, before doing a selective dive into characters and relationships.
With a show as twisty as this one, it doesn’t actually make sense for me to share all my thoughts on those twists, during my watch.
If you’re curious about what I thought at each juncture of our story, you can check out my Patreon notes, for a blow-by-blow account. ❤️
Our story’s concept
When I’d first heard about this show, I wasn’t even that interested in the premise, but to my very pleasant surprise, upon checking out this show, I realized that I really loved the idea of it.
[MILD FOUNDATIONAL SPOILERS]
I do love how Hyun Woo finds his life restarting as Jin Do Jun, the youngest grandchild of the Soonyang family.
It’s a set-up that feels potentially juicy for development, with Hyun Woo now having his whole life ahead of him, as a young Jin Do Jun, but with all his experience, knowledge and memories intact.
Not only will he be at a huge advantage in setting Jin Do Jun up for success in life, he will also be well-positioned to investigate – and avenge – his own death.
That just sounded really, really promising to me. 🤩
Show’s presentation of a retro world
With a good chunk of our story taking place in the 1980s, and then the 1990s, I just wanted to give Show a shout-out, for recreating those periods of modern history, with such accuracy.
From hair, to makeup, to clothes and surroundings, everything really pops as one fantastically retro world. I like it. 🤩
Lots of familiar faces in our cast
Right away, from the beginning of my watch, I found myself feeling quite thrilled, to see so many familiar faces on my screen.
When Park Ji Hyun showed up on my screen, together with Kim Nam Hee, all I could think of was, (in Trent’s voice), “SAE-YI, THAT FOX!!,” and then (no longer in Trent’s voice), “Ahhh!! Swordsmannn!!” 😁😁
It was also kinda trippy to see Heo Jung Do, all aged up, when I’d seen him in Heard It Through The Grapevine just a few months ago, during our Group Watch.
All pretty fun, excellent stuff, I thought.
The way Show weaves actual events from modern history into its story
I can’t help but marvel at how writer-nim manages to take real events in Korean modern history, and weave it into our story in a manner that actually makes sense, AND is entertaining.
Major, major props.
There are so many in our story, really, but I thought I’d just shine the spotlight on one such instance, just to demonstrate how well writer-nim does this.
E9. I was really rather amused at how Show shines the spotlight on Y2K, and reminds us all, how worried and terrified we were, around the globe, at the time, and then how, in the end.. nothing actually happened. 😁
Hyung Joon (Kang Ki Doong) getting all worried and panicky, is basically so representative of the everyman, back when 2000 was around the corner.
And, trust Show to make that an integral little detail of our story, with Do Jun (Song Joong Ki) making a deal with Grandpa Jin (Lee Sung Min), using his foreknowledge that nothing would happen, to his advantage.
I mean, it really is quite brilliant. 🤩
Show’s cracky pace
Generally speaking, for Show’s first 14 episodes, I just feel so engaged and invested in the story that Show is telling, that I find myself quite glued to my screen, from the start of the episode to its finish.
There were many times when I couldn’t make sense of the various pieces of information that Show was using to set up its scenario, but I didn’t feel fussed about it.
Because, I mostly felt like I was in very good, very deft hands, and could just sit back and enjoy the ride, trusting that Show would eventually make everything make sense.
That’s very excellent indeed.
The way Show ties details together
Show has a way of managing its myriad of details in a way that demonstrates just how savvy writer-nim is, in keeping their fingers on all these fragments of information, so that they can tie together eventually, in a away that makes sense AND drives the story forward.
I was thoroughly impressed by this, and felt a legit thrill each time a fragment of information got called back into play. 🤩
E2. It’s pretty darn cool, that details from the past, that Show had told us about in episode 1, in the future timeline, actually unfold in real time, in this episode. That doubles the thrill for me as a viewer, because Show had thought to provide the context, in episode 1. Very nice. 🤩
Like how young Do Jun (Kim Kang Hoon) witnesses the breaking of the vase this episode, when he’d talked about it, as Hyun Woo, in episode 1.
It would have worked too, if we had only head Hyun Woo remember it in voiceover, while Do Jun witnesses it, but it works even better, because we’ve already heard Hyun Woo discuss it with Sung Joon (Kim Nam Hee), in episode 1.
That just goes to show how much thought and groundwork has gone into the plotting of our story, and that gives me a thrill, because I’m thinking that there’s more good stuff like this, in our future.
The other thing that comes to mind, from episode 1, is how Hae In, Do Jun’s mother (Jung Hye Young), talks about an accident involving her son.
We don’t know the details of this, but given that Hyun Woo has no information on Do Jun, my drama senses are pointing to the possibility that that accident had involved Do Jun, and had likely killed him, which is why Hae In talks about wanting her son back, in that scene in episode 1.
That definitely puts an extra layer of tension into the mix, because, even as I delight in watching Do Jun steadily show himself to be worthy of Grandpa Jin’s attention, I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen to him, and when, and whether he’ll be able to avoid it.
Also, it’s kind of mindbendy to think about the possibility that perhaps the “accident” had been engineered, because people were getting jealous of the favor that Do Jun’s getting from Grandpa Jin.
Isn’t that quite a loopy, intriguing sort of thought?
E10. This episode, I love how efficiently Show gives us the story of Dong Ki’s (Jo Han Chul) attempt to take over Miracle, which eventually evolves into Do Jun taking over Soonyang Investments.
I LOVE how the tables turned, in this!
I also really like how well everything weaves together, in order to create the situation at hand.
On that note, I have to give props to writer-nim, for being able to weave everything so well, around events that actually occurred in modern history.
From the IMF crisis to the 9-11 tragedy, it’s pretty great how writer-nim manages to integrate real events so well, into the story of our characters. Huge props, and wild applause. 🤩
In terms of weaving things together, I’m also talking about how this situation, that involves Dong Ki attempting to take over Miracle, and then Do Jun actually taking over Soonyang Investments, stems from Hyun Min now having it out for Do Jun, because he’d rejected her.
That makes it easy to believe that she would tap into Hyunsung Daily, to release the rumor about Do Jun dabbling in insider trading, which then results in Miracle being in a tight, albeit temporary spot.
Which then leads Dong Ki to smugly jump in, to offer to have Soonyang Investment buy over Miracle.
And then, with so many of Miracle’s investors clamoring take their money out of their investments, Miracle’s suddenly short on cash – which leads Do Jun to liquidate their overseas investments – which is how they end up getting out before the stock market crash triggered by 9-11.
BUT, Dong Ki gets sucked into mirroring their overseas investments, without knowing that they’ve gotten out, and that’s how he ends up in the red, and that’s how Do Jun comes in like a reverse knight in shining armor, twisting Dong Ki’s words and quoting him back to himself, by saying that it’s a nice picture of a nephew taking responsibility for his uncle’s wrongs.
That was just SO well woven together, and SO well done, in terms of how the tables were turned, so effectively. 🤩
E14. I’m very impressed that writer-nim had it all mapped out, that Do Jun’s inheritance from Grandpa Jin, would be the very document that had led to his demise, as Hyun Woo.
That just ties everything together in such a wholistic sort of manner. Very nice.
Show’s chicken-and-egg sort of storytelling
Show does this thing, from time to time, when it looks like the things that Do Jun knows from the future, could plausibly have been brought about by him, in his actions in the here and now.
I found this trippy chicken-and-egg sort of loopy logic that Show introduces, very fascinating and quite thrilling.
It really begs the question of which came first, doesn’t it?
Here’s an example.
E4. In our opening set of episodes, I couldn’t help wondering whether Do Jun’s actions now, are the reason why there had been an accident, and why Hyun Woo didn’t have any information about Do Jun.
And now, that idea of Do Jun affecting the future, is becoming stronger, with how he quotes from Grandpa Jin’s autobiography, and Grandpa Jin looks like this is the first time he’s ever thought of things that way.
Do Jun’s quote to him, about Soonyang Motors being the engine of Soonyang Group, seems to delight Grandpa Jin, and he even tells Do Jun, that he’s going to use that phrase in the future, whenever someone asks him about Soonyang Motors.
That’s pretty mindbendy, isn’t it? Because, if Hyun Woo had never read that in the autobiography, he wouldn’t have been able to quote that exact line to Grandpa Jin.
The way Show plays with our perception
There’s this thing that Show does, where it plays with our understanding of our characters’ contexts, and therefore, our perception of what is true and what is untrue.
I thought this was very effectively used to amp up the rollercoaster nature of our story.
Here’s an example.
E12. While everything else is going on, I was also quite fascinated by how Show plays with our understanding of the situation.
Up to this point, I’d assumed that it really had been Sung Joon who had instigated the staging of the accident, in order to harm Do Jun and Grandpa Jin, and so, when he tells Young Ki, Dong Ki and Hwa Young that Grandpa Jin had never been in a coma, and that he’d been suspicious of them staging the accident, it had felt very devious to my eyes.
BUT. Later, on hindsight, when we learn that it had never been Sung Joon after all, that changes my impression of the scene completely.
Suddenly, it doesn’t actually look like Sung Joon’s manipulating Young Ki, Dong Ki and Hwa Young so that they start becoming suspicious of one another. As it turns out, he was just being honest and telling them what he knew.
Funny how context changes everything, yes?
Speaking of which, I thought Show was very clever in the way it led us to think that Sung Joon had been behind the accident, with the way Hyun Min asks him about who he’d given the painting to.
With that assumption in place, I’d thought that everything that Hyun Min was saying to Min Young, was an effort to cover up for Sung Joon, and throw Min Young off the scent.
As it turns out, however, apparently, Hyun Min was telling the truth. The painting HAD been a copy, and where should the trail lead, but to Grandma Jin!
WOAH. I had NOT seen that coming! Mind. Blown.
Although, thinking about it, and after hearing her attempt to defend herself in front of Grandpa Jin, I don’t actually find it a stretch, after all.
It’s still a shocking revelation, yes, but in the context of Yoon Ki being born out of wedlock, and Do Jun therefore not of her bloodline, I can see how Grandma Jin might become so desperate to give her children what she feels they deserve in terms of their inheritance, that she would go to drastic, and even murderous, lengths, to do so.
Very smartly played, Show. 👏🏻
STUFF THAT WAS OK
Show’s way of aging up our characters
In episode 1, a good number of our actors are playing a lot older than their actual age, and I found the entire effort around that a little less than effective, to be honest.
It was really quite weird seeing almost all our characters being aged up by the use of hair and makeup, and all of them speaking and walking slower, in order to bring across this idea that they’re all old.
I’ve definitely seen better efforts at aging up characters. This entire display didn’t ring true or believable to me in any way; it just looked like people role-playing what it might be like to be old, just for the experience. 😅
I rationalize that Show is wise not to blow a lot of budget on advanced aging prosthetics, since there are so many characters to age up, and since it looks like they will play closer to their actual ages for much of the show.
Much wiser to save that money, and spend it elsewhere, it’s true. It’s just.. almost funny to me, how fake all the aging up works out. 😁😅
Stuff that doesn’t seem to add up
There are things in our story that niggle at me because they don’t quite add up, but because of where our story ends up, it eventually makes sense, why this might be the case.
[MAJOR SPOILER, HIGHLIGHT TO READ] Hyun Woo’s entire time as Do Jun is explained as something of a long coma dream [END MAJOR SPOILER]
..so most of the stuff that doesn’t quite add up, can be explained away. Which is why this is in the “OK” section of my review.
This really doesn’t add up to me, though, and that is, in episode 1, Hyun Woo appears to pocket the 600 million dollars for himself, but in our finale episodes, he insists that he was not trying to embezzle the money. I don’t really understand how that works, to be honest. 😅
Other than that, one of the things that niggled at me in our earlier stretch, is Do Jun’s casual way of talking about the future, and the way people just seem to accept it. I found it quite weird.
Like the way Do Jun tells Min Young, so specifically, exactly when and how Seo Taiji will make a comeback, after the announcement of his band’s retirement, and she just.. accepts it as fact, assuming that he has the intel because of Soonyang.
I felt that it didn’t really make a lot of sense, and Do Jun does have a habit of dropping these nuggets of information every once in a while, which I found to be a decidedly odd narrative decision – until I realized on hindsight, why writer-nim didn’t need to care about being careful on this front.
STUFF I LIKED LESS
Show’s oddly light hand, when it comes to emotional stuff
I’ve alluded to this, earlier in this review, but I did feel that Show was a bit lacking, on the emotional front.
Not that Show doesn’t do a good job of it, when it wants to; it just feels like with so much twisty-turny stuff packed into our story, writer-nim decided to cut some corners on the emotional front.
This might not bother everyone, as a viewer, but it did bother me, because I found it oddly unsettling, and I also found myself less emotionally invested, even though I was fully on board with Hyun Woo’s journey as Do Jun.
Here’s one key example of Show’s oddly light touch in terms of the emotional stuff, and then I share a couple of examples where Show demonstrates that it can offer emotional heft, when it wants to.
E5. It looks like Do Jun hadn’t had many opportunities to see Mom (Seo Jung Yeon), in the years that she’d been alive, in this timeline.
After all, as Do Jun, he’s had to be so careful of his movements, and in his last visit to the restaurant before Mom’s death, he’d had to get Driver Ha off his back.
This indicates to me that Do Jun’s only seen Mom a handful of times at best, since that first day he’d rushed over to the restaurant as a kid, and that’s just a really sad thought. 😭
E6. I find it quite odd, that Show kind of doesn’t have Do Jun grieve his mother’s death more?
I mean, he’s dedicated his new life to saving her, and has been working towards it for more than 10 years, at this point, only for her to die anyway.
Yes, we do get some very emotional scenes in the beginning of the episode, like when Do Jun finds the old sweatshirt that Mom had used to wear, and breaks down in huge, heaving sobs.
That was important, and I’m glad that Show includes this immediate grief and brokennness.
At the same time, I’m just a bit unsettled, by how quickly Do Jun seems able to put that grief away, to function pretty much as normal.
Sure, I get that he’s channeling his energy towards Soonyang, because Mom had invested in Soonyang Life Science, and had lost hope when Soonyang had liquidated the company, causing her to lose everything.
It’s just.. surely there would be more rage in Do Jun, over this?
He’s just so.. controlled and measured, and.. well, kinda normal, really, generally speaking, that while watching, I even kind of forgot that he’d just lost his mother. 😅
That’s.. not quite what I’d expected, from Show, to be honest.
I’d thought that perhaps Show would give us more insight into Do Jun’s emotional landscape in a later episode, to explain this better, but it doesn’t.
When Show does well with the emotional impact
E6. Show does do very well with the emotional impact, when it wants to.
For example, in that flashback where we see Hyun Woo talk about going to college and then earning lots of money, the way Mom holds back her tears, and averts his gaze, as she tells him to yes, go earn lots of money, so that he won’t have to feel sorry to his children, hits a very poignant note.
E14. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the poignance of the conversation between Grandma Jin and Yoon Ki, as he’s escorting her to the airport.
Honestly, at first, when Yoon Ki starts the conversation with Grandma Jin, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It almost felt like things could get quite antagonistic, with the way he tells her about how he’d seen the condescension in her eyes, and lived his life rebelling against her.
What an unexpected turn of conversation, I thought, when Yoon Ki starts telling her that, as it turns out, he’s just like her, because he finds himself willing to do anything, if it’s for his children.
His compassion and empathy, as he articulates how much he respects her, for how much she’s endured over the years, seems to cut through Grandma Jin’s defenses, to hit her at her core, and the tears that spring forth from her, feel like they’re of catharsis, from finally being understood.
How ironic, that the only person who seems to understand her, and respect her for her actions, is the very person whom she’s guarded against, in the family, all these years.
Which, to my eyes, makes the scene all the more touching.
CHARACTERS & RELATIONSHIPS
We’ve got a sprawling cast of characters, so I will only be touching on a selective handful of them, for this review.
If you’re curious about what I thought about each character at each juncture of our story, you can check out my Patreon notes, for a blow-by-blow account. ❤️
Song Joong Ki as Hyun Woo / Do Jun
I’ve had a good deal of fondness for Song Joong Ki (Pure Pretty post here!), and I’d say that overall, I enjoyed his outing as Hyun Woo / Do Jun.
Do I think that it’s his best drama outing ever? Well, no. But I do think that he did a solid job of the role, and I have no complaints.
I know that a section of viewers found his delivery of Do Jun in his younger years rather try-hard, but for some reason, his interpretation didn’t bother me.
Maybe I was too busy marveling that he even looked vaguely like he could pass for someone almost 20 years younger than his real age, even with the help of filters. 😁
I concede that Show’s characterization of Hyun Woo / Do Jun leans a tiny bit flat to me, since he is basically mostly really smart and shrewd, and good at reading people.
Again, I think that this was something that Show chose to gloss over, in the interest of bringing the twisty nature of our story to the fore.
Here are some of my thoughts about Hyun Woo / Do Jun as a character, over the course of my watch.
E1. Hyun Woo ticks all the boxes for the hardworking underdog who deserves so much more than he gets, in terms of respect, regard, and opportunity.
Based on what we see this episode, it becomes clear that he works relentlessly at his job, not because he loves it, but because it’s the only path that he sees as being available to him.
We learn that he’s a high school graduate who had lucked out in getting picked for this job of serving the prestigious and powerful Soonyang family.
Where others had dropped out and quit within 3 years, Hyun Woo has stuck it out, by keeping his head down, and his nose to the grind, regardless of what he’s asked to do.
And, a big part of the reason for that, is because he sees himself as the main breadwinner for his family. He sees it as his responsibility to provide for his father and younger brother (Lee Gyu Hoe and Baro), and this is the only way that he sees that he can do that effectively.
Because, as a high school graduate, it would be near impossible for him to find another job that pays as well.
Aside from that, I’m quite sure that there’s also a natural desire in him, to do excellent work, based on what we see.
He applies himself even when no one is watching, and he’s set rules for himself, as guidelines to success. And there’s also what he tells Prosecutor Seo, that he recognizes that she’s just trying to do a good job – because that’s what he’s trying to do too.
Putting all of that together, I just can’t help but root for him to succeed, particularly since the folks from Soonyang Group whom he works for, all seem to be horrible, cruel &/or messed up.
E4. What I do find interesting, is the way Do Jun reacts and responds to his environment.
He’s advantaged by his knowledge of the future, yes, but there’s also a lot of savvy and discernment that’s at play, like the way he instinctively knows that bringing in that donut franchise would be a greater gift to Oh Se Hyun, than any kind of cash gift.
E4. I also love how Do Jun is so shrewd about reading people and situations, and then responding accordingly, in order to get the result that works best for him.
Like the way he basically prods Dong Ki into joining hands with Daeyoung, by casually remarking that Soonyang losing Hando Steel to Power Shares, is better than Soonyang losing it to Daeyoung.
In that sense, it’s Dong Ki who digs his own grave, really, because no one twisted his arm when it came to joining hands with Daeyoung. He did that on his own, and all Do Jun had to do, was introduce the shadow of the idea, to him.
Which, really, is why I find Do Jun so fascinating. He’s so shrewd, in reading Dong Ki, and also, in knowing just how much to nudge, in order to get Dong Ki to take the action that he has in mind. I find it quite brilliant.
Maybe that’s also part of the reason why I get such a thrill when I see Do Jun succeed at outwitting the people who are trying to come against him.
E11. I love how Do Jun’s compassion and his decision to give Driver Ha (Park Ji Hoon) a second chance, has resulted in this my-life-for-yours type of loyalty.
And, from the way Do Jun is so genuinely concerned for Driver Ha’s safety and prognosis, I get the feeling that the loyalty flows both ways. Or at least, that’s what I’d like to think.
E12. With Grandpa Jin’s condition making it so risky for him to appear at the board meeting, I found it fascinating to witness the various tactics that our characters employ, in their efforts to gain the upper hand.
First, I thought that it was clever of Do Jun to approach Sung Joon and tell him that Grandpa Jin is watching to see how his children and grandchildren act in his absence, believing that the person who had staged the accident, is someone who would be against the formation of the financial holding company.
When Sung Joon actually votes in favor of the formation of the financial holding company, I was pretty stoked, like, YESS, Do Jun managed to cross this hurdle, despite Grandpa Jin not being present!
But then, when Sung Joon counter proposes Young Ki as a CEO candidate, while strongly hinting to the board members, that a young Soonyang with Do Jun at the helm, wouldn’t have room for old fogies like them. Ooh, that was a low blow, but very clever too, I thought.
E14. Given the situation, I can buy the idea that Dong Ki doesn’t feel secure sharing his stake in the holding company with Young Ki (Yoon Je Moon), and want to break way and form an independent financial group instead.
And it therefore makes sense that he would then want to buy Soonyang Card from Do Jun – who, as we know, is actually keen to sell it, because he knows that there is an impending credit crisis on the horizon.
Not only does Do Jun sell Soonyang Card to Dong Ki, he even manages to make it a very effective bargaining chip, such that Dong Ki agrees to put down his 2% of shares in Soonyang Corporation as collateral.
So sneakily brilliant, honestly! 😁🤩
AND THENNN. When Young Ki offers to buy that bond from Do Jun, Do Jun doubles the price to 1.6 trillion won, and Young Ki actually agrees, because Do Jun positions it as the price of the Chairmanship of Soonyang – something which you can’t put a price tag on.
That’s even more sneakily brilliant than I’d originally thought!
Lee Sung Min as Grandpa Jin
Lee Sung Min is, in a word – brilliant – as Grandpa Jin. 🤩
To my eyes, he stole practically every scene he was in, so much so that I could plausibly say that he stole the entire show.
I can honestly say that Lee Sung Min playing Grandpa Jin was THE highlight of my watch of this show.
He just delivers Grandpa Jin with such a natural kind of ease, that I easily believe that Grandpa Jin’s a real person, and not Lee Sung Min dressed up to look older than his actual age, despite the larger-than-life persona with which he infuses Grandpa Jin.
I think it was phl1rxd who first said this over on Patreon, during our discussions of this show, but Lee Sung Min is very likely going to be winning awards, for this fantastic performance. 🤩
E2. Grandpa Jin is a tough nut to crack, and while that took a tiny bit of getting used to (for some reason, I’d thought that he would have a softer spot for his grandchildren; I was wrong), it makes sense for his character.
He’s built his empire from scratch, and in order to succeed, he’s had to be brutally calculative. It makes sense that this quality would have become ingrained in him, such that it extends to his family members.
And, it makes sense that he would be constantly thinking of the future of his empire, and the kind of hands that would eventually inherit it.
He’s worked so hard to make it what it is today; he can’t afford to pass it into the hands of someone who’s less than capable, after all.
E7. As we close out the episode, I’m kind of bummed actually, to find out that Grandpa Jin’s got a brain tumor, and that he might not have long to live, because it’s located in a region that makes surgery very risky.
Dang. I know that Grandpa Jin is Do Jun’s adversary of sorts, but I rather like him, and would hate for him to die early, because of a brain tumor. I’d rather have him stay strong and healthy, so that he’s able to fight Do Jun properly.
E12. Lee Sung Min stole this entire episode, for me. I might even go so far as to say that he’s stealing this whole show, really.
This episode, Grandpa Jin shows such a huge range of emotion, and Lee Sung Min delivers all of it with effortless grace and nuance, making it all seem like natural, organic reactions coming from the genuine reactions of Grandpa Jin, in the moment.
Absolutely masterful. 🤩
Most notably, the moments when Grandpa Jin goes from irascible, impatient scowl, to a combination of shock, fear and childlike timidity, in the blink of an eye, as he becomes cognizant of his frailty and delirium, are just SO well done.
Watching him, I find myself wiping my jaw off the floor, in awe. Such skill and talent, truly! 🤩
I actually feel sad to think that we are likely to lose Grandpa Jin before very long, in our story. I do wonder how Show will keep its intensity then, because Grandpa Jin’s contributed so much, to the intensity and tension in our story, almost on the sole power of his onscreen charisma.
I found it bittersweet to watch the exploration of Grandpa Jin’s delirium, this episode, because on the upside, WOW, look at Lee Sung Min’s brilliance! But on the downside, we’re gonna lose Grandpa Jin, aren’t we? Bawl. 😫
E12. Grandpa Jin makes that big grand entrance into the board meeting, looking hale and hearty.
Gah. I found that bittersweet, because, as great as it is to see him feeling properly in his own skin again, by this point, we know enough to guess without being told, that he must have taken that stimulant medication that Director Jung had spoken about – which is more than likely to put a strain on his body, and thus shorten his life.
Ack. Talk about a double-edged sword. 😭
And yet, his joy and pleasure, at feeling himself again, even if it’s for a little while, is so evident, that I almost can’t begrudge it of him.
But also, this clearly demonstrates just how important Soonyang’s succession is to Grandpa Jin, that he would literally risk his life, in order to ensure that the right person is appointed CEO of the financial holding company.
Do Jun and Grandpa Jin
Not gonna lie; this relationship was THE most interesting and engaging to me, while I was watching this show. More so than the loveline that Show gives Do Jun and Min Young (Shin Hyun Bin), and by quite a lot, at that.
More on that in a bit.
I found myself really drawn to this relationship, and loved seeing all the glimpses of mutual care and respect between Grandpa Jin and Do Jun, despite their sometimes complicated dynamic, due to their complicated circumstances.
E2. It’s so great to see how Do Jun manages to win Grandpa Jin’s trust and favor, one step at a time.
In particular, I love how he uses his knowledge of the future, but then blends it with logic that meshes with the present, in order to explain his thoughts.
Like how he advises Grandpa Jin to back the 3rd runner in the elections, instead of the front- and second-runner, because he knows who the eventual winner will be, and then uses an explanation from the selection of class president, to back his thoughts.
It’s really quite brilliant, and it shows how smart Do Jun / Hyun Woo is, to be able to blend the two in such a seamlessly believable fashion.
And then, later, I love how Do Jun manages to save Grandpa Jin’s life, by using something that he knows will galvanize Grandpa Jin into changing his flight.
That’s brilliant, because, as we see, no one would believe him anyway, if he tries to go with the real reason he’s trying to get Grandpa Jin off that plane, which is a bomb on board the original flight.
I also love how bold Do Jun is, in negotiating with Grandpa Jin, even though Grandpa Jin has shown himself to be a very stern, demanding sort of personality.
Not only does he decline the cash that Grandpa Jin offers in exchange for his help, he asks for land, which he knows will increase in value over time.
And then, he further negotiates for his family to be welcome on the weekends, along with everyone else, in exchange for an acceptance letter to the prestigious Seoul National University’s School of Law.
Such a small little cool badass, hee. 🤩
E3. I have to confess that with Do Jun doing such a fantastic job of winning over Grandpa Jin, I’d kind of forgotten that he might have other, darker, plans than what we see.
I mean, he’s so very convincing at being Grandpa Jin’s Sunshine Boy, that I had it in my head, that his plan was to outshine everyone else, and become the heir to Soonyang, thereby “stealing” Soonyang as revenge.
But, as we see from the way he “steals” Hando Steel from Soonyang via Power Shares, clearly, he has a rather different plan in mind.
While it’s true that Do Jun is hamming it up as Grandpa’s Sunshine Boy, we do get a glimpse of his true heart, when we see him watching over his real mom from afar, at the tail end of this episode.
We see that, at this time, her health is starting to falter, and Do Jun, watching her, is in a great deal of emotional pain, because of it.
He wants to go to her, but can’t, and him knowing that she has limited time left, has got to be the worst combination of things possible. 😭
This is a quick but stark reminder that he’s really Hyun Woo, on the inside, and has a whole other life, filled with people whom he cares about, that he will likely want to avenge – because it was Soonyang that took that away from him.
That’s a very efficient way of pulling us back to Do Jun’s reality, I must say.
E6. Even though Soonyang gets Miracle investigated by the prosecution, and therefore it feels like Miracle might be at some kind of disadvantage, I’m actually still somewhat surprised that Do Jun meets Grandpa Jin head-on, as Miracle’s majority shareholder.
Somehow, I’d thought that Do Jun would have had some other plan in place, with perhaps a stand-in prepared, for a situation like this.
But no, Do Jun’s appearing in front of Grandpa Jin, personally, and admitting to being the one who owns the chessboard, as Grandpa Jin likes to say.
E7. The explosion that follows Do Jun’s reveal, is as intense and as fiery as I’d imagined.
I actually really appreciate the way Lee Sung Min interprets Grandpa Jin’s reaction, in the moment.
He doesn’t jump straight to screaming, shouting and gnashing of teeth. Instead, the whole thing, for Grandpa Jin, begins with surprise, shock and disbelief, and then, a period of calm before the storm, as Grandpa Jin processes exactly what Do Jun’s done, and then, finally, we get to the screaming, shouting and gnashing of teeth.
It lands as a more thoughtful, nuanced reflection of what Grandpa Jin must be feeling, in the face of such a shocking revelation, that his young grandson, whom he’s rather fond of, for his smarts, is actually the giant in the shadows, who’s been systematically getting in Soonyang’s way – and now, Grandpa Jin even learns that said grandson’s aim, is to eventually buy Soonyang.
Gosh. I’d have been afraid that Grandpa Jin would have had a heart attack, in the fact of this reveal, honestly.
It’s quite remarkable that Do Jun’s able to remain so calm, in the face of Grandpa Jin’s fury. I mean, it’s true that he’s probably prepared for this moment, but really, with such intense rage in the room, isn’t it quite hard to not be affected, viscerally speaking?
I know that my pulse has raced in the presence of rage, even though my mind, at the time, was calm and in control.
That kind of experience is the thing that makes me wonder at what Do Jun’s feeling, physiologically, in the moment, even though he appears so unflappably serene and calm, in response to Grandpa Jin’s anger.
On another note, I have to say that Do Jun really is very shrewd; more shrewd, perhaps, than even Grandpa Jin.
I mean, Grandpa Jin, for all his experience, doesn’t even see the full picture of what his position is, in relation to Do Jun, in this situation, until Do Jun lays it out for him: that it would look like Grandpa Jin’s the mastermind, if it were to come out that Do Jun’s behind the bribing of the new mayor of Seoul, which is the reason Grandpa Jin’s got Oh Se Hyun in jail.
Wow. That’s a very, very shrewd approach from Do Jun, I must say, and really, with the cards laid out like that, there’s really nothing else that Grandpa Jin can do, but let Oh Se Hyun go, in order to protect himself.
I also find it very shrewd of Do Jun, to distract Chang Je with thoughts of a possible presidency in his future, so that he wouldn’t have the brain space to fret over standing up against those whom he’s feared for so long – so that Chang Je will remain useful to Do Jun, at least until the completion of the DMC.
I find that very impressive, honestly. He really does seem to think of everything.
At the point where Oh Se Hyun teases Do Jun about not really being 22, it occurred to me that since Hyun Woo had been about 40-ish when he’d died, and had then arrived in Do Jun’s approximately 8-year-old body, Do Jun’s technically lived about 54 years by this point.
Ooh. Put that way, he’s not that much younger than Grandpa Jin, in that sense? 😱🤯
And, this episode, we finally get a formal acknowledgement from Do Jun, in terms of why he’s set out to acquire Soonyang: it’s to prevent Grandpa Jin’s children from happily inheriting Soonyang, as payback for how they, as a whole, have prevented him from returning to his family.
Well, ok. When he puts it that way, I guess it does make more sense than simply making Grandpa Jin his target of revenge. 😅
Grandpa Jin’s not going down without a fight, of course, and him getting Soonyang to put pressure on all the media companies that had been ready to move into the DMC, is the first time that I feel like Do Jun’s plans might actually fail.
E10. It does seem like Grandpa Jin is kinda-sorta opening his heart to Do Jun, in a way.
I mean, he doesn’t take Do Jun into actual confidence over his health situation, for example, but he does actually tell Do Jun what he feels are the three qualities and values that have made him successful (greed, trust, and the ability to betray), and tells Do Jun not to trust anyone either.
That feels like a twisted kind of example of passing on generational secrets?
E11. I really liked that moment when Grandpa Jin gets all happy and pleased, that the cars by Soonyang Motors prove to be so protective and safe, that his face basically glows.
That glimpse of genuine joy and satisfaction in his face, is just priceless.
In all of the time that we’ve spent with him, I feel like this is arguably my favorite moment with him, where his crusty Chairman persona is completely shed for a while, and we get to see a flash of the little boy within. 🤩
Love that. 🥰
And, it’s great to see that Do Jun is able to appreciate how special and meaningful this is, to Grandpa Jin, and express it, in the way he agrees to call the PR Department the next day, and describes how Grandpa Jin’s passion had always been behind Soonyang Motor’s emphasis on safety.
Another moment that feels so true and vulnerable, is when Grandpa Jin looks at Do Jun, and tells him to be careful and not trust anyone.
It’s so clear that this is coming from a place of genuine worry and concern for Do Jun’s safety, and I found that very precious and raw, particularly in this story world where family members judge and sabotage one another on the regular, and think it’s normal to do so.
I actually find these interactions between Grandpa Jin and Do Jun so much more precious, and charged with so much more real emotion, than what I’m able to detect between Do Jun and Min Young. 😅
E12. It’s really poignant to see Do Jun work so hard to help and support Grandpa Jin, through it all.
Their relationship has been such a mishmash of mixed emotions and intentions.
A lot of the time, Do Jun seems like he’s Grandpa Jin’s opponent, with his determination to buy Soonyang on his own, rather than work to inherit it.
At those times, both Do Jun and Grandpa Jin look like they could do a lot to hurt the other person, without actually feeling bad about it.
But then, more and more, we also see a genuine demonstration of care and compassion, between them.
It reminds me of the kind of dynamic between long-time rivals who are both at the top of their game, and gain pleasure from sparring with each other.
That mutual respect that is part of their rivalry, grows into legit care and compassion, such that one wouldn’t take advantage of the other, if the other were injured or otherwise incapacitated.
The relationship between Sky Lord and Sword Saint, in Warrior Baek Dong Soo comes to mind, and the relationship between Do Jun and Grandpa Jin seems to fit, as well.
At least, that’s partly how I feel about Do Jun taking care of Grandpa Jin, and protecting him, this episode. The other part of it, of course, is that Do Jun does see and care for Grandpa Jin as his grandfather.
E12. Later, as the effects of the medication begin to wear off, I found myself with my heart in my throat, hoping against hope that Grandpa Jin’s efforts wouldn’t be wasted, and that his delirium wouldn’t become apparent to all the board members.
Trust Sung Joon to try to actually make that happen, though, by attempting to test Grandpa Jin on the oil crisis dates, in front of everyone.
Thank goodness for Do Jun, who not only covers for Grandpa Jin by answering for him, but escorts him out of everyone’s sight quick enough, so that no one actually catches on.
That scene in the elevator, though, is just so affecting.
When Grandpa Jin wets his pants and becomes aware of it, that look of.. shame, is so evident.
The way Do Jun kicks over that bucket of water, in a big show of being angry with Grandpa Jin, in order to cover for him, all while giving Grandpa Jin that reassuring look that says, “It’s okay, I’ve got you,” is poignant enough of its own.
But then, the way Do Jun gets on his hands and knees, and personally wipes it all up, just amplifies it by a hundred, I feel like. 😭
E13. I’m gutted that we lose Grandpa Jin, but it feels fitting, that he would have held on, until Do Jun visited, with the news that he’d won the wager, because Korea had advanced to the semifinals.
It feels like that knowledge, that he wouldn’t have to sell Soonyang Motors; that Soonyang Motors’ name is now newly glorious, thanks to Do Jun’s strategy, is what he needed to hear, in order to go in peace. 😭
E14. It felt really quite precious, to be able to see Grandpa Jin again, via the video message.
Which, I’m sure very much mirrors how precious it must feel to Do Jun, to receive a fresh glimpse of Grandpa Jin, and hear Grandpa Jin say, with such palpable joy and tearful pride, that Do Jun is his grandson; the one who takes after him most. Aw.
It’s so bittersweet, to see Do Jun weep in response to hearing this from Grandpa Jin.
Guh. This makes me wish all over again, that we – and Do Jun! – didn’t have to lose Grandpa Jin. 😭❤️
Shin Hyun Bin as Min Young
I believe Shin Hyun Bin got a lot of flak for her role as Min Young, and I feel that it’s mostly that the writing doesn’t serve her.
I feel that she did well in the present day timeline, as a jaded prosecutor, but the scenes where she played younger Min Young who’s still in college, were much less convincing.
Added to that was the unfortunate fact that many viewers, like me, did not take to the loveline that Show gives Min Young and Do Jun (more on that in a bit), which didn’t help matters.
I don’t think this role served her well, essentially.
Do Jun and Min Young
Even though Show tries to convince me that there’s this big, deep love between Do Jun and Min young, I feel like Show’s treatment of Do Jun’s connection with Min Young feels like an afterthought at best, to be brutally honest.
I’m not even sure what Show wants me to feel, about Do Jun’s feelings for Min Young.
Through most of our story, there’ve been glimmers of interest, but nothing that would suggest Fated Love to me, certainly.
I feel like writer-nim wanted to do more with this connection, but was too busy fleshing out the revenge part of our story, to really dedicate much brain space to develop this loveline.
As a result, I never bought into it, and didn’t even care, when they argued or broke up.
Just for kicks and giggles, here’s a look at my reactions to this loveline, at various points during my watch.
E3. The way Show is playing it, it seem like Hyun Woo had had a liking for Min Young, but we aren’t given any information or.. anything, really, on that. We don’t even have Hyun Woo telling us anything about it, in voiceover.
All we see, is that Do Jun is quite thrilled to see Min Young, in this new life of his, and then takes every opportunity to make a connection with her.
This feels rather unnatural to my eyes, honestly, and I wish Show would give us more context on that, rather than just have us go by the happy look on Do Jun’s face, every time he catches a glimpse of her in his orbit.
So far, this connection between Do Jun and Min Young perplexes and confuses me more than anything else.
And while my wish is that Show not create a loveline where it honestly doesn’t feel needed (well, at the moment, anyway?), the feeling I get, is that Show is going to make this loveline happen, and is quite determined about it, too.
Ah well. Maybe there’s a reason Show needs this loveline to happen, and the reason will become clear later on.
I just.. wish that we had more context, for Do Jun feeling so thrilled to see Min Young.
E6. I’m actually curious to know what Do Jun’s thoughts are, towards Min Young, because it feels like his attitude towards goes through a noticeable change, after Mom’s death.
Before that, he was still going to the cafe where she works, and agreeing to meet her at the library, after she blurts out how much she’s been noticing him.
But, after Mom’s death, when she does confront him in the library, he goes after her, not just to give her that umbrella, but also, to tell her that he doesn’t deserve her.
I don’t quite understand where that’s coming from.
Why would Do Jun think that he doesn’t deserve her? Show never quite gives us an answer.
E7. For a fair while now, Min Young’s faded into the background, and we haven’t seen much of her at all.
But now, suddenly, after Do Jun gets propositioned by Hyun Min, he goes to seek her out at the cafe, where he finds out that she’s no longer working there, and then, we get that classic just-missed, almost-meet, that’s such a hallmark of Fated Love in kdramas.
It’s weird and jerky.
E10. I have to admit that I am really not feeling the romance that Show is serving up, between Do Jun and Min Young.
As before, I feel like the romance is tacked on like it’s an afterthought, after writer-nim suddenly remembers that they’d decided they needed a romance between these two characters. 😅
At least, that’s how I feel, when Show revs up the romance all of a sudden, this episode, with Min Young feeling so overwhelmed at Seo Taiji’s comeback, that she kisses Do Jun – and then he kisses her back.
Don’t get me wrong; I do think that Song Joong Ki, at least, delivers the kiss with feeling.
It’s just that without a convincing narrative context to support it, I’m just not feeling it much – or at all. 😅
Because I’m not feeling the loveline, every time Do Jun does something to indicate their couplehood, this episode, like hold Min Young’s hand, for example, I feel myself vaguely wince, in response. 😅
I’m.. pretty sure that’s not what writer-nim had in mind, in terms of audience reaction. But then again, maybe other people don’t have a similar reaction, when OTP-type things happen on their screens in this show.
E12. Do Jun’s decision to protect Grandma Jin ends up putting strain on Do Jun’s relationship with Min Young, because he’s asking her to stop investigating, while she believes that the right thing to do, is to continue investigating, especially since she appears to have found a key lead.
But, because I’ve never really cared about this loveline in the first place, I have to confess that I’m not actually fussed about the state of Do Jun’s relationship with Min Young.
It’s not clear whether they’re breaking up over this, and y’know what, I don’t even really care. Oops. 😅
Kim Nam Hee as Sung Joon
I like Kim Nam Hee as an actor, and I feel that this is arguably one of his meatiest roles to date.
That said, while I felt that Sung Joon as a character makes quite a splash in episode 1, I did also feel that I found him less and less interesting, as I got deeper into our story.
However, that’s probably more by design than anything else, because in our story, Do Jun’s the one who tends to shine, and his adversaries are no match for him, more often than not.
In that sense, I felt that Kim Nam Hee portrayed Sung Joon’s frustration very well.
E1. It’s Kim Nam Hee’s turn as Jin Sung Joon, that arguably leaves the biggest impression on me, this episode.
He makes Jin Sung Joon so believably unstable, where his crazy emotional outbursts, verging on the edge of crazy, with the violence to go with, feel as real as his quieter, more stable, earnest moments.
I’ve seen Kim Nam Hee play at both ends of the spectrum, first in Sweet Home (Swordsmannn!!) and then in Mad For Each Other, so I do feel like he’s perfectly cast for the role.
E1. I find Jin Sung Joon a fascinating character.
He’s clearly been under a great deal of pressure, which I’m sure has contributed to his mental instability.
It seems that years of having his self-esteem crushed for not being good enough, have turned him into this person who swings wildly between being borderline psychotic, and being hungry for control.
At least, that’s my guess, from what I’ve seen of him so far.
In the beginning of the episode, he tries to denounce his inheritance, not because he hates money, or despises the Soonyang Group.
It seems to me that that’s his way of breaking free from his father’s expectations of him, which he feels he will never be able to fulfill.
Later in the episode, when Dad’s in a coma, Sung Joon decides that he wants to take Soonyang Group in a new direction, one that is wholly different from what it had been before.
That lines up with my theory, that what he craves, is control, most likely because he’s never felt like he’s been in control, over his life.
As for morals, he seems as gray as they come, since he does take up Hyun Woo’s suggestion to retrieve the missing slush funds, not to make things right, but to prevent the funds from being seized by authorities.
E5. Wildcard Sung Joon re-enters the picture, and brings with him a sense of fascinating instability, to our drama world.
It’s probably because I’ve already seen him acting all crazy; just him returning to Korea and being around in our story world, is enough to make me feel that touch of tension, like he could be a big source of trouble, at any time. 😅
E6. While adult Sung Joon at the beginning of our story had struck me more as a tortured, unstable soul, younger Sung Joon, in our current timeline, is turning out to be more distinctly entitled and unlikable and, well, kinda sleazy, if I’m being honest.
He tries to put on a pleasant front, but it doesn’t look natural on him (props to Kim Nam Hee for bringing that across so well), and it feels like his true nature is always very close to being exposed, because he’s so inept at hiding it.
It’s becoming clear, slowly but surely, that Sung Joon’s becoming more acutely aware of Do Jun and his smarts, and is feeling vaguely threatened.
For now, he’s consoling himself that Do Jun isn’t interested in taking over Soonyang, and is therefore not a real threat, but that’s all going to change at some point, I’m sure, particularly given where we end the episode.
Park Ji Hyun as Hyun Min
Like many other viewers, I actually found Park Ji Hyun very solid as Hyun Min.
Even though Hyun Min’s a secondary sort of character, I felt that Park Ji Hyun made her feel interesting and layered.
I realize that I didn’t even hate her, when Hyun Min was behaving badly. This, when Park Ji Hyun gives Hyun Min really excellent tamped down smirks, too.
Nicely done, I thought.
Sung Joon and Hyun Min
I’m not even sure whether to call this a loveline, since it’s not a romantic coming together of two people. It’s really more of a business arrangement than anything else – and yet, I found this more interesting than the loveline that Show gives Do Jun and Min Young.
Heh. Do we see a pattern here? 😅
Unlike my full support of the relationship between Do Jun and Grandpa Jin, however, my interest in the connection between Sung Joon and Hyun Min, is more akin to how you find yourself unable to look away from an impending trainwreck. 😅
Here’s a glimpse at my thoughts about this couple, at various junctures of their relationship.
E6. The thing that bemuses me the most, is how Sung Joon seems to have a personal interest in Hyun Min, but, in working to impress her (I think? I can’t think of what else he’s trying to do), he tries to show off just how many famous women he’s had on his yacht, which seems like THE most counter-productive thing one could do, when trying to impress a lady?
It’s so bizarre to me, that he seems to legitimately think that this will get Hyun Min to like him.
And so, I’m glad that she flatly turns him down, and points out that his so-called big sacrifice, of giving up his playground for her, is not a sacrifice at all.
E8. One of the big highlights of this episode, for me, was watching the events around the wedding of Sung Joon and Hyun Min.
I mean, that scene where Sung Joon gets everyone else to leave, so that he can apparently have some lovey-dovey alone time with his beautiful bride, turns into quite the opposite.
I’m not exactly surprised, in the sense that we’ve known from the beginning, that Sung Joon can get pretty unhinged, and that he’s quite unstable to begin with.
But, it’s still pretty compelling to see him shed his sweet happy groom facade, bit by bit, until he goes from loving groom massaging his bride’s shoulders, to cynical adversary, warning his partner about the rules of the game she’s about to enter.
It’s almost cartoony, but also at the same time, almost chilling, the way Sung Joon blinks away his cynical face, to go back to his almost robotic smiling, happy groom face, as he makes to leave the room.
From the expression on his face, I can believe what he says, that he’s quite amused by Hyun Min, and expects to be quite entertained by her, even as he ensures that she plays by the rules that he’s reminded her of, for the duration of their marriage.
At the same time, I do think that it says something about Hyun Min, that she’s able to pull herself together so effectively, that she’d be able to still play the part of the happy bride, after such an encounter with Sung Joon.
She’s probably got nerves of steel, to be able to enter into a marriage with Sung Joon, after being treated in such a cold and humiliating manner by him, just minutes before.
E8. Like I’d guessed last episode, the dynamic between Sung Joon and Hyun Min really does appear flipped.
Now that they’re married and she’s, well, trapped in this thing, with him, he looks and sounds like the total opposite of the smiling, affable person he’d presented himself as, when he’d first met her.
He’s basically threatening her, and telling her not to overestimate herself, and also warning her to never slap him again, because he will only let it go, this once.
Uh. I would be having lots and lots of regrets about marrying him, right about now, if I were in Hyun Min’s shoes. 😅
E11. I find it interesting that Sung Joon’s still fixating on the fact that Hyun Min has had an interest in Do Jun, whereas Hyun Min appears to have moved on, and is only thinking about the succession at Soonyang, and how that affects Sung Joon.
I’m halfway convinced by Hyun Min, because the way she says it, is quite believable. But then again, it’s also possible that she’s just putting on act..?
E12. Ironically, I find that I care more about the fact that Hyun Min’s efforts to be a good wife, are derided and rejected by Sung Joon.
That sucks, really, because I feel like she’s really being as good of an ally as possible to him, all things considered, and here he is, belittling her efforts, and telling her that she’s bearable only when she doesn’t care about what others think.
Ugh. I hate that Sung Joon treats her like this.
Clearly, he’s holding a grudge, because she hadn’t married him willingly, but honestly, it’s starting to feel very counter-productive to me, since she’s legitimately trying to help him now.
Kim Kang Hoon as young Do Jun
I just have to echo everyone else: Kim Kang Hoon is perfectly cast as young Song Joong Ki.
Not only does he look a fair bit like Song Joong Ki, features-wise, Kim Kang Hoon’s mannerisms and way of speaking mirror very well, the way Song Joong Ki plays Hyun Woo.
The way Kim Kang Hoon’s reactions match so well with Song Joong Ki’s voiceovers this episode, is just *chef’s kiss* perfectly perfect.
Really, really well done! 🤩
Here’s a quick spotlight on a scene from episode 2, where Kim Kang Hoon took the lion’s share of screen time as Do Jun, and did an excellent job of it. 🤩
E2. I am loving the kind of smart, thoughtful yet borderline sassy person Do Jun is turning out to be.
When he finds himself in a spot, he often doesn’t speak immediately, which I feel is wise, because that gives him time to assess the situation, and think about what to say or do next.
But, he’s also very capable of the sass, like when Sung Joon accuses him of being the one to break the vase, Do Jun points his finger right back at Sung Joon, explains that Sung Joon had been trying to steal from Grandpa Jin – and then fishes the loot right out of Sung Joon’s pocket, in front of everyone.
I felt a big stab of satisfaction at this scene, not gonna lie. 😁 Take THAT, Sung Joon!
It’s not all glee and satisfaction, however.
When Do Jun concludes with certainty that he is, indeed in 1987, the first thing he does is hop in a cab, to go see his mom, who, in the present, has passed away.
That wistful, wordless way that Do Jun just looks at her, is just so poignant. I’m sure there’s so much he wishes he could say and do, but he can’t, because in this timeline, he’s someone else’s son.
That look on his face, as he puts that first spoonful of broth in his mouth, makes me think that this must be so precious to him, because it must have been years since he’d tasted his mom’s cooking, and it must have been something he’d thought he could never do again.
And then, when he gets taken away by Hae In, after just that single spoonful of broth, my heart wept for him, because that precious experience has now been taken away from him, even before he could have a second taste. 😭
It’s a small consolation that he at least has that band aid, which Mom gives him quietly, when she sees that he’s got a cut on his forehead.
Afterwards, as he sobs in the car, it feels like such a complicated mix of emotions. There’s wistfulness in there, because he can’t be with his mother, but there’s also a lot of relief, from being able to see her in the flesh, once again.
Augh. If Do Jun hadn’t already had my heart by this point, he would’ve definitely taken my whole heart, with this scene. 😭
Yoon Je Moon as Young Ki
I wanted to give Young Ki a shout-out, because, I thought Yoon Je Moon played him with a nice amount of nuance, and gave us glimpses into Young Ki’s insecurity, vulnerability and humanity, underneath his mostly stoic surface.
In particular, I liked how Young Ki comes across in this narrative beat, from episode 7.
E7. I do feel just a touch sorry for Young Ki, who goes to such lengths to protect Sung Joon, that he would even kneel and ask for forgiveness for something that he didn’t do, so that Grandpa Jin wouldn’t find out that Sung Joon is the guilty party instead of him.
There’s something about the way Yoon Je Moon plays Young Ki, that makes Young Ki come across as rather pitiful, even as he tries his best to survive in the succession race.
And, there are distinct lashings of humanity and heart that peek through from time to time, like when he explains to Sung Joon why he’d taken the blame for him.
In that moment, as he tells Sung Joon that he’s all that he has, his gaze is soft and gentle, and I can believe that he really does care about Sung Joon a great deal.
Kim Shin Rok as Hwa Young
Kim Shin Rok is really making an impression on me, as an actress, because I find her quite arresting, in every role that I’ve seen her in, and this one is no exception.
Hwa Young’s such a flamboyant sort of character, and Kim Shin Rok inhabits that flamboyant skin so well, that when she actually shows glimmers of Hwa Young’s vulnerability, I found myself feeling a little gobsmacked by how raw and real that feels, underneath the loud, glamorous surface.
Here’s a quick spotlight on episodes 8, 9 & 10, where Hwa Young features a fair bit, in our story’s focus.
E8. I actually think that Hwa Young’s atrocious treatment of Hae In, is part of the reason why Do Jun baits her to invest in New Data Technology, this episode.
Although, I have to confess that I did find this arc very entertaining, as everyone jumped on the bandwagon and fought to buy shares in New Data Technology – which we already know is going to fail, after an amazing exponential growth streak.
The best part is, Oh Se Hyun (Park Hyuk Kwon) actually tells Hwa Young to get out early, and Do Jun even goes to see her, to explain to her the mechanics behind why New Data Technology share prices would fall badly, after hitting 300,000 won.
AND YET, she still goes ahead to invest in it, recklessly, and with company money, to boot.
Do Jun can read her like an open book, honestly. He knows that even though he tells her not to invest, her greed is strong enough, that she won’t be able to stop herself.
And, when Young Ki and Dong Ki separately approach Miracle to ask to buy over Hwa Young’s collateral, Miracle hikes up the price to unreasonable heights, in order to make it impossible for either of them to buy it over.
..Which means that when things blow up in Hwa Young’s face (which I fully expect will happen, and soon), it will be Do Jun who holds that 30% chunk of shares, which I suppose will give him a new sphere of influence, within the company?
Hwa Young’s been such an openly brusque and snide character, that I’m actually looking forward to witnessing her downfall, and soon. 😅
E9. The Main Event, this episode, is Do Jun working to bring down Hwa Young for embezzling company funds, in order to invest in New Data Technologies.
It’s honestly really fascinating to watch, on several levels.
First, it’s fascinating to see Do Jun successfully nudge Hwa Young in the direction he needs. Like Grandpa Jin says, he never forces Hwa Young to do anything – if anything, we’ve seen him literally dissuade her from pouring money into New Data Technologies – and yet, she ends up taking the very steps that he’d predicted, to entrap herself.
And then, it’s fascinating to watch Hwa Young realize that she’s dug herself into this hole.
On this note, kudos to Kim Shin Rok, who puts in a very varied and layered performance this episode, as we watch Hwa Young almost imploding, and then making that unexpected recovery.
From despair and desperation to smug smirks, Kim Shin Rok delivers it all, and she made me not want to look away from my screen, through it all.
E10. Kim Shin Rok does a great job interpreting Hwa Young’s reaction, in that moment when she puts her thumbprint on the agreement transferring her hidden shares to Do Jun.
That high-pitched, visceral almost-wail feels very on-point, like I could believe that this would hurt Hwa Young in ways that she finds hard to express.
Kim Do Hyun as Chang Je
I wanted to give Kim Do Hyun a bit of a shout-out, not because Chang Je was a favorite character or anything.
It’s just that I was very pleasantly surprised by Kim Do Hyun’s nuanced and layered delivery in a particular scene in episode 6, and realized that the man has a lot more range than we get to see, most of the time, in this show.
E6. I did get a bit of a kick out of watching the way Do Jun and Oh Se Hyun make Chang Je into the next mayor of Seoul, because the way he starts to straighten his backbone around Grandpa Jin, is one of the best, and most convincing transformations I’ve seen in a while.
From habitually cowering in front of Grandpa Jin, Chang Je is now starting to assert himself, in his new role, and Kim Do Hyun, who plays Chang Je, plays it in such a fantastically believable manner.
You can still see glimmers of Chang Je’s old timidity peeking through, but on the surface, he’s standing taller and speaking with more confidence. Very nicely done.
THEMES / IDEAS [SPOILERS]
Nature vs. Nurture
E14. I do find the way Show circles back to Hyun Woo, to show us what he goes through in this exact same period of the credit crisis, and I find the whole thing very sobering indeed.
Where we see Do Jun flourishing, thanks to foreknowledge and access to funds, we see Hyun Woo struggling to survive, because he is poor and therefore has no other recourse.
This makes me think of the whole idea of nature and nurture, because, in this case, we have the exact same person in completely different circumstances, and we see him behave in very different ways, in those different circumstances.
Where Do Jun has the space to be selectively supportive and gracious, like towards Grandpa Jin, we see Hyun Woo being angry and resentful towards his father.
It’s extremely thought-provoking really, to consider that we ourselves might act in very different ways, if we were in very different circumstances.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Umm. I’m having mixed feelings about this finale, to be brutally honest. 😅
It’s like, mentally, I understand why Show took the direction that it did, for its chosen ending. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel like I can appreciate what Show is saying and doing.
But I also can’t deny that emotionally, I felt pretty checked out, these last two episodes. And that’s just not how I prefer to enjoy my dramas. 😬
If the bulk of our show was a rollercoaster ride, then these last two episodes is basically like the last part of the rollercoaster ride.
Y’know, that part of the ride when you know you’ve experienced all the thrills and spills the ride has to offer, and your adrenaline starts to wind down, even as the rollercoaster slows down and takes you to the disembarkation point.
That’s exactly how I felt, watching these last two episodes. 😅
Logically, I understand why Show would take our story back to Hyun Woo’s timeline. After all, that’s where we’d started, and if we didn’t return to his story, then there would be no justice for Hyun Woo, right?
At the same time, though, we’d spent the lion’s share of screen time exploring Hyun Woo’s identity as Do Jun, and his plan to buy Soonyang, so to have that suddenly ripped away from us felt.. disorientating, to be honest.
Additionally, I really felt the loss of Grandpa Jin, in these last two episodes. Like I mentioned before, he brought so much dramatic tension to our story, just with his onscreen presence. His absence just made these last two episodes even harder to get into, honestly. 😅
To be brutally honest, while I understood the main plot points of these two episodes, my eyes did glaze over somewhat, at all the politicking and discussions.
Suddenly, it didn’t feel raw, personal and rather entertainingly theatrical to me anymore, like it had, up to episode 14.
Suddenly, the vibe I got from it all, was not too different from the vibe I get from that kind of sageuk, where it’s just all about a bunch of bearded men talking at each other. Which is quite weird, really, since there are times when Hyun Woo’s literally running for his life. Sorry. 🙈😅
The way Show plays it, it feels like it’s really fairly flexible, in terms of whether we want to think of Hyun Woo’s time as Do Jun, as a mere fever dream, or as a real timeslip that has cyclical implications, much like a chicken-and-egg sort of situation.
I guess there is meaning in either interpretation, but for me, personally, I’ve spent so much time with Do Jun and gotten so invested in his plan to buy Soonyang, that I instinctively prefer to think of Hyun Woo’s time as Do Jun as real.
At the same time (again, mentally speaking), I can appreciate that Show does a nice job of tying its various threads and timelines together, so that what we’ve seen in Do Jun’s timeline enriches our understanding of what we’re told is going on, in the present, in Hyun Woo’s timeline.
Altogether, I thought it was pretty neat, and the only quibble that comes to mind, is that, 1, how would Hyun Woo have had the portion of the recording, where Young Ki incriminates himself by admitting to instigating Do Jun’s murder, out of consideration for Sung Joon?
I mean, it’s already a stretch, that Hyun Woo would have the presence of mind to record his conversation with Manager Kim, when he calls him in a panic, after the collision.
And Show is trying to tell me, that Hyun Woo’s phone somehow managed to record Manager Kim’s conversation with Young Ki, after the phone had ended?
The only way that that could have maybe happened, is if Manager Kim hadn’t ended the call, and that’s how Hyun Woo’s phone had managed to record that bit of conversation. But.. why wouldn’t Manager Kim hang up? That doesn’t really make sense?
Also, the twist itself, that Hyun Woo had been there when Do Jun had died, feels a little weird, on hindsight.
What I mean is, didn’t Hyun Woo know that the person who’d died, was Do Jun, grandson of Soonyang?
He’d been so horrified by it, that I feel he would’ve surely been curious to know who had died.
However, in our early episodes, we see that Hyun Woo had seemed to forget Do Jun’s existence, until he checked the family tree, and then realized that Hyun Woo had died.
That doesn’t add up so well, in my head.
In the end, though, I’m reasonably happy with where we end our story.
The Jin family give up management rights to Soonyang, which is basically what Hyun Woo had wanted to achieve, as Do Jun.
Except as Do Jun, he would have taken over those management rights, while as Hyun Woo, the management of Soonyang is given over to management specialists. But still, the main thing is that the management is taken out of those ambitious, oily, grabby hands, so that’s the most important thing.
It’s also nice to see Hyun Woo working with Oh Se Hyun again, at Miracle Investment. Oh Se Hyun may not know that Hyun Woo is Do Jun (or is he, really?), but it feels like enough, that their partnership is revived, and that they are doing work that they both believe in, together.
I’m also glad that in this timeline, Show doesn’t try to force a loveline between Hyun Woo and Min Young, because I’ve never bought into this loveline in the first place.
Show’s trying to tell me that the love between Min Young and Do Jun had been this deep, amazing, life-changing thing, but.. it’s just falling flat for me, every time Show tries to serve up something to indicate the depth of their love.
So I’m glad that instead, we see Hyun Woo walk away from the chance of reconnecting with Min Young, choosing instead to tell her be well.
Of course, for those who actually enjoy this loveline, there is hope that something will be rekindled in the future, since Hyun Woo’s words, that echo Do Jun’s so closely, have Min Young doing a delayed double take, and running out into the streets to find him.
Mostly, though, I like that our last shot is of Hyun Woo, walking confidently on the street, and answering his phone as “Yoon Hyun Woo, of Miracle Investment.”
In a twisted, roundabout kind of way, Hyun Woo’s been reborn (again), and this time, his riches are not in Soonyang shares, or a chaebol bloodline, but in the opportunity to now live the life that he wants, on terms that he can fully believe in.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Solidly engaging and entertaining, for the most part.
FINAL GRADE: B++
The next drama I’ll be covering on Patreon, in place of Reborn Rich, is Unchained Love [China]. I’ve taken an initial look, and I’m honestly quite happily drowning in the Dylan Wang smolder, heh. 🤩 My E1-4 notes on Unchained Love [China] 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 notes of all shows covered on Patreon (that’s 2 episodes for kdramas and 4 episodes for cdramas)
Early Access (US$5): Recipe For Farewell
Early Access Plus (US$10): +First Love: Hatsukoi [Japan]
VIP (US$15): +Unchained Love [China]
VVIP (US$20): +New Life Begins [China]
Ultimate (US$25): +Alchemy Of Souls: Light And Shadow