skygiants: Jane Eyre from Paula Rego's illustrations, facing out into darkness (more than courage)
[personal profile] skygiants
You know how you live your life, watching television shows like a normal person, and then suddenly you're watching an episode of a show and all the important and dramatic scenes are full of women over thirty interacting with each other, and even though people on screen are literally being set on fire you suddenly have this tremendous feeling of peace in your heart?

ANYWAY. Relatedly, the kdrama I've just finished is a Gothic thriller called (depending on who you ask) Ms. Perfect or The Perfect Wife. The show itself is not perfect, but if you're into Gothics and would like to watch a show in which grown women drive pretty much every plotline, it might be worth your time -- with the very strong caveat that despite some token nods towards the importance of treatment and therapy we're definitely going Full Madwoman In The Attic, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Any Brownie Points Regarding Trope Deconstruction Or Respectful Handling of Mental Health.

Our competent and no-nonsense heroine, Shim Jae Bok, is attempting to resuscitate her career as a lawyer while also parenting her two children and moving her family into a new house. Her hapless husband Goo Jung Hee is not really helping with any of this, because, as it turns out, he's busy having an affair, and that's honestly the least of his problems.

Oh hey! Lee Eun Hee has a house! She really wants Jae Bok to move in and bring her beautiful family!

Her motives are completely altruistic! Isn't it weird how they keep running into each other, totally coincidentally!

Obviously they were destined to be best friends!! Right? RIGHT???

As "weird coincidence" after "weird coincidence" shoves the family deeper and deeper into Lee Eun Hee's orbit, Jae Bok -- who is no fool -- is WELL AWARE that the creepiness factor is rising rapidly.

For one thing, there's also an ominous housekeeper, and everyone who's ever read a Gothic novel knows that it's NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to win against an ominous housekeeper.

However, while Goo Jung Hee is completely useless when not being actively evil, Jae Bok is not entirely without allies. For a start, there's her two best friends, Hye Ran and Won Jae -- a flirty aerobics instructor and a wealthy psychology professor, respectively -- who definitely both thought they were here to join soon-to-be-divorced Jae Bok for a fun Sex and the City-style romp about dating as a single woman in her thirties.

The genre shift into Gothic drama takes everyone by surprise.

But when Jae Bok needs them, THEY STEP UP.

The integration of Jae Bok's friends into the main plot is honestly one of the things that makes this drama stand out to me -- aside from Age of Youth (nothing lives up to Age of Youth) I don't think I've ever seen another kdrama or another thriller full-stop where the heroine's friendships are so consistently important.

Similarly, love interest Kang Bong Goo also did not initially receive the memo about what the genre of this show was going to be and DEFINITELY thought he was here to be the cocky jerk hero in an ahjumma rom-com. Fortunately, it only takes him two or three episodes to figure out that a.) this is Jae Bok's show, not his and b.) Jae Bok has enough real drama going down in her life that adding in the kind of asshole pigtail-pulling that is standard in kdrama romances really would not be helpful at this time. Instead, maybe he should focus on bringing her coffee and legal assistance!

He basically spends the rest of the series lurking in the background of Jae Bok's major confrontations with Jung Hee and Eun Hee, alternately providing emotional support and making the same kind of faces that numerous of my friends do when someone on a reality TV show gets off a really good zinger.

This is definitely not the Bong Goo show, and Bong Goo knows it's not the Bong Goo show and it's so refreshing. I mean Jae Bok is fond of him and all, but he ranks about a four on her priority list on the best of days. He almost gets the chance to rescue her from peril that one time! ... but by the time he gets there, she's already escaped from the peril. But she really appreciates the emotional support! Honestly it's one of the more functional relationships I've seen in a kdrama, which ... is not what I expected, going in.

Also, they occasionally fight crime together? It's actually really cute.

And then there's Na Mi -- the sweet summer child with whom Jung Hee is having an affair. Unsurprisingly, her relationship with Jae Bok does not get off to the best start, but every moment where Jae Bok reluctantly attempts to rescue her onetime nemesis from Na Mi's own poor life choices is a balm to my heart.

(This is a recurring theme; even Hye Ran's initially awful subplot about being stalked by the wife of a man she accidentally had an affair with ends with them developing a weird friendship.)

Speaking of affairs, I should probably devote some screencap time to Jung Hee, but honestly I don't care and his face has already appeared in this picspam more than enough. Gothic ablism aside, the show's OTHER greatest flaw is a last-minute attempt to halfway redeem Jung Hee after devoting eighteen episodes to making him completely irredeemable.

However, I do enjoy the kids, mostly because they are terrible.

Well, OK, Jin Wook is definitely terrible.

Hye Wook is actually a precious angel. But she does wet the bed.

However, my actual favorite character in the whole drama is Chae Ri, Won Jae's daughter and Hye Wook's babysitter, who kicks off like half the major plot confrontations by wandering around the Gothic mansion coolly snooping into Eun Hee's stuff. Eun Hee terrifies everybody else after their first confrontation with her; Chae Ri, meanwhile, is threatened with death MULTIPLE times and never turns a single hair.

Is she wise beyond her years? The biggest sociopath in the entire series? BOTH? I don't know, but honestly I would have watched twenty episodes of Eun Hee Vs. A Bratty Twelve-Year-Old.

I guess that's not actually saying very much, because I would have watched twenty episodes of Eun Hee doing most things; the actress playing her is giving the performance of a lifetime and is almost able to deconstruct some of the worst tropes in play around her character just with the power of her face. Almost.

Date: 2017-05-30 02:06 am (UTC)
sovay: (Claude Rains)
From: [personal profile] sovay
(This is a recurring theme; even Hye Ran's initially awful subplot about being stalked by the wife of a man she accidentally had an affair with ends with them developing a weird friendship.)

So, like Steven Universe, with more Gothic drama, maybe about the same amount of crying, and fewer rocks?

Date: 2017-05-30 02:40 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
...unfortunately, instead, murder, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and fire.

It may be impossible to end a classic madwoman-in-the-attic plot without fire.

(It's not actually very much like in terms of the messaging at all, but my feelings about the series as a whole are sort of similar to the way I feel about DWJ's Aunt Maria -- the show has the seeds of a compelling examination of gender and power and abuse, I don't agree with a lot of it and I think the blame ends up in entirely the wrong place, but I find it fascinating to watch and it's also doing some things I haven't seen elsewhere.)

Makes sense to me. What were the things you hadn't seen elsewhere?

Date: 2017-05-30 07:23 am (UTC)
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Meanwhile, Jae Bok is emphatically the heroic figure; she spends a good chunk of the story trying to save Eun Hee and Jung Hee from each other, not because she has any remaining romantic interest in Jung Hee, but just because she sees this trainwreck in motion and feels responsible for preventing it.

That's neat.

And there are places this all could have gone that would have been much more interesting than the inevitable "AND THEN SHE SET THE HOUSE ON FIRE!!!!"

That's frustrating.

(Since I am never going to see this show, what would your preferred resolution(s) have been?)

Date: 2017-05-30 02:12 am (UTC)
whimsyful: arang_1 (Default)
From: [personal profile] whimsyful

*coughs* I thought this should have been 16 eps instead of 20, because it did drag towards the end and re-used a plot point which I hated. Otherwise it was very enjoyable, especially since I didn't expect it to be either so Gothic or so genuinely female-centric at the beginning. I think [personal profile] meganbmoore described it as Daphne du Maurier does kdrama, which the promos really didn't advertise.

Acting-wise, it's a pretty good comeback vehicle for Go So-young, though Jo Yeo-jung's Eun-hee kinda stole the show for me (and I suspect, a lot of others). I hated Jung-hee (how on earth did he got three completely different women to fall for him is the biggest mystery in the show), but I have to praise Yoon Sang-hyun's dedication in going all in in portraying what a selfish, spineless coward he was. And I think this is Sung Joon's first decent drama in a longgg while, even if his hairstyle sucked (you forgot to mention Bong-goo started the show as a gigolo/lawyer! With some horrendous suits)

I would totally watch a sequel about grown up Chae-ri and Hye-wook, fighting crime with a gaggle of older female mentors. Or really, I'd like to read Chae-ri's diary entries during this entire mess, because you know they would have been snarky.
Edited Date: 2017-05-30 02:13 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-30 02:36 am (UTC)
hokuton_punch: Picture of a pretty man with fluffy orange hair holding a fan to his mouth, captioned "Oho!" (na-chan fan laugh)
From: [personal profile] hokuton_punch
Hmm - this does sound intriguing, and I LOVED Age of Youth... :\a

Date: 2017-05-30 03:10 am (UTC)
whimsyful: arang_1 (Default)
From: [personal profile] whimsyful
Have you seen Dear My Friends? That's probably closer to Age of Youth in being a slice of life show centered on female friendship with unexpected emotional punches (I think it currently holds the record for "show which made me cry the quickest").

Date: 2017-05-30 03:56 am (UTC)
hokuton_punch: (hikaru no go sai squee)
From: [personal profile] hokuton_punch
There's going to be another season of Age of Youth?! EXCUSE ME, I MUST GO PUT SOME BELLS ON. *_________*

Date: 2017-05-30 04:42 am (UTC)
jamethiel: A majestic orange cat sits on a post in front of a beautiful green landscape. Text: I approve of this post (ApprovalCat)
From: [personal profile] jamethiel
... this looks so amazingly and precisely my jam!

Gothic fuckery aside. (Er. Have you seen Crimson Peak? Because I want to say something that's a spoiler and I won't spoil you if you haven't.)

Date: 2017-05-31 02:09 am (UTC)
jamethiel: A bowl of blueberries (Blueberries)
From: [personal profile] jamethiel
Well, all gothics are mostly the same.

And I was going to say that what sold me on Crimson Peak was the fact that all the dudes died. I thought that was excellent. So I will be imagining an ending where Jung Hee dies, and everyone will be happy.

Date: 2017-05-30 09:31 pm (UTC)
meganbmoore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] meganbmoore
I liked this show from the start, and then it went full on non-stop Rebecca and I was lost forever in the best way.

It DOES do better than most kdramas re: mental illness, but definitely drops the ball there.

The friends I watched it with while it was airing and I are pretty much in agreement that the last-second supposed redemption for Jung Hee probably had more to do with network interferene than the authors original intent, and we should probably just be happy the network didn't make the writer have Jae Bok get together with him. (Though I do think the writer protected herself there by being so 100% firm with the OVER FOREVER there a fair bit earlier.)


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