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.
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