Okay, well this week was interesting. Previously, I listed Can You Hear My Heart as one of my top three Kdramas. My first viewing (once I got through the first 5 episodes) I was totally hooked. This is the first Kdrama I’ve seen which seems to be pure soapy-soap opera goodness. You’ve got multiple “Shit Just Got Fancy” moments, where the big reveals happened, the game changed, usually followed by gasps, shouts, and sometimes expletives (from me). It had the rise and fall of a sympathetic villain, my first Big Bad Dad, and what turned out to be Kdrama’s biggest Kdrama Mama, outstripping the previous record holder, JunPyo’s mother in Boys Over Flowers. Not to mention it has one of the top 5 favorite couples (well, according to me).
This show was pure crack to me. It was one of those shows, where almost every episode ends on a big reveal and I HAD to find out what happens. Not a big deal with a show which is 16 episodes, but 30? It made for a few sleepless nights.
Now in no way am I saying this show suddenly turned bad–that’s so not the case–but this time, it took I would say 12 possibly episodes for me to settle in and get hooked. And I’ll be honest, I skipped the beginning and moved directly into the ’16 years later’ part of the show. And I hate to say it, but mainly I have to lay the blame on the lead actress. I don’t know if was over acting or the writing and directing, but I found her so irritating and screechy, I caught myself doing a lot of eye rolling.
I’d actually have to give myself mental lectures or pep talks. “You love this show.” “You’re obviously just in a mood.” Or, “She’s supposed to be cute–not an obsessed stalker.” Ugh. That scene when she realizes Cha Dong Ju is the boy from her past and pounds on his doors and windows because he won’t let her in his house? Seriously. He’s trying to conduct a business meeting, he’s made it perfectly clear that he has neither the time nor the inclination to talk to her and yet she continues to take turns pounding the doors and windows, ringing the doorbell incessantly, all while screeching “Cha Dong Ju! Cha Dong Ju!” How is this the act of a rational person?
I almost turned it off.
Side Note: Now, I mentioned in the Show Introduction the difficulty describing this show, which is true, just because so much happens, and each plot point builds on another. One thing that does stick with me from others’ descriptions, as I don’t particularly agree with it, is most of them describe Bong Uri as brilliant but hiding her intelligence to make her father feel better. Does she pretend to be dumb? Yeah, sometimes. Is she brilliant? Not really, no. She may understand people, she may have emotional intelligence, however, there is no way you can consider her brilliant.
Luckily, as the show went on and the plot took off, she seemed to settle down and I was able to get back to enjoying the show. Once the last 15ish episodes kicked in, I was just as sucked in as I had been previously and once again it was an awesome show.
Now last week I talked a little bit of prologues and epilogues, whether they are necessary or not. While I’m a sucker for a good epilogue, I understand how people say you can cut out all prologues, as the writing rule is you start with the inciting incident. With this show–while you’d think the inciting incident couldn’t actually happen 16 years in the past–in this case it does. The beginning is so intricate, setting up all the conflicts and character interactions, I don’t know how you could cut it out and still make the rest of the show as gripping, or even make sense. Here are just the biggies:
Bong Ma Ru’s relationship with his family. The episodes set up the shame he has for his family and his surroundings, his desperation to have a better life for himself, and his realization that a better life would never happen if he stayed with them. We as viewers need to see this, as it adds depth and understanding to this character who is about to be used time and again until he finally turns into a baddie. We need to feel as much for Ma Ru as we do for Cha Dong Ju.
We need to set up why Bong Uri is so dedicated to her hodgepodge family. Family is the first and foremost driving force in her life. Where Bong Ma Ru chose to run away from the family he hated, she forced her way in and settled there until she ended up carrying everyone around her.
Cha Dong Ju and Bong Uri’s relationship. All her later screeching aside, they did form a very fast, incredible bond during those few days they knew each other. Although, I have seen past relationships done in flashbacks (most recently in Dream High) I think this one is too important narratively to piecemeal out during the show.
Then, you know, the whole plot and everyone’s motivations both for evil and good happen during these 5 episodes. We see how Tae Yeon Sook actually does love her husband, unaware of his relationship with her secretary, his illegitimate son, and his resentment or utter hatred for her father. She is a really nice lady who in the span of one day has everything taken from her–her father dies–her child almost dies and he wakes up only to find out he’s now deaf–she finds out her husband and friend not only have a son together, but are also responsible for both her son’s accident and her father’s death. In an instant her world is shattered and the ultimate Big Bad Kdrama Mama is born. As payback she convinces Bong Ma Ru to leave his family and be her son in order to eventually use him against the other two baddies as, coincidentally, he is her husband’s son, who was abandoned by his mother to his grandmother and said grandmother convinces her mentally handicapped son Ma Ru was actually his child.
Does your head hurt yet? I’m telling you: Soap Opera.
As many crazy twists and turns this show took, it really comes down to the characters. Now, I love Cha Dong Ju. Once we got past the screeching, Bong Uri, was pretty fascinating. The relationship between the two are filled with so many cute rewind-able moments. The side characters are very well fleshed out–which I guess where the advantages of a show with more than 16 episodes kicks in. You may not like the characters, you may resent the fact that everyone is given either a happy ending or the possibility of one, (or is that just me?), but everyone is the hero of their own story.
With all this though, really the most interesting character is Bong Ma Ru/Jang Joon Ha. He’s an incredibly complex character. Throughout the story you see him pushed harder and harder until he finally snaps and decides, “since you expect me to be evil–well, I’ll just be evil”. Wow. That episode (actually a couple of episodes) where he makes his turn to the dark side, you feel so bad for him. I want to say the actor was really good however, it does dance a little on the demented side. Is he angry? Or going crazy? Or over acting? Possibly all three.
Throughout the show Bong Ma Ru is tormented by the choices he’s made during his life. The decision to save himself by abandoning his family for the hopes of a better life. He has to believe this is the right choice. He has to be blindly devoted to Tae Yeon Sook, despite Cha Dong Ju’s warnings, otherwise the last 16 years of his life had been wasted. When he’s faced with undeniable proof of first, who is parents actually were (where he’d known his father, Choi Jin Chul as the enemy who caused the death of Bong Uris’s mother and then caused all the harm to his adopted family) and that he’s merely been a pawn in his chosen mothers game, it’s just so sad.
As the show goes on and he does more and more terrible deeds we, as viewers, are torn. We don’t want him to succeed because as awesome a character he is, he’s not our hero. We see how he’s torn by what he’s doing but he’s being driven by such pain our hearts go out to him. And it’s not like what he’s doing is making himself any happier. His real father is distrustful and uses him as much as Tae Yeon Sook did. Everyone continues to take Cha Jong Ju’s side and he can’t get the girl. Basically, he’s more alienated than ever. Which forces him to lash out more.
I’ve heard a lot of comments about the fauxcest which seems to take place on this show. To be honest, I’m okay with it. Here’s my argument. Bong Uri starts to have feelings for Jang Joon Ha when she first meets him, but as soon as she finds out Jang Joon Ha is in fact her missing brother Bong Ma Ru, her feelings instantly switch over to that of a sister. An incredibly dedicated sister. At no point did she waiver on that. The only romantic feelings here are on the part of Bong Ma Ru and as he says, not only is she not his sister, he’s never thought of her as his sister, not then and not now. In reality, he only actually knew her for a couple of months when they were young. Her mother married his father, but as we learned partway through the show, not only is Bong Young Kyu not actually his father, Bong Young Kyu was also adopted. The lines keep getting thinner and shakier. Once he accepts himself back into the family and, well, turns back to the light side, he reconciles himself to the fact all he and Bong Uri will ever be is brother and sister. So I’m cool with it.
As I was watching this, I wondered who was stronger, Bong Ma Ru or Cha Dong Ju? I think surprisingly I’m going to have to go with Cha Dong Ju. I say surprisingly not because of his deafness, or that he wasn’t a strong character, but I don’t know, he while he was strong, he was able to turn on a dime and bring out his chipper happy-go-lucky side. There was also his uber wide smile and bright eyes.
Bong Ma Ru seemed more intense and physically stronger but Cha Dong Ju won or scored points off Bong Ma Ru time and time again. Surprising everyone, especially his mother.
There was no hiding what the theme of this show was, family is what you make it (or family is who you eat with) was pounded into us again and again. While in every way people looked down on Bong Uri and her made up family, it was though them that people learned their lessons or to be cheesy, completed themselves. Bong Ma Ru and his desperate need for family couldn’t be happy unless he accepted and learned to love his own family, the same ones he looked down on for so long. Even Cha Dong Ju with his almost instant connection with Bong Young Kyu, realized how good they were, and wanted in. How cute was it at the end when he asks Bong Young Kyu to marry Bong Uri. Yes, he’s asking for her hand, but really he’s asking to be a part of the family.
CDJ: Why did you marry Bong Uri’s mother?
BYK: Because Mi-suk is the prettiest. Mi-suk is the only girl in the world.
CDJ: Bong Uri is the prettiest and the only girl in the world for me too. Can I marry her?
BYK: What? Oh… then you should.
CDJ: That means you have to be my father from now on. Can you be Cha Dong Ju’s father?
BYK: Cha Dong Ju’s father? Bong Ma Ru’s father and Cha Dong Ju’s father? Two is confusing.
CDJ: No it’s not. Bong Ma Ru is your doctor son. Cha Dong Ju is the non-doctor son.
BYK: That’s not confusing then., Don’t be a doctor, okay?
CDJ: I won’t. Then I can marry Bong Uri?
BYK: Yes! My non-doctor son Cha Dong Ju.
Come on! How freaking cute is that? I love the relationship between Cha Dong Ju and Bong Uri’s father. He never talks down to him, generally enjoys being with him, and he always treats him as an equal with a valuable contribution. This is something Bong Ma Ru can’t even do. (Until the very end. It was so incredibly sweet once he allows the family to take him in again and he is able to accept them for what they are.)
Now, I talked a little about it in my post on the top 5 couples, but this couple (once the shrieking is done) is just amazing. They are drawn to each other regardless of all the other crap going on around them. They are hampered by the secrets they are forced to keep from each other, but once they start becoming an actual couple, there is no ‘big misunderstanding’ between them Which is such a relief. How many times have we all thought, “Ugh. Everything would be solved if they just talked to each other.”
They have some of the best scenes together, helped by their cuteness and great chemistry. Whenever there was a scene between just the two of them it was like a breather from the intense plotting from the rest of the show.
It was also interesting to see characters with disabilities, Bong Young Kyu being mentally disabled and Cha Dong Ju’s deafness. It isn’t something I’ve seen in Kdrama before. Cha Dong Ju was able to hide his deafness from everyone. Well, everyone but Bong Uri and her father. While they felt sad for him, they were the only ones who didn’t look down on him because of it, or tried to use it against him. They were incredibly supportive (even before he was aware they knew of it). Due to his mother, he always thought his deafness was something he had to hide from everyone, like it was something to be ashamed of. It’s through Bong Uri that he learns he doesn’t need to hide himself from the world, pretending he can hear. And once Bong Ma Ru (when he goes bad) tries to use the secret of his deafness repeatedly to control Cha Dong Ju, he then has the strength to reveal it to the world. And he literally does reveal it to the world at the launch of the cosmetic line. He’s telling everyone. The world, his enemies, but most importantly his mother, who has never been able to accept it.
This is the world that I live in. I can’t hear with my ears. I got into an accident when I was 13. I can’t even hear my own voice. But that’s okay. But that’s okay because I have someone who tells me, ‘Cha Dong Ju you’re not a person who can’t hear. You’re a person who can see well.’ I’m not a person who can’t hear. I’m a person who can see well. I can’t hear the voice of the person that I love, but I’m glad I can see the message from her eyes, nose, and mouth. Not being able to hear is inconvenient but I’m not ashamed anymore.
One thing I didn’t care for was how the writers used the fact he was deaf as a convenience crutch sometimes. He has a watch, which vibrates when he has a call, or when someone is ringing the doorbell. However, time and again he takes off the watch. By the end he stops wearing it all together in an effort to learn how see the world (live as an openly deaf person) Now, I’m not deaf, I don’t know anyone who is deaf, but something tells me this would be a very convenient tool to have. He’s not wearing the watch when he’s being lured to the plant to be killed by his adopted father, so no one can call him. It just doesn’t make sense.
But I quibble.
I also have issues with the fake breakup the couple has toward the end. It also irritates me because it doesn’t make sense and seems contrived so they can just get back together again. “I can’t date you while I try to turn our brother back to good?” After they just had their first date? (Which made it to my top 5 piggy back rides list.) Ugh. It just irritates me.
I also mentioned before, I dislike how everybody is forgiven or have hopes to be forgiven in the end. Seriously. A guy kills your grandfather, causes the accident which makes you deaf, kills the woman you love’s mother, and then puts a contract out on your life, trapping you in a burning plant and almost blinding your brother? Hmmm…. Irredeemable Character! The last scene we had with the father should have been the scene when he’s arrested and Bong Maru’s father head-butts him. Awesome. But no, instead they had to try and redeem him. UGH.
Bad mother #1? Yeah, she was remorseful in the end, but also throughout the show she was pretty terrible. To Everyone.
Bad mother #2? This is the one I have the hardest time with. She emotionally tortures you, sets you up for her crimes, then tips off police, and admits she’s found you disgusting the entire time she was harboring you? She does not deserve a happy ending.
I certainly don’t see the son and two mothers all being buddy-buddy at the big family picnic.
But it could just be me. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s been pointed out I have a rather vindictive streak. I don’t know. I just don’t get it. Not that the whole show was steeped in reality, but I think bad guys should get theirs in the end.
So have I gotten everything? So much happened here, I’m sure I’m missing something, forgetting some major point I wanted to make.
Amazingly cute couple?
Theme of family is what you make it?
Bong Ma Ru is an awesome character?
So I guess that’s it. So do I recommend this? Heck yeah. The drama is well paced and very dramatic. The characters were very well fleshed out. And once again, one of the cutest couples ever. I hate having to recommend a show where you say “Just get through the first five episodes”. It seems wrong somehow. While I don’t particularly care for the beginning, it’s incredibly important set up for the rest of the drama. I will however, keep saying, if you do choose to watch, keep the bucket ready for the tears–both happy and sad tears.
Is this show still going to be in my top 3? I don’t know. I’m going to have to think about that. It’s entirely possible I was just in a mood this week and beginning Bong Uri is not as irritating as I found her this time around. And the rest of it is pure Kdrama crack.
And who doesn’t love a heaping serving of Kdrama crack?