Hiya! It’s another pretty large gap since my last post…No, I’m not MIA and there is no excuse for me to be on hiatus this time around. But the good news is I’m still getting my regular diet of a kdrama or two.
But after a few romantic comedies in the fall, ones filled with crazy fun loving characters, I’ve gone Melo in November. The wet, cold and dark days up here in the Pacific Northwest kinda lends itself to some makjang.
As a rule I’m not one to shy away from makjang especially when it is done right. It hooks me from the beginning to the end despite the angst and emotional roller coaster ride it puts me through.
Like any successful melos there is usually a hateful antagonist, one that makes me cringe. These villains are so well acted that it makes me want to punch him or her every time they show up on the screen and wipe that smug off their faces. Oftentimes, these villains are almost the stars of the show. In the case of Mask, Yeon Joon Hoon certainly accomplished that.
Why Mask? When it was airing, I didn’t pay much attention to it despite the amount of fan buzz it generated. It caught my eye recently when I was researching a kdrama boardroom scene for my story and stumbled on ep 11.
The captivating scene where the fake Eun Ha bravely stepped inside the boardroom during a closed shareholders meeting to stand up for her husband did it for me. I marathoned the entire show over two weekends and here’s the verdict.
Mask is ultimately a story about vengeance and the price a person is willing to pay to get it. A young boy consumed with hate for his father’s employer manifested this hate into an elaborate scheme to revenge his father’s mistreatment and death. Along the ride, lives got in the way and made dispensable, love forsaken and ultimately lost. Min Seok Hoon is this man. Suave, capable and well spoken, he worms himself into the heart of his enemy’s daughter and makes himself indispensable to his father-in-law. So far nothing extraordinary. Pretty cliche. But what sets this melo apart is the execution of the main plot and twisted sub-plots. Not to mention it is incredibly well acted by the four main actors/actresses.
Choi Mi Yeon, at first looks like any other Chaebol daughter, spiteful and clueless but as time goes on, we learn that she is not so clueless and hateful. Her love for Seok Hoon is a genuine one. Torn between defending a half brother that she cares for and obsessive love for her evil husband, she falls into the trap of having to choose for love rather than doing what’s right. One loathsome act leads to another and before she knows it, she’s in it too deep. But unlike Seok Hoon, she’s remorseful. Seok Hoon’s acting is superb. The way he keeps telling her “I’m not lying” is so convincing even the viewer is hypnotized into believing him.
Embedded in all melos is usually a central romance theme and this one gives us the arranged marriage, jerk with a heart of gold trope amidst a pretend amnesia. In a twist of fates, Byun Ji Sook gets entrapped into a web of lies and lives the life of her double, the pitiful daughter of a politician. From ep 1 to 11, her role is mostly forgettable, so meek that I forget she’s supposed to be our heroine. But her character finally grows on me after her aforementioned breakthrough act in ep 11.
Min Woo, the wayward son, trying to prove his worth. Unbeknownst to him and his family, his psychotic behavior is not of his own making but rather planted by his scheming brother-in-law and all part of a master plan to get him institutionalized. A plan well underway until the day an unlikely girl came along and changed it all.
Ji Sook’s love story with her husband, Min Woo also requires patience. The viewer is programmed to expect that cliffhanger, the day when Min Woo learns of her true identity. It did arrive but not after she has stolen his heart and soul and thanks writer-nim for not making us squirm for too long.The best part of the Show for me is from ep 11 to 17. The progression of their organic love from one of co-dependency to survival instincts and eventually to true love is worth the wait.
Ep 17 to 20 did make me want to pull my hair out. The frustration of seeing Ji Sook being tricked one too many times didn’t sit well with me. Yes, there’s happy ending for our two lovebirds but the highlight of these last episodes is none other than that final realization by Seok Hoon that he does love Mi Yeon after reading her goodbye letter. Awww….he maybe a villain but that last scene between the two made me weep. Too little too late.
This drama reminds me of another favourite of mine, Innocent Guy. A recommended watch if you don’t mind manufactured melo and a dose of makjang with a touch of mystery, romance, family dramas and human tragedy.