This review is a little late on the bandwagon, but if you feel like walking down the memory lane once again with me, dive right in!
Even though I had a month-long hiatus from drama-blogging and recapping, I was keeping up to date with the on-going dramas and one of them was Strong Woman Do Bong Soon.
[Mild spoilers ahead*]
I finished the drama in three tranches, from Episode 1 to 8, Episode 9 to midway of Episode 16, and I finally completed the finale today, but my thoughts about this drama remain the same. Briefly put, I enjoyed the watch, which was kinda pleasant, kinda fun and very romantic. However, (this may not be a popular opinion) I don’t think it was very well-written and it ends up relying heavily on its cast members to carry the story through.
Yay: I was already a fan of all three main cast members, namely Park Bo Young (from Oh My Ghost), Park Hyung Sik (what of the few episodes I watched from High Society) and Ji Soo (Sassy Go Go!!!), and they remain super lovable in this drama. I think it’s a pity Ji Soo is once again relegated to the somewhat moody second lead, but in whatever scenes which call for acting skills, I think he rose to the challenge to capture our hearts. The true drawing point for most people however, has definitely to be the main couple. I’m not a big fan of this drama but I got to admit that I found myself having to stifle squeals/laughs or risk being judged as a lunatic in public. I’m already in love with Park Bo Young’s eyes but now I need to add Park Hyung Sik’s eyes to that list. Is it just me or does he have really, really long and noticeable eyelashes?? Their interaction was mostly the only reason why I stayed on with the drama, and although I like their cheesy, cute moments, some of the most memorable scenes that stay on with me post-drama is Park Hyung Sik’s sad and passionate eyes.
Meh: Unsurprisingly, this section ends up longer than the above, just because I didn’t think this show was that great a watch. There are many aspects to the same flaw, which is the psychopath story. First, it was weaved in rather poorly at the start. Although the two plot lines somewhat intertwined in the middle of the story, I’ve seen better shows where the sinister element is foreshadowed and hidden more subtly than this. This, just feels like two dramas being forced to co-exist at the same time. Second, I just wasn’t freaked out by this psychopath at all. I know there were people who were honestly freaked out by Jang Hyuk (Jang Mi Kwan), but for me, the script/the show was sorely lacking in that department. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of thrillers (or used to be, before my heart decided that I can’t take all the suspense anymore) but this psychopath just doesn’t scare me at all. His way of kidnapping and torturing the women feels grimy rather than dangerous; his kidnapping of Bong Soon feels more like a set-up for the romance and the return of Bong Soon’s powers. Missing 9 ended badly, but even Tae Ho as a psychopath was much more convincing and satisfying to watch than this. How about Min Ho from Defendants? Or the endless psychopathic killers and murderers in japanese doramas? (Oh I miss them so much!) Third, the development of the story feels pretty half-assed to me in the end. If you want to create a character who purely kidnaps women just because he is intrigued and obsessed with a play, you have to mould the guy with a convincing backstory. Yet, ultimately the psychopath story just keeps giving way to irrelevant elements like the gangsters, the monk and the star element of romance. I actually enjoyed Jang Hyuk’s involvement when he was being sneaky and spying on the police, but that lasted for just one or two episodes. There was no true cat and mouse game. On the same note, I read that the local Korean audience really enjoys the gangster scenes, which partly contributes to the ratings, but I know I’m not the only who skips past 90% of these scenes. I only stop to watch Kim Won Hae because he’s such a gem!
Nonetheless, I do appreciate how Bong Soon deals with Jang Hyuk. I know people were pretty reeled up that on their first encounter, she fainted and Min Hyuk had to come to her rescue, but I feel like that is one essential part of her character development. This isn’t about how a female once again becomes a damsel in distress; it’s about how Bong Soon comes to term with her powers and learns to receive help when she needs it most. It’s not about being a lone heroine; love can co-exist. That’s why despite all my gripes with the psychopath story, I like it that Bong Soon actually captures him with Min Hyuk and Gook Doo’s help. They were assistants, but at the same time, it is important to note that they were only assistants. Bong Soon was the one who caught Jang Hyuk and sent him to justice.
Love Triangle: There are those who usually fall in love with the main leads without a problem, and then there’s me and the other unfortunate addicts with the Second Lead Syndrome. I was pretty dismayed that this drama is going back to the cliche once again – the true blue most unfortunate second lead, where the female lead once likes him, but by the time he likes her back/confesses, it’s too late. I didn’t really like the drama because it was developing along this line. Bong Soon likes him, he likes her, but they keep missing each other. On the other hand, Min Hyuk manages to get a huge step forward by taking the stab for Bong Soon (in one of the episodes), which is if you think about it, really a stroke of luck that he ran faster than Gook Doo that’s all. He is also more impatient than Gook Doo, and free-er as a CEO, which is really why he got to confess earlier to Bong Soon right? That’s what I dislike – strokes of luck. That being said however, after finishing the finale, I do like that the drama respects the suffering second lead a lot more than usual dramas do. Instead of sweeping his love under the carpet, or take it for granted, we actually have a lot of focus on it in Episode 16. I really appreciate that ultimately, Gook Doo got to tell Bong Soon that she was the “cosmos” he wanted to protect. I like it that he actually has a conversation with Bong Ki about how things may have been different if only Bong Ki tells him about Bong Soon’s crush or that if he had seen Bong Soon’s feelings for him. There’s no good answers to these questions. Indeed, the two guys did not actually have a conclusion, but there’s a somewhat pensive and bittersweet finality to it nonetheless. This drama actually voices out what many viewers pity the second leads for – the what-ifs. I hate what-ifs, both in real life and in dramas, which is why I generally dislike shows which hinge on torturing the second lead (it’s a different story if I already like the male lead of course haha).
Also, this drama actually subtly explores the reason why the girl ends up with the male lead rather than the second lead. By another stroke of luck perhaps, Min Hyuk always sees Bong Soon as who she is – strong and quirky, but fragile on the inside. Although Gook Doo would have liked Bong Soon in whatever form, he never saw her as the strong girl she was. Even the fact that he saw her as needing protection sets him apart from Min Hyuk. Most importantly, like what Min Hyuk points out, Gook Doo never took a step forward. Min Hyuk did not end up with Bong Soon just by virtue of luck, it is also because he actively shows his feelings for her and acts on it. On the other hand, Gook Doo took several years to realise his feelings and you could even argue that part of the reason why he was stirred into motion was because of Min Hyuk.
At the end of the day, I feel that if I were to be blatant about it, this show is only successful because it’s Park Bo Young and Park Hyung Sik, with amazing amazing chemistry (and speaking eyes!!). If it’s anyone else, I don’t foresee the same kind of popularity. Also, Park Hyung Sik is amazing at delivering the cheesiest lines I’ve heard in ages, but that also explains why I like him more when he’s serious and just silently waiting for Bong Soon to like him back. I think the premise of the show is recommendable, and I think they manage to carry it off to some extent, but this is a drama that I will look back on hindsight as one that has not much substance. I will however, miss the actors and hope to see them soon on future projects!