27 May, 2013

Gu Family Book: All's Fair in Love and War?

Or maybe I should have said: Everyone Now Needs Some Counseling

His hotteness is back!
That smirk. Can.Not.Breathe
This week's episodes definitely upped the ante with some serious daddy issues. Of course Choi Jin Hyuk is back as the adorable-luck-struck-gumiho turned 1,000-year-old-demon, but all of a sudden Yeo Wool's dad is also acting berserk. I know he's afraid of karma, and his daughter getting hurt; but all of a sudden confining her to studying her upcoming wifely-duties, and marrying her off to Tae Seo, when he's allowed her to run around the countryside fighting bad guys, is not going to go down well with her. That and she loves Kang Chi. Oh well. It wouldn't be a K-drama without some daddy issues and star-crossed lovers.

Gon, my heart is breaking for you
The weight of the world descends on his shoulders again
Yeo Wool, I feel your pain 
On noes! I don't love her, do I...do I?

I also feel like I should post some sort of disclaimer that I don't think this drama is fabulous. The acting has been rather lacking (as in some actors think that shouting means acting well), the fight scenes - meh (but getting better), the OST has been lovely, the cinematography comes and goes, and well, it's not much more than a mediocre drama at best. A very nice, mediocre drama, with lots of pretty (especially our resident angry, reincarnated gumiho, Wol Ryung), some horrible hair styles (Sung Joon, what are you allowing them to do to you?!) but it's nothing that would make it a favourite drama to me so far. Now that might sound harsh, but I am still watching it, mostly because there is so much heart in this drama, and there are some really lovely themes about what it means to love, what honour is, and what it really means to be human. So I am sticking with the drama, and hopefully in the end, it will turn into a better drama. If anything, I am super glad that it's introduced me to Choi Jin Hyuk again (I have seen him in Pasta before), this drama has definitely put him on the map. That all said, I am enjoying the drama, and I am continuing to watch.
The eye-roll-smirk
Bad hair
Great facial expressions
Love scenes with him in them, especially when he whacks Kang Chi over the head with the broom
I can feel the evilness
Yup, feel it boy-o. Daddy's back...to destroy you
I will slay you dead with my gorgeousness
Bromance FTW

I think that what the drama is doing well, is asking the question of what it means to be human. Tae Seo's my-character-arc-has-whiplash-from-changing-direction-so-often story definitely fits into that mould. While I think the hypnosis plot development was used rather poorly, I think that for the most part we see Tae Seo struggling with the idea of what family and humanity mean to him. He has a lot of love for Kang Chi, and it helps him to be a better person. I completely respect his decision to be a spy in Jo Kwan Woong's camp. That is not going to be easy, and it's going to cause him a lot of pain, particularly as he is likely to interact more with Chung Jo that way. And I am sort of hoping he's in love with Kang Chi, not to be cruel, but I think that it would motivate him to make difficult choices to save Kang Chi and Yeo Wool, and that would just make his character arc a lot more compelling and interesting. I hope he's not in love with Yeo Wool because then he might end up betraying Kang Chi at some point, and I would much rather the drama not go there. That would be boring and completely overdone. I also really just like Tae Seo (and let's be honest, Yoo Yun Seok is incredibly handsome); He is trying so hard to be a good man like his father, and to protect his family. His father ultimately sacrificed his life to protect them, and I can definitely foresee them creating an opportunity where Tae Seo has to sacrifice his life to protect Chung Jo and Kang Chi. And seeing as how confusingly the writer has played with his character arc, I just hope his story doesn't end up being super lame.

Another interesting character in the drama so far is Lee Yoo Bi's Park Chung Jo. Wow! She is playing her role with compelling maturity. I hardly recognize her from her from her role in 착한남자 (Nice Guy). I think it's been interesting to watch her make really different choices than Seo Hwa made, and sometimes I think that's a good idea, and other times not as much. She did react to Kang Chi's gumiho-ness the same way (thank goodness Tae Seo calmed down), but she is a really interesting character. She also makes one super scary gisaeng. That scene where she tells Jo Kwan Woong that she is going to kill him, that scene was intense. The dynamic between those two is actually really interesting and creepy to watch. I think he underestimates her power, or perhaps it's thrilling for him to keep someone so dangerous to him, so close. It also seems a little on the Stockholm Syndrome side, but not quite. [I watched/read a blog post from Professor Oh about gisaeng (ignore that she mentions Japanese geisha in the title because they are definitely not the same as gisaeng), and from what she said, it seems like the drama is actually exploring a little more deeply the role of gisaeng in politics, but also in how they could establish standing and acclaim through the arts.] I also really like that Chung Jo wasn't "conveniently" killed to aid Kang Chi and Yeo Wool's love. I think it's a lot more interesting for Kang Chi to be falling for Yeo Wool while still in love with Chung Jo. It creates such lovely conflict! 

Something interesting that we also get from the Chung Jo/Kang Chi conflict is another perspective on what it means to be human, and what it means to judge someone else. Chung Jo's perspective on who Kang Chi is, changes after she finds out about his gumiho side; all of a sudden she cannot see the good person he is. It's like that one aspect overcomes all that she knows and feels about him. He on the other hand, still declares his love for her after he understands that she has "embraced" being a gisaeng (I really don't blame her decision. She is doing the best she can with the cards Fate has dealt her; some really rotten cards in fact). He still sees her as Chung Jo, and it doesn't matter to him what has happened to her, or how she is now seemingly degraded in the public eye. She will always be Park Chung Jo to him. I think it shows his human-ness, and just how important his "family" is to him; and I love that human earnestness about him. Yeo Wool is that same way. He is always Kang Chi to her, no matter whether he is in gumiho form or not. The moments when she has defended him publicly have been some of the most compelling in their story to me. (The thought occurs to me about why he dad stopped working for the government/gumiho hunting/or whatever it is he is doing now. This also makes me want to study more Korean history.) And I think that ultimately; Seo Hwa's refusal to see the core goodness of Wol Ryung was an integral part of his destruction as both human and gumiho. He is definitely no protector anymore. 

Another aspect that plays into the role of being human is Love. Love has done a lot to many character arcs so far in the drama. Love made Wol Ryung want to be human; the betrayal of that love, and because he didn't want to stab Seo Hwa because he loved her, has meant that he is now a very, very angry 1,000 year old demon bent on revenge. Seo Hwa out of residual feelings of love perhaps, didn't kill their child. Out of compassion, which I would say is a form of love, both the Monk, and Park Moo Sol decide to care for Kang Chi. Park Moo Sol most definitely loves Kang Chi, and his other two children, and sacrifices his life to save them. Out of love, Gon helps Yeo Wool even when it means it moves him no closer to being able to declare his love to her. Out of love Yeo Wool saves Kang Chi, and desperately advocates to his human side to stay human. I just loved all those scenes where Kang Chi figures out that being with Yeo Wool means he can learn to control his gumiho side. I wonder what will happen if she were to die as fate has perhaps suggested she might. Love, both romantic and filial is what motivates Kang Chi to so desperately protect Chung Jo and Tae Seo, and what makes him so invested in restoring the 100 Year Inn. Kang Chi also has an incredible amount of compassion and Hong Gil Dong-esque love for the downtrodden. It was so telling that Kang Chi is fundamentally good when he rescued bad-guy bandit from death. Said bandit's fawning adulation of Kang Chi is super funny and as Kang Chi says, creepy. It is going to be interesting to see what romantic love does to his blossoming relationship with Yeo Wool. They seem to be in the habit of saving one another, and are getting more and more intricately tied into each others' fates, which in dramaland means lots of angst and pain and noble idiocy ahead *sigh*. 

And this whole question of love and compassion makes me wonder who saved Seo Hwa the second time. Was it Dam Pyung Joon (Yeo Wool's dad) the second time, or someone else? It's awfully suspicious that she's back and stirring up 1,000 year old demons and such. For sure she wants to kill Jo Kwan Woong (like pretty much most of the women in the show), but her alliance with the Japanese is an interesting one. It seems that there are going to be a confluence of forces who all want to kill him, including our brave band of masters (a really interesting mix of people I think). I am actually super glad that head gisaeng Chun Soo Ryun (Jung Hye Young) is on that team. And while I think that there might actually be too many side stories going on, I think that now we finally know they are all working together for sure, we can expect some interesting fall out now that Seo Hwa's back, and that lovely scrumptious and sexy Wol Ryung. I really sort of hope he stays evil because he looks so incredibly hotte and sexy as an angry, revengeful demon. All I know is that all this revenge, and war, and politics, angry dads, and mystical solutions to becoming human are certainly going to derail the romance. I just hope we get some happy in before we have to ride out the episodes of angst and pain, so that the gumiho can figure out what it means to be human before it's all too late. 

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  1. Love your review thanks. I actually am really enjoying this show. I have to say Daddy Gumiho is awesome :) I agree hope there are some happy times before it all goes to noble idiocy!!

  2. Aargh! I want to trim Daddy Gumiho's bangs so that we can see both his eyes.

  3. LOL! I can't decide whether I agree or if I find him sexier with his mysteriously covered eyes...but you might have a good point there. Really, I would just love to be close enough so I could actually even realistically be able to trim his bangs... ;)

  4. Thank you! I think that the show was really lucky to cast him. He has just the right balance of sexy-suaveness while playing the evil demon, and a very sympathetic vulnerability that you can't help but sympathize with. I really hope the show finishes well!