Q3 Pitstop: The Kdramas of 2016

The Good Wifetgw00

The gist

Kim Hye-kyung is wife to a famous prosecutor who suddenly gets caught up in a public scandal. With her husband in jail, it’s up to her to support the family – both financially and emotionally. She goes back to being a lawyer after a 15-year hiatus, while dealing with the repercussions of her husband’s downfall.

The good

The brilliant acting. The queen is here! Cannes-winning Jeon Do-yeon was  incredible with her approach to her role, as she gave a similar yet also different take on the iconic Alicia Florrick (I watched a few episodes of the US version out of curiosity). There’s a sense of vulnerability and strength to her character, and a subtle but consistent growth every episode. Rounding out the main cast were two amazing actors – Yoon Kye-sang and Yoo Ji-tae – who were charismatic in their respective roles. I liked Yoon Kye-sang and his manly charm. And I still can’t get over the way Yoo Ji-tae made me root for him longer than I expected, even though his character is bad news from day 1. I’d definitely choose these two fine men over flower boy rookies any day.

The strong, empowered women. One of my favorite things in this drama was how women were just so darn clever and self-possessed. Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Seo-hyung, and Nana portrayed characters that thrived in a male-dominated environment using their different strengths. Love lines are always welcome, but these women didn’t get lost in their relationships (if any) nor did they go behind any man’s shadow. These women proved that you can be badass without having to physically kick ass. Sometimes the fiercest of characters wear bright pink stilettos for work.

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The bad

The unpleasant subjects. This isn’t something I personally find particularly bad, because I like a drama that opens a healthy debate that challenges society’s standards. But some of the drama’s themes and choices did leave a bad taste in the mouth for other people. Justification of adultery is one; ethical and moral issues were another. Then there’s Michael J. Fox’s Korean counterpart “mimicking” his actual Parkinson’s disease, and the somewhat puzzling ending that reveals the heroine’s chosen way of life. At the end of the day it’s up to the viewers how they’d take these issues based on their own beliefs and backgrounds, and the drama is just there to hold up the mirror to real societal problems.

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The verdict

The Good Wife was a compelling tale of self-discovery and empowerment. Not all lives are tied in pretty bows, and this show took us to the ugly side of people’s perfect façades. The finale just blew me away because it perfectly summed up how Hye-kyung has grown throughout the drama, and how her journey fit the show’s theme. The powerful performances of the actors carried complex emotions with subtlety, and I loved the characters’ wit and eloquence.

The successful run of The Good Wife is another tvN success, and may open doors for more ambitious adaptations (Entourage is next!). I’m not so into legal K-dramas but I enjoyed this one, probably because it had some American flair. I thought I’d feel shortchanged with having a 7-season drama condensed to 16 episodes, but I was happy to be proven wrong.

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