In a nutshell: Quick answer is it’s the story of four very different brothers and how their lives change over the course of a season as they grow away from their family farm. The vastly-popular-and-beloved answer is it’s the story of Hwang Tae-hee (3rd brother) and Baek Ja-eun falling in love. My answer is it’s the story of Baek Ja-eun and Park Bo-ja (the mom) creating a mother-daughter relationship they’d both yearned for. Other viewers will have different answers because the show used the premise well to provide a lot of different storylines. Which is the beauty of this sort of long drama. I don’t watch very many of them because it’s a pretty big commitment. But this one did its job well. For the most part.
Spoilers will occur. I’ll warn, but be aware.
What it did right: Each brother was very much his own character with his own story to go through. But their relationships with each other provided a link between the stories so there was still a cohesiveness. Some of my favorite scenes took place at the local street-bar (or whatever those tent-eateries are called?) where they bonded and bitched. (And one of the most heartbreaking scenes is when three of the brothers are drinking and commiserating and the fourth feels he’s not allowed to join them.)
Then there’s Baek Ja-eun, a young college-girl who joins their family through extreme plot and stays on to be a delightful spoiler and shaker-up of things. The interaction between her and the mom, Park Bo-ja was awesome. First they hate each other (there are reasons) and they both do cringe-worthy things that have you swinging back and forth between the characters. But then they discover they actually like each other and develop this wonderful bond. It almost played like a romance, with a meet-cute and misunderstandings and finally a reveal where they realize they each adore the other. I loved it.
But far and away the crowd favorite was the love-story between Hwang Tae-hee and Ja-eun. And I loved that storyline, too. Joo Won (of Gaksital!! fame) played Tae-hee and he’s the reason I watched in the first place. (I’d heard one of the brothers from Baker King Kim Tak Goo was in it and was like, “oh?” and then I realized is was the other brother and I was like “oh!” and then I watched. I ♥ Joo Won) And he and Uee as Ja-eun had great chemistry and their story was adorable. Unfortunately, its much loved adorableness pretty much created what I didn’t like about the drama.
Minor Spoilers Begin!
What is did wrong: Extension. The romance storyline was mega-popular and that popularity led to an extension and that extension led to a plot-twist or two that got a lot more complicated and messy than the premise of the show was made to handle. Suddenly we were dealing with a murder-mystery and a love that cannot be and in the end it killed the father-character for me and seriously wounded the 2nd brother. (Though I think a lot of that came down to a concept that gets lost in translation and that I just do. not. get.)
It didn’t ruin the show by any means. All the other storylines ended gracefully, as I recall. And even the epic-romance had a good ending. (That it only enforced the mother-daughter bond helped a lot.) But it did provide opportunity for me to side-eye — which I would prefer not to have had.
MAJOR MASSIVE SPOILERS!! Of an entire storyline!!
What got lost in translation: I seriously do not get the whole “sins of the fathers” thing that apparently exists in Korea (per k-drama’s at least, which… they could easily exaggerate). Because Ja-eun’s father killed Tae-hee’s father, even though it was a drunk-driving accident and not any kind of malicious intent, they cannot marry each other. Because it would disrespect Tae-hee’s dad. And that just boggles me. Because why? Why would it disrespect his father? The daughter didn’t do the killing.
I totally understood Tae-hee’s grandmother letting loose an emotional outburst and throwing Ja-eun out. But that’s because it was emotional. She adored her dead son — we knew that, it was an important aspect to her character. And in the end she calmed down, changed her mind, and told the mom to bring Ja-eun back. And that this happened before the big reveal that actually it wasn’t Ja-eun’s dad after all was so, so cool. Because it meant she loved Tae-hee that much and Ja-eun as well.
But the father… He was so cold and unbending and self-righteous. He was destroying Tae-hee and he didn’t seem to care. Because of his dead brother. And then there was the second brother, Tae-bum, who advised Tae-hee to just let Ja-eun go because “sins of the fathers” and what can you do? And he was the brother who should have understood how difficult it was for Tae-hee to feel like he was loved. Father died, mother abandoned him, he’s adopted into his uncle’s family but never quite feels he belongs, feels like one wrong step and the family will chuck him out and he’s told Tae-bum all this but… “sins of the fathers.” Which made Tae-bum seem like an ass. Which I didn’t want to have happen.
It doesn’t help that I don’t get the logic. To me the logical, unemotional thing would be for Ja-eun to marry Tae-hee because her father took his father from him. Give him a replacement family and the promise of children to come thereby carrying on the bloodline and what-not. A life for a life, ectetera. (I think that’s how blood-fueds were settled in the long-long-ago here in the West. Though, I could be wrong.)
I hated that it took a stupid plot-twist to undo the first stupid plot-twist. (Your father killed my father. Wait! No he didn’t!) And I ended up hating the father because he was so sloppy about other things (like providing a steady income for his family) but on this he chose to be firm. But it wasn’t a total loss, because Bo-ja stood firmly with Ja-eun which was awesome. And there was that wonderfully sweet turnaround on the grandmother’s part. So the show itself wasn’t ruined. Just one character, which isn’t that bad.