Good Lord, that was bad. And not even crazy bad — which can bring its own level of entertainment. Gu Family Book just got… boring. The writer completely lost track of theme and purpose and began throwing things at the wall to see what would stick (spoiler alert: nothing). The director took the word “clunky” to whole new levels. And the one character I cared anything about got completely shafted.
Spoilers and rant below…
So apparently — going by the ending — the thrust of the drama was supposed to be the epic love between Kang-chi and Yeo-wool. Unfortunately, that’s only going by the end in which their “epic” love sucked up all the focus. Because going by the rest of the drama, their love story was cute (at best) and not all that eventful. She loved him; he loved her. Nothing truly challenged or disturbed their courtship.
A courtship I found incredibly boring because it was so smooth. High school romances have more drama. Yeo-wool immediately realizes she loves Kang-chi, dedicates her life to making his life better, succeeds so well his challenges evaporate almost as soon as they appear, and — oh yeah, he totally loves her, too.
So the love story wasn’t much of a story. Maybe the hero’s journey was the thing? (Which, per the ending, it really wasn’t — but let’s just imagine.) Thing was, our hero didn’t really journey much. He’s exactly the same guy at the ending that he was at the beginning. Every challenge set up for him, someone else talks him through solving. He had so many father-figures (six, if you count his actual dad) that even moments of pain were quickly and efficiently soothed.
He’s never asked to make any sort of sacrifice. If anything, people sacrifice for him. His first family is completely destroyed and he simply moves onto another family. (Who might want to check out how badly he failed the first set he’d vowed to look after. I’m just saying, he made some promises. And not only didn’t keep them — he seemed to have forgotten they’d been made in the first place. Because, I’m sure, the writer forgot about it.)
Exhibit A: The (entirely unintentional, I’m sure) horror that was Chung-jo’s story. Her character — at first so important to Kang-chi he promises three different people he’s going to save her — slowly fades away. Her scenes get smaller and smaller as her life gets bleaker and bleaker. She’s not a part of Kang-chi’s long goodbye to everyone else he knows. He effectively dismisses her by returning her gift (not in person, of course), and she doesn’t get reincarnated with the rest of the gang. (Neither does the headmistress Soo-ryun… because gisaengs are too dirty to reincarnate? I guess? Is the writer’s sloppy indication, anyway.)
It means that her rape was truly gratuitous. An excuse to show the villain being evil (because one rape wasn’t enough?) and to manipulate the viewers into feeling horror and disgust. Though apparently, we weren’t expected to feel sympathy since the drama never shows her any. As far as I could tell, Kang-chi never learns Chung-jo was raped. And the drama leaves her a gisaeng. Which, per very explicit scenes in the drama, is a bleak and powerless life indeed.
In the end, there was no story. Just a series of awkward scenes strewn together, carefully arranged to confuse or negate any of the scenes that went before it. A hot mess I should have abandoned long, long ago.