Secret: the review

secret posterSecret
air date: 9.25.2013 through 11.14.2013
number of episodes: 16
I watched it: self-indulgent marathon

In a nutshell: Melodrama. Almost pure, very nearly unadulterated, melodrama. Unfortunately, there were some delusions of deepness that kept things from attaining that delightful fever-pitch a classic melo does so well. Like the story’s villain getting weighed down by an unnecessary redemption arc, keeping him from the glorious heights of epic villainy I was hoping for. The overarching plot still works, filled with the sort of obsession and vengeance typical of a melo. The details get murky (sometimes to unintended comic effect when seemingly important events occur out of the blue, never to be mentioned again) but the actors carry on with great aplomb. If you’re watching for the melo — and that’s the only reason you should be watching — this drama almost satisfies. (If only the villain had been fully unleashed!)

A few more details: I think it was a great help that our two leading characters were played by skilled comic actors. There’s a certain type of awareness involved in good comedy. happyAnd that ability translated into a dollop of otherwise unlooked for character-depth.

Yes, our leading lady was a little too good to be true. But Hwang Jung-eum brought a sardonic edge to the role that suggested she knew she was being excessively kind and forgiving and maybe a little recognition was in order. And yes, our leading man was brimming with arrogance and man-pain. But there was also a healthy dash of goofy boyishness that Ji Sung played so naturally, he actually succeeded in adding vulnerability to his character.

I don’t want to oversell it. The characters are pretty much what you’d expect from this sort of story. But that sense of humor, even peeking out from the corners, added just enough realism to make our two leads likable. tenderlovingcareWhich meant that, as the plot played out with regimented predictability or moments of bizarre randomness, I still cared about what happened to them. Even if none of it made much sense.

In conclusion: Secret wasn’t a great drama. It followed all the tropes and chose the titillating over the logical — which is exactly what a story like this should do — but then it tried to shoehorn in a moral lesson. Which is something a story like this should not do. Which means if you’re in the mood for a chest-beating melodrama there are better drama choices out there. But if you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel and have a ton of time to kill and aren’t too fussed about plot logic — this might do. I’m damning with faint praise here, I know. But faint praise is all I can give.

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4 thoughts on “Secret: the review

  1. Haha this drama definitely was delusional, in many ways!! It’s true, it thought itself far more clever than it actually was. This drama was all about Ji Sung for me. Without him, I don’t think I’d have finished this. I appreciated his goofiness, even if it did feel odd or random, as you say at some points. Amazing what a good actor can do with taking something off the page and running with it!

    • Yeah, it was definitely Ji Sung (and for me, Hwang Jung-eum) that kept me watching. Even when I was rolling my eyes, or scratching my head, at some new plot “twist” I was still entertained watching the two of them. 🙂

  2. I just finished this drama today! I went in with very high expectations because everyone was saying how good it was to the point of obession, but I’m rather on the fence about this. I still can’t quite decide if I like the show or not. I guess melo is not really my thing. What kept me going were Ji Sung and awesome acting from everyone, and the stunning cinematography.

    • The acting was above and beyond the material, definitely. And it was very pretty. And those things helped a lot! Also, the drama knew the type of emotional beats its audience wanted and did its best to give it to them. Even when it had shoehorn it in. (Like the sickbed scene.)

      I’m not sure this is the best test for deciding if you like melo, though. Because it gave us the outlines of what a melo should be, but there wasn’t any real meat to it. If that makes sense? For me, I’d get the emotional feels that a melo should deliver, but then my brain would kick in and I’d realize that what just happened didn’t make sense. So it was a real hot/cold thing. Yummy in the moment but with a funny aftertaste.

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