She Is Wow: my reaction

korean gothicWell, that was an addictive watch! And… I’m pretty sure I liked it? Weasel words, I know — but it’s a black comedy, and that’s not always my thing. Black comedies are, by definition, dark. I’m usually fine with dark — can crave it, even — but then they throw in the funny. And there I am, laughing about things that, in a normal setting, I would definitely not be laughing about. And then I get conflicted. (Or at least, I feel like I should be conflicted. My emotions get all tangled is what I’m trying to say.)

{Mind blowing note: I watched this via dark side sources because my usual suspects didn’t carry it. Only I just found out — literally, just prior to posting — that it’s on HULU!! So if you’re in the United States, you can watch it on HULU in HD. Which I think I’ll be doing, because the sets and costumes are too gorgeous for the fuzziness of dark side sources.}

Minor spoilers, with massive ones to come. I’ve stuck in an additional warning for the massive spoiler further down.

An example: Our female lead, Jo Ah-ra is in a loveless, sham marriage. She married solely to further her career (as did her husband — they lie to the public but are honest with each other… happy wifemostly) and she totally lusts after her hot neighbor and she seduces him (like a boss!) and he’s married. Pretty much happily.

Which means Jo Ah-ra is ruining an otherwise happy marriage and… I adored her! I was totally behind her wanting to have a bit of fun! Which is pure wrong! But there I was, hoping the neighbor’s wife wouldn’t find out, hoping hot-neighbor wouldn’t expect more than Jo Ah-ra could give, giggling like a depraved thing as Ah-ra put on her moves and hot-neighbor fell hard. Part of me was clutching my pearls in horrified outrage, of course. happy husbandBut it was a very small, ignorable part.

Which means the drama did what it was supposed to. They presented this power couple, both at the pinnacle of their careers (Jo Ah-ra winning a huge acting award, her husband, Gong Jung-han, revered as the nation’s news anchor), a place they’d gotten to by lies and back room deals, and I liked them.

A huge help was their son, Gong Min-kyu. (This was the character played by B1A4’s Jin Young.) He was their saving grace. Affectionate, innocent, deeply mischievous — he was easy to love. And since he loved his family, it encouraged me to love them as well. MinKyu(I thought Jin Young did a good job in the role. It may have been a case of excellent casting — I don’t know how much he had to stretch himself. But there were some emotional scenes that required subtle reactions to not slide into schlock and he hit the right notes.)

Another help was that the people trying to bring them down were pretty slimy themselves. It was very much choosing the best of a bad bunch — and Jo Ah-ra and Gong Jung-han were better than the rest. Or at least… they were more likable. (Min-kyu liked them, anyway!)

Then came the ending…

Everything will be spoiled now! Don’t read any further unless you’re fine with total and complete spoilers!! (Non-spoilery sum up: It’s a black-comedy. If you like that sort of thing — definitely check it out. I’m glad I watched it, even with the issues I had.)

father son

Min-kyu, for one, adores spoilers…

Two things hit my do-not-like button.

First: I didn’t like that Sung-ki died. It felt like they were following the distasteful “kill the gay character” trope. Which might not be a fair assessment but it’s how it hit me initially.

Second: I really didn’t like the, “Jung-han isn’t actually gay,” reveal. For very similar reasons. It felt like Jung-han gets magically cured and all the gayness is safely brushed away and the family can move on.

However, I do understand that S.Korea is in a different stage in coming to terms with homosexuality than I’m used to here in the States. not father sonTaking that into consideration, I’ve been pondering the ending.

It’s a big help that Jung-han actually says that he’d have an easier time telling the nation that he’s gay and asking the country to respect his love, then telling them he’d killed people. With one he’d feel a sense of righteousness — fighting for a good cause. But the other has nothing noble to it. I can appreciate that this is a good message being shared.

Plus, Sung-ki’s murder really was a viable climax to the story being told — and not because he’s gay. He was the big secret in the family but his sexuality was a very minor part of it, as it turned out. The hit-and-run accident was the issue. So death was already a player (and had been a player throughout the drama).

I’m still sad Sung-ki died. I really liked him as part of the family. It was completely twisted, especially with the strong father-son vibe he and Jung-han shared. (Something both of them seemed to crave for, as it turns out, not completely crazy reasons.) But, as Min-kyu points out, their family is pretty far from normal. SungKiThey embraced Sung-ki as part of the family in death — I just wish it could have been in life.

However, because it works with the story, I’m not offended that Sung-ki died. We’re supposed to be sad Sung-ki died. That’s why they close out with the pasted-together family photo, why Min-kyu and Jung-han have that sweet bonding moment in the graveyard (which I adored by the way). Sung-ki being alive would have been the light and happy ending, but this is a black comedy and light and happy doesn’t fit. In the end, I reluctantly see this as the better ending for the genre. Reluctantly. (The “black” of black comedy. *sigh* It gets me every time.)

happy family

I really liked this odd little family setup. I wanted to see them make it work.

I’m still unhappy with the, “Jung-han isn’t gay,” thing though. That ties too neat a bow. It means he and Ah-ra can have a more normal marriage but… the whole point is that they don’t have a normal marriage. Yes, it would mean that their infidelity would continue, but again… that’s how they work. Jung-han suddenly not being gay felt like a too-easy fix. And it undermined the difficulties of being gay and successful in S. Korean society, to my mind.

(I can actually buy the psychological reasoning — that Jung-han’s guilt was so great he became whatever Sung-ki needed at the time: mentor, big brother, lover. But it necessarily cheapens the relationship because it means it was one more lie Jung-han was telling himself. That he wasn’t really getting anything from it, though he’d argued again and again that he could most be himself with Sung-ki.)

truth?

So… I’m making use of my Jedi mind trick where I just ignore the pesky fact that ruins an otherwise good story. Sung-ki was lying to make Ah-ra feel better, or he never said it in the first place. These are not the droids I’m looking for. Move along.

(As to the mini-whodunnit at the end: Despite the suggestive cut to the bloody bat in the basement, I still think it was the housekeeper. Might be more of my Jedi mind tricks but… I don’t see that Ah-ra had much in the way of reason to kill Sung-ki. Min-kyu wasn’t in danger (which was her worry) housekeeperand Sung-ki was actually being really good to her. He was defying the housekeeper though — and she was in a murderous state of mind — and she wanted Jung-han to experience her grief. So that’s my conclusion: the housemaid, in the living room, with the bat.)

She Is Wow wasn’t a perfect drama — but it was a clever one. I liked it for the most part, and I’m really glad I stumbled across it.

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8 thoughts on “She Is Wow: my reaction

  1. My niece and I watched this as it aired, and you pretty much had the same reactions we did. I wasn’t quite as much of a fan of Go Ara as you were — I empathized too much with the neighbor’s wife, I think — but yeah, for the rest we’re pretty much on track. We also really liked the side story with Min-kyu, it was really sweet and poignant.

    On a side note, watching the opening credits just about made my jaw drop — every episode. I kept thinking, “Can they do that in a Korean drama?” I know it was a cable drama, but still…

    • I should not have been a fan of Go Ara. She was definitely doing a bad thing and I felt terrible the whole time I was cheering her on. I cannot explain my madness there — I really can’t. I actually liked the neighbor’s wife, too. It was all too strange! This is what this sort of drama does to me. 😉

      Min-kyu side story was such a breath of relief — even with its poignancy. It was a good move on the drama’s part to include it.

      Oh my gosh, those opening credits! 😀 TvN was definitely pushing the envelope. (I saw commentary that said it was labeled a “19” drama — but I kept seeing the “15” mark so… they must have had the censors’ book out, carefully going right up to the edge of what was allowed. Like with the dad — the man just likes bananas, okay? :P)

  2. To anyone reading this comment, there are MAJOR SPOILERS:

    Yeah, i think it was the housekeeper too. There’s no reason Go Ara would kill Sung Ki. She had basically accepted him and kinda liked him by the end, anyway. Everything about Sung Ki was weird though. I mean, he’s supposedly having this gay relationship with Jung Han, but it’s much more father-son like, and Min Kyu treats Sung Ki like a brother, and Sung Ki treats Min Kyu like a brother. It was always that kind of relationship between all of them, so the romance was odd from the start. But yeah, when Jung Han wasn’t actually gay (which they showed when he got jealous when Go Ara cheated on him), it was like “well, now I feel even more sorry for Sung KI”, lol. It was kinda ridiculous.

    I loved Min Kyu, he was so adorable. Stealing a blood bank mobile and trying to get people to donate? lol. I almost cried when his girlfriend died. Actually, maybe I did cry. It was so sad! And the next door neighbours were awesome. Go Ara just shamelessly seduces the happily married man, and then he’s so upright and sweet that he thinks he’s fallen in love with her, realises he hasn’t, and just gets taken back by his loving wife. He’s lucky his wife was so forgiving! And Go Ara was such a bitch, but somehow, you never really dislike her. It’s weird how that worked.

    • I’ve since decided that this was a sort of dark and twisted love-story, where Go Ara and Jung Han actually loved each other (because they understood each other) but didn’t realize it until their backs were against the wall. Which I actually kind of like. (Another reason the murderer can’t be Go Ara. It would be a deep betrayal of Jung Han and the whole point is they’re no longer keeping secrets from each other.)

      I even liked how twisted Sung-ki’s relationship was with Jung Han — as we learn more about the whys and hows of them it’s kind of fascinating. Like they were both looking for something in the other (Sung-ki for a family, Jung Han for… forgiveness, maybe?) but couldn’t define it, or couldn’t let themselves define it and so it came out as a romance. That really wasn’t. Because the vibe was so different.

      What I didn’t like — and am still struggling with — is that it made Sung-ki’s gayness part of the twisting. Especially since he died and got regulated to their basement of family-secrets… I don’t know. Sung-gi was written as a good character and I think we’re supposed to like him and morn his death and such. But… Yup — I’m struggling. 😉

      Which is why I love the straight forwardness of Min-kyu’s story! He really was the pure heart in the center of it all. (I think it’s important that he is actually a virgin and he and Nan-hee’s relationship became something so not lust-based.) And the shot the death scene so perfectly! It could have been so easy to push it into schmaltzy cliches but they kept it light which made it hit harder.

  3. I don’t think I will ever watch it again
    The first reason is I really liked Sungki, from his first scene in this film. There was no reason him to be killed. I’d hoped that he would have a happy life
    And the other reason is this film’s so unlogical
    I hate black comedy ==

  4. I was pleasantly surprised by this drama, it is different from most Kdramas. The actor that grabbed me is Jin Young, Min Kyu’s character was fresh, likable and understandable.I really enjoyed seeing him every time he was onscreen. I know the actor Kwon Yool, (Sung-Ki) from Lie to Me with Yoon Eun Eye and Kang Ji Hwan, he was excellent and so funny as the Manager Park Hoon in that drama. It was great seeing him in a different character, well acted too.
    I liked that this drama did so much in 12 episodes and didn’t drag, which I find happens a lot especially in those that go over 16 episodes.
    The only character that I found unbelievable was the neighbor husband, Choi Ko Ya, it was a bit of a stretch, his quick love, while possible, I didn’t feel it…but it’s a drama.

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