In a nutshell: Set in the glittery world of the rich and powerful with social rules tightened just a notch past normal; featuring a Who’s Who cast of hot young actors; centered on a love that defies class lines — this should have been a rich and indulgent dessert of a drama. Hate yourself tomorrow; tonight, we dine! Only it fell depressingly flat. Someone forgot the most important ingredient of all: story.
What should have made it good: Fortunately, for the many, many actors who signed onto the drama, there were quite a few charming characters. Class clown, Myung-soo (Park Hyung-shik),
led the pack. Not much happened to them, but they brought humor and warmth to every scene they were in.
Then there were the two mothers: the housekeeper (Kim Mi-kyung) and the lady of the house (Kim Sung-ryung). Not only humorous and heartfelt, they managed tiny shifts of relationship and character that came very, very close to creating a storyline of their very own.
and Kang Ha-neul as her dark horse suitor.
Nothing happens and the actors were forced to sustain the same emotional note for the duration of the drama, but they sounded that one, drearily sad note with professional aplomb.
But unfortunately, they were not allowed reason. Their emotional shifts seemed more tied to episode count than any actual story-motivation. Both actors are skilled and the emotions felt real — but the motivations for those emotions were frustratingly absent. Which left the audience asking, “But why is all lost, now? Wait, why is there sudden hope? Hang on, where did the hope go?”)
The extent of the story-telling failure was brought into stark relief when a last minute plot showed up in the final two episodes. Shoehorned in, and forced to move with ungainly speed, it served more to underline how much had been missing than to save the drama from stagnation. If it had been allowed full use of the 20 episodes allotted it might have given real motivations to Tan and Eun-sang. But it wasn’t and it didn’t.
The one good thing: Possessing both interesting character traits and a storyline to go with them was Choi Young-do (Kim Woo-bin). For great swaths of the drama, Young-do was the only dynamic character on the screen.
His storyline was by no means unique. Nor was it subtle. Nor, to be completely honest, was it all that good. (His initial bad-boy was a little too psychotic; his change of heart, a little too swift.)
But it was an actual storyline with an actual character-arc and Kim Woo-bin grabbed the role with both hands and played the hell out of it. By virtue of having the only real movement onscreen, Young-do came across as a refreshingly active and therefore strangely compelling character — even while burdened by the worst sort of story-clichés,
In conclusion: With an all-star cast, and a huge amount of hype, Heirs pulled in a great many viewers. But it wasted the eyes it was given. For some reason, despite creating a fascinating world inhabited by a wealth of quirky and endearing characters, the writer completely fell down when it came to story. What should have been a delightful watch turned out to be an empty box — beautifully wrapped but with nothing inside.