11 July 2013

GU FAMILY BOOK: EPISODE 15 - 24 & FULL REVIEW - Overall and Final Drama Thoughts

KOREAN DRAMA REVIEW: GU FAMILY BOOK REVIEW




 

Gu Family Book has been a bit of a strange beast for me. I wanted and expected to love it immensely but slowly and sadly realised it wasn’t quite the level of drama crack that I had hoped for, a rather disappointing truth that was very hard for me to accept.  Seriously, it has all the elements that could have made me love it to death, being a fantasy fusion Saguek and all, but somehow it just didn’t use this advantage meaning it will sadly never make it onto my favourites list.

This doesn’t mean I am writing it off however and I must admit my enjoyment returned significantly once I was over the halfway point and had calmed down a little after the shocking Chung Jo storyline of ultimate uncoolness. (see rant)

The first few episodes were honestly pretty damn cool and so I still harboured hope at that stage,  I thought it looked absolutely beautiful in the way it was shot, the gorgeous outdoor scenery and the costumes, I liked the story set up and characters (well most of them…obviously not Mr McRapey Rape whom I hated with a fiery passion) and I was also totally rooting for the OTP.

I think things stalled a bit though with the meat of the story taking way too long getting started, and when it finally did it then confused us viewers by making Yeo Wool’s competition Chung Jo into such a likable and utterly tragic figure that I didn't know who to root for.  

This jarring pull on where I wanted Kang Chi’s affections to fall blinded me a little to the sweet and simple charms of the main OTP ( Yeo Wool and Kang Chi ) and actually pulled me away from shipping their sweetly budding romance, a huge shame really because with Chung Jo’s presence aside I think I could have really enjoyed their innocent friendship turned romance vibe.  And on the other end of the scale, my shipping of the wrong character was a really terrible thing as it almost killed my enjoyment of the entire show when no one saved her from her awful fate in episode 12.

This over-the-top tragedy of Chung Jo and Tae Soo’s journey continued to be quite at odds with the main love story which was filled with such innocence and sweetness that it almost seemed inappropriate against the suffering those other characters were experiencing.

Eventually though I have managed to let go of this and just enjoy the drama for what it is, not as deep or utterly romantic as I hoped it would be, but still a sweet and fun ride nonetheless, and accepting this was a real turning point for me in regards to my enjoyment of the show. By finally letting go of my horror at Chung Jo’s fate, I was able to concentrate on the cuteness of the OTP, making the whole experience much more fun.
In other words I turned my brain off.





I may not be as emotionally attached or invested as I had hoped I would be but this is still an undeniably breezy and fun drama with much to like, keeping me plenty interested in its outcome. 
Maybe one day I will even re-watch the whole thing, only I will fast forward through all the horrible tragic bits and just stick to the sweetness of Kang Chi and Yeo Wool’s romance, which would be a fun and very easy way to enjoy this drama.  
 

Speaking of their romance, I found myself liking very much all the scenes from episode 15 and 16 where Kang Chi was attempting to kiss Yeo Wool.  Up until that point I feel that their love was very pure and sweet, highlighted by ‘romantic' hugs and not much else. The attempted kisses for me were a bit of a turning point, as from the way Kang Chi looked at Yeo Wool (mainly at her lips) I got a real sense that there was actually a little bit of passion and sexual tension between the pair who formally could have best been described as comfortable comrades rather than lovers.

Another scene that really affected me was the showdown between Kang Chi, Yeo Wool and Wol Ryung the Gumiho daddy which takes place in the woods after Yeo Wool goes missing. 
When Wol Ryung threatens his son by saying that Kang Chi must give up being human if he wants Yeo Wool to live, our female lead impressed me once again with her brave steadfast loyalty.  Even in that moment with Wol Ryung’s hands around her throat, she still yells at Kang Chi that he must never give up.

Even Wol Ryung is forced to acknowledge the sincerity of her words and I think it eventually dawns on him that this young couple are different from himself and Seo Hwa.  After all Yeo Wool is clearly aware of Kang Chi’s non-human side and yet she still stands by his side. 
 
And it is Yeo Wool’s words of encouragement that finally give Kang  Chi the strength to stand against his father.  In this really feirce and romantic showdown, he shouts out Yeo Wool is mine', and these words remind Wol Ryung once again of his own past,  stopping him in his tracks. 

After he is gone Kang Chi finally manages to kiss Yeo Wool as they stand alone in the woods, little blue lights floating all around them. And it is a seriously real kiss, completely satisfying and lovely. They actually move their lips and hands and everything! 

It is quite romantic but also a suitable moment for this couple as although I was worried Yeo Wool would just stand there passively (as some of the earlier kiss attempts seemed to indicate she might) really it’s not hard to imagine that her character would be a bit more fearless then that. It’s a pretty passionate and epic kiss and Yeo Wool even goes in for seconds, taking initiative like the awesome girl I knew she was.
This lovely long kissing scene sure as hell beats those completely unromantic dry lip presses we often get in other dramas, and after hours and hours of watching and waiting for a couple to finally get their act together it is an enormous relief to be treated to a proper real life passionate kiss.
Ten points to Gu Family Book.
Good job guys. Pops approves!

Yeo Wool and Kang Chi’s interactions after the kiss are just so utterly cute its almost hard to bear. I completely loved the following scenes where they fight (or play at fighting to be more exact) and Yeo Wool even gives Kang Chi a massive smack which is just so amusing and awesome. I really quite love her!
For the rest of the episode the sweetness is seriously on overload (in a really good way) and these guys are finally fully winning me over!

 


Also there was some seriously awesome dialogue which I liked so much I was driven to record some of my favourite scenes. One such moment that really stood out for me was when Gon comes across Kang Chi watching Tae Soo (who is confessing his feelings to Yeo Wool).  

Gon tells Kang chi almost sympathetically that this is as close as he will ever get to Lady Yeo Wool and it is pretty obvious he is speaking from experience.
Gon continues, ' You and Lady Yeo Wool both will get hurt in the end. Before that you should give up'.

I loved Kang Chi’s reply, 'Don’t you know Yeo Wool hates people who give up without even trying? I don’t do anything that Yeo Wool doesn’t like.'
Kang Chi walks away leaving Gon looking shaken, his expression making me feel a quite sorry for him.
(But also, that right there is why you never got the girl Gon.)

Kang Chi is still thinking about Tae Soo however when Yeo Wool finds him later. She asks him if he is jealous before adding,  'Why should you be jealous? Jealousy is for the ones who can’t have what they want.'
What a simple and beautiful way for her to confess to him and agree with his earlier words to his father about Yeo Wool belonging to him.  She has agreed that she does belong to only him.  She is his. And he is hers.
Rather a lovely confession.


On a side note, gosh the cuteness of Suzy! I just cannot get enough of her, especially her hilarious interactions with her babysitting nurse and in particular the ridiculously funny moment when she laughs smugly (or was it a smug honk..? I am not really sure but I loved it) when she manages to talk her nurse into visiting the market (where Yeo Wool obviously ditches her again straight away).
I think Suzy is just the most gorgeous and lovely girl ever and I really enjoy her in this drama. She may not be the most fantastic actress but I actually think she is doing really well with emoting here and also in making me truly care for Yeo Wool as a character. But even besides her acting there is something about that girl that is just so appealing and loveable that you can’t help but adore her. Well, in my opinion anyway!
 
And so Kang Chi’s relationship with Yeo Wool just goes from strength to strength as they constantly prove to each other (and everyone else around them) that they will trust in each other no matter what and not make the same dumb mistakes of the parents generation.


Also can I just say what the hell is going on with Seo Hwa’s face?  I mean if they couldn’t get the same actress to play the part when she returns from the dead (or not dead, whatever), couldn’t they at least have made up some magicy reason why her face is different instead of pretending she looks the same and having all the other characters recognising her as the same person?  At least make her age 20 years so the actress can be changed to someone older or just explain the change with some random magical mumbo jumbo.
Boo, bad move show. So confusing.

On the topic of Kang Chi’s returning parents, how totally awesome is Wol Ryung? He is not only completely gorgeous but is able to just as convincingly play evil as he was able to previously play the sweetheart. Someone give this man a leading role now!

The scene where Wol Ryung sits on the library floor with black veins creeping up his skin and tiny black magical clouds floating all around him was very darkly atmospheric and cool.   The way he sits so still and the expression on his face is all suitably ominous and I think the whole thing was very effective in bringing on the creepy.
Seriously, thank god they brought Wol Ryung back! Other than the main OTP and the (completely mishandled) storyline of Chung Jo he is by far the most interesting thing about this drama, and is a truly welcome diversion from all sorts of patriotic old dude ship building, Seo Hwa face swaps and stupid rapey old men.

Seo Hwa's death scene was pretty epic (mainly because Wol Ryung was present and he is awesome) and I did appreciate the face swap back to the original actress even though it made no sense at all and was completely weird. But when you are already running with being totally weird I guess there is no harm whatsoever in getting a little bit weirder, so it gets a nod of approval from me.

The complete and utter lack of revenge that Seo Hwa ever inflicts on Jo Gwan-woong though is a completely different story.
I mean after 20 years of plotting to take him down, the very best she ever manages to accomplish is funding his long term business ventures anonymously?! Really Seo Hwa? That's the best you could do?
So weak!

Instead of pumping money into his evil plans, maybe she should have, oh I don't know say hired an expensive assassin to kill him? Perhaps that would have been a smarter idea!
And if she was really searching for her son for 20 years she probably shouldn't have been looking for him in Japan. In fact, maybe she should have even checked the exact place that she last left him?
Sigh.
Seo Hwa is stupid and Wol Ryung probably should have saved himself this heartache and just fallen in love with me instead....


Meanwhile our main couple are getting reminded (again and again by everyone around them) that if they stay together one of them may die, as foretold by their mate The Monk. Presumably this means Yeo Wool may die, considering that she is the only one who isn't totally immortal out of the two of them, and this causes some understandable friction between her and Kang Chi.   After all, it is all good and well for Yeo Wool to decide for herself that she is willing to risk her life to be with him, but if that really is the only outcome of their doomed fate, then it is Kang Chi who would actually have to live on by himself knowing she had died because of him.
Which means it is time for the Noble Sacrifice and Kang Chi ends their relationship in order to potentially save Yeo Wool from a potentially possible future threat.

But luckily for all involved the Noble Sacrifice only lasts until Kang Chi heads off for a chat with the Admiral Lee Soon-shin, who promptly asks him if he has considered what Yeo Wool fears most in this world? (...he is wise indeed.) And of course what Yeo Wool fears most is living life without Kang Chi, meaning Kang Chi immediately regrets his decision and so rushes back to apologise to her......but its too late, dum dum dum!



Yeo Wool's second kidnapping was a pretty silly affair....the ridiculous (and very fake looking) Spiky Iron Ball Of Doom aside (what a dumb way to try and kill someone), the mysterious plan of Kang Chi's where he asks Lee Soon-shin to trust him also made no sense.  Basically it just involved the Admiral heading to the Hundred Year Inn with his army to capture the bad guy? Hang on a minute, why didn't they all do that before?

Like at the very beginning of the drama for instance?

If it was that bloody easy to capture the evil  Jo Gwan-woong, then why has everyone waited until now to do it? And what was this about Soon-shin having to 'trust' Kang Chi?  I can't understand why that silly plan even required trust? Or why it was even called a plan come to think of it....aren't plans usually a little more tricksy then just turning up and arresting everyone?
Maybe I am missing something....





On the topic of Lee Soon-shin, I can't help but feel like his epic goodness, wisdom and patriotic nature kind of missed the mark. Maybe it is just because for me, as a viewer watching from outside Korea with only a basic understanding of that countries history, it all seems a little hero worshipy,  the character of Lee Soon-shin in this drama being so one note and shallow (yeah we all get it, he is really wise and good) that he actually becomes just plain boring.
In saying that though, I do understand his role in the drama as (another) surrogate father to Kang Chi, someone who Kang Chi can trust and look up to as he dishes out advice whenever Kang Chi needs it most, but seriously I still don't really understand why they chose him as a character instead of some other random old dude who could fulfill that role just as well.  Except I guess to show how totally evil the bad guys all are for going against Korea's biggest and most glorious hero.


Also, Master Dam? His reaction to the kidnapping of his daughter was absolutely atrocious ('Forget about her!') and made me lose what little respect I had garnered for him up until that point. I mean his angle was actually to just let her die in order to show the enemy that their evil tricks won't work on him? What kind of a crazy stupid strategy is that? And his 'sad' face was really laughable, considering that it looked exactly like every other face he made during this drama...happy face, angry face, serious face...seriously who cast this guy?

Anyway all of the silly plotting aside, Kang Chi's epic reaction to being told to forget about Yeo Wool was pretty romantic and passionate, and I felt like his words were very heartfelt. The fact that everyone else also decided to ignore the hell out of Master Dam and go looking for Yeo Wool even against his wishes (stupid man) was also a nice scene, especially in the case of Gon who had always up until this point done as he was ordered.



And then we come to the final conflict of this drama.
Jo Gwan-woong gets arrested and gets his hand cut off, which somehow still doesn't feel like enough payoff for his horribleness throughout this drama. I am not saying I wished he had been tortured or anything but I do think it would have been nice to watch his horror at having his little empire come slowly crashing down around him. I would have preferred to see him on the receiving end of a little humiliation in the same way that he inflicted that kind of torture onto our main characters, such and Chung Jo and her family.  It all seemed a bit too clean and quick somehow.



I liked that Chung Jo went to visit him at the prison only because if her relationship with this terrible man had just ended with no final conversation it would have broken my heart, just because I do not think she would ever have gotten any sort of emotional closure on this awful period of her life, a series of events which were all totally this one mans fault.
However I still do not necessarily agree that she made the right choice in giving him poison, only because it does save him the humiliation of standing trial and having to publicly face up to his crimes, though in a way I guess Chung Jo's own small brand of closure was more important to her then a wider drawn-out revenge. I feel like this one decisive action also gave her back a small semblance of feeling like she had control over herself and her circumstances, though this is not really the case of course.   From now on Chung Jo must continue to be what the world has made her, a Gisaeng, even though the Inn now belongs to her family again, a truly sad truth about the times she lived in and the lack of control and choice she has in that society.

So I feel like her actions boil down to one thing, though she obviously doesn't really have any control at all (she is still a Gisaeng for life considering her virginity and purity has been lost and she is now a fallen woman) but at least she can feel like she made a choice and followed through on it and I hope that will give her a chance to be at peace within herself.

To be honest I hated Chung Jo's whole storyline. There was never any redemption for her character nor any way for her to have a happy ending (the best she got was resignation to her totally shithouse fate) and this was a very hard thing for me to accept. I wanted so much more for the beautiful Chung Jo and demand a sequel drama with her as the star, to take place after the events that this drama finished with.   Let her also find love again and realise that first love is not the be all and end all, just like Kang Chi did.  Let her find a man who doesn't give a crap that she is Gisaeng, he just loves her for who she is.
Which is a pretty damn fine woman!



The End:
Now....what to say about the ending? Crazyness ensues basically. It really really does and I am totally unsure exactly what I feel about it.

I think Yeo Wool's death was quite well played out in the 'pulling the heartstrings' avenue and it was actually quite sad and touching to watch. The lead up to her death and the quiet conversations she shares with Kang Chi were very affecting and emotionally upsetting, her actual death truly saddening because it made me feel for all the characters around her that were touched and illuminated by her presence amongst them. With her death, everyone loses out and that was quite a sad thing to see.

The saddest part for me though was after the act, when Kang Chi has made the decision to leave everyone behind (and totally not look for that Gu Family Book which has been the whole point of everything ever in this drama but is suddenly deemed completely unnecessary....) and as he leaves Yeo Wool's home for the very last time, it is that image of her empty room with the tiny flower still sitting there that really stayed with me long after the scene had played out, really emphasising her absence by the oddness of her space in the world being now forever empty.
This scene really made me ponder the deep sadness of losing someone close to you, the absolute horror that once they are gone that spot in the world that they filled will forever remain empty. So truly sad.

Aaaaand then we flash forward 422 years into the future to find out that Kang Chi is now a happy little Chaebol living a happy little Chaebol life in modern-day Seoul. (And he has the reincarnation of his surrogate father working for him as his butler......which seems a little demeaning.)

But the thing I don't get is, why is Kang Chi so damn happy? Hasn't he basically been living alone for the last 422 years?  Didn't he get lonely? Isn't he all angsty and bored by living after being alone for so long?  Hasn't he almost given up hope that he will ever see Yeo Wool again by this point?  Come to think of it, can he even remember what she looked like after so long?

But I guess they ran out of time to explore any of those questions, because next up we see Kang Chi meeting some more reincarnations of other past characters (but not all of them) in a flashy disjointed sequence which seemed to hint at a whole different drama.  More like a slickly cool romantic comedy then the weird mix of fantasy, cuteness and sadness we have endured up until this point.

I feel like Kang Chi's happy attitude and fun lifestyle really took away from what could have been a rather desperately romantic reunion between himself and Yeo Wool, the woman he has waited for 422 years to see again, and so in my opinion the actual meeting fell a little flat.

Also....did the reappearance of the peach tree and crescent moon mean that he is also bad fate for her in this lifetime as well?

I didn't hate the ending, but really by this time I was already a little disconnected to the characters which made it pretty easy for me to just accept whatever crazyness they had in store for me. Which was probably a very good thing considering the ending the drama went with.


So I guess for my parting words I will say that this drama was not totally terrible and there were certainly some really good ideas and stories that I really enjoyed watching. It was cute and sweet and at times rather romantic. The OTP were lovely and the visuals of the show were really nice too.

Unfortunately though, there was also a lot of untapped potential with character depths and plotlines not really being explored to their full extent or even given a chance to blossom at all.
 And also there was a lot of just plain stupidness as well.






2 comments:

  1. oh helloo...! o/
    i'm currently watching the 16th... or 17th or 18th episode? ugh molla. and yes, what confusing is seo hwa with who know that face. if the lady gisaeng (who's her name?) has the exact same face as 20 years ago, and so yeo wool's father, so jung, and jo gwan woong, why seo hwa??? why???
    I thought that seo hwa change her face (with plastic surgery, but then I realize they're on jeoseon era. or maybe like arang and the magistrate drama, seo hwa using someone else's body???) so she could do revenge without recognized as seohwa but... when jo gwan woong's face shocked after seen her face... I was like wtf -_- so this is seo hwa in 20 years with different face asdfghjkl

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    Replies
    1. Haha I know right? It makes absolutely no sense at all and I was soooo confused! I just don't understand why they didn't just get the same actress to play her or at least explain the face change with some magic!! It is so crazy!!
      Especially considering everyone else has their same faces after 20 years like you said, like the head gisaeng and Yeo Wool's dad all look exactly the same!!
      So weird!

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