P.S.: Now with newly corrected names that actually reflect the ones used in the show! ::facepalm::
In episode 5, Big was born again. With the one-year time jump, we started over from the very beginning—at another event at the very same wedding hall where Da Ran ran first met Yoon Jae. Only this time, it’s a beginning shared with Kyung Joon, and one that’s filled with connections where before there were only missed attempts. Da Ran spots Kyung Joon in the elevator, exactly where she missed Yoon Jae. Kyung Joon takes her hand, where before Yoon Jae’s attempt to do so failed.
This is all well and good, but it makes me a little antsy--I didn’t think a rebirth was necessary in the first place. I'm a little worried that the unsolvable mysteries I found so compelling in Big’s early episodes might get gobbled up in romance wank. They've been left hanging for yet another week, after all: What’s up with the body swap? Are Kyung Joon and Yoon Jae related somehow? What is Yoon Jae like, really? Does he actually love Da Ran? The writers were clearly having a lot of fun toying with us back then, and I appreciated to no end the what-did-I-really-see? magic tricks built into the show’s first four episodes.
Although everyone else seems to prefer the more recent episodes—because, presumably, grown-up-ish Kyung Joon is a better fit for Da Ran, as romantic leads go—to me it feels like the show is veering off course with the post-time jump material. Without the slow-burn, speed-of-life reveal of the first episodes, it’s in danger of becoming just another run-of-the-mill Kdrama romance with only a hint of a larger body-swap narrative arc.
In fact, this is exactly what happened with Greatest Love, the Hong sisters’ last drama. It used its dating show plotline for a couple of (relatively cheap) jokes in a few episodes, but eventually chose to focus exclusively on the relationship between the leads, which was established largely in a narrative vacuum. Although I thought that show was a lot of fun, any plotting beyond the romance felt stunted and half-hearted.
Big’s first-quarter time jump was certainly a gutsy, bravura moment as far as storytelling goes, and it served an essential purpose. Giving these characters time to establish themselves in the post-body-swap world allowed us to see both Da Ran and Kyung Joon evolve: Da Ran has largely accepted Yoon Jae’s wandering heart and moved on, while Kyung Joon has grown from a goofy boy-child into a thoughtful, hardworking young man. He really is an upgraded version of himself, with all of the charm and few of the childish tics. This new development makes it all the more clear why Gong Yoo had to do so much hammy (over)acting in the first four episodes. He needed not only to create a Kyung Joon that was different from Yoon Jae, but also one that could demonstrably change and mature throughout the course of the drama.
One thing I really love about the latter-day Big episodes is the new vantage on Ma Ri’s relationship with Kyung Joon. It’s charming that their affectionate brother-sister friendship is partially responsible for Ma Ri’s desperate love. Beyond that, the added motivation of a guilty consciences morphs her character from a one-note, pathetically besotted teenage girl to a smart, loyal (if slightly misguided) ally for Kyung Joon. In a way, this is a miniature version of the trick the Hong sisters are pulling with Da Ran and Yoon Jae’s relationship—Big amounts to a delicious game of hide and seek with the characters’ true selves. Our first impression of Ma Ri has turned out to be only a small facet of who she really is, and each successive episode is deepening our understanding of her.
It’s true, also, that there was only so much to be done with the sleeping-beauty plotline. (Teehee…the “flower boy” line in episode 6 alone was worth the price of admission.) At this point, the show has responsibilities beyond dwelling on its overarching mythology.
From a narrative perspective, the writers need to spend time moving their characters into place for Yoon Jae’s awakening, which I’m still hoping will be the catalyst for the rest of the drama’s action. It’s logical that Ma Ri and Yoon Jae’s colleague need to know about the swap before the clockwork mechanism behind the rest of the plot springs into action, and also that Da Ran needed to get some perspective on her relationship with Yoon Jae. Everything’s now in position for the show to have a truly viable love triangle: Da Ran has strong feelings for both men, and each of the two leads can now make a case for why she beings with him alone.
I suspect some pretty great things lie in store: Da Ran will eventually break down and give things a try with Kyung Joon, perhaps prompted by jealousy of the history he shares with Ma Ri. And imagine Yoon Jae’s sense of betrayal when he awakens to realize someone horned in on his girl while he was away—or not, because the show has given us a new possible motivation for Yoon Jae’s engagement to Da Ran: he might have been using her to avoid his mom’s matchmaking attempts, just as Kyung Joon is pretending to do.
All in all, Big is still a stunning narrative high-wire act from screenwriters known more for their pithy dialogue and pop-culture savvy than their plotting prowess. And I’m still watching breathlessly from the sidelines, hoping against hope that the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down to earth.