Thursday, June 21, 2012

Little Thoughts on Big’s 5th and 6th Episodes

I’m still liking Big a lot, but (in spite of Gong Yoo’s outrageous toothsomeness) I’m a little less insanely in love with its most recent installments than I was with the first few. Read on for spoilery discussion about this week’s episodes.


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.

8 comments:

  1. I know I am really hoping for it to continue the momentum and to not fall into the usual kdrama pattern. I agree that it's about time that they wake Yoon Jae up to keep things interesting, but do you really think they will do that with Ma Ri having just found out that Kyung Joon is in Yoon Jae's body? You don't think they'll play around with that first? Although I guess they still could if he woke up but they were still in the wrong bodies. Boy that will make for some more funny scenes, with proper Yoon Jae trying to learn to act like a teenager :P

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    1. They'll have to give Ma Ri an episode or two to get used to Kyung Joon in Yoon Jae’s body, I think. (That way it would be even funnier when she’s presented with Yoon Jae in Kyung Joon’s body, too.)

      I sometimes think the Hong sisters have such great ideas in their dramas that they leave things underdeveloped when they should be milking them for all they’re worth—like the dating show in Greatest Love. I'm just hoping that Yoon Jae in Kyung Joon’s body doesn’t fall into this category. I guess playing that role is a lot to ask of the younger actor, though...

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  2. We also have to see what b*tch doctor lady will do when she figures it out, which I'm guessing will probably be in the next episode. I really am hoping they don't mess this up though, because it has the potential to be so amazing!! I wonder why they chose such an inexperienced actor. Just because of star power I guess? I know he is an idol or whatever, but you never know, sometimes the new ones surprise you. So maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised if they ever wake him up before the last episode lol....

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    1. Oy. If they don't wake him up until the last minute, I'm going to be incredibly annoyed. Which I guess is a sign of how good this show actually is—if it wasn't, I'd just shrug and move on. As it is, the thought of Big sucking at the end is almost physically painful. (Maybe this is why I usually wait until dramas have fully aired before watching them. The tightrope walk is too scary to watch when it's not already in reruns!)

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  3. I know right!! It's going to be a tragedy of epic proportions if they mess this drama up, it has the potential to be one of the best ever. Definitely better than all the other Hong Sister dramas (though I really love Gumiho for its humor, mythology, and general cuteness it is not near as exciting and utterly gut bustingly funny as Big has been thus far). "The Musical" was the first drama I ever watched that was currently airing and it disappointed me majorly at the end. I liked the beginning (though to this day I cannot figure out why they chose the actress they did for that role because the girl cannot sing God bless her). But it just got worse and worse and I'm pretty sure that it got cut short because I had read that there were going to be 16 episodes, so I was expecting that many, but it abruptly ended at 15 and they tried to wrap everything up really quickly in that one episode and it left out a whole bunch of important things and there were loose ends hanging everywhere. It was a disaster. If that happens to Big I am going to have a giant 3-year-old tantrum lol.

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  4. Yes, they should be milking this for all its worth - I do hope they give us enough satisfying goodyness before we get too melodramatic. Now, don't you think that kdrama writers (or tv show script writers in general) should really just hire people like us to review their overall plotless, like an editor for maximum awesomenesss? I think we'd do just the trick, spicing up shows that would overwise have ended up lame.. or, we could time travel back and make them fix shows that have already crashed and burned.. now that's a good plotline in itself!

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    1. Do I smell a crowd-sourced, Choose-your-own-adventure style Kdrama? I'd watch that for sure—each episode could end with an opportunity for the viewers to vote about what should happen in the next one. (With their insane production schedules, this might actually work!)

      God knows we viewers couldn't do much worse than some of the professional screenwriters working in Kdramas =X

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