Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Drama Review: Heirs (2013)

Grade: B-

Light melodrama of the high school persuasion

What it’s about
Thanks to her mother’s position as a live-in maid, hardworking Cha Eun Sang is exposed to a world of privilege she never imaged. But when her mom’s employer gets her a spot at a posh high school intended for Korea’s one percent, Eun Sang quickly comes to realize that life with money isn’t always perfect. At Empire High, you’re either bullied or a bully. And when two of the most dangerous boys at school show an interest in Eun Sang, things really spiral out of control.

First impression
This underwhelming, overstuffed pilot episode is not without promise. It’s shaping up to be a twist on the Boys over Flowers–school of mean-boy storytelling, complete with a healthy dose of corporate intrigue and lots of forbidden young love—the rich boy and poor girl, the almost step-siblings, the celebrity offspring and the regular guy. As expected, Park Shin Hye is immediately compelling as the sad, old-before-her time Cha Eun Sung. Lee Min Ho is okay as the laid-back Kim Tan, but I’m not quite sold on him in the role yet. (Also, as predicted, he looks way too old to be in high school.) What I am sold on is that, in spite of his aloofness, he’s thoughtful and introspective and might just have Prince Charming tendencies.

Final verdict
If you’re willing to spend twenty hours with a show that never really develops a central plot or finds satisfying resolutions for most of its characters, you could do worse than Heirs. It’s an easy watch that’s filled with cute moments and the kind of snarky one liners that rarely make appearances in Korean dramas.

It’s also the first series by Kim Eun Sook—screenwriter of Secret Garden and A Gentleman’s Dignity—that I watched from beginning to end without wanting to kill myself or anyone else. Kim is one of the few Kdrama writers who are widely known and respected on the English-language dramaweb, but I’ve never been able to stomach her work for one key reason: Her idea of romance is downright upsetting. Her male leads have an alarming tendency toward being domineering, overly possessive, and aggressive.

Kim Tan started off feeling like something different. His character seemed to have the soul of a second lead: He was passive and low-key, prone to lazing around in the sunshine and more interested in writing about the world than participating in it. It’s inevitable that any high school show starring Lee Min Ho will be compared with Boys over Flowers, the crack drama that made him a star. Ultimately, Heirs stood on its own feet: its universe was much larger and more varied than BoF’s high school myopia. But it still wasn’t without irony that Lee Min Ho seemed to have switched roles in the early episodes of Heirs—he was a Ji Hoo, not a Jun Pyo. Before long, though, Kim Tan evolved into just what I feared he would be from the beginning: A Kim Eun Sook lead. When Eun Sang came into his life, he got pushy and mean. He stalked her and forced her into physical intimacy, all while demanding that she follow him with blind devotion even when it meant putting at risk both her home and her mom’s job.

This might have made me hate Heirs just as much as I hated the other Kim Eun Sook shows I’ve seen. But three things got in the way. The first was a female lead who was both sympathetic and spunky. The second was the show’s indulgence in a massive cast of side characters and plots tailor-made to distract us from the central love story. From the moms’ unlikely friendship to the cute romance between Eun Sang’s childhood friend and his girlfriend, these secondary roles turned every episode a treasure hunt for great moments. And the third saving grace of Heirs was, of course, Kim Woo Bin and his treacherously alluring Young Do.

I’ve written a lot about how much I loved Young Do. (In fact, I can barely shut up about it.) When he was on screen, the show came to life. He got all the great lines, and Kim Woo Bin imbued him with unexpected feeling and depth. Unlike Kim Tan, who started off okay but immediately descended into a pit of creepy machismo, Young Do was always the right kind of work in progress. He grew and changed as the drama progressed, and his search for human connection was bitterly poignant. From a vicious little punk, he grew into a young man who earnestly wanted to do the right thing and put the needs of others before his own.

In truth, one of my favorite things about Heirs was at the root its biggest failing. There were so many characters that it was impossible to give them the thoughtful development they deserved. I don’t need every storyline to tied up in a bow by the finale, but so much of Heirs was half-baked that it actually felt like a much longer drama that was canceled in the middle of its run. No logic was ever given for major character decisions, and some of the show’s most important issues were never really resolved in any meaningful way.

Heirs ultimately crumbled under the weight of its crown. But it sure was pretty while it lasted.

Other posts about Heirs

Random Thoughts
Episode 2. Dear Kim Eun Sook, Here's a helpful reminder from one writer to another: Hogwarts is actually located in England, not America. The difference may seem subtle, but do you remember hearing about drugs and/or firearms on the Hogwarts campus? No, you do not. Thusly, it must be located outside American borders. (In some ways, your schools probably resemble Hogwarts more closely than American ones do—hardly anybody here has to wear a uniform.) Sincerely, Amanda

Episode 3. The best thing about Park Shin Hye’s character is her obsession with American horror movies. I’d like her even better if she was a geek connoisseur of Dario Argento-style splatter art, but that's probably just me.

Episode 3. This show is mildly amusing, but I still think the leads are miscast. Not only are Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye too old to be playing high schoolers, they have no zing as a couple. Their pairing is missing the invisible spark that can make even mediocre Kdramas such fun to watch. Instead of steaming up the room when they look at each other, these two just seem blank and unsure. What would Heirs have been like with a blossoming young cast, maybe You’re Beautiful’s Lee Hyun Woo and Ha Yeon Soo from Monstar?

Episode 3. I don’t care how many zillions of dollars you spent per night, you would never, ever find a hotel room that looked like this one in America. As a nation, we turn our noses up at the fussy furniture and gold leaf that Kdramas always use to indicate extreme wealth. This place looks like Louis Quinze barfed all over it. Super ritzy hotels in America are lush and low key—not Liberace-style baroque.

Episode 4. Now that the action has moved back to Korea, Heirs is starting to grow on me. For the first time, it’s focusing on storyline over making the most of its stupidly expensive location shoot, and it’s suddenly starting to feel as if it might have something to say. I would be happy seeing less of essentially every non-Park Shin Hye female on the cast, and have started to wonder why they even bothered with Kang Ha Neul’s character. He's had all of two minutes of screen time so far, which seems like a waste. (All will be forgiven, though, if his plot really is a noona romance with his tutor, as the show has been hinting. Heirs really has a way with fanservice, doesn't it?)

Episode 5. Here’s something rare—the female lead just grabbed her love interest by the wrist and dragged him for about a block before she realized what she was doing. Kim Tan may be following in the stalker footsteps of the leads in Gentleman’s Dignity and Secret Garden, but he’s being much less creepy and physically aggressive about it. All around, the characters in Heirs seem a bit less bound by old-fashioned gender roles. I wonder if this welcome change of pace is mostly intended to reflect/attract younger audiences?

Episode 5. Korean writers seem to have very specific desires when it comes to Lee Min Ho. They want him to wash their hair (which happened in both Personal Taste and City Hunter) and, strangely, to be his servant (as in Boys over Flowers, and now Heirs). Now that I think about it, I have some pretty specific desires for him, too. They’re somewhat different, though.

Episode 5. I can’t believe how long it took me to realize who should have played Lee Min Ho’s part in this drama: Lee Jung Suk...duh. He comes across as being much younger than Lee Min Ho (even if he isn’t), and he almost certainly would have had great chemistry with Park Shin Hye. Plus, you couldn’t go wrong reteaming him with Kim Woo Bin. The epic bromance they kindled in School 2013 would make the rivalry between their characters in this show all more intriguing.

Episode 6. I hate when Kdrama girls start off tough and end up spineless. In the first episode, this show’s female lead didn't bat an eyelash before calling the cops on some guys who were harassing her. But by episode 6, she’s turned just as mute as her mother—she can't even come up with an answer when somebody asks her why she’s transferred. Doesn't “My family moved and I had a long commute to my old school” translate into Korean? Why must a girl who was once feisty lose all her self-confidence just so she can be the star?

Episode 7. I swear Kim Eun Suk is stalking me. I post on Tuesday how pleasantly surprised I am that this show’s male lead isn’t a raving asshole, and here I am on Thursday eating my words. So far he’s called the female lead a loser, dragged her into a car against her will, and demanded that she obey him without giving any concrete evidence why she should do so. (And guess what? I’m all of five minutes into the episode. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the minotaur from American Horror story will show up and gore him.)

Episode 8. The hair tie pull is definitely going to be one of the show’s big “romantic”moments, but somebody yanking out our your ponytail holder like that would have to really hurt.

Episode 8. Kim Tan has a sweater collection rivaled only by Bill Cosby’s. I must say that the fluffy pink mohair cardigan in this episode really takes the cake. I don’t remember turning on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but here we are.

Episode 8. There are like 50 youthful cast members in this show. Why is the script wasting time on the (boring, obnoxious) grownups when it’s never going to have enough time to flesh out all the kids?

Episode 8. Finally, Park Shin Hye’s hugging skills (or lack thereof) are being put to good use. Her poor little rich boy stalker just stole her phone, and after some bickering proceeded to grab her. At last, all that practice turning into a statue while being hugged has paid off, because I haven’t seen someone look so awkward and uncomfortable since my parents sat me down to tell me they were getting a divorce.

Episode 8. Not only are the skirts in this show’s school uniforms outrageously short, they’re somehow deeply unflattering. I think they might be cut a little higher on the sides, which leaves the middle hanging down lower. This makes all the girls look like they have the thighs of Olympic gymnasts.

Episode 8. I can’t even count high enough to calculate how many dramas I’ve seen that have used the studio as a location. It was in Can We Get Married, The Thousandth Man, and possibly I’m Sorry, I Love You. The owners must rent it by the hour.

Episode 8. Ah, the patented Lee Min Ho ambush kiss. Go figure, but it works better when the girl involved actually likes him.

Episode 8. Scenes like this episode’s lunchroom confrontation really show how much promise this drama has. It was tense and both both well acted and well directed. Why the writer felt the need to fill the rest of the hour with random flower boys dancing and the politics of old people, I’ll never know. Your leads are finally coming into their own—use them!

Episode 9. Unfortunately, I’m still finding Young Do as sexy as Kim Tan is boring. What’s wrong with me?!?

Episode 19. I think one of the reasons why I’m enjoying this series so much is that it’s blissfully free of broad Kdrama comedy. I always like melodramas more than shows that want to be funny—and Heirs clearly has its heart set on making you cry by abusing body parts other than your funny bone.

Episode 9. And welcome to the blatant product placement portion of our program…. Do you think there might be a new tablet on the market in Korea these days?

Episode 9. Kim Tan’s mom looks at a brochure for a school seminar in this episode, and guess who’s pictured as one of the speakers? The (greasy, exsanguinated-looking) male lead from A Gentleman’s Dignity, the last show written by the screenwriter of Heirs. It would be cool if the name given matched up with his AGD character, but quite frankly I don’t care enough too pause and find out.

Episode 9. We all mock Tan’s clothes, but here’s a somewhat unexpected revelation: Young Do and I have practically the same wardrobe. I’ve got a sweater just like the multicolored one he’s wearing in this scene, and also a dead ringer for the yellow one he wrote in an earlier episode. We have the same orange jacket, too. I’m not sure if this says more about him or me, though.

Episode 9. Usually closed eyes are a sign that a kdrama kiss is going well. In this scene, though, that’s not true: Park Shin Hye’s eyes are clenched tight with something resembling panic, and her body language is of a type normally reserved for tarantula sightings. Is this supposed to be hot or something? To me it mostly smacks of sexual harassment with a chaser of partner abuse. Love is not this moment, that’s for sure

Episode 9. How do they get Young Do’s hair to do that? Vaseline? Motor oil? That weird chocolate sauce that hardens the instant you put it on ice cream? All I know for sure is what it should be called: the Modified Donald Trump.

Episode 10. This show is treating Tan as if he’s the good guy in his battle against Young Do. But here’s the thing: they’re both huge jerks who are terrible to the people around them.Tan might not be beating up underprivileged freshmen anymore, but he doesn’t give a shit about what happens to anyone but himself. (And possibly Eun Sang, whom he wants to control as is she were a child.) He walked into the office of Young Do’s dad knowing full well what he was doing. And yet we’re supposed to be rooting for him to win out? I guess it’s unsophisticated of me to want a male lead with some redeeming qualities, or at least a show that’s smart enough to realize it’s about a bad guy.

Episode 10. This paintball scene wasn’t very good the last time I saw it, in last summer’s To the Beautiful You, and it certainly hasn’t improved with age. I can’t believe all these spoiled brats are actually camping, either. I was expecting this trip to involve a fancy resort, not tents. This show is truly where opportunity goes to die.

Episode 10. Although I’ve always hated Kim Eun Suk’s chauvinistic, aggressively sexual male leads, up until now it has been the girls who really drove me away from her shows. Both Secret Garden and Gentleman’s Dignity featured women who were utterly impotent and spineless. They wailed Ottoeke and waited for men they didn’t like to force them into skinship, acting as little more than bait for their eccentric male leads. Because Park Shin Hye is so wonderfully relatable, though, she’s been able to play the same role with a sense of dignity and depth that neither of those older, more experienced actresses were able to manage. Even her character isn’t so bad—she’s scrappy and pragmatic, trying to make her own way in the world without the help of false friends. She’s the one thing that will keep me watching to the end, even in spite the hot mess all around her.

Episode 11. My hatred for Kim Tan is really getting out of hand. He shows up for 30 seconds, whines about his manpain, and then leaves Eun Sang to her own devices. In the meanwhile, Young Do is being so sweet and cute that I can barely stand it. He’s intrigued by her as a human being, not as a possession the way Tan is. Excuse me while I go pray to Park Shi Hoo, the patron saint of the second male lead triumphant.

Episode 11. When Kim Tan finally gets the girl (kind of) he’s like a dog that’s caught a car—it’s something he’s always wanted but he has no idea whatsoever what to do with it.

Episode 11. Is it wrong that I like the leads’ moms together more than I like the leads as a couple? They’re actually this show’s best matched pair—one can’t talk and the other can’t shut up. The sight of Eun Sang’s mom stuffing a wad of paper in her mouth as she runs away from this fight is by far Heirs’ funniest moment.

Episode 12. If only my television had some sort of Kim Tan-blocking function, I would have thoroughly enjoyed this episode. It was funny and finally spent some time exploring the relationships of the many secondary characters. Also: Kim Woo Bin, who is ripping my heart out with his performance as a sad, lonely little boy. Now if only he and Tan would stop fighting over Eun Sang like dogs over a bone...

Episode 12. So I try to be all cool and nonchalant about this show, which objectively is mediocre at best. But that doesn’t mean I’m not hitting play on episode twelve every two minutes in hopes that it will miraculously start working. I actually think I may need to invent a new word to describe my relationship with Heirs. What would convey my complicated state of hate mixed with love mixed with frustration mixed with squee? Hovefuquee, perhaps?

Episode 12. Just when I thought the hanky-sized uniform skits couldn’t look more ridiculous, they had to go and add long winter coats. As the band Cake taught us, short shirts and long jackets are a great combination. Short skirts that are a nanometer longer than short jackets, not so much.

Episode 12. I wonder if these banks of lockers in the hallway are meant to make the school seem foreign and cosmopolitan. Most Kdrama lockers are inside classrooms, because in Korea it’s usually the teachers who move from classroom to classroom throughout the day, not the students. We Americans have hallway lockers like these, though.

Episode 12. Forget that Lee Min Ho looks as much like a high schooler as I do. The worst part of him in this role is the kissing. Korea may think that tongue is inappropriate for teenagers, but this man can kiss so well it makes my knees weak even though I’m an entire hemisphere away. But here he is, giving his lead a kiss with about as much sizzle as the ones I shared with my grandmother. (Only my grandmother liked kissing me, unlike Kim Tan’s current victim.)

Episode 12. This finale benefited enormously from not being set to “Love Is the Moment,” didn’t it? A fine episode, which left me feeling somewhat charitable even toward my archnemesis, Kim Tan. (Well, except for that part about throwing away 18 years of his mother’s suffering on a schoolboy whim without even consulting her. You are a bull in the china shop of emotion, young man.)

Episode 13. Congratulations, Eun Sang! You’ve finally broken the tragic curse of the Park Shin Hye hug! For the first time ever, she’s not only the hugger rather than the hugee, she also looks as if vomiting isn’t the only thing on her mind. (And you even did it in a Kim Eun Sook drama, where skinship that isn’t creepy and forced is approximately as rare as flying, kpop-singing unicorns are in my neighborhood. And that’s pretty rare.)

Episode 13. I think Dramafever is trying to protect our delicate sensibilities with the translation of one of Kim Tan’s lines in this episode. Their version is, “How could you ever be as strong as me?” But I’ve seen gifs from Viki floating around that show him saying something more like, “How could a woman like you ever be as strong as me?” A kind, thoughtful prince among men, that one.

Episode 13. All along, people have been saying this show is like a sageuk transplanted into the modern world. I haven’t seen it, not being a fan of sageuks that don’t star Park Min Young pretending to be a boy. The scene with Young Do’s hand-drawn sketch of Kim Tan is what finally convinced me, though. In the few sageuks I’ve seen, characters are always being identified from ridiculous sketches that look nothing like them, just as happened here.

Episode 13. Stop the presses! I think during this conversation with his fake mom Tan may have finally realized that he is not, after all, the center of the universe. Could it really be? He continues to be a self-obsessed twerp, but at least the show is torturing me a little less with dreamy Young Do scenes. Did they realize they’d taken things to far and viewers were starting to defect to the second lead’s side?

Episode 13. The final ten minutes of this episode were jam packed with my very favorite thing about this show: tortured Young Do and his broken heart. He’s such a jerk but you can see that Eun Sang feels just as much pity as fear when he’s around. It’s nice that she’s gotten some of her fight back, and this firm but polite refusal of Young Do’s affections was just the right thing for her to do. (Well, the right thing to do would have been to ditch the whiner Kim Tan and run away Bora Bora with Byronic Young Do. But you know what I mean.)

Episode 13. It’s like Kim Eun Sook read my mind when she wrote this episode. Kim Tan makes me want to flip tables, too!

Episode 13. Dear Show: Are you aware that this episode’s big romantic moment seems to have taken place in front of a stripper pole? Sincerely, Amanda

Episode 13. This drama is hardly a train wreck at all any more. At some point when I wasn’t paying attention it turned into a sweet and funny coming-of-age story set in a fully imagined, immersive world. In a way this is a good thing, but in another way I miss the old days, when mocking Heirs was more fun than watching it. Oh, well. I’m sure things will turn around soon—this is not the kind of show that will survive the extension they’re talking about giving it. [Finale note: While it didn’t get an extension, this show’s mid-run quality bump sure was a temporary thing.]

Episode 14. So here’s when I become a true Young Do apologist: I keep thinking about the scene in the beginning of episode 14 when Kim Tan breaks the studio’s door to get to Young Do and Eun Sang. Kim Tan’s first thought wasn’t to verify Eun Sang’s safety or protect her—it was to beat the crap out of Young Do. (With a chair, that hooligan.) Young Do was the one who was primarily concerned about Eun Sang: He immediately maneuvered his body between her and the source of danger. (Aka, Kim Tan who’s just the sort of stupid blowhard who would hurt really someone he cared about in a fit of rage.)

Episode 15. The mom-mance is so the best part of this show. Eun Sang’s mom unleashing her inner MacGyver alone has made it worth my time to watch the past 14 episodes.

Episode 15. It looks as if Kim Tan’s big line about wearing the crown and bearing the crown is actually Empire High’s logo—it’s printed on Young Do’s gym shirt. (And probably on merchandise flooding Korean stores as I type.) Also, did these girls just bow to their gym teacher at the end of class? I usually prefer to make other gestures toward people who torture me on a professional basis.

Episode 15. God, I can’t wait for this I-walked-through-a-wind-tunnel-backward hairstyle to go out of fashion. It looks especially awful on Kim Woo Bin, who wears it long enough to obscure part of his right eye. When Justin Beiber was wearing his hair like that I actually read articles about how it could permanently affect his vision and result in a lazy eye. Just say no, my little Woobie!

Episode 15. This show had given us two nods to the previous roles if its actors: first Kim Tan said he’d hurt someone with a spoon—which is something Lee Min Ho actually did in City Hunter—and now we see Eun Sang making an exaggerated, Flower-Boy-Next-Door-y “I’m watching you” gesture. Well played, Heirs.

Episode 15. Eun Sang called Young Do her dark knight earlier in this episode, and what do you know but he’s suddenly wearing a jacket with a collar and trim that look like the chain mail a fairytale knight might wear. (I’m going to sail this ship to the bottom of an ocean of tears.)

Episode 15. So maybe the show is trolling us with Kim Tan’s wardrobe of hideous sweaters. I mean, what do fangirls do by nature if not think about ripping off their beloved’s clothes? How better to intensify this urge than to put him in something incredibly ugly? You have your visceral reaction to the hotness mixing with nausea at the sight of his fuzzy, cornflower-blue sweater. That’s a recipe for passion right there.

Episode 15. Tan’s dad should have thought that two weeks thing through a little more. Or maybe he’s gunning for a grandson, because the family tree and issues of succession aren’t already complicated enough for him? Doing some basic math, I’d say two weeks would give him about thirty opportunities to hear the pitter-patter of little feet around the house again.

Episode 16. Kim Eun Sook must have sensed that my hatred of Kim Tan was starting to wane, so she wrote a scene to really showcase what an ass he is and how terribly he treats Eun Sang. I hope someone in the classroom he just dragged her out of calls the police to report a kidnapping. (And then maybe sends cell phone video to the local television network.)

Episode 16. It’s weird how many little parallels there are in Eun Sang’s relationships with Kim Tan and Young Do. They both poured drinks on the floor because of her, both made cute attempts to warm her hands, and both dumped the contents of her bag and rifled through them without her permission. I think maybe they really are soulmates.

Episode 16. It seems Kim Tan wants a dog, not a girlfriend. “Stay where I tell you to stay,” he says. “Wait when I tell you to wait.” What a scumbag.

Episode 16. Well, I was wrong. Lee Min Ho did get to use his slurpier kissing skills even though this is a high school show. The question is: was Eun Sang meant to look terrified through the whole thing, or was that just a side-effect of her being played by Park Shin Hye?

Episode 16. My drama geometry fails me: If Rachel gets together with Hyo Shin—as is seeming more and more likely—who is my Young Do going to be with? (I’m available, Kim Eun Sook. Just FYI.) This show isn’t a totally traditional romance, but I still find it hard to imagine that most of the main characters won’t have a significant other by the time the finale rolls around.

Episode 16. What’s up with the editing in this scene with Won and Tan at the restaurant? I think all the flashing is going to give me a seizure.

Episode 16. This is finally the episode that’s going to make me expire with Young Do feels. He’s so desperately enamored with Eun Sang, and she’s finally realized he’s not such a bad guy, but it’s too late for him to earn her heart. (Unless Dad Vadar takes out a hit on Tan as revenge for his betrayal? That’s a happy ending I could get behind.)

Episode 16. If this show could have some sort of retroactive episodectimy it would be much easier to love. The episodes set in America were an embarrassment and should have been left on the cutting room floor anyway, and the first few episodes in Korea weren’t much better. I say that we forget anything before episode 6 existed.

Episode 16. Is it my imagination or did Eun Sang have no real motivation to do what she seems to have done at the end of this episode? I hope they go back and address this, and maybe explain how Dad Vadar figured out who Eun Sang’s mom owed money to. Did he take out an ad in the paper, or maybe consult the International League of People Who Sometimes Lend Money to Housemaids?

Episode 17. It’s a good thing I’m resigned to never getting to watch Heirs on Dramafever’s premiere date, because it looks as if I’m never going to get to watch Heirs on Dramafever’s premiere date. For the fourth week in a row, I’m totally shut out. I hate to say it, but I hope the next drama I live watch is less popular. I assume a traffic overload is what’s messing up DF, and that’s getting pretty damn old.

Episode 17. “I summon you.” Who would have thought I could be killed dead by three words? Choi Young Do you’ve got a way with my heart.

Episode 17. Korea really is a different planet, isn’t it? The concept of cars having built-in surveillance devices in the form of “black boxes” has come up so often in dramas that I’m forced to believe it’s actually true. Maybe such a thing exists in luxury cars in America, but I’ve certainly never heard of it. People here would get all weirded out about privacy issues if they were common knowledge.

Episode 17. Kim Tan, the girl actually had to leave the city to be safe from you, but you don’t even give her the courtesy of wearing your couples’ shoes on this ill-fated rescue and/or search and destroy mission? That’s extremely uncool.

Episode 17. I wish this show had approached its story from a different angle: Kim Tan and Eun Sang meeting as grownups, years after the events of this drama took place. Usually kdramas separate young lovers much earlier than this, and it would have been interesting to see the repercussions of this complicated, star-crossed romance ten years down the road. Kim Tan would have gone back to America after this episode and become a famous English-language novelist, earning a mint from Hollywood for screen rights to his coming-of-age horror bestseller. (He’d be known as the John Hughes of slasher fiction, of course.) Eun Sang would be working at the movie’s Korean distributor, and Young Do would be her best friend/stymied lover. It would have been great.

Episode 18. In a turn to rival the ramyun of tears from I’m Sorry, I Love You, Young Do finally gets his home-cooked meal, complete with a benevolent mother watching over to be sure he gets enough to eat. The fact that mom isn’t eating herself makes it all the more powerful—even though Young Do’s dad has to eat, he almost never makes time to do it with his son. But here’s this complete stranger with nothing to gain who’s dropping everything to just to keep him company. Maybe she should adopt him. (And then there could be a faux-cest sequel!)

Episode 18. Am I alone in being distracted by Lee Min Ho’s weird ear disfigurement? I swear the upper edge of his right ear looks like Mike Tyson bit it. (Or maybe Eun Sang inflicted the injury during her last escape attempt?)

Episode 18. “I can’t believe you studied all night,” said Kim Tan to Eun Sang. “Studying? Is that what you kids are calling it these days?” said Amanda to her television.

Episode 18. Since watching this episode, it occurred to me that Won has done to Hyun Joo just what his dad did to Kim Tan’s mom. He’s barred her from his public life for the sake of his fortune, and expected her to freeze in place indefinitely for his convenience. She can’t tell people she’s in love with him, and has to live as single woman in a society that values marriage above most else. In contrast, Kim Tan’s fiery nature won’t allow him to live that way—everybody has to bend to his will, not the other way around. I bet he’s going to announce his engagement to Eun Sang at his party, and maybe Dad will get stuck. Her Cinderella story could become part of Jageuk lore, and she could become the face of the company in the media. He couldn’t very well send her to Antarctica then.

Episode 19. Would you grownups please chill the heck out? They’re high schoolers. If you leave them to their own devices, they’ll date a few months and then break up. (Probably because Kim Tan is an obsessive jerk who’s more fun to think about than to be with.) Forbidden fruit is always the most desirable, and if you insist on turning this relationship into a melodrama you’re going to end up with a son working at a convenience store to support the passel of grandchildren he’ll give you before his twentieth birthday. Perspective, people!

Episode 19. Like every boy ever, Lee Min Ho looks way better with his hair off his face. I’m afraid to say that this white-on-white tuxedo outfit is another story—he looks like a renegade member of Seoul’s ice capades troupe, poised to break into a Stayin’ Alive dance medley at any moment.

Episode 19. Now I finally understand what Eun Sang sees in Kim Tan. “I don’t like romances,” she says in this episode. “I like horror movies.” Well, obviously she knows that at some point in their relationship Tan is going to chop off her arms and legs and keep her in a box like Sherilyn Fenn in Boxing Helena. That might be just what’s she’s looking for in a man.

Episode 19. Young Do’s mom works at Secret Garden cafe? At the top of my fic wish list is now a story that involves Young Do and Eun Sang switching bodies after a visit to his mom. Imagine how much fun Young Do would have screwing with Kim Tan’s mind while in Eun Sang’s body? (But I bet he’d still let Tan get to third base.)

Episode 20. I’m sure this Mango Six place paid a fortune to be featured in this show. What they should have considered, though, is that the female lead is always throwing away full cups of their product. If it was any good, wouldn’t people actually drink it?

Episode 20. I suppose Young Do putting on the bandaid that Eun Sang have him is meant to show that he’s going to use the kindness he learned from her to heal himself and become a better man. But mostly it just makes me think he’s probably decided to take as his fashion muse Left Eye from TLC.

Episode 20. Is it me or is Kim Tan’s dream sequence giving off some major Titanic vibes? I keep waiting for Leonardo DiCaprio to come down the stairs.

Episode 20. Eun Sang is a lousy, cold-fish kisser even in Kim Tan’s dreams. That’s just sad.

Episode 20. I’m glad Young Do got his own, non-love-triangle plot in the last few episodes, although I wish it had been more fleshed out. Any show that’s this overstuffed with characters has no choice but to be superficial, but they could have made more room for my baby by cutting that boring Kim Tan character altogether. Did Young Do move in with his mom? Did he really forgive her for not trying to see him? Did he ever let Eun Sang back in his life? Did his dad really go to prison? We’ll never know, because Heirs is officially over. And I’m actually kind of sad about that.

Other shows you might like
Boys over Flowers, the granddaddy of upper-crust Kdramas

School 2013, for a more realistic take on life in Korean high schools


  1. Thank you for your review! I really liked your fanfic, "Four kisses," in which I thought you captured well the essence of YD, once he fell in love with ES. I have shared that fanfic with a few people who have all liked it. I am not pressuring you or trying to tell you what to do, however, that short fanfic made me long for a longer one, LOL. Do you think that you might write a chapter 2, or a chapter about what happened after they started dating?

    I especially loved the part about YD being gentle, soft and DEFENSELESS when kissing ES, maybe because (in great part due to how KWB portrayed him) I could see YD being that way. He was different around ES (once he fell in love): the tone of his voice changed (I loved that transformation), it got softer, and he begged her a few times (to pick up his calls, to not go/leave when they were sitting outside the convenience store, to say "Hello" back when he said "Hello", to make eye contact when she saw. This was of course before he "broke up" with her), and he emoted in a way that made me want to adopt him into my family, take him home and make sure he got home cooked meals. Kdramas do not always show us or give us that in the male leads, however there is something I love about a man being defenseless in a kiss or because of one, and I kind of wanted to see YD in such a context/scene.

    I wanted to see KWB play someone in love, and I got that in the 2nd half of the drama, and I thought he was good at it. I would love to see him as a lead, and I would love to see him with PSH again. I thought they had wonderful chemistry. I actually thought that KWB had wonderful chemistry with all his co-stars *Rave Over*.

    Speaking of kisses, what did you think of the kiss in ep. 16? I am curious about your take on it. Thank you, if you find the time to answer that question.

  2. I think Heirs was a C+ at best. The one question I had throughout the whole drama was why did Tan love Eun Sang so much was never answeted? Maybe someone can give me a clue?

  3. First off, I love your blog and thank you for your detailed take on this show. I did not enjoy this show because Kim Tan was such a poor character. He magically got everything in the end, the money and the girl, without having to do any work or sacrifice anything. He was a lazy slacker from beginning to end.

    When his dad banned him from seeing CES, he had the choice to be a violent drunk or to work towards financial independence, he chose the former. He has everything most people would kill to have; the best schools, the family name and the money. He could easily forge a future for himself and separate himself from his father. Personally I think he is super lazy and instead of working, he wants to spend the time fighting and blaming everybody else. At least GJP from BOF tried to be responsible for the people that are employed by his company. He worked his *ss off to be able to understand the business world. KT on the other hand, doesn’t really show much interest in ANYTHING besides ES.

  4. The lockers in the hallway are probably there because the school they filmed at is actually an K-12 international school where the language of instruction is English, and the student population comes from all over the world. The structure and design is pretty western. I wasn't stalking the film site (I swear) someone on the dramabeans forum sends her kid there and was giving everyone the inside scoop on filming (okay, as a teacher I was a little nosy and checked out the school's webpage)

  5. I couldn't agree with you more as I was reading this! I've said this time and time again "Kim Tan is the most incompetent protagonist ever laid before my eyes and his fugly clothes do him no good". They really should just write a drama on Young do and Young do alone, no KT. I can't believe I didn't realize in episode 14 that KT's main objective was not his girl's safety but beating his nemesis, who also can kick ass, with a chair.

  6. Did you watch the "Christmas Special"? The 2 hour condensed version was all that was needed to begin with!

  7. I think you have a bias against writer kim sook, cause her dramas, at least the ones I've seen are not as bad as you make them seem. In fact they are not bad.period. Describing the male lead as domineering, overly possessive, aggressive, mean, is, i believe a gross exaggeration. If we are to follow this logic -jun pyo was mean to jan di (boys over flower) , seung yoo was mean to se ryung (princess' man), tae kyung was mean to mi nyeo (you're beautiful), han kyul was mean to eun chan( coffee prince), joong won was mean to gong shil (master's sun)...when you say the male leads are mean, i get a little confused cause I'm racking my brains trying to think of 'mean scenes' and i come up with nothing. As a matter of fact Kim Tan followed eun sang around( the heirs) like a puupy, obviously besotted. If he were possessive he wouldn't have left her with Young Do. He wasn't even jealous as such when he found out young do liked liked Eun Sang. if there's one thing i like about 'the heirs' it's the fact that the writer did not make it about the female lead being confused about who to pick between Kim Tan and Young Do. Basically the plot did not rely on the tension that would have resulted if Eun sang had trouble picking who she liked. I would've found it bothersome to watch if it had been the other way around. Now if we MUST find a mean character, I'd say Young do. while we're on it, i think most people that criticize this drama nitpick it to find the teeniest flaws that would have been overlooked in others, probably because it's chuck full of stars and was highly anticipated. All in all I'd give it a B. There were many areas left undeveloped. I would have loved Kim Tan and Young Do to completely make up. A proper look into their future would have been nice. The ost at least was great. good selection.

    1. I agree with you.From the very beginning of the show Kim tam has been nothing but kind to Eun Sung.He helped a stranger in a foreign country.He loved her so much that he was ready to give up everything including his birth secret just to be with the woman he loved.He took the courage but unfortunately it was not the same for Eun Sung.Also i think why Kim tam Kept pushing Eun Sung because he knew she liked him to but was too scared.He wanted to make sure that she knew that he would be by his side.But ironically Eun sung was the one to leave his side.

  8. Wow! Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye rocks!!!! All the characters are superb. Young Do is amazing! We Indians(Kerala) "love you lot!!!!"

  9. It's been a long time since I've watched Heirs, but I remember the comparisons with BOF. IMO, Heirs corrected the fatal flaw in BOF, which was Jun-pyo's passivity. Jun-pyo spent the second half of BOF just watching pitiful Jan-di go through hell to hang onto him. In contrast, Heirs' Kim Tan feels emotion fiercely and passionately fights to hang on to those he loves, even a brother who rejects him in every way possible. I found Kim Tan deeply touching. (And who knew untying an apron could be so erotic - in the party scene where Eun Sang's poverty is exposed.) In that scene, Kim Tan and Eun Sang angrily disagree in the beginning, but he ultimately he accepts her decision and even supports her publicly in front of his class-conscious classmates. That's respect, not machismo.

  10. me too loved Heirs! i couldnt watch BOF! hated Jan Di chr! But in Heirs Park shin hye made CES loveable! and i do agree Heirs could have been much better drama if some loose ends were tied proper. bt i liked the show for the way it focused on support chrs too. Loved young do, he showed a very proper growth of chr. evn Rachel ws relateable. and loved leads' mom relationship. all these chrs along with leads made the show watchable. kim tan loved with his heart and htat showed. his kind of love may not be every one's idea of love bt still it ws love indeed!

  11. i found kim tan a lot more emotionally compelling than you. while i agree that the sense of personal agency between the two leads to be classically chauvinist, i also think that can be interpreted as a reflection on the social class structure in which they're embedded.
    Sure the rich boy/poor girl plot is an overly used plot, but the characters handled their situations in a way that are both personalized and not unrealistic--as a privileged male, Tan had to struggle with becoming aware of his own self-entitlement, and he was committed from the start to doing so, even though he was clueless about all of the pitfalls he could be victim to. But Eun Sang's reactions to his sloppy efforts highlighted his (justified) inexperience--granted the dynamics could've been explored in a more realistic manner if they were positioned as being in their 20s instead of teens and marriage had actually been on the table; but nevertheless, the themes were there: she wasn't about to become a lower class mistress hidden from 'credibility' in that apartment he arranged for, she was painfully aware of what power the chairman wielded over their chances of dating happily because of the unlikelihood that Tan was prepared at that age to give up all of the wealth that he was accustomed to, and entirely rejecting their system of oppression through honour and pride would result in the loss of the guy she couldn't help loving (the agreeing to be banished for two weeks part was a botch in this logic, but could be explained as childish panic in the face of authority). She forced him to acknowledge that he was not necessarily capable than her in dealing with the social class prejudice at the school (although I can't see her having been anything except tortured by the kids for being poor, and then b/c she had the opportunity to be accepted first by his lie and protective measures, she was a catalyst for dismantling their hierarchy). And furthermore, he embraced her continued insistence on independence and dignity in her lifestyle with her mom in moving back to their own flat because he had only just begun actually proving that he would take actual steps to prove that he wanted to build a life around her.
    But all of this makes sense--he had been a sheltered kid who, in spite of suffering a lot over his situation within the upper echelon, had no idea how to relate to those faced by the less wealthy, and would have to learn by trial and error. And the writer never had her female lead kowtow to his entitled demands and in her continual resistance he was forced to take (at least one) proactive step and was supposedly leading him towards more in the end.
    I'm sure it can be argued that the writer is misogynistic because she continually romanticizes these themes, but in this case that's also a reflection of the chaebol culture she's engaging with, and at least they're depicting (even if really unrealistically) the messy struggle on the part of the younger generations within those kinds of sexist traditional social-familial structures.

  12. Heirs was the first (and probably last; I'm sticking to my beloved Japan from now on) KDrama I've watched and despite it being mostly fluff I enjoyed the hell out of it.

    Good review of the show; particularly liked your episode by episode reaction snippets. And, FINALLY, someone else that understands how Woo Bin carried this entire show. That guy was amazing in Heirs. You can tell he's real star material in the making. It's like he was the only one taking his role seriously and portraying his character in a way that was more than just superficial. He was so dynamic compared to the 1-note cast that all I wanted to see was what was going on with Young Do's life. I'd love to see him in something more serious. Might even get me watching another K Drama.

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  14. First of all, it seems really unreal for someone to love a person that fast, and without good reason. The two main guys were pushing and pulling amongst each other for what? That girl is not even into them. And the more the guys care, the more she doesnt. Park shin hye is a terrible actress and displays no emotions. She only showed either her crying face or the innocent look throughout the whole damn movie. And it pissed me so much. Worst movie by far. Too much on the crying and being emotionless. As a viewer, i could not even emphathize her, which was really annoying.

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  16. I really don't get why Kim Tam is being regarded as mean and selfish.I just finished the drama and all i could feel was sorry for Kim Tam who didn't get the love that he deserved.Neither from his brother nor Eun Sang.Yes he was possessive which he himself accepted but his aggressiveness was mainly because the girl kept acting vulnerable and Kim tam wanted to protect her from getting hurt.so i guess it was tough love.He took the courage to stand up against everyone for the woman he loved but the woman just left him.She didn't muster up the courage to stand by his side.overall i was not very convinced that her love was as deep as Kim tam's or as fearless.Also i don't think young do's love was nearly as deep as Kim tam's.All he did was to persuade Eun sang to give him a chance when he already knew that she liked kim tam.It was more of a competition for him to win.It would have been nice to see Eun Sung to take take a bold step for her love...atleast after all the ordeal kim tam went through because of her.She was nothing but a very weak person.Both kim tam and Eung sung had their own problems...however Kim tam was the only one ready to face them and fight while all eun sung did was run away.Also it would have been good if the story focused a bit on Kim Tam and kim Won's relation.

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