“What’s more important is for Show to keep being thick in plot, tight in pace, gripping in general without letting up till the very end because we’ve witnessed how many titles burst into scene with a bang and bow out with less than a round of applause. My Beautiful Bride — don’t be one of ’em.”
Is what i wished for this action-crime-melodrama at the outset. Little did i know that it’d be a jinx since Show turns out to be exactly that — ending on an anticlimactic note. Which is a shame given how its first six episodes got me wax lyrical about it. Who would have thought the sizzle would fizzle out right after that? I certainly didn’t expect it that the sudden downturn hit me harder than i thought it would, the more when what i considered a mid-series lull lasted till the end, having failed to pick up to where it managed to be in the first third.
I wonder what gives? Is it because i am being too nitpicky or the show — or the writing in particular — does let up considerably toward the end? Because i’m looking up people’s comments on the finale and majority seems pleased whereas i felt… empty. To its credit, it wasn’t a wtfery of an ending albeit nearly went there, but whether or not it was a good or satisfying one is debatable. If you’re judging it solely on whether or not it ends on a happy note or whether or not the couple reunites in the end, then it’s a good one. But for me it’s whether or not the end justifies the means, if the happy ending warrants and negates the prolonged repetitive angst Show spoon-feeds us with throughout its run?
The same goes for loose ends. While i prefer to have as few of them untied as possible, i’d rather them come with proper and fitting closure than having everything tied in a rush and illogical manner. Here, Bride got nearly all baddies offed or nabbed although that doesn’t mean they pay for their heinous crimes, or that i’m content with the way they’re taken down. By now i should have gotten used to an anticlimactic final confrontation between our hero and the villain yet am invariably disappointed whenever the latter is curbed without much of a fight. Where’s the fun in seeing the big gun surrender in seconds after watching the good guys spend the entire series trying/planning to identify, locate, and outmaneuver him? And then not knowing what kind of punishment he’s receiving or how long his term is?
Perhaps that’s inevitable when all they did in the final week were talking, conspiring, throwing threats, asserting goals, and pulling rank on the other party. Despite how hard i rolled my eyes and had to suspend my disbelief at Do-hyung’s superhuman tendency and impressive action stunts, in hindsight, i’d choose those high-octane sequences over these sedentary works any day. At least it made time move faster and provided a riveting watch; the finale’s pace on the other hand slowed to a crawl i kept checking where i was at — 40 minutes into the finale and none of them (Do-hyung, Yoon-mi and the cops, Jin-sook/Joo-young) had come up with solid plan/evidence to get Chairman Kang that i knew we’re in toward a rushed denouement.
Granted, Hae-jung was soon ambushed together with incriminating evidences against Chairman Kang’s paper company and loan-sharking/trafficking business, which was publicly broadcast and propelled Do-hyung’s mom to finally lift a finger on the matter. But nothing will move Do-hyung apart from Joo-young, so they got her (again), sending him barging into the Myeongdong’s lair in a flash, and later to the place where she’s held captive, (again) beating the cops to it in both occasions. He managed to save her (again) only to see her anguished tears (again) which happened only after he single-handedly outmanned a squad of goons and took several blows to the body and head in the process (again, i mean ack! Stop whacking him in the head!).
“It’s over. Let’s go home,” he said but i had a bad feeling about it. My heart wouldn’t stay still. There were still 10 minutes left on the clock and anything could happen in that span… like a final twist or something. Well, Bride could give us an epilogue with the remaining minutes but of course gut feeling isn’t something to be overlooked. Like in Healer, Jo Han-chul is granted the honor to be the deliverer of the final blow in yet another heart-stopping muted slow-mo sequence.
Only this turn of events wasn’t as numbing since i kinda saw it coming. Park Tae-gyu was arguably Do-hyung’s most useful and effective partner-in-crime who trusted him without question and believed they’re on the same boat after a mutual benefit — Do-hyung to exterminate The Shadows completely to avenge the death of his bride, he to find his own missing ‘bride’. Thus, deliberately keeping him in the dark about Mi-sook’s fate wouldn’t bode well. It pained me to see him do what he did since i’ve grown to like his character so much though i couldn’t fault him — nobody likes being used or taken advantaged of, and i hated Do-hyung for doing it to him.
While i understand why Tae-gyu targeted Do-hyung, it would have been more impactful had he gone for Joo-young instead. First, that would put Do-hyung in Tae-gyu’s shoes so he could understand the misery of (possibly) losing his bride for real this time. Second, that would send the apprehension through the roof. As much as i was astounded by the development, it wasn’t too transfixing. It’s always he who suffers (how many times have we seen him bleeding profusely, knocked out, and being pushed to operating theater?) that it’d be nice to see her do her share, for once, in fighting through life-and-death situation to be reunited with his groom.
If anything, there’s one thing that Bride excels at: being consistent. This show is inherently a melodrama thus the medium to slow pace. I didn’t mind it in the beginning since every episode was packed with a lot of important information, even in flashbacks, as to why the characters did what they did. It started bothering me when the plot points became repetitive from halfway point onward. Regarding our main couple, Do-hyung is consistently the giver while Joo-young the receiver. Do-hyung could very well be the epitome of ideal boyfriend/husband material through his unfailing faith and unwavering love in Joo-young, if love blind. Regardless of the action she takes, the decisions she makes, and her personality in general, nothing disappoints him or makes him love her any less. In his eyes, she’s a faultless human being, period.
Next, the cops. They’re exasperatingly futile but at least they remained that way till the end, always a step too late and incompetent in everything. To name a few: losing an informant, not knowing which hospital a victim was sent to, getting a suspect/witness killed while in custody, skipping proper post-mortem investigation to determine cause of death or confirm the identity of an unrecognizable body, gloriously missing two baddies hiding just next door since the cops didn’t even bother to scour the area to ensure every fish was caught. Eventually, Yoon-mi did arrive just in time to spare Do-hyung from one fatal blow but not the subsequent one. However, i still don’t know what to think of her order to fabricate evidence if need be as long as the suspects can be arrested. On what grounds did she charge Chairman Kang with, by the way?
Furthermore, i can’t overlook the fact that they neglect to explain the details to certain things even if they may not be that crucial. We know what motivated Do-hyung to move heaven and earth to exterminate The Shadows or why Jin-sook decided to ‘help’ Joo-young and sit at the top of the food chain, but not how Joo-young could be of help to Jin-sook’s mission, who killed Mi-sook (which can shed light on the degree of evilness of Jin-sook and Co.), why Detective Park sold his soul and what kind of history he had with Hae-jung, why Yoon-mi was hell bent on locating Joo-young when their interactions seemed very surfacey, and ultimately the position Do-hyung’s mom held on the big picture (she’s covering for Chairman Kang yet unaware of his illicit business dealings) and what took her so long to step in when all she needed were two visits and a few words to keep him in line and his hands off her one and only son.
Having said that, i think my frustrations mainly stem from the writing — the characterizations, repetitive plot points, reused monologues/dialogues — since the directing and the acting held up pretty well. Go Sung-hee is probably the weakest link in the cast. She’s doing a decent job portraying a range of emotions but fails at the most basic ones — smiling sincerely for example. Because taken at face value, i don’t buy that she’s happy to be next to Do-hyung in their last scene together. Kim Moo-yul, on the other hand, breathes life into his role so darn well that it’s somewhat impossible to not get moved by his devotion to the one person who gave him hope, purpose, and lifetime happiness, even though some of his actions were borderline aggravating.
Detective Park, Hae-jung, Jin-sook, and Do-hyung’s mom make up a bunch of interesting characters that unfortunately got the short end of the stick. They could have had a more rounded arch had Show not put too much focus on the loan-sharking and sketchy bank loans aspects in the last third of the run. All in all, My Beautiful Bride wore my patience thin but i don’t regret seeing it to the end because above all else, it introduced me to Kim Moo-yul. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.
[Hated this “geureollae?” (Will you [do that]?) pet question very much although it sounds badass coming from Jin-sook.]
Director: Kim Chul-kyu
Production: OCN, 2015
Cast: Kim Moo-yul, Go Sung-hee, Lee Shi-young, Park Hae-joon, Ryu Seung-soo, Jo Han-chul, Lee Seung-yeon, Lee El
Genre: Melodrama, Action, Crime, Romance, K-drama (16 Episodes)