Thursday, January 5, 2012

K-Drama Review: The Musical, Episodes 3-4

Read episode reviews for: The Musical, Episodes 1-2

Contains Spoilers for Episodes 3-4

Back to the world of musicals, singers, and composers! It's an intriguing place to be. Eun-Bi and Jae-Yi are a little awkward with each other because he kissed her cheek in the last episode and it kind of freaked her out (I know, I's so cute). They're working together for a competition to win a big prize and have their musical "Chungdamdong Gumiho" made public. Jae-Yi tries to hide his involvement with the show because he has made a bad impression on Yujin, the main investor of an important theater company. Yujin finds out anyway that Jae-Yi has written the songs for this new show, but it's not Jae-Yi that Yujin has a problem with--it's sweet little unknown Eun-Bi.

If Yujin's company picks up the show, Eun-Bi won't be able to sing the lead. Instead, the famous actress Kang-hee will take over the part. But Jae-Yi isn't about to let his favorite singer/mentoree/best girl Eun-Bi lose out on the part he wrote for her. Yujin says that Eun-Bi and Kang-hee can share the role, but Eun-Bi herself finds a true compromise--what if she attends an open audition for the part, and then the best person is selected? Then no one will be able to say that the songwriter showed favoritism to Eun-Bi.

By episode four, the plot is coming along nicely, with no wasted space. In the beginning, I wasn't interested in the subplot with Yujin and his business stuff, but now I'm very invested in his storyline. It may be hard to love Yujin, but he does stand for order. He's all about the money, but he isn't going to cheat to make it, and I'm guessing his moral alignment would be "Lawful Neutral". Right now, due to some nasty, underhanded embezzling of funds by his own family, Yujin has to find a musical that will bring in a profit margin of 300%, and he thinks Gumiho is that musical. He moves back and forth between moments of genuine goodness and some very cold-hearted attitudes. Keep up the character development, Yujin. You just might be one of the more compelling characters in the cast.

The suspense is terrible. I hope it'll last.

Things I Loved: 1. Eun-Bi. I want to hug her and give her milk and cookies because her scenes are so emotionally gripping. My girl Eun-Bi melts cold hearts with her sweetness, and when Yujin witnesses her sorrow, this very guy who once kicked her out of an audition is now concerned for her. Sometimes she's meek and timid, like with Kang-hee, but at other times she rises to the occasion and fights for what she needs.

Looks Like a 12-Year-Old, Fights like a Pro.

2. Eun-Bi and Jae-Yi together. It's like a cuteness overload, but in no way annoying. They even have this whole discussion about their cheek-kiss and what it meant to each of them because he doesn't want her to feel awkward. When Eun-Bi suggests that another actress might be better for the Gumiho role because she can't sing the main tunes in a high register, Jae-Yi goes "No, I wrote the song for YOU, and I'm not changing it to suit other voices".  Aww.

And on the weird side, as a dropout med student, Eun-Bi has a side job washing cadavers, and when she walks out of the building, Jae-Yi's waiting for her with coffee. He's very squeamish about her corpse-washing job and she scares him with her germy death hand. It's a great moment for them.

You Don't Want to Know Where This Has Been.

2. Plot surprises. Sometimes a new decision crops up out of nowhere and does great things to the storyline. Like Yujin's idea of double-casting the main role in Gumiho with Kang-hee and Eun-Bi splitting the part. I did not see that coming, and it made everything afterward so much more rich. 

Complaints: 1. Evil ex-girlfriend Kang-hee. She's a great nuanced villain, so the writing is excellent and I'm glad she's in the story, but ohhhh she makes me mad. She just won't let Jae-Yi go even though she has found money, fame, and a new relationship to keep her secure. It's like she enjoys the power of having another person emotionally dependent on her, and it burns her up that Jae-Yi is increasingly less affected by her and more affected by Eun-Bi. She's petty and cruel to my favorite character Eun-Bi, and she's hitting on Jae-Yi even though she's married, now! Yuck.

Wants to Have Her Cake and Eat it, Too.

2. Repeated scenes from another show. Eun-Bi punching a strong-man machine and hitting baseballs to burn off steam would have been awesomer if I hadn't seen another main character (also named Eun-Bi!) doing exactly that in Flower Boy Ramyun Shop.


Responsibility: Yujin is being held responsible for fixing his cousin's horrible financial decisions. Cleaning up someone else's mess is never fun, and Yujin is handling other people's responsibilities on a few different levels. These episodes explain Yujin's tense relationship with art, because his own dad left him in a tough spot when Dad picked an artistic life over his business responsibilities. Dad's abandonment left super-smart Yujin at the mercy of a jealous uncle who wants to see him fail.

Smartest Guy in the Family, Ironically the Black Sheep.

Heartfelt Singing vs. Vocal Perfection:  With Kang-hee and Eun-Bi, I think this show is setting up a vocal contrast something like Carlotta and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera--one woman is a diva with a perfect voice and plenty of experience, but the other has clarity and sweetness and heart. Guess who the audience is going to root for?

Love vs. Career Dreams: I really think we're going to get both things with this show. Eun-Bi says she wants to focus on the upcoming musical auditions alone, hinting that Jae-Yi shouldn't make any moves. But I like how Jae-Yi puts together what Eun-Bi really means. He doesn't press the issue, but he still notes to himself that she's essentially saying that she finds him more distracting than even musicals, which are her favorite thing in the world. In another drama, the main guy might take offense at her rebuff, but Jae-Yi just smiles to himself, knowing what it signifies.  And really, this show is more focused around "Will Eun-Bi succeed?" than "Will Eun-Bi and Jae-Yi get together?" Because we know they will. They are two wonderful people who deserve each other, but Eun-Bi's career dreams will be the harder thing to achieve.

Look at Him--He's Sold. The Fight is Over.

Mirrored scenes: Yujin watches Eun-Bi's audition tape again and again, moved by her effort and by the way Kang-hee verbally destroys her in public. Maybe he sees a parallel between Eun-Bi's situation and his own--receiving a thorough public shaming for no good reason, then being expected to succeed and excel under impossibly difficult terms.

After Kang-hee's awful behavior, precious little Eun-Bi still wants her autograph because Kang-hee's autobiography inspired her to sing. It all comes around full circle--Eun-Bi got interested in musicals because of Kang-hee's book, and now it's Kang-hee who is trying to crush her dream.

No Conscience+Loads of Talent=Spoiled Brat.

Cultural Observances:

Gumiho: The title of the main play is "Changdamdong Gumiho". This mythical creature is a bit like the Japanese kitsune, only a gumiho is always female and usually vicious, while kitsune are more mischievous.

Songs in (or inspired by) English: "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago plays while Eun-Bi and Jae-Yi have breakfast. "Open Door" by Swedish singer Lisa Ekdahl plays as Kang-hee warms up. Eun-Bi sings the Korean version of "Roxy" from Chicago.

New words: "Ya!" is hey, or hey you, and I think it's super-informal speech, something you can only use with someone of equal or lesser status.

Episode Evaluations: So sweet, with so much emotional payoff. Very good developments, here.

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