Cinderella’s Sister, episodes 1-4
Post-euphoric bliss comes…the nitty gritty facts. Or, after rambling and gushing, I should actually tell you what’s going on in the series. I’m still deciding whether to recap “Personal Taste” or “Cinderella’s Sister,” but either way, I like em both enough to write about them. Constantly. So expect a ton of word vomit for the next two months. Hurray for you! ;)
I went a little crazy with my opinions, finally hashing out all the observations I’ve made of the drama that I haven’t babbled about elsewhere in my other preliminary posts. Hurray for you x2!
Summary of episodes 1 to 4
We’ve got a big cast of important characters, all of whom contribute heavily to the plot and the inter-character relationships. This drama doesn’t just stop at the love rectangle and then call it a day, there are other significances in the story.
Song Eun-jo is our protagonist, played by Moon Geun Young. She’s angsty and hurt, and very emotionally closed off. She grew up without a father and having constantly witnessed her mother stray from one loser to another, she’s always running away and never staying put.
Hong Ki-hoon is the son of the Hong clan, owner of some kind of huge corporate business. However, he is the illegitimate son of the family and is not welcome beyond whatever material stake he may have in the company. When we are first introduced to his character, he works at the makgeolli (rice wine) plant headed by Goo Dae-sung.
Goo Hyo-sun is the daughter of Goo Dae-sung. She’s pretty and popular, and well-doted on by her father. Her mother died when she was young, and thus her immediate connection Eun-jo’s mother when they first meet. Based on the traditional idea of Cinderella, Hyo-sun is the Cinderella of the story, but how her dynamic with Eun-jo will shift, we’re not completely sure. She is our other female lead.
Han Jung-woo is a childhood friend of Eun-jo, and he was there fending off all the creepy men Eun-jo’s mother had encounters with. As a child, he had fierce loyalty to Eun-jo and vowed that he would always take care of her.
Song Kang-sook is Eun-jo’s mother. She’s a widower and when she first meets Dae-sung, she sees in him a great chance to restore herself and to live off someone who can provide her with much more than she ever had.
Goo Dae-sung is Hyo-sun’s father and Eun-jo’s stepfather after her mother marries into the Goo family. He is the head of the makgeolli plant that he inherited from his wife’s family after she passed away. Dae-sung is quiet and reserved, but sees in Eun-jo a kind of vulnerability and instability that he wants to help rid her of.
When our story begins, we learn that Eun-jo and her mom live with a deadbeat alcoholic who throws temper tantrums and is generally always inebriated. Fun. Eun-jo’s mother, Kang-sook, tells him that she’s sick and tired of their living conditions, and vows to leave. ‘Cept, the thing with temper-filled alcoholics is that they convince you they’ll never do it again, and then when you won’t believe them, they get violent. And that’s what happens.
Being the smart girl she is, Eun-jo grabs her mother and makes a break for it with her. But after they depart, the guy realizes that they stole a diamond ring from him, he sends gangsters after the two to retrieve both the ring and the women. After an interesting chase on the train, in a moment of panic, Eun-jo hands the ring to a girl who happens to be on the train with a bunch of classmates. The girl is Hyo-sun.
After the two are caught, Kang-sook makes an effort to track the ring down from Hyo-sun, and at the makgeolli plant she meets Hyo-sun’s father, Dae-sung. Dae-sung is a widower because his wife passed away when Hyo-sun was seven. Both Hyo-sun and Dae-sung are stirred by Kang-sook’s beauty, and moreso especially after she puts on Hyo-sun’s mother’s clothing. Kang-sook is very aware of what being accepted by this family means for her and Eun-jo’s fortunes, so she gets to work. Dae-sung is completely taken by her, and Kang-sook manipulatively works her way into the Goo family. In addition, Hyo-sun feels an immediate connection to her as well, treating her like the mother she hasn’t had in so long.
All while Kang-sook is having playtime with the Goos, however, Eun-jo is left behind in the house of the alcoholic deadbeat. Eun-jo figures that her mother must have abandoned her, and decides to make another break for it. But unbeknownst to her, Kang-sook sends over (bear with me here) Dae-sung’s dead wife’s younger brother and Ki-hoon (Chun Jung Myung), one of the workers at the makgeolli plant, to pick her up.
Naturally, Eun-jo doesn’t trust either one of them, and during “bathroom break” on the car ride, she splits. But as she runs, Ki-hoon sprints after her, knowing well what she’s trying to do. Below is one of the most mesmerizing scenes I’ve ever seen:
Subtitle credits go to WithS2
Ultimately, Ki-hoon catches her, and after some resistance, Eun-jo succumbs. He tells her that she’s not even an adult — what could she possibly do for herself? She should just wait until she’s of age and then do whatever she needs to do.
And that’s how it starts. Eun-jo is resistant to any kind of emotional relationship that other people want to pursue with her, most of all being Hyo-sun’s. On some level, I believe she knows that Hyo-sun is sincere with her affections, but in addition to believing that niceness comes with a price, it disappoints and angers her to see her mother having a much easier relationship with Hyo-sun than she does with Eun-jo, and this makes Eun-jo keep her defenses up.
Eun-jo inadvertently connects to Ki-hoon, first because he is a necessary evil she must face in order to ultimately get away. But second because he is there in ways others are not and do not try to be. Right as she begins to feel any sense of emotional connection to Ki-hoon, however, he disappears from her life, making her once again erect a wall around herself.
Eun-jo won’t budge for anybody. It’s hard to gain her trust and it’s hard to gain her approval. She does everything she feels she needs to do because her ultimate goal is to leave, which seems to carry multiple connotations for her.
In a way, Eun-jo thinks that leaving will help her wipe her slate clean, but from a viewer’s perspective, we can see that that’s not how it’s going to work. If she leaves, all she does is change her physical locality — it doesn’t change her mentality. She’s moved from place to place so many times now, but what does that actually inspire in her? It just makes her more angry and more lonely. Eun-jo acts on the modus operandi that being self-sufficient is enough, and that detachment from others will quell her disappointments when people can’t be there the way she wants them to be.
But in a way, it’s all circular motion: Eun-jo thinks she can’t rely on anyone but herself, but by being alone, she actually gets less of what she needs, which is warmth.
I think it’s telling that Eun-jo carries with her this perpetual feeling of being indebted to the people in her life. When she makes a break from the alcoholic deadbeat, before she leaves, she tells an unconscious him that she’s made months and months’ worth of kimchi, a ton of rice, and a gazillion dishes of banchan, so she no longer “owes” him anything.
With Dae-sung, as a grown up, she tells him that when she feels like she’s worked enough to pay him back for her debt, she will leave.
“Paying back her debt” is a signifier that Eun-jo will leave. Once she feels like she’s done “enough” for someone, she will move on. It’s so heartbreaking that she doesn’t feel like she can get anything from anyone unconditionally, because to her there is always a price to pay. I guess that’s what will make her ultimate union with Ki-hoon all the more breathtaking, because he will give her something — whether it be love or a sense of shelter — unconditionally. This sounds like an incredible cheesefest, but Ki-hoon makes Eun-jo honest and if there’s one thing Eun-jo needs, it’s a space to be honest.
The drama so far has been great. Flawless. Stunningly shot, great score, fantastic acting from all our actors, and a gripping story with gripping characters. But you know this already.
What I am worried about is how it’s going to stay consistent for the entire duration of its 20 episode run. 20 is a little scary, I’m not going to lie. 16 is standard but is already pushing it for a melodrama, and four more can really kill things if not done accurately. This is one drama I wished so badly were filmed all in advance prior to its air date, because this is one story that can’t be fucked with and can’t flip flop depending on the viewers’ opinions or the writer’s mood.