Secret Garden, episodes 1 to 4

YES! Guilty pleasure drama!

Lemme preface by saying that this story is flawed in many ways right from the get-go, but it’s really fun to watch, mostly due to the chemistry between Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won. Oh and, HYUN BIN! I’ve forgotten my massive crush on you. What the hell happened to your face, though? Why is he so gaunt, bone-y and skeletal? It’s upsetting!

I’ve never watched Ha Ji-won in anything, but I expected her to be great, and so far she hasn’t been a letdown. Not the most challenging scenes, but she’s holding her own and I’m sure her character will get better as we go along.

Baek Ji-young’s “That Woman” from the soundtrack:

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I think the song is a little too heavy and hovers on being downright misfitting in meaning, but it’s such a pretty song.

I have only one big bone to pick with this drama, so I’ll get that over with first.

I find the initial Joo-won-falling-for-Ra-im bit a liiiiittle unrealistic. I say this a thousand times, but I’m a fan of the journey more than the destination — I like seeing how two people get to being a couple more than I like just watching them be a couple. Any coupling is a nice pay-off, but I have to love how the couple gets there in order to really love the couple themselves.

And I mean, I like this couple, but am I really supposed to believe that all it took was watching Ra-im do a stunt to mesmerize Joo-won? I can see that she’s very different from all the other girls he’s met up with for marriage dates and stuff — she’s tough, hard, and powerful — but the moment felt a little dramatic to me, especially coupled with Baek Ji-young’s “That Woman.” And right after that, he flips out when he realizes she’s hurt, like he’s known her all his life and is very upset that she hurt herself. Buzuhhh???

But aside from all that, I’m totally ON BOARD.

There are problems with many characters out there in the universe, and Hyun Bin‘s Kim Joo-won is by no means perfect — far from it! — but I think he’s a very compelling one. It’s not like he’s so different from all the chaebols in Kdrama-land who are one thing, but then become another when they meet a girl that rocks their world, but he’s got interesting particularities that make him really fun to watch. He’s really neurotic, SO sure of himself and his money that it’s kinda funny, and he’s got an interesting rival. In a way, I think he reminds me of Gu Jun-pyo from Boys Over Flowers the most. They’re not dark and twisted (like Hong Tae-sung in Bad Guy), but they’re not void of personality either. There’s color to their roles that makes stuff light at times, but also heavier when needed.

And then in contrast, I feel like Ha Ji-won‘s Gil Ra-im is a little less interesting. I have a hunch that Ha Ji-won really shines when a story revolves entirely around her, ie, Hwang Jin-yi. This story does have two equally paced main characters, but I feel like there is more depth and backstory to Joo-won. What makes Ra-im a compelling character, besides the fact that she serves as a “challenge” to Joo-won? We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, we know there’s something to uncover with Joo-won, but we don’t know much about Ra-im yet.

But what I like most about the two right now is how much freaking chemistry they have in their scenes together. When they’re just bickering, I like that it’s like a quickfire game of who-can-outdo-who(m?). When they argue, it’s like a huge bomb exploded all over the place and all you want to do is smush Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won’s faces together and get them to make out profusely. They argue a lot, but weirdly enough their arguments are just so compelling to watch that you want to know who comes out victorious and who has to hang their head in shame, and that’s what makes this so fun.

And Philip Lee. PHILIP LEE. WHY ARE YOU SO HOT. Why is your speaking voice so magnificent! There’s nothing really to say about this character other than that he’s a stock character fated to suffer through much jealousy and longing while silently and stoically bearing it all. Boring.

And this scene just made me laugh out loud:

I think every time they film an intimate scene between the main male and female, they get a shot of the second male/female staring from afar, just for good measure, just in case they need to come back and revisit and flashback to how hurt and stoic they are. It’s fucking hilarious.

  • bechedor79

    YES! So excited you posted about this!

    I actually like that Joo Won fell for her so early on, because it adds a nuance to all of their interactions that I haven’t seen so much in dramas. I think that all that chemistry serves to reinforce that they are attracted to each other, but they REALLY don’t know how to handle it.

    I agree that Ra Im is a less compelling character, but I was expecting this whole drama to be more of a showcase of Hyun Bin acting like a girl, because it’s always funnier in a patriarchal society for a guy to act like a girl than the reverse. So I’m impressed that Ra Im is at least slightly more multi-faceted than a lot of heroines in romantic shows.

    There’s a lot of stuff I don’t like about this drama, but I think I’ll always say that about dramas, so I’m loving the ride for now. :D

  • oreoreo

    i’m loving this drama, but seriously about philip lee?? eurgh the only thing i like about him is his voice, but even that can’t make up for the fact he fails when trying to sound like a tough-assed stunt director :/ i feel like he isn’t comfortable with his character and it comes through when he delivers his lines when he’s acting angry (which is most of the time anyway) but especially when he mixes swear words(or slang terms like 자식,새끼) when talking to ha jiwon – so awkward
    but hyunbin is hilarious, like his character from kim samsoon on crack
    as is yoon sanghyun, but they gotta stop styling his hair like an ajumma
    and their ‘house’ is amazing.. details like the bridge across the pond/lake and the 3 gazebos in the background on the lawn are so beautiful

  • holycow!

    ahh they were right.
    this is indeed more addictive than Mary.
    started out at episode 4 and within three more hours I had watched all the other episodes from 3 to 1.
    hyun bin’s turning out pretty cool..
    the last thing I watched him was snow queen which I cannot remember any of.

    and the architecture is making me immensely jealous!!
    i do get a little miffed though that joo won is so easily stricken with love.

    i reasoned that it must be cos stuntwoman is so far off his usual palette that he thinks it attracts him?? like wtf. bored rich kid likes challenges and new toys and thinks it cool to go against the conventions. i’m not too sure he actually likes likes her. or i could be wrong…

  • f

    I can never think of Ha Ji Won without remember Yoobin’s rap in So Hot.