Secret Garden, episodes 5 to 8

This body switch makes me appreciate that Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won are good at what they do.

The story itself and the gender dynamics between the couple aren’t necessarily the most original (rich boy/poor girl, man leading/forcing woman) but the pair’s chemistry is pure FIYAH. The two are so good at transcending the situations given to them that they singularly make this drama worth watching.

Case in point: every other scene that doesn’t feature some combination of Hyun Bin or Ha Ji-won, whether together or by themselves, is essentially a scene I don’t care about. And it’s not because I love the two so much that I don’t care about the rest of the cast, it’s really because their style of playing the characters is completely compelling (and maybe Hyun Bin moreso than Ha Ji-won). Yoon Sang-hyun’s scenes with Kim Sarang are so, so, so boring and drag on forever. I don’t understand the stuff that goes on between Oska and the younger boy and I don’t care to either! The inner family rivals in the Kim clan are uninteresting to me.

I think Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won are good examples of how a character is only as good as his/her actor. Obviously there’s a need to elevate the two roles because they’re leads, but there’s also a reason why those two characters happen to have the most depth and interesting dialogue.

The most striking thing about these episodes was how Hyun Bin and Ha Ji-won came to embody each other’s characters after the switch. This was just freaking brilliant on the two actors’ parts.

I wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea of the body switch because that would just mean a lot of opposite-sex misunderstandings and that could funny for a really short period of time before it got stale.

I’m happy to say that the four episodes was a relatively painless ride and it made me give even more props to the two actors than I have already. They were so believable as each other that when they switched back momentarily in those scant scenes that required a stylistic reversal, I was so confused.

Between the two, I do think that Hyun Bin has been the stronger actor so far, but I have to say, after the switch, I found Ha Ji-won better as Joo-won than Hyun Bin was as Ra-im, though Hyun Bin cracked me up more. I think this was mostly due to the fact that Kim Joo-won is the funnier character with more quirks that come out at odd times that made Ha Ji-won’s acting more endearing.

Joo-won is so childlike in his persistence of his point of view being the right one that it becomes comedy. Had he been written by a less skilled writer, he would’ve been a caricature of the rich. But as it stands now, there’s something completely obnoxious and unbelievable about him, and then something completely lovable and compelling as well. He’s an embodiment of juxtapositions, and it makes for good TV.

To put it bluntly, Joo-won is someone who is so far up in his own platform of thick, dripping wealth that his pursuit of Ra-im is almost de-legitimized by his lack of empathy for anybody who isn’t as rich and as well-off as he is. I almost can’t take anything he says seriously, because how the hell would he know? And I don’t believe that things like having a phobia or some kind of personal hindrance somehow justifies his arrogance, or how his inability to get the girl at the moment makes him more human. His aristocracy shouldn’t be excused by how “real” he seems, because of course rich people have their own problems, but that doesn’t mean they understand the rest of the world and their problems.

Then what’s Joo-won’s saving grace? His saving grace is that he is aware of what privilege there is in being part of the elite. We’re not given a lot yet, but he says to Ra-im at a certain point that the difference between her and people like Yoon-seul is that Yoon-seul belongs to an inner circle that doesn’t know how much money they have in their bank accounts, because it just grows and grows and never stops growing. He is aware that he can buy whatever he wants, but I think he is also aware that there is a reason why he can be in a position of privilege like that.

I don’t want to give him too much credit yet, because at the moment, there is much more overwhelming evidence to the fact that Joo-won thinks being poor is a funny, unimaginable state to be in. So we’ll see.

  • http://bechedor79.deviantart.com/ bechedor79

    I don’t have anything in particular to say about this, except yay! I generally agree with you, haha. :D