Big (빅), episodes 1 to 8

I *love* Big. I want to hug it.

The hilarious thing is that most diehard Hong Sister fans seem to find this drama especially lukewarm because it’s not as crazy as their past works, to which I say: BRING ON THE NON-CRAZY.

A serious question: how do people not get sick of the crazy? Individually I’ve liked almost all of Hong Sisters’ dramas, but when you take their entire body of work together as a whole, there is just no more spark to be found with each new project. Yes the stories are extremely different, and yes the characters and the situations are different, but they all feel the same. It’s the same metaphor spun in five different ways, the same kind of whacky humor, the same outrageous-moment-juxtaposed-with-quiet-moment scenarios. In fact, because they are so prolific, putting out a new drama every year, I’m surprised that viewers haven’t gotten tired of their writing voice faster.

There’s also the fact that the Hong Sisters are absolute bullshit with writing female characters. It’s generally a TV problem, not specifically a Hong Sister problem. But again, because they are so prolific, and the contrast between their male characters and female characters is like clockwork, it becomes harder to ignore. It speaks to a bigger and more systematical problem to their writing, which is why I’ve become more and more skeptical of their projects from the past 2-3 years.

I’m also wary that discussion about these problems in their writing is so scant, and inversely proportional to how popular their work is in the international community. (Which is especially interesting, since their dramas consistently draw a very modest viewing in Korea. This also speaks to how the international K-pop and K-drama community can have such obvious and huge double standards when it comes to the things they pick and choose to find problematic, but that’s another topic for another day.)

Okay, end rant. Onward to the actual drama!

I love this drama. *squishes Gong Yoo*

It took definitely took the whole first two episodes for me to settle comfortably into the story because I wasn’t sure if the Hong Sisters were pulling a fast one on me and making Lee Min-jung’s Gil Da-ran pathetic and intentionally going to keep her that way the whole drama through, but I’m so glad they’re not. It would’ve been dreadful if she were spineless the entire drama, but also wouldn’t be unexpected because the Hong Sisters just love making their females measure their self-worth based on how their male counterparts view them :\

I’m not sure how the story is going to turn out, because I don’t even think the Sisters themselves know, but I’m glad that there’s an element of surprise embedded into each episode. Every Hong Sister drama has been insanely predictable, and while Big doesn’t have a rocket science situation, there are still a lot of uncertainties, something I revel in digging into in the remainder of the episodes.

I’m groaning a little at how there is going to be some familial connection between Seo Yoon-jae and Kang Kyung-joon, but it’s not a K-drama obstacle I haven’t hurdled over before, so that’s not what’s keeping me on my toes. Who exactly is going to end up on top is the bigger and more expensive million dollar question.

It’s already established that Kyung-joon is the hero of this story, yet it would go against A-list Gong Yoo billing for Kyung-joon to get the girl in Shin Won-ho’s body. So does Kyung-joon stay in Seo Yoon-jae’s body for good, or are we going the more disappointing route of forcefully making Seo Yoon-jae go through a character transformation so that he’s good enough by story’s end to get the girl outright? That would be WAY less fun, but the fact that Gong Yoo can’t not get the girl is something we cannot maneuver around, so regardless of which spirit gets the body, he’s gonna have to do it through Gong Yoo’s body.

I’m not too worried about the problem that Gil Da-ran might fall in love with the right person (Kyung-joon) because of the wrong reasons (he’s in Yoon-jae’s body) just because I think Kyung-joon is compelling enough that he can inspire love, and because his personality and Seo Yoon-jae’s are so wildly different that I find them hard to mix up. In fact, the love might be doubly meaningful because he’s in a host’s body and if Da-ran falls in love with him, it’ll be for his personality and she would’ve already had to cross the hurdle of acknowledging Kyung-joon for Kyung-joon and not Kyung-joon-in-Yoon-jae’s-body.

While I believe that Yoon-jae and Da-ran had their moments of good faith with each other, there is no reason for me to see Yoon-jae as the winner. Kyung-joon is just the better person, more honest and forthright. His vulnerabilities are also easier to gauge and something that him and Da-ran can share, whereas Yoon-jae is closed off. I guess it’s okay to be closed-off, but he voluntarily chose not to divulge parts of him to Da-ran, which I think is a huge foundation for a shaky, mistrustful relationship. It astounds me how little Da-ran knows about Yoon-jae and they were going to get married!

This drama is a lot more mellow than other Hong Sister dramas, and I welcome this change because I’m not sure how much I would’ve liked this drama if it was just zinger after zinger after sarcastic comment after sarcastic moment broken up with random quiet moment and then back to zinger and sarcastic comment. Don’t get me wrong, I think their trademark humor is still here (Gong Yoo sticking his head out of that taxi cab, the entire existence of Choong-sik) but the drama feels a lot more mature, with a lot more room for the characters to think and breathe and just be.

There are a lot of unnecessarily antagonistic female characters: the school principal who hates Da-ran’s mom for stealing her love, who dislikes Da-ran for just some random reason but bends over backwards for Yoon-jae; Se-young the amazingly annoying and trademark second lead; Ma-ari who’s mostly cute, but also insanely psychotic with her clinginess and obsession. They and other side characters also get way more screentime than they deserve, but it’s an annoyance I’ll have to deal with with every Hong drama.

I want more backstory that I presume is coming soon in the remainder of the episodes. For the most part, I think Big is well-paced and there’s still a ton of story left to explore and I think it can totally be done well in the remaining eight episodes. The worst is when you know there’s no more story to tell yet there are way too many episodes left for it to be done speedily and effectually, or when there’s too much story and too little episodes left and everything is rushed.

Definitely going to keep up with the rest of the drama to see how it resolves itself. Finally, another drama to love and not a moment too late (it’s already July, folks).

KYUNG-JOON 4EVA!

(Gifs via Tumblr)

  • Danna

    I’m surprised that viewers haven’t gotten tired of their writing voice faster. </i?
    They totally have!!! or at least I have been getting tired. Was utterly bored through Gumiho and while I thought Greatest Love was cute and just didn't grab me. Also I have seen some blogs reporting them as controversial writers because of the criticism they have been receiving in Korea owing to some of the reasons you listed. So I'm really glad they have turned things around this time. I haven't actually been watching BIG just yet so I skipped some of the last few paras here but I'm encouraged by the fact that you like this drama. Will check this out once my current schedule calms down a bit.

    • Danna

      Actually they have or at least I had been getting tired of them. Was utterly bored through Gumiho and while I thought BL was cute it failed to grab me emotionally. Also I’ve seen people report them as controversial writers because of the criticisms they have been getting in Korea for some of the reasons you have mentioned

  • Medusaspeaks

    Great points about their characterizations of women. It’s one of the reasons I tend to not watch many of their dramas. It’s one thing to be naive and it’s another to be completely dimwitted.