It's pretty inescapable at this point that, if one were to describe the things that Kim Tan does to a neutral observer, he would come off as a really awful person. Technically speaking I don't think he actually breaks into the apartment, but the very fact that he takes Eun-Sang there alone against her usual resistance, coupled with his subsequent actions, make it difficult to play any of this off in a sympathetic light. Granted, he acted the same back in Los Angeles- but that was when I thought these were characater flaws he was going to overcome.
What makes this really puzzling, though, is that the drama doesn't really present Kim Tan's actions as necessarily being this wonderful romantic thing. He faces serious consequences for cavorting around with Eun-Sang this episode, and none of these punishments feel particularly unjust. He acted impulsively, alienated almost everyone he knows, and now has to face an increasingly limited number of people who are actually willing to help him.
It's weird to interpret this in context of the other characters as well. By archetype and actions Yeong-Do and Rachel Yoo are supposed to be villains, but I find myself increasingly feeling sorry for them. Yeong-Do makes an astonishingly reasonable request of Eun-Sang this episode, and it's unsettling to realize that Kim Tan has made much better progress by just refusing to take Eun-Sang's feelings into consideration at all.
That might be one of the problems with this drama is that Eun-Sang's character is too passive. There's little sense that she actually likes Kim Tan compared to that she's just going along with him because resisting is too much trouble. Thankfully, this episode does give us a scene where Eun-Sang seems genuinely pleased to see Kim Tan in a way that actually feels natural rather than as a result to provocation. Although it feels like this has been a long time coming.
And even this doesn't deal with other problems, like Rachel Yoo. I'm starting to get the feeling that she never really liked Kim Tan to begin with and was going along with the entire engagement to please her mother. So, consequently, she can't just quit. Taken in that context her cruelty this episode is, while not justified, at least understandable. This poor girl's so angry it's understandable that she wants to lash out at something, and feel relevant even if for the wrong reasons. I do wonder where all this characterization is supposed to be going- it all feels too deliberate to be accidental, yet is still very difficult to parse in terms of some greater theme.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "The Heirs" Episode 13"
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