Secret Garden premiered today with slightly over 17% in ratings, a solid start for any drama. Ratings mean diddly to me, other than as a barometer of how much viewers in Korea appear to like a drama. Most of the dramas I’ve liked this year have been ratings busts or disappointments (with the exception of Giant). I know many of you have been asking me to recap SG, and my response has been a wait-and-see attitude. I thought it would all depend on whether I liked the drama. After watching episode 1, I’m not sure I’m going to recap it for completely unrelated reasons.
I really really liked episode 1 of SG. I don’t want to say love because that would be premature, and I’m always a fan of saving the accolades for later. I just never considered whether (1) recapping a Kim Eun Sook drama makes any sense, and (2) whether I am capable of doing it. This just makes me further in awe that samsooki recapped City Hall, and did such a steller job to boot. Kim Eun Sook dramas are fast – flying dialogue, rapid-fire action, action-like cuts in direction. It simply must be watched to get the full impact of the story unfolding.
SG thus far has the trademarks of Kim Eun Sook’s last two successful dramas, On Air and City Hall, including: a perfect soundtrack, no set-up and immediate descent into the story, and very animated acting from the entire cast. Contrary to most of Kim Eun Sook’s leading ladies characters (most of whom I HATED, and some I only liked after their personalities got less cartoonish), Ha Ji Won‘s Gil Ra Im may just be one of the coolest K-drama heroines ever. It’s like Damo‘s Chae Ohk (also played by Ha Ji Won and one of my personal favorite K-drama characters ever written) got reincarnated and returned to the modern world as Ra Im.
Hyun Bin is all sorts of hilarious, poserish, and intriguing with some hidden depth I can glimpse but not yet see. They have great chemistry together, but then again, Ha Ji Won has chemistry with inanimate objects. Yoon Sang Hyun is pitch-perfect as self-absorbed Hallyu star Oscar, with the right mixture of bravado and sensitivity. His first scene in SG made me giggle with disbelief. Kim Sa Rang is drop-dead gorgeous, and is the classic Kim Eun Sook tart-tongued bitch character, whom we all know will get her requisite softening later. The fantasy soul-switch element hasn’t appeared yet, but I think the story without it is actually very interesting and well-constructed already.
No one should attempt to watch SG without subtitles. The dialogue is half the fun, the acting, story, and presentation making up the rest of the package. So far, SG is a solid win, and looks to get better from here on based on the previews for the upcoming episodes. It’s funny, weird, and fast-paced. I was not bored for a single second. Let me ponder the recap issue some more, and if I think it’s doable, I just might take up the challenge. For now, just dropping some initial impressions for anyone curious about whether to check out SG.