First Impressions of Secret Garden Episode 1

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.

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First Impressions of Secret Garden Episode 1 — 23 Comments

  1. hehe I’m smart. Didn’t thought I could understand it w/o subtitles anyway, so I shall be patient and wait for the subs.

    17% is not bad indeed! M3 was barely half of that…I guess somehow Koreans are not into rom com with youngsters in it? Thinking back, YBB was not that great in the ratings department as well.

    Googling Damo now, didn’t get the comparison 😀

    • Hey hellochloe, I did a review of Damo for Thundie, you can check it out and it might explain why I think the two characters are similar but simply situated in different eras.

    • Hey chloe,

      ockoala’s review for Damo at Thundie’s is one of my all-time favorite reviews by any drama blogger. It was like I was digesting two masterpieces all at once –the review and the drama itself– and I couldn’t get enough of it. Anyway, I watched Damo right afterwards and it’s one of THE best sageuks and romance stories ever! You gotta watch it!

  2. So I am watching without subtitles and can I already say – Hyun Bin is giving me a run for my money and forcing every ounce of Korean knowledge I have out of me – in a very fun way.

    I will have to express my disappointment, I was really hoping the sparkly blue outfit was a result of the body switch…come to find out – he just can’t dress himself when he’s not dressed for work. :/

    • i cant even complaint abt the tracksuit when i look at Yoon Sang Hyun’s Oskar and the way he dresses…especially in the first scene…leopard print??????

      • But it’s SO his character. Tacky/girly/femme Celeb that’s a bit rat bastard and a bit whinny with the whif of charm! I just cracked me up.

        His hair makes me shudder though. Yoon Sang Hyun sshi…you’re 38 not 18 – what’s up with the long side weird part thing?

  3. Yay! It’s good.

    I am thinking of recapping it if I love it (that or Athena) but who knows how well I will do – Hyun Bin will probably make me pass out on the spot, even in hideous blue sparkly thing.

  4. I didn’t mean to start SG but there was no Gloria last night…

    Fully agree with your assessment of Ep 1. It has all the hallmarks of a Kim Eun Sook drama: crispy dialogues with fired actions and sequences, not one second wasted. I am surprised at how fast the romanctic vibe kicks in in this very first episode. Both Ha Ji Won and Hyun Bin are in their top form (but one has to wonder, if in real life, wouldn’t HJW’s character become a real movie star instead of being the stuntwoman of a less pretty or charasmatic bitch)!

  5. I took your advice and waited to watch with subs! Thank you for the warning, I can see how I would have been completely lost. I was also not bored at all during this first episode. I love Gil Ra Im already, what a kick ass character.

  6. Thanks so much for this post!!
    i was almost afraid you’d write a recap since i would have no time to read it right now… i didn’t even read recap of PK 5 and 6 yet… TT
    so… im probably in the minority but yay for first impressions posts!!
    WANT. TO. WATCH.

  7. Gosh i sold my self to this drama. I am really enjoying all 2 episodes to the bits. Really no boring moment. Well I watch epsd 1 with sub but epsd 2 no sub. And it still can captive my heart.
    Definitely my next drama crack after PK…..

    I hope you can recap this ockoala 🙂 I am sure i will love this drama more if you recap this…

  8. ok… this is totally off topic and I’m not suggesting anyone spoil this episode by watching it without subs (which you know I totally didn’t do right?) but is anyone reminded of Takuya Kimura when you see Yoon Sang Hyun in this? Its amazing how much both of them are starting to resemble middle aged female versions of their former male selves as they age. note- i like YSH and TK both…. but that don’t mean I’m blind.

  9. OMG!! Why are there too many great dramas lately? T.T How I wish I can understand Korean so I could watch it right away without waiting for subs. LoL XD

  10. “then again, Ha Ji Won has chemistry with inanimate objects.”

    HAHAHAHA love your humour! so far it’s been fantastic fun to watch 😀 Hopefully the rest of the drama keeps up with the first 2 episodes!

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