Watching Missing You was a rather disjointed experience and took me a bit of time to process it all. I wasn’t quite sure of what to make of episode 1, which consisted solely of the child actors laying the foundation as well as revealing the parents generation story. Making good on its claim to fame of being a K-melodrama, Missing You hits it out of the park in terms of containing every conceivable makjang element under the sun. In essence, the story reminds me of what’s currently brewing over on the weekend dramas such as Five Fingers and May Queen. I shouldn’t be surprised since writer Moon Jung Hee got a big win with last year’s warm and well-received (but still makjang) Can You Heart My Heart. MY is decided more overwrought than CYHMY, and might even have surpassed the boatloads of crazy pain that was episodes 1 of MQ and FF. I was wondering what more crap could happen to these kids and how much more revolting some of the adult characters were. I’m only laying it out because its a fact – MY is Melo and Dramatic to the nth degree. What’s tempering the excess of woe is PD Lee Jae Dong‘s lyrical touch with the camera, though he could shorten his reaction shots considerably but overall he’s taking what’s there and making it better rather than worse.
Now the more important questions is – was it executed well and did I connect with it? I’ve loved plenty of melos with terribly stupid plots (*cough* Autumn in My Heart *cough*) for various reasons so MY is either going to elicit some emotion from me by making me care about its characters, or its going to leave me disconnected from all the pain and suffering akin to watching on the news about a horrible atrocity in another country. So far the jury is still out. I liked as many things as I didn’t like about it, so my general Koala sense tells me I’m going to have to wait until the adults show up to fully render a verdict. Unlike The Moon that Embraces the Sun, where the kid section was so amazingly acted and the story so thrilling I was hopped up on the awesome which deflated faster than a twice-popped balloon the moment the adults show up, I actually think I’ll like the adult section more in MY because hopefully it’ll be more nuanced and more emotionally delicate. I can’t discount that my reaction to MY is colored by having feasted on one of the best melodramas I’ve watched in years in Nice Guy, leaving me loathe to cut MY some slack because I know its story could be tighter and the directing even more exhilarating. So far MY is definitely not the trainwreck I worried it might be and that’s good enough to earn a solid “That’ll do, Pig, that’ll do” from me.
My favorite thing about MY so far is the performance by young Kim So Hyun playing the younger version of Yoon Eun Hye‘s character. Her resemblance to Yoon Eun Hye is uncanny, and best of all they even cry the exact same way! Kim Yoo Jung deservedly stole the thunder in MoonSun as far as young female leads went, not necessarily because she’s a better actress but because Kim So Hyun played the bitchy second female lead that was so easy for everyone to dislike and harder for the viewers to appreciate her performance in that role. I knew she had the chops and right now she’s firing on all cylinders in MY. Yoon Eun Hye has big shoes to fill, but I know she’ll rise up to the challenge. I think Kim So Hyun’s masterful portrayal of emotionally abused and tormented Lee Soo Yeon is making that character so much more viscerally alive than she’s written on paper and this will give Eun Hye a much broader canvas to play off of when its her time to take over.
Strangely I’m decidedly less enthused about Yeo Jin Goo‘s performance as Han Jung Woo, whereas I thought the boy was hands down the single best thing about MoonSun throughout the entire drama. Perhaps it’s his character that’s not really written as well as Soo Yeon, leaving Yeo Jin Gu coming off like an earnest puppy who appears to form quick attachments to people. The two youngsters have solid chemistry but its hard not to compare to the chariots on fire level of wow that Yeo Jin Gu had with Kim Yoo Jung in MoonSun, though Yeo Jin Gu having hit puberty in a very noticeable way between those two dramas does help widen the gap and lessen the similarities. When watching MY I found myself giggling at the thought that Yoo Seung Ho will be playing the adult version of the second male lead, when onscreen the child version of the first male lead looks more masculine and grown up than he does! Yoo Seung Ho is just 19 while Yeo Jin Gu is 15 going on 16, except he former is slight and lanky, while the latter is built like a running back and gives off considerably more testosterone vibes to me. I’m a tad worried to see my baby Seung Ho trying to believably romance Eun Hye.
The weakest part for me was the script. I’m not talking about the elements of dramatic license where you know what’s happening can only happen on television, because a good melodrama has to have some of that to create the intensity to suck the viewers into it’s universe. MY is like a screenwriter going on a bender where she’s decided to throw the kitchen sink of multi-generational complexities mixed with poverty, injustice, and greed. I actually needed to refer back to the character chart when watching episode 1 to figure out who was who and how they were all related. Melodramas that have too many simultaneous issues going rarely end up being considered a good work because its too complicated to toggle all those threads so inevitably things fall by the wayside or are resolved haphazardly. Already MY has me rolling my eyes on the surfeit of coincidences required to get the two leads together and later to keep them apart. I feel torn about this. One one hand keeping two people apart for 14 years (seemingly by choice on the part of at least one of them) requires something truly drastic to have happened, and to get there likely requires tons of bad things all converging. On the other hand I can’t quite leave my brain at the door and I’m just shaking my head at how the writer is lining up all her ducks to create the big woe is me moment for the young lovers.
It hurts the drama that I find almost every other character that is not the three leads ridiculously one-dimensional. Soo Yeon’s abusive father who turned out to be a falsely accused murderer but is still a child beater and wife batterer, and she’s saddled with a mother who is just trying to survive but chooses her own protection over her daughter’s. Jung Woo’s greedy, cruel, and controlling father coupled with his distant cold stepmother. Hyun Joon’s protective and steely mother who doesn’t hesitate to harm another’s child for the sake of her own. The landscape of MY is littered with villains and schemers who behave in ways that shout out their vile traits. I guffawed when Jung Woo’s dad released the hounds in his pit bulls and then took a shotgun and blew one away. Nothing says evil man more than being a dog killer, and he’s the same cold MoFo who had his dead dad’s corpse wheeled right on out of his house like a piece of fish. The vibe I get from having these types of characters around is knowing the leads will have a hell of a time trying to break free of their toxic relations and leading normal, healthy, and happy lives.
I find myself looking forward to when the adults will show up just because I think the story will be much more interesting then. Right now I can already predict why another river of tears will be shed by many of the characters and how the fighting adults will create more harmful situations for the kids to suffer through. Unlike MoonSun, none of what’s happening to the kids or adults is very interesting since its just garden variety fighting over inheritance and dealing with broken families stuff. I read in the synopsis that Jung Woo becomes a cop, Soo Yeon a fashion designer, and Kyun Joon a asset manager. This means they all grow up just fine so I’m not terribly chomping at the bit to watch the next three obligatory set up episodes. With NG wrapping up shortly, I might just play catch up when the adults swan in and see how I like it then. The ratings for episode 1 was a rather low 7.7 but the domestic reviews were generally favorable so it’ll take a few episodes to see if the audience will warm up to it. Competition isn’t that fierce since NG is in the high teens and The Great Seer has thus far been a bust as far as sageuks go with its ratings for today hitting only 8.5. All in all this is a promising start for MY and I can see lots of Yoochun and Yoon Eun Hye fans thoroughly enjoying the ride. As far as recapping goes, I’m not doing two dramas in one day so MY is a no-go until NG finishes. But even then I make no promises, it’ll depend on how much I love it once Eun Hye and Seung Ho show up playing a couple with a lot of stashed away issues, the biggest of which is that she’s still in love with Yoochun’s character, who is the nephew of Seung ho’s character. Yeah, tell me about it. I can’t wait to watch that jealousy flag fly.