I watch Heirs/The Inheritors and I still have no clue what it is I am supposed to be seeing. A teenage love story between a chaebol heir and a really poor girl? A high school after school special against bullying? A dysfunctional family squabble? I haven’t felt so utterly clueless watching a drama in a long time. Things happen but I can’t see any thematic cohesiveness to it. If this was a sitcom, the pace and execution would work because we’re spending time with people over a long period of time, so it’s more about watching discreet situations without any urge for a bigger picture. That’ll come after the characters and their trials and tribulations have grown on the viewers. At 20 episodes, Heirs is a standard K-drama length but the dramatic pulse seems to have been iced down to barely beating. I can list all the major events so far in one hand – Eun Sang goes to the US and meets Tan, Tan comes back to Korea, Eun Sang and Tan both end up at Empire High with the current and past friends and nemesis. On the other hand, there is so much staring in this drama, staring at people, staring into nothingness, staring at things.
Part of my sense of disorientation is that all the elements I’ve described above is so not a Kim Eun Seok penned drama is her body of work is any indication. By toggling so many characters and so dangling so many threads, nothing is being developed with the depth and urgency I would like. It helps that Tan has quietly fallen for Eun Sang without a lot of self-wrangling chaebol heirs are wont to engage in when they fall for an unsuitable girl. Oddly I feel little in the way of stomach tingling romance from Eun Sang to Tan, it’s almost like girl is really too busy, too overwhelmed, and too tired from life to actually consider or have time for love. That’s awesome because it feels real in this universe of far out rich v. poor constructs. I can sense she could like and even love Tan, but she’s nowhere close to where he’s at in terms of being wholly consumed by her presence. And it’s not an obsessive fascination either, the way I see Young Do developing his interest in Eun Sang, Tan likes her because she’s a good person, a warm presence, a comforting friendship. She is the simplest of things he cannot have because he has riches beyond compare. Conceptually it works, just up the intensity a little.
Episode 7 recap:
Perpetually tired Eun Sang flops down on the table outside the convenience to sneak a cat nap. Young Do happens to be there grabbing some ramyun and he sits down across from Eun Sang and stares at her. After a moment, he kicks the table and tells her to wake up. Why is she always sleeping in such places, he’ll feel the urge to protect her.
Young Do’s phone rings and he picks up knowing it’s from Tan, who just happens to be right across the street. All the men around Eun Sang seem to be stalkers. Young Do naturally assumes Tan is here to see Eun Sang and tells her to wake up because Tan is here. Eun Sang gets up and is surprised to see Tan, telling Young Do she is not meeting Tan.
Tan insists he’s not here to meet Eun Sang as well heads off, but not before warning Young Do to behave around his neighborhood. Eun Sang says running into both Young Do and Tan is a coincidence and she leaves. Young Do still believes otherwise, and yet another potential thrilling scene ends devoid of any impact.
Eun Sang goes home and runs into Tan waiting for her in the garden. He’s upset she sleeps in random places but doesn’t realize she has nowhere to go. Eun Sang clarifies that Young Do just happened to be there and Tan takes the chance to warn her to stay away from him. Tan worries Young Do threatened Eun Sang, but she says he mumbled something about wanting to protect her. Tan huffs that it’s a threat! When Eun Sang probes for the reason for the two boys enmity, Tan lies that he doesn’t remember.
Eun Sang and Tan space their return into the house but both run into Ki Ae in the kitchen. She introduces Eun Sang as the daughter of the mute housekeeper and Tan cheekily says he knows her from school. Eun Sang doesn’t play around and says she’s never seen Tan in school. After Tan steps out, Ki Ae asks Eun Sang to keep an eye on Tan for her and report back. Eun Sang has to do something in return for going to private school for free, yes?
Tan hears this, and also hears Ki Ae warn Eun Sang not to get chummy or friendly with Tan. Just because they live and go to school together, Eun Sang has to act like she and Tan are in different worlds. Eun Sang understands Ki Ae means to treat Tan like the master and she the servant. Eun Sang goes back to her room where Mom surprises her with a school uniform.
Esther has plans to take a new family picture but Rachel wants none of it. She calls up Young Do and wants his help to end the engagement between their parents. Young Do suggests they date but Rachel doesn’t want her engagement with Tan to end. Young Do agrees to ruin the photo shoot but wants something in exchange from Rachel.
Eun Sang leaves the house at the break of dawn but Tan is waiting for her already. Tan is wearing a letterman jacket that has “A Boy” lettered on the front. As if all that pink lipstick he’s constantly sporting would confuse us. Maybe just a little, but Tan Tan is indeed a boy to me. They take a cab to school and Tan tells Eun Sang what to report to his mom. She’s to say Kim Tan is handsome and beloved and doing well at school. Tan does point out that Eun Sang is a yes girl to his mom, but a no girl to him.
Tan can tell Eun Sang wants to go to school early to avoid the parade of rich kids in their fancy cars, but he wants the taxi to drop them off at the front of the school today since it’s yet early and other kids won’t be there yet. He then leans his head on her shoulder to rest since he woke up bright and early for her. He murmurs quietly that she looks very pretty in the uniform.
Eun Sang and Tan are awkwardly walking up the slope to school, with Eun Sang in front and Tan ambling behind her. He keeps staring at her exposed neck with her hair in a ponytail, and finally he can’t take it anymore with the alluring sight and runs up to pull her hair band off. He messes up her hair and tells her she looks better this way.
They run into Myung Soo in front of the school, having been out all night clubbing. He still thinks Eun Sang looks familiar but Tan assures her that Myung Soo couldn’t have met her at his club haunts, with the implication that she’s not pretty enough to get in. Eun Sang notices the body trace on the ground and Myung Soo says someone keeps drawing it as a sort of protest, wondering if it’s the bullied kid Joon Young.
Ki Ae gets a visit from a friend and is envious when the friend gets a call to go to her daughter’s school. Ki Ae, you shoulda thought of that before you shacked up with a married man. Just sayin’. Friend ask about plans to remove Ji Sook or Won and is told neither have any weaknesses to exploit. Ji Sook is like a nun, and Won is like the son of a priest, neither have any scandals. Eun Sang’s mom is around cleaning and overhears again, which aggravates Ki Ae to no end.
Eun Sang goes to interview with Hyo Shin fo the broadcast club PD position, listing as one of her talents sign language. Hyo Shin notes that she doesn’t appear to need a uniform anymore but she still wants to join the club.
Bo Na runs in and refuses to let Eun Sang join since she’s her boyfriend’s best friend. But then another girl wants to join so Bo Na picks Eun Sang as the lesser of two evils.
Eun Sang walks around all pleased she got into the club. She’s putting her hair into a ponytail when Tan walks up behind her and pulls it off right away and keeps on walking.
Eun Sang is annoyed and yells at him, only to sense someone watching and turns around to see Young Do staring at her from the distance.
Chan Young and is hanging with his honey Bo Na and learns that Eun Sang joined the broadcast club. When Bo Na comes clean with Tan being her ex-boyfriend, Chan Young reveals that he knew already from Rachel. He asks Bo Na to keep Eun Sang’s background a secret but she doesn’t know why she should do it. Chan Young smiles and says he believes in her
Tan is in Myung Soo’s playroom and looks at all the pictures on the wall, which includes pictures of happier times between him and Young Do when they were younger. Chan Young arrives and Tan starts to probe about him and Bo Na. Turns out they’ve been dating for the past year and a half. Chan Young turns the conversation to Tan and Eun Sang, and Tan concedes he’s stuck at the stage right before confessing.
Tan wants to know if Chan Young ever liked Eun Sang and is not surprised to learn Chan Young did. But it was when they were nine, and Eun Sang was bigger and stood up for him. Chan Young wonders why Tan held Bo Na’s hand when they were dating and it was a simple as the day being cold and Bo Na was warm and strong.
Won comes home and runs into Ki Ae in the living room. He then goes to announce to Chairman Daddy that he is moving out for good. Good lord, you act like a 12 year old. Daddy thought Won would be more mature than this, and Tan is just a kid. Won plays his own pity card about losing his mom when he was 6 and getting a half-brother when he was 12. Oh boo hoo. He knows he’ll lost a lot if he leaves, but he gains because someone will be hurt. And that person’s pain will comfort him. That’s it, you are do dead to me Won.
Won goes to his room to pack and Tan comes in all happy that hyung is back. Tan, please burn that baby pink angora cardigan RIGHT NOW. Won is not back and is moving back, despite Tan begging for them to just live as a family. Won says they are not family, and he wants Tan to stop following him around like a puppy. Tan is taking away what belongs to Won.
Won goes down to the wine cellar, and if one is leaving the house might as well take some pricey wine with him. Tan comes down and grabs him for a hug, even knowing this is overstepping his bounds. Won doesn’t want Tan like this, he wants Tan to grow up and fight him for the inheritance. Tan has no intention of fighting because his heart doesn’t want to.
Tan sits in the garden just brooding. He notices Eun Sang coming home but she’s oblivious until he calls her name. She’s very formal to him and says it’s because she doesn’t know if Ki Ae will be around. Tan orders her to return his dream catcher to the wine cellar.
Eun Sang brings the dream catcher to the cellar where Tan is listening to music, the same song Eun Sang listened to the other night. Tan takes the dream catcher and says without it, he’s been having nightmares. She turns to leave and he asks that she stay to listen to music with him. Eun Sang stays and reveals this is a song someone likes. Tan gets jealous until he learns her unni likes it.
Tan wonders if Eun Sang still wants to go back to the US and she explains it wasn’t the US she wanted to go, she just wanted to get away from Korea. Here her life is the same routine of jobs and school and now a transfer. Tan wants to help but she doesn’t accept. She asks him what its like being the son of this family and he says its like having family members he can’t recognize in public. He wants to ask her a question but she books it since his questions are always so loaded.
As Eun Sang walks up the stairs, Tan holds up the dream catcher and uses it to frame Eun Sang. Later that night, both of them think about the other.
At school the next day, Bo Na arrives in class to see Young Do’s minions have barricaded it and inside is Young Do cornering Eun Sang. Bo Na goes in to demand he stop but Young Do takes the chance to empty out both their bags. A quick look at Bo Na’s rich accessories and Eun Sang’s normal items confirms for Young Do, who asks if Eun Sang really is nouveau riche? He asks Bo Na but she deflects and says it doesn’t matter. Young Do laughs and says it does because it means Eun Sang is deceiving the school.
Eun Sang stands her ground and tells Young Do to leave her alone. Young Do is impressed with her attitude. Chan Young comes in and asks what is happening? He tells Young Do to stop bothering other students. Young Do wonders why a mere transfer student has so many knights in shining armor at this school already? He walks out, bumping Chan Young on the way.
Chan Young goes to help Eun Sang pick up her items. Bo Na leans down to grab her stuff and then storms off all angry at both Eun Sang and Chan Young. Eun Sang sits down and hears the other students talking about her.
Yi Seul runs into another class and reports that Young Do was just harassing the transfer student. Tan gets up to go but the teacher arrives right then and class starts. Rachel can tell Tan is anxious as he sits there checking his watch the entire time.
After class, Tan walks through campus looking for Eun Sang. She’s by her locker, near where Young Do and the bullied kid Joon Young is talking. Apparently Young Do lodged a complaint against Joon Young for hitting him and Joon Young asks him to dismiss it. Young Do refuses and then tells Joon Young to beg on his knees and he’ll think about it.
Joon Young gets on his knees even for a chance while everyone stands around watching. Tan walks by and takes a deep breath before going up to Joon Young and telling him to get up. Joon Young doesn’t want Tan’s help and think Tan is no better than Young Do. Tan asks if he was mean to him before and Joon Young reveals that at least Young Do knows who he’s bullying.
Tan apologizes and plans to make it up to Joon Young and turns around to punch Young Do in the face. Everyone gasps in shock. Tan asks if he needs to kneel now? Young Do looks super excited it’s finally escalated between him and Tan. Before a brawl can break out, a teacher walks by and everyone disperses.
Tan and Young Do are dragged to the office of the school principal Ji Sook. She apologizes to Young Do as Tan’s mom and yells at him for being so much trouble. Young Do promises not to file a complaint. Ji Sook wonders who needs to put Tan in his place for him to behave? Should she tell Won? Young Do sarcastically takes this all in and says to let Tan off the hook this time. The two guys glare at each other some more.
After they leave Ji Sook’s office, the impasse continues with Young Do wanting Tan to transfer and reminding him that he knows who Tan’s real mom is. Tan says the person who got punched and humiliated should transfer.
As Tan and Young Do part ways, they walk pass their younger selves. Flashback to their falling out, and turns out when Young Do learned that Tan was illegitimate, he felt like Tan represents the bastard half-brother he would have one day if his dad married one of those women.
School is out and everyone heads out discussing Tan punching out Young Do. Bo Na runs into Rachel and chews her out for revealing her past relationship with Tan to current boyfriend Chan Young. Rachel bitches back that its Bo Na’s fault for not keeping her boyfriend on a tighter leash and letting him out to hang with other girls. Bo Na thinks Rachel’s reaction indicates there is more between Tan and Eun Sang than meets the eye. The two girls vow to get each other back if they keep pissing each other off.
Rachel gets into Esther’s car and she honks when she sees Tan walk by. She wonders why he hasn’t come back since he got back to Korea. She asks to grab a meal and neither Rachel and Tan say anything. Esther complains about Tan’s lack of social graces after they drive off and Rachel reveals that Tan punched out Young Do today for bullying another kid. Rachel says the kind of person Young Do is reflects who his dad is. One thing is for sure, Rachel has a better fiancée than her mom’s fiancée. Esther pulls over and tells Rachel to get out of the car.
Esther goes to Zeus Hotel to see Young Do but he’s not there. She asks the Manager if Kim Won lives hire and asks for the number for the Secretary of the Empire Group so she can call Won. She then calls Secretary Yoon, who answers but can’t talk right now since he’s at the hospital with Chairman Daddy.
Chairman Daddy asks if Secretary Yoon is in love and he confesses it’s more like an affair. Chairman Daddy says this isn’t worth it. Secretary Yoon reveals that once RS International and Zeus Hotel presidents get married, their combined shares in Empire Group will increase dramatically.
Eun Sang and Chan Young are at the library. She gets a call from Young Do but doesn’t answer. She tells Chan Young to hurry up and go before Bo Na gets upset. She finally answers Young Do’s call and he invites her over to his hotel to eat jjajangmyun since he ordered two bowls. Joon Young shows up and Young Do says if she doesn’t come, he won’t dismiss the complaint. Joon Young apologizes to her sadly.
Eun Sang goes to Young Do’s hotel room and asks what his intentions are to toy with them. Obviously he won’t dismiss the complaint against Joon Young. Young Do says he will because she’s with him now and he’s in a good mood, like a flower blossoming beside him.
The doorbell rings and its Rachel here to know why the family photo op hasn’t been cancelled? Young Do says he’s got an important guest right now so can’t talk. Rachel storms in to see Eun Sang sitting there and asks what is going on? She’s not interested in anything other than this weekend’s photo op being cancelled. She shoots Eun Sang a snarky remark that Eun Sang has many more tricks up her sleeve than expected.
Rachel calls Tan to tell him that Eun Sang is currently in Young Do’s presidential suite at the hotel. Eun Sang leaves with Young Do asking if she’s off to work a part time job but she doesn’t answer.
Eun Sang’s mom gets a text message to come to Empire High for a parent teacher conference. She has to decline, and Ki Ae can commiserate because she also can’t show her face at school as Tan’s mom. What is the parallel here, that being a mistress is being the same as poor? Neither can show their face in public?
Tan runs out of the house and goes to the café to make sure Eun Sang is there. He breathes a sigh of relief to see her there. He asks if she was at Young Do’s hotel and Eun Sang realizes Rachel told Tan. She also learns that the hotel belongs to Young Do’s family.
Tan asks how dare she go, isn’t she scared? Eun Sang points out she stayed at his place in the US even thinking he was a drug dealer. Tan calls her an idiot for doing that, there is nothing about Tan that said he was trustworthy. Tan learns that Eun Sang went to see Young Do because he promised to dismiss the complaint towards Joon Young.
Tan asks if she really wants to the Candy girl and trying to help others? Eun Sang blames Tan for being the reason Young Do is picking on her. Tan knows that which is why he’s even angrier. He asks her not to get involved and create more reason for him to be worried about her.
Eun Sang asks him to leave her another. She’s already so tired from dealing with so much. Now with Young Do bothering her, and it’s getting even more awkward to be around Tan. She doesn’t ask for more, all she wants is a life that is slightly better than now by the time she turns 20 and for that she needs to graduate from Empire High. Other than Tan leaving her alone, she doesn’t know what else to do. Tan tells her he has a solution. She can move out of his house and transfer schools. If she can’t do that, then she can start falling in love with him for real, because he’s already fallen for her.
Thoughts of Mine:
I wish Eun Sang’s character would get more of her own story arc rather than be an object sought after and reactive to the world around her. But compared to many characters in this drama, she feels proportionately easy to watch. Same goes with Chan Young and Tan. A lot of characters are so extreme. I don’t even know how to discuss them. Take Won – there is no reason for his degree of anger and lashing out at Tan. Ignore him, fine, but to send him away and now move out of the house because he’s back is bizarre. Even Won admits that he’s shooting himself in the foot with the action but he’d rather stick it to Tan, which makes him an imbecile. If I were Chairman Daddy I would give the company to Tan just because I wouldn’t trust Won to make decisions with a semblance of rationality. Young Do conversely is cruel to a degree that is hard to weigh against being raised by a mean daddy and having no mom. He exhibits shades of being a secret puppy killer in his spare time. He’s not interesting or redeemable in my mind, because one day he reforms like Tan doesn’t make it any easier for those he bullied and mistreated to feel better about all the torment they endured in his hands. I like Tan now, but that doesn’t mean I think he’s a good kid either. Watching Heirs, it feels a bit like Eun Sang fell into a dystopian Wonderland where she’s become the plaything of the rich and powerful. If she starts to fall in love with Tan in ways that make it obvious she ought to fight for a right to be with him, then it’ll all be worth it. Otherwise I wish she could leave the world of Empire High behind her and go back to her pre-Tan life. It was hard, but now it’s infinitely more complicated.