It’s with a pat on the head that I put Heirs/The Inheritors away, a drama that had so much but did so very little with it. It was enjoyable but frustrating, harmless yet mildly irritating. I wanted to tell it all the time to get on with telling me a story with more purpose while it stubbornly insisted that this was it and nothing more was forthcoming. In the end there was no time jump anywhere in sight, so the main cast started off as high schoolers and end up maybe taking a few steps forward in the path of their lives. For some those steps were big ones, transformative ones, while for others not much changed even if all sorts of random and improbable things happened along the way. The drama delivered on the superficial in a mixed way as much as it failed to deliver on the substantive. The cast was comprised of pretty young actors and actresses but everyone sported the same pink lipstick with sartorial tastes that ranged from absurd to ordinary. I felt myself watching for the sake of watching, like it was here and I just wanted to see it through to the end. When I wonder how a cast can act in a truly terrible drama to the end, I figured it was about making the best of it. That was me and Heirs.
I did like bits and pieces, and a few episodes in the middle were really engaging and entertaining. But overall this drama failed to come alive and merely floated in the shallow ended, which was even more frustrating because even the viewers could see there was more to be mined. This was the first Kim Eun Sook drama where the central love story completely fell flat for me, on paper I got it, if I tried to analyze the why and hows I could make myself accept it, but viscerally on the primal feelings of attraction turning to love and passion, Kim Tan and Cha Eun Sang were like two wet towels rung repeatedly to milk the tears and emotion by sheer brute force. This story couldn’t decide whether it was a high school drama filled with test-taking worries and school yard conflict, or a inheritance drama stemming from familial strife. It presented both and failed to do anything meaningful with either. I did take away my own little bits of satisfaction with this – Kim Woo Bin is a scene-stealer extraordinaire and has great chemistry with Park Shin Hye and I’d vote for them to do a drama together in the future, the production captured the beauty of Southern California but I could do without the cringeworthy English scenes, Bo Na and Chan Young are delightful and any scene with them made the drama better, and the two Moms soothed my soul when the drama tried to suck it dry and for that they deserve hugs.
Episode 20 recap:
Tan and Young Do find in each other mutual brooding kindred spirits up on the roof of Zeus Hotel. Young Do breaks the silence by noting that it’s cold out tonight. Tan adds that it’s also very dark. I’ll take that as allusions to their own worries.
Tan goes to start corralling supporting votes to keep Chairman Kim as the Chairman of Empire Group. He meets with Myung Soo’s mother and asks for her be his lawyer because he doesn’t trust the Empire lawyers.
Won gets a report from Secretary Yoon as to how the two sides add up on shares and its looks pretty close. The deciding factors are finding those who still support the chairman, overseas shares, and shares held in holding companies.
Tan and Won sit in the Empire conference room waiting for their supporting shareholders but no one shows up. Secretary Yoon points out the obvious that people are choosing gain over loyalty. Finally two old guys still loyal to the Chairman show up.
Ji Sook is holding court with a lot of shareholders and thanks them for supporting her. Esther is there but she’s not decided yet.
Eun Sang hears from Chan Young that Chairman Kim has been hospitalized and that Tan and Secretary Yoon are on a flight out of the country to get votes from the overseas shareholders and collect signed proxy votes for Chairman Kim. Secretary Yoon reminds Tan that he needs to play the role of the sad son that his dad is sick, a little boy who is on the verge of losing his dad. Tan wonders how his dad has been able to wage this battle for the last 20 years.
Eun Sang reads a note from Tan apologizing for leaving without telling her. He encloses the owl hand warmer she wanted. He warns her not to cheat on him but then says he’ll miss her a lot and will be back soon.
Young Do is dining with his dad who tells him that he will likely be detained during the interrogation and investigation. He tells Young Do not to trust anyone and only trust the Vice-President. To communicate with his dad, he has to go through the company lawyer. And if his dad doesn’t come back soon, he needs to go stay with his aunt. Dad tries to keep the mood light and tells Young Do not to shirk his kitchen duties and he’ll be back soon but Young Do is very upset.
Young Do watches on the news that his dad went to the police station and was placed under arrest. Lawyers for the hotel come to tell Young Do that they will take care of him, all he needs to do is go to school and for now the VP will run the hotel so he needn’t worry. His dad passes word along that Young Do is to keep working hard and not break any rules.
Young Do goes to the high school where the kid he bullied Joon Young is now attending. He walks up to apologize to him but Joon Young doesn’t want to accept it. Young Do says he’s being sincere and wants to apologize to him. Joon Young is shocked that he apologized and tells Young Do to live with this for the rest of his life. Young Do accepts that. Joon Young asks him never to come see him again.
Eun Sang texts Tan and tells him about life in Seoul which feels colder without him around. She tells him news that Young Do’s dad was arrested. Tan meets with the shareholders and collects their proxy votes for the Chairman.
Eun Sang goes to school and sees another body shape on the ground and this time a girl runs away holding a spray can. She voiceovers that she discovered that the body shape was drawn by a different person every day including even Rachel, Hyo Shin, Yi Seul, Myung Soo, and Young Do.
After she learned that, she could no longer envy or hate any of the kids anymore. Eun Sang looks up around the school. She texts Tan and asks if he drew a body shape early in the morning as well?
Young Do goes to his mom’s café but stands outside looking at her working inside and doesn’t go in. He ducks when his mom turns to look out the window.
Tan and Secretary Yoon are coming back on the plane and Tan tries to get another vote but is turned down. Eun Sang voiceovers that she hopes the weight of the crown doesn’t make him collapse and she misses him, Kim Tan.
Tan, Won, and Secretary Yoon are visiting the Chairman in the hospital and hear he’s doing better and the swelling has gone down. Won hears Tan did well and got some votes, but a few refuse and some are still considering it. Won reveals that the shareholders meeting has been scheduled and if the Chairman is removed then control of Empire Group will change hands.
Tan and Won move back home because they need to protect this house while their dad is in the hospital. Won tells Tan to go see Young Do since his dad is being investigated and can’t come to the shareholders meeting. Tan asks Won to continue working with Zeus Hotel and Won agrees as long as he’s still President.
Eun Sang is cleaning up at work when Tan arrives to see her. He opens his arms and she runs in for a hug.
The sit in the café to talk and Eun Sang hears that the Chairman hasn’t woken up, the shareholders meeting is continuing, and then she tells Tan she didn’t cheat on him. He’s very touched at how nice she is to him and asks to hold hands. They hold hands with Tan saying that he missed Eun Sang and she telling him to hang in there.
Tan goes to see Young Do to get his vote for the Chairman. Young Do finds out Ji Sook is trying to remove the Chairman and says that having a mom and not having a mom are both problems. Young Do agrees to do it for all the bad things he said about Tan’s mom in the past. Tan tells Young Do he doesn’t need to come as long as he fills out a proxy. Young Do asks how the Chairman is doing and Tan tells him to worry about himself.
Young Do tells Tan to leave because he needs to wash dishes. Tan is confused and Young Do says all he can do right now is wash dishes. Young Do goes down to the kitchen to wash dishes and cuts his finger.
Secretary Yoon goes to see Esther to get her vote. He uses the most polite and pleading language with her and says he feels like when Empire is under siege he has to help. She asks why he’s being so formal when he could use how attractive he is. He teases that he forgot he could do that. Esther agrees to sign and she doesn’t want to attend the meeting. She tells him to keep living well and he says likewise.
Won dines with his rich matseon date because her father’s vote is very critical now. She asks if he’s ready for marriage to get her father to vote for the Chairman? Won’s eyes widen.
It’s the day of the Empire Group shareholders meeting and everyone files in. There seems more people seated on the side of Ji Sook. Won’s date comes in and sits behind him. The votes are counted and the Chairman’s side wins and he remains as Chairman.
Everyone files out and Ji Sook and Won talk in the hallway. She tells him not to feel pleased he won today, this is the start of the war. Won thanks her for showing him who his enemy and friends are. Ji Sook says she doesn’t know when they will battle again, it can be next month or next year. Secretary Yoon hears that the Chairman has woken up and can be operated on. Ji Sook overhears this as well.
Chairman Kim is wheeled into the OR while Won, Tan, Ki Ae and Secretary Yoon wait outside. The surgery is a success and now they need to wait for him to wake up. Ki Ae cries in relief while Tan asks why she’s crying over a guy who kicked her out of the house.
Young Do finally gets up his courage and goes to see his mom. She asks how he’s doing and he says he’s not doing well. Mom goes up and wipes his tears away and says her son is so tall and handsome now. He calls her mom and they have a tearful reunion. Mom says she’s sorry to him for not waiting longer. She originally wanted to see him soon but she’s sorry she didn’t go back.
Hyo Shin hands Eun Sang some study books that are the best he used. She thanks him but he thanks her for bringing happiness to his high school life at the end. He tells her to make a long and sickeningly but boring sweet romantic movie with Tan. She asks if he’s really leaving to go somewhere.
Esther is in a RS International meeting when Rachel comes in. Rachel gives her mom feedback about the new line and Mom says she thinks Rachel has good taste. Rachel likes the clothes because it keeps warms and she hates the cold. Esther offers to take her somewhere warm on vacation and Rachel wonders if it doesn’t sound like a honeymoon. Rachel wonders why Esther is being weird and Esther says she knows Rachel has been taking her sleeping pills. Rachel says it’s only a few times and not a habit so no need to worry. Esther understands but wants Rachel to see a doctor for her own medical treatment.
Rachel is in the waiting room to see the doctor when Hyo Shin walks out. He finds out this is her first visit and explains he’s under treatment here because he wants to keep living. Rachel says she’s here because she can’t sleep. Hyo Shin thinks it’s weird that he keeps sharing secrets with her, and reveals that he’s going to the army early and it’s also a secret he hasn’t told anyone.
Tan runs to the train station and catches Hyo Shin before he leaves to enlist in the military. He hasn’t told his parents but this is how he is going to thwart their plans for him and buy him more time to think. Tan thinks this is crazy but tells him not to get hurt. Tan and Hyo Shin hug. Awwwww. Hyo Shin promises to take care of himself.
Eun Sang and her mom are sorting beans in their apartment and mom wants to send it her sister. Eun Sang asks if her sister called and find out she got a new job and cell. Eun Sang acts pissed but really wants to tell her sister that she and their mom are doing well. Mom asks if Eun Sang is really happy to be her daughter and Eun Sang is. They hug. Eun Sang gets a call from her boyfriend to head to the hospital.
Chairman Daddy has woken up and is meeting with Ji Sook, asking if she caused trouble while he was unconscious. She endured for so long, why did she ruin all her hard work? Ji Sook says she’s been planning for this for a long time. The Chairman also has plans and calmly tells Ji Sook that he wants a divorce. She accepts it since she’s been ready and plans to take Empire Group. If she can’t take all even half is fine.
Tan and Eun Sang come in to see Chairman Daddy after Ji Sook leaves. Eun Sang hands him a book to read when he’s bored. Daddy tells Eun Sang not to be nice to him. Eun Sang promises to pay back all the debt so he needs to live well. Daddy says he will live long so she can pay back that debt. He tells her not to come anymore but he’ll read the book.
Tan and Ki Ae walk down the street shopping and asks if she’s happy. Ki Ae is but she’s freezing and her feet hurt in these high heels which she insists on wearing because her dream is to be Miss Korea.
Chan Young and Secretary Yoon go camping because we need a place to PPL camping gear. Chan Young snaps a selca with his dad and he asks if it’s being sent to Bo Na. Dad wonders if Bo Na is going to take away his say in Chan Young’s life once college rolls around and Chan Young is looking forward to that. He asks Dad to consider dating but Secretary Yoon isn’t interested. He wants Chan Young to grow up and support him and complains about how hard it is to earn a living.
Won and Tan arrive and Won asks if Secretary Yoon is complaining about working for him. The two boys are fishing and bickering while the adults stand off to the side to talk. He hears that Secretary Yoon wants to spend some down time with Chan Young since the exams are done. Won turns to ask how Tan did and Tan is beaming with pride and tells Chan Young to announce it.
Won and Secretary Yoon are shocked that Tan got 50th place in the last exam, with Won happy shocked and Secretary Yoon shocked that Won thinks 50th place is good. Won asks what Chan Young got and hears Chan Young gets first place all the time, so often it’s actually boring now. After Tan and Chan Young run off, Secretary Yoon asks if Tan knows yet? Won says there is no need for Tan to know beforehand. Secretary Yoon says the news is coming out tomorrow. Won likes this place to relax and plans to come in the future.
Hyun Joo reads about Won’s upcoming marriage on the news and cries. She goes to see him and tells him to pull apart the wishbone with her now. He doesn’t move to take it so she pulls it apart herself. She gets the larger piece so she says her wish is for them to break up. Even though they are close but they are so far apart and she has always known this. Won keeps apologizing to Hyun Joo. She plans to send him off with a wave and tells her Oppa to go well.
Won comes home and Tan asks if he’s really going through with the marriage? Won says it’s not enough for them to protect the company, he needs more support. This is the weight of the crown he has to bear. He doesn’t want Tan to go to the US anymore, he needs Tan beside him. This means Tan can’t have dreams anymore and needs to learn business management. Won is very lonely. Tan asks if Won will be less lonely if Tan is there and Won says he is always lonely but having Tan is better than having no one.
Young Do is at the bike shop and notices a cut on his finger. He sees another chicken delivery girl and that reminds him of Eun Sang. He finally takes out her band aid and puts it on his finger.
Chan Young, Bo Na, and Yi Seul are playing cards that start with 18 years old and then having to use the cards to string together ideas of what 18 year olds would do. Chan Young wins and asks for a kiss as his prize and then turns his head at the last moment to get a lip kiss from her. Yi Seul is grossed out and her wish is for them to break up.
Tan gets a package delivery from the US and it’s from his teacher returning his journal. On the last page, the teacher wrote “What type of crown were you trying to wear? Was it wealth, fame, or love?” Tan writes in the journal that the owner of the study has changed.
Won sits in Chairman Kim’s study which is now his study and he cries and cries looking at the one half of the wishbone. Tan voiceovers that hyung got the position he wanted and is stronger but he would cry often at night. The place where hyung is exiled is probably this house for the rest of his life.
Tan goes to school and runs into his classmates as he can’t believe he’s finishing his high school life. Myung Soo takes his picture and they banter, he and Rachel share a look before she walks away, Chan Young and Bo Na happily greet him and walk by as Tan warns Chan Young to watch out for tomorrow’s test, he and Young Do pass each other without saying anything. Tan says nothing has changed as they haven’t learned to make clean breaks or resolve things properly.
Eun Sang voiceovers that they learned that when they are 18 and things seem so raw, they cried and hurt and made mistakes and loved so freely. Tan sits down with Eun Sang and asks what he wished for when he blew out his birthday candles. Tan wishes for everyone he knows to be happy.
Tan says in 10 years, when they are 29 years old, he will throw a party. Chan Young and Bo Na are busy working even at the party. Hyo Shin won another award at a film festival. Rachel is busy running RS International but Hyo Shin invites her to the film premiere. She’s not interested in movies so he tells her to come see him then. Rachel says she will consider it.
Young Do chats with Myung Soo who is entering the army this late. He tells Won that he will handle the next hotel project for Zeus Hotel. Chairman Daddy comes out of his study with Secretary Yoon. Ji Sook walks down the stairs after chatting with Eun Sang’s mom and Ki Ae.
Tan walks up the stairs to his room and says that even in 10 years he will passionately walk towards her as she waits for him at the end of the road. Tan enters his room and a grown up Eun Sang stands there waiting for him. She turns around and he leans in for a kiss. Eun Sang hopes this wish can come true because only in that wish could she see everyone smiling. Tan says it will come true and he will keep wishing it.
Tan and Eun Sang walk down the street and he voiceovers that at 18 they loved, cried, ran away, knelt down, turned their backs on each other. Flashback of all Tan and Eun Sang’s moments in this drama.
Tan asks Eun Sang when she will finally treat him to that meal? Eun Sang is shocked he believed her. He wants her to cook a meal for him then, a meal every morning. Tan then asks if he just asked her to marry him? Eun Sang says no since that is just causing more trouble. She walks away and he tells her to stop letting him see her back. He wants to bicker with her and asks if she wants to go to his house?
Eun Sang says that even if they fall and kneel down in the future….Tan adds that they can only keep going forward.
Thoughts of Mine:
What I’ll take away from Heirs in all its good, bad, weird glory is that the weird out-weighed everything else. I don’t agree this drama has no plot. It had a plot, it was just weird and the conflicts plus resolutions made no sense once one took a closer look. In the end I might as well have turned the sound off in episode 20 and just watched every little thing get resolved with ease and a swell fare-thee-well. And even in episode 20 I continued to wonder why all the easy solutions thrown at Tan and Eun Sang couldn’t be extended to everyone. Some got off easy and others seem to get an extra beat down. Won turned out to be the one wearing the weight of the crown, and boy does his life suck. He is miserable from the moment we see him until the very last scene when he’s sobbing in his study with a new greasy hairstyle. His sad sack romance with Hyun Joo was anemic from start to finish, and who can blame them when they had about 15 minutes total of added screen time to show us they were in love and sad they couldn’t be together. I saw neither and instead felt like Won was just meant to be Tan’s cautionary tale. So if Won picks money over love, his life is going to suck in a loveless marriage but at least he gets the company. Whereas if Tan picks love over money, he’s going to get everything including a hyung to protects the company while he waits in case anyone needs him. Dude, who wouldn’t want that job? No wonder Tan can afford to give it all up for Eun Sang when the end result is that he gave nothing up.
I’m not going to ask this drama provide any illuminating insights on human psyche and interpersonal conflicts, but it was a painful experience watching none of the raised issues get resolved rationally. Other than Young Do’s entire arc where we saw actual struggle to overcome his wrong ways of thinking, most other characters ended up shrugging and moving on. None moreso than Chairman Daddy, who went episodes threatening Tan and Eun Sang and then backing down all of a sudden, only to be conveniently stricken by a brain hemorrhage to render him even more toothless. I never understood Won’s insistence on pushing Tan away nor did his last minute about turn to allow him to now back him up. He’s a smart adult, the conclusion he reached was always within his intelligence to figure out. That it took him that long to get there made him even more ridiculous. Some of the high school student characters sort of puttered to their own acceptable conclusion, such as Hyo Shin leaving for the army early, Rachel simmering down and getting on some meds, Myung Soo still being Myung Soo, and Chan Young and Bo Na showing us that sane and sensible people did exist in this drama. I feel like Young Do stole the show not because he got a lot of screen time or that his scenes were particularly memorable. What worked was that his character grew without any easy solutions offered to help him out. He will have to live with the consequences of his own misdeeds as well as accept the weight of being the heir to Zeus Hotel and a father who is abusive but cares for him and might even be a future felon. In the end he found a measure of peace with his lot in life, I dig that.
If Tan and Eun Sang floats your boat then paddle away happily on it, but for me their romance and individual characters all fell so flat. Tan was written to be cool and easy to swoon over, what with his immediate fixation on Eun Sang and then total and complete pursuit of her. The problem is that Tan only ever amounted to that in the journey we saw. I don’t like male leads like that, especially since he used his feelings for Eun Sang to justify all sorts of shitty behavior towards others like breaking the engagement with Rachel and embarrassing her. He’s not a bad person, but as a leading man he was wanting in having a life and interests outside of his love for Eun Sang. At least it was tempered a bit by his desire to protect his mom. Eun Sang is the textbook definition of Candy heroine and whatever bits of personality she had in the beginning of the drama was overwhelmed by the extended story line of her unexpected and reluctant romance with Tan. This is one drama where those two should have gotten together early so the drama could be about the confronting obstacles together. I’m happy this drama delivered a happy ending however devoid of proper context and well-laid justification. I enjoyed it more than I disliked it, the music was pretty terrible but a few OST songs were lovely, the OTP kissing was blergh all around but I got a kick out of Tan and Young Do fighting because of the throwback neanderthal vibe of it all, and overall I think it’s a inoffensive drama for a casual watch. It should have been so much more but I’ll save that lament for another day when another drama comes along. Thanks Heirs! I had fun, I think?
Click here to watch Heirs.