Category Archive: Explanations

The Ending of Big and Why it Works

Hong Sisters do one thing that they will sacrifice all else to–events, characters, pacing, conflict. They will sacrifice all those to get the *theme* of the drama to work. I noticed this particularly in My Girlfriend is a Gumiho. They did this in YAB and Greatest Love too. They will sacrifice everything to get the theme to work.

This time the theme was maturity. Each character was assigned a part in maturity and they were using the characters to test questions about maturity. Since no one else seemed to get it and the fan rage died down a bit, I’ll spell it out.

Maturity by character:
Da Ran: Sheltered, mature, untested. Indecisive.
Is this mature?
Character arc: If put to the test and put in a difficult position, can she mature? And at what speed? I saw them try to test the character, but the character was stubborn because she couldn’t get out from underneath her over protective family. Every time she was on the verge of making a decision, they swooped in. So it was a big deal when she went against their objections and left.

Her character arc ended on her ability to fight for what she wants, and even taking the harder path to do so, which is why the ending didn’t end with her on the bus. She needed to show the audience she could *follow* through which she hadn’t done before. So the ending was for *her* and *KKJ*. (The not showing the face is another maturity thing– getting to that later.)

In this case, I think the inability to buy it wasn’t due to the writing–I thought some of the acting decisions could have been handled better. Da Ran was a bit too deer in the headlights. If she was played as intelligent, but inexperienced more, I think people would have liked the character more. That’s an acting, not a writing decision. (O.o;; Been on both sides of the fence…)

Mari:
The Question: How one deals with loneliness, is that a sign of maturity?
Mari’s whole character arc hinged on her ability or inability to deal with feeling alone.
This, too, was illuminated through lines like you can go around her house in the US in 15 minutes by Helicopter. Mari doesn’t give up. Mari’s father always gives her money to do things but isn’t there and only listens to her–but you get a sense of desperation from the character because her *only* family is KKJ. She says so several times. (I’m his only family). But he’s also really her only family too. She also learned boundaries and respect for those boundaries.

When she said “I got the signal to stop” and did… and then accepted Choon Sik, even in a small way, that’s when her character arc ended.

The Teacher Na storyline was a different kind of maturity–the ability to let go and to ability to fight for love. This was a different kind of fight than the KKJ storyline. This was a fight of persistence and realization.

The side story with the Principal, that was more for gags and laughs. Korean Humor style. (Also a Hong Sisters trademark)

Choon Sik’s storyline should be obvious… his storyline ended when he signed Mari’s bag and instead of following her around, fought for her–which is a similar storyline to Da Ran with the difference that he was irresponsible at the beginning, and by the end he’s helping in the restaurant cooking and trying to become a human being by working hard. (See episode 1, schoolyard scene for the large change)

Then you have KKJ…
KKJ’s storyline was his ability to *both* mature, accept responsibility for himself and others (he started out apathetic) and accept and fight for love (For himself). His story stopped at the end of 15 when he said he wanted to *accept responsibility* for someone else and their heart. If he’d gone into amnesia then he wouldn’t have had the time. Granted, this could have been done earlier, but since they were experimenting with smaller events and stronger characters, (and I feel the hand of the director this time who was doing slice of life before this) they opted out of doing it earlier.

So by the end of the first scene of 15, his plot line ended and he realized in order to get Da Ran to fight to be with him, he’d have to make it difficult and wanted to see her fight for it, which is why he gave an instruction manual at the end. KKJ is immature, but he’s pretty good at reading people (Think back to his Uncle) He’s good at manipulating people into what he wants. So he wanted to ensure that Da ran was strong enough to fight for him, which was the banjun in 15, which made the audience feel cheated, but the smaller events made a statement. Sweeping events really don’t make maturity happen. Disasters can break people as much as bolster them. His storyline isn’t a waste because Da Ran’s mission per his instruction was to make him remember their love, thus all of the things he learned inside and outside of their relationship are there at the end of the story. (At the end of 16)

As for not showing his face, I immediately got it though I knew the fan rage was going to be high. Maturity–when you were a kid and dreaming of growing up, did you ever wonder what your adult face would look like? Did you know automatically what was on the other side? The Big movie pulled these questions at the very end, too. I remember that feeling… but then what happens when he grows up? What will he look like then? Will he ever find her? The end of the Hong Sisters drama by not showing his face also pulled the same kinds of questions forward. You don’t know what the other side of maturity looks like. You don’t know what your face looks like–in fact it might never have a finishing point. If you show the face, then it has a finishing point and since the center of the drama was KKJ, you need his face to be ever evolving. (Thus how they sacrificed everything for the theme of the drama). I also think the blocking on this was a directing decision too. ’cause story boards are the job of the director as well. (I watch a ton of BTS…)

Maturity is slow. It is painful. It does take experience. It does take persistence. it does take the willingness to fight. It does take knowing yourself, taking on responsibility, being able to accept and give love. You will feel loneliness. It is different for everyone and just because you are 35, doesn’t mean you are any more or less mature than an 18 year old. (Which is why the side stories were needed from a writer POV.) It’s not the destination, it’s how you get there that matters. It’s the smaller steps, not the huge sweeping events that usually make people mature. (Stories like huge sweeping events to force characters to mature, but that’s not real life). A semi-open ending makes one think about the journey to get there. Maturity is the same way. Those are the statements made by this drama. If anything, Hong Sisters are blunt about their theming.

So next drama, I expect stronger characters, and they probably will bring back strong events, but probably not as over the top. I also predict that they again, will center the drama on theme alone and sacrifice everything to theme, hell or high water. I also am expecting them to borrow more Japanese conventions like they did this time around, though it was kinda incomplete borrowing… (Their love of foreign media shows up a lot in their dramas through story telling conventions and allusions) Also, they will bend to the director again with their writing, as with Hong Gil Dong.

The side stories were not useless, they did have a function. Not arguing that the execution was 100% on this drama, but they did function towards the larger goal: What is maturity anyway?

And no, I’m not saying that this is their best drama ever… but for what it was, it did finish what it set out to do with an ending that made functional sense towards what the Hong Sisters seemed to want to accomplish.

Hong Gil Dong Explanation about the sword

Spoilers for Hong Gil Dong and the explanation I have about the sword.

KH= the current King’s name.
HGD= Hong Gil Dong.
GF Ryu= Grandfather Ryu.
CH= Chang Hwi
YN= Yi Nok
Queen= CH and KH’s mother.
King= Previous King.

Actually, it’s something like this: The Queen killed the King. Everything that has been said in Episode 21, indicates that the Queen killed the King (High treason if she’s caught). The King had decided that his eldest son would inherit the throne, however, at least grandfather Ryu did not agree to this. So they basically killed off the King. Then the Queen had a sword made. This is the fake sword mentioned in episode 21. It has the inscription on it. She told Lady Noh. If this sword goes to light, then this puts the Queen in direct power as a regent. This is because kings can’t take the throne until they are twenty years old. CH is too young. This also means the Queen can have power over the Kingdom for the fourteen years. If the Queen was this back stabbing, this forces KH to kill her. Minister Hong, probably knew about the plot of the fake sword, but thought he couldn’t reason with an insane King. So he kept the sword. I think he kept it out of guilt for killing his best friend, who, from what I can see so far was caught between loyalties and pulled in by the Queen and his father, because otherwise the story doesn’t float and there is a huge plot hole about YN and where her brazened honesty and morals come from. (Explicitly said by Minister Hong). If Minister Hong knew about the sword, he may have petitioned the King to kill the Queen, which eventually turned the King insane. The thing about Minister Hong though, is that I think the reason he insisted so long on KH was that little talk they had in the hall together. I some way that was his hopes for HGD, which is why he spared HGD by telling him to not interfere with the execution. By doing the execution, he was able to be loyal to both his son and King, and get rid of his previous guilt. Something he couldn’t do when he was alive.

BTW, most of this I know from reading and watching some Historical novels/shows. This would be something the average watcher in Korea would also know as well, which is why its not explained in detail. The best source for political intrigue is the Memoirs of Lady Hyeongsun. She tells a lot of the reasons behind political motivations in one of the most tragic plot intrigues there was.

In addition, I sincerely think that Minister Ryu was innocent of all crimes launched against him–I think he really, really thought that the sword was real, otherwise the comments about how virtuous don’t make sense. Making the real evil person in this, Grandfather Ryu.