"Pinocchio"'s got all the right ingredients for a promising Korean drama: a novel disorder that can naturally create conflicts, a cast of eye-candy actors who can actually act, and a classic revenge theme. At first glance, the drama seems to be centered around answering one key question that we're all dying to know: can someone with Pinocchio Syndrome (telling lies causes hiccups) live normally in a world where deception is common? But to my pleasant surprise, "Pinocchio" contains far more depth than I had ever hoped for. It explores the tragic consequences of fabricating facts and serves as a sounding alarm to remind us not to be ignorant of the truth. The real question "Pinocchio" aims to answer is one asked by the main hero Gi Ha-myeong: "if it's a lie that can fool the entire world, can it be turned into the truth?" Through the eyes of our rookie reporters, we are taken along a thrilling journey in separating fact from fiction."Pinocchio" contains far more depth than I had ever hoped for.
What's even more impressive is that the journey is a well planned one. "Pinocchio"'s story development and sequence of events are meticulously thought-through. Each of the plot segments serves as a building block leading into the next one so it never feels like any episode is a meaningless filler or an afterthought. "Pinocchio"'s characters, including many of the supporting ones, are equally well-written and non-conventional. With such great pacing, killer story, and charming character chemistry, I was wholly absorbed in the drama, unable to peel my eyes away even for a second.
The prologue of "Pinocchio" has one job: setting up the main storyline and character relationships. And it's a job well-done in successfully captivating my interest to find out more about these characters' future developments. But first, let's meet our heroes and learn about their backstories, in three different time lapses.
In the year 2000, Gi Ha-myeong (Lee Jong-suk) is a bright young boy who lives happily with his family consisting of a respectable firefighter dad, a loving stay-at-home mom, and an equally intelligent older brother, Gi Jae-myeong (Yoon Kyun-sang). But I was sad to see that tragedy soon finds itself at his door. While trying to rescue survivors in a factory explosion, Ha-myeong's dad went missing. The media, led by a sensationalist reporter, Song Cha-ok (Jin Kyung), heartlessly blamed Ha-myeong's dad for leading his men to die and evading responsibilities. Not able to cope with the finger-pointing, Ha-myeong's mom brings him along to commit suicide.
To my relief, Ha-myeong gets rescued by main heroine Choi In-ha's (Park Shin-hye) grandpa, who mistakenly thinks Ha-myeong is his long lost elder son Choi Dal-po. Thereafter, Ha-myeong lives in disguise as country bumpkin Dal-po. He quickly builds a close friendship with his similar aged "niece" In-ha, who is a cute straight-shooter with Pinocchio Syndrome and hiccups whenever she lies. Just then, we're presented with a startling discovery that In-ha's mom is none other than reporter Song - the woman who ruined Ha-myeong's family.
Fast forward five years to 2005, I'm pleased to see a hint of sweet romantic interest between our leads. Teenage Dal-po bickers with In-ha constantly but is secretly very protective of her. In-ha also seems to genuinely care about Dal-po and defends his credibility in front of other classmates. But while Dal-po is aware of his feelings, In-ha remains clueless of her own heart.Park Shin-hye's usual roles.
Another eight years later in 2013, grown-up In-ha tries to become a reporter. But her dream is ruthlessly crushed by her mom who claims a Pinocchio who can't lie could never be a reporter. Seeing In-ha so devastated, Dal-po decides to become a reporter himself to prove reporter Song wrong and to reveal the truth behind his dad's case. With the complicated backstories and relationships all set up, "Pinocchio" becomes more enticing than ever. Adding to the appeal of the drama is the amazing performance by Park Shin-hye in portraying the lovable yet sassy In-ha, a rare but much welcomed departure from her usual roles.
With In-ha and Ha-myeong both aiming to become reporters, "Pinocchio" officially enters the second stage. In this important arc of the drama, the storyline grows on three exciting fronts: experiencing what it means to be a reporter, learning how to love, and sowing the seed of revenge. Along the way, there are many delightful moments like meeting quirky new colleagues, reuniting with trustworthy old friends, and finally getting rid of Dal-po's hickish looks.
With effort and a bit of luck, In-ha and Dal-po become intern reporters at rival news networks MSC and YGN respectively. On their new jobs, they meet their wacky partners Seo Beom-jo (Kim Young-kwang) and Yoon Yoo-rae (Lee Yoo-bi). It turns out that Beom-jo is a second generation chaebol who grew interested in In-ha after inadvertently stalking her text messages. He became a reporter purely to meet In-ha. On the other hand, Yoo-rae is an adorable oddball who uses her fangirl skills to spy, pry, and collect news. She gets assigned to be partners with Dal-po to compete for the same story that In-ha and Beom-jo are after. Very quickly, they learn how tough the job is while staking out at the police station to beg, steal, and eavesdrop on story leads while living like bums. The only ray of hope for Dal-po and In-ha is getting case intels from their old classmate Ahn Chan-soo (Lee Joo-seung), who is a detective at the same station. The drama's comic yet convincing portrayal of reporters' difficult lives gives me newfound respect for this profession. It's also refreshing to see Beom-jo as a totally non-cliche chaebol character without ego, arrogance, and constantly throwing money around.
Meanwhile, through Beom-jo's prying, In-ha finally recognizes that she has romantic interest towards Dal-po. She couldn't get rid of the hiccups from denying her feelings until she mustered up courage to confess to Dal-po. But not realizing Dal-po's heart, she tells him to ignore her feelings and begins to avoid him out of awkwardness. It's gratifying to see the love tension building towards a boiling point as they try to refrain from their feelings for each other to avoid compromising their familial relationship. And the eventual outbreak of their emotions does not disappoint as Dal-po passionately hugs In-ha after spending the night attending to her sickness.
Developing in parallel of the heart-melting romance is the chilling revenge planned by Ha-myeong's brother Jae-myeong. He carefully carries out his plans and gets rid of the people involved in his dad's case one by one. Dal-po traces a missing person case that Chan-soo's been keeping his eyes on, which leads him to meet Jae-myeong. As Dal-po shakes Jae-myeong's hands in the final scene of episode seven, I too share his fear in finding out what he's about to uncover.
With Dal-po and In-ha's loveline established so early on, I start to dread that "Pinocchio" will fill the remaining 12 episodes by slowly dragging things on. But it quickly proves my worry unnecessary. As Dal-po continues to dig into the case involving Jae-myeong's revenge, the intensity of the drama is pushed to greater heights, culminating into a new era I call "the return of Gi Ha-myeong".
Coming off of the previous arc, "Pinocchio" continues to amplify the ominous atmosphere surrounding Jae-myeong with great scripting and excellent acting. In a surprising turn of events, In-ha's team accidentally captures Jae-myeong saving a little boy from being run over by a truck. MSC News makes it a top story, turning Jae-myeong into a national hero. Jae-myeong uses this perfect opportunity to his advantage. He agrees to an exclusive interview with reporter Song with the goal of carrying out the final step of his revenge plan.
Meanwhile, in researching Jae-myeong's background through news clips from 13 years ago, In-ha inadvertently finds out about Dal-po's true identity and his relationship with Jae-myeong. She is shocked to see her mom's cruelty towards the Gi family. Upon overhearing In-ha's detailed recount of the incident from 13 years ago, Jae-myeong creepily stalks her to question why she knows so much. In an intense, nerve-wracking scene that had me holding my breath, Dal-po comes to In-ha's rescue and finally reveals his identity to Jae-myeong.
Soon after reuniting, Dal-po is devastated to confirm his suspicions of what Jae-myeong's been up to. He spends the rest of his time convincing Jae-myeong to stop his extreme revenge plans and agonizes over whether he should expose the truth. Dal-po's pain and desperation is clearly felt by anyone watching the drama. Ultimately, Dal-po chooses the path less traveled. But he commits to Jae-myeong that he will resume the revenge - by showing reporter Song what it means to be a real reporter. And so, with an unexpected twist and a newfound mission, "Pinocchio" enters an exciting new chapter - the debut of reporter Gi Ha-myeong.
The pacing and intensity of "Pinocchio" calms down quite a bit after Jae-myeong's case wraps up. Nonetheless, new conflicts in the making are keeping things interesting for me. Ha-myeong officially enters war with reporter Song while a bigger conspiracy gradually surfaces to the top. Entertaining supporting characters also make it easy to forgive the slower progress on key plot developments.The introduction of a deeper conspiracy is unexpected and thrilling at the same time.
Reporter Song's manipulative approach towards news is made known to the public through Jae-myeong's case and her reputation rapidly deteriorates. Ha-myeong gets wind of a defamation case against her and frantically collects evidence in attempt to bring her down even further. But when things didn't go as he had hoped for, Ha-myeong faces the tough choice of personal vendetta versus divulging the truth yet again. Just when I feared he would make the wrong decision, I was gladly proven wrong.
Shortly after, another factory explosion takes place and once again, reporter Song changes the flow of the story by directing the blame towards Chan-soo. The more our rookie reporters dig into it, the more they realize that the progress of events is shockingly similar to Ha-myeong's dad's case. It's almost as if someone behind a curtain is directing the same play, act by act. The introduction of a deeper conspiracy and a hidden culprit is unexpected and thrilling at the same time. It paves the perfect path leading towards the final showdown.
The last stage of "Pinocchio" regains much of the tension from earlier episodes as our heroes battle to expose the truth. The key factor keeping me entertained is not so much in answering the question of "who", as that becomes clear rather quickly, but in the mind games used to unmask the slippery culprit.
Through their relentless efforts, Ha-myeong obtains proof exonerating Chan-soo and clears his name. Meanwhile, In-ha and Beom-jo uncover critical evidence that lead them right to the mastermind who's been directing reporter Song like a puppet since 13 years ago. Yet each time our reporters try to go public with the story, their efforts are blocked and diverted - even their lives are threatened. For me, this resulted in countless fist-clenching and facepalming moments.
Eventually, "Pinocchio"'s writers devised a rather surprising method to help our reporters expose the culprit, certainly one that I did not expect. At the end of the adventure, it's a relief to see the wall of lies crumbling down and the truth hidden behind come to light. As Ha-myeong puts it: "The truth is ten times more comforting than a lie".
Written by: Angela from 'Funcurve'
Funcurve is a new kind of reviews site. Their reviews help readers visualize the ups and downs of a drama from start to finish with an impression graph. Read more Korean drama reviews at funcurve.com.
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