'Hyde, Jekyll and I' is the latest series in the recent mental illness trend. While it opened with some potential for a clearer focus and character exploration, it sadly soon found itself struggling with slow pacing, lacking plot progression and characterization and an overall underwhelming presentation. If this is just a slow burn, it might turn out for the best, but it has not delivered in terms of initial excitement.
The first thing that sets the series apart from most can be found in its style. It is the almost dream-like visuals and world. The setting is very small, going between a few locations and making the story feel as if it is happening in its own little universe. Obviously, having a circus and a Christmas theme seems to be mainly for pretty visuals, but it occasionally has good use in the storytelling and characterization. In fact, it is the directing which offers more to certain scenes than the writing.
Portraying mental illness and especially more complicated forms of it is not easy for any actor. Hyun Bin's last hit drama before his army service, "Secret Garden" certainly showed that he is capable of changing his image as is required and while less flamboyant and comical, he exhibits the same good ability here. Seo-jin and Robin are different in every way and while still not explored for all their differences enough by the story, the actor has done a better job establishing that with his own performance.
By limiting the amount of side characters and their time, the show also managed to include a lot of scenes with its two leads and the time they spend together. Given the mental illness topic and romance, that would have generally been a good idea, as there is plenty to explore with those topics alone. However, since there are second leads and also a mystery sub plot, this means little time was given to those characters, making them feel unnecessary right now. The kidnapping mystery is also used solely to keep the leads together, which makes it feel contrived.
But the biggest problem with 'Hyde, Jekyll and I' is how it lacks both the outrageous fast pace to be entertaining, but also characterization and plot development to feel like it will have a payoff eventually. The main pairing's relationship still feels shallow and mostly relies on couple scenes accompanied by romantic music, shown in slow motion and with pretty visuals, but little progress has actually been made with the characters themselves as people and the romance or even human connection.
This makes the dramatic presentation of everyone's struggles difficult to connect to, as the writing has not humanized and explored them enough for the viewer to get attached. Especially Jang Ha-na's (Han Ji-min) character seems to exist solely as a damsel in distress and pure beauty to soothe the beast, leaving her personality a stereotype with little agency and depth. Constant life-threatening situations and conflicts need characters which enable emotional investment to work well; an element the series lacks.
'Hyde, Jekyll and I' is in murky territory. While its slow progression can give it a very balanced and good story in the long run, it will require better writing skill, abandoning of unnecessary elements and richer characters to get there. On the other hand, its dwindling numbers in the ratings might bring about drastic measures by the production, which are almost always show-breaking ones. Where this is going is a mystery, but it still has a chance to work out.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama First Look] "Hyde, Jekyll and I""
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