SBS's new Saturday/Sunday twenty-episode drama "Beautiful Gong Shim" was much more than its lackluster promotion. It was zippy, fun, and put two unique characters at the helm, Gong Shim (Bang Minah) and Ahn Dae-tae (Namgoong Min). I have to say that I hope neither of them change much, save maybe to fall in love with each other. It's rare to find such refreshingly frank and straightforward characters on Korean television.
Gong Shim is the "ugly" younger sister. She works at a gas station, sports a stress-induced bald spot, and is cast aside in favor of her older sister on a daily basis. This character is neither a plucky Candy-figure nor is she a downtrodden basket case. She's stubborn in a way that allows her to defend herself, but also sensitive to her family's constant inability to truly value her. Bang Minah does a commendable job and plays the age gap between her and Namgoong Min with panache. But, Ahn Dan-tae is where the juicy stuff of this first episode is found. He's exceedingly charming despite his penchant for corner store microwavables, raucous laughter, rough demeanor, unusual gait, and irreverent behavior. It a role we haven't seen Namgoong in before, and he pulls it off well. I don't want to see him "clean up" at all. Well, perhaps it'd be good if he didn't eat food off the floor, but I don't want him to change much more than that.
The story makes it obvious that he is Seok Joon-soo's (On Joo-wan's) long-lost cousin, but the boys are paired together in a winning manner, finding friendship and camaraderie where they've not found it before. Joon-soo is a constant stand in for his "missed" cousin - he's in a position very similar to Gong Shim. I hope these brothers will not fracture over becoming rivals in love. In a way, I root for them more than any romance because they were so good together. It's rare to see such joy gotten out of sharing a meal together, and Namgoong and On delivered that scene with a one-two punch.
Gong Shim's sister does not create such a relationship with Gong Shim. Gong Mi (Seo Hyo-rim), is the favored child and under pressures of her own. Her beauty won her a position at her law firm, but it also means she's the victim of a very sexist environment, expected to let men sexually harass her to keep them as clients. I hope Gong Mi builds some of Gong Shim's gumption, or that Gong Shim steps in and helps her beautiful sister learn to defend herself. That kind of expected sexual favor is NOT okay even though it happens often in Korea. It happens often here in America, too. Women are not allowed to speak without dire career repercussions. I want this show to speak against that.
I'm a little tired of the family situations already. Gong Shim's family is pathetic. Dan-tae's undiscovered family is a rich and typically dysfunctional family. I hope the future reveals something uniquely juicy about both families that will keep them from becoming run of the mill.
Bring on episode 2. Episode 1 certainly pleasantly surprised me and I want more of the same. Please and thank you.
Written by: Raine from 'Raine's Dichotomy'
Journalist, drama lover, and foodie, Lisa enjoys exploring Korea, speaking the language, and soaking in all that dramaland has to offer. Her Korean husband laughs that she knows more than he ever will about dramas and K-pop. Lisa Espinosa can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Beautiful Gong Shim" Episode 1"
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