Romantic Korean drama is the most forgiving type there is. Many viewers will swear by their love for a particular actor and especially a main pairing. If that pairing is good, the series will be also, they say. If works like 'Hyde, Jekyll and I' achieve anything, it is to prove that writing does matter. No amount of star power or romantic scenes can carry a work alone. While not without its virtues, this series fails in its basics.
Goo Seo-jin (Hyun Bin) is a man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder who lives with his mind split into two separate personalities. Seo-jin is the director of his family's theme park and is cold and calculating. Robin, his other personality, is a kind and sweet person. Jang Ha-na (Han Ji-min) is the master of a circus featured in the theme park who gets entangled with Seo-jin and Robin as well as a mysterious villain who kidnaps Seo-jin's doctor just as she finds a cure for his condition.
A cast alone will not save a problematic story, but it definitely helps make things bearable. Some of the cast members here give very nice performances, even when dealing with uninspiring material. Hyun Bin in particular changes between the two personalities flawlessly and also makes the conflict and struggles of the two characters appealing and very human. He is aided in this by being given perhaps the only well-constructed characters in this show. Both the actor and his portrayed roles are this drama's good points and perhaps the only ones.
As a character, Seo-jin is one who gets some really good development throughout the series. His story is a fascinating one, from his more abstract worries over his nature as a person, his ability to connect with and love others to more concrete things like day to day living. All of the elements featured in the plot, such as the romance, an old friend turned enemy, his relationship with his father and more contribute to who he was, why and who he needs to become. This creates some very enjoyable character exploration.
It is also where the really good things about this series end. Structurally, the drama is very uneven and this harms its story. What begins as loosely connected romantic fan-service without a clear direction turns to a suspense kidnapping mystery. This could work just fine if handled better, but then that big main plot closes and the drama turns into a disturbing and quite hard to swallow polygamy fantasy. It also replaces the main villain with a comedic relief one, killing the momentum it had created.
The drama's biggest flaw is its refusal to explain its main character's condition. Is Robin another soul trapped in someone's body, making this a fantasy romance, or is he a symptom of a disorder? By claiming the latter and having its characters, including its female lead, act as if it is the former, the series creates heavy cognitive dissonance. People understand loving one person or more at the same time, but those persons exist. Because the series fails to establish Robin's nature while singing his praises, the romance and secondary character relationships collapse around him.
'Hyde, Jekyll and I' has received a lot of hate, some of it justified, some not. If the show itself was written well and could only pick between the statements it wanted to make without conflicting itself, perhaps it would have been better. The same goes for its broken up plot. As it stands, it is certainly one for Hyun Bin fans and those interested in his characters' journey of self-discovery.
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Hyde, Jekyll and I""
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