It would seem that Soo-hyeon has made it his mission to teach Hye-rim a lesson. Not in the literally helpful way of better explaining psychology, but in the metaphorical sense of humiliating her. Soo-hyeon isn't just evil- he's petty evil, and his weirdly obsessive attitude is creepy, simplistic, and most gallingly of all, anti-scientific. Experiments, even obviously unethical ones, work best with subjects who don't know what's happening to them. For a laywoman, Hye-rim is actually pretty knowledgable.
She also has her own secrets- and rather tellingly, Hye-rim is not always truthful about her backstory. The main reason for this is that Hye-rim wants to dodge the pain and besides, it's often uncomfortable talking about these kinds of issues with strangers. Even Soo-hyeon understands this well enough which is why he uses the experiment as a complicated bargaining chip to try and get Hye-rim to do the consultation. In reality Soo-hyeon doesn't like the current patient, and he knows she doesn't like him.
Of course as far as that goes Soo-hyeon dislikes just about everybody. I find it rather fascinating how "Madame Antoine" continuously makes Soo-hyeon out to be a generally lousy person, one who we're obviously supposed to be rooting against, and yet we're also kind of rooting for him to succeed. However accidentally, in the long term Soo-hyeon does in fact help people out psychologically. Even if on the personal level he's rather aloof and cold.
The self-awareness in Soo-hyeon's behavior is the really intriguing part, though. Consider all the various stages in his plan to make Hye-rim fall in love. These are all perfectly logical, well-reasoned steps which sound like something out of the Pick Up Artist playbook. Whille these steps are explicitly sociopathic and overly cynical, Soo-hyeon doesn't care about any of that. Basic empathy and human feeling are completely beyond Soo-hyeon's greater life mission, which is to prove that love isn't real and in the meantime acquire more funding.
The philosophical clash between Soo-hyeon and Hye-rim remains by far the best part of "Madame Antoine". He's all about scheming, she's not aware that a scheme exists. He only knows the proper words to connect emotionally, she only knows the proper attitude. He negotiates, she threatens. And so on and so forth. Luckily the pacing is pretty good, as by the cliffhanger we gain another essential dynamic to force these analytical characters to better analyze each other. The effort in "Madame Antoine" is definitely there- although what really matters is the payoff, which remains tantalizingly just out of sight.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Madame Antoine" Episode 2"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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