Greatest Love Review (SPOILERS)

Posted by Stephanie on September 27, 2012


greatest love 2While the plague has knocked me down and taken me out. That is only part of the reason why I’m so late posting this review. I don’t know what to say. I worried because that happens sometimes and I wonder, maybe I don’t want to review anymore. Maybe I don’t have anything interesting or relevant to say. Maybe I’m no longer enjoying Kdrama. Then I slap myself and tell myself to calm the hell down.

However, since this dratted cold has taken me out of the computer world, I’ve been watching Protect the Boss which is up next for review. And you know what? I have tons to say about that show. ACRES of ideas floating in my head. So it’s not me. It’s Greatest Love.

I’m going to come right out and say it. Do with it what you will. I didn’t love Greatest Love. I know! It was a huge shock for me, too! I wanted to see this show since I first saw You’re Beautiful and learned it was from the same writers (The Gong Sisters). I just knew I was going to like it so much I held off watching it, making it a show I saved for a rainy day (which is why I still haven’t seen Secret Garden). So when Aimee and I decided to watch Greatest Love for our Easter Kdrama-apalooza (see a most embarrassing video we made here) I couldn’t wait, I knew in my heart of hearts it was going to go straight to my favorite show list.

But I was wrong.

It’s not that I disliked the show. It just took me about 8 episodes to become invested in the characters and what was going on. And when you realize that the series is only 16 episodes long, that’s just way too long. As the episodes went on, I believe my reaction was this: “Oh no.” “Um, really?” “Oh no, what if I hate it?”, “But it’s the Hong sisters. Everybody loves it! I’m supposed to love it!” “I just don’t care.” Which is not what you’re supposed to be thinking when you watch Kdrama. When you watch Kdrama it should be “awww…” and “squee!!”

Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, or too much pressure on the drama itself. While it’s not in my top three I do love You’re Beautiful. And yes, it seemed like everybody and their mother loved Greatest Love. So maybe my expectations were just too big.

Although I think you enjoy what you enjoy.

After all these rambles I bet your wondering what exactly were my problems with Greatest Love? Well, that’s where the hard part comes in. I’m not sure. I believe it was the too over the top nature of the show in those beginning episodes. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters or the situations because it was too cartoonish. Everything was over the top, the characters, the acting, the sound effects. Some of those sound effects were downright cartoony.

And holy schmolly was the acting over the top. I don’t think I can blame the actors for this. With the script, the CGI, and the direction, this was obviously the tone the production wanted. I like Cha Seung Won, he was really, really good (possibly amazing) in City Hall.

I love Gong Hyo Jin, as you should glean from some of my ravings on Pasta and Thank You. Both of these actors have an ability to sink into their rolls, bringing the people they are portraying to life. Love it. I don’t know. Maybe I’m taking this show too seriously. Maybe you’re supposed to enjoy it for all the reasons I didn’t love it.

I also don’t want you to think I hated Greatest Love. I didn’t. After about episode 8, when the tone, the pacing, the slapstick, the CGI, and the acting toned down, I really liked it. I liked the characters. I loved what The Gong Sisters were doing with the story, the conflicts, and the characters. This wasn’t a show where you had the dreaded “If they only talked to each other everything would be worked out.” The conflict was much deeper than that.greatest love 3

For Dokko Jin and Ae Jung, was no right answer. If the couple chooses their careers, they lose out on love. If the couple chooses love, both of their careers may crash and burn. There’s no way to avoid that. They just both have to decide what is more important to them. Which is really interesting and compelling.

There is no real bad guy in this drama. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who are actively working against them (or I should say working against Ae Jung.) The true villain of the show is the public. Or public opinion. Ae Jung has such a bad reputation due to rumors and innuendo, there is no place for her in proper society. She can’t be with anyone decent because she knows it’s only a matter of time before she drags them down with her–and with her protective nature–she just can’t do that to another person.

There is no one person the characters can point to and say “You! You are the bad guy, stop it!” The show even cleverly addresses the issue. Pull people from their anonymous online world and that’s not going to fix anything. They’ll be embarrassed seeing what they say in cyberworld seeing the light of day, but is that going to stop them in the future? Nope. Is it going to stop anyone else from doing it? Hells no.

These is a truly interesting and intriguing situation. One you don’t get in very many dramas and for that I really have to give the Hong Sisters credit. To be together these people have to be willing to give up something very dear to them. Which, in writing, is exactly what you want to do. The best stories are where people have to either give up things or change and grow to be together. Two perfect people with no problems getting together? Who cares?

I don’t care for the actual mini-villains we have. Mainly these two characters are there to push the plot forward. I understand why they are there, but as compared to the main plot and conflict, it’s not as compelling. Se-Ri is a little more interesting with her jealousy issues but we’ve seen that before in many kdramas. The evil ex-manager was kind of cardboardy himself. He had no redeeming qualities and never changed at all through the drama. Perhaps I’m having trouble with a grown man feeling okay to smack women around when no one is watching.

I hated him because I’m supposed to, but with all the twists of the main characters, I think he could have been done better.

As for the characters of Ae Jung and Dokko Jin, they were pretty well written. Let’s take Ae Jung first. No matter how low she goes, she is a protector. She provides for her family by doing all sorts of ridiculous and degrading shows. Hey brother? Hey father? Uh. Get a job. A job which doesn’t require living off Ae Jung. She protects her former group members taking all the burden for breaking up the band on her own shoulders. She tries to protect Dokko Jin, knowing that everything she’s connected with is eventually brought down to the mud pile she can’t get out of. She’d rather leave Dokko Jin than have him give up his career–which means so much to him–for her.

She’s not all saintly about it either. She’s a smart talking pragmatic. There are times where she gets tired of taking care of everyone. Times where she resents it, but she can’t change who she is.

Which totally sucks when later, when the main National Treasure Girl she’s protecting, comes to Ae Jung and asks her to stick her neck out there again for her. What’s her face (I’m still irritated and don’t want to go look up her name) has landed on her feet since the breakup of the band and is living a happy life. It was her decision to change her name and not tell her husband about her past. Instead of coming clean when she gets blackmailed by evil ex-manager, she goes to Ae Jung looking for her to clean up her mess. Again. I don’t care if you feel really bad and cry pretty. Does she have any idea what Ae Jung’s life has been like because of her attempts to protect her? It’s all over the news, so she had to know. Then finally, 10 years later, when things are starting to finally look up for Ae Jung, ex-bandmember asks her to sacrifice everything for her–again? UGH I was irritated.

Was that a tangent? I think it was. Anyway, as much as she doesn’t like it, Ae Jung will sacrifice everything for the people she loves. It’s just how she’s built.

On the flip side, the reason why I didn’t care for her at the beginning was the whole standard frazzled, “what to do, what to do?” Kdrama heroine she was portraying. Ae Jung is actually a really strong character. We got flashes of this inner strength when Dokko Jin pushed her too far, but they were brief, and in the end she usually caved to him anyway. She was better than that.

As for Dokko Jin, he is way more over the top than Ae Jung. Which irritated me. I get it, he’s a pampered star coming from a pampered life, where he, because of his heart condition, always got whatever he wanted. He wasn’t used to people saying no to him. Or having to censure himself for other people. Despite his heart condition, he’s always had the power, the upper hand. Only with Ae Jung has he hit a stumbling block.

This is interesting. He hasn’t experienced love before, so when his heart races whenever he hears Ae Jung’s song “Thump, Thump” he’s thrown off. The song didn’t make him fall in love with her. It didn’t even make him think he fell in love with her. The racing of his heart only threw him off his game long enough to step away from himself and notice what was happening around him. From there he became aware of Ae Jung and fell in love with her. Only when he realized the connection between his physical heart and the song, did he let doubt get in the way.

However here’s what does irritate me. Seriously. Even though his watch is broken he can’t tell his heart is racing until it’s too late? Come on. I’m not in peak condition like he is, and even I can tell when my heart changes speed. And he is hyper aware of his heart. It just wouldn’t happen. I know at that point he was looking for a reason, an explanation as to why he was affected by Ae Jung, but come on! I just don’t buy it.

One thing I do love about Dokko Jin is that he is the first person who protects Ae Jung. In her world she is the one who does all the protecting, she doesn’t even know to look for someone to help. Dokko Jin? Even before he likes her is compelled to help, and then later protect her.

He gives up his chance to go to America for her, he gives up his chance to accept the top actor award (and possibly kills his career by hitting evil ex-manager), to throw cover over Ae Jung’s disastrous press conference, he reveals his heart surgery (when before he wouldn’t even report injuries which happen on set so he wouldn’t look weak), and finally announces his love for Ae Jung even though this could kill his career.

Now that’s a pretty awesome hero.

Indeed, once the crazy toned down, I enjoyed this story and these characters. I wonder what the entire show would have been like if it had been written in this tone.

Now the story relied on a few tricks. The potato plant was one I really enjoyed. The potato plant was used in the same way the piggy bunny (or the hair clip) was in You’re Beautiful. It was like a place holder for the characters actual feelings. I liked seeing the plant growing as the story went along. I cried almost as much for the plant as I did for Dokko Jin when he collapsed smashing the glass to the ground. In that moment not only was Dokko Jin dying but so was our symbol of their love.

Yeah. I cried. A lot. It looked kind of like this:

One call back I didn’t care for was Ae Jung’s habit of repeating what people said when she was drunk. It’s an interesting idea, but it needed a third beat. They had the first time when he figured learned about it and then we didn’t see or hear about it again until he gets her to tell him she loves him by saying it to her when she was drunk. Then it just seemed too easy. Um… Cheating? Of the writers that is.

This has nothing to do with anything, but seriously. Some of the clothes in this show were awful. Outfits worn by both Ae Jung and Dokko Jin. I was going to do a top 5 worst outfits inspired by that awful beach outfit JunPyo picks out for JanDi, and I think all the other outfits on the list will have to come from this show. Wow.

So, will I watch this again? Um. Probably not. Would I recommend it to someone else? Well. Probably not. But I don’t really need to, do I? Everyone else is going to do it for me. Here’s a new question. Will I watch something else by the Hong Sisters? Maybe? There’s nothing else out there that screams ‘watch me!’ and if I do, I’m going to try to be a little more open minded about it. Not have too many expectations.

I’m sorry for my rambles. I’d like to take this time to blame it on the cold medicine. (Heh. Then apparently, I’m on cold medicine every week.) It seems a little dis-jointy, but I’m just happy it’s done! I’m sorry I didn’t like this as much as everyone else did. If I were just judging the last 8, heck, even the last 9 episodes, I would rate it much higher. The story had a lot of things going for it. The show had some amazing actors going for it. Unfortunately, the show had kind of a “look what we can do” vibe going for it. Stick to story telling. Stick to creating these wonderful characters. Stick to created complex situations you don’t really see in other dramas. And it will be amazing.

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