Episode 1 Review: Heard It Through the Grapevine (2015)
To be honest, i was expecting Heard It Trough the Grapevine or Heard It As A Rumor for a long time now. Deciding to review and/or recap it after a short (yet long to my eyes) period of non-reviewing attempts due to pro&post-exam mental & physical exhaustion makes the urge for this drama to be rewarding even greater. It’s one of these dramas you have high expectations for various reasons and you cross your fingers that everything will flow well from beginning to end. Well, if it drags a bit, taking into consideration that the arch plan says it’s going to be 32 episodes, it doesn’t really matter if the overall package is strong enough.
Heard It Through the Grapevine is the successor to SBS‘s Monday-Tuesday drama throne, bidding Punch farewell. The first episode aired on the 23rd of February, 2015 and it will have to compete against Shine or Go Crazy (13.1%) who’s already being treasured by its own audience and Blood (6%) who has to be more competent in order to survive in the vicious world of dramas, judging only from various opinions i’ve read around and the ratings, so it’s more of an observation rather than a personal opinion. Heard It Through the Grapevine’s airing debut found it in the second place with 7.2%, it’s only the beginning!
The main idea of the story upon which the drama is based isn’t something innovative in the first place. It’s quite a common theme when it comes to South Korean dramas. However, despite not being something exceptional, it’s eccentrically intriguing and we have yet to find out how screenwriter Jung Sung Joo will deal with the overall topic and that’s where the real magic of most dramas lies, in the way the screenwriter treats the overall theme in combination with the director’s visual interpretation of the story. This time we’re blessed with a powerful combo, screenwriter Jung Sung Joo and director Ahn Pan Seok have already worked together on A Wife’s Credentials (which i haven’t watched) and on Secret Love Affair, a drama that rewarded them with the Best Director and Best Scriptwriting awards respectively on the 50th Baeksang Arts Awards. Truth be told, i’ve watched only half of Secret Love Affair so far, but i have to admit that up to the 8th episode its cinematography is captivating. It’s either more ‘golden’ and glamorous when it comes to the high society of art or more humble, darkening, even bereaving, when it comes to the main male lead and his realistically poor background. Such drama medals cannot be easily ignored and my midway adventure through Secret Love Affair played an important role in getting attracted to Heard It Through the Grapevine. That’s one part of a drama’s magic.
Well, the other part has to do with the actresses and the actors in the way they depict the characters they are bound to bring to life in front of the cameras. Go Ah Sung (Seo Bom) for her more traditional and natural beauty (watching Thread of Lies/Elegant Lies is also in my plans) and Lee Joon (Han In Sang) for his multifaceted and exceptional acting in progress in Mr. Back strengthened my will to start watching this drama even more. The other two main figures in Heard It Through the Grapevine have to be In Sang’s parents, Han Jeong Ho (Yoo Joon Sang) and Choi Yeon Hee (Yoo Ho Jeong) since their interaction with both Seo Bom and In Sang will be crucial and it will feel like an ongoing battle in a world where different classes do matter. Of course, they’re not alone, a 32-episode drama requires plenty of characters to complete the package. Some of them that appeared on the first episode are Seo Bom’s parents, Seo Hyeong Shik (Jang Hyeon Seong) and Kim Jin Ae (Yoon Bok In), her older sister, Seo Noo Ri (Gong Seung Yeon), and In Sang’s younger sister, Han In Ji (Park So Young), among others.
Since it’s the meet and greet episode of Heard It Through the Grapevine, we receive the first vibes of both families and the contrasting worlds between two different classes is omnipresent. Both families receive equally airing time on screen and their first contours portray perfectly well the main core of a working class family and a family of high wealth and power, with In Sang’s father, Jeong Ho, having his own influence in the political scene of the country as an attorney. Jeong Ho has the prestige and his wife and In Sang’s mother, Yeon Hee, has the finesse of a high class lady. Despite their seemingly more modern approach as a couple due to their younger age, the main core is strictly traditional, steadily approaching Tae Yeon’s parents’ attitude in The Greatest Marriage/Best Wedding. Henceforth the shaman’s presence for In Sang’s welfare was essential! The more modern aspect has to be the fact that they try to keep the highest values and morals of a traditional high class family at the present reflecting their prim ideals in a world where flawless reputation and purity of classes shine brighter than gold.
In Sang is his father’s son and follows blindly his father’s instructions when it comes to his future plans; law college awaits and legal civil exam is in his plans as well. His sister though is quite playful as a character and hasn’t been affected that much by the family’s heavy duties for now. Being respectful and obedient towards his parents doesn’t mean that In Sang’s under martial law, well, he kind of is, but it’s not always easy to suppress his feelings for a girl like Seo Bom and one night at her dorm, given the circumstances and In Sang taking the passionate initiative that cracked the ice of shyness between them, they shared their intimate moments. Ever since they never met again and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t find any information about her. Henceforth In Sang found a heartrending refuge at the letters Seo Bom had sent him through his teacher.
The truth is, Seo Bom that night was left pregnant and shortly after she moved to another apartment with her family in order to cope with her pregnancy in a new environment. Being under 18 and pregnant at the same time, imagine what an uproar it would cause if you take into consideration the prejudice single mothers have to go through. That’s why sex education is essential and another aspect of it is the fact that Seo Bom has to leave behind her college dreams while In Sang prepares himself to follow his owns dreams; or his father’s dreams, it’s almost the same to me. Even though Seo Bom’s father can’t totally accept what’s going on, he deeply loves his daughter and stands by her side in his own way. Seo Chul Sik (Jeon Suk Chan) who’s her uncle stands by the side of the family as well, but Seo Bom’s mother is the one to bear the greatest burden. She’s the one to do the father’s part at a gym for couples performing pregnancy exercises, but she’s also the one to cover her daughter’s back with white lies once the occasion asks for it in order to silence potential rumors and prevent badmouthing. Seo Bom’s world is already fragile given the circumstances, if she had to deal with the ‘always benevolent social talking’ it would break her to pieces.
I like their humble household, it’s heartwarming despite all the difficulties and it’s positively quirky despite the tension. South Korean dramas usually fail to realistically depict a poorer household, it’s more of a Japanese drama benefit to do justice in such presentations of working class families and their daily struggles. Taking into consideration my midway experience with Secret Love Affair and the first episode of Heard It Through the Grapevine, well, this director/screenwriter team knows how to do it in the most representative way and Seo Bom’s family lives up to my early expectations! This rowdy yet warmhearted and caressing sense of unity though hard times is usually rewarding! And that comes in austere opposition to In Sang’s family activities, like shady meetings with a political tone and position arrangements with all the necessary hypocritical smiles, mutual satisfactory eye contacts and thoughtful second stares. And of course, there are the indispensable high class salon gatherings with cliquey member cards where all the stench of gossip breathes and the knives behind your back try to carve your doom like friendly fire. Whereas at home, as a couple, they dream like dreamers should; finding a girl worth of In Sang’s family background of course! We haven’t seen yet their disgusting face, it’s the calm before the storm, but they do have chemistry and that’s a plus!
In Sang doesn’t intend to follow the descendents of other wealthy families in outdoors nighttime activities and he’s got a reason. Joo Yeong (Jang So Yeon), who couldn’t help him earlier, has sent him Seo Bom’s new address and rushes to find her! The uncle takes him inside the house and In Sang can’t believe his eyes once he notices Seo Bom’s belly! Although, Seo Bom can’t believe it either that In Sang’s standing in front of her! Soon the place turns into a battlefield with the father trying to explode all over the place, but the uncle protects In Sang! It’s a lunatic circus through which In Sang’s shaking in fear through sincerity and utter surprise whereas the father’s in denial… until the rest of the family convinces him to calm down as soon as In Sang proposes that Seo Bom and him should meet his parents in order to get married. Lee Joon’s highly representative of the black comedy aspect of the drama in such a scene, he’s somewhere between desperation (for the baby) and enthusiasm (for seeing Seo Bom again) and somewhere between a sense of responsibility and tones of fear and in fact, he’s comical without looking ridiculous! Ah Sung’s reactions and facial expressions during every single moment are priceless and i love that distant chemistry she possesses with Lee Joon through the whole duration of the scene! I definitely want more scenes with In Sang and the whole family of Seo Bom and i’ll be looking forward to them! There’s a core of energy in there waiting to explode somewhere between faux seriousness and heartfelt comedy!
It’s all about chemistry and these endearing humans, Ah Sung and Lee Joon, have it. It was apparent from the promotional pictures and the trailers, now it’s palpable and breathing! Their dialogue inside the taxi is simplistic, they don’t have to utter sophisticated lines to add more meaning to what they want to express. Heartfelt and spot-on words do justice to the emotional charge of the moment through Seo Bom’s longing all this time and all these words that drowned in silence, through In Sang’s desire to feel the baby’s movement and kicks. Through a glimpse of what Seo Bom’s been through all this time and through In Sang’s constant breakdown to find some peace through Seo Bom’s gradually rising tranquility and disarming tears of comfort, because nothing matters anymore since they met anew.
I love her smile!
However, her question when it comes to what kind of people his parents are triggers a new turn of events and In Sang decides to dive in the frozen Han River! If he’s currently going through an emotionally hard time, it’s nothing compared to what Seo Bom’s been through all these months and she’s showing him the way as she marches on without fear in the frozen waters. A seemingly heartrending scene of a wannabe suicide attempt that turned into a chilling breeze of hilariousness with the music in the background making it even more funny! That taxi driver should had freaked out with these romantic weirdos in desolation, but he’s a troll and he’s like a genie fulfilling wishes! They want to talk? OK! They need a rest room? No problem! A coverlet is needed? Here it is! A kiss without him looking at them? But of course he’d steal a glimpse of the moment! And hell is about to break loose inside the very heart of attorney Han’s and madame Choi’s perfect harmony; and the same applies to our blossoming couple.
Heard It Through the Grapevine started off pretty well acclimating the audience right on the basis of the synopsis alongside the preview of the second episode. The vibe of the drama is pounding full of heart and hopefully enough with each episode it can get only better. Caressing light at glamorous places, thick yet ‘golden’ tones inside the mansion, a warm realistic light at the humble household, the city nightlights and eventually the overburdened heavy light will tighten its abhorrent rays around In Sang and Seo Bom’s young spirits, but also above both families, for different kinds of reasons. These are the hints of cinematography we’ve received so far and the later ones will be the ones to start unfolding in a wider variety though director Ahn Pan Seok’s lenses. The black comedy factor can always be a trap because it can turn an attempt into a parody of itself, we have yet to find out, but if done wisely, it will pace perfectly well with the presence or absence of light throughout the scenes. I put my trust upon the drama medals of the director-scriptwriter team and everyone partaking in the cast and their forthcoming multifaceted interactions. The once tranquil vintage bedchambers of the mansion are about to be disrupted by numerous earthquakes and many wounds will open up to welcome brave amounts of pain. Tighten your seat belts, it’s going to be awesome, i heard it as a rumor!