Midway Review: Heard It Through the Grapevine (2015)
It’s been a long ride, right? And we’re only halfway through Heard It Through the Grapevine! On a journey through highways, roads, sideways and many crossroads we managed to reach the middle ground after 16 episodes and the second half is about to begin. It’s a drama that doesn’t rely in past references a lot unless it’s essential, it steadily moves on at the constant present and we are immediate witnesses to each and every character’s progress and growth solely and through interactions. Nobody remains stagnant and all of them are on the same wagon awaiting their turn to come to the foreground for us to cherish his/her own characteristics in the making.
Flashbacks are necessary, but they don’t play such an important role in Heard It Through the Grapevine. All that matters is the present tense and after a specific point we’ll probably witness a drama jump in the future after a turning point in our characters’ lives. One thing is for sure, nothing should be taken for granted, the writer has proven this many times and we have 16 whole episodes lying ahead. Pretty much anything can happen, anytime; and the crossroads upon which our characters meet are way too many far from the almighty household and the humble house. There’s a whole world moving in the background and these residences are a microcosm of societies’ edges with Hansong being the negotiating table, president Hong’s luxurious living room being high society’s playground and various places In Sang would go with Hyeong Shik ahjussi being common people’s daily routine chance to withstand their struggles.
We’ve got very specific places where our drama takes place and it always manages to depict two different worlds walking hand in had under circumstances and conditions, but also lying apart inevitably. Heard It Through the Grapevine is a societal chessboard where the strong set the rules of the game and the weak dance according to plan or try to break the rules for the sake of fair play. It’s not all black and white though and the cinematography manages to catch perfectly well the air each and every place inhales and exhales underneath the austere glimpse of gold and the warm tones of a more down to earth humane environment. The cinematography remains highly representative of the circumstances and depicts each and every place accordingly with all the necessary changes depending on the house, the room, the place, the status of the characters partaking in the scene, the emotional aspect of the characters, etc.
Depending on the occasion, the lighting factor moves towards brightness or gloominess and eventually stands somewhere in the middle, keeping a balance that’s not afraid to crack and invade the other territory’s tones. The ambiance inside the ever-shining household is just a curtain that absorbs all life when things get serious. It’s not always a fairytale and it can’t be bereaving all the time. It’s the sense of reality that gets infused into Heard It Through the Grapevine’s veins and a comical sense couldn’t be missing as it intends to prevent things from being portrayed too seriously.
Presenting a more serious face without losing in humor and without looking ridiculous, but also darkening the blossoming ambiance out of nowhere without seeming pretentious and oppressive towards the drama’s flow is some kind of an art, don’t you think? The director-screenwriter duo in combination with the cast’s meaningful and representative interpreting do justice to elements that weren’t supposed to be there the moment they appear and make them essential masterfully. It’s a black comedy and a romantic threnody after all!
As the drama moves on the very soul and essence of the episodes changes and they become face-centered, group-centered or roller coaster ones depending on the occasion and what the drama asks for. There’s a wide variety satisfying pretty much everyone’s eyes from time to time and the weight of significance changes sides quite often and that’s one of the drama’s accomplishments. Following the same route would make it too tiresome, being a bit of everything would make it a bit of a blissful whatever and that’s the reason why the center of Heard It Through the Grapevine gets transferred and bounces all over the place following specific coordinates under the right angle with the necessary impact.
Some episodes are more entertaining, some others embed immense waves of feels whereas other episodes focus on the storyline progress. Of course there are episodes that forge a core of at least two of the aforementioned elements for variety and even though some of them might not have the same impact as other episodes used to possess, the drama through its overall entity in its midway ground remains strong and intriguing, trading unawareness for curiosity and waiting for longing.
Jin Young’s birth on the day Seo Bom was introduced to In Sang’s parents was the mainspring of Heard It Through the Grapevine’s cogwheels and from the 1st episode up to the 16th one many things have changed, progressed, remained in silence or stepped back for a while. There are times an information overload strikes us, but as episodes pass by things become more coherent and answers or clues always arise at some point, the puzzle has a long way to be complete and the outcome of the ongoing present hasn’t made its profound appearance yet. The turning point will be the test’s outcome since it will play a major role on pretty much everyone’s lives, affecting both families and all people around them one way or another. My following thoughts consist mostly of parts you’ve probably already read in my previous reviews/recaps, but i thought of sharing them anew in a more flowing form since it’s a midway review.
We’ve witnessed both families classing on the drama’s chessboard, but we’ve also seen both families trying to get closer under these circumstances with each one having his/her own point of view, reasons and benefits. There were attorney Han and madame Choi’s attempts to gain control over Seo Bom’s family and capture them inside their masterfully crafted web through various plans that came to a temporary halt for the time being. We’ve been through Seo Bom’s family’s struggles in their daily lives and through various interactions with In Sang’s parents they progressed step by step finding their good old selves anew, even at the cost of being unable to see their grandson for the time being.
We’ve also seen In Sang’s retaliating spirit shaking the chains of his since-birth demise and feeling human for the first time. In Sang as a figure still remains in the background throughout the last episodes after shining as a caring husband, father and in-law against all odds and going against the stream he wasn’t supposed to. As i’ve written before, Seo Bom is In Sang’s flame that sets alight his character, In Sang is Seo Bom’s wind that strengthens her wings and together, as they burn with love, they can set on fire and eventually enlighten the household every time darkness grows thicker.
Seo Bom sets fires in disguise, burning shyly and waiting for the right moment to expand. In Sang can set a fire anytime anyplace once his newly emerged revolutionary spirit spreads its wings. Being with his in-laws is like entering a sanctuary. As Seo Bom progresses herself in a Han family oriented way, In Sang progresses the other way around, in Choi Hyeong Shik ahjussi and Jin Ae ahjumma’s embrace. That’s where familial love shines brightly, something he never cherished as a child and an adolescent since he was programmed since birth to follow a very specific course. Meeting Seo Bom, he found himself in a radical crossroad and changed his course moving towards her family’s warmhearted environment.
Seo Bom’s family’s humble house is a place where he can laugh, feel and express himself openly and freely without taking into consideration inhumane restrictions that reign supreme inside the almighty household. He’s almost a shame and a waste of skin to his parents’ eyes, but in Seo Bom’s parents’ eyes he’s more of a son rather than an in-law. Feeling loved and loving back is a brand new reality he doesn’t want to sacrifice for all the reasons in the world, even if this lengthens the chasm between him and his parents. His insuperable love towards Seo Bom’s face was the fuel that set on fire his forced blinders and as he explores the world around him he evolves in like-minded ways as a more next-door daily figure partially rejecting the world he found himself in since birth. In Sang’s time is near to shine anew and i think the test outcome will be crucial for his figure and the way he’ll progress, especially if he fails.
There was also an excessive presentation of Seo Bom’s gradual external chameleon acclimation because on the inside she’s still the same. The more she dwells in the household’s code the more she wonders and the more she wonders the more she craves for answers. She might have not changed, but she hasn’t transformed either, she’s progressing under each and every circumstance that appears on her way from the very moment she walked into the almighty household. She’s learning step by step the way things work in the Han family and for the sake of In Sang, Jin Young and her own family she willingly sacrifices her external expressive self while keeping it safe and sound on the inside. She has partitioned herself in the Seo Bom the Hans desire and the Seo Bom we all know for everyone’s well being. It’s Seo Bom’s very own dignity to filter herself through a prism that combines who she really is, the adorable girl next door, and who they want her to be, the relentless and devoid of emotion but full of ambition young lady. Her love for In Sang hasn’t changed, it’s there and she lets it shine every time they’re on their own, even if it lasts for less than a minute.
She’s a battering ram bringing down walls one after the other, but underneath the surface her very heart and essence pound twice as brightly because if up to the moment she started living inside the household as a necessary parasite and loved In Sang, Jin Young and her family, now that she’s a more than welcome mutant and part of the family loving them is not enough, caring and protecting as an extension of her absolute love is essential, even if she has to ostensibly sacrifice a part of her external affection and human side. If Seo Bom wants to survive and possess peace of mind in order to accomplish her dreams that are always related to the people she loves she has to strengthen her roots inside the almighty household. She has to make full use of her young lady title, not only in papers but also in action. Using everything she learned from madame Choi and attorney Han, but taking into consideration all the immense amounts of knowledge she receives and extends every day through her resourceful and sleepless mind is the only way to surpass any obstacle that appears her way.
It’s a war against time, space and herself. Time, because the more she delays succeeding the more the people around her will possibly suffer. Space, because she lives inside the almighty household and her moves are limited as she is almost unable to see the outside world and if she can’t expand her space for the time being, she can move mountains with the power of her mind; and that’s what she does. Herself, because she’s sacrificing way too much of her bright and vivid self and has to study hard and breastfeed Jin Young everyday while remaining an exemplary wife and a stellar daughter-in-law in advance. While other women who are part of the high class society learn to behave and study under the best teachers at the best schools and colleges for years to achieve the welcome model personae, Seo Bom has to succeed in becoming a proper young lady within a few months and if others move on step by step, she upgrades herself block by block or region by region dare i say. It’s the evolutionary mechanism of species, once they find themselves in a new environment they have to survive and claim their domain, in its purest societal form. If her behavior feels different when she has to communicate with her family, it’s always with love. And if she might hurt anyone belonging to the sphere of people she deeply loves, this pain reflects back upon herself and the impact is greater.
We saw Noo Ri’s thoughtless campaign and rebirth. She was overshadowed by the ever-shining external factor of high class society and blinded as she was, she mistook falling stars for gold and didn’t stare at people and circumstances through a thoughtful perspective. Noo Ri’s wearing the wings Seo Bom forged for her, but she’s the one setting their movement in full action. As for Yi Ji, she still remains a ray of light when things get awry for both Seo Bom and In Sang, a deus ex machina in the right place at the right time.
We’ve cherished attorney Han’s one and only belated adolescence which is bound to wither while still in bloom by madame Choi’s careful yet powerful approach as things started pointing towards this direction. She won’t act rashly, but with deep insight and taking into consideration all the surrounding parameters she will strike the right moment. The only lucky dude in this story is Jin Young, he gets breastfed, he has fun with his parents and grandparents and when they disturb his harmony he starts his very own nuclear war!
Ji Young Ra is always around with a sense of schadenfreude ( ), especially towards madame Choi who is her rival since their childhood days. Attorney Han’s mother cut off her wings that could never resurrect themselves until recently when she managed to catch him inside her web after all these repressed years. The situation got out of control and she found herself in circumstances she won’t be able to handle that well since attorney Han’s childlike behavior pretty much betrayed everything. The good thing is that her daughter, Hyeon Soo, isn’t like her mother, she’s a bit spoiled as a rich family’s offspring, but she’s thoughtful enough on her own even though she still can’t get over In Sang.
The Hans have no friends and they have many enemies at the same time waiting in the corner for a wrong move. They are safe and sound inside their ivory tower, at least they think so, but everyone around them is there for a single reason; money. All lips have a price to remain silent and attorney Yoo and secretary Min are bright examples, even though secretary Min keeps moving in the shadows taking Cheol Shik ahjussi along with her on a journey d(r)ownwards. Everything flows according to plan and she’s already planted her most powerful seeds deep within the young couple’s souls and they have already started questioning attorney Han’s figure and Hansong’s credibility. She might be righteous in order to clear her brother’s name, but using the young couple just doesn’t feel right. However, one way or another they would have eventually found out the truth and if they have to do it this way so be it. It makes the storyline more complex and less predictable, not that it was but anyway!
Secretary Yang is not so innocent either, even though she’s the right hand of attorney Han at work she has her own reasons remaining by his side nurturing a slush fund from Hansong’s resources. She’s essential to him since she knows pretty much everything about his skeletons in the closet as she’s the one dealing with the family’s and the relatives’ matters. Secretary Lee knows many secrets as well and she isn’t that innocent either, especially in the way she treated Seo Bom, but it was a lesson learned and not only once. Eom So Jeong has benefits being around madame Choi, as for president Song we don’t yet what kind of smoke he’s fuming inside the drama, but he’s the king of gossip and a martyr of love having to settle pretty much every youngster’s love life in his playground! Je Hoon is another part of the story, he’s either gay or not and if he is, chances are high he’s president Song’s love partner. We have yet to find out his secret towards Noo Ri and president Song’s role in the drama.
The housemaid and butler Park are probably the most sincere and less fortunate inside attorney Han and madame Choi’s sphere of influence for the time being since house personnel is easily replaceable. They don’t want to lose their job in one hand, on the other hand they try to be as humane as possible towards the young couple and they offer their help whenever they can. The jeet kune do teacher is an insightful person as well and tries to help the young couple indirectly since he doesn’t want to lose his job either, but in his love life he’s kind of messed up, but he’s working on it! Last but not least, secretary Kim is a naive portable device of information usually working for attorney Han, but for madame Choi as well. He’s a spy of many uses and eventually he’s being under secretary Yang’s orders whereas at the same time his feelings for secretary Min are strong.
Seo Bom and In Sang set sail on journey to find out the utter truth behind attorney Han and Hansong, not only the part of truth that affects them as a couple and as parents, but also the whole truth surrounding this colossus named Hansong. Rumors that were going round and round appear to be portions of truth at the present and even though they try to set their questions on the table, attorney Han’s absent-minded condition won’t project back answers. Step by step they can see the light, but it’s too early to say they have reached a nodal point. It’s one of the things i’m highly looking forward to alongside In Sang’s grandiose return and madame Choi’s masterful eruption! Heard It Through the Grapevine has anchored in the area of double digits for many episodes now and it’s not willing to surrender! The crossroads are set, the highway is open and our longing is on pure frenzy!