Second Time is the Charm! Reviews – Bad Guy & Secret Garden

Second Time is the Charm! Reviews – Bad Guy & Secret Garden

 

Some shows just ran through me the first time, like an uncomfortable evening after eating bad sushi.  Two shows in particular – Bad Guy and Secret Garden – pissed me off in almost every episode.  I fast-forwarded through large chunks the first round.  I couldn’t get over the ridiculously flawed plot line of Bad Guy and I couldn’t stomach the douche-bag persona of the male lead in Secret Garden.  Most people agreed with my initial response to Bad Guy.  And most people disagreed with my first impression of Secret Garden.

Then I watched them again.  I had too. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  I felt I had missed something.  I wanted to see a few key scenes again.  I liked the music from Bad Guy.  I liked the female leads muscular legs in Secret Garden.  So, I popped in the DVDs and gave them both a second shot.

Seriously – how cool is she?  Definitely deserves a second viewing… and third… and…

And like magic – both shows revealed a whole new side to me.  It was like finding out you’re not, in fact, allergic to gluten and enjoying a pizza after fifteen years of abstinence.  What kind fate to bring us back together for such a happy reunion!

Let us explore Bad Guy & Secret Garden with our new rose-colored glasses, shall we?

SPOILERS FOLLOW

Bad Guy.

Bad Guy still relied on a preposterous and over-the-top plot, but this time I didn’t care.  Maybe it was the several million hours of equally absurd and overdramatic plots I’d sat through with the countless other shows I’ve watched inbetween.  Somehow, the revenge-is-mine bullshittery seemed glamorous and interesting.  Obsessive people are a rare breed, and I was mesmerized by his single-minded approach to ruining an entire family that ruined his entire family.  Bystanders be damned.  And he looked so damned cool the whole time.  As if his numbing vendetta were perfectly natural and he was very cozy indeed in his lecherous, lying conniving skin.  I even accepted the mustache the second round.

I was deeply annoyed with the second male lead, the worthless child of fortune who had squandered away his life playing and avoiding responsibility.  Second time around, I actually felt sorry for him.  Watching him fall to pieces was as mesmerizing as seeing the demolition of a large building.  BOOOOM!  And the poor dude is literally a wreck on the concrete, screaming and sobbing hysterically at the devastation of his pathetic life.

Best of all was my non-stop grin that resulted from watching all the women of the show literally melt like butter around the first male lead.  He was indeed a bad, bad guy.  The young heiress looked like she was going to explode every time he was near.  Her eyes never left him.  It was like watching a kid raised in the Sahara Desert discover snow.  “Holy shit!  You mean this happens?”  The oldest daughter, the stern, repressed married woman who’d never known love was also highly entertaining.  She was reduced to a blushing teenager within the first few episodes.  You could literally see the fireworks in her loins when our devious man with a bad, bad plan turned on the charm.

Our female lead, the dumb as rocks art curator, also grew on me.  I’ll give her credit for going after what she wants, even if she’s not entirely sure why she wants it.  Not to worry, none of the viewers really understood your prostitute-yourself-for-money yet get pissed off when treated like a gold-digger attitude.  Pick one personality and stick with it, lady.  But she was really cute and ran around in tiny shorts with oversized sweater jackets and still managed to look… dare I say it… professional.

I think I forgave all the female lead’s shortcomings because she had an awesome sister.  One of the best in k-drama history.  I had completely forgotten this character and she jumped out and stole the show in every scene she walked through.  Gutsy, funny, blunt and intelligent – it was this young lady who really became Beauty and showed us that the Beast really had a heart somewhere deep down under that black suit.

And the mom!  The evil empire-building mom.  I totally forgot her and her insanely shrill outbursts and monstrously candid insults.  She was awesome.  Compared to her, all the other characters’ shady natures suddenly seemed suitable for Care Bear nicknames.

There’s bad… and then there’s heinous heiress bad.

The plot moved with a steady pace through its carnival house of mirrors and rickety big top theatrics barely held down with sandbags.  The music was incredible.  The cinematography was moody, elegant and largely understated.  The clothes tailored and appropriate for each character.  There were unexpectedly sweet romantic moments (napping in the sunlight, heads resting on each other, light smiles on their faces) mixed in with chillingly sexy manipulations (hand holding in the elevator turned into a full-on implied porno).   I even liked the confusing, fucked up ending.

So, Bad Guy went from being a major disappointment to a cult favorite for me.

Secret Garden.

How did I loathe thee?  Let me count the ways.  1.  Your main male character was a total jackass who constantly talked about how rich he was, how much better he was in class – status – education – manner – intellect – etc – and yet still seemed baffled that the female lead didn’t interpret this pompous routine as flirtation.  2.  Your main female character was a kick ass stunt woman who was all spunk and fiery fury in the first few episodes only to disappear into blank stares, a lack of comebacks to the non-stop barrage of insults, and questionable sanity.  Did she fall in love or was she bullied into submission?  I hated it.  I thought the male lead was weird looking.  I didn’t think the jokes were funny.  I thought the body-swapping was oddly handled and not used in a satisfying way.  I started to hit the fast-forward button and skimmed through the second half.

Second viewing turned this dried turd into a glorious banquet of delights.  I laughed throughout the whole show and enjoyed both romances – of the first and second leads. How did this happen?

Suddenly the first male leads asshole nature was charmingly pathetic.  He was so preposterously out of touch with reality that he had no idea how to behave in the real world.  He didn’t even realize there was a real world.  “You mean there’s a 99%?  Without chauffeurs and private jets?  Really?”  His ridiculous wardrobe was funny as hell this time.  I giggled over his struggles to fathom this mysterious world his love interest inhabited.  “What’s rent?”  When he was reading a book on global poverty with an expression usually reserved for laymen trying to decipher astro-physics, I almost peed myself.

I found his creepy stalking adorable this time.  Give the man snaps for going after what he wants – repeated (and repeated and repeated) rejections be damned.  He was not giving up.  The Eye of Sauron was focused on the ring and the rest of Middle Earth just melted away into annoying hobbits and humans that just kept getting in the way.  In the end, he made genuine sacrifices to be with her (though not his estate or cars or… you know… anything financial.  A man needs his maids, you know).

Female leads baffled silence made sense at last.  I mean, really… what the heck can you say?  She was openly, blatantly stalked by this rich guy who would not leave her alone.  Then switched bodies with him a few times.  I think as a woman who already lived in a world of men at the action “stunt-devil” school that being in a man’s body must have really shook things up for her emotionally.  Not to mention a powerful, obscenely rich man.  In a way, I think her switch was much more enlightening than his.  Sure, he had to sleep on a matt with her super hot roommate and sit down to pee, but big deal.  His mother was the only one who really gave him an idea of how horrible his own world could be to an outsider.

The cousin turned out to my favorite this round.  I didn’t even remember him from the first viewing.  He was so deliciously idiotic that I fell for him completely.  He’s a washed up pop idol that uses his star status as a distraction from the tedium of counting the gold bricks that fall out of the sky into his lap every day.  He’s so naïve and genuinely clueless that almost every thing he does is ripe for comedy.  He has no problem embarrassing himself and usually doesn’t realize he’s embarrassed himself until later (if at all), and yet still… the man is a big teddy bear.  Still in love with his first love.  Still attempting to shield his young cousin from pain.  Still kind to strangers and fans and body-swapping stunt women.

How did I miss the young pop-star upstart plotline?  I was convinced he was the son of the second male lead throughout most of the show.  Nope.  He’s just a cutie with a big crush on his favorite pop idol.  As usual, the gay issue was not largely addressed except via few uncomfortable exchanges.  However, snaps to the aging pop-star for not being deterred or second-guess his decision to mentor the young lad.  When he picked him up and threw him over his shoulder at the airport?  Oh, the hilarity!

The action school was also awesome.  I am always impressed by athletic people, as I am distinctively an indoor-type-person who might run if a bear was chasing me.  Maybe.  Watching a dozen people do sit ups was like peeking through a window to an alien planet.  Who does that?  Oh yeah, athletes.  And action stars.   And… all those dudes I’ve been watching who have random shower-scenes in dramas.  But I digress.  Let us take a moment to praise the stoic leader of the action school and the bane of our rich guys existence.  Watching those two boys fight over our female lead was more entertaining than Animal Planet during Shark Week.

Upon second viewing, I accidentally fell into one of those bonus-round coin chambers in Mario Brothers.  My God, the treasure trove of cute scenes and humorous characters!  How mysterious is my brain that I completely wrote this show off as annoying garbage the first round?  Again, I think a lot of it has to do with the marathons of other k-dramas.  After a while, you become immune to things and accustomed to things that shocked, confused or made little sense to this American raised on American TV.  You know, like grown ups openly weeping.  Or getting fall-down drunk with their boss in the middle of the week and managing to go to work the next day.  Or yanking women around by the wrist and dragging them across the street.  Or stalking.  Or people who say the rudest or weirdest things, like “You’re face is so small!”  Ah, Korea.  Now I’m brainwashed.  Now these things don’t even show up on my radar.  The crazy Asian ships of shenanigans pass freely through my mental waters.  Secret Garden, the once awkward and irritating duckling has turned into a witty, sparkling swan.

So… sometimes you just have to give a drama a second chance.  You never know… you could discover a new best friend in your dirty laundry.

 

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