Alright, let’s have a show of hands. How many of you have felt personally victimized by Robin (Hyun Bin) and his charming, do-gooder ways? If your hand is raised right now, either literally or symbolically, high five! It’s hard not to succumb to his affable, easy-going gallantry, and in this week’s episodes of “Hyde Jekyll, Me” we get better acquainted with Seo Jin’s unwanted other half.
In episodes three and four, the intrigue surrounding the disappearance of Professor Kang (Shin Eun Jun) gets a little more complex, we get an introduction to Robin’s actual fan club (where can I sign up?), the Goo family dynamics shift dramatically at the re-emergence of Robin, and we come to find out that perhaps some of other force is at play in driving Jang Ha Na (Han Ji Min) and Seo Jin/Robin together. This week’s episodes dragged a bit for my liking, but, again, when it was good, it was brilliant. I just wish “Hyde Jekyll, Me” was more consistent in delivering that brilliance. I hope you’ve got some time on your hands because I have a lot to say about this drama, unsurprisingly, and not all of it good, unfortunately.
One of my biggest gripes about the drama is that it still hasn’t figured out its tone. Despite what the previews may show, there are not elements of magic or fantasy at play here, but rather, a very understandable and clinical explanation for Seo Jin and Robin. And so there’s no reason for the writers to ask its audience to suspend logic in an otherwise perfectly logical drama. It just kills me because moments of tension are constantly being undermined by moments of ridiculousness that honestly have no place in this drama. I can forgive lazy writing in details like Robin’s cellphone being perfectly charged although he hasn’t used it in 5 years. Fine, that is a lesser offense than, oh, I don’t know, swinging from a rope that seems to be connected to… what exactly? Clouds? An unfortunate bird? A plane? No one knows, and the drama doesn’t seem interested in exploring that kind of reasoning. What it is interested in is the sensationalism that comes along with a swinging on a rope, a pretty scene, but one that, at least, left me thinking, was that the best you could do, drama? Another example is a pretty important conversation that occurs between Ha Na and Seo Jin where she’s dressed in a oversized character costume. I don’t know if this is supposed to be funny, if I’m supposed to laugh, or not. I think not, but then what is the point of this gimmicky attempt of humor? It makes Ha Na ridiculous, and for no good reason than (maybe) cheap laughs. Writers, Ha Na deserves better than that. (Kudos to Han Ji Min and Hyun Bin for their commitment to their characters, though my goodness. Because even in the face of the situations the writers cook up for them, they give it their all.)
Going for the pretty scene is something that “Hyde Jekyll, Me” does quite often, and yeah, it does have the actors for which extreme close ups and all sorts of lighting pose no threats, but after a while it’s like, okay, just how many pretty backgrounds are you really going to pack into one episode? I mean, we’re only on episode four here; save some of those ideal backdrops for the later episodes. Part of all this prettiness has to do with creating a nice atmosphere for our leads to develop those warm and fluttery feelings. That being said, I’m not buying it. At least, not between Ha Na and Robin. Throw them in however many cute scenarios designed to sweep Ha Na (and the audience) off her feet, often quite literally, but it all feels very superficial to me. Too contrived. I can’t help but wonder if Robin actually likes Ha Na because he seemed somewhat indifferent to her until he found a reason to protect her (saving people is, after all, his personality). On Ha Na’s part, does she take an interest in him because he’s saved her? Because he’s nice to her? I know Robin is probably the most charming person on the face of the planet, and it’s easy to get swept up in the mood and his dimples, but they know so little about each other, most of their together is spent literally falling into each other arms, and that just doesn’t cut it for me. But Seo Jin giving Ha Na an umbrella? That is one heart-pounding moment if I ever saw one.
Let’s put aside the romance for a second. One of the things I most admired about “Hyde Jekyll, Me” was the directness with which the characters acted. They tended not to let big questions go unanswered, didn’t put off their curiosities for another day, but demanded to get answers frankly and immediately. I found it refreshing and smart of both Seo Jin and Ha Na’s characters. That being said, I’m not sure I quite like how the writers are using that same directness in their storytelling. For example, I was actually quite surprised to find that we know so much, already, about Professor Kang’s assailant. In revealing so much about him, the writers have unintentionally(?) undercut any build up of suspense and tension in the story. The end result is that, on the whole, the plot feels a little underwhelming.
I’m so glad we get that twist at the end of episode four, because otherwise two whole episodes would have passed and we wouldn’t have had any developments in plot. We had character developments, certainly, but I was afraid for a second that the story might have actually regressed with all the contracts and terminations of contracts, also known as a really big headache and could you please think of a better solution than just throwing money around, thanks. If the writers keep going back on their words and threats, soon enough we won’t be able to trust in anything the characters say, and none of the consequences will feel real. In order for there to be real pay off at the end of this whole ordeal, we need actual stakes, real risks, and the threat of devastating loss. But enough complaining. You want to know what I really love about “Hyde Jekyll, Me”? The relationship between Robin and Seo Jin. I find their relationship to be utterly adorable with grumpy Seo Jin ranting against Robin with the harshest words and threats, but somewhere down deep I think he likes having his unmanageable other half back. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still scared and conflicted over Robin’s re-emergence, because there’s always a cost (and Seo Jin is often the one who ends up paying), but behind his scoffs of irritation and his sighs of resignation, I think Seo Jin has missed Robin. No matter what, the pair are intimately related and Robin’s affection for Seo Jin just puts a smile on my face. Seriously, every time Robin calls Seo Jin “Seo Jinnie” I grin like a fool, and go ahead and try to tell me those bedside drawings Robin leaves for Seo Jin aren’t the cutest things ever. I double dare you!
The Robin/Seo Jin dynamic is by far the most compelling aspect of the drama and I love what the writers have done with this most central of relationships, thank goodness. Robin comes to us as a fully realized character, complete with his own likes, dislikes, and tastes, his own circle of friends and acquaintances, his own profession, and his own dreams and aspirations. But he and Seo Jin are pitiful characters, each envying the other. Robin understands full well that he is the aberration, that, through no fault of his own, his existence is troublesome to Seo Jin and others. And yet, what can he do about it? He wants to live, after all, and that is a very natural and human inclination. It is not a wonder that Robin is the more well liked of the pair, that he lives his life in such a carefree manner. When no one wants you and when your existence doesn’t amount to much, it is easy to live with the freedom that Robin does. (But, can I get an “awwww”?)
Despite it all, I am still cheering on “Hyde Jekyll, Me” and am, for the most part, enjoying watching the drama. I am this vocal, this critical of it because, again, the drama does have its moments when everything comes together, the planets align, and there’s something akin to magic to be found in the performances, the interactions between the characters, that oh so pretty background. And because we have these moments of brilliance, I know that the writers and director have it in them to churn out the goods. “Hyde Jekyll, Me” doesn’t suffer from the lack of ability, which I could forgive and lower my expectations, but the ability is there, the potential is ripe, and there’s nothing I want more for the production team to just figure it all out because the last thing this drama needs is to suffer from execution. You’ve got it in you to be great, drama, and I’m rooting for you. Think I am too harsh? Have you completely fallen for the Ha Na and Robin romance? Let me know what you thought of this week’s “Hyde Jekyll, Me” in the comments section!
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