Well, my friends, we have finally reached the end. It was a long journey to get here, with not a few bumps and twists along the road, but after much travail, we got here. And I think we all deserve a pat on the back for that, especially because “Hyde Jekyll, Me” gave us so many reasons to turn back along the way.
To be quite honest, I didn’t have a lot of expectations for the finale (having long abandoned trying to predict anything about this particular drama), but I knew I just wanted a clean ending. A logical ending. An ending that did justice to Seo Jin, Robin (Hyun Bin) and Ha Na (Han Ji Min).
“Hyde Jekyll, Me” episodes 19 and 20 both exceeded all my expectations and let me down magnificently.
Episode 19 was one of the strongest of the entire show. Han Ji Min, in particular, really showed her strength as an actress, fully committing to the emotional weight of all her scenes. You felt Ha Na’s heartbreak, her desperation, her grief, her longing. I never felt so sympathetic and attached to Ha Na as I did in this episode, and it made me think that if the writers had given Han Ji Min more to sink her teeth into with the character of Ha Na, that Han Ji Min could have really made Ha Na more memorable.
There was a sort of fearlessness in episode 19 that wasn’t apparent in the rest of the drama. They weren’t afraid to take the story, the characters, the relationships into a darker place, a much more confusing place, an unsafe place, and then sat back and let all the emotions play out in the performances of Han Ji Min and Hyun Bin. And, again, it made me think that if all of the episodes had this kind of fearlessness, then “Hyde Jekyll, Me” could have lived up to its expectations.
I was shocked to find the drama committing itself to this kind of writing, this kind of storytelling in the penultimate episode, but I was so pleased with it that I didn’t see the other shoe. And when it dropped, it crushed so much of what I had loved about episode 19.
I’m talking about the wedding.
It has been a long time since I’ve let out such a groan of frustration while watching a drama! I still feel so strongly opposed to that wedding, it is a little difficult to write without shaking my fists in anger. In one of the earlier recaps, I mentioned that “Hyde Jekyll, Me” seemed to value big moments over all the little moments that lead and build into them. It is, effectively, a great “highlights” drama, but without the plotting to support it. It values getting to these big moments and seems not to care so much about how we get there.
What was the point of that wedding? Was it simply to perpetuate the idea that, in order, for Ha Na and Robin to have their happy ending, they had to get married? That the only way for them to have a life fulfilled was to be married? That, after having been married, Robin no longer had any other hopes, dreams, goals because his life was now complete having been married to Ha Na? Did getting married lessen the pain for Ha Na? Did it solve their bigger problem of Robin disappearing?
Was it just for show, because hey, at least we got a wedding?
It accomplished nothing. It was utterly unnecessary. I am less willing to forgive the show this glaring fault because it came at the cost of other plot points being fully resolved. I understand that Robin and Ha Na are suffering, that this is an emotional highlight of this week, and that we need to send Robin off in a wonderful fashion, but the implications of that kind of send off literally leave the rest of the characters more confused than ever, with more questions than answers.
And what about Seo Jin? He was so absent in this week’s episodes that when he finally came back in episode 20, he felt so far removed from the story it almost seemed like he was an intruder in his own life. “Hyde Jekyll, Me” has always centered on Seo Jin and his disorder, but the way the week’s episodes played it, the resolution of this central conflict was incredibly dissatisfying. We couldn’t celebrate Seo Jin when we were all mourning the loss of Robin. And while this was perhaps always going to be the natural conclusion of their story, Seo Jin getting everything he ever wanted–the CEO position, his life back, even love–was rushed and unfounded, and thus unearned.
We want our hero to strive and achieve (that isn’t to say that Seo Jin didn’t), and to act as an active agent in the crafting of his own destiny. And that simply didn’t happen. The writers gave us the ending we were hoping for, but it still fell flat for me.
I can’t believe the show chose not to show how Seo Jin and Ha Na end up together. Until episode 19, I felt sure that Ha Na felt more for Seo Jin than she let on (i.e., she loved Seo Jin more than Robin), but couldn’t bear the responsibility of being the reason for Robin’s disappearance (i.e., his “death”). But after 19, I really didn’t see why or how Ha Na and Seo Jin could end up together (the effect of that wedding, good job, writers).
How could Seo Jin know for sure that the reason why Ha Na was with him wasn’t because the man she loved, the man she married, existed, albeit in parts, in him? How could Ha Na say confidently that she loved Seo Jin independently of Robin? All the implications of Seo Jin and Ha Na ending up together are so conveniently glossed over in favor of one pretty picture and happy ending. I’m so disturbed by this ending, but maybe I’m the only one.
Everything was set up for this K-drama to be successful, it amazes me sometimes how the production team managed to mess it all up so disastrously.
Hyun Bin tried. He tried so hard, you could see it. But not even his best efforts could have saved this train wreck. Han Ji Min tried. Sung Joon was great. And there were, definitely, great moments to be had. But, for me, what was the unmaking of this drama was the abysmal writing, which was hard to deal with each week.
Shallow writing has plagued the entirety of the show. It has preferred to skim the surface of almost all of its elements–from friendship, to work relationships, to the medical/psychological condition of Seo Jin, to the romance–and the effect was shallow interest. There wasn’t enough substance for “Hyde Jekyll, Me” to sustain its 20-episode run, and we suffered for it. It was, at times, awkward, cringe-worthy, and embarrassing to watch. And when it touched upon something really interesting and evocative, it quickly backed away.
In the end, “Hyde Jekyll, Me” was characterized by missed opportunities, with actors trying to compensate for the production team’s deficiencies, and by thoughts of what could have been.