Secret Garden

Overall Rating: B+ (I am sorry @ the whole internet, I did not love this one).
Subtitles: The Viki subs for this were OK. Generally the translations made a lot of sense but there were weird spacing and grammar issues that persisted which I’ve never seen before so it was kind of distracting. (Like punctuation in the middle of words, some subs missing entirely, etc).
Brief Synopsis: A super rich CEO and a very poor stuntwoman cross paths and have to figure out if anything about their worlds is compatible in any way, featuring BODY SWAPPING. Watch on Viki here.


**Full show spoilers below the image. If you do not wish to be spoiled, do not proceed**

Ending Type: You get your happy ending. I was especially fond of the decision to show us the future and the kids–I think my investment in the main couple increased significantly when I got those little tidbits with their three adorable and ridiculous children. Good job ending.
Characters: We really had four main characters intertwined in a bizarre love quandrangle that had its best moments when our two leads were body switched.
Gil Ra Im (Ha Ji Won (why does she not have an AsianWiki page?)) is an orphaned, talented stuntwoman who barely makes enough to rub two pennies together. Her work is dangerous and no one knows who she is or respects her but she is very passionate about it and willing to do anything to keep her career moving forward. She is a badass and beloved by all the other guys in her school (is there really only one stuntwoman in Korea? Seems unlikely). I really enjoyed her character–her grit, her determination, and her pride. I thought her moments of raw emotion made a lot of sense for her character and were acted superbly. She was a delightful blend of badass and normal woman, and her fan plot with Oska was really excellent for adding depth to her character. Overall I really liked her and cared about her character, but really did not buy her relationship with Joo Won (more below).
Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin) was a classic aloof and spoiled CEO who was obsessed with money and status and had little to no understanding of how the world worked or what life looked like for those not in the 1%. He was obsessed with tacky designer tracksuits (I actually loved this) and determined to get his way no matter what. I really enjoyed Hyun Bin in this role–I thought he brought a lot of humor and cheekiness to what was otherwise a pretty shitty character. His primary redeeming quality was in some ways his love for Ra Im but in many ways that was also what was so awful about him, since yes he cared about her and even almost made the ultimate sacrifice for her (THAT’S A BIG DEAL), but along the way he never seemed to care about what she wanted or what his continued pursual of her was doing to her and her life. He was a bulldozer character who just persisted in doing what he wanted until it worked out for him and I did not…. love that storyline. Hyun Bin made Joo Won seem lovable but none of it ever sat super well with me.
Oska (Yoon Sang Hyun), Joo Won’s cousin, was a much more lovable character. As a K Pop idol a little past his prime he certainly had his moments of ridiculousness and snobbery but with him it was actually endearing and entertaining, mostly because he was sensitive and emotional and generally kind and courteous to people when he was around them. I was super invested in him as a character and all of his side plots and especially the “will they or won’t they” of the revisit to his first love. I appreciated that we did not explore a possible romantic relationship between Oska and Ra Im very much because he would have been the obvious better choice in that scenario. As it was he acted sort of as the moral compass and the “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THAT” guy to his idiot of a cousin who never once learned from his mistakes.
And finally there was Yeun Sul (Kim Sa Rang), the Director of a film company who we first meet in an arranged marriage meeting with Joo Won and then later when she’s being a complete ass to Ra Im for showing up in the VVIP lounge of Joo Won’s department store. Later she is the director of the MV that Oska is filming on Jeju Island and we learn at that point that she has a history with Oska and start to get some back story and depth to her character. I don’t know that I’d ever call her like, truly sympathetic, though I do like that she throws support behind Ra Im’s relationship with Joo Won, but I definitely wanted Oska to get his girl so I was satisfied with her arc overall.
I would like to note that both Hyun Bin and Ha Ji Won did a fantastic job during the body-swap scenes in mimicking each other’s mannerisms and demeanor. That was, in many ways, the heart of and best part of the show.
Relationships: Oska and Joo Won have a pretty classic brotherly relationship and tend to always show up for one another even if they are constantly bickering and annoyed with each other. There are some moments when this is lopsided in Oska’s favor, though, as Joo Won has to be an asshole in every situation so even to his cousin he decides to be ruthless on multiple occasions (Why do you have to be the worst Joo Won?).
Oska and Ra Im had a really sweet friendship that was just… nice. Overall. Like very nice. I was glad it was around to sort of give us relief from the rest of the toxicity.
Oska and Sul had a terrible relationship but had been happy once and Oska’s journey to discover what had gone wrong and to fix it was really beautiful. Like really sweet and nice and even if I think Sul had gone off the deep end enough not to deserve it I was still happy they got their happy ending.
Where to start with Ra Im and Joo Won??? To be honest for the first 5ish episodes I was totally rooting for them. Like Joo Won was a classically annoying spoiled brat but he went out of his way to try to take care of Ra Im and come to terms with the situation and how different their classes were but recognized what he could do for her. I thought when they switched bodies it was going to lead to this big journey for him in discovering humility and learning to value the things that Ra Im valued but uh…. not…. at all…. no it did not go there. Instead he remained an entitled jerk at all times (he was worse during the body switches honestly) and no matter how many times she told him she wasn’t interested and didn’t want him he was like I AM GONNA HANG AROUND YOUR HOUSE AND YOUR WORK AND SHOW UP WHEREVER YOU ARE AND MAKE YOU LOVE ME (BUT NOT BY DOING ANYTHING ACTUALLY NICE FOR YOU, JUST BY BULLYING YOU UNTIL YOU’RE INTO IT) (spoiler alert: in the real world we call this stalking and we arrest these people). I was very confused by this love story honestly because OK we’ve had the bulldozer love stories in K Dramas before and been on board with them because in those stories it’s clear very quickly that the girl is actually into it and is just dealing with other obstacles so we let it slide. Here there was…. absolutely no indication that she was in any way at all interested in him. She even REPEATEDLY tells his mom that when the mother storyline appears and she starts getting harassed. But then out of nowhere there’s that one episode where she goes to the Christmas party to declare her feelings for him??? And It was SO WEIRD because like SINCE WHEN did you have these feelings? What in this story at all ever indicated that? And then the literal torture she undergoes to be with him because apparently she loves him (WHEN DID SHE START LOVING HIM? The show’s helpful flashbacks suggest it was that time he kissed her and she tried to get away from him the whole time it was happening? was that supposed to be romantic????????????) was just…. there was not any set up for me to feel like it made any sense at all. I did not like, hate this relationship but I was very much not invested in it which made the latter half of the season hard to watch because them being together was like, the whole entire plot and I… did not care. In the final two episodes I started to care more because I think the episodes were done well and they were written cutely, but up until that point I was very much just…. confused. Confused and unsure why this is a classic for so many people. But that’s OK!!! We don’t all have to love the same things.
High Points: The body switching. And generally the comedy–I was certainly delighted by a great deal in this 20 hour experience.
Low Points: The uh…. romance//lack thereof.
Final comments: This is a very beloved show and like, if you love it more power to you. I don’t know if I’m jaded now because I’ve watched some truly fantastic and more modern K Dramas so my ability to appreciate the flawed classics is dampened somewhat but??? I loved Boys Over Flowers so I do not believe that’s the answer. I think this show just did not jive with me–there was not enough plot outside of the romance to keep me interested when the romance did not feel very romantic. So I’m glad I watched but will not be watching again. Solid “eh” from me.

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