Overall Rating: A (Soooo close to an A+)
Subtitles: Solid subs.
Brief Synopsis: During the Joseon era a man fell in love with a mermaid and they met a tragic fate. Hundreds of years later their reincarnated souls are reunited, but the threats from the past persist and the love between a man and a mermaid is no easier in present day Seoul than it was long ago. Watch on Viki here.
**Full show spoilers below the image. If you do not wish to be spoiled, do not proceed**
Ending Type: The present timeline ends in the happiest of ways.
Characters: This was my first reincarnation/dual timeline show and I have to say one of the coolest things about it, for me, was how the characters were distinctly different in the past and the present even if their relationships to each other transcended time. I’ll talk only about the present timeline for the main characters because that was the bulk of the show and where things like development happened (I have learned that typically dual timeline shows are about 90/10 in terms of present/past ratio).
Heo Joon-Jae / (past timeline = Dam Ryung) (Lee Min Ho) is a conman with a traumatic family past (his father left his mother for a new wife, his mother disappeared, he was bullied by his stepbrother and his father ignored him). His two motivations in life are to find his mother and earn as much money as possible. He’s arrogant and flippant and incredibly charming in the way you can only appreciate if you don’t have to interact with him in real life. His journey on this show is no joke, and Min Ho does an excellent job of capturing each part of it. We get comedy from him, we get moments where we hate him for being the worst, we get action, we get warmth, we get sweetness, we get romance, and we get really intense emotions. Joon Jae was a charismatic and dynamic lead and his chemistry with Tae Oh and Man Doo was phenomenal.
Sim Chung / (past timeline = Seo Hwa) (Jun Ji Hyun) was easily the most entertaining character in the show. Ji Hyun delivered hard on the comedy here, bless her, as the mermaid who didn’t know how to behave in the human world. The first few episodes when she gets her legs and joins Joon Jae in Spain were just peak comedy. It was toned down a little when she arrived in Seoul because by then she’d had lots of lessons but there were still wonderful moments here and there that really get you rolling on the floor. She also went on a very emotional journey and slayed those moments like a boss, even if towards the end I didn’t fully understand some of her decisions (IF YOU ARE COMING BACK WHY ERASE THEIR MEMORIES?? NO ONE NEEDED THAT EXTRA TRAUMA, OK??? NO ONE!). Ahem.
Joon Jae’s conman crew included Jo Nam Doo (Lee Hae Joon) who was the mastermind behind most of their cons and Tae Oh (Shin Won Ho), a tech genius with almost no social skills. Tae Oh was freaking precious and we love him, OK? Literally everything about his character just brought me endless joy. Nam Doo had a bit more character development and his story was really intense and fascinating. He was the character that kept me on the edge of my seat and kept me guessing, and if you’ve read any of my posts you’ll know this is my favorite kind of character, especially when they come through and make me proud in the end. LOVE YOU NAM DOO!
Our main/ early season villain was Ma Dae Young / (past timeline = Mr. Yang (Sung Dong Il) and I have to say I was a fan of him and his character. In the past timeline he is a greedy lord who is more or less a straight villain, but in the present, while he’s a bad guy who has done some awful stuff, he got some really interesting dimension. Since he was haunted by his memories of the past he was caught between wanting to fulfill what he believed to be his purpose and his desire to discover that he wasn’t actually a villain at all. He was fascinating, and even if he should not have been free to roam about with the general public I really pitied him by the end.
I also appreciated the development of Heo Chi Hyun (Lee Ji Hoon) as the second villain character. He was one of those sad stories of a kid who can’t overcome his parents’ legacies and chooses to handle that in just exactly the wrong way. I wanted to root for him so bad and was kind of surprised that he just fully went down the dark path, but that’s also why I enjoyed him as an adversary–I never really believed he was going to go off the deep end so I was shocked by his choices and it kept me engaged. Overall very well done.
Relationships: I have to start with our glorious trio, Joon Jae, Nam Doo, and Tae Oh, who are my favorite trio of all time. I have never been so invested in three amoral dudes working together??? I loved that they lived together and when they had their little in-fights I was deeply upset and actually felt sad at the end when Joon Jae and Chung went off to have their happily ever after and that meant they weren’t living with the guys anymore. Like honestly this group was just…. amazing. Their group dynamic, the cast chemistry, and the “us against the world” sort of mentality they maintained was so pure and so perfect. Obsessed.
Joon Jae and Chung was also a phenomenal romance. I’ve read a lot of reviews that complain that these two didn’t have much chemistry and I guess I would not list the cast chemistry as a strong point here but it wasn’t really lacking either? At least for me. Overall their dynamic, which began as absolutely hilarious and turned very sweet and then very intense and sad, was incredible. The interplay between the past and present timelines, especially when Joon Jae began to have his memories of the past, was out of this world in terms of emotional punches and high stakes. The fact that she would literally die without his love also gave this romance a lot of weight that normal romances do not have, and the sort of myth intertwined with reality was a gorgeous addition. Overall there wasn’t a lot I cared more about than the happy ending for these two and to be honest that’s all I want from my romances, so it was really a slam dunk (EVEN IF I AM STILL MAD ABOUT THE MEMORY ERASURE LIKE WHY??? HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO ATTEMPT TO ERASE YOURSELF FROM THIS MAN’S MEMORY LIKE HONESTLY??? WE ALL KNOW HE’S JUST GOING TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU AGAIN AND REMEMBER ANYWAY, JEEZE).
High Points: Oh gosh, all of it. The past/present parallels, the mythology, the visuals, the story, the characters. This was one of the few I’ve watched that was really driven by the story and plot itself–normally I laser focus on characters and am just along for the ride in terms of the story but this story and plot were mesmerizing for me and actually mattered as much as the people that were involved so that was a huge plus.
Low Points: Look, I’m bitter about the final memory erasure thing (in case that wasn’t clear). Like I get that she didn’t know how long she would be gone but she planned to come back, so why make literally everyone that cared about you forget you? SO DUMB. Not Ok with it. Also my real gripe is the little half-mermaid girl (WHO WE LOVED), but I was left with so many questions where she was concerned. Like was she also a half mermaid in the present? If so what happened to her father? Or like?? what is the deal there???? That was just very confusing and I feel like should not have been.
Final comments: This show was truly beautiful. That was my main takeaway from it. It was just beautiful. I can’t imagine anyone watching this and not enjoying it so if you haven’t watch it yet, please do.