Kdrama Review Hyde, Jekyll and I: First Impressions

HydeJekylldramaOrdinarily, I’d stay as far away from a drama centering on a man with split-personality disorder as Indiana Jones from a pit of snakes – but it’s been a down weekend, I’ve rarely not liked Hyun Bin, and there’s a lack of dramas in my weekly TV schedule now that Pinocchio has aired. So I thought I’d give this a shot.

Well, it has the most ludicrous drama opening I think I’ve ever seen, throwing together in one 20-minute scene everything I despise most about dramas when they’re bad: hyberbolic performances, really really bad CGI, and action sequences so inane that you are certain at first this is a parody, and then you pray it’s a dream so that the drama can retain some semblance of self-respect, even if its lost yours. I won’t give you all the details, but suffice to say there’s a gorilla. Yes, you read that right. And not just any gorilla, but a manic, chest-pounding, inexplicably on-the-loose beast that was the most poorly CGI’d animal I’ve seen onscreen since…well since the 60’s passed. You know it’s bad when even the faithful watchers and long-suffering drama addicts that makes up Viki commenters are groaning about how bad this is. And then, this being drama-land, a cute girl pops out of nowhere, calls the gorilla by its pet name, and it forthwith dances around her like a pet dog. It’s as if a 5-year-old tried to recreate Mighty Joe Young with action figures.

Once that cringe-inducing introduction is out of the way however, the drama actually slowly builds on itself until it resembles something quite charming by the end of the second episode (to my own shock). Hyun Bin is Goo Seo Jin, the cold (of course) CEO (of course!) of a theme park called Wonder Land (technically owned by his father but Seo Jin manages it). Han Ji Min is Jang Ha Na, who has just arrived from America to take over management of the park’s circus, where she was raised and which was formerly managed by her (deceased?) father. Ha Na is sweet but also delightfully stubborn and plainspoken – she scolds, bargrains, and ultimately blackmails Seo Jin into signing a new contract with her circus instead of shutting it down as he had planned.

euniSeo Jin, as a result of childhood trauma, has two personalities: the cruel coward Seo Jin, and the warm, brave Robin (this is not as far-fetched as it sounds; thanks to psychology classes and Criminal Minds I know that individuals can suffer from multiple personalities who take over the body and memories at different times). Seo Jin is portrayed so far as the dominant, original personality, and here the drama goes beyond just the usual emotionally-detached-with-a-heart-of-gold trope; Seo Jin is selfish enough to push a helpless woman into danger to save himself and later, run away from another who is being attacked by a masked man. No Prince Charming in the form of a beast, this one, though I admit I was a little frustrated at how the drama didn’t clearly draw the distinction; it portrayed his actions as condemnable, but not inhumane or contemptible to the level they really were. There’s an interesting flashback toward the end of the second episode to some terrible trauma he suffered as a child – what appears to be a kidnapping – which, if so, explains his split personality but does not justify his cruelty or cowardice.

Regardless, said trauma gave rise to his second personality, Robin (undoubtedly a play on Robin Hood) who surfaces in times of high stress or tension (whenever Seo Jin’s heartrate goes over 150) and goes around selflessly saving and protecting others. He seems to have bizarrely superhero-level speed and strength (eyeroll), and is overall a fantastic chap, warm, engaging, and with a reckless sense of fun as he outwits his pursuers in episode two. I’d like to see more of this Hyun Bin, and it appears that next episode will largely consist of him. The transition between the two is overly accentuated as expected – Seo Jin grabs his neck, can’t breathe, and falls to his knees as dramatic music swells and time slows (every time). Hyun Bin and Han Ji Min have rock-solid chemistry – not the kind of sparkling, ‘you-MUST-be-dating-in-real-life’ chemistry that Park Shin Hye and Lee Jong Sook in Pinocchio or Cha Seung Won and Gong Hyo Jin in Best Love have, but still present and satisfying. The series really leaps into gear in the final fifteen minutes of episode two, as Ha Na has witnessed a kidnapping/possible murder and Seo Jin snaps into action to place her under protection and look out for her. He has his own selfish reasons, but it’s a very practical way to get the two into close proximity and force Seo Jin to act in romantic ways even if he barely knows how to care for someone. I’m eagerly looking for more of this, since Ha Min will be in danger until they catch this kidnapper, which could take half the series if not more.

Impossibly tall, dreamy Sung Joon, who’s a scene-stealer in every drama he’s in, is a psychiatric doctor and the series’ secondary male lead.

The pros: Hyun Bin/Han Ji Min chemistry, clever and potentially long-lasting cohabitation/protection tropes

Cons: Over-the-top treatment of Seo Jin’s disorder/personality transformations, bizarre conspiracy/vague threat that may or may not be played out well

Watch Hyde, Jekyll online

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