Secret Garden: A Review

The end is here!!!!! And it’s not even 2012 yet.

Let me preface the review with this: I loved City Hall. I also liked the ending to City Hall.

I think you all should know where I’m going with this…

Simply put, the ending made me giddy and happy – and it was a two-punch ending I tell ya. Episode 19 and 20 are like two halves of a whole, when usually the last episode really is the ending and episode 19 is left for last minute misunderstandings and hijinks. Wait, that did happen – but it didn’t feel like it.

Even if we were stuck with 21-year old Joo Won, I think it still would have ended the same; Joo Won and Ra Im would have had their happily ever after. Him getting his memory back was a bonus for me, and also a chance to understand what happened in the elevator accident (more on that later). I think I would have been perfectly fine watching cheeky Joo Won try and figure out what he loved so much about Ra Im. It would have been open-ended and given me a lot of things to think about. While I would have been disappointed initially, I think I would have accepted it.

But he got his memory back, as all K-drama heroes do. So that floats my boat. On top of that, we had a full episode to wallow in the future. (The time jump was perfectly acceptable, since the entire episode was already slowing down and wrapping things up.) How often does that happen? I mean, a wedding in the first ten minutes? Wow. At times slow, episode 20 really tied everything up in a neat bow, and I really enjoyed that because it’s not one of the rushed, tacked-on endings that give all the characters five seconds to finish their storyline. You really get a full sense of satisfaction… and then the feeling of wanting to press the fast-forward button because it’s a little slow. (To me, that just says, they were maximizing the little scenes they had because they couldn’t shoot additional scenes or footage to fill in the extra minutes.)

As for ending on the past, that’s exactly how the Kim Eun Sook ended City Hall. And I liked it the first time around because it was a bit new; these people were really fated to be together without the “love at first sight” meeting. It was accidental but fated. The second time around, it was OK. Still nice, still sweet, but not as new. Nevertheless I liked it; to me, Joo Won’s cowardice is what eventually brings them together. His inability to pass on the message is what connects them for the rest of their lives.

Now about the magic… I had read some rumors about the so-called “disease” that would take Ra Im’s life, and that a stunt accident was what would kill her. Therefore, the magic was supposed to be a way to prevent her from getting into that accident. That theory works and is nice, but once the two manage to wake up from their respective comas and switch back to original selves the theory breaks apart. It becomes ridiculous, because then people would ask, “Well why didn’t the father just bring her back from the dead instead of going through the whole shenanigans of switching souls?”

I never thought of it that way (until I was forced to because of the story). I always thought the reason why Ra Im and Joo Won switched bodies was because the father was trying to bring them closer together. These two people hated each other. They were also the two people important in the father’s life. These two people were complete opposites. They were also the two people who could change each other. Joo Won could help save Ra Im, but the father also said at the mystery restaurant that his daughter was fated to die. He was going to try and save her, but he knew that she was going to die. Joo Won not attending the audition on her behalf wasn’t going to save her. His love for her was going to save her. I think the act of saving is supposed to be selfless and self-sacrificing. That’s what Ra I’m father did for Joo Won, and he hoped Joo Won would do the same. Joo Won’s realization that he wanted to save Ra Im, even at his own expense, was what saved her – not the missed audition.

If her missing the audition was the end all-be all, then 1) the dream with the father appearing before them would have happened sooner, like say when Joo Won was unconscious after passing out in the elevator, 2) the drama should have ended at episode 16 or 18, and 3) Joo Won would not have arranged for a last minute audition with the director.

However, all of these things happened/did not happen, so there has to be some reason to why we had additional episodes. And don’t say it was because of its stellar ratings; the story was still tightly plotted near the end (I think it lost more focus around episodes 11-14). I think it was more important that Joo Won reach the point of wanting to sacrifice himself for another, and that was probably the lesson Ra Im’s father wanted him to learn. Right after the accident, he became a cold, arrogant, selfish bastard who thought of himself so highly. But he’s human, and he could have died just as well.

So, I can defend the purpose of the magic. But if we look at the way it was handled and resolved, it was very deus-ex-machina. I felt it was more of a resolution on how to stop them from ever switching again, rather than a resolution on how to save Ra Im. Kinda out of nowhere, and I definitely did have a “what the eff” moment. But I glided right on by… I guess I have a high tolerance of what I can accept in K-drama world once I become invested.

Now on to the little things:


  • In my opinion, Hyun Bin gets better with every drama, and he becomes more and more natural in his acting. He is also never exactly the same character, so props to him. His acting in the elevator scene was heartbreaking. So, so very heartbreaking. I really wished the father would let himself be saved, and I hated having to see the elevator blow up down the shaft. So not cool, Drama. I think that scene was one of the most touching and painful scenes I ever had to watch; though I wanted the misery to end I also hated it when the show cut back to Ra Im crying in her home.
  • Seul – when the hell did she become so awesome!? I know she was the girl you were supposed to hate, but after episode 5 I couldn’t really hate her. I was trying to decide whether to hate her or love her, but I ended up liking her, and then loving her. She’s too cool, and she was never the jealous bitch or competitor for Joo Won’s heart. She was the fourth wheel without ever being the cliched K-drama fourth wheel. Kim Sa Rang played her awesomely, and I think she was better than Honey Lee, if we compare Miss Koreas.

  • The kids’ posters hanging above the bed? SO CUTE. I wanna do that for my kids – as long as they don’t get a big head about it. (The photos also looked like their audition head shots.) What I love about that bedtime scene is that the kids have the big, fancy gilded bed – not the parents. I also loved that the kids are so cheeky, and the parents are smart-asses right back. No apologies – they’re not “cute baby kids” – they’re treated like mini-adults, and it’s probably because Joo Won and Ra Im know their kids are devils inside. Mwahaha.

  • I wish more was done with Tae Sun. In the end, we didn’t get to see him bossing Oska around much – although whatever little that did happen was priceless. I mean really, I loved him telling off Oska that he sucked and to do it again.

  • Fave scene: when Joo Won and Ra Im sign the marriage registration form with matching hearts, and Oska has the look of “You have GOT to be kidding me.” He signs his as an autograph and the two of them give him the look of “You have GOT to be kidding me.” Joo Won tells Ra Im she can “kyaa” now. She KYAAAS! Oska turns on his heel in embarrassment, his shoes going SQUEEEEEAAAAK.

You have no idea how long I laughed over these two minutes. It may be dumb for some, but I do laugh at the dumbest things…

  • The editing for episode 19 when Joo Won regains his memory is awesome. I wanna learn how to do fast cutting like that.

Javabeans said this in her final recap review:

Ra-im was a shell of a character, never given much development or complexity; the writer chose to pour all her energies into Joo-won, at Ra-im’s expense.

Hm – interesting because it happened also in City HallCha Seung Won was given greater depth than Kim Sun Ah, who had all of the problems but all of the tears. Her angst was more of “What do I do!?” whereas Cha’s angst was “What do I do!? I’m hurting the woman I love to further my own purposes! Plus I have daddy issues!” Guess who has more complexity?

I loved this drama. I’m not going to say it was the best drama ever, because it’s not. But it was awesome, and it has been a while since I watched a drama as it was coming out in Korea AND loved it. What really did it for me was the dialogue, and the cast. And I don’t care how many anti’s and boos I get for saying this but: Hyun Bin, ditch Song Hye Gyo – you got more chemistry with Ha Ji Won.

Rating: 8.5/10 – minus 1 point for the magic, and minus .5 for being draggy at certain times during the entire drama (I mean mainly eps 11-12, and parts of 20).


7 thoughts on “Secret Garden: A Review

  1. Oh wow.

    We totally disagree on this one, which is perfectly fine with me! Varying opinions are what makes drama-watching so much fun! I shall be posting my thoughts on SG sometime later this month. But I definitely rated SG lower than you did…hahaha. Go figure.

  2. I loved the ending of episode 19 so much, I almost cried and cheered at the same time watching it. Seriously, everything Joo-won did was just perfect, from his edited ending to the Little Mermaid, to that being what gave him his memory back, to the editing of the flashbacks showing us him getting his memory back, to the totally awesome yet still respectful way he told his mom off…all of it was great. And it was so nice that once everyone’s minds were made up, there was no more jerking us around just for the heck of it – we got to watch them being happy. I always enjoy getting to see the payoff to all the ANGST UND PEIN, but far too often (IMHO) they don’t end up happy and together until the last five minutes, and then poof! instant happy and everyone holds hands and sings songs of joy. I like that they were happy and had kids, but I also liked that Joo-won’s mom didn’t suddenly give in and become Happy Loving Mom just for kicks. All in all, I have to say that I thought the very beginning and the very end of this drama were the best.

  3. HI Kaedejun! 🙂

    total enjoyed your review, and I’ll probably score it about the same give or take some .75 of a point..
    annnd… just so you know I’m with you on team Binnie & Jiwon for reallz! I adore Song Hye Gyo , together with Binnie they are Oh.So.Pretty, but Binnie and Jiwon… whoa all that sizzle! thats one Sexy ass Couple! Jang Dong Gun – Go So Young who? Kwon Sang Woo – Son Tae Young..pffft I’m all for the Sparkly Tracksuit couple yo!… ok thats enough shallow rant.. ;p

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