Despite the show being named after my most favorite book in the world, I could not bring myself to like Pride and Prejudice. Its complex storyline practically brought me to the breaking point of frustration. Between watching this and The King’s Face, I’m liking The King’s Face more for story development.
It’s a pretty complicated story that started out with a pretty simple premise: newbie prosecutor Han Yeol Moo (Baek Jin Hee, in a more proactive role than in Triangle) is trying to find out who kidnapped and killed her little brother so many years ago. She finds herself crossing paths with ace prosecutor Koo Dong Chi (Choi Jin Hyuk), whom she had sort-of-not-really dated briefly prior to her getting a job in his department. Dong Chi was actively interested in her, and just when she was about to be interested in him back she discovers that he holds a vital clue to her brother’s death. Naturally she thinks he’s the killer.
It becomes even more complex when it turns out that there’s this whole conspiracy among the rich and powerful in government, and that Yeol Moo’s little brother – by sheer circumstance – got involved in the whole thing. There’s also a minor case of mistaken identity when for a moment it seemed possible that Dong Chi’s investigator, Kang Soo (Lee Tae Hwan of 5urprise) was actually Yeol Moo’s little brother. (That bit was probably the only thing that got me really excited for the next episode for a couple of weeks.) It also doesn’t help that the department’s chief Moon Hee Man (Choi Min Soo) has such dubious motives and an accent that’s difficult to comprehend (and a bit unnecessary I feel for the character). He would act in ways that didn’t seem to outwardly help his team’s cases; for example he’d keep asking them to turn over their key witness to him, which would mean turning their key witness over to the very people who want her dead. But was he really going to betray her or not? You almost wanted to scream, “Stop purposely misleading each other and just try to trust each other!” But because Moon Hee Man can’t work well with his team, Dong Chi and team end up digging themselves into a deeper hole.
What really brought this series down for me was that its plot became too convoluted for its own good. Red herrings were thrown all over the place; names and scenarios kept popping up and disappearing, only to reappear a few episodes later. Cases were mentioned and then dropped, and some never quite seemed to be resolved. And then there had to be an additional twist that Dong Chi and his father were involved with the kidnapper’s death, which I felt was completely unnecessary even if the kidnapper was somehow involved in another, earlier case. The fact that Dong Chi, Yeol Moo, and Lee Jang Won’s (Choi Woo Shik) cases had to be connected somehow to prove the existence of a ‘Big Bad’ was a bit plodding, even if it did underline how widespread the corruption was in the legal system. What was also pretty disappointing was the poor execution of the storyline, where the lawyers themselves didn’t even have the vaguest idea of what was going on, and there wasn’t one defined character who seemed to be able to pull the audience through along with them and explain things in a clear manner consistently.
The final episode decided to take place almost solely in a court room, and the criminal was only caught at the last second by sheer luck that Moon Hee Man’s team was finally able to locate a recording that had been deemed lost in earlier episodes. Because it happened at the last minute, it didn’t feel like a satisfying pay-off after all the tension and build-up in the prior episodes. The conclusion for a lot of the characters was left pretty vague, but the vaguest – and the one I liked the most of all – was Moon Hee Man’s fate. It was a fate that sort of had to happen, and yet it was the most clearly defined one without even showing you anything that happened. (Highlight this line for spoiler: It is suggested that he ends up getting killed by the powerful men he took down in court.)
I think the confusion extended to even in Korea, where in the beginning it led the ratings race against the other dramas airing in its time slot, but by the end of the series it lagged far behind. I would venture to guess that the confusing plot and poor execution led to its decline from decent double-digit ratings to single-digits. I don’t think bad acting was completely at fault here, as everyone was pretty good – notably Lee Tae Hwan. (New idol actor alert!) But the script and the direction was certainly lacking in some levels, with awkward edits, abrupt scenes, and far too confusing storytelling with even more confused characters.
Verdict: 4.5/10 – far too disappointing than it had to be, really.