MBC Mon/Tue Drama “Kang Chi, the Beginning” – Episodes 23, 24
Kang-chi breaks up with Yeo-wul (Bae Suzy), afraid that she would die as Monk Sojung (Kim Hee-won) predicted, and Cho Gwan-woong (Lee Sung-jae), who is trying to kill Yi Sun-shin (Yoo Dong-geun), looks for an opportunity by kidnapping Yeo-wul. Kang-chi realizes his feelings for her after saving her, but she gets shot by a rifle that is accidentally pointed towards her during his standoff with Cho Gwan-woong. The two make their last memories, and Yeo-wul dies. Kang-chi gives up on becoming human and 422 years later, in modern day Korea, he meets with the reincarnated Yeo-wul.
It started with a long narrative. The vibe that the story of Koo Weol-ryeong (Choi Jin-hyuk) and Seo-hwa (Lee Yeon-hee) gave off was strongly reminiscent of the myth of Oedipus and if not mythical, definitely majestic enough to be more than a fable. The half-man half-man Kang-chi that appeared thereafter was qualified to be a hero and the show readied itself to unfold its ‘magnificent narrative’ by adding Yi Sun-shin, an actual figure from Korean history. It also almost perfectly prepared to tell its story by setting forth the conflict between a man of honor that represented the adult generation and the young generation that would open a new future. And because the production team had put in much effort to cast every character, it created a synergy effect that made “Kang Chi, the Beginning” seem quite hopeful in the beginning.
But midway, the show started to give away from the pressure and weight of its narrative, as if unable to digest the great ingredients it had prepared in order to tell its story. It reached the point where it could not handle the story it had greedily pursued by going as far as incorporating Yi Sun-shin. Tae-seo (Yoo Yeon-seok) and Chung-jo (Lee Yu-bi) became invisible due to the evil Cho Gwan-woong with his strong presence, and because of that, the reason that Kang-chi needed to become human faded as well. Because there were many good characters and actors, the show focused on telling the story behind each character, rather than on Kang-chi and his helpers. And when Koo Weol-ryeong and Ja Hong-myeong (Yoon Se-a) came back into the story, “Kang Chi, the Beginning” came close to becoming a drama about Koo Weol-ryeong, not Kang-chi. Luckily, when the show’s pressure reached at its peak, Koo Weol-ryeong and Ja Hong-myeong set the drama in the right direction and through this, the drama was able to narrow its field of vision to Kang-chi and Yeo-wul by telling of their romance. But in the process, the good stories that revolved around them had to be sacrificed.
However, the ultimate mistake that the drama made was that the ‘Koo family book,’ both the title to the show and with the greatest significance, disappeared (The direct translation of the drama’s title is ‘Koo Family Book’). While the drama moved forward, the book floated about serving no purpose or justification. The book lost presence to the point that the prophecies of Monk Sojung exercised more power. The book continued to get mentioned, probably because it was the drama’s title, but nobody was really interested in it. Kang-chi wanted to become a human being because of Yeo-wul and therefore, the earnestness he had was not felt as strongly by viewers. If his father Koo Weol-ryeong had longed for the book simply for ‘love,’ Kang-chi, who had lived half-human and amongst human beings, should have expanded on its significance. Of course, several of the show’s characters delivered it through the lines they said but they needed to be portrayed by Kang-chi himself to gain importance. Hence, it becomes questionable whether the drama had even intended on delivering its story properly. The show lost its way and crumbled because of the collapse of the book and from being busy decorating its branches that were already fancy enough. It is probably only natural that a forlornness is felt when trying to think of what it was that the drama was trying to say.
And proof of that forlornness was the nonsensical ending that incorporated ‘reincarnation.’ All that was left to the show was Kang-chi and Yeo-wul’s love so the drama used reincarnation as a means of bringing the two back together. And while it was at it, everybody was reincarnated, proving just how lax the story was. Kang-chi, who gave up on becoming a human being to see the reincarnated Yeo-wul, became a chairman with a Lamborghini 422 years later and the characters surrounding them came to existence only for providing ‘fun.’ Ultimately, the show went on its long journey merely to show how Kang-chi and the reincarnated Yeo-wul meet. Of course, if in the process, the show had guaranteed more probability, the reincarnation could have left an impression. But because the book that would have justified the drama disappeared, the sight of Kang-chi riding a Lamborghini was nothing more than nonsensical.
And what about the drama’s ability to leave behind just the last ten minutes and erase its memory of all that happened up till the beginning of episode 24? It almost seems amazing that it turned its long story into such fiction in an instant. And all that is left is the forlornness from having watched a story that turned out to be fake, like when in “The Matrix,” the world we live in turns out to be fake. Well, at least it has taught us the lesson that this is what happens to dramas that tries to tell stories it cannot handle.
- Yi Sun-hin is Morpheus, Monk Sojung the Oracle, Kang-chi is Neo, Yeo-wul is Trinity, and Cho Gwan-woong is Agent Smith… So is it time for us to pull out the tubes in the back of our necks?
- How come everyone but Chung-jo got reincarnated?
Reporter. Min Kyung-jin (TV Critic)
Translator. Jessica Kim