Friday, May 13, 2016

Kdrama Factor: Heaven's Garden

I suppose this post is somewhat aligned with my recent take of Kevin Kwan’s second novel, China Rich Girlfriend.  Anyway, I wanted to continue writing about my current Kdrama delights.  Mostly because I took some time from watching so many dramas back to back.  And recently refreshed my viewing taste with something new to spoon 'n' sip nightly before bed.
I watch Kdramas between Hulu and Netflix–via the PS4.  Me watching dramas on the computer feels like my eyes are being cooked ten minutes into my attempts.  Nonetheless, I prefer Hulu as my main source.  Mostly because they update with new shows and episodes weekly.  Whereas Netflix gets shows all in one serialized lump a while later.  However, Netflix has ad-free benefits.  Which works for me sometimes, despite it having a smaller library of titles.  Nevertheless, Hulu recently had a ton of Kdramas (and sadly the Japanese dramas as well) streaming licenses expire.  So their library recently switched around and is now kind of pitiful compared to those glory years where I lay absorbed in all they had available.  Even most of my favorite dramas were extracted from the roster.  And some future viewing prospects simply vanished from my Watchlist que.  
Slowly, a few older and recent dramas trickled in as replacements, but no one can ignore that blunt gap left in Hulu’s catalog.  I looked at it one day, and the once seemingly endless scroll of titles was marginalized to a quarter's worth of remnants.  Yet, out of the process, here is one survivor I consider my latest obsessions.  
I should go ahead and disclaimer how this post is probably geared toward those who’re familiar with this genre of entertainment.  You know, Asian-centric melodrama to the ninth degree.  So if the story sound hooky, it’s the norm.  Although I honestly think this drama lean more toward a conceivably, realistic batch of scenarios.  (Except for the grandmother who was spirited away.)

2011-2012 30-episode drama, Heaven’s Garden has had me hooked night after night.  And to think when I first took it on two years ago, I couldn’t get past twenty minutes of the first episode.  I guess with thirty episodes it just wasn’t the time to invest, but I’ve since kept it on reserve.  Now I’m about ten episodes from the end, and have completely stalled myself from going forward.  You know how it is when you don’t want some to end?
Anyway, with its ensemble cast, Heaven’s Garden follows a woman named Jung Jae-In.  Her story also branches into her father, and two daughters (one a step-child).  Jae-In opens the drama split from her husband.  He is incarnated after his business went bankrupted, with many shady dealings to boot.  Meanwhile Jae-In, with two girls to raise, is left to her own resources as she awaits his release.  With the walls closing in, Jae-In shuttles her daughters to her father’s countryside home.  The place is deep in the mountains of Gangwon-do and out of Seoul.  The problem is Jae-In and her father don't have a good relationship, which worsens with her springing her problems his way.  Fact is, she harbors resentment from his lack of emotional bonding during her childhood.  It's resentment made increasingly sour when he opposed her marriage.  Upon her ceremony, he never even showed.  

According to Jae-In's father, he long sensed her husband was the fraud he’s proven to be.  Furthermore, her father also held a skewed view about why his daughter married a man who already had child from a previous marriage.  (I think he’s old fashion like that.)  Nonetheless, if Jae-In's father can do anything for her, he can take care of her two daughters before she's back on her feet.  Which would include resolving some issues with re-building her marriage, and raising bail money.
Eventually Jae-In manages to pull off her husband's bail successfully.  Even at the cost of selling her wedding ring.
Back in Seoul, Jae-In awaits the release of her husband.  But the second he steps out of prison he climbs into a car with another lady, leaving Jae-In dazed and pissed.  Later she calls and confronts him.  His argument is that the woman is a business associate.
Meanwhile, back in the countryside, Jae-In’s daughters and father aren't getting along.  At all.  Both groups can't seem to adapt to their new living arrangement, and Jae-In’s father has a particular disinterest in her step-daughter.  So much so that she runs away with her younger sister chasing behind her.  And it's the younger sister who slips down into a ravine and goes missing during the chase.

It takes one phone call for Jae-In to pick herself out of her depression and race back to Gangwon-do to find her child.  A child who is later discovered under the care of a neighbor and his son.  Unable to separate herself from her children any longer, Jae-In settles in with her father and daughters to figure out her next move. But unknown to her, she has a reputation within the mountain community.  A reputation that brings her a stream of hostility from her neighbors, who wants her out.  And so, the drama commences.
While Jae-In’s story is the show’s focus, further story threads run through the supporting cast.  So there’s always something going on in this micro community of villagers–mostly picking up scene after scene.  The show is funny, charming, and varies with subject-tackling.  And by "subject-tackling" I mean conversations on adoption and abandonment underneath the cultural context of Korea.  There's also a suicidal character who escaped from North Korea, and receives some surprising (at least to me) prejudices from several villagers in the wake of her truth.  Mental illness and Alzheimer took the front on occasions as well.  But on a lighter note, first love, forgiveness, and reliving our youth always helped balanced the show's mood.

Ultimately, Heaven's Garden had the right touch of melodrama and poignant moments driven by some selling acting.  Matter-of-fact, during the times I wasn't watching, I felt part of the village when thinking about what will happen next.  Plus, the little kids filling the cast are always heart-warming to watch.  Especially when they band together to help the adults with their problems.  (Each time a child actor delivered a tearfully emotional scene, I cried alongside.)  Likewise, on the elderly spectrum, I couldn't help but feel warmly toward them as well.  So every single character–I mean every one of them–has a story line I’ve invested myself in.  No character is a simple facilitator of another’s arc.
But if all else just simply fails to generate any interest, actor Hyun Woo-Sung is in it.  BAM!  You couldn’t beat that shit even if you tried.  And that's, ladies and gentlemen, me signing out.
(Sad news.  A couple of days after I drafted this post, I noticed Hulu’s license to stream this show expired on me in the dead of night.  So there’s no telling when I’ll ever get to see the last ten episodes.  Talk about a nasty and childish coincidence.)

See you in the next post where I talk about the Kdrama, Incomplete Life.
If you missed my Kdrama Factor post from a couple of years ago, HERE YA GO!
Do you watch Kdramas?  What's your source and favorite show?  Drop your comments below!

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