Look out for your hearts because this Korean drama will break them and let the pieces ache as crazy. “My Dearest” is MBC’s 2 part drama set in Joseon’s dynasty during the Qing invasion (Jan. 3, 1637 to Feb. 24, 1637). For 10 episodes of part 1, we will see horrendous times of invasion and its results, all that with the main lead trying and failing to be together. Hearts were broken, women and men died, and tons of tears were fallen but this masterpiece drama is worth every single tear. All that with the complicated love story between a noble Lady Gil Chae and a scoundrel-like man Jang Hyun playing out.
The drama is loosely based on the American book (and very popular old Hollywood movie) “Gone with the Wind”. While some plot points were borrowed, Koreans made the drama and characters original enough to stand out on their own. I read the book once and watched the movie a lot but it was a long time ago. However, in this review, I will refer to it to point out similarities and changes.
Read the rest only if you watched already or don’t mind spoilers.
Who’s the fairest lady in Joseon? It’s Lady Yoo Gil Chae!
Gil Chae starts off as an arrogant spoiled young lady that people of the village love and hate. She has a strong will and charms that could bewitch basically any man. She successfully uses her abilities to make every man like her which makes other noble ladies in the village envy her because it’s near impossible to compete with her.
But the invasion happened and Gil Chae’s character traits were perfect to make sure she and her companions survived. She becomes the leader of the small group of women, her friends and maids, alone against intruders wandering around and kidnapping women into slavery or worse. If it wasn’t for Gil Chae none of them survived.
Her bravery is astonishing, her quick sharp mind is admirable and she easily became one of my favorite sageuk’s ladies.
While I see similarities with Scarlett O’Hara from “Gone with the Winds” there are still more differences between the two. Both women are brave and witted, a bit naïve but have this marvelous mind that would pull her out of any situation.
However, I can’t say Scarlett matured enough as her story was going. She survived the war and the hunger but she still stayed an infantile woman. Calculated yes but still in a way infantile. She would use anyone and anything for her own goals.
Gil Chae on the other hand matured a lot. She shows more compassion for people around her and is much softer. When Scarlett murdered an intruder solder, she acted very cold and rude to Melanie, ordering her around. After all, Scarlett is very practical and doesn’t have time to hear whining. While Gil Chae in a similar situation gives Eun-Ae (My Dearest’s Melanie) comfort and confidence to move on past this encounter.
Scarlett understood who she loved very late and while they were apart, didn’t think much about him. While Gil Chae let go of her first love and understood her true feelings for Jang Hyun sooner.
They are two amazing characters played by great actresses brought to life in very different ways. The differences between the two characters give me hope that Gil Chae’s ending would be much better. In my opinion, Scarlett got what she deserved. Still love her.
Do you hear the sound of flowers?
Lee Jang Hyun is a man who loves luxury things and comes off as a pretentious prick but in reality, however, this is only a surface. While all Joseon men are loyal to the King and royal family, Jang Hyun is loyal to the people he chooses. Like an old married couple with whom he lived briefly. He didn’t care about men dying for the King, about an invasion, or anyone else, but he went on that war because of two people who showed him what pure love looks like. He’s insightful and he knows life, people, and how to make them tick. That made him a valuable ally during the war and everyone basically wanted him on their side.
Through the ten episodes of the show, we see a man masterfully playing games with everyone and winning thanks to his knowledge of human’s deepest flaws. But one time when he must stop playing and just listen, he fails and his love for Gil Chae fails too. He doesn’t change much through the hard path he chooses to walk and the only thing that changes is love. He denied the love for so long that he fell the hardest and now he’s suffering.
So is he the same as the famous Rett Battler? No, the changes in character are even more apparent here than with Gil Chae. Rett Battler enters the story without any ties and pretty much cares about himself. When Scarlett asks him for help he even refuses at first and abandons her basically alone (others weren’t much help at the time) because he felt a boost of patriotism. Jang Hyun is different, he isn’t a loner even if he tries to act like one. He has his loyal servant and his friend and singer Ryang Eum. He doesn’t feel patriotism, he goes on the vengeance trope after finding people he cared about dead. And lastly, Jang Hyun loves deeper and it hurts him more. Rett also loved Scarlett a lot and closed his eyes on many things but they were so unhappy together. The best thing he did for himself was leave her behind. Jang Hyun left in the end only because Gil Chae rejected him.
Right person – wrong time. Jang Hyun’s and Gil Chae’s love story
Made of the same cloth, Jang Hyun and Gil Chae are naturally drawn to each other. At first, Jang Hyun gets curious, seeing Gil Chae’s game and as the story progresses, he becomes obsessed with having her. He thinks he’s the only one who can handle her but the most beautiful thing in his love for her is his love of all her flaws. Others might accept them because they like her strong and beautiful traits but Jang Hyun is the one who loves everything in her.
They are truly perfect for each other, as the complete puzzle. This is why their love is so sad. Not only is circumstances are against them, but they both are their own biggest enemies. I see them and I want to scream at the screen: “Just talk and listen to each other properly!”. That’s so frustrating.
What is even more disappointing is viewers’ reactions to Gil Chae’s final decision. I feel like they got frustrated as Jang Hyun upon discovering her really getting married and misunderstood her character. He also couldn’t understand but I gave him slack because he didn’t know how she lived all this time. But viewers did! It’s natural she can’t leave her family behind that easily.
Gil Chae went through a lot and she kept Jang Hyun in her heart all this time. She refused to take that marriage proposal until she understood she needed help and that maybe moving on would be good for her. Until Jang Hyun came back she and her fiancé looked very comfortable together. Their relationship lacks love but has respect, so could be a success. Accusing Jang Hyun’s broken heart on Gil Chae while ignoring her own broken heart is so wrong. She did nothing wrong!
In the last episode of part one, they finally have a frank talk and understand where things go wrong. In a way, Jang Hyun feels her as no one else but he doesn’t know her as others do because he doesn’t know her longer. It’s truly tragic that his perception of her was correct but he didn’t know when he should have stopped teasing her for the sake of prolonging her interest. Things would be so different if he hadn’t left. He got offended so much that she told him the truth, it’s hard to forget your first love and she had it for years before him. If only he just listened to her dream instead of mistakenly thinking she just talked about shoes.
And this is the major difference with “Gone with the Wind”. Rett was interested in Scarlett but he also loved to watch her shenanigans and admired her wit. So Rett stayed when Jang Hyun left. Because Jang Hyun was so in love already it pained him to stay and watch her being with anyone else but him. Writers needed that separation to continue this heartbreaking story or it would have ended on ep 8 (would work for me, a good written mini-series >>> 20 episodes).
I don’t know how their story progresses, will he come back again to find her being a widow? Will they somehow find a way to be together? I hope so. I think the book ending won’t fit them at all, their story is completely different. I think they will be together briefly and then Jang Hyun will die (first scene of the show). But I can’t see Jang Hyun choosing to leave her behind because he got tired of her games. No, their love is sincere, and both aware of it. So I don’t see this ending for them.
The good friendship between Gil Chae and Eun Ae
The love story is good but if the heart is broken, a good friend is all everyone needs. And luckily for Gil Chae and Eun Ae, they have each other. I wanted to write a bit about their unique friendship because I find it interesting.
They seemed to be rivals as Gil Chae had been in love with Eun Ae’s fiancé for years but Eun Ae never minded that. It looked like she was just too kind and therefore didn’t see Gil Chae’s scheming around her fiancé. But in reality, she actually knows Gil Chae better than Gil Chae knows herself. She was the first to notice Gil Chae’s feelings for Jang Hyun and she trusted in their friendship. And as we saw, she was right about everything. Both women let fiancé Yeon-Joon and even if choose Gil Chae, I don’t think Eun Ae would hate Gil Chae for that. Just like Gil Chae, as hurt as she was, never hated Eun Ae.
Apart from love life, girls really supported each other through everything. I love a scene when Eun Ae sees Gil Chae all in soot from hard work and Gil Chae feels a bit embarrassed that she doesn’t look like a perfect lady. But Eun Ae joined her and was so touched by how much Gil Chae did for all of them.
I think their friendship is beautiful and even if a romantic plot won’t have a happy ending, I hope Gil Chae and Eun Ae would save their friendship and be near for each other.
The show comes back on October 13 with its usual Friday-Saturday slot. Let’s prepare tissues for the second part!