Giant (2010): Mid-Point Review

Let’s start this review off with a bold proclamation. After watching the first 24 episodes, I am unequivocally in love with Giant. With that said, I shall attempt to justify my sentiment with a semblance of reason and logic (but if you look at that kiss above, I think it says enough by itself).

The year 2010 has whizzed right by us. Already August has arrived, and our drama consumption has passed the halfway mark. I’ve watched less than a quarter of the K-dramas which aired this year, but through the grapevine have heard chatter here and there about the ones I’ve not watched.

Life is too short, and I am too busy. I watch only what appeals to me, even if something is genuinely stellar. For instance, I’m not planning to pick up Comrades (anytime soon) because war productions are really so hard for me to enjoy. But I’ve been told it’s likely the best drama this year.

Along the same vein, when I give a recommendation for a drama, it’s really to extol its virtues rather than as a push for everyone to watch it. Some genres and subject matters are just not going to be your cup of tea, and I totally get that.

Whatever I say in this review about Giant, take it for what it’s worth – the rabid fangirling of a crazed koala who loves sprawling period epics, and has just discovered her koala-nip.

A PRELUDE TO A DRAMA

I just spent the last few days marathoning a drama that about hit the mid-point in its scheduled run (it just aired episode 24 out of 50). Yes, I’ve been on a warpath consuming episode after episode of Giant, a drama about a man climbing to the top of a heap of power players building up Korean infrastructure in the 70s and 80s, while exacting revenge on the people responsible for his and his family’s tragic plight.

I hesitated to start watching it when it began airing, after being burned watching East of Eden. Then Thundie amusingly shared some snippets of its rather heavy-handed first few episodes, and I hesitated further. Recently word came to me that Giant was getting better and better, and was really firing on all cylinders (so says Thundie!). I made a vow that I was going to catch up before the episode count grew too unwieldy for me to marathon without fear of my eyeballs falling out from fatigue.

Giant has been steadily climbing in ratings, premiering in the high single digit, and as of episode 24, passing the 20 percent mark. That is one empirical indicator that this is not a drama carried by initial popularity and coasting on inertia. It started off slow and under-the-radar, building viewership by using good writing, acting, and execution to convince more viewers to climb on board week after week. With that said, let’s dig into that Giant steak, shall we?

Are you ready to enter the world of Giant?

Giant has already become my favorite K-drama so far in 2010, and barring the complete and utter collapse of its writing in the second half, likely may stay there. Of course, I find 2010 rather lean in great drama offerings, so take my praise of Giant for what it’s worth.

I have no clue how Giant will stack up overall against all other K-dramas, primarily because it’s not done airing yet, and because I haven’t thought so far ahead. But what I have seen is so good, I decided on impulse to write a mid-point review, which I’ve never attempted before.

The two reasons being: (1) it’s a 50 episode drama, and writing a review after it’s done airing might simply sap all my emotional energy, and (2) it’s a 50 episode drama, and I’m hoping that by writing a review now, it may encourage folks who find this genre and subject matter interesting to check it out.

This is not a review as much as I am going to perform inception on you (did I just contradict what I said above about not trying to convince you to watch dramas I review – yes, I sure did, and please accept this as an exception to the golden koala rule).

I am warning you in advance that my goal is to plant a kernel in your head that Giant simply begs to be watched. But I will do so in a way that you will think that you willingly made the decision to watch it. Can I do it? Well, ockoala shares three letters in common with Dom Cobb – in short, I shall try my utmost to succeed.

Bad luck – it sure does suck

For those of you wondering how Giant starts off (and it starts off with so much ill tidings raining down on our hapless protagonists they need a Giant umbrella – har har, pardon the pun), please read Thundie’s first-impressions recap of the first four episodes.

Have you done that? Good, now promptly erase it from your mind. Because while I agree 100% with every word Thundie wrote, the fact that the drama starts off beating us silly with tragedy doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Giant is a 50 episode epic, and with that comes certain requirements that simply must exist in order for the drama to work. How can you make a soufflé if you don’t first make a mess of whisking all the egg whites? After the soufflé comes out of the oven, are you going to begrudge the messy start of this exquisite dessert? I think not.

Like all sweeping period epics, Giant invariably starts with enough pathos, agony, and tragedy to fell five hundred thirteenth century conquering Mongolians. Yes, it’s just a tad over the edge of possibility that so much misfortune can befall each member of the simple hardworking Lee family. But it’s a necessary evil plot requirement, so we accept the bitter (overwrought plot confluences) with the sweet (shockingly touching moments).

I am a very impatient drama watcher/book reader. I almost universally hate set up. I like the meaty parts and I like getting to it as fast as possible. I have even committed the cardinal sin of reading the ending of books then backtracking (I know, I know, sacrilege). Hence, I almost always power through the obligatory period epic/sageuk childhood portions. Giant is no exception.

The childhood portion in Giant actually extends beyond the end of episode 4, which Thundie’s review concluded at, and continues until episode 8. I would have preferred an even shorter portion, but what was written was all presented wonderfully. Let me refresh the set up for you.

Be forewarned that the brainwashing from this point on will be dense with spoilers. I do so because I doubt most of you will watch Giant, but many of you would probably like to hear what happens in this drama (I’m speaking from personal experience when I read something out of curiosity, which is what I’m sure 99.9% of you are doing right now).

An initial bucket of tragedy, with a second sucker punch, and third dish of sorrow

Our main protagonists, the Lees, are a hardworking family consisting of Daddy, Mommy, older brother Seongmo, middle brother Gangmo, little sister Miju, and a newly born infant brother. Dad buys a piece of land, and then is killed when he’s inadvertently embroiled in a smuggling scheme. The two men who masterminded said scheme are responsible for his death (one pulling the trigger, the other a willing passive participant).

A flurry of events are thus triggered by the death of Daddy Lee. Namely: the death of Mommy Lee, the splitting up of the three older children, and the adoption of the just born baby. Daddy Lee’s two killers are Hwang Taeseop, the owner of Manbo Construction (hereby calling him Chairman Hwang), and Jo Pilyeon, a director in the Korean Central Intelligence Service (hereby calling him Director Jo).

Big brother Seongmo witnessed his daddy’s murder (poor traumatized boy), and recognizes the identity of his daddy’s killers. He willingly enters the lion’s den as the surrogate son and protégé of Director Jo, growing up to become an agent of the Service, laying in wait to exact his vengeance on that man, and on Chairman Hwang.

Middle brother Gangmo knows not who is responsible for his family’s tragedy, and is taken in by Chairman Hwang to be raised as a surrogate son, growing up to become his right hand man (and compared to his own useless son, the son he wished he had). This makes sense because Chairman Hwang was actually Daddy Lee’s friend (which makes his complicity in the murder all that more horrifying), and he harbors guilt over his role in Daddy Lee’s murder.

Little sister Miju is also separated from her brothers and is sent to an orphanage. She later comes to Seoul looking to find her siblings and pursue her dream of becoming a singer. Once everybody grows up, we’re off to the races. We have our villains, our heroes, and let’s not forget, our sizzling OTP.

Middle brother Gangmo, the leading character in this drama, gets involved in a love triangle with Hwang Jeongyeon, daughter of his surrogate daddy Chairman Hwang, and Jo Minwoo, the son of Director Jo. Oh, what a tangled web of love we weave. So what happens beyond this arguably conventional set up? Let’s dig a little deeper into the drama, shall we?

LEVEL 1 – A DRAMA WHERE YOU THINK YOU’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE

Once you start watching Giant, immediately a feeling of eerie familiarity sets in. Snippets here and there, of tone, of structure, of mood, of plot, of the little things that work so stirringly in a drama to make you sit up and take notice. What are those elements?

1. You have the mortal enemies – two people who have spent what must be their entire working lives at odds with each other. The stakes are high and the consequences of failure even higher.

2. You have a delightful large lower working class family about to be stricken by tragedy. Oh, the little moments of delight before the axe of fate falls on them.

3. You have siblings turned into orphans, who are then individually separated from each other. Until the word orphan becomes synonymous for a child forced to grow up overnight.

4. You have two men who, through avarice and cowardice, cause a man’s death, cover it up, and profit from the crime.

5. One of the men will seek money through governmental power, raising his only son to be just as efficient, ruthless, and calculating as he is.

6. The other man will seek power through making money by building up Korea, taking along his shrill wife, their useless and spineless son, and his proud, intelligent and illegitimate daughter.

7. The powerful man will raise the eldest orphaned sibling as a surrogate son, installing him in positions of governmental power without realizing that boy is coolly plotting his revenge, waiting to pounce on the men he knows caused his father’s death.

8. The rich man will raise the second eldest orphaned sibling as a surrogate son turned right hand man, because the rich man was the friend of the deceased father and is trying to make amends to the dead man’s son that he found.

9. The youngest daughter will find herself in an orphanage growing up, traveling to Seoul as early as she’s able to run away, to find her older brothers, dreaming all the while of becoming a singer.

10. We will have our agasshi and her bodyguard love story, the type of love that grows from childhood to adulthood, from a lifetime of love knowing the differences in social positions for our hero and our heroine.

11. We will have brother unwittingly pitted against brother, because they do not recognize each other, with one brother pulling the trigger on the other.

12. Our long-lost siblings will have one heart wrenching reunion after another, until they have reunited one by one.

13. Our heroine will find herself in an unwanted engagement, sold for her father’s company, to the son of the powerful man.

14. Our hero will find himself framed for a murder he did not commit, forced to go on the lam.

15. Our heroine will track down our hero, convincing him that she will give up everything to be with him.

16. Our hero will discover that the man he thought was a surrogate father actually caused his real father’s death, that the man’s spineless son is framing him, and that he is in love with the daughter of his father’s killer.

17. Our hero will be willingly incarcerated in exchange for a piece of land, selling his freedom for the opportunity to strike back at the rich man and the powerful man, giving up the heroine and convincing himself using every reason in the world they can’t be together.

18. Our hero will survive assassinations, and finally be declared dead so that he can return to the world with a new identity.

19. Our heroine will find out that her step-mother and her craven half-brother caused hero’s supposed death, and she vows revenge on her own family.

20. The youngest sister will meet the son of the powerful man, and they will find themselves unwittingly attracted to each other, unaware of what each other’s real connections mean in the bigger picture of fate.

21. Our hero comes back to the world of the rich man and the powerful man, pretending to be another person, as the two brothers unite to right the wrongs wrought upon their innocent family.

For an avid watcher of dramas across various countries, each of the above plot points have been presented to me at one time or another, sometimes multiple elements appearing in the same drama. For better or worse, sheer originality of idea is not Giant’s claim to fame, nor does it aspire to alter our perceptions of epics or upend the genre as a whole.

What Giant strives to do is take a period epic, construct it with attention to detail and a deft genre-appropriate touch, and present the end result as something a creation all its own. It may take the period genre to a new level by the time it’s done, but it’s already proven that it’s so far succeeded where few other K-dramas have treaded and most have failed. Now that you know what’s happened so far, let’s dig even deeper, shall we, and see how it unfurls.

LEVEL 2 – THE SET UP IN A DRAMA IS THE FOUNDATION FOR A ROCK SOLID STRUCTURE

If all the elements in a drama seem vaguely familiar and used before, what distinguishes it from feeling stale and smelly musty? That is where a master scriptwriter must come in and say: “I will give you what you want, because that is what has proven to work and will make you happy, but I will do so in an intelligent and logical way.”

Giant is constructed solidly, like a castle built from the ground up instead of conceptualized from the top down. Take a drama like Bad Guy for instance – watching it makes me feel like someone had a great idea, and then wrote a script around it, akin to trying to shove a too-large foot into a too-small shoe.

Giant is structured in little chunks, appearing to be written piece-by-piece, integrated so that characters are fully fleshed out over episodes and the plot unfurling at a steady pace. While I’ve already laid out the major plot points of Giant, none of what happens feels false or stretches credulity (other than accepting at face value the over-arching concept of fate entwining three families lives together).

When we embrace the premise, the story flows with thought and rational care, allowing us to enter into the world of an era decades past and feel connected with the characters. This is extremely hard to do, so let’s see how Giant does it. [Btw, for those of you who’ve read Serendipity’s side-splitting recap of Episode 2 of Road #1, some of my sub-section headers are going to seem exceedingly familiar].

Build the emotion (aka shove milk the maudlin up the behind of the nearest hack scriptwriter)

It’s not my impatience speaking when I say I really couldn’t wait for the childhood sequence to be over and one with. After I started watching K-dramas, I’ve come to realize that Korea isn’t just the land of soap operas, it’s also the land of child actors. I have yet to see an excruciating child actor performance in any drama (I’m talking about Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace level of bad). The child actors are either mind-blowingly good, or simply quite all right.

All of the child actors in Giant were collectively excellent (some better than others, of course – I’m talking about you, Park Ha Young, who plays little Miju and Kim Soo Hyun playing the young Seongmo), so that has nothing to do with my haste to finish the set up portion of Giant. What spurred my lack of interest in the extremely well-acted earlier episodes of the drama was the initial dose of heavy-handed writing.

I concede all of it was necessary, nay, absolutely essential, in setting up the intersecting lives of the main characters and the inter-weaving storylines of the main three families. But that doesn’t mean I have to fawn over it. I find the suffusion of coincidences, bad luck, and fate all fine in dandy in epic tales, but it still causes a niggling sensation in my brain and my heart – a feeling like I’m being led along like a puppy to my chow.

But Giant takes the initial heavy dose of sadness and then pulls back completely in the early adult sections so that everyone’s lives move on with the specter of their heavy baggage hanging over them. The adult Lee siblings live, laugh, cry, love and lose (all in the first 24 episodes), and we extol in the moments where the release is well-earned.

The emotional fraught scenes are judiciously sprinkled through the plot machinations of the antagonists and the corresponding response of the protagonists. Because we get to experience their plight, we are swept into feeling natural hatred for the villains and natural empathy and a strong protective streak for our Lee siblings, especially for unwitting Romeo Gangmo and his feisty Juliet Jeongyeon.

Logic is not for losers

Giant’s tableau of love and revenge set against Korean infrastructural development unfolds where every plot development naturally follows the preceding one. I did not once go “WTF just happened?” I also rarely if ever thought what happened was too excessively dramatic even within the world of Giant.

Now that is a feat of writing wonder, especially in this day and age where a man can sense his fiancée kissing another guy and teleport from the middle of a war zone to interrupt the make out session, or a bad guy’s idea of revenge is basically macking on all the girls in the family which wronged him.

In Giant, Daddy Lee gets killed because he stood between two greedy men and their lust for money and/or power. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and wanted to do the right thing.

The elder villains of our tale, Chairman Hwang and Director Jo, commit the understandable and unforgiveable sin of trying to make money the easy way. They then continue to compound their bad choices one after another in rational yet immoral ways, forever bound by this single act of horrific violence.

Both of them end up taking in one of the sons of the man they killed. For Chairman Hwang this is especially ironic because he was Daddy Lee’s friend and genuinely wants to take care of the son of the friend he played in role in getting killed. The Hwang family is less tragic but more dysfunctional. Chairman Hwang has a privileged and useless son with his wife, and sired an illegitimate daughter with another woman, a lounge singer.

His wife torments the daughter she did not bear, who reminds her of her husband’s infidelity and represents a threat to her son inheriting Manbo Construction. The illegitimate daughter, Jeongyeon, grows up defiant and stubborn, refusing to cow before her step-mother and allow her spirit to be broken. She also grows up alongside her best friend and ally, Gangmo, a kid who went from a family of six to an orphan pretty much overnight.

How each of the characters grow and change is a series of rational choices within the framework of heightened moments. I kept getting the sense that (1) while my ordinary life would never require me to stand in front of a critical juncture between choosing love or revenge, money or morality, honesty or power, (2) nonetheless these dramatic characters make choices I could see makes sense for them when faced with that dilemma.

Giant shows that you can make a drama imbued with a sense of grandeur and scale, without sacrificing logic, reasoning, and common sense. For example, in a scene when Jeongyeon collapses from shock, it’s because she has already been so battered by a series of tragic events that hearing about utterly reprehensible act committed on the man she loves pushes her weakened body just over the edge.

It’s a scene fit for television, but we buy the reason for that to happen. Then the aftermath unfurls in a matter-of-fact and progressive way, clearing the path for the next great twist to follow.

Similarly, all the machinations so far, whether for monetary or political gain, are well thought through and carefully plotted. Kudos to Agent Jo and Chairman Hwang for having a brain and using it, albeit for nefarious and self-serving purposes. It drives me bonkers when the villains are so dumb I want to think for them.

And when a character does things which defy logic, such as every single behavior on the part of cowardly Hwang Jeongshik (son of Chairman Hwang), it make sense within the world of Giant because his character is in fact a complete and utter tool, devoid of a semblance of intelligence or a shred of moral center.

I like that smart characters do smart things, and dumb characters do dumb things – and everyone acknowledges that.

Everything can in fact be subtle within context (nothing too obvious lives over at Road #1, nothing to see here)

Once the childhood portion ends, the drama writing smoothes out considerably, allowing the adult characters room to breathe and the story to flow with finesse. Giant is a drama that knows it has 50 episodes to share a story, and absolutely understands how to pace itself. It neither delays emotional pay-offs (such as the myriad sibling reunions and some pent up OTP goodness), nor does it forget to allow us to enjoy the moment, whether sweet or gut-wrenching.

The drama doesn’t tell you what is going to happen by having useless exposition precede a plot development, but always going from action to scene purposefully, allowing the viewer to process the event.

When I say Giant’s writing is subtle, I don’t mean to equate it to a slice-of-life drama that conveys a story of realism with gentle beats. Giant is a hard-hitting rock in your stomach type of drama, the kind that can make you scream at the screen and gasp for breath. Your heart hurts at times, and soars in happiness in others.

We know everyone’s fate is interwoven so tightly by the death of Daddy Lee that it would be disingenuous to expect anything less than gripping plot twists and tension-fraught plot developments to propel the story forward. What I cannot abide is the subversion of natural character development by a herky jerky plot. Giant has none of that.

The plot moves forward with a steady and sure beat, nothing is carved in stone with the words good, bad, and weird. The bad guys have depth, the good guys have gray, and the weird side characters have simplicity and three-dimension. If you asked me if I could write a review where I give each major character a representative moniker, I cannot do so. That is subtle writing. I connect with all the characters, their fears, their insecurities, their unfulfilled desires.

And the subtlety in Giant is presented keenly when you compare it to other such sweeping epics, which extol in Big Fat Neon Signs of Pathos that drag on and on, and can be repeated ad nauseum. You’ll see what I mean when you watch an episode of Giant, watching moments that are big but feel small, because it’s grounded in the inexplicable real beats of human interaction.

Less shouty and less shooting (otherwise known as: angst does not equal screechy screechy bang bang)

Giant clearly got the message that shouting does not in and of itself convey impassioned feelings. Too many K-drama rely on the cop out that if the person screams the dialogue, it somehow makes it mean something. Uh, hate to break the news to you, buddy, but no. Dialogue only means something because we buy into what the person is saying, and those words feel real to us. Shouting said dialogue doesn’t make it any more impactful.

Giant actually has neither a surfeit of excessive talking from any of the characters, nor is it particularly a moody piece where people do a lot of meaningful staring. The lines flow like conversations that we happen to overhear, even if the moment is dramatic and heightened due to the construct.

Even evil witch step-mom of our heroine doesn’t descend into shrieky makjang histrionics apart from some comparatively toned down bitch antics. The elder villains plot and plot some more on their grand construction and political election schemes, but the sneering and the villainous smirking is relatively par broiled and never over-cooked.

Director Jo tends to skirt at the edge of mwahahaha-moments, but always it’s restrained in the nick of time, and actually has quite a charm of its own. The violence and action in Giant is excellent, guns and fists used when the occasion necessitates it, but never gratuitously.

There is one scene early in the drama when Chairman Hwang tells young Gangmo, who has just been unfairly expelled from school after some machinations of his enemies, that the world is a dirty place and those who play in it must expect to get dirty. But when you get dirty, you must continue to forge on. It’s perhaps his own justification for causing his friend’s death because of his greed, and continuing to soldier on with his own life’s ambitions.

That lesson is embodied in this drama – that the bad things happen and the characters must overcome them. All this is delivered in a manner devoid of scream fests, hair pulling, bitch slapping, and macho posturing. This is an adult drama world, and the power lies in who has the brains to outwit their opponent and be the last one left standing.

LEVEL 3 – A DRAMA WHERE THE IMAGES ARE CRYSTAL CLEAR

You’ve now been told that Giant is a drama where the story is constructed with the little things that push a viewer’s emotional buttons in all the right ways. You’ve also been informed that things aren’t thrown together in a slap-dash way, but layered carefully like a master bibimbap maker would construct his dish.

What about each ingredient? I can tell you that the master bibimbap maker only selected the most complementary elements to layer in his concoction, daring you to quip that normally you don’t like to add mushroom or you individually hate bean sprouts. You’ll eat it all up and ask for more.

No wide-eyed for the win (rather, a fleeting hooded gaze of pain is worth a thousand words)

One of the reasons (and there were many) that Giant’s most recent cousin in the period epic genre, East of Eden, failed so miserably as a good drama was its generally weak acting. With the exception of a few choice actors, the collective group either couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag, or were good actors floundering in their increasingly ridiculous roles.

Giant is afflicted with none of that. I’ve already stated the child actors were great. Well, the adult actors are just as good if not better. When you enter so deeply into a drama’s psyche, you want to do it with people who sell you this particular bag of beans and make you believe it’s magic.

Lee Bum Soo is our titular Giant of a male lead, taking on the role of Lee Gangmo with so much charisma and controlled intensity, your eyes stay riveted to him in any scene he is in. He fills the screen with his presence so that you forget that Lee Bum Soo is rather short in stature and lack the facial perfection that an actor like Song Seung Heon is blessed with.

But life is fair, I guess, since my beloved Song Seung Heon couldn’t act like Lee Bum Soo can act even if he tried. Which is why I adore both actors for their natural talent, to look pretty and act well, respectively. Sorry for the digression, back to Lee Bum Soo, who has been given a role that requires considerable evolution of his character, and a performance to keep up with it.

So far the writers have developed Gangmo with deliberate pacing, and Lee Bum Soo is delivering an outstanding performance. So far he’s only halfway to Heaven in unleashing a can of whoop-ass on everyone who wronged him. If and when Gangmo reaches his full potential, I will shriek of delight, excited that a character can be so rich in complexity and angst, and be performed by an actor with Lee Bum Soo’s combination of gravity mixed with playfulness.

Park Jin Hee plays Hwang Jeongyeon, our heroine of this tale, and the undisputed love of Gangmo’s life. I love how Jeongyeon has her own backstory, her own struggles, and her own goals in life (as she transitions from rebellious daughter to revenge-bound Madonna in the most recent episodes).

So far, Park Jin Hee’s performance has been steadily getting better, after initially getting off on an uneven start. Don’t get me wrong, I think Park Jin Hee is doing a swell job, but I found her acting in the earlier adult episodes like she was still understanding and getting a feel for her character. It was a work-in-progress type of performance, but it was never bad even from the get-go.

She and Lee Bum Soo have smoking, sizzling, to-swoon-for chemistry. That, my chingus, even Baeksang-worthy acting cannot conjure. Her character starts off very cold, restrained, and somewhat aloof, and is gradually becoming a hardened yet raging-inside potential femme fatale.

Most of the other younger generation leads are all still getting their groove as well, with the exception of Park Sang Min as big brother Lee Seongmo. He is killing the competition as the best young actor in the bunch (perhaps even including Lee Bum Soo’s performance – but I’m not about to stack brother against brother for comparison just yet). His performance is so rich in little nuances, tightly controlled when he’s wearing the agent hat, gentle and caring when he’s wearing the brother hat.

Seongmo, having known all along what he is doing, has a giant gaping hole in his heart filled with hatred of the men who killed his father and broke up his family, tremendous guilt for his own role in losing track of his siblings, and a self-hatred from having to be buddy-buddy with his enemy. Park Sang Min’s portrayal of all the different facets of Seongmo is brilliant, making you worry for him and weep with him.

Joo Sang Wook, a relative newbie compared to Lee Bum Soo and Park Sang Min, plays devil-in-the-making Jo Minwoo, son of Agent Jo and arch-nemesis to Gangmo. Let me say this: Joo Sang Wook is doing a damn fine job, though he can’t hold a candle to either of the two veteran actors he plays against. Joo Sang Wook is not so handsome he’s coasting by looks alone, so it’s a treat to watch as he digs deeper into his character and tries to balance the complexity of an arrogant, entitled, and uber-competitive young man.

Joo Sang Wook’s arc actually gives him romantic overtures with both Jeongyeon (and he does have chemistry with Park Jin Hee), as well as youngest Lee sibling Miju, played by Hwang Jung Eum (where they have a percolating and simmering connection that is just starting to heat up as the drama heads into its second half).

Hwang Jung Eum as Miju is currently the weak link, if I had to pick someone. But she is still hitting enough of her emotional beats that her performance never feels false or trying. I’ve heard folks complain about both her performance and her character as annoying, and I’m not in accord with either of those complaints.

The character of Miju is unfortunately coming across as excessively naïve and sheltered at this stage in the drama when most everyone else is raging with pent up frustration, anger, and pain. But I take it as her brothers Seongmo and Gangmo are purposely keeping her innocent and carefree, while they shoulder the brunt of the family vengeance plans.

It’s a hard character to play, and Hwang Jung Eum never descends into the cutesy or the over-acting, always aiming to portray the determined and straightforward nature of her character. So far, she is holding her own, and I foresee her stepping up her game as her character grows through success and adversity.

The veterans are doing a bang up job. Seriously, I rub my hands with glee whenever the eviler of the evil duo Agent Jo shows up to school his son Minwoo to be more evil, or to plot his political ascension. Jung Bo Suk as Agent Jo is just a delightful villain to watch, his brain working overtime and his trademark intense eye-stare and patented half-smirk to follow. So far he’s pretty much all evil, but dang it if he doesn’t make me commend his single-minded pursuit of power.

Lee Duk Hwa as Chairman Hwang is so ridiculously fraught with a multitude of human weaknesses that I can’t help but wish he would more black and white so I can flat out hate on him. I can’t hate on this incarnation of a man who wished he can do the right thing, but when faced with greater morality or personal victory, he always chooses the latter. I pity him.

He causes Daddy’s Lee death because he wasn’t strong enough to step up and stop the initial wrongdoing from proceeding. When he discovers that his own son framed his surrogate son Gangmo for the murder of a rival construction firm owner, he first beats up his son for committing the crime, and then cowardly assists in covering it up.

He loathes his son’s lily-livered actions, but he cannot bring himself to turn his son in, so he burns the evidence that can exonerate the young man he has helped raise. He then confesses his moral turpitude to Gangmo, telling him that he has wronged him, and asking for forgiveness and a willingness to give anything to Gangmo for his son’s freedom.

I cannot hate on Chairman Hwang because I know he will accept his comeuppance in the end. Lee Duk Hwa imbues this man with so much grit and a realization that life’s hard knocks means he can make such a dirty offer for Gangmo to trade freedom and love for a land deed. Only Chairman Hwang doesn’t realize that the only reason Gangmo took the offer is purely to set up his revenge, and not because Gangmo is a man without a moral conscience.

Lastly, but never least, Kim Suh Hyung plays Yoo Gyeongok, the madam of a nightclub where deals are made, and also the birth mother of our heroine Jeongyeon. She is magnificent, a woman scorned and a mother hidden, all nobility and sensuality rolled into one. Her role has so far been more in the shadows, and is decidedly about to enter into the fray in the second half. And I’m simply dying for the sure-to-be-awesome mother-daughter reunion to come.

I first noticed Kim Suh Hyung when watching snippets of one of the makjangiest dramas ever to come out of Korea, Temptation of Wife. She was the evil woman who stole the husband from the virtuous heroine, and her performance was so over-the-top I wondered if shrieking was her natural speaking voice and if her eyes were in fact permanently bulging. I was wrong, for this woman is none other than a class-A exceptional character actress. She is giving a controlled and nuanced performance and absolutely shining against the veterans around her.

LEVEL 4 – WHERE THE DRAMA COMES TOGETHER AND MOVES YOU

I’ve now asserted that Giant has plot elements that hit all the drama pressure points, is thus far written in a logical and reasonable progression, and is being acted with talent and charisma from all involved. If that is not enough to incept you into watching this brewing masterpiece, I guess we’ll have to go a final level deeper.

Once is enough (aka twice is nice only when the drama thinks the viewer is intellectually dimwitted)

Remember watching those dramas that enjoy pretending something is extra meaningful because a character is sitting still, presumably deep in thought (or else the person is on the brink of letting out some air), and then we flashback to what the character is supposedly thinking about. Yeah, that stuff bites. It needs to be used judiciously, and always only in the most appropriate of places.

Giant wisely eschews excessive flashbacking, which actually heightens the present moments, and it more meaningful in and of itself. Take for example an early scene between adult Gangmo and Jeongyeon, when they’re headed home after a rough day and unwinding with some soju. Gangmo gives Jeongyeon the obligatory piggyback ride, and she tells him that he once gave her such a ride (which we saw during the childhood sequence).

Thank heaven the camera didn’t cut to back that scene (wherein I would have screamed “Why?”), but rather allowed this very moment to continue in its lovely way. Jeongyeon tells Gangmo that she wishes this moment would last forever, and that his back is so very broad. She ends with an admonition to Gangmo that he can’t ever desert her, like her mother did. I proceeded to melt into a puddle on my chair.

The drama absolutely understands restraint in overuse of imagery or dramatic moments, electing to allow silence or quiet introspection to allow the viewer to intelligently infer what the character probably is thinking or feeling. I don’t need twenty thousand shots of Gangmo and Jeongyeon looking at each other longingly to know that they have very strong feelings for one another. It’s implicit even when they are butting heads, and that’s what makes the emotions in Giant feel real.

People don’t stand around pontificating on their feelings or announcing their grand machinations. The director effectively uses all the camera depths and angles afforded to him, pulling back when the scene needs to go large like an urban riot, and intimately drawing us into a small room like Miju’s dinky apartment when the scene is about a sister enjoying some long overdue bonding moments with her brother.

Giant is directed by the same director who did Bad Family (which I loved and just wrote a review of), and Robbers (which I have mixed feelings about solely on the writing and acting, but absolutely thought the directing was top-notch and very evocative).

Substance over style (if you reversed it you’ll get a drama everyone is laughing at instead of crying with)

I find Giant a meaty drama, with teeth from almost a dozen major plus secondary characters to sink into. It’s a deliciously hearty meal wherein we’ve only sampled a few dishes in a twelve course bonanza. And I sure do have room for more.

Giant is filmed in a very earthy palate, a throwback to the eras it is portraying, but not nearly as retro-toned as Fashion 70’s was bathed in, or as movie-quality in presentation as Friends, Our Legend. It doesn’t strive to be terribly authentic or overly grandiose. It pays attention to the presentation of the period, but doesn’t drown in the details.

I would be remiss in not pointing out that Giant’s OST is, so far, just good, but not yet mindblowing. I could also stand to never hear the song that includes the wailing of the phrase “loooooving you…..” ever again.

This is the only time I’m going to reference Boys Before Flowers in a review discussing something so wholly on the opposite end of the spectrum as that drama – but Giant can take a cue from BBF and create another OST for the second half of its drama. But please remember to retire “looooooving you…..” no matter what. Thank you for listening to my public service announcement.

Back to the topic of Giant’s presentation style – I am not saying the production is devoid of innovative touches. I’m merely saying this is a drama where style is not used to mask a surfeit of substance. Giant has quite possibly my all-time favorite child-to-adult transition scene in any drama, which is plenty gloriously stylish for my taste. I simply must pimp this out, and share screencaps to boot.

Young Gangmo and Jeongyeon have just left a movie theater when an urban riot erupts around them (don’t ask me the wherefores of urban rioting in 70s-era Korea). Gangmo grabs Jeongyeon’s hand as they run to safety, but she falters and trips on the ground. She cries out “Gangmo-ahhh” and he replies “Jeongyeon-ahhh” as he rushes back through the throng to get her.

As his hand grabs hers, he pulls up an adult Jeongyeon, who is pulled up into the protective embrace of an adult Gangmo. The adults are caught in another riot like their childhood selves, a moment fraught with danger but they remain there for each other. I simply loved this fluid and totally heart pumping transition moment, which was emotionally cathartic and sets up their dynamic even further.

After the riot passes around them (as they hide in a stairwell and pretend to make out to throw the cops off their scent), Gangmo then gives her a look and calls her “Agasshi”, telling her that he’s there to bring her to Chairman Hwang’s party. And immediately we understand exactly what their relationship is like now as adults, because Jeongyeon tells him not to her call Agasshi, and then he throws her over his shoulder and carts her bratty behind to that party. See, it’s still possible to do interesting, creative, and plot-forward scenes, that fit within the narrative and make us tingle with glee.

The drama also doesn’t drag out the necessary revelations, like dangling a carrot in front of viewers for longer than required by plot dictates (I’m talk to you, again, East of Eden). Gangmo has a few close encounters with reuniting with both Seongmo and Miju, but it’s not dum dum dum played for overly dramatic effect. The near misses are like quick flyovers, a brush with destiny that is not to be. The story doesn’t ever rely excessively on this type of angst, instead allowing our poor beleaguered siblings to find one another shortly thereafter.

I appreciate the director for not milking the various Lee sibling reunion moments for a surplus of tears, snot, and wailing (of which all three are certainly warranted). Oh, our Gangmo, Seongmo, and Miju sure can and do cry (a lot), but we’ve waited so long for these moments, the director gives them space to connect and room to breathe in the happiness.

I actually felt rude for invading their space during such a heartfelt and touching reunion, because I had grown to care about these characters so much. The various Lee sibling recognition scenes are all exquisitely done, bathed in both tenderness and intensity.

Yeah, but if all this talk about Giant still makes you think it’s some unwieldy heavy-duty drama that is all about the “you killed my daddy, prepare to die” revenge, then you’re in for a world of surprise. The larger-than-life blood vengeance may be driving our hero in his hero’s quest, but it’s the lovely romance and human moments between friends, foe, and family that keep me riveted to this drama.

As a special Easter egg to everyone, I hereby present a scene that is all about the epic love between our OTP. The exchange in the church between Gangmo and Jeongyeon is enough to make me swear undying love to this drama for giving me this following gem of a scene:

GM: *dragging JY into the church after he fishes her out of the ocean and she screams at him that she loves him* I’m about to leave here. Wherever I go, will you be willing to come with me?

JY: *nods her head*

GM: It will likely be very tiring, and we will face many obstacles. Are you still willing?

JY: *nods her head again*

GM: You have to give everything up: your family, your dreams, even your appearance.

JY: I want to go, with you, it doesn’t matter where we go.

GM: *to the cross* Do you see, from today onward Hwang Jeongyeon is mine. Today, Lee Gangmo will marry Hwang Jeongyeon. I may not have anything to give her, but I will love her more than anybody else. As your witness, I vow to bring her happiness for the rest of her life.


Then they kiss, and I about died of happiness, even knowing this is a brief shot at happiness, and what is around the corner is the hell these two will likely have to go through to finally be together in the end.

Drama, you better give me a Gangmo-Jeongyeon happy ending, or I will personally lead a crusade of the unholy variety on you. In fact, every Lee sibling better get a happy ending, and I’m even open to a redemption arc for devil-in-training Minwoo, as long as he loses a limb to deserve his soul-saving.

For me, the Lee sibling reunions and that church scene were worth the 19 episodes it took to get there. And now the drama is headed for when the shit really hits the fan in the latter half. Do you really want to miss out on the ride? I sure hope not.

Well, now I’ve got to bring you all back from our trip deep into Giant. Let’s see if this will do this trick. Cue fanfreakingtastic three-way Lee sibling hug. Let the ball of happiness lodge in your gut and drop-kick you back to our mundane reality now.

Oh, that didn’t work? How about this gut-wrenching sob session between our brothers, when Gangmo finds out from Seongmo that he is in love with the daughter of his father’s killer, who also happened to raise him. Yeah, I’d be hard pressed to find an even more bitter pill to swallow. Let’s let the stomach punch moment kick us back to reality.

THE KICK – UP WE GO FOR A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

Now that I’ve punted all of us back to a world where tragedy, betrayal, revenge, and soul-searing love stories don’t reside around every corner, does anyone feel a slight sense of letdown? I sure do. Giant harkens back to the grandeur of stories that swell and crescendo with a heightened sense of purpose. When I marathoned up the episode 24, I was swept away into a world I could comprehend its existence and logic, yet it imparted a sense of dramatic wonder.

It’s a chocolate cone in a land of strawberry and vanilla

Rom-coms are a dime a dozen in any year, all of which I happily consume and eagerly anticipate. It so happens that 2010 is a milestone year commemorating the Korean War, so we’ve got war-themed dramas and movies aplenty as well. Furthermore, we’ve also got the occasional thriller, a sageuk or two (or three), the always reliable family dramas, and even a makjang Baker.

Residing all by its lonesome self is Giant – a cousin of no one except the once-in-a-blue moon K-period epic. Hong Kong has inter-generational sagas by the bushel, and without fail every single TVB anniversary production is a sprawling family tale of revenge, birth secrets, love quadrangles, and power plays. But K-dramas only produce a production on this scale every few years, like a fleeting phoenix.

If Giant was a bedraggled phoenix that could barely fly higher than my backyard fence, I would decree that regardless of its rarity, this phoenix ought to be missed. Luckily for us all, Giant unfurled its wings tentatively, but showed it glorious visage for all to see, and is currently sweeping into the air with a determined and steady flight. This is one phoenix that is sheer joy to behold.

There is no black or white, only everything in between

Giant toggles equal parts family, intrigue, and romance, all united by a story that treats its viewers as intelligent and open to being challenged. The villain in East of Eden was so vile and evil, he aborted his mistress’ baby, ferrsakes, and then proceeded to eat it (okay, I made the last part up, but you get my drift – he was so evil he even had a full head of white hair at like 50 years old).

No such character exists in Giant. Even Agent Jo doesn’t strike us as a man who drinks evil milkshakes for breakfast and then proceeds to skin puppies and wear their fur as a coat. Agent Jo is a ruthless man, for sure, and he reminds me of BB from City Hall, if BB lived in the era where Giant takes place.

Ruthless, calculating, reprehensible, yes, but daring us not to understand his motives for smushing faceless obstacles and crushing nameless foes. He dares us to not acknowledge that perhaps there have been many a powerful man who have done that and worse in his ascension to the pinnacle, and so we watch him with loathing and wonder at what he will do next. Too evil doth a writer make a villain, the more the viewer will laugh at said villain.

And don’t get me started on villain number two, Chairman Hwang, or as I like to think of him really, Daddy Hwang. He’s playing daddy to his pathetic son (who he acknowledges and berates as pathetic), the surrogate son he wished was his real son, Gangmo, and the daughter he wished wasn’t illegitimate.

Chairman Hwang is less a mastermind as he is a man of convenience, opportunistic, and willing to justify an end by decreeing that the world is dirty and he is simply playing by its rules. While one cannot say that Chairman Hwang could ever atone for his crime of his involvement in Daddy Lee’s death, without him Gangmo may not have survived to adulthood.

He also happens to be Jeongyeon’s dad, and right now I see barriers and obstacles by the dozens, whether external or self-erected, between our OTP. And I weep, because I wish people could learn from their mistakes, and stop compounding their sins. I foresee that ultimately Giant is not about revenge, but about forgiveness and amends. That is what will get all our major characters to find closure and be able to move on.

However, I will boldly state right here and now that I will never, repeat, never accept a redemption arc for spineless, gutless, cowardly Hwang Jeongshik (Kim Jung Hyun), who is thus far the most repulsive character in the entire drama for me (not to mention sports the most unintentionally hilarious outfits ever known to man).

Unlike Agent Jo, who willingly discarded his conscience for calculated gain, or Chairman Hwang, who wrestles with right and wrong and frequently chooses wrong, Hwang Jeongshik is a man who hurts others because it makes him feel powerful, and runs away from anything resembling responsibility or bravery. And that, my friends, makes him my personal enemy number 1, and the man I’d like to see roasting on a spit in the fires in hell.

Some thoughts going forward

Our Lee siblings, and Jeongyeon, are also headed on the stairway away from Heaven and towards the darker parts of human nature as they enact their revenge plans. I love seeing our hero flirt with anti-hero status, and I trust the drama will intelligently navigate this treacherous course of finding oneself doing bad things for good reasons.

Poor Seongmo is already one foot down that road, and Gangmo and Jeongyeon (and likely Miju) are about to join him. And I seriously cannot wait. Like, if I had to give up 13 weeks of my already fleeting youth for a chance to marathon the remaining 26 episodes today, I would gladly do so.

In conclusion, through the course of 24 episodes, I laughed, I smiled, I cried, I cheered, I seethed, and I raged, I don’t think it merits stating the obvious, but what the heck, let’s state it anyways – this drama hit all the right spots for a viewer like me. And I have 26 more episodes to look forward to. Aren’t I a lucky lucky koala? Now wouldn’t you like have a little bit of this luck rub off on you?

For those of you itching to dive right into the good stuff, start watching around the middle of episode 8. Though you will miss some excellent acting by the child actors, and the laying of character foundations, it’s not so terribly convoluted you won’t be able to catch up to the story by skipping it. Of course, I do hope you realize I am in no way, shape, or form encouraging the skipping of drama episodes. Likewise, I did not just tip you into deciding to watch Giant. Nope, I think you made that decision all by yourself. 😀

This is one review that’s going to have to wait 13 weeks to see if it stands the test of time. After that, you will see either an end-point review gushing about how the just-completed Giant was the best K-period epic of all time, or a review tearing apart everything I just wrote because the writer took a sabbatical and a chimp (or M. Night Shyamalan) was imported in to the write the remaining 26 episodes.

Leaps of faith have been taken under lessor odds, and I feel like my decision to write about Giant now in glowing terms will surely be validated. If it comes back and bites me in the arse, please do be kind and send me some butt cream courtesy of Thundie.

Finally, I shall gift you all with a Giant haiku for your journey, summing up what has happened so far in this drama:

Fate led siblings astray
Reunion and revenge billowing
Descending Winter chill

As an encore, have a couplet with my prediction of the Giant future:

Brothers united, for triumph over those who pain have brought
Love is the answer, freeing them all from destiny’s knot

[Please give a special round of applause to Thundie, who so graciously agreed to assist me in procuring and selecting screen caps of Giant for this review. This review couldn’t have come together without the screen caps to accompany it, and I certainly lack any ability to make these, so a big muah for Thundie!]

48 thoughts on “Giant (2010): Mid-Point Review

  1. this was an epic read, and the drama looks rather epic, too. unfortunately, i think i’m a bit maxed out on asian dramas, and i wouldn’t want to spoil something potentially great with my general fatigue… that said, i’ll definitely be picking this up at some point, intimidated as i am by the big number Five-Oh. thanks for the review! an obvious labour of love.

  2. @ wits – yay! I just hope it wasn’t because I exerted undue pressure. I do hope you like what you see, and if you don’t, no hurt feelings on my part. 🙂

    @ pengork – thank you for the lovely compliment, this was indeed a labor of love. I was absolutely firing on all cylinders writing the review, because watching this drama really inspired me. I hope you check out the drama in the near future, and I agree with you, if you’re not in the mood, then it would spoil watching something like Giant.

    This was probably one of the hardest yet easiest reviews to write – impossible to describe other than I am STILL thinking about what more I should I said in it. LOL, I shall save it for either Thundie or my end-of-drama review.

    @ Thundie – I am deathly curious and need to pick your brain on this one. Normally, I would take this discussion off-line, but I think the world of Giant watchers may have the same question as me.

    The last screen cap you selected (rawr!) – did Kang Mo and Jung Yeon consummate their marriage? Or was that a figment of Min Woo’s imagination? Or was Min Woo imaging what was actually in fact happening?

    This koala simply must know!! I think they did, because Kang Mo clearly said she’s his wife, and with that understanding he would be willing to consummate their self-marriage, since he’s so principled. However, I can also see that maybe they didn’t, and it totally doesn’t matter at all bc they are married in every way that matters the most – in their hearts.

    Ooooh, cannot wait for Jung Yeon to unleash a giant can of kick-ass on her spineless half-brother and everyone that hurt Kang Mo.

  3. You are a (koala) Bear of Big Persuasion! I’m in!

    I skimmed some of your review, because I don’t want to be too spoiled, but read enough to make up my mind.

    Tickled pink and pleased as punch by your use of my R#1 ep. 2 terminology! Nice to think something useful came out of that heap of nonsense, i.e., an object lesson on “how not to do a drama”. If you say that Giant is everything that R#1 isn’t, how can I resist?!

    I took a bit of a breather from Road#1 (cos it was just killing me), but I continue to ponder its iniquities. My latest thing is that it is “kiddy”, i.e., it seems as if it were written by a bunch of rabid SJS/YKS-fangirlying and bad-fanfic writing 12-year olds, financed by one of their dads with more money than sense, and then directed and produced by the kids at the bottom of the film-making class, the ones who can’t be bothered to do a bit of simple thinking or research. Giant, on the other hand, sounds *adult*, yay.

    The 50-hour investment does scare me a bit, but I rationalise I probably spent that much time on the combined disappointments of PP, CU & PT (if you include the time I spent reviewing PP, replying to The Indignant and watching The Outrage on soompi). So provided I use my drama-watching time judiciously (e.g., I think I’ll put Bad Guy into cold-storage for the mo) I should be able to manage! I may take a while to catch up with you and Thundie, though…

  4. When I heard that Lee Beom Soo and Jung Bo Suk were on board I knew this is one drama that I wanted to watch. But when I heard that it’s going to be a looooong drama, I nearly changed my mind and after Thundie’s words I almost gave up but I continue to download the drama because I cannot give up 2 of my most beloved actors without attempting to watch. Now after your wonderful review I have reasons to look forward to the drama Thanks ockoala.

  5. @ serendipity

    Oh super yay!!! OMG, I think that means all three of us at TP will be watching Giant, a rare feat indeed, since at most usually 2 out of 3 can be found watching dramas that overlap.

    Does this mean the end-of-drama review will be a three-fer? Let’s wait and see what happens in the next 26 episodes (I have a giddy sensation it will turn out marvelous, bc we’ve heard no BTS gossip about shit happening, and the pacing has been so restrained so far, there is SOO much more story to tell, so it’s not even filler we have to look forward to).

    I’m sorry you had to waste time on R#1 (I suggest scrapping the recaps and spend that time watching Giant). Giant is indeed an adult made and adult-focused drama, absolutely a treat to watch and think about the story (I can’t stop thinking about it actually).

    Can’t wait for your take.

    @ morscherachel

    I’m glad you decided to keep downloading. Giant is genuinely a stellar drama, and since you love LBS (I do, too!!) and Jung Bo Silk (he’s ahhhmazing) you are in for a treat.

  6. Hi! First time I’m posting here and would like to say that this review has half-sold me to Giant! I will wait for series to end first to see if there’s happy end as I couldn’t stomach another sad one this year. In fact, I gave up early at the part where little Kang Mo and Mi Joo open up their wallet full of money and an adult peering at them. Oh, I could see where this is going and I hate it! Thus how this weak-hearted me swore off this show.

    But your review shows that things do pick up, thanks! Now just need to make sure that 50 hours of emotional rollercoaster will be rewarded well. 😀

  7. Can I say how much I love this review, ockoala? Love it to the moon and back! *muahh!* Nodding my head off at everything you wrote. You’ve described so eloquently all the reasons I love this drama (and all the reasons why I didn’t like it so much at first, LOL).

    Between Giant and Comrades (and yes, also Story of a Man), thundie is a very happy viewer indeed. Why waste time on crap dramas when we can watch the awesomesauce ones?

    Like you say, every episode is better than the one before it. Writing, directing and acting are all first-rate now; not a single moment drags. Even the iffy actors have all settled in and are acting their socks off. I disliked Joo Sang-wook so much in Accidental Couple but love him here for his nuanced acting. Park Jin-hee was kinda tentative and inspid at first but oh boy, look at her now. Park Sang-min… I adore the ground he walks on; his acting is so fantastic, ahhhh!! Lee Beom-soo… take a bow, sir. All the veterans… wow. By the way, Lee Deok-hwa is acting in both Giant and Comrades (as a general in the latter) and he’s absolutely great!

    The plot is so complex and gripping; every episode throws up surprises. Like Miju and Minwoo… Gosh, I didn’t see that coming but I love it! All the delicious possibilities… I can’t wait! X is translating up a storm; later today I will work on Episodes 21 & 22 and just the thought makes me happy as a clam. To think I was whining earlier at the prospect of 50 episodes; now I’m so glad it’s 50! 😆

    Okaaay… about Gangmo and Jeongyeon and whether they did it…

    Of course they did! Keke…

    I don’t think it was a figment of poor Minwoo’s imagination. It was very clear at the church when Gangmo declared to the cross that Jeongyeon was now his woman; he was claiming ownership over her in the clearest way possible. In their minds they were as good as married; that’s why they went to sleep next to each other so naturally. It was very telling that as Minwoo was in the bar drowning out his pain in drink, Gangmo and Jeongyeon were cementing their love for each other, in mind, body and soul. Minwoo knew it was all over.

    By the way, I must say that I don’t hate Jeongshik like you do. I was dismayed at first when I saw who was acting him; I hated his Hajong character so much in Queen Snoredeok! But like X says, Kim Jung-hyun is a superb actor at playing these ninny spineless-but-unscrupulous mama’s boy characters. I love that he is also fairly complex and not one-dimensional; he wants so much to gain his father’s acceptance. It’s all rather sad, actually.

    Finally, the siblings’ reunions. Best kdrama reunions ever! I cried so much watching the reunions and yet could not get enough. Kept replaying them, aigoo, and sobbed some more. Truly sublime acting there. And when I was taking the three-way-hug screencaps for ep 24 (which I’ve not watched), I was filled from head to toe with such a tingling sense of joy.

    If this keeps up, I’m going to have a tough time deciding which is my drama of the year. Jejoongwon was super awesome for me, but Giant and Comrades are just mind-blowing.

    Thank you again, sweetie!

  8. @ Ning – do check back, no matter how Giant ends, someone at TP will be bound to write a review. I really do have a feeling it’ll be a happy ending for those we care about.

    @ thundie

    Okay, you have just made me the happiest koala on the Northern hemisphere (don’t want to compete with dem koalas in Australia of course).

    Thanks for letting me know I didn’t do a disservice to this wonderful drama that you (and I) love so much!

    And thank you for letting me know that I should be rewatching episode 19 ASAP tonight. Because I seriously thought that the bed scene was Min Woo’s overactive imagination, since the silly director decided to make it all soft filtered lenses and such a short moment.

    But as I was writing the review, I kept thinking…..hey, Kang Mo called her my wife when they were doing laundry, and he clearly married her in that church, so why wouldn’t they have consummated their happy marriage that night?

    Thank god they did consummate their marriage, because otherwise I would be all bereft of some action for these lovebirds. And this also makes what Kang Mo is doing, which will obviously have an impact on Jung Yeon, all that more hard for them both to bear. She’s his wife, and yet he’s “given” her up to pursue his revenge, and bc he’s still a wanted a man.

    Oooooh, I cannot wait to watch the next 26 episodes. The last time I was this addicted was…..LOL City Hall. But I got on that train so late, by the time I marathoned that baby, 18 episodes had aired, and the finale was the next week. Now I have 13 weeks of anguish, but at least I have company!

    Fine, fine company. And this is a damn fine drama.

  9. Ok, this review just won me over. As a working gal, I have scant hours in my week to devote to drama-watching, so I try to really filter out which ones are worth my free time and which ones are just meh. And as for Giant, I was never planning on watching it as it initially reminded me of East of Eden and how big a disppointment it was (yes, a waste of my youth too!). But if Giant is everything (and more) of what you just wrote and reviewed, then I’ll trustingly hitch my wagon to this one.

  10. Awesome, I freakin’ love this review, and I’m so glad this show’s getting more love, I agree, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s amongst the best in its genre. Sure, we know Yoo In-shik’s work speaks for itself but what the heck, flog away!
    I agree with the majority of what you’ve written, there are just a couple of things where my opinions differ, so here goes…

    No way, must not miss the childhood portions — those initial eight episodes make up a huge portion of Giant’s story, it’s fairly concentrated in its storytelling so it can be overwhelming the first time you see it (but I lurrrve it). I think the childhood bits should be savoured in smaller portions, maybe they can be revisited once you’re up to date with the adult portions but they mustn’t be missed, I promise they’re worth it.
    Not only was the writing so tightly written that each moment had its own domino effect, there was the acting by the kids, the way the siblings yearned for one another, you could really feel it and as ockoala’s mentioned – setting the character foundations, with both big and small characteristics. Like the way Sung-mo was a real gentleman, quiet, intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful and when he smiled he oh so subtly creased the corners of his eyes. Kang-mo was more opinionated, proud, fearless, a real jack the lad (Yeo Jin-gu had a mini Jang Hyuk thing going on, which I adored) and when he smiled he smiled big megawatt grins. Both their smiles made my heart flutter then and they have the same effect on me now.
    If you miss the childhood portions you’ll also miss how that schmuck Min-woo and Kang-mo became enemies, how Kang-mo met So-tae (heart!) and the depths of their friendship, why Kang-mo was a snob and why So-tae deserved to be forgiven in ep22. And then there was the Beginner’s English Handbook Jung-yun brought Kang-mo which I’m still drooling over, can tokens of childhood love convey more meaning than that adorable little textbook?
    And let’s not even start on young Sung-mo who was so wonderfully acted out by Kim Soo-hyun, who went from nice and fillial to the mute laundry boy who was smouldery, intense, had a perpetually bust lip, touted pen-knives and punched the living daylights out of people. He didn’t have his younger brother’s fearlessness and there was a time when he even collapsed, knocking out unconscious due to his fear of Cho Pil-yeon. Watching his scenes was both fascinating and nerve-wracking, it’s as though he was always on the edge of a knife.
    So he wasn’t always cool cucumbers, he got where he is today after copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears.
    After the timejump, I remember feeling underwhelmed by how mellowed out Park Sang-min’s Sung-mo seemed, but one of my brothers (who I’d steamrollered into watching as no one else was) spluttered into their drink around ep9, saying — ”is that Kim Doo-han?” and they pulled out their ‘The General’s Son’ boxset with a very young-looking Park Sang-min. I saw small glimmers in PSM, but was still not sold on him, until ep10. That scene between him and CPY was poetic and Park Sang-min has such wonderful eyes, similar to Kim Soo-hyun’s in fact and he has such a threatening presence, d’oh, what can one expect from someone who played Kim Doo-han whilst he was barely out of his teens.
    See, I’ve found the father-son dynamic between Sung mo and Cho Pil Yeon fascinating right from the get-go. Sure, his younger siblings may lay on the guilt saying he abandoned them and maybe he was never subjected to the ridicule and impoverishment they were, but they don’t have the slightest idea about him. (And how awesomesauce was it to have the man he feared so much take him under his wing and feed, clothe, shelter, dote on him like a son? And that he grew up nice and healthy for it.)

    Mi joo: I totally agree with what you’ve said about her character and that her brothers appear to be sheltering her. As much as I was expecting her to be grittier for all her childhood trauma I think I see the direction the writer is taking with her. There’s a clue in the song she’s always been singing, since childhood: Lee Mija’s Pure 19 (thanks to her I can’t stop singing and humming it). She’s now 19 and ‘pure’, and weirdly enough, the guy she’s bound to fall for at this important stage of her life is none other than the son of the guy responsible for ruining her life (and her family’s). Besides that though, we know Mi-joo puts up a brave front. She’s not as blissfully happy as she likes to pretend, if you think back to her childhood and the following scenes:
    1) singing and dancing in front of strangers at the train station for money, when she explained to Kang-mo why she did it, she stated: ”did you think I liked it? I was so embarrassed!” (well, you certainly didn’t look it!)
    2) cheerfully washing the pots at the farm, when farm ahjumma kneels in and says ”don’t think you can stay here just by doing this” — MJ’s face drops and you see the cheerfulness had all been a front. (I’m so glad farm ahjumma is now the maid at the Hwangs and gets her hair regularly yanked by Jung-shik-eeh’s omma.)
    3) Mrs Hong, she endured and endured the ridicule and only let her tears fall in the privacy of her room.
    4) Plus, her hopes were never dashed her endurance eventually paid off, so now she has no reason to be jaded and cynical. Like how she met Kang-mo at the spot she always waited for him, she met Sung-mo through Pres. Hong (Son Byeong-ho!! *sniff*) and the reunion scene where sung-mo lifts her up reminiscent of the dream she had back at the orphanage.
    I’ve never seen anything else by Hwang Jung-eum (and wouldn’t want to) but she’s doing a sound job here. I think the character has yet to face her real challenges. (Damn it, Min-woo!)

    Also, park Jin-hee I felt, lacks presence in her scenes and her scenes with Min-woo were plain awkward, or at least I felt that way. I personally feel she’s the weakest link — I still like her a lot, but just feel she’s not completely immersed in her role, it just doesn’t feel natural enough.
    Hwang Jung-eum surprisingly reminds me a lot of Kim So-yeon with her acting style, the way in which she’s completely immersed in her role and has a huge screen presence, as is required for a character like hers. It’s really interesting how much Min-woo has fallen for her (me too, I love her!), I wonder if his discovering who she really is will crush him more than whether or not Kang-mo is alive or dead. I can imagine Kang-mo saying ”you can have Jung-yun, anyone, just not my little sister.”

    Jung-shik-eeh is awesome, he even made me cry in ep18. Poor Hwang Tae-sub, such a reluctant villian, but still a villian. But more importantly, I love discussing JS’s 80s outfits and his hair. His floral pants and sky blue feather boa has far outdone even his leapord print outfit.

    Me and janna (where is that girl already?) are so, so ANTI-ROMANCE when it comes to Giant because they’ve suffered enough heartache to not have to endure it all again for the sake of romance, and a Hwang and a Cho too, pfft! Forget it, they’re NOT even worth it.
    Sung-mo it seems won’t be hitching up with anyone soon (I may even forgive him for shooting lingering looks at Kyung-ok, I do too, she’s hot) and I’m so glad, his all-consuming father and son romance with Cho Pil-yeon is enough for him, or so I hope.

  11. So much to say about Giant! Was watching Inception last night and not concentrating too well the first 30 minutes because my mind kept flitting back to Giant, most likely the lingering effects of rewatching many episodes the past two days in order to take the screencaps for this review!

    Despite my complaints about the melodramatic heavy-handedness in the first four episodes, I agree with supah that the childhood scenes must not be skipped. If they are, then the Daesang-worthy reunion scenes will have less emotional impact. Also, I find it really uncanny (and quite adorable) that the adult actors remind me A LOT of their younger selves. Like, young and adult Gangmo have the same stocky build and they even walk alike. Adult Jeongyeon (Park Jin-hee) cries like her teen self (Nam Ji-hyun)!

    Some random thoughts:

    I’m really glad and grateful that we did not have to wait too long for the siblings to be reunited. Now we have just the youngest sibling left to be found, and I wait eagerly for that particular plot development to unfold.

    I love the pacing once we hit the adult years. The drama doesn’t dwell on the unnecessary just to milk the maudlin. For example, we do not know how Jeongyeon’s mom came back from the dead and how she became successful. It isn’t terribly important now; perhaps she will tell her daughter her story when they are reunited properly. Another example: How did Gangmo become the hyungnim in his prison cell? The drama lets us imagine the process; it doesn’t try to tell us everything down to the minutest detail. I appreciate that it respects our gray matter and does not try to hit us over the head with the inconsequential.

    What ockoala wrote about Jeongshik’s mom is so true. I’m glad she’s not truly evil and full of shrieking histrionics and conniving machinations. She loses the smackdown with Minwoo’s mom, she’s pretty afraid of her husband, and she just comes off as silly and shallow rather than scary powerful (like the evil mom in Stairway to Hell).

    My favoritest heartrending scene so far isn’t any of the reunions, it’s the one where Gangmo asks Seongmo to arrest him. Oh, the acting in that scene! I just love Park Sang-min so much; he is hands down my most-loved character in the drama. Unlike Gangmo who didn’t know Hwang Taeseop’s complicity in his dad’s death, Seongmo had to live with and work for his dad’s murderer all these years, all the while maintaining an unsuspecting demeanor before his greatest enemy. Being the oldest child in his family, how wretched and powerless he must feel to lose his younger siblings. The moment when he realized who Gangmo was, the first thought that flashed through his mind was how he nearly killed his own brother. I love how sweet and gentle and protective he is with Gangmo and Miju after he finds them.

    About Minwoo and Jeongyeon, am I the only one who thought that she liked him at first? In their teen years, didn’t she have a crush on him? I thought she and Minwoo had a sort of simmering sexual tension between them; maybe I was reading too much into their body language, LOL! But I love that he isn’t clingy now that their engagement is off. The scene of her driving him to the composer’s studio, that was a nice and unexpected moment of comedy. I can’t wait to see his romance with Miju unfold; I think they are actually so well-suited for each other!

    I wasn’t too sold on Lee Beom-soo at first, perhaps because I was (horrors!) kinda rooting for Minwoo and also missing the young Gangmo. But now I’m fully, 100%, fangirling for him. That’s one of the great things about Giant, that the characters just grow on you bit by bit, that everything keeps getting better and better!

    So many, many exciting plot developments ahead. I can’t wait!

  12. @ Liesel – from one disappointed EoE watcher to another, Giant is no EoE. It’s what EoE probably strived to be, but couldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Enjoy!

    @ thundie and supah

    Oooh, meaty Giant discussion, me loves! [edit: Thundie changed the names for me, but we’re henceforth using Gang Mo and Seung Mo (instead of Kang Mo and Sung Mo) because that is what WITHS2 is using and I thought let’s be all on the same page).

    I three-gree with you two, the childhood section in Giant is very very well-done, and truly needs to be watched to get the full impact of the adult moments in certain scenes. However, knowing how it turns off some viewers, I thought to point out that you can FF-d those scenes and still understand and appreciate the adult story to come.

    I lovelovelove that scene in the alley when Gang Mo tells his hyung Seung Mo to beat him up, AND turn him into the police. Heartbreaking, especially Park Sang Min’s anguish seeping through every punch. I was crying, no lie.

    I am ALL about the romance in this drama, because at the end of the day, it is the romance that will set these second generation free. Seung Mo may have to deal with his surrogate daddy, but Gang Mo and Mi Joo will be having dealing with the person they love being the children of their enemy. And that will help them forgive in the long run. And they need to forgive, because otherwise they would be at risk for getting their soul’s crushed in exactly their revenge.

    Plus, I am such a sappy romantic at heart – the GM-JY relationship strikes every chord in me and makes me tingle with glee. I’m a Lee Bum Soo fan so when he showed up, I was immediately “can I have your babies, Gang Mo, you hot sexy, awesome specimen of a man.”

    I agree that young Jung Yeon was attracted to successful confident young Min Woo, but that was fleeting. Adult Jung Yeon looks at Min Woo like he’s toe fungus, there aint nothing there between them from her side. From his side, she is a prize to be won, yes, he is attracted to her, but he’s been trying to win her from Gang Mo since they were kids. His attraction to Mi Joo is much more pure chemistry between a man and a woman, no ego at play there.

    The plot and pacing is so beyond perfect, I can’t even offer any critique, we get the tension and the catharsis one after another, nothing is draggy.

    To me, the childhood portion and the early adult sections of Giant is like Batman Begins, a hero origin story, how did he come to being where he is. What is to come for Giant is The Dark Knight, how does the hero exact justice and maintain his clean soul. And in terms of plot and exectution, I foresee the second half of Giant to blow our socks off, especially since the actors have all gotten into character and is firing on all cylinders.

  13. @ockoala and thundie:
    Cool with me, I don’t mind how everyone says the names, I kind of saw the way the names were spelt on the Dramawiki page and too used to them now.

    I just realised, don’t think Hwang Tae-sub knew Kang-mo was Lee Dae-soo’s son all that time, he only took him in as a ‘thank you’ (tch! Some thank-you! Those Hwangs broke his spirit!) for the fact Kang-mo was so welcoming to him, allowing him into the shoe-shiners tent when HTS was living on the streets, and KM unwittingly gave HTS a new lease of life after HTS stole what became a multi-million dollar idea with the soft coal.

    Lee Beom-soo from episode 20-onwards just went stellar and never looked back, I’m so ridiculously in love with him (and the other two), especially the send-off scene for Bong-hwan (was that his name or was that just a swear-word So-tae used to call him?) at the end of ep22. That’s the Kang-mo we know, the one who understands the loss of dignity that’s part and parcel of being in the underprivileged crowd and what it’s like to yearn for a loved one *tear rolls down cheek*. That has to be the scene that blew me away.
    I just love all three siblings, period. Can’t wait for the fourth to be revealed. I kind of predict we won’t see him till he hits his twenties in the 90s, after which they can keep him around long term? I wonder who they’ll choose for the role. Heck I don’t mind who he is as long as he is as talented as the rest of them. The casting decisions have been 100% solid so far and so I hope they find the right actor to complement the rest of the cast. I’d like to quote ockoala here, this can apply to the current cast too:
    *”I can tell you that the master bibimbap maker only selected the most complementary elements to layer in his concoction, daring you to quip that normally you don’t like to add mushroom or you individually hate bean sprouts. You’ll eat it all up and ask for more.”*

    I agree with thundie, the scene when he discovers KM was his dongsaeng all along was so moving, Sung-mo is so loyal to the Lee blood, he’d dedicated his entire life to the cause, how is it possible he’d put a bullet through someone so beloved to him? And then he broke down and cried as though someone had punched him in the gut. Aaaargh! Too painful.

    I think teen Min-woo was a very interesting character. I always felt his intention was solely to get to Kang-mo – the shoe shiner brat who’d had the audacity to speak up to the high and mighty Min-woo. I never felt he had any real feelings for Jung-yun (I agree with ockoala, I would say she simply had a crush on him, which she soon overcame) but he got a kick out of the competition and toying with her was a bonus. There are times I felt for the love-deprived Min-woo, there are times I liked Min-woo – like the time he sensed KM may be hungry so offered him bread — which of course — the proud KM would never accept, and other little moments like those where it seemed MW may be as reasonable as Kang-mo. They had the potential to become excellent friends, instead they became arch enemies.
    I totally, totally accept the adult version of MW as a villian and nothing but. He may momentarily soften when it comes to Mi-joo, if it was any other drama I’d root for these two with their amazing chemistry left, right, centre — but overall he’s several shades of very dark grey and he doesn’t deserve our beloved Mi-joo. I wonder how he’ll find out about her, I hope he doesn’t find the family portrait as that will out Sung-mo, too. That portrait should be locked away in a safe somewhere with the keys thrown away.

    Gah, sorry, I get so excited to see fellow Giant lovers and swept up into the moment, I’m going all spamtastic.

  14. Thanks for the mid year review, it was a fun read. I like how they were placed in levels and justification for it as well, that I liked the most.

    If ever there was a show that had in excess of 30 episodes with a timeline set in the 70s & 80s that was met with some trepidation for me this was it. Having been burnt by both East of Eden it started okay despite the bad acting and went down hill show after show (I had to stop watching it and delete all the episodes that I had previously downloaded and it spoil my rep in introducing this kdrama to someone new to it when it was supposedly good) and Assorted Gems which to me wasted certain characters and became blah, this show with its somewhat intriguing synopsis had me in indecision moment until after 8 episodes. Its like what happens when they become adults?

    Having watched all 24 episodes, to me the story seems to get better and better after each episode. The acting for the most part is on point and the story makes sense explaining what triggered the change for the main characters and the hope for a optimistic/positive ending. Although MW would eventually hurt MiJoo I do want them together in the end as I think MW is a complex and pitiful character. Living with a father like Director Jo under constant pressure to win no matter what and a mother who supports her husband in doing this is a sure sign that his character is bound to be screwed up in some way. So is MW a villain or a lost soul? MiJoo is his light and until he loses her will he realizes it, those 2 will have a uphill battle ahead, once the brothers find out about their relationship, what are they going to do. I am not sure about GangMo and JungYeon being together, just hope things work out for them as they both need some happiness. I also want good for Sang Mo as well, I find him the most intriguing of all, he’s unemotional as a CIA (I wonder if he’s a robot at times) and completely emotional with his family the things he had to do in order to get the family’s revenge is surely draining on a person.

    As I said earlier the show is getting better which explains the increase in ratings and it with hope that it continues to do so, therefore I will be happy to download it and rewatch it later on as many times as I want on my PC and happily recommend/introduce it to those interested in kdrama land.

    By the way, anyone watching Baker King, Kim Tak Gu, this is the surprise hit for the year, its a good show. Would love to what you guys think about it. Take care.

  15. @ chasen888

    Oh yay, another Giant-watcher outing oneself and joining the discussion

    I absolutely am with you in wanting a happy ending for Min Woo and Mi Joo. I’ve always felt that MW was a product of his circumstances, and the fact they he aggressively pursued Jung Yeon but in the end let her go (and did not turn into an unredeemable rapist) to me signifies he is NOT soulless like his daddy.

    I think Mi Joo and Min Woo would be a love story, and unless one party is a total turd I always want a happy ending for the lovers.

    As for Gang Mo and Jung Yeon – I went back and rewatched the opening scene of Giant (set in 2010 between Gang Mo and wizened old Jo Pil Yeon) and I got tingles up my spine just hearing their dialogue and knowing all the hell they put each other through to end up there…….and I am imaging that Jung Yeon is at home with their kids, waiting for Gang Mo. There, I said it, I’ve already imagined the happiest happy ending ever for my OTP.

    @ supah

    Hehe, I used Kang Mo and Sung Mo, too, got it from drama wiki, but everyone else us watching WITHS2 and using Gang Mo and Seung Mo, let’s just switch and be consistent! I could care less! Both guys are da bomb!

    As for MW-GM being good friends, for sure, if they didn’t meet under those circumstances. And Seung Mo is currently hyung to Min Woo, too. Oh, the tangled mess these kids are in.

  16. @ockoala
    Aaah, I get you now, aigasamnidah, makes sense.
    Incredibly tangled mess. Ep25 again was as brilliant as expected, especially in terms of Sueng-mo’s relationship with Cho/Jo Pil-yeon and I finally felt a solid, real emotional connection with JY, I connect better seeing her as her mother’s daughter (not to mention her awesome step-grandpops; Baek-pal) and not as a Hwang.

  17. You know what I’m also excited about? The increasingly high possibility Giant will be acknowledged and rewarded at the end of year awards (however lame and pointless they are) because it’s improving ratings are now making it edge towards being a certifiable hit.

    Lee Bum Soo has a Baeksang nod sewed up (a win is not even out of the picture). Squees with happiness.

    @ supah – I’ve always liked Jung Yeon, and now I freaking love her. She’s such a smart, tough cookie. I like these types of female characters.

    @ cathy – thank you! Unfortunately, I would write the reviews you asked if I watched those dramas, but I don’t think I will be watching either of them (for completely different reasons). However, never fret, someone else at TP may write a review for Comrades, and serendipity has been recapping Road #1.

  18. Really liked your review Ockoala. First time commenting too heh. You have me convinced to watch Giant which I hesitated a lot cos of the huge no of eps.

  19. OcKoala, you have convinced me. I really am not that into melodramas or 50-episodes dramas, so I was planning on skipping this one, but you and all the praising on Twitter has made me start watching.

    I just have a small question – when will this immense suffering end for these kids? I have finished episode 4 and sometimes I have to watch with one eye closed, because it is just too much doom and gloom. When will there be some light at the end of the tunnel? I can deal with 10 episodes of this, I just need to know there will be a turning point somewhere and episodes where I will crack a smile or feel happy for the characters. I’m sorry for my ranting. 🙂

  20. @ Htagged – hope you like it!

    @ Artemis – the childhood pain and suffering alleviates a bit by episode 6, and the entire childhood portion ends by the end of episode 8. Giant has ebbs and flows like a flowing river, so we have happy moments interspersed with heart break throughout the drama, but it always feels like the balance of light and dark moments are just right. Hope you enjoy it as well! Do come back and let me know and feel free to ask any questions on your mind as you watch.

  21. Finished watching up to ep24, so finally letting myself read your Review and all the Comments. Brilliant stuff! Thanks for the lead-in, ockoala. I’m not disappointed. Even though long sagas are not quite my thing, I’ve no regrets starting on Giant and I can’t wait to see where they take this in the next 26 episodes. This is really a solid, quality work.

    If someone merely outlined the plot of Giant to me, I would roll my eyes. But I think the kicker in Giant is that even though it doesn’t really beat any new plot paths, but it does what it does so well and so compellingly it completely sells itself.

    In the teen episodes Joo Sang Wook was my favourite actor and I still have my eyes glued to him. What an interesting tortured character he plays. The little boy lost, but also the man who will stoop to anything to secure his own interests because with his (understandable) daddy-issues he’s not secure enough to go on his own merit, and also the man who has so little moral anchor he thinks little of ordering another man’s death. I hope the show explores more of the fascinating middle ground he inhabits.

    I don’t find the adult Miju character interesting but I don’t hate her either. I think Hwang Jung Eum is doing a fine job pulling off a character who’s rather one-dimensional at this stage.

    Park Sang Min is a revelation. I had trouble with him when he first appeared, because I’d gotten so used to Kim Soo Hyun and PSM was giving me a totally different vibe, and because he was in his robot lieutenant persona. But I’ve really come to embrace him and feel his pain.

    Ockoala, You can keep Doleful Lemur, I’m not so mad over Lee Bum Soo the longsuffering love-pained trusty bodyguard and dogsbody. He was more interesting as Lover Lemur but not enough to make me fight you for him. But Gangster Lemur rocks – of course Gang Mo would totally rule any correctional facility he was incarcerated in. And now… oh boy oh boy, I may have to fight you for Powered-Up Lemur. I can’t resist clever, tortured, powerful men with a pay-back mission.

  22. @ serendipity-sis

    Lemur – in all his various incarnations – is mine. Sorry, you can’t pick and choose, baby. I want him doleful, raging, moony, and plotty. I’m so happy you’re almost all caught up on Giant. The next few episodes are going to get all a-rocking again. The plot is so sensical yet sad, I am thoroughly enjoying the ride.

    I promised Thundie I’d check out Comdrades, so hopefully I can comment on your review soon.

  23. I can’t believe I’m fighting a koala over a lemur, lol!

    Watch Comrades? Cool! I wasn’t so sure about asking you, myself, seeing you find war dramas hard and Comrades is indubitably a war drama. But I must confess that much as I like Giant and don’t begrudge a single minute of its 50-hour commitment, it’s Comrades I think about all day — pondering the awesomeness of Sgrt. Lee / Choi Soo Jung, fretting about the boys and wondering how they are going to get themselves out of their current tight spot, thinking about the meaning of true love (Would you leave your lover for a bigger principle you believed in? Would you ask your lover to desert his/her principles to save his/her own life?) and the beauty of true friendship among men…

  24. This is truly an EXCELLENT drama. I absolutely love English, literature, and theater…and I find this drama a truly intellectual, solid piece of work. The writers are doing an excellent job. They are taking all kinds of “typical” plots and add very intellectual elements to the drama. Ex. I loved the ironic juxtaposition (haha) when Min Woo saw his crazy dad in the hospital, then went outside to read Mi Joo’s application. The contrast was very clever! The word play is very funny too, ex. episode 29, “How do you do?” –> youdo (nipples) haha.

    Which leads me to say…You’ve GOT to praise the actors who play So Tae and Nam Young Chul. They are phenomenal and hilarious. And their chemistry is hard to beat! I would love to see them play together in another drama.

    Episodes 29 and 30 were VERY epic, especially episode 30. They were excellent wrap-ups to Part 3: The Real Meat/Fight Begins Here, and showed some kind of significant transition/development in every single character. The writer is doing a great job. Lee Beom Soo can’t get any better. Now he’s not actually attractive at first sight…but he gets hotter and hotter. Oh yeah, and gotta love those glasses! If you think about it, I think those glasses serve as something else other than just “HA! FOOLPROOF!” It’s an object that symbolizes transition, a new identity…a new perspective/view (aha!). I think those glasses play a more significant role than we think they do!

    On the other hand, Jung Yeon’s haircut is a new symbolism…a new identity. After all, women in the 20s bobbed their hair as a symbol of freedom from men, power, etc. She looks stunning with the haircut. And I would just like to say. Park Jin Hee does not possess the natural looks Koreans desires…but have you ever noticed that the more evil/vengeful/angry she looks, the more /attractive/? Whenever she’s in a fight, she just looks so amazing (haha, I’m pretty sure you guys think I’m on something…)! It must be the eyes…

    Also a bit shout out to the editors for being clean and concise!

    I love how Jung Bo Suk plays a character skirting towards the edge of 3-D and 2-D character…it really fits the personality of Cho Pil Yeon. His laughter scares…well…the crap out of me! Cookies for him!

    I’m so heart broken after episode 30, because I am a BIG rooter for GM-JY but…things happen. 😦 It does remind you of nigahiga’s, “first they are in love and then they’re sad…then love comes back! and then they’re mad…then somebody dies!” I guess the GM-JY thing does follow nigahiga’s general outline…let’s just hope nobody dies. 😉

  25. When finally got my hands on 30 Eps. of Giant in one shot from Chingu… remember all our Autumn in my Heart days when most of us cried our hearts out? This did it for me, I had not cried so much so long.. I started watching just this 15 Sept. Wednesday night… I did NOT sleep till 6.00 a. m…more than 8 hours straight, then awoke at 9.30 a.m. and continued…. I tot I would not do marathons any more, no drama has completely make me go back to my super marathoning drama days of yester years…

    Awesome just does not say enough of the drama,….being the hopeless romantic that I am, I so wanna kiss the writer/PDs for giving “bad boy” Min Woo to be good and fall in love with Miju – I have yet to watch a K-drama that allowed the baddy guy look good and get the love of the girl awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww and I’ve watched plenty right Thundie? 🙂

    And *coughs* indeed it is MY Lee Beom Soo – whom I so completely am enamoured with since my Surgeon Bong Dal Hee days… if there is one guy that literally bellows small in size but huuuuumongus in statue – it is my darlin’ Lee Beom Soo shi 🙂 his charisma, he is by no means Mr Handsome, gorgeous like my Kim Hyun Joong (LOL forgive my bimboticness LOLLL) but he has that real namja character that I so lurveeeeeee brains, integrity, love of family, goodness from within that all the bad terrible things that hit him of years past did not erase the essence of who he is..and even when he should continue with revenge and pulverize all his enemies, he somehow chooses something else altogether, that is so a class above others delivered in quiet solid strength, magnanimous and with heart.

    When I saw Thunderbolt on the subbing squad for this drama… I knew.. I simply had to stop by to read for sure there will be goodies about it…

    Been so longggggggggggggg since I and totally enamoured with such a great drama completely. Sure I have had ones I liked a whole lot 🙂

    So little time…. and so much to see…

    Thanks for the truly insightful and fantastic review ockoala – I knew you must write splendidly to be on Thundie’s prattle 🙂 I think this is my first read on your reviews, what a treat!

    Dear Thundie, I hope you are keeping well. I’m also watching Dong Yi, it’s nice but give me something like Admiral Yi Soon Shin anytime – Kim Myung Min ahhhhhhh

    *waves* cheers E

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