This is the review that very nearly didn’t get written. For one thing, I very nearly didn’t finish watching the twenty episodes of Friend, Our Legend (MBC, 2009) (“FOL”), having stalled altogether in the early episodes at my first attempt. For another, I have such mixed feelings about this drama, I’ve found it hard to write a coherent review.
Initially, I was intrigued by what others said about this drama. “Heart-breaking.” “Hard to watch.” Most intriguing of all, “I loved it, but I would never recommend this to my friends.” With a dis-recommendation like that, how could contrary-me resist? My own reaction has touched extremes, from indifference to utter absorption. Though I gobbled up the last four episodes and was left speechless and emotionally wrung out, I can’t deny that the middle of the series was a slow hard slog for me with stretches of (dare I say it) boredom. I’d say, provocatively: I don’t love this show, but I recommend you watch it.
And why should you watch this?
As if we really need an introduction. Our lovebirds lived happily ever after about says it all. With three adorable rugrats no less. And not in a poor house, either. Just not in his mother’s house. JW gets his memory back and more. And we get a classic ending to beat all endings. And after twenty episodes, I give the Secret Garden its final personal rating, 8 out of 10, which places it at the same pedestal as the previous classics such as Coffee Prince First Shop and My Girl.
As we near the end of this sweet and yet suddenly angst-filled roller coaster of a drama, we again come back to romantic love, and, boy, do we ever. The sob-fest, as wits calls it, plays out like Love Story and West Side Story intertwined but with a distinct Korean flavor and intensity and hopefully without the fateful ending. And oh, what a love story it is. As JW is writing the letter to RI which could be the last one he writes as a living human being, he sobs uncontrollably, not because he’s afraid of dying, I think, but because he feels RI’s pain of having to live without him and his without her. And later RI contemplates the same selfless act of love as she sobs holding the very letter against her heart, just as JW did with her Little Mermaid declaration of love “letter.”
We don’t see much of romantic love in these two episodes, but that’s okay because we see a different kind of love. A love between parents and offspring – a love where one parent sacrifices his life for somebody else’s kid, and a love of a mother for the very kid, however misguided it may be, brings once a seemingly indomitable force to her knees.
Being stuck in an elevator for the second time in 13 years brings back the partial memory for JW, while RI hears from his mother, what JW is beginning to suspect, that they lost someone “precious” that fateful day.
Christmas is for celebration of love, and we are certainly blessed this season in more ways than one. While I was slumbering away in the festivities of this Christmas, our two lovebirds were busy going from precarious to a sure thing in little less than four episodes.
When I last saw them, which seems like a lifetime ago (I am told that too many screaming kids and too much eggnog can do that to anybody), our lovebirds were sweating away in the evil witch of the West’s abode. Based on the subsequent sequence of events, the chasm between them appears to grow deeper and their parting almost inevitable. But thanks to the most unlikely fairy godmother and even more improbable of a bodyguard, they become, at least in their minds, a bona fide couple that we have all been waiting for.
Given their newly but ethereally cemented bond, starting their journey even in the witch’s presence doesn’t thwart my fingers from dancing on my laptop’s keyboard. Yeah, I know, my fingers need to get a life.
As we near the halfway mark in this drama, I’m beginning to realize more and more just how similar our two lovebirds really are. Bite my tongue, you say? How dare I compare the os to our damsel-in-combat? Well, let me count the ways.
First, they both have temper. So what, who doesn’t, you say? Okay. Second, they are both very strong-willed. Yawn, do you? Tough crowd. Okay, how about this? Third, they both love each other “with all their hearts,” but they are too proud, thick-headed, and misguided to admit it. Their hearts know it, but their brains don’t. That’s evident when JW chases after RI through flights and flights of stairs, and when RI makes an effort to read all that he reads to find out what he’s really thinking. What they say to each other and what their hearts are saying are two entirely different things. Let me show you what I mean.
Just because this drama heralds from a fantasy genre, I know it doesn’t mean that the writer can hear my thoughts, but oh, what a difference an episode makes. After trying our patience with awkward goofiness of gargantuan proportion during the soul-switch, the writer comes back with a vengeance. He gives us, albeit temporarily, the original characters back through a magical veil. Yes, some people hate the veil, but I embrace it with gratitude.
And our prince charming has come back. And I don’t just mean from her body. I mean he is slowly, at times painstakingly so, but surely going from Mr. Hyde to more Dr. Jekyll. The baby steps notwithstanding, JW is becoming a man RI could love “with all her heart.” Oh, he still has his moments of petulance and immaturity, but lest we forget, life is more about process than destination.