With this week’s episodes completing the introductory, premise-establishing phase of new SBS drama It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl, I feel like I can now make a judgment call, when I’d been holding off after last week’s broadcast of Episode 1 — I’d felt the story was still incomplete because of the pre-emption of Episode 2 and wanted to hold off.
These new episodes essentially confirmed my initial impressions — that the drama is pretty flawed and at points feels tired, but is sustained by its tight relationships and some heartfelt (and heart-tugging) acting. I don’t think it’s nearly as strong as its timeslot predecessor Dr. Champ, but it does fall into line with the one before that, I Am Legend, in terms of tone and similar set of strengths/weaknesses. The good: Solid acting and lots of conflict built into the premise. The not-so-good: Stock baddies and ho-hum directing don’t elevate the overall work into being more than the sum of its parts.
I don’t think I’ll continue recaps though I intend to keep watching, because there are a few characters I’m really liking. And thankfully, two of those are our leads, Moon Chae-won and Choi Jin-hyuk.
SONG OF THE DAY
Byul – “오늘 참 아프다” (Today is quite painful) [ Download ]
EPISODES 2 & 3 (a condensed recap)
Dad defends Chae-ryung from her would-be attacker Deok-ki, and the latter backs off, knowing this situation hasn’t turned out as planned. But despite that acknowledgment, he maintains his cocky, resentful attitude, and his casual insults about Chae-ryung spur Dad into a righteous anger. He hits Deok-ki and the two of them end up falling to the ground, with Deok-ki hitting his head on the wall.
The three helpful young men turn out to be acquaintances of Deok-ki, and they restrain him until the police come. Deok-ki knows he’s screwed, but keeps up his tough-guy shell — it’s the classic case of somebody using offense as defense to hide his own pain.
Dad asks the police to let Deok-ki go without pressing charges, but not before he delivers an impassioned warning about never doing this to his daughter, or anyone’s daughter, ever again. As he’s a young man who will one day be a father himself, Dad is giving him the chance to live a decent life.
After he leaves, Deok-ki scoffs with self-loathing, wondering why he should have to hear words of parental concern from a stranger, when his real parents never gave a damn.
Jong-seok is furious to have his princely moment of glory thwarted by the botched setup, since he had been ready to swoop in and save Chae-ryung himself. He’s in a foul mood when he meets Deok-ki that night, and does not react well to Deok-ki’s attempt to extort more money out of him by threatening to take this public.
But that’s nothing compared to how violently his anger sparks when Deok-ki says that Chae-ryung’s better off receiving that coveted handbag from her precious dad, and that Jong-seok should just give up on her. Jong-seok reacts so frighteningly that Deok-ki quickly backpedals and begs for forgiveness.
Jong-seok gives him the handbag, saying that ought to cover most of his blackmail demand, and then gives the rest in a way designed to be as humiliating as possible — the throws a wad of bills in the air and tells him to pick them up from the ground.
It’s demeaning, but Deok-ki kneels and quietly cries as he picks up the bills. It’s only at the very last second that he becomes aware of Jong-seok driving toward him in a fit of rage, and he scrambles out of the way. In so doing, he falls down the stone steps and hits his head hard on the ground.
Turns out he’s the middle child of three brothers: Eldest brother HYUK-KI (Choi Jin-hyuk) is a law student who is currently fulfilling military service. Younger brother WOOK-KI (Donghae) resembles his older hyung with his good heart and honest spirit; he works multiple jobs and begs his wayward middle brother to straighten out and earn money the honest way.
They have a classic brotherly dynamic, one of the things I like best about the drama. Eldest brother Hyuk-ki holds up the family, and by necessity he treats their bad-tempered, frivolous parents with a respect they probably don’t deserve, trying to keep the peace and to support them all. Younger brother Wook-ki, a bit naive and idealistic, has followed his hyung’s lead and bears the brunt of the family’s breadwinning duties while Hyuk-ki is in the army.
But the middle brother is the one consumed by resentment — it’s something they all feel but that the others suppress, while Deok-ki acts out with self-destructive behavior.
Deok-ki complains of headaches but waves it off, saying he was in a minor car accident. The brothers wonder at the ruined designer bag he has brought home and the money it contains, afraid he’s been doing something illegal again.
Alas, things take a turn for the worse, and Deok-ki’s head injury ends up killing him.
Dad and Chae-ryung are brought back to the police station to give a statement. They worry that the death is a result of Dad’s push, which knocked Deok-ki’s head against the wall. It was a light knock and nobody thinks it was strong enough to do him in, but since it’s mentioned in the police report, they have to go through more questioning. The Eun family is a mess of worries for poor Dad, who may be charged with involuntary manslaughter if the autopsy pins the cause of death on the head injury.
To his (very minor) credit, Jong-seok is stunned at the news — he may be a conniving bastard, but I don’t think he really had it in him to kill in cold blood. He does have it in him to cover it up, though, and he begs his parents for help.
Jong-seok’s cool-headed parents see him as a no-good failure, but he IS one of their own, and they spring into action. (Well, their motives are largely selfish, because this scandal would ruin their names as well.) They start working on the case and initiate the cleanup process, starting with the one eyewitness to the car scene: Deok-ki’s friend Byung-chun, who’d arrived in time to see Deok-ki injured.
Byung-chun feels awful over his friend’s passing, but Jong-seok’s father buys his silence with a few promises. Byung-chun has a crime in his past that he insists was a wrongful accusation, which Daddy Park promises to clear from his record. He also concedes to Byung-chun’s request that Deok-ki’s poor family get a generous settlement.
However, when Daddy Park asks about the designer bag Deok-ki had taken from his son, Byung-chun lies and says that Deok-ki threw it away.
Lest you find the parents too reptilian in their response, they’re not completely unethical. Okay, they’re morally questionable, but not quite as bad as they seem at first, because when the parents hear that Jong-seok tried to hit Deok-ki with a car, they go ballistic. He’d told them that he hit Deok-ki in self-defense, so they’re shocked at this appalling lack of morals in their son.
But Jong-seok mollifies them by pleading for forgiveness, saying that he was thinking of them all the while — he only hit Deok-ki where he’d already been hit, because he was thinking of his parents. He was deliberately keeping his tracks clean for THEIR sakes! Hm, maybe they ARE as bad as they seem, because they seem oddly appeased by that answer.
Wook-ki identifies his brother’s corpse at the hospital and breaks down in tears over the body, which is when Daddy Eun enters the room and expresses his heartfelt sorrow. He kneels on the ground and cries, saying that if he could go back and exchange his life for Deok-ki’s, he would.
Curiously, Wook-ki doesn’t seem to bear the old man any grudge for his brother’s death, and bids him goodbye with a respectful bow.
He shares his reason for that when Hyuk-ki comes back from the army again after hearing the news. Wook-ki recalls that Deok-ki had complained of being in a car accident, but that there were no witnesses around so he couldn’t go after the driver legally. Yet in the police report, there was no car, and there were several eyewitnesses.
Something doesn’t add up, and Wook-ki wonders if that old man is being wrongfully accused in the case. He gets to work trying to locate that bag, which could be one big clue.
Meanwhile, Hyuk-ki seeks out the three witnesses, one of whom happens to be a good friend of his. The three boys (the middle one being Yeon-doo, played by CN Blue’s Kang Min-hyuk) are in a band together and often play at bars, which is how they first met Deok-ki.
The band trio also find the circumstances odd, because Deok-ki isn’t the type to sexually harass a woman — all he ever cared about was money. So, they wonder, it’s more likely that he was paid to do it, which means there’s more to this case. But when Hyuk-ki and his friend seek out Byung-chun for more info, they find that he’s already quit his job and moved on.
Dad suffers another setback when his friend, the company CEO, makes the “please don’t take this personally” decision to let him go (or, to put it in polite terms, asks him to write his resignation) because of the pending manslaughter issue. I think we get to call him ex-friend now. The employees are all on Dad’s side and ask him to stick it out, but Dad quietly cleans up his desk and makes his departure.
Chae-ryung and Ae-ryung unfortunately pick this day to pack Dad a special lunch and deliver it to his office, just as he’s saying his goodbyes to the loyal staff. Sensible older sister Ae-ryung holds in her hurt, but Chae-ryung is overcome with the indignity and unfairness of it all and loses her temper, railing against the jerk of a CEO and screaming that it’s unfair. Dad and Ae-ryung hold her tightly as she sobs, and this is the scene that Hyuk-ki witnesses as he walks up toward the office building.
But there’s one last bit of hell for the family to endure, which comes when the coroner declares that the head injury indeed was the cause of death. Which means, for all intents and purposes, that Dad was the killer.
Dad is scheduled to be taken in to the police, and prepares to surrender himself. When the girls come to get him, he finally collapses under the stress.
First off, a couple things I left out because it didn’t fit in to the recap proper:
For instance, the whole Jin-gu plotline. As mentioned previously, he’s a spoiled rich boy with a stern father, the hardworking hospital director Dr. Jung, who perceives him as a frivolous dandy boy. To be fair to Dr. Jung, Jin-gu is exactly that. He is totally content to live off of Daddy’s dime, especially when Daddy has so very many of them.
However, not even Mom has much sway over her rule-with-an-iron-fist husband, who has had enough of Jin-gu’s shenanigans. He’s given Jin-gu plenty of chances, but sonny boy has frittered them away. Like the two apartment buildings he was given ownership over and sent to ruin with mismanagement. Now Jin-gu has been cut off entirely, and only if he makes a prudent marriage with a girl Dr. Jung approves of will he find his credit lines and cash flow reinstated.
Which is why his mother has schemed with her matchmaker friend into finding a suitable gir, for the dual purpose of appeasing Dad and unfreezing Jin-gu’s funds. It only bothers them a little that they’ll be sorta scamming the poor girl, hiding their true motives. But they’re willing to make that sacrifice, and Ae-ryung has been found suitable for this purpose.
Faced with the prospect of having his cash flow completely dry up, Jin-gu agrees to marry Ae-ryung, and jumps into the process of courting her (which means courting her mother’s favor).
I have an inexplicable fondness for this show, although I acknowledge that it’s not really well-made in terms of production value, cinematic quality, music, or even nuanced writing. It continues to feel like a family drama, just cut down to fill 16 episodes (or maybe 20) instead of the usual 50+ or 100+. But maybe that’s the appeal, because I actually do like family dramas and sitcoms on occasion; I just can’t commit to such long running times.
One of its big weaknesses is that the drama simplifies things rather than attempting complexity or nuance or even just layers. Relationships and conflicts are flattened out rather than rounded out, which loses some of the excitement factor. For instance, I was pretty intrigued at the idea that our main love story was to be between the dead guy’s brother and the daughter of the dead guy’s so-called killer. Talk about built-in angst, conflict, and turmoil, right?
How awesome would that have been, to have them drawn together but complicating their attraction with issues of guilt and burden? Imagine the drama where Hyuk-ki blames Chae-ryung and her father for his brother’s death, all while battling his attraction to her and trying to reconcile those two opposing voices in his head. I wouldn’t want the revelation of the true killer to be held back till the very end, but it could be tapped quite nicely for a few episodes at least.
Only, right away we have all the characters on Deok-ki’s side — his brothers and his friends — deciding that the guilty guy isn’t actually guilty. And that there’s some other explanation for the death. Almost before we begin, we’ve sapped out a tremendous amount of delicious conflict potential! I wanted to see them on opposing sides, if just for a while — only, Hyuk-ki and Wook-ki are SO large-hearted and generous and honest, just like Daddy Eun, that we lose that angle. Boo.
I want more goodness in my villains (Jong-seok) and more badness in my heroes (Hyuk-ki, Wook-ki). Funnily enough, Deok-ki has shown the most compelling mix of goodness and badness, which made me sad when he had to die. Sigh.
Even so, I have to say that although the character relationships are not written in the sharpest of manners, somehow they come alive with these actors.
I’m drawn to the familial relationships in particular — and I suppose it’s fitting that Daddy’s Girl is full of daddy issues. It’s sort of clunky to have every main character dealing with fatherly conflict, but I appreciate getting to see this play out in multiple different ways. For instance, although our main father, Daddy Eun, is a veritable paragon with a huge heart, Hyuk-ki and Wook-ki have to contend with irresponsible parents who can’t see beyond their own selfish wants. When Deok-ki complains of headache, Dad harshly opposes him going to a hospital because if anyone should “get” to see a doctor, it should be the old, achy parents, not the hardy young son.
Hyuk-ki and Wook-ki have to deal with the same frustrations, but each brother has a different way of coping with his parents. Then there’s Lazy Jin-gu, a constant disappointment to his father, but one who doesn’t really care about winning his favor — not as long as the money is free-flowing. In contrast, Jong-seok is in a similar position but feels much more hurt at his parents’ lack of pride or faith in him, which he then compounds by doing stupid things like killing people accidentally.
You can see how Jong-seok and Deok-ki might have become frenemies, because they both share the same hurt resentment toward their parents and act in foolish, self-destructive ways, as though they can’t decide whether they want to piss off Daddy or make him proud, so instead they hover in that perpetual in-between space. It almost makes me wonder if the drama will take advantage of their similarities by making Deok-ki the cautionary tale and redeeming Jong-seok… but I think that’s wishful thinking. I don’t hold out much hope that this drama will move beyond the simple arithmetic of a villain = a villain.
So: While Daddy’s Girl is not a funny drama, and so far there isn’t much squee-worthy cuteness, and despite the clunky writing and the plodding pacing, I’m hanging in there because I find that the drama has one quality that makes up for those deficiencies: a lot of heart.
A slick, well-executed plot with no heart might lose me right away, but I’ll put up with a lot of clumsiness if the drama can make me feel something for it. The fact that Daddy’s Girl makes me well up in tears at points and makes me feel pangs of sympathy at others is enough, for now, to keep me tuning in.
Plus! I do still have a teeny bit of hope that the romance between Moon Chae-won and Choi Jin-hyuk will hit interesting complications. I hope I hope I hope.