I Miss You premiered today, and I was eager to check it out for a few reasons. First off, the childhood leads are amazing. I like the adult leads as well, Yoochun and Yoon Eun-hye, and think they’d rock the melodrama genre, in addition to basically loving Yoo Seung-ho in anything he does. Plus, the writer and PDs’ resumés (Smile You, Can You Hear My Heart, Can’t Lose, Thank You) had me hopeful for a heartfelt, warm type of melo, rather than the overly theatrical kind.
Except… this is not a heartwarming melo. It’s a hardcore tearjerker with tragedy up the wazoo. I am decidedly nonplussed about this. I was all set to embrace this show and dive into the emotional whirlpool, only now, I find myself hesitant. I Miss You is definitely beautiful to look at, well-shot and strongly acted with characters whose predicaments you can really sympathize with. It’s the overload of misery that gives me pause.
I’ll hold out hope that things take an upturn, because there’s something here that’s quite compelling. As with so many things, it’s a matter of balance, and if I Miss You can deliver enough emotional substance to counter the heavy dramatics, I’m much more optimistic about its future.
SONG OF THE DAY
I Miss You OST – “떨어진다 눈물” (Falling Tears) by Wax. [ Download ]
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A girl walks down a residential alleyway, her head hung low, her eyes darting around nervously. I don’t think it’s jumping the gun too much to identify her as our heroine, LEE SOO-YEON (Kim So-hyun, played in adulthood by Yoon Eun-hye).
Soo-yeon enters the gate and hears a loud thunk! from inside the house. It pulls her short, all nerves. Oh dear, she lives a pretty grim life, from what we see of her shabby neighborhood and her fearful posture.
Cautiously, Soo-yeon makes her way inside and asks, “Mom?” A man roughly grabs her from behind and muffles her mouth. “Be quiet!” he hisses, “Somebody’s outside.”
He grabs her threateningly, asking where her mother is. Soo-yeon sobs that she doesn’t know, and he throws her to the ground, covering her in a blanket. Yikes.
We cut to outside, where a woman shakes as she listens below the window. Are you Mom? Are you really going to just hide there while your daughter screams, “It hurts”? I guess you are.
The man stomps on Soo-yeon brutally, over and over. He smirks, “It hurts? You were happy I was gone, weren’t you?” Please tell me this isn’t Dad. I don’t blame Mom too much for hiding, given that this is what would be happening to her too… okay, I do blame Mom. Lord, woman.
Some time later, Dad sits nursing a soju bottle. Another man enters and addresses him warningly as Lee Tae-soo. Dad flings the bottle at his head and swings with a wrench, but this man is expecting the fight and efficiently restrains him. Ah, he’s a cop — he cuffs Dad and rattles off his list of crimes.
More cops drag him off, and Dad yells, “I didn’t kill him!”
It’s only now that the cop, Detective Kim (Jeon Gwang-ryul), notices the huddle under the blanket. He finds Soo-yeon trembling, saying, “I… was wrong…” It’s her constant refrain, the thing she must always say in hopes of calming Dad’s rage.
Turns out Mom called the cops on her husband, and she arrives as Detective Kim emerges with Soo-yeon on his back. He says she’s hurt, but Mom mutters, “It won’t kill her,” and hurries inside the house. Wow. The astonished look on his face mirrors mine, and he calls to Mom. She snaps, “If you’re so worried, then you raise her!” Is it too much to hope that he will?
The chyron identifies that we’re in the summer of 1997. Then, a quick montage of scenes from the future:
We see a loft with a (woman’s?) dead body lying on the ground, a man crying by her side. Our hero runs madly to the distraught heroine, whom he embraces. Police cars screech to the scene.
The hero holds up a gun, grabs her bloodstained hand, and leads her away. We see the face of the sobbing man in the loft (Yoo Seung-ho).
A gunshot. Our hero falls with a bloody bullet wound in his temple. Ack! Is this going to be that kind of drama? Eeeeeek.
The hero lies on the ground in an empty shed, tears falling from his eyes.
We reopen in the fall of 1998 at an American junior high school. HAN JUNG-WOO (Yeo Jin-gu, later played by Park Yoochun) is called away from his football game with news that brightens his whole being: his father’s here.
Jung-woo runs through school with a huge grin that immediately disappears once he sees that it’s not Dad here to see him, but his assistant. Dad’s too busy with the company, as always. Jung-woo’s family lives in Korea, and his stepmother has sent him instructions on touring Ivy League schools, even though he’s only 15.
Yet it’s Seoul’s Gimpo Airport he ends up at, surprising not only his stepmother Hwang Mi-ran (Do Ji-won) but also the assistant he followed, ha. Jung-woo doesn’t seem to like her much, keeping his words polite but showing little care for her. They’re all heading to see Dad for the first time in six months, and he’s determined to be part of the reunion.
As their chauffeured car drives by a prison, he catches a glimpse of Soo-yeon on the street, hair hanging in her face, head bowed as always. Something about her strikes him.
They arrive to pick up Dad, who has served time for some kind of white-collar business-related crime, and Stepmom Mi-ran wades through a crowd of reporters hounding her with questions. Jung-woo has been ordered to stay in the car as Dad emerges in a wheelchair. Jung-woo darts through the crowd to join his family as they’re loaded onto a waiting ambulance.
Meanwhile Soo-yeon’s mother joins her outside, saying wearily, “It’s over. Let’s go.” Soo-yeon looks over to see a dead body being loaded into another ambulance. (We’ll find out later, but that’s her dad who’s just been executed.)
Jung-woo’s father, Han Tae-joon, is a cold, gruff sort who finds Jung-woo’s presence here unnecessary and unwelcome. Apparently they’d kept the prison stay a secret from Jung-woo, who says he came because it’s been so long that he’s heard from his father. Stepmom takes on a suddenly doting attitude and defends him, saying he’s old enough to know what goes on in the family now.
Han Tae-joon orders his family to go home, then takes a detour. We come to a large mansion, where another body is loaded onto a stretcher while a woman wails in distress. Lordy, drama, how about a little anchoring here? If I weren’t flipping over to the character chart every other minute, I’d be totally lost; I’m having enough trouble keeping all these bodies straight as it is.
This sickly man is a chairman, and the woman is his new wife, Kang Hyun-joo. She growls at Han Tae-joon that she’ll call the cops on him, because if something happens to the chairman, he’s a murderer.
There’s no love lost between Hyun-joo and Han Tae-joon. He snipes, “What, so you’ll put me away for murder this time?” He tells her he feels like he just got bit by his supposedly tame dog, accusing her of stealing money from him during his absence.
Hyun-joo bites out that he’d better stop treating her like a dog: “I gave birth to your father’s son!” Ah, I see. He thinks of her as a gold-digger who seduced his father, and she blames him for her husband’s collapse. This makes her… Jung-woo’s step-grandmother? Okay, got it. This is getting convoluted, and fast.
Han Tae-joon warns, “For your child’s sake, you’d better not make me angry.” She freezes at the threat. He smirks that the boy “won’t be dead yet.”
Seized with fear, she runs for her son’s room—in a separate cottage—screaming, “Joon-ah!” But the only thing inside are two dogs that leap at her. BANG! One dog falls to the ground, shot by Han Tae-joon, who asks menacingly, “Who do you think is next? Where is my money?!”
Hyun-joo is dragged away screaming for her son. But then the men see that a window is broken and stained with blood—the boy escaped. Han Tae-joon orders him found immediately.
That boy is Kang Hyung-joon (future Yoo Seung-ho), who limps away whimpering for his mother. (Ha, so Yoo Seung-ho is technically Yoochun’s uncle?)
The sound of barking dogs keeps Hyung-joon on the move… but then, someone grabs him.
By the waterside, Soo-yeon recites listlessly, “He’ll come… he won’t…” Her mother dumps her husband’s ashes into the lake and urges her to say some last words. Soo-yeon confirms, “Dad’s not coming back anymore, is he? It’s really over, right?”
Mom screams out the lake, cursing her hateful husband and bursting into sobs. A third visitor, Detective Kim, hangs back at a distance.
Mom gets drunk over dinner and toasts to their new life, while the other diners gossip about how Dad was executed for the murder of a child. Her loud behavior attracts stares, but Mom tells Soo-yeon not to mind them.
Jung-woo can’t sleep, and he wanders out in the middle of the night, bored. A creaking noise makes him lose some of his nerve, but upon coming to a playground he finds Soo-yeon mindlessly rocking back and forth on a swing. He recognizes her and joins her on the swings, noting, “Ah, so this is what you look like.”
She eyes him warily, but he just smiles at her and introduces himself. She expects that he knows who she is since everybody’s gossiping about her family. Blankly he asks if she’s famous—a celebrity? What?
In his momentary distraction Soo-yeon hurries away, but he calls after her, “Red uniform! Famous girl!” And then, “Lee Soo-yeon!” (It’s on her school nametag.) That stops her, and she returns to the playground. He keeps prodding her to answer—who is she then?
When it starts to rain, Jung-woo ducks under the slide and gestures for her to join him. Instead, she tells him to wait and darts back home to look for an umbrella. She excitedly tells Mom about the weird kid who keeps talking to her and calling her name, already smiling as she describes Jung-woo.
Soo-yeon finds the umbrella and runs back in the rain, offering it to Jung-woo. He thanks her and tells her he’ll return it tomorrow. She asks, “You’ll be back tomorrow?” He replies, “I have to return your umbrella.” Cute.
Jung-woo fights with the floppy, broken umbrella all the way home, getting soaked anyway. Ha. But he’s got a big grin on his face and embraces the wet.
The next morning Soo-yeon hurries out, eager to meet Jung-woo again. As she passes a house, a bowl smashes through a window and she sees a little kid inside who seems to by trying to break out of the barred window. The boy hides under her covers and doesn’t answer Soo-yeon’s questions, and she notices the padlocked gate.
Han Tae-joon is informed that there’s been no sign of the runaway boy. Hyun-joo keeps asking after him, but he’s willing to make a deal only under one condition: the boy gets returned in exchange for the stolen money. He orders his assistant, “So bring him back, even if it’s a dead body.” Yeesh. So Jung-woo’s dad is a bullying asshole; amazing that Jung-woo’s sunny nature escaped that, though maybe he has his overseas education to thank for it.
Jung-woo starts to head out to meet Soo-yeon, while his little sister Ah-reum whines that she wants to go with him. Stepmom Mi-ran stops him, though, informing him that Grandpa’s dead. It’s not emotional news since he’s never met the man, but it is surprising. (For clarity’s sake I’ll call Dad Chairman Han now, since he will be soon enough.)
Soo-yeon arrives at the playground and waits around, resuming her recitation of “He’ll come… he won’t…”
Unfortunately Jung-woo’s stuck at his grandfather’s funeral while his dad is off being villain-in-chief. Stepmom talks to Chairman Han on the phone, belatedly realizing that Jung-woo has overheard the conversation and is suspicious—they told him Dad collapsed, but he isn’t in the hospital. Why?
Jung-woo asks what Dad’s doing. Stepmom retorts that Dad went to prison to protect his money: “That’s the only thing your father knows.” Meaning, he only cares about his money, not bonding with his curious son. Jung-woo gets angry and tells her not to call herself his mother, and she replies that he should return to the States since she doesn’t enjoy having him around either.
Chairman Han is currently looming over the hospital bed of Hyun-joo. But she has deduced that he doesn’t actually know where her son Hyung-joon is, and calls him on the bluff.
He growls that if he can’t have that money, then nobody will. At that, she bursts out that the chairman gave her that money. She didn’t steal it—it was to protect Joonie from him. “If anything happens to our Joonie, you won’t receive one penny of that money!”
That tips him off that the boy must have the money, and he orders his man to find him asap. As he leaves, a nurse rolls a cart into the room—it’s the dead chairman’s nurse, who happens to be Hyun-joo’s confidante. She deliberately soils the bed to give them an excuse to shoo out the bodyguards while they clean up.
The nurse, Hye-mi, whispers to Hyun-joo that she has Joonie. She’s fearful and wonders if they should just return the money, but Hyun-joo tells her fiercely, “The chairman is dead. Now the only thing we can trust is that money.” Without that money, she warns, they’re all dead.
Hyun-joo gives her an order: “Take Han Tae-joon’s son.” Yikes. An eye for an eye, izzat it?
Chairman Han finds his son nodding off at the funeral hall, and takes him aside for a scolding. Don’t act of his own accord again, such as skipping out on school and flying here on his own. “I forgive just once. Keep that in mind.”
Jung-woo agrees, and asks if he can still come back for vacation. His father relents, and tells him he doesn’t have to go abroad if he doesn’t want to: “I’m different from my father. I don’t trust other people—I only trust my son, Han Jung-woo.”
Overhearing this is Stepmom, who understandably looks upset since she’s excluded from his trust.
Jung-woo returns to his room, seeing the umbrella and realizing he forgot to meet Soo-yeon. It’s past ten o’clock, and she’s only now walking back home after waiting all day.
Soo-yeon passes by the same house with the scared boy inside, and peers inside. Hyung-joon’s huddled in bed, whimpering in pain, and she asks if he’s sick. Nurse Hye-mi grabs her meanly and warns her to mind her own business.
At the police station, Detective Kim hounds his superior to reopen a case, and comes up against a brick wall. His boss says the case is closed, but Detective Kim says the real criminal confessed: “I can’t just bury this! From here on out, I will take responsibility for my mistake.” Hm, does he mean Soo-yeon’s dad was executed for a crime he didn’t commit?
The boss points out that this isn’t a matter so easily set to rights—he’s risking his own job. Lee Tae-soo (yup, Dad) had a long history of prior convictions, so they needn’t feel too guilty for letting him take this fall.
Still, Detective Kim’s guilt eats at him and he seeks out Soo-yeon’s school, again keeping his distance.
Soo-yeon is pushed around and mocked by the other students. On the other hand, the girls are quick to preen at the sight of a new student, Jung-woo, carrying a familiar yellow umbrella. When he asks after Soo-yeon, her name barely rings a bell until one girl recalls, “Oh, Number 27.” Then she shuts up, realizing this is awkward.
Jung-woo comes upon a crowd in the hallway, where someone wonders, “Why doesn’t Number 27 transfer out?” Inside the home ec classroom, Soo-yeon stands alone—everyone else refuses to go near her. They tell the teacher that they can’t share space with that shameful Number 27, the daughter of a murderer. What if she stabs them with the kitchen knife?
Jung-woo’s eyes widen. Soo-yeon has heard it all, and with head hanging she walks out of the class. She tells the teacher she’s sick and gets dismissed to see the nurse.
As the class files into the room, Soo-yeon meets Jung-woo’s shocked eyes. She calls his name and steps toward him—and he steps back in fear. Oof. That’s terrible. You can’t blame him for his reaction, but man does that hurt. He even hides the umbrella behind his back, like he wants to eliminate his excuse to talk to her.
None of this is lost on Soo-yeon, of course. She gets it. Without another word, she walks away.
Jung-woo is quickly recognized as popular kid material and bombarded with attention. The kids busily fill him in on Soo-yeon’s history and how her father killed two people, warning him to be careful around her.
Jung-woo attracts more adoration in gym class, while Soo-yeon sits off on the side, a thorough outcast. He takes out his personal frustrations in the basketball game, and his aggressive body-checking pisses off the other team.
Three boys corner him after the game, and the ringleader throws a punch. Jung-woo’s temper flares and he returns the punch, but he’s outnumbered and soon getting thoroughly kicked.
After a few moments, the boys are stopped by a barrage of basketballs rolling by them. It’s Soo-yeon, dragging along the ball cart and looking like the freaky Ring girl. She starts picking up the balls and whispers to Jung-woo to stay still—if he doesn’t fight back, they’ll lose interest.
I love that Soo-yeon uses her fearful reputation to spook the bullies, who quickly leave. But Jung-woo’s still shaking in rage and he hurls a ball at the leader’s head, ordering him to keep fighting.
He gets a few good blows in, but once again he ends up on the ground, getting stomped on. It’s an experience Soo-yeon can relate to, and the flashback to her abusive father has her huddling in fear, trying to block out the memory.
At her locker, she finds the yellow umbrella. As she leaves school, she finds Jung-woo standing at the entrance, keeping out of the pouring rain. She offers him the umbrella and again he flinches, like he thought she was trying to stab him. Tears fill her eyes.
“It’s not me,” she starts to cry. “I won’t kill anybody.”
But he backs away slowly, shaking his head no. When she calls his name, he bursts out, “Why are you doing this to me? If I pretended not to know you, you should’ve caught on—just go!”
Rather than getting angry, Soo-yeon says ruefully, “You got all wet because of me. I’m sorry. It’s okay, I’m not crying because I’m sad. It’s because of the wind, getting in my eyes.”
Soo-yeon walks away, leaving Jung-woo uncomfortably facing his conscience. He stands there in the rain, thinking of her words.
On her walk home, she recalls their first meeting, reinforced by the sight of the playground swings. It’s where he sits a short while later, getting drenched as he broods.
Soo-yeon walks by Hyung-joon’s window, and this time she hears Hye-mi pleading, “If you go outside and get caught, you’re finished! Don’t you want to see your mother?”
She peeks inside, and Hye-mi barks at her to get lost.
Mom comes up to her in the street and grabs at the umbrella. Opening it, they see a little note attached on a string, which reads: “Property of the most famous kid in the neighborhood, Lee Soo-yeon.” It brings a little smile to her face.
Meanwhile, Jung-woo stays out in the rain, swinging higher and higher, thinking of Soo-yeon. Finally he leaps off and goes running through the neighborhood, asking the neighbors for Soo-yeon’s house, passing Detective Kim on the way.
At home, Soo-yeon writes a letter to Jung-woo she doesn’t intend to send, which thanks him and wonders whether they could have been friends if not for her father.
Someone pounds on their door. But it’s not Jung-woo, who arrives at the house to see a commotion already in full swing. Soo-yeon’s mother rages wildly at a crowd of ajummas, screaming, “How much longer will you do this? Did I kill your husband? Did I kill your child? What do you want me to do?!”
The lead ajumma is the mother of the victim, and she cries, “Give me back my son!”
To which Mom grabs Seo-yeon—who is pleading with her to stop—and shoves her at the ajumma. “Then you take her! Kill her or let her live, do whatever you want!”
Seo-yeon grabs her mother’s leg, sobbing, and Mom just shoves her away, yelling, “Kill her! Die! She says you have to die for this to end!”
Jung-woo watches in horror, and then Detective Kim arrives as well. Seo-yeon begs for mercy, resorting to her go-to plea, “I was wrong, I’m sorry.”
To be fair, Mom’s not literally offering up her daughter for murder; it’s her fury at the ajummas and the injustice that drives her. Still, it’s cold comfort when Mom goes on to scream that they’re better off dead than living this way.
Seo-yeon crawls away on her hands and knees, and only then does she meet eyes with Jung-woo. Ouch. That’s another blow on top of everything else, and she runs in the opposite direction, away from him.
Jung-woo follows, calling her name. He loses track of her but doggedly keeps searching—until he hears that telltale creaking sound. He runs to the playground, and deflates to see the swings empty.
But he turns and smiles to see a foot peeking out from under the slide. She’s crouched there crying, and he tosses her the shoe she lost: “Found you!”
He addresses her, “Flower print dress. Famous girl. Lee Soo-yeon.” She looks up at him finally, and he adds, “Murderer’s daughter Lee Soo-yeon. Let’s be friends.”
Oy. Now that was a lot of tragedy, told in an uber-dramatic, tear-inducing way. I know the drama’s promos should have tipped me off for the crying ahead, but I really did think we’d get many light-hearted moments as well, scenes of bonding and sweetness to lighten the drear. And I’m not giving up hope that we can get that, because now that we’ve established the misery of Soo-yeon’s life, we can explore how Jung-woo brings light into it.
That’s why I’m not too surprised at the premiere ratings, with I Miss You opening in third place with a 7.7%. That’s lower than Arang and the Magistrate, but higher than the filler specials that occupied the gap, and I suspect there will be time for this one to build. It did take a bite out of the leader, Nice Guy, which came down a few percentage points to 16.2%, while The Great Seer drew an 8.5% rating.
The drama doesn’t actually feel very makjang, despite the fact that the story bears all the classic trademarks: the chaebol power struggle, the stepmom(s) jockeying for position, the intergenerational strife, the obsession with money and business and bloodline. It’s amazing what a director and cinematographer can do to tweak the ambiance, because it doesn’t feel at all like Baker King Kim Tak-gu or Bachelor’s Vegetable Store, although there are a lot of elements in common. I think this tonal quality is to its advantage, because the show feels emotive and moody in a compelling way. I just hope the Han and Kang family warfare doesn’t get too absurd.
I joked in an earlier post that this drama was like a Hate Rain, but funny enough that’s rather apt a description. You’ve got three generations of conflict brewing here, with stepmoms clashing with their bitter stepsons and ordering the capture of the other sons. Eek. It’s a merry-go-round of stealing and hating and scheming. Plus, this episode was pretty bad about explaining things clearly, in that it didn’t. Many of the plot elements were referred to only obliquely, in a way that only made sense after you’d seen the whole thing and read the character descriptions and maybe rewound a dozen times.
The gist of the story is simple, but all the machinations tend to get pretty convoluted. Essentially you have the Han family asserting dominance (they run the Geumyung corporation), with the Kang line (Hyun-joo and hidden son Hyung-joon) set up to challenge. In our generation, that gives us the Yoochun-versus-Yoo Seung-ho rivalry, with Yoon Eun-hye caught in the middle. I’m looking forward to that lineup, definitely.
A few things have me concerned, and one big hitch is that opening flash-forward sequence. WTF? Do they all die? That had better be a huge honkin’ fantasy or a metaphor, because if this drama ends with Yoochun shooting himself in the head to protect the girl, I’m going to be pretty upset. Then again, I suppose you could say I was warned.
I’ll keep watching and despite my reservations about the story, I find the drama quite watchable and sometimes even gripping. When I’m not furrowing my brow trying to unravel the tangled relationship threads, that is. Let’s cross our fingers that things improve on this first episode, and that we get a little more happiness up in this hizzy. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to stick around if tears and rain are all we get. Even if sometimes it’s happy rain.
- Yoochun’s fans demand firing of his co-star
- More tears for I Miss You’s leads
- Yoo Seung-ho’s poster shoot for I Miss You
- I Miss You completes its love square
- More photos of young romance (and heartbreak) in I Miss You
- Yoo Seung-ho joins I Miss You as Yoochun’s rival
- Yoochun and Yoon Eun-hye’s poster shoot for I Miss You
- Youthful romance in I Miss You’s poster shoot
- Yoon Eun-hye joins Yoochun in I Miss You
- Yoochun confirms I Miss You