It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl: An overview
It’s been a while since I wrote about It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl, but, as noted in this prior thread, despite the many obvious flaws, the drama has had an inexplicable hold on me — and some of you, too.
The drama ended a week and a half ago quietly (its finale ratings were in the vicinity of 11%, a series high), and truth be told, it’s not a show to have a lasting impression. But for whatever reason, I found its 17-episode run easily watchable despite its numerous weaknesses.
Since I don’t relish the idea of doing a straight recap of the past 14 episodes, the following is more an overview of the series as a whole, which will include spoilers. Fyi!
SONG OF THE DAY
It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl OST – “가슴이 말해” (My Heart Speaks) sung by Kang Sung, the actor who plays Jin-gu. [ Download ]
When I’d last left off with the Episode 2 & 3 recaps, an innocent father had been arrested for manslaughter while the real killer (spoiled, veering-on-psychotic rich boy Jong-seok) had covered his tracks. Now Daddy Eun lies in the hospital from an aneurysm triggered by the stress of his arrest, leaving his family desperate for hope that he will recover.
Older sister Ae-ryung is swayed by the generous actions of Jin-gu, the playboy who must prove to his father that he’s turned his irresponsible ways around or face being financially cut off. In the wake of her father’s collapse, he takes charge and directs them to his father’s hospital, smoothing the way for the worried family while assuming the gentle caretaker role.
Of course, he’s primarily motivated by selfish reasons — he has to look good to Ae-ryung to convince her to marry him — but he’s a good guy at heart, too, and his attentions are more or less sincere. It’s a case of doing something for an ulterior motive, but then enjoying the goodwill that results from that and realizing that maybe it’s just as fulfilling to do good as it is to play the hedonist.
Chae-ryung (Moon Chae-won), still rather selfish and thoughtless, suggests that her sister marry Jin-gu, since he’s a nice enough sort and his family ties would take care of their hospital bill. Ae-ryung feels torn for a brief moment, thinking that perhaps she might have a chance with her father’s kindly doctor instead — only to find out that he’s taken. So with her family facing a future of genteel poverty and no better prospects around, she accepts Jin-gu’s offer.
Both Chae-ryung’s family and the Choi brothers (Hyuk-ki, Wook-ki) are displaced from their homes due to money troubles. In the immediate aftermath of Deok-ki’s death, Chae-ryung’s family had sought the legal advice of Jong-seok’s parents, not realizing that their legal counsel was tainted by their desire to cover up for their son. They’d advised the Eun family to rustle up a settlement fee, and the family had handed over 500 million won (about $400,000) to Deok-ki’s parents, who had grabbed the cash and split. They’d left their two sons with no more than a note that if it turns out that Daddy Eun isn’t guilty of killing Deok-ki, they ought to repay the settlement fee. Such thoughtful parents.
This also leaves Chae-ryung’s family nearly broke, although their situation is exacerbated by Mom and Uncle Man-soo’s foolish attempt to make cash quick on a business scheme. They’d been hoping to cover all their recent bills with the windfall… only, there’s no such thing as get-rich-quick. Now Mom is juggling loan shark fees, though she allows the family to believe that their strain is solely from the settlement, and that forces them out of their comfortably bourgeois home and into a roach-infested apartment.
Ae-ryung and Jin-gu marry, although the ceremony is a muted affair with the absence of Dad. Ae-ryung, thankfully, is well-liked by her father-in-law, Dr. Jung, and he understands that she married into the family for her father’s sake. She promises to make this up to him, and plays the part of the dutiful daughter-in-law.
Jin-gu is tempted to resume his frivolous ways immediately upon marriage, but he fends off his friends because he’s enjoying having his father’s approval, for once. Now that he’s made a good move in marrying a woman his father deems worthy, he’s not about to lose that credit and plays the part of the faithful husband — and again, because he’s got a good nature to begin with, he finds himself slipping into the role with relative ease.
The Choi brothers have been harboring suspicions that there’s another culprit responsible for Deok-ki’s death, particularly after receiving the mysterious text message that there’s more to the story. However, they keep this to their circle of friends, not wanting to share this with the Eun family until they have proof.
In the meantime, Hyuk-ki and Wook-ki continue to work hard and visit Daddy Eun, treating him with as much care as real sons might. There’s a nice conflict in here in that the Eun family feels indebted to the brothers because of Deok-ki’s death, while the brothers feel indebted to the Euns because if they’re right, then the family has suffered for nothing.
Chae-ryung experiences a bout of self-pity that frankly goes on too long, because she’s been used to a pampered lifestyle and can’t come to grips with her new home or situation. Mind you, she’s not actually starving or homeless, so my sympathy for her whininess only extends this far: Boo freakin’ hoo.
The one thing she does in her bout of righteous indignation that I’m okay with is yelling at her mom, once she discovers that it’s actually Mom’s foolish investment that forced them out of their home, not Dad or the settlement. Mom and Uncle pack up to find the guy who ripped them off, promising not to return until they’ve solved the matter.
Thankfully, it’s Hyuk-ki — with whom she’s been growing closer as he continues to help with her father — who kicks her out of her funk by pointing out that she could, you know, actually work. It’s a strange concept for her, since her education has been middling at best and she has no experience or skills, but the point is taken.
In her typical Chae-ryung way, she initially turns her nose down at menial jobs that would pay too little to support her family, and reluctantly turns to that last resort of so many desperate k-drama heroines: the bar hostess. That’s a short-lived first day on the job, because her sugar daddy karaokes to the song her own father always sang, and if that’s not enough to skeeve out a body, I don’t know what is. She runs out of the bar, just as Hyuk-ki gets there, intent on stopping her. Aw. He’s too late for that, but just in time to offer her a platonic-but-not-really piggyback ride home.
After that, Chae-ryung finally gets around to pulling up some bootstraps and goes on a job-seeking bender, landing herself not one but three part-time gigs. Welcome to the Choi Boy lifestyle, honey. This means one job making coffee at the crack of dawn, followed by a restaurant gig in the afternoon, topped off with a night of washing dishes at a bar/club, where both Hyuk-ki and Wook-ki (conveniently!) also have part-time jobs. Oh, and also their roommate friends. And also Chae-ryung’s old middle-school buddy. It’s a small world after all.
It’s this group of friends who, through no reason other than sheer decency of character, often step up and help out with Chae-ryung’s family, particularly in looking after her father and in trying to crack the case of who the real killer is. Due to complications from his aneurysm, Dad is moved into a nursing home, allowing for Chae-ryung and her brother to work full-time.
In fact, it’s the friends who first cotton on to Jong-seok’s constant hovering, which has gone unnoticed by Chae-ryung. He has been following her around, growing angrier to see her buddying up to Hyuk-ki, and has been seen by co-workers who find his presence ominous. They alert Chae-ryung to her stalker, and she finally confronts Jong-seok and tells him in no uncertain terms that she isn’t interested, and that he’d better buzz off. He… does not take this well.
Meanwhile, Ae-ryung has been going through her own issues with her in-laws, since Jin-gu’s mother and sister have decided to make her life hellish. Ae-ryung bears their shrewishness without complaints, but her attempts to bridge the gap go ignored, particularly by sis-in-law Sae-yeon.
This drama has way too many characters and plotlines, because yet another troublemaker steps up in the form of a bar hostess, Hee-jae, who has revenge on her mind. Turns out she’s Jin-gu’s half-sister — a product of a first marriage — but since Mom hates her, she’d conspired with their lawyer to strip Hee-jae of her medical license. So now Hee-jae harbors a grudge and conspires to tell Ae-ryung one of the big family secrets (well, other than herself) — that Jin-gu had himself a little “accident” twenty years ago, and his sister Sae-yeon is actually his daughter.
Omo! In a properly plotted drama where big dramatic reveals are given the room to play out, this would be a shocker. But no, Sae-yeon finds out the truth, runs away from home, and seeks solace with the Choi brothers (she’s got a crush on the younger Wook-ki). In the span of an episode or two, Wook-ki puts her pouting princess attitude to rest by making her work for her keep, and like magic, she comes around to her family.
Jin-gu’s got some ‘splainin’ to do, however, and faces his wife with remorse. He fesses up to the other big shocker she has discovered: that she’s not wife no 1. (Or 2.) Ae-ryung battles her impulse to run, but because their relationship has grown into one of mutual caring, she decides to go back with him, surprising his family with her loyalty. Jin-gu feels bolstered by the way Ae-ryung expects more of him than his parents did, and vows to do better, even maybe start working. (I know!)
And then, a break in the case. Or should I say, several breaks in the case, completely unrelated to each other, all conveniently cropping up simultaneously. Just in time for finale week!
Jong-seok gets into a fender-bender with a couple of the Choi brothers’ friends, but due to his sneering ‘tude, what should have been a minor matter for an insurance claim turns into an argument, which leads to a hit and run. He then does the supremely stupid thing of seeing Hyuk-ki in the street and trying to run him over — in broad daylight no less — and boasts to both parties about having connections that’ll keep him out of trouble. Of course, this attempted car-assault reminds Hyuk-ki of his poor brother’s demise, and another piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Plus, the Hit-N-Run victim is so insulted by Jong-seok’s attitude that she declares her intent to pursue this to the full extent of the law. Oh yeah, her brother’s a law student (and Hyuk-ki’s friend). And did she mention her dad’s on the Supreme Court? (For reals.)
Jong-seok goes crying to Lawyer Daddy, who rustles up paperwork to cover his son’s ass. But the strength of Daddy’s influence is on the wane, and Jong-seok gets carted away for his hit and run as well as manslaughter.
Meanwhile, Daddy Eun is finally up for his own court date on the manslaughter charge. Team Choi Brothers has been hard at work building up his defense, and on trial day, they bring in anybody and everybody to testify. It’s all very damning for Jong-seok, as well as his father, whose professional misdeeds are laid bare.
They even have a hidden trump card: Deok-ki’s friend, who’d been bought off by Lawyer Daddy, who had seen the entire attack with his own eyes and even recorded it on cell phone. Alas, the cell phone has been damaged beyond all repair, and they have no other concrete evidence tying Jong-seok to Deok-ki’s death.
The outcome: Daddy Eun is absolved of any guilt. There is not enough evidence to convict Jong-seok of the manslaughter, but he does get a year in the clink for his hit and run, and not even Daddy can save him from that.
It’s a bittersweet victory, because as much as everyone is thrilled for Daddy Eun, it also means that Deok-ki’s killer has gone unpunished. With that wrongful death hanging between them, the lovers — Chae-ryung and Hyuk-ki — don’t feel free to pursue their attraction, and leave things on a wistful note. Chae-ryung gets the opportunity to pursue her career abroad, because (1) being a barista is that important, and (2) this drama is on a scavenger hunt for cliches.
And then… FOUR YEARS PASS.
Pretty much everyone gets a nice, neat ending, like the Eun family, which has rebounded from their lows to run a successful family restaurant. In fact, today’s the day that they have finally paid off the last of their loans, which signals the beginning of a new era for them. Ae-ryung’s marriage is happy, and so is her in-law family.
Hyuk-ki is now a prosecutor, while his law-school friend is a judge. Today he has received a key piece of evidence in the mail — the purse that got run over by Jong-seok’s car, sent from his now-deceased mother.
The other key piece of evidence has also lain dormant for years — Deok-ki’s broken phone. But wouldn’t you know it, younger brother Wook-ki has become a tech researcher and has developed a newfangled way to restore lost videos. You know what this means!
And yup, it’s finally time to go after Jong-seok again, who has sunken further into his dissipated ways by drinking and gambling at illegal casinos, expecting his father to bail him out. And the ultimate sign that he is despicable? He wants father dearest to get him out of army duty! No single act could signal more clearly his utter villainy.
Dad is left begging for mercy, and with that unfinished business well on its way to finally being wrapped up, Hyuk-ki is finally free to run into Chae-ryung again. Well, she WAS in China for four years, but she is conveniently back.
Their happenstance reunion isn’t very wordy, but the feelings are still there as he tells her, “I missed you like crazy,” and she returns the sentiment.
And then, the entire gang assembles at the Eun’s modest home to celebrate Dad’s 60th birthday. The end.
Oh man, there’s no reason this drama should have been as watchable as it was for me, with its clunky storytelling and often mediocre-to-bad acting by the very green cast. In fact, I’d venture to say that Choi Jin-hyuk was the only one who was doing any decent acting to speak of, particularly as the drama headed toward its close. Everyone else was kind of putzing around, saying their lines and trying to remain in character, while he was the only one really getting into the skin of his Hyuk-ki character. Thank goodness for that, because if we had not even that scrap, who knows how much less watchable this drama would’ve been. And I say that as someone who really enjoys Moon Chae-won, normally. She had a character who wasn’t terribly interesting — I didn’t hate her, although I wouldn’t be surprised if her spoiled princess routine wore thin for some — but neither did she add to the role with any added oomph of her own. You could argue that Hyuk-ki was just as flat a character on the page, but at least Choi Jin-hyuk gave him heart and emotion.
The rest of the cast… meh. Some were bad but entertainingly so, like Jeon Tae-soo going for another straight-up psycho villain. He was not well-acted, but the character was pretty ridiculous with his ability to stir up trouble and not care about it. Donghae may have lucked out by scoring a character who is so good-hearted and likable to earn him goodwill with viewers — but let’s be honest, boy wasn’t really acting much. But when you hold him up against the rest of the posse, he was pretty much par for the course, which means he didn’t stick out (…’cause they all sucked. Faint praise indeed). They’re redeemed (if you could call it that) by the fact that the posse was an overwhelmingly benevolent, kind, thoughtful presence in the drama that you were meant to like them regardless of how well they carried out the technicality of acting the roles.
The romance was pretty tame and, sadly for me, fairly understated the whole way through. There’s a reason the drama ends on Daddy Eun with his daughters, though, and not the romantic resolution, because as we know, the title of this is It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl — as if they’d ever let us forget! It also took way too long to get started — about eight or nine episodes, if I recall correctly. I think I may have been watching more for the promise of what might happen – what I hoped would happen — than was actually happening onscreen. Because these two are cute together, had some chemistry, and could have been so much more.
Take their parting, which was a nice narrative turn that I liked, and wished could have had more impact if only the rest of the drama were stronger. After the case is closed, Chae-ryung is about to embark on her job opportunity, and Hyuk-ki is genuinely happy for her advancement, because he’s always believed she had it in her — it’s why he was the one to alays push her rather than coddle her. Then he hears that her job will take her abroad, and that puts a damper on the mood… but with the disappointment of the unresolved case still hanging between them, he can’t hold on to her, either. Not for a moral or ethical reason, just that it’s too soon… they’re both feeling conflicted and hurt, and Deok-ki’s memory is too strong a presence right now.
So Chae-ryung bids him goodbye, and offers him the chance to say some last words before she goes. He can’t find the words, and she turns to go — so he grabs the mic and sings a song:
It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl OST – “죽을만큼” sung by Choi Jin-hyuk [ Download ]
On a symbolic level, it’s also why they don’t meet again until after he’s resolved the case. And to do that, he had to become the prosecutor, and his brother had to (snerk) invent a technology to recover the lost data. I mean, that’s kind of lame from a story point of view. No, it’s really lame. The drama could have just found Jong-seok guilty in the first place, but it wanted to give us the too-perfect ending of both brothers doing their part to bring their brother’s murderer to justice, in a very literal way. So we get the overly neat, rather implausible ending instead.
That speaks to the drama as a whole, really, because it’s actually full of interesting plots and conflicts. It just couldn’t pull them off with much competence. I said early on that Daddy’s Girl felt like a family drama, and that it does, all the way through. One problem that brings is that it means the pacing is all wrong for a miniseries — too slow, plodding, obvious. It takes five episodes to do what it could (should) do in one, as though it figures it has the luxury of fifty episodes to tell its story at a leisurely pace. Only it doesn’t — it only has 17. So stories take a while to unfold, and then are hastily wrapped up without giving ample time for the emotional fallout to have any effect. In fact, at some points I felt like Daddy’s Girl was actually just the highlight reel of a much longer family series — all the best parts squished into a shorter format, which gave us the plot but left out the room for the story to resonate with us.
So ultimately what I have to say about this drama is this: It could have been so much better, and I kind of wish that it was. But watched without the burden of those expectations, it somehow retained enough of its appeal — however raw and unfinished — to keep viewers tuned in.
- Daddy’s Girl issued warning for content
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- Moon Chae-won interview: Becoming daddy’s girl
- It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl: Episodes 2-3
- It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl: Episode 1
- Moon Chae-won sheds tears for Daddy’s Girl poster
- Character stills and preview for It’s Okay Daddy’s Girl