The Great Show: Episodes 3-8 (Series review)
Aww I like this show so much. The Great Show didn’t tell us beforehand exactly what kind of a show it was planning to be and I really think it sells itself short. It’s so much better than its professed premise of performative politics colliding with a band of kids. A premise like this can easily be light on plot and succeed on slice-of-life strength alone, yet each week provides sharp turns and a degree of plot escalation which leave me honestly a little bit in awe.
We left off opening week with Dae-han declaring that he’d play dad to the kids, but Da-jung won’t forgive his initial rejection that easily. In a rather magnificent turn, she demands a written contract, and boom, you have the most unexpected contract relationship ever. It’s a great subversion of the trope which we’re so familiar with in the context of romance, and it creates a similar kind of tension.
They co-write the contract, each of them adding their own terms before they shake on it. It’s heartwarming and surprisingly poignant. I think it gives Da-jung the upper hand by a hair, too, as should the contract’s existence comes out, it won’t really hurt her materially, but it could unmake Dae-han completely. It’s a huge risk, but then that’s Dae-han: go big or go home (and he’s done both).
To continue the political theme, Dae-han also draws up a “constitution” for the new family to follow. Whatever his methods, his skills are unquestionable, and he really is the one bringing this wayward collection of individuals into a working order that may not be a perfect harmony, but is good enough. We know he’s driven by his desire to get his place back in the political ring, and just as he hopes, the new family generates the positive media interest he wanted.
Da-jung had made him agree to always put the kids first, no matter what, and one kid at a time, he’s immediately tested. I love conflicted Dae-han, and the fact that no matter how cynical he wants to be, he still has a tendency to respond from the heart. I think that is most evident when he hurls himself in front of a bus to save Tae-poong, risking his own life.
The way the show handles its episode endings are just great, because when the same event is replayed at the beginning of the next episode, it inverts the scene to give you two very different ways of seeing it.
It might be a moment of heroism for Dae-han, driven very much by his instincts as a genuinely better-than-okay human being… but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to turn every situation to his advantage and milk it whenever possible. I love that it maximizes both the emotion and the humor of the moment, and it’s something the show really capitalizes on, but with enough restraint that it remains delightful every time.
Da-jung might be the playmaker on the kids’ side, but she’s definitely not the only player. Surly Tak, for example, forces Dae-han to “prove” he wants him by making him buy him the latest phone (for his nonstop gaming). And man, the kid just kills it with his acerbic one-liners that speak Painful Truth. Then there are the twins: Tae-poong is a bratty disaster-magnet, while quiet little Song-yi hides her feelings even though she’s so tiny. They’re all kids with their own personalities and very different needs.
That’s the point where you think the show has hit its groove, and you settle in and make yourself comfortable. Of course, you would be wrong.
Dae-han’s ready for his big break with a TV comeback, headlining a debate show with Joon-ho as his opponent. Soo-hyun is the main writer for the show, so it places all our adult players in deliciously uncomfortable proximity.
That’s the stage where Dae-han begins his carefully calculated play to gain approval from both ends of the voter spectrum by taking on the sensitive subject of abortion. Just as he goes on record saying that his personal belief is that it’s a sin, Da-jung retches on air right there and you know what it means.
I did not see that coming for one second, and I’m amazed that the show just went there. I had no idea that was where the show was going! Neither did Dae-han! His immediate response to Da-jung’s pregnancy is for her to get an abortion, but in the end, Da-jung just can’t go through with it. She begs Dae-han to let her have the baby, but he staunchly refuses—she’s a minor! In high school!
We’re introduced to her sweetheart of a boyfriend, idol trainee CHOI JUNG-WOO (VIXX’s Hyuk), who is so sweet, guys. He comes off a little dim but his heart is the biggest. The way he steps up to be there for Da-jung is so lovely, and their relationship is believably mature. At first, I thought the relationship seemed way out of character for Da-jung (maybe because she looks like she’s fourteen), but they really convinced me.
Dae-han does eventually give his blessing (on live TV, of course), but not until Da-jung… well, blackmails him, threatening to expose the contract. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s the threat that worked on him, even if it pushed him over the last inch. He tells her later that the contract has become irrelevant: With the whole country’s eyes on them, they’re pretty much tied together for life after this. It’s a solemn moment for her as she realizes that she’s become a shackle for him, which was the last thing she ever wanted to do.
It’s these moments that remind you how vulnerable she is, and how tenuous the security she’s built. It scares me a little to think how much she’ll hate him and herself when she finds out that he isn’t her real father. There’s no way she’s going to see it the other way—that wow, this man took me in even though I am nobody to him. She just isn’t. She’s going to feel used and most of all hurt, because she’s already fallen for him as her dad. It won’t even matter that he’s fallen for her, too. Not at first, at least.
Soo-hyun begins to bond seriously with Da-jung over her pregnancy. I felt like Soo-hyun was a removable part early on, but I really, really like her as a character, and the way her storyline weaves through that of Dae-han and the kids.
A week or two ago, when Da-jung’s pregnancy was being revealed, I thought Soo-hyun’s past hid something similar—maybe an abortion or pregnancy of her own, and last week I was certain that her “sister” Ji-hyun was really her child (I know! Nothing is too crazy for dramaland!). But the true story of what happened to her sister definitely hit me harder, especially in the context of how it affects Soo-hyun in the present.
I’d suspected for a while that Ji-hyun wasn’t real (her parents never mention her, for example), so facing the spectre of her wasn’t a revelation, but it still injected the moment with a shock of sadness that brought me to tears. It’s the moment Soo-hyun gets to own her story as her own, not as a secondary existence to Dae-han or Da-jung. The two women really answer each other’s needs: motherless Da-jung so badly needs an older woman in her life, and Soo-hyun needs to resolve her grief from her sister’s death by helping Da-jung.
Joon-ho hasn’t made much of a move as Dae-han’s political rival, and has been fairly clear about his refusal to enter politics, though I’m sure that’s only a matter of time. On the other hand, he’s been very direct to Soo-hyun about liking her, but I love the way they resolve that with a frank, serious conversation that ends with respect and understanding.
Joon-ho’s role has not been particularly significant so far, but he’s really interesting and unexpectedly decent—still waters that run deep. I appreciate the texture of his character, which is so unlike any second lead I’ve ever seen. I look forward to him having a bigger role, and I hope he won’t lose that decency.
Joon-ho is a great one for telling Dae-han home truths, and it always adds dimension to their moments. It also makes him an excellent foil, and I think it would do Dae-han good to have his beliefs challenged. As rightfully as he despises nemesis Assemblyman Kang, he needs to realize that Joon-ho is not his father.
I’m really enjoying all the neighborhood drama, which brings Dae-han into frequent contact with Soo-hyun’s parents (who are the BEST). We get a glimpse of his and Soo-hyun’s almost-relationship in the past, but it’s tied so painfully into her loss and grief that it’s easy to see how the entire question of Dae-han is one that she doesn’t want anything to do with.
Dae-han also doesn’t deal with it as much as possible, but once Joon-ho asks the question of whether he likes her, it can’t be unasked. But sadly for him, being a soon-to-be grandfather really scuppers any romantic notions he might have before they ever start.
The reappearance of the Da-jung’s stepdad (Tak and the twins’ bio-dad) this week got my back up immediately: I hated the man on sight. What a piece of work. But at least it pushes Dae-han in all the right ways to realize a few things, like the fact that the kids’ safety and happiness are actually important to him, even though he’s using them.
Dae-han is certainly not an angel, and there were points where he did things that I thought were really low (like exposing Jung-woo to his agency CEO), but the stepdad is really human trash with nothing to redeem him. He also uses the kids, but with disgusting cynicism that doesn’t care about their wellbeing for a second, only how they can be turned to his benefit. It seems like he’s been put up to it by Assemblyman Kang, but either way, after insinuating himself into Dae-han’s life, house, and personal space, he’s really grabbed hold of his tail now.
As we reach the show’s midpoint, we can definitely expect some big game-changers. The way I see it, there are two things that would destroy Dae-han’s ascent if anyone ever got their hands on them at this point: one is the contract, the other is the paternity test. The genre-savvy part of me thinks, therefore, that it’s eventually inevitable for both of those things to come out.
I’m not sure what the worst possible outcome is with Stepdad having his hands on the paternity test. Blackmail? Leaking it to the media? Telling Da-jung? I’m afraid of the last one most, especially when you can see her visceral reaction to her stepdad, and how it brings her to make her plea to Dae-han to adopt them for real. I can honestly say I have no idea what we’re in for next, but I love what we’ve had so far.