VIP: Episodes 3-8 (Series review)
Why is this drama so good!? In all honesty, I wasn’t planning on continuing to cover VIP after its premiere week. It’s not a happy drama, and not a happy story, and I kind of wanted to watch something happy. But VIP put its drama claws into me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s extraordinarily watchable.
To start off with fair warning, when you talk about VIP on paper it can sound like total makjang. Something like this: there’s this girl that likes this guy in college, but he’s not into her. He winds up marrying her friend later on and everything’s great until he cheats on his wife with someone else. Then, both the women go out of their way to expose his lies, but at the same time dealing with their mom problems, men problems, and debt problems.
Anyone watching VIP will know that while the above explanation is pretty factual, the quality of the storytelling makes it so much more than the cheap-sounding tale it could seem like. Halfway through its run, VIP has blossomed into this really rich, compelling story of several women, their workplace, their history, and their relationships.
It’s heavy and dark in places, but also one of the most addictive and watchable dramas I’ve met in months. And the midpoint point of a live drama is a great time to start tuning in (hint, hint!) and always be sure of new episodes in reach. Because trust me — this drama knows how to pull off the twists.
So, what kept me pulled into what started out as a pretty upsetting and realistic story of workplace adultery? These characters! As I mentioned in the opening week review, VIP’s story is built around some very compelling female characters.
These women are strong, fragile, hopeful, and heartbroken all at the same time — and it’s these characters that brought me back to this drama (after pretending to give it up), because I was just aching to hear the rest of their stories. And lucky for me, the drama keeps on delivering.
The other major strength of VIP is that it’s a wonderfully layered story. To use the good old onion metaphor, it really does have a whole new layer when the outer one is pulled away. The whodunnit mystery element has stayed at the core of the plot — but it’s less about a single instance of adultery, and more about the secrets that each of our characters is hiding. And as we learn more about them, twists and reveals abound! Sometimes funny, sometimes bittersweet, and sometimes (like the midpoint cliffhanger at the end of Episode 8) moments of genuine shock.
These experts twists and turns in the storytelling keep us watching, yes, but they also call out a lot of depth and complexity. This isn’t your token happy-go-lucky drama where the world is black and white, and each character is either good or bad. Instead, this drama is full of nuance, questions, and unsurety — both in its story, and its storytelling. One of my favorite things about it is that we never quite know where it’s going, or if we should believe what it’s implying.
The relationship at the front and center of the drama is, of course, the marriage of Jung-sun and Sung-joon. In the opening week of VIP, Jung-sun caught her husband in a lie — and even though no one (in or out of the drama) wanted to believe that he cheated on her, it really does look like the truth… I think?
While we haven’t gotten 100% confirmation, everything points to the fact that there was indeed an affair. That being said, everything pointing towards something happening is not the same as something actually happening, and I really like how VIP leaves this gray space.
I’ve seen many a Jang Nara drama, but I have to say, I absolutely love her here, and it just might be my favorite role of hers to-date. She plays Jung-sun with the perfect balance of anger, heartbreak, sweetness, and desperation. She might cry an awful lot in this drama, but she’s also strong and resilient.
Rather than linger in the misery of suspicion, Jung-sun confronts her husband right away, and deals with the situation head-on. We see her agony, but we also see her hope. “I plan to try to forgive you,” she tells Sung-joon one night, and it’s an important look at her character.
A side-story with her estranged mother (played by the amazing Kim Mi-kyung) reveals a lot about Jung-sun. We understand that her abandonment by her mother has a lot of bearing on how she perceives her marriage. I want their marriage to be repaired for so many reasons, but as the drama unpacks its story, that reconciliation looks more and more impossible.
For much of the drama we follow Jung-sun on her painful journey, first chasing down her husband, and later the sender of the text message that started it all. Like much of VIP, one breadcrumb leads to another, and pretty soon we are up to our necks in history and backstory — but still guessing over what lies at the core of this drama. It’s amazing how the drama leads us on to solve this “mystery,” and instead of getting tiresome, it just gets more exhilarating.
Jung-sun’s old friend and coworker Hyun-ah is suggested to us as the adulteress early on, but it feels too easy of a guess. Sure enough, though Jung-sun first suspects her, she actually winds up confiding in her, and Hyun-ah becomes (or continues as) Jung-sun’s biggest ally.
I’ve been a fan of Lee Chung-ah since Flower Boy Ramen Shop, which feels like a century ago when you see her playing Hyun-ah here. This woman is tough, scarred, sarcastic, and absolutely golden underneath all of that — she quickly became my favorite character of the drama.
I love the way her backstory ties into Jung-sun’s (I won’t give away too much), but I equally love her present-day storyline: she’s running from creditors in a non-Candy fashion, burdened by family history and reputation, and completely closed off from a real romance. This makes her smitten coworker’s advances all the more sweet and delightfully watchable. *Ship*
Rather than give away all the delicious twists and turns this drama takes (we’ll save that for the end review when all is finally revealed!), it’s worth talking about the drama’s treatment of affairs and adultery. This aspect of the story has kept a lot of viewers at bay, I think, and that’s completely understandable.
What I appreciate about the treatment of the affair in VIP is that it’s not about the affair itself, but the repercussions. Sung-joon’s adultery acts as the catalyst that drives the drama forward, and there is absolutely nothing glamorous, romantic, or “positive” about it. Instead, VIP tells the story of an affair (actually quite a few affairs, obliquely) and how it destroys relationships, and wounds people to their core. Rather appropriate, that.
This brings me back to my opening thoughts on the drama. While at first I wanted to dismiss it as a story I wasn’t interested in hearing, I discovered it’s actually a compelling look at people and human nature. On the surface, the plot can seem soapy, but underneath, the drama has a rawness that cuts away at anything that might feel gratuitous.
On one hand, the story is as human and authentic as you can get, and watching people in their worst and most trying moments can make for difficult entertainment. On the other hand, though, the story is so deftly told, and with such an eye to being entertaining, that I’m caught between these two polarities. How does VIP they strike this balance so well? I’m not sure, but it’s that balance that fascinates me so much, and keeps me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the story to unfold.