Lies of Lies: Episodes 1-2 (Review)
Channel A’s newest primetime offering has just premiered, and Lies of Lies is the sort of drama that knows exactly the sort of story it wants to be, and isn’t ashamed one bit. The drama pulls all the stops to introduce the tale of a wrongfully-accused heroine with injustices stacked against her. If you’re in for the ride (and the genre), it’s going to be a fun one — but if you’re looking for something to break the revenge-melo mold, this is not your drama.
Note: This is an opening week review only.
EPISODES 1-2 REVIEW
Storytelling tropes and genre-specific elements are only as good as the stories they serve — put them to work in a story that wants to use them, and use them well, and you have a watchable, deliciously archetypal drama. That’s exactly what we meet in Lies of Lies.
We open the drama with the crime that started it all: our heroine JI EUN-SOO (Lee Yuri) is found at the scene of her husband’s murder, a bloody knife in her hands, and basically all evidence pointing to her. But we know better. Our heroine is innocent, and she’ll tell anyone that asks. But, like so many a story where a “normal” woman has married into a powerful chaebol family, she’s left utterly powerless to defend herself.
Powerless is definitely the key phrase here. It’s the partner of injustice, after all. Eun-soo can’t seem to catch a break. The media is against her, and her chaebol mother-in-law, Chairwoman KIM HO-RAN (Lee Il-hwa) is pulling so many strings that it’s virtually hopeless.
There are only two people in Eun-soo’s court that are convinced that she’s innocent. The first is her wonderful father (and only family member); the second is a news reporter who she’s never met, but who smells something fishy with the whole case. He’s KANG JI-MIN (Yeon Jung-hoon), and he’s every bit the warm, likable, and truth-seeking reporter that this story (and Eun-soo) needs.
But it’s Eun-soo versus Chairwoman Kim — or, the powerless versus the powerful — that make up the primary dynamic of the drama, and it’s played up to no ends. Chairwoman Kim unilaterally determines Eun-soo’s fate. Ji-min is secretly prevented, again and again, from meeting with our heroine as she awaits her trail. Her father, grasping at straws to find a witness to help his daughter’s case, is also blocked time and time again.
While we don’t see the full scene of the murder play out, we see enough of it to know that Eun-soo’s husband was a total psychopath. That Eun-soo has been emotionally and physically abused is without question, and during their final confrontation we see our heroine trying to protect herself by telling him that she’s pregnant.
This scene does not go well, and Eun-soo soon grabs a kitchen knife to defend herself and her baby. What happened between that moment and the murder on which we opened? We don’t know yet, but our heroine fiercely declares her innocence.
Eun-soo’s baby girl is at the crux of the drama. She’s not only the major driver for the plot, but she also presents a major theme: hope. Eun-soo is able to endure all the agonies that are served to her from her mother-in-law by living for her child. Born and raised in the prison at first, Eun-soo soon realizes she won’t be able to keep the baby either safe or secure during her 10-year sentence.
Chairwoman Kim soon convinces Eun-soo to let her raise her granddaughter, with a compelling argument and a promise to raise her well. The dynamic between these two characters is as archetypal is it gets, but damn, both women play their roles so well thus far.
Lee Il-hwa has this amazing “wounded fairy” quality to her performance — and it’s deliciously layered because she’s half role-playing the grieving mother, and half sincere, since she is a grieving mother that lost her son. We never know exactly how many of her emotions are genuine, and it’s a fantastic performance so far.
To balance this evil, elegant villainess is our heroine, who’s a great balance of innocent motherly love, and blood-curdling rage. If Eun-soo was the sort of heroine that took all of this wrong without complaint, the drama would be far less interesting than it is. Instead, she’s the kind of heroine that fights her cellmates, viciously lunges for people’s throats, and clearly has nothing left to lose. There’s a glimmer of madness in her eyes that matches the heartbreak perfectly.
Eun-soo isn’t exactly a “safe” heroine (and that’s what makes this fun), but don’t worry, our show has an anchor, and that’s in our lovely hero, Ji-min. Exuding warmth and love (and later, fatherly love too), he is surely the totem of goodness that will hold this thing together.
The drama covers ground quite fast, which I like, because the meat of the story is really what happens after our heroine serves her sentence. All this wild preamble is dealt with in our premiere week episodes, and by the time we’re finishing up Episode 2, Eun-soo has served her 10-year sentence and is out and ready to raise hell.
Well, first she’s ready to raise her daughter, but that’s where the biggest and cruellest trick of the drama lies. During her imprisonment, Eun-soo was able to endure by living for her daughter. Occasional photos of her growing daughter from Chairwoman Kim kept her going, and I love how adeptly the drama captured this idea of hope, and how powerful it is.
Eun-soo might have served her sentence, but the punishment continues: she soon realizes that Chairwoman Kim has been lying to her all along. Realizing that the promises to raise the baby has her granddaughter were lies, cause Eun-soo even more grief. She learns that Chairwoman Kim ordered her people to “get rid of” the baby.
A baby in an orphanage with a secret birth history — this trope belongs in every revenge-melo, and it’s used very nicely here in Lies of Lies. Instead of getting plunged to her death, Eun-soo’s baby gets adopted… by our hero.
Granted, we knew this from the drama’s promotional circuit, and though it’s still great while going into the drama knowing it, it would have been so much more fun if we didn’t, and got this as a twist instead. Either way, Eun-soo’s daughter is the fate that finally brings our heroine and hero together.
While we follow our heroine over her 10-year sentence, her circumstances obviously don’t change much. But it’s quite interesting as the plot turns back to Ji-min after we met him ten year prior. How did his story change? When we first met him, he was a dedicated reporter, willing to step on toes to get to the truth. He and his wife were struggling to have a child, but were quite happy and devoted.
Ten years later, much as changed — his wife had an affair, the marriage is no more, and Ji-min finds himself a single father to the little girl they had adopted. This, of course, is Eun-soo’s precious daughter. (Aside: This father/daughter relationship is beyond cute and probably going to kill me.)
I love the motherly twist that Lies of Lies brings into the usual revenge-melo equation, and it works so well because they’re positing one of the purest loves (a mother for her child) with one of the ugliest and darkest: the desire for revenge.
But there’s another layer the drama gets to play with too, and that’s the fact that we have two mothers, two children, and the comparison and contrast of what they’ll do to protect their own — or the lengths to which they will go when that child is in danger.
Lies of Lies might have had a giant and archetypal set-up, but I’m quite happy with where we land at the end of the premiere week. The tropes are set up, the paths are laid for our characters, and all that’s left is for all the dots to be connected, and secrets unearthed.
I quite enjoyed the tone of our premiere episodes, so I’m hoping the drama will keep its dark and melo feel without getting too light or flimsy. There’s also the feeling that there will be more at stake than we realize now. Our story, without a doubt, is going to be about the relationship between Eun-soo and Ji-min, but what conflict is really there once everything is out in the open, since they’re both on the same page and have been from the start? I suspect we’ll be unearthing a bit more drama to keep things going, and I’m quite interested to see how the dark, revenge-melo vibes will mesh with the falling in love that’s bound to happen between our leads.
Is this a perfect plot without holes or bumps or developments you could predict from a mile away? No. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great little set-up that’s more than okay with being exactly what it is. I love when a drama just does its thing instead of trying too hard, so consider me a captive audience, and let the drama unfold!