K-drama Review: Big

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I don't think I'm a very demanding drama-watcher. I just want a few simple things from a show: a plot that interests me, characters that I can relate to or understand, and a more than just cute romance to keep me interested. Most of all, I want an ending, not necessarily even a happy one, but one that clears out the misunderstandings and answers the main questions the drama has made us ask all throughout. But these are exactly the reasons why Big disappoints me. Big time.
It is like a nicely decorated Christmas present – looks pretty on the outside, but when you unwrap it you find nothing but another pair of socks. It just barely qualifies as gift, but if you had the chance of exchanging it for something better, you wouldn't even think twice. The same with Big.

 Plot summary:  

Young and bumbling  teacher Gil Da Ran (Lee Min Jung) is engaged to handsome doctor Seo Yoon Jae (Gong Yoo), spending most of her days dreaming about their future life together. 

However, when Da Ran notices that Yoon Jae's behaviour before the wedding is distant, she starts doubting his feelings for her, asking him if he really loves her. On his way to give her an answer, Yoon Jae gets into a car accident with Kang Kyung Joon (Shin Won Ho), the new student in Da Ran's school. Both are taken to hospital and Da Ran is told that Yoon Jae couldn't be saved. Devastated Da Ran cries in the hallway when she suddenly sees Yoon Jae in front of him, alive and well. 

But Da Ran realizes that things are far from what they seem when the first words to come out of Yoon Jae's mouth are: "Teacher. I'm… Kang Kyung Joon."


 What I liked: 

Gong Yoo. If you’re a die hard fan of Gong Yoo then you might be able to sit this one through. Because really, he is probably the best thing about this show. Or for some, perhaps the only good thing about this show. While I'm personally not his biggest fan, I do adore him whenever he puts his all into a role. To me it seemed that he did try his best with the (double) role he had been given in Big, even if I couldn't love him completely because I was too frustrated with the illogical body-swap mechanics in the drama.
But he does act wonderfully in emotional scenes and I appreciate his effort in portraying both Kyung Joon and Yoon Jae the best he could to the very end of the drama. And he also makes you laugh with his wacky, at times perhaps too over-the-top, but still entertaining performance, which is a good thing because comedy was what kept me from crying in frustration at the writing.

Cute interactions between characters. Big was all about cuteness and fluff. During the first half of the series (which was considerably better than the second half) I felt entertained and watched the drama with a smile on my face. Despite my later disappointment with characters, I also generally enjoyed the sweet interactions between them. 
For instance, I liked Da Ran's motherly treatment of Kyung Joon and how she took care of him at all times. In the same way, I loved those little fun moments with Da Ran's crazy but loving family, who truly loved and supported her. And I also liked Choong Sik's unwavering adoration for Ma Ri and I wish they had become a couple by the end of the show. And although I wasn't totally onboard with out main couple, I did love Kyung Joon's sincereness towards Da Ran. Because Gong Yoo was such an adorable dork in Kyung Joon's role, I couldn’t help but be charmed by his puppy-eyes and pouty facial expressions.

Choong Sik. I know that Da Ran's immature little brother was a minor character with very little importance in the main plotline, but that's probably is exactly the reason why I loved him that much. Because whatever craziness went on with our main story, from inconsistent characters to illogical plot turns, Choong Sik still stayed the same trusting puppy-eyed guy who never disappointed me. Although he wasn’t really the brightest crayon in the box, he still made better decisions than our main characters. You'd think that a woman who works as a teacher would have more common sense than her goofy brother, but that obviously wasn't the case.
Choon Sik was the only character in the show I could wholeheartedly love and root for. A simpleton sure, but adorable nevertheless. I loved that he always stood up for his noona and protected her honor. I loved that he was a total mommy’s boy, even after trying to run away from home. And I loved that he was willing to go to America for the girl he's crushing on, even though he may just be the worst English-speaker in entire dramaland.

 What I didn't like:  

The writing. What the hell happened, Hong sisters? Like seriously? It couldn't be that the task was too difficult, it's a frickin' romcom. Besides we're talking about Hong sisters here, the successful writing duo of two sisters whose dramas usually end up being super popular. The only reason I can think of is simply laziness. 
It honestly didn't seem like Hong sisters put much effort into this show. They used an idea from a loved Tom Hanks movie, without really thinking what they wanted to do with it, and seemed to count on their popularity to get their ratings. When I was watching this show, I felt like I was treated like an idiot who doesn't pay attention to the story's internal logic and doesn't care about plot holes as long as there's cute fluff to cover it up. I think, Hong sisters realized their mistake of underestimating their viewers half-way through and jumped ship. Because no matter how I look at the ending, it seems like they themselves had given up on Big by that point. That hodgepodge of WTF-ery doesn't even deserve to be called an ending.   

To tell you the truth, I actually imagined a very different outcome for this drama. 

In my version of Big, Kyung Joon would have developed an un-requited crush on Da Ran, while being in Yoon Jae's body. But because Da Ran would still carry feelings for Yoon Jae, her relationship with Kyung Joon would stay platonic. Instead, she would become a person Kyung Joon can rely on and also learn to be more independent herself. At around episode 11, Yoon Jae (in Kyung Joon's body) would wake up from coma and the family secrets would be revealed. Episodes with teary confrontations would follow, but all misunderstandings would eventually be cleared. Yoon Jae and Kyung Joon would finally find a way to switch back bodies, and Da Ran and Yoon Jae would work out their marital issues. The series would end with Kyung Joon finally having a real family.

See, Hong sisters! It isn't that hard.

The main pairing. Yes, I was unable to get invested in our main couple. Because even though Kyung Joon had developed a crush on Da Ran, it felt like he looked upon her as a mother figure, rather than a love interest. 
What I saw was that he was still obviously heart-broken about the death of his mother and was in need of a family who would care for him, and Da Ran seemed to fill that role for him. Not to mention the fact that she was also his teacher, immature sure, but still his teacher. Even the way she talked to him kept reminding me that he is a kid, and not really a man (even though he was played by Gong Yoo). In my opinion, he was more in need of a real family than a girlfriend. 

Whatever happened to Yoon Jae? One of my biggest disappointments about Big was the fact that the character I was most interested in never got to tell his side of the story. I'm talking about Yoon Jae, who got screwed over so majorly by both the writers and the characters in the show.
Even when I'd given up on the drama itself I continued watching because I was curious to know who he really was, as opposed to others' descriptions of him. I wanted to know why he was so unable to express his feelings for Da Ran. There were clear signs that he did love her at one point, and later it was pretty much confirmed that he never cheated on her either. It kills me that we never got to know what kind of a person he was.
But most of all, I just wanted some closure for him, which I didn't get either because his entire existence was denied in the drama's ending. It seemed like nobody acknowledged him anymore. I'm not even sure if he ever got to know what had happened during his slumber. Like, what's up with that? 

Not enough Shin. Did poor Shin Won Ho know that he would have to spend the entire series in a coma? I’m calling it unfair. Cause that’s not how you treat a guy who is totally a combination of Infinite’s L and Song Joong Ki
I liked Won Ho in the first episode and would have loved to see him playing the role he was supposed to be playing, but for some reason he was made into Sleeping Beauty. And that's almost worse than killing him because then we could move on. In Big, I was constantly waiting for him to wake up and felt disappointed when I didn’t happen. Okay, it did happen, but since I didn't get to see that it doesn't change anything.
But who knows, maybe that was the best job Shin Won Ho has ever had? Yunno, getting to sleep to his heart's content and still go home with a paycheck. 

Unanswered questions. Did Yoon Jae really love Da Ran? What was he going to say to her before the accident? What did Yoon Jae think about his fiance marrying his long-lost brother he had never really met before? Did he get over it? How did the first real meeting between Yoon Jae and Kyung Joon look like? Did the brothers get along? How will Da Ran and Kyung Joon continue their relationship?  How did their families react? How did Kyung Joon get his memories back? What exactly happened during that one year? And what was the meaning of that scene at the very end when Da Ran and Kyung Joon reunited? 
Why didn’t we get answers to these questions we were all asking? Indeed, Hong sisters, WHY?

 Overall conclusion: 

Sadly, I never got very invested in Big. As soon as I realized that the drama would not go in the direction I wanted it to go, I dropped my expectations and watched it with a clear sense of emotional detachment. 

You see, Big is one of those dramas that has some descent aspects to it, but the sum of those fairly well-executed parts is unfortunately so much less than it should be. 

What I mean by this is that if you try to look at different elements of Big and assess the drama in that way, you might think that my criticism towards the show is rather harsh. But it really isn't, because even if I try hard enough to come up with things that I was satisfied with, it still doesn't cover up my general dislike and disappointment for the rest of it. 

What matter most to me is the how everything, including the good and the bad, comes together as one whole. So if I think back at Big and my overall impressions of it, there isn't really that many positive things for me to say. The drama didn't live up to its fun premise and, due to some horribly inconsistent writing, ended being half-assed and unsatisfying. 

In short, Big isn't downright terrible in everything, but it isn't half as good as it promises to be. As much as I wish it had been different, the show just doesn't deliver.


Plot - The first half is entertaining, cute and promising. The second half is draggy, rather frustrating, and the cuteness gets old quickly. The ending, while not the most horrible one I've seen, left a bunch of unanswered questions and plot holes which killed whatever love I had left for the drama.

Acting - Gong Yoo carries the show. And while Lee Min Jung's acting isn't bad, her portrayal of Da Ran irritated me a lot and those negative feelings eventually made me wish she hadn't been cast in the show at all (which is terrible cause I did like the actress before). Suzy's adorable, but still rather robotic at times. Meanwhile, Shin Won Ho slept through his role, LITERALLY.

Romance - Didn't really feel the couple. I was shipping Da Ran with her fiance Yoon Jae because the teacher-student issue between Da Ran and Kyung Joon made me feel uncomfortable. But the kissing scenes were better than in most Hong sisters' works (I blame Gong Yoo).

Comedy - The humor can be slightly overboard when it comes to body-swapping antics, but I was generally quite entertained. 

OST - Wasn't really feeling the OST this time either. While I liked Davichi's "Because it's You" and BEAST's "Hateful Person", the soundtrack as a whole does not really stand out to me in any way.

Editing and cinematography - Big’s actually a rather good-looking drama, with some minor issues in the editing department. But I think we've already established that ''the pretty'' is not the problem here.

 Final rating: 5       Enjoyment: 4 

 Memorable quotes: 

Ma Ri: "Let’s meet again in my dreams, KyungJoon. Come find me in mine."
Ma Ri: "Kyung Joon. Don't go after Teacher Gil. There's somebody else that she likes. Her heart belongs to someone. Even if you go after her, she wouldn't even look at you. She'll never accept you. If your heart keeps on going to her, you'll be hurt badly." 
Choong Sik: "Even if you say that you erased it, it doesn’t go away that easily. Love doesn’t remain in memories… it remains in the heart."
Kyung Joon: "Teacher Gil, you are not mine, but even if I disappear, can you retain the memory of my existence? Please don’t erase me away."

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  1. I agreed with almost everything you wrote here. I disagree with your assessment of Da Ran and Kyung Joon's relationship. I actually really liked them. And parts of your retelling of the story aren't really what I'd want either. But everything else was spot on. I really wanted to love this show. But ultimately, I was disappointed by it's mediocre storytelling. The only thing that didn't disappoint me was Gong Yoo. He's still basically perfect.

    1. I can understand that you were on board with their relationship. Honestly, I can really put my finger on it why I wasn't. Sometimes I just can't get into a pairing and there isn't an obvious reason why.
      Yes, the storytelling was the weak point. The fact that it bothered me so much was because the first episodes got my expectations all up yet in the end the show never fulfilled them. So I'd say that Big isn't necessarily a bad show, but fails at being as good as it was set out to be.
      But you're absolutely right that Gong Yoo was basically perfect. He's one of the few things I wouldn't change about this drama. And he's not even my bias.

  2. You've written everything that I thought about this drama. I wasn't also sold on KKJ+DR for the same reasons, and also I was squicked out in advance and just waiting for the moment when KKJ would go back to his old body. KKJ+DR would just be totally wrong visually, especially when we've seen Gong Yoo and Lee Min Jung the whole run through. But even that moment didn't happen.

    Your version of BIG would have been much better!

    1. Yup, I couldn't get into KJ and DR being a couple. I just felt that they had so much against them like the teacher-student relationship, the fact that him and YJ are brothers, the age difference, YJ and DR having been engaged. It could have been perhaps okay for a makjang drama, but all wrong for a breezy romantic comedy. And I couldn't shake off that thought that DR was like an older sister/mother to KJ. I really liked the friendly interaction they had, but the romance just didn't do it for me.

      I guess I'd like to think that my version would have been more satisfying story-wise. But who knows.. :)

  3. You've rated this drama fairly. There was so much potential for the plot which was kind of a teaser all along but didn't pan out to be very filled out. Maybe there was too much going on to be able to wrap up neatly. While I understand the ending and feel satisfied in some ways, the mixed identity of GY and Shin was the same in or out of the coma so really nothing was resolved. That's weird. But, such are the lives of kdrama characters and so, when I watch to escape, I can ultimately accept a low plot if there is high acting and cuteness!

    1. There was great potential for this show, actually. When I saw the first episodes I was almost thinking that Big might become on of my favourite Hong sisters dramas. Too bad that by the end, Big had lost me completely.

  4. BIG <3 One of my favourite korean dramas....... But then i watched the last episode, the bit that made me clueless with unanswered questions. Hong Sisters have done something wrong here..... There better be a BIG 2 then to show the events of how KKJ wakes up in his own body and finds himself staring at his mother.

    I loved the show from ep 1 to ep 15 not so much 16. I was hoping to see KKJ wake up, because whats the use of having a hansome young actor just lie in a coma wasting his talents so dissapointing. Da Ran/ Gil Teacher was beautiful character that touched my heart every time she cried, but mostly KKJ in YJ body ( Actor Gong yoo ) made me cry the most, everytime i knew he said something sad, i started to cry with him, D': I'm so glad big had him for YJ/KKJ cause he's one great actor. He's probally the only reason why i continued to watch the show.

    I totally agree with all the point given above in the blog, but I'm just gonna say that i also felt that KKJ only liked DR as a mother figure BUT i then started to feel that he actually liked her. Big was very dissapointing but OVERALL it wasn't that bad, EVEN THOUGH I WASTED 16 HOURS OF MY LIFE. I mean i loved the show, but the hong sisters left out unanswered questions.

    My vote

    Plot : 9 ★
    OST : 10 ★ ( Made me cry everytime, and dance when i heard hey u )
    Acting : 9.95★ ( Beautiful Gong Yoo made it worth watching )
    Romance : 8 ★ ( I wanted to see what happend to KKJ and DR/ Gil Teacher )
    Comedy : 10 ★ ( There was heaps to laugh about, Gong Yoo made me Laugh and PEE MY PANTS OFF, not literally... Sometimes :L )
    Cuteness : 10 ★ ( Is Gong yoo acting as a adorable dork cute ; I THINK YESHHHHH <3 )

    Overall Drama Rating : 8 ★ ( You probally can't believe me when I gave the drama 8 stars well this is why, fisrtly, Big was OVERALL A GREAT DRAMA, the onlt thing that failed me and lost my heart was the ending, THAT WAS IT. THE CUTENESS, ROMANCE, COMEDY AND MOSTLY DRAMA THAT I COULD REALATE TO won my heart, this is the overl main reason why I'd still watch BIG )

    My Version of BIGS ending.

    KKJ wakes up in his body and sees a lady which has never seen before, right there and then, that lady explains that she is his mother and his teachers husband is his brother but hie's in germany with hios father. KKJ would obvisouly, jump up and start running but he gets up and starts to blink, then he gets a headache, his mother then pushes him back down and tells him to reat KKJ thinks that all that was a dream but it wasn't . He wakes up again and finds himself looking at the same lady in his so called dreams looking at him still but with 2 men. Only one he recongises, it the man who he had been saved by. KKJ then tries to get up again then starts to get all fainty again and falls back but yoon jae ( Gong yoo ) puts his hand under his back then lifts him up. Then explains the same story to him that his mother had told him. KKJ is stunned and just looks at them. He ask for them to leave for now he wants to think about what had just happend. But before they leave YJ takes a fimilar watch that KKJ thinks he has seen before and says " I woke up in hospital with this around my wrist, it has your intials i think i bought it for you ". YJ walks out and KKJ put the watch around his wrist, and from then on everytime it hit 10:10 he'd get a little bit of his memory back.( Then this is where the hong sisters should have shown them with the family, having dramas fights and sobs ) . He then eventually remebers gil teacher and then he sets off to find her and this is the part where there should be a BIG 2. So yeah, this is how i feel about the show big and yeah that's it. Oh and when KKJ wakes up YJ is still married to Gil teacher, and she find out if he had feelings for her. This is when confusion will. Start and continue in BIG 2. Ta da :'D

    Love from a " BIG " Fan ( Get it a big fan lol )
    Mel fron australia. Who isn't asian, but australian and just stumbled upon this show by accident on You Tube. The end.

    1. Thank you for you opinion :) On board with you on the Hong sisters, though. They really left so many loose ends that it made even those people mad who loved the show. I don't know if they've gotten lazy or what, but Big's ending was a total cop-out.

  5. I just watched all the part series of this k-drama and all in all it was worth watching. The characters are very funny and the story is also very romantic.

    1. I agree that characters are funny and there's lots of cute romance, but on the other hand, the story disappointed me a lot. It's understandable that you liked it, though :)


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