The Fangirl’s Kdrama Roundtable: Father is Strange Review

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Every now and then a drama comes along where a bunch of us on the blog watch and squeal over every week.  Father is Strange is the latest that falls in this category which of course means it is time for another Fangirls Roundtable Review!  So come join us as we chat about all our favorite couples and moments in the family drama Father is Strange.

Synopsis: Ahn Joong-Hee (Lee Joon) is an actor who used to be a member of an idol group. One day, he appears in front of a family who consists Byun Han-Soo and Na Young-Sil and their 4 children including Hye-Young and Mi-Young (Jung So-Min). Joong-Hee begins to live with them.

Father is Strange Teaser:

WARNING: There will be spoilers in this post. You have been warned!

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Initial Thoughts

KMUSE: I actually wasn’t planning on watching this one. I love Lee Joon, but the synopsis wasn’t really calling out to me. However, I am a sucker for a drama that is getting a ton of social media buzz. And two months into its run, Father Is Strange was all anyone was talking about on the weekends. So like a good kaddict, I gave into peer pressure and pushed play. So glad I did.

Telzeytalks: I surprised myself by deciding to watch a family drama, because they have so many episodes. I began by reading recaps and then got interested in the characters and wanted to see them for myself. I got my husband to watch with me by explaining what I got out of the recaps: A man is framed for a murder he didn’t commit and spends three years in jail. When he moves to the US to work for a friend, they are both injured in an explosion. Their identities accidentally get switched in the hospital, and he doesn’t know enough English to explain. But his friend dies and he returns to Korea under his friend’s name. After that things go relatively smoothly until one day the dead friend’s son shows up.

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CLSunbae: I’m always unsure about starting these 50+ episode family dramas. That’s a big time commitment, yo! And sometimes the plots can drag on and on and on and on and… you get the point. But with everyone else constantly raving about Father is Strange, I decided to take the risk.

The Byun Family

The Parents

DramaKimchi15Drama Geek: Oh my gosh, I LOVE these two. They are not perfect, in fact, I think they do a few things throughout the drama that made me side-eye them but no parent is perfect. They deeply love their children and each other! In fact, they go on my list of favorite 2017 OTP’s (One True Pairing). They faced everything together and came out the other side a strong loving couple.

KMUSE: They were the glue that held the story together.  While not being the main romantic focus, their love and relationship gave their children an idea of what they wanted in their own marriages.  #RelationshipGoals

Telzeytalks: They are both such hard-working sweet people. You can see the Korean family structure working in the way the children ask permission and accept their decisions, in marriage plans as well as in handling legal trouble. The mom is rather feisty and pushes her husband into things, but the dad is quiet and beaten down by life. I got impatient with him as the story went on and he kept refusing his daughter’s help to fight legally, but you can see his viewpoint.

CLSunbae: I really liked their relationship. This is one of the things Kdramas get so right that American shows often lack. The parents had chemistry with each other; they were loving and kind to each other; and yet, they were still strong, independent people. I liked that they sometimes fought and disagreed; I liked that you could see love (for each other and their children) was the primary motivator in all they did. I liked that they were imperfect and at times unsure about what they were doing, but that there was always this solid core, or backbone, that informed every choice they made.

The Sisters

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Drama Geek: Byun Hye Young!!!!! She is the kind of woman everyone wants to be. She’s strong, driven, doesn’t take crap from her mother-in-law and has the biggest heart ever. Plus, she’s just so dang cute. I loved that each sister was shown as a strong woman in their own way. No they weren’t all outspoken like the oldest sister but they were multifaceted and showed what an actual woman is like. The way these ladies supported each other and their mom was such a breath of fresh air. Sure, they fought but all sisters do. I have three of my own, so I know what it’s like.

KMUSE: I am a huge Lee Yoo Ri fan and was ecstatic that she brought her unique feisty style of acting to the role of Hye Young. She was so tough yet kind. Mi Young was sweet but not a pushover. I was very impressed with her story arc regarding the bullying and dealing with her new sister-in-law. I enjoyed Ra Young but felt she had the weakest of the story arcs. That said, the actress is a personal favorite up and comer after Age of Youth so I was glad to see her branch out into weekend dramas. I wish her the best and hope she gets a bigger storyline next time.

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Telzeytalks: I loved our lawyer, Hye-young; it is so fun to watch her rattling off her legal talk and pulling people inside out. She seems invincible at first because she is so confidant and smart, but she does become deflated by her parents’ problems. She takes her position as oldest sister seriously and watches out for the others; interceding on the middle sister’s behalf when she learns she is being bullied. This is Mi-young, who learns to be more assertive while still being tactful. Ra-young is spoiled and coddled as the youngest. She sleeps in the bed when the others are on the floor and pinches her sister’s prize handbag, but she turns to them for direction.

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CLSunbae: The sisters were the best! I wish I could be Hye-young. I’ve never seen a character like that before — so strong-willed and fierce, but still cute and silly. I loved the other two sisters as well. The maknae bugged me at first but man, did she grow on me. My favorite moment for her was when she thought the guy she liked was in a gay relationship and that his “boyfriend” (but in actuality brother) was hitting on her. When she sits them both down, lays it all out there and tells the guy she likes he deserves better — absolute best. And the brothers’ reactions were priceless, too. And I can’t believe it, but I ended up loving sister in law by the end of the show, too. No one knows how to manipulate my emotions like Kdrama writers.

The Brother

Drama Geek: At first Joon Young was a little annoying. He sat around all day and sent texts to his secret girlfriend. But once the show got going I totally fell in love with him. He really stepped up and became the leader of the kids and an amazing and supportive son.

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Telzeytalks: I really didn’t like Joon-young at first. He seemed lazy and good-for-nothing; supposedly studying for the civil service exam but really sneaking out to see his girlfriend. But after he passes the exam he gains some self-confidence, perhaps returning to his old self. I like how he ushers his sisters into another room to discuss problems, and how they value his opinion. It is interesting to see him lose his status as the oldest when the “new brother” shows up and then smoothly take his position back. I pretty much loved how smug he was at being taller.

CLSunbae: Same. He was so blah at the beginning, but he really grew and became an oppa to be proud of.

 

Extended Family

DramaKimchi21Drama Geek: Here is where I usually fast-forwarded this show. Hey, it’s a 52 episode drama so there is bound to be some storylines that don’t interest me as much. I can say that I still got the gist of what was going on with them when they’d join the rest of the family.

Telzeytalks: These people are not really important to the plot; they exist to ground the main characters in the world and give them context. We dismiss the grandmother at first, with her country speech and needing to be reined in from yelling at people, but she gains some respect during the game show and by the way she interacts with her young grandson, Min-ha. He is the smart one and we just want to pinch his cheeks. His mom doesn’t do much but is sweetly supportive, but the uncle seems another good-for-nothing, until he gets a job with Joon-young and starts to redeem himself.

CLSunbae: There was an extended family!? Just kidding. But not really. I fast-forwarded all of this stuff because I didn’t care. I mean, the wife of the brother? She was so boring. Gah. This is my one and only complaint about the show.

KMUSE: Agree, they bored me and I happily hit FF.

The Spouses

Cha Jung-Hwan

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Drama Geek: This actor played off Hye Young so well. They both were amazing with physical comedy and they had a lot of adorable moments. I really liked how real their relationship felt in a more modern Korea. People really do live together and don’t want to get married. Especially when it includes a crazy mother-in-law and all the things you are expected to do as the wife of the oldest (or only) son.

KMUSE: I enjoyed his loyalty and how although flawed, he and Hye Young did their best to talk through their issues.  There is nothing worse than a couple that won’t communicate.  Especially when there is a bonkers mom involved in the mix.

Telzeytalks: I mostly didn’t like his hair. He is very thoughtful and understanding; you can see his mind working out how to cope with Hye-young’s worries about marriage. In the beginning I thought that they would be the main couple because she is so dynamic and they had a troubled back history; but however we find out differently. It goes to show how many strong characters there are in this show. I like that he was a bachelor who could cook.

CLSunbae: I loved this dude, crazy curls and all. And really, there was no other man who could’ve handled Hye Young. To me, there’s nothing sexier than a guy passionately and loyally in love with his woman and Jung Hwan played this role perfectly.

Kim Yoo-Joo

DramaKimchi9Drama Geek: This is a tough one. Her character does go through a lot during the drama and has one of the most dramatic changes by the end. There were times I hated her and other times that I did end up liking her. I will say that by the end she was a good addition to the family.

Telzeytalks: She is a person we definitely did not like in the beginning. We watch her come to realize why she was being mean, start to feel sorry , and begin to fit into the family. We move from cheering the sisters for upstaging her at her own wedding, to cheering Yoo-joo for noticing Mom’s problems and taking her to the clinic. She came to love her mother-in-law and appreciate how wonderful she was, especially compared to her own mother. I loved how concerned she was when trying to convince Mom to tell the family about the surgery, and how she volunteered to do the wedding dress.

CLSunbae: As I mentioned earlier, I’m shocked I loved her by the end. I HATED her at first, of course. When they tried to make me sympathetic to her because of her mom and such, I was like, “Nice try, writer-nims, but it ain’t going to work.” And it didn’t. What made me fall in love with her was her kindness and loyalty to her in-laws. I never felt her past justified her treatment of the middle girl, but I saw that she grew and matured and so, like Mi-Young, I forgave her.

KMUSE: I can’t believe the writers had me liking her eventually.  I was prepared to hate her to the nth degree for all 52 episodes but by the wedding, I was already warming to her character.

Ahn Joong-Hee

DramaKimchi20Drama Geek: There are not enough words to describe how much I loved Lee Joon in this drama. He admitted that he picked the character because he was pretty much playing himself. Not that popular former idol who was accused of bad acting and then finally came into his own. I love his humility in saying that in an interview! His bad acting was so horrid I almost couldn’t watch it. Thankfully it doesn’t last very long. The best part about his character was how much I loved watching him fall in love with the entire family. He’d never felt like he had a real one before this and then when he did finally embrace them it was magic. Also very painful to see him push them away.

KMUSE: Joong-Hee and his story arc are what pushed this drama from a normal family weekend show into a drama that is a must watch. His understated way of dealing with the traumatic lack of a father, his acting limitations, and eventually his love for his biological sister just dragged my heart along on the rollercoaster that was his life. He was a perfectly developed character on every level.

Telzeytalks: This guy is the catalyst for much of what goes on in the drama. He shows up and everyone else’s life gets turned upside down. He is amazing to watch. He is a genuinely bad actor in the bad actor scenes. He is genuinely in turmoil about meeting a father he thinks ignored him all his life. We see him being annoyed at and then starting to really like his manager, and then find out she is his half-sister. We love him taking the girls out for makeovers before Joon-young’s wedding. We are with him when he is shocked by the story of the false identity, and as he comes to appreciate these people who gave him a loving family life he had never had before.

CLSunbae: If I had to give credit to only one aspect of the show for being so amazing, it would be Joong-Hee. So much of this show was wonderful and well done. But Joong Hee was the thing that made it for me. His acting was superb. I can’t even… His face when he’s first trying to get to know his “real” family — that subtle vulnerability — was perfection. I’ve felt similar feelings in my own life and watching him act all that vulnerability out was like a knife to the heart (in a good way). Plus, the dude brought the steam to his relationship with Mi-Young like a boss.

Park Cheol-Soo

DramaKimchi23.pngDrama Geek: He’s adorable and fits well with the maknae of the family. The actor was also very well liked by the actresses on set. 🙂

 Telzeytalks: He exists to be cute. Ra-young chose him because he is cute, and now she is going to run his life. He has no chance to wear the pants in that household. I’ll bet his dad ropes him into working for his company too, or shall we say Ra-young has roped in both of them.

CLSunbae: Agree. His job was to be adorable. Somebody give the man a raise! And I loved his dynamic with Ra-young, especially because she seemed so superficial at first. That relationship, and the way he acted, really gave her the chance to show her true depths.

KMUSE: He was very cute even if not overly deep.  He was great as the filler storyline that was just sweet and fluffy.

Plot Conflicts

Bullying:

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Drama Geek: Mi Young gained a ton of weight (yes, they had her in a fat suit) when she was in high school and she was bullied because of it. I felt like they handled this pretty well. They highlighted how horrible it was and how much it affected her long after school was over. And they didn’t make it easy for the bully to be forgiven and she also didn’t have an immediate change of heart. It took time and circumstances for the hurt the bullying caused to be resolved.

Telzeytalks: Bullying is a real problem, and it is not the fault of the victim, but when Mi-young is bullied, I just want to shake her. She hangs her head and looks smashed flat before anything happens. It is when she learns to hold up her head and speak up for herself that things get better. Asserting herself made the difference; it was not just because Yoo-joo marries her brother. Although that was a pretty handy development.

KMUSE: I appreciate that they dealt with all aspects of the problem and not just the dramatic conflict it caused between the two girls later in life. There was the initial bullying, the later conflict, and finally acceptance and forgiveness. Usually, we just get one or two out of the stages.

Mother-in-law from hell:

DramaKimchi13Drama Geek: Remember when I said that I fast forwarded through the extended Byun family? Well, Hye Young’s mother-in-law was so horrible and annoying that I had to skip her scenes too. Not all of them. If she was in a scene with the rest of the cast then I’d watch but when it was just her and her husband I didn’t put myself through that torture. She is another character that goes through a lot of character development and by the end I actually enjoyed seeing the progress her marriage achieved. (Still don’t know if I’d put myself through the agony of their earlier scenes.)

KMUSE: I think this is where I disagree with Drama Geek.  I found the mom hilarious and enjoyed all her embarrassing ego issues.  Were there times when I FF?  Yup, occasionally in the middle if the plot was dragging, but other than that, I was totally entertained by the Hye Young vs Mother-in-law battle.

Telzeytalks: At first we all hated her; she was really grating, and her husband seemed long-suffering. Then they began to seem like the Bennett parents in Pride and Prejudice. She was a shallow, selfish complainer, and he regretted ever marrying her and avoided her by retreating to his bookroom. I liked the way Hye-young dealt with them using her legal contracts, and it was fun to watch them make little changes.

CLSunbae: I loved to hate her. She was so terrible but Hye-Young handled her so well, that I found their scenes together (even the very worst ones) fun to watch. I also liked that they let her grow as a person. But real talk — does that actress not know how to play any other type of character? I’ve only ever seen her in the “evil mother in law” role.

Identity stealing parents:

DramaKimchi26.pngDrama Geek: Oh the heart-wrenching pain that came from this setup. The parents (especially Appa) both turned in stellar performances throughout this drama and surrounding these circumstances. No, they didn’t always handle things the way I wished they had, but they did the best they could most of the time.

Telzeytalks: It is bad, let’s just say it. I can see it getting started, I just can’t see it continuing; especially after the son shows up. Dad should have confessed right then; he is just chicken. It was bound to come out and it did come out, and postponing it didn’t make it any better. They worried a lot before the trial, but I think it ended too easily, and Mom and Dad should have had to do community service or something.

KMUSE: It was a bit too convoluted for me to really enjoy. Probably my least favorite aspect of the story.

I love my sibling in an inappropriate way:

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Drama Geek: Honestly, I was a bit worried this wouldn’t be handled well. Who wants to watch two people who think they’re blood related fall in love? Not me. But the show managed to make it a relationship I rooted for the whole way through. They always kept it innocent and made sure each character had a healthy and appropriate response to their feelings. And of course it provided so much ANGST! The best kind.

KMUSE: Best falling in love with my sibling who is not really my sibling story that I have watched to date.  I appreciated that they didn’t go super dramatic with this one.

Telzeytalks: We all could see it coming and considering the type of drama it was, we all figured it would turn out well eventually. It’s just watching it happen. I enjoyed it most when Actor Ahn knew the truth but hadn’t told Mi-young yet.

CLSunbae: I agree, this was handled as well as it could be. I wish we didn’t have to go there at all, but it could’ve been a lot grosser. I think there were only one or two moments where I was cringing. I think they dragged out her discovering the truth longer than it needed to be, but overall, their love story was beautiful and well done, mostly because Joong Hee gave such a stellar performance.

Favorite Couple

Drama Geek: This is SOOOOO hard. Of course, Little Unni (Mi Young) and Actor Ahn are the couple that I fell in love with and squealed each time they moved to the next stage of their relationship. (One of the best arm grab kisses of all time!) They were so freaking adorable and I just love them to bits. But…. the parents’ relationship was the one for the ages. They went through hell and still loved so deeply that just a few tender words to each other brought me to tears. I can’t forget Hye Young and her hubby. They were so quirky and also felt very real at the same time.

KMUSE: Mi Young and Actor Ahn are my favorite.  Can’t help it, they were just so adorable and stole my heart.

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Telzeytalks: My favorite couple is Yoo-joo and Joon-young. I loved how both of them matured through the show and changed my opinion of them completely. She needed him as someone who cared about her when her own family did not. And he needed her as someone who thought he was wonderful and encouraged him about retaking the exam. I love how they grew together as a married couple. She regretted not taking his advice about her health, and later turned to him for advice about Mom’s surgery. He tried to deal with her crazy mother and save her the grief, and then she asked him to just talk things over and face problems together.

CLSunbae: I CAN’T CHOOSE! Why you make me choose?? I loved Hye-Young and Jung Hwan because of how he tamed that wild Shrew so beautifully. I loved Mi Young and Joong Hee because it was so bittersweet and full of longing. I loved Ra Young and Cheol Soo because I couldn’t stop smiling every time they were on screen together. And I even loved that Strange Father and Mother because of their undying commitment to each other and the respect they had for each other. So I guess it’s a four-way tie?

The Ending…Yay or Nay?

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Drama Geek: YAY! Without giving too much away I’ll just say that they managed to satisfy me in every way. Yeah, I had to be okay with a few things being a little too easily resolved, but for the Byun family, I was willing to forgive that small blip.

Telzeytalks: Aren’t we allowed to give spoilers? I was not satisfied with the ending. Of course, I wanted a happy ending, but I find that I don’t like too much sweetness and light. The problem is, everything was too easy. All the couples were paired up, all the problems were solved. I kept expecting the people who had framed Dad in the first place to show up and cause trouble with the retrial. Nothing happened with that. It all left me unsettled. Still, I would have liked to see Yoo-joo and Joon-young with a baby.

CLSunbae: Yay! So much yay! They resolved everything wonderfully and with the same quirky humor that made this show such a gem.

KMUSE: It was super sweet but it is rare to see a weekend family drama that doesn’t end with happy ever after for all.  I found myself smiling and satisfied.  I was only sad that it had ended.

Do We Recommend This Drama?

DramaKimchi25.pngDrama Geek: YES! I don’t watch weekend dramas, and I have never finished a 52 episode Kdrama so that should speak for itself. This is the perfect binge watch or a drama to fit in the holes the current drama lineup may create in your watching schedule.

Telzeytalks: Oh yes we do. Yup. Definitely. It is not too long to have 52 episodes with this family! It is really well done and a great one to watch.

CLSunbae: This will be one that I recommend regularly, for sure.

KMUSE: I totally recommend this drama.  I would even suggest this as a drama that might hook your non-kdrama watching friends and family.  It was excellently done.

Til next time,

The Fangirls

Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

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