You know what always sounds good in theory? Chocolate lava cakes. All that rich chocolate goodness, and then the molten chocolate in the middle to enjoy when the cake runs out. But every time I order one of them, I get to the end of the cake and remember that I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth and it’s a burden to finish the syrup. But I ordered it, so by golly, I will finish it!!
Yes, Secret Garden was much the same way for me. The soul-swapping was awkwardly hilarious, as was Joo Won’s towering ego and Yoon Sang Hyun as the not-quite-washed-up Oska. I loved Ra Im’s cool stuntwoman persona, and I was very impressed at how dexterously Hyun Min and Ha Ji Won took on each other’s gestures and eccentricities and even their posture when they swapped souls. That was some truly astounding acting. But a little of me died every time Ra Im encountered Joo Won’s mom, and those last few episodes . . . well, let’s talk about the plot instead.
Secret Garden started off feeling a LOT like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Gil Ra Im was capable and talented in her chosen field and had no time for uppity Kim Joo Won. But he found himself drawn to her again and again after their paths crossed, despite his reservations about her social class, her face, and her occupation. (He even complimented her eyes later on — you can’t convince me someone wasn’t purposefully doing a P&P shout out. AND he had a little sister!)
But in episode 5, after everyone’s backstory was fully laid out and the conflict fully exposed, there was a mysterious encounter with an old woman in the woods. I’ve read enough fairy tales to know that you DON’T take the forest witch’s hospitality, no matter how good the chicken tastes! But apparently Joo Won and Ra Im, despite their more than passing familiarity with Alice in Wonderland and the Little Mermaid, had not encountered Baba Yaga, so they broke bread with her and the mayhem began.
And so I continued to enjoy the cake as Joo Won and Ra Im did their best to interact in each other’s worlds, bumbling and making the people around them think they were crazy. I loved the little details they added in, like Ra Im learning how to shave and tie a necktie, and Joo Won learning far more than he wanted to about Ra Im’s adorable roommate. I thought there was going to be a love triangle with Joo Won’s cousin, Oska, but I loved that Ra Im’s admiration of him turned into a genuine friendship instead. Honestly, Yoon Sang Hyun’s Oska impressed me as much as his Attorney Cha did in I Remember You. He is an excellent actor, and I could feel his sincerity oozing from the screen.
The last few episodes of the drama were an emotional syrup. I stuck with it because I love you all and because Unni Amber reminded me it was a different style of storytelling. It reminded me of a certain few episodes of Coffee Prince that I also struggled with. But the sunlight dawned once again and the ending was worth the pain. The last episode wrapped up almost EVERY SINGLE plot line, and that wasn’t necessarily to the story’s benefit, but I enjoyed where Ra Im and Joo Won ended up.
So what did I take away from Secret Garden? I enjoyed the experience. I would recommend it to a friend, for sure. Would I watch it again? Probably not. Once was enough. I was more than satisfied. So thanks for the recommendation, drama fans! Watch our Facebook page/Unni Amber’s Twitter feed for a new poll, coming your way soon.
Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi