Familiar Wife: First Impressions & Unfiltered Thoughts

The monsoon season temps continue to soar here in Korea, yet all my favorite “summer dramas” are coming to a close.  What’s a drama fan to do with all this free time?  Hunker down with the A/C blasting and start a new drama of course!  Read on for my first impressions of Familiar Wife, starring Ji Sung and Han Ji Min.

Bring on the Time Travel

When I found out this was a time travel based drama, it immediately went on my watch list.  I absolutely LOVE a good ‘What if?’ story, done well of course.  Sadly, I’ve been burned by other dramas in this genre.  *shudders at the memory of Time-Slip Dr. Jin*  But, thankfully, the cast, writer, and director of Familiar Wife all have numerous worthy dramas to their names.  So I pushed play with a cautious optimism!

I’m not the type to get caught up in the science of making time travel work.  Give me a plausible fantasy and I’ll run with it.  A nearby star’s extinction, a homeless man’s prophetic ramblings, and an intermittently appearing toll-gate on a lonely back road form this show’s recipe for time travel.  Believable enough for me, and points for uniqueness with the toll-gate!  We spend most of the first episode leading up to the actual time-travel … or was it just a dream?  Cha Joo Hyuk, played by Ji Sung, is more than a little sleep deprived, so he’s not exactly quick on the uptake.  Which leads me to my next thought…

Not-So-Subtle Stereotypes

Don’t get me wrong here, I like my dramas formulaic…to a certain extent.  But for those who might have recently watched Go Back Couple, there was an eerily similar setup.  Overworked husband/dad (Joo Hyuk) is stuck in a low paying position, eking out a mediocre existence providing for his wife and kids.

Played by Han Ji Min, the nagging/screaming shrew of a working wife/mother, Seo Woo Jin, is doing everything selflessly on her own while blaming her hubby for never helping and being around.  

Then there are the two best friends. One is a fellow co-worker personally acquainted with the plight of working dads. The other a college bestie, a beacon of freedom, basking in his singleness and offering a sympathetic ear.  

Last but not least, the perfectly beautiful and talented first-love-who-got-away who has freshly arrived back in Korea from the US.  She is an oasis of sweetness and subject of happy daydreams, propelling our haggard time-traveler to perhaps change his life’s path for the better.  Will he succeed? Will life be better with the girl who got away? Or will predictability take over and Joo Hyuk yearn for his first wife and his old life?

Unlike Go Back Couple though, only Joo Hyuk is aware of and able to make changes to the timeline.  So I have some concerns on how this will affect character development and choices going forward.

Random Observations

So, for a couple of reasons, I was totally reminded of Michael J Fox in Back to the Future when watching this drama.  Our lead seemed to have a penchant for needing to run.  Everywhere.  He was always late, for various reasons, and I found myself just waiting to see him go sliding across the hood of a car.   It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve got 14 episodes ahead of me.  I’m hopeful!

Woo Jin–You guys, I wanted to feel sorry for her, but I was just terribly put-off by this character.  Her younger and present day selves were both loud and pushy.  At one point, I was certain I had accidentally switched to watching the lead from She Was Pretty.  Let’s just say that, normally, in this kind of storyline I’d be rooting for the original couple to stay together.  Here?  Maaaaybe not so much.

Okay, let’s talk Ji Sung, the actor, for a moment.  Another reason I was anxious to check out this drama was specifically to see Ji Sung.  I’ve been an avid K-drama fan for over 5 years now.  But I’ve NEVER seen any of his dramas!!  I know, I know … I don’t know how that happened either.  Don’t worry though, Kill Me, Heal Me is on my short list.  After my brief intro to him in this drama, I can see why my fellow fangirls sing his praises.  He’s a very versatile actor, able to convey expressions and emotions superbly, and just has a charisma about him.  AND he can do the splits.  So there ya go!

Final Thoughts

All things considered, Familiar Wife is going to be a keeper for me.  Messing with time travel always makes for an interesting plot, even with formulas and stereotypes firmly in place.  If nothing else, I think Ji Sung is going to keep things entertaining.

I’m itching to push play on episode 3.  How about you, drama fans?   Will you join me in watching Familiar Wife??



You can find Familiar Wife streaming HERE on Viki.

10 thoughts on “Familiar Wife: First Impressions & Unfiltered Thoughts

  1. I want to like this more than I do. Maybe it’s because I’m only a few years out from a pretty difficult toddler, but I kind of hate Ji Sung’s character. I don’t find the wife shrewish at all (I’m only halfway through ep. 2). She was WAY WAY younger than him when they met (she was in high school, he was a mature student at college it seemed? He called himself a returning student at one point)–so her childish infatuation didn’t bug me.

    In the present, she is dealing with piles of shit, and he is oblivious. It’s so frikken painful to see her realize that her mom needs care and know that she’s going to go home and find her husband’s spent all that money on a game console. While utterly failing to pull his weight with two babies. ARG.

    Her screaming is because she lives constantly at her breaking point, she is under so much stress she can barely cope. It’s hard to watch. (Also, hard for me personally to watch because I had post-partum PTSD which is apparently a thing, and one is not depressed with that, but one does get a hair trigger temper that is difficult for everyone including one’s self. . I’m not saying this character has it, but her character feels extremely, and painfully, relatable).

    All that said, I’m cautiously still in, because I am a huge fan of Ji Sung and the time travel genre, and I’m actually pretty impressed with the actress playing the wife at this point. I’m willing to slog through this beginning because it seems like the point of the drama is going to be a) character growth and b) figuring out the other’s perspective.

    • Apparently I’m someone who needs to talk things out, because after reading your first thoughts and writing mine, I decided I had enough interest to go past my discomfort in the second episode and he’d won me over enough by the end that now I’m hooked 😀

      So I will be joining you on this one!

    • I haven’t watched the drama, but I came to empathize with the whole drowning-in-motherhood thing. If my husband was inattentive, I’d struggle too. Thankfully, I have a pretty good guy for my life partner, but dealing with those early childhood years was still hard, even with his help.

      I’m sorry you had to deal with post-partum PTSD. It sounds awful and scary and I’m glad you made it through. Thank you for sharing your perspective and helping me learn something new!

      • Thanks! I do like to mention it from time to time, since I didn’t find out about it until AFTER I recovered. If I or the people around me knew about it, we might have sought help–so I like to take a chance now and then to mention it in case it can benefit others. Anyway… I’m all good now 😀

    • I also had all of these same thoughts and feelings. I was disgusted by Ji Sung’s character and was not sure I was going to continue. I am still not comfortable with the way it feels like he is cheating on his marriage, but as I continue to watch, I am seeing there are some natural consequences to his actions that are making me feel a bit better. I think he is going to see that HE has some major flaws to address before any marriage will work. I am caught up and waiting to see where episode 5 leads us.

      • Yep! I still don’t totally like him, but I see enough good in him now to feel like a redemption/self-discovery arc is going to be very satisfying. I’m also on-board with the broader themes they are developing about marriage and relationships, now that we’re out of the misery of the first 2 episodes.

  2. Nooo no no no! If you’re going to watch a Ji Sung drama, you NEED to start with Secret!! I think that’s the first of his dramas you should see! It’s a melo but it is so incredibly fabulous and has the most character development and believable love-hate relationship storyline as well as a good plot (with, what I think, has few plotholes), a TON of unexpected plot twists and did I mention an incredible turn on the love-hate relationship stereotype? Seriously, totally worth your time! I think, even if you’re not the type to watch melodramas.. still watch at least the first 4 episodes. or 16 ^^

    I’m worried about this plot being too similar to Go Back Couple as well. I’m going to watch it anyway when it finishes airing but I have a feeling it’ll be too similar. I also love time-travel dramas!

    • I’m not finding it like Go Back Couple… there are some obviously similar plot points, but there are also some significant differences (he goes back and forth, it’s only him who remembers). I find the “flavour” completely different from the start.

      The main difference is in the relationship conflict. In Go Back Couple, they had a good relationship, but when her mother died they both felt guilty and angry about the night and it caused them to stop communicating, which over time eroded their relationship in all areas. It was a very specific sort of rift that had to be healed, and they had to forgive each other and themselves for their mistakes.

      4 episodes in, the theme Familiar Wife is establishing is that a good marriage comes from having a partner that makes you want to be a better person (as stated in the conversation in episode three with his sister). It feels like the set-up is both more of an inner conflict and more one-sided than Go Back Couple. His arc will be to go from wanting to change his wife from wanting to change himself. We can also see the theme being explored with the contrasts between the various relationships: his sister, his new wife (who seems less happy and less successful in her marriage with him–although it’s a bit early to say for sure); even his first wife, who is a much better person in the relationship with her mother, where she wants to do well.

  3. Thought I’d pop back in to say that I stuck it out to the end and ended up loving it 🙂 How did anyone else find it?

  4. I just watched this drama. Found myself relating to the wife taking care of 2 babies and working a job.
    What my husband and I noticed right away is the husband and wife in the dram are not good parents. All throughout the drama, there was only one scene when the husband ever thought of his babies. We dont know if it is just us, but our knee-jerk reaction would be to find a way home to our babies the earliest possible time.
    The husband had flashes of memory of his first wife, and it seemed like he doesnt have any memories with his new wife. There was no scene where he remembers moments with his new wife. It would have given his new wife a more complex personality and we wouldve seen how they fell in love and so on

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