Throwback Thursday: Return – The drama that defied our expectations

It is so rare we find a solid revenge drama that sees the revenge all the way to a conclusion that when one comes along it needs to be celebrated. Possibly twice! So join us for this Throwback Thursday where we share all our favorite aspects about the revenge kdrama Return. (Originally published March 2018)

Remember way back when? Back when I wrote a 1st impression post and declared that Return was “weird” and I would most likely be dropping it after four episodes? It turned out that I was 100% wrong. Not only didn’t I drop Return but it became one of my favorite recent dramas. So join Kdrama Jen and me (Kmuse) as we discuss what we loved about this drama and how it turned our expectations on their head.Warning:  We will be discussing some spoilers.  Proceed at your own risk.

I think the first thing we need to touch base on is how this drama was different than what we are used to.

Kmuse:The biggest difference between this show and its predecessors is that all the characters are so unlikable. It is odd to not have even one person to root for. Even Lee Jin Wook’s cop character had faults and while he wasn’t guilty like everyone else in this show, he wasn’t set up to be a protagonist. More of a tool for the viewers to see multiple sides of the events that lead to murder, another murder, and yes more murders.

Kdrama Jen: There was no black or white dividing line for morality. In some cases it was possible to understand how they lost some of their humanity through tragedy, but there were quite a few characters that were just downright cray-cray. I loved that nobody was perfect, but it might be the first Kdrama I have ever watched where I was not really sure who I was rooting for because they had all kind of lost their grip on reality.

An abundance of violence

Kmuse: Another thing that surprised me was just how much violence and depraved activities happened on screen. It sometimes made me wonder how they got this past the sensors without getting fined. Sure, I have seen shows that can get pretty bloody. But almost never on the main three stations. Return was full cable level gore…and then some. If you are squeamish about people getting stabbed, hit by cars, shot, stoned, or drowned then this might not be the drama for you. There are a lot of deaths and a lot of people killing in the name of revenge. Did I mention you won’t like anyone in this show?

Kdrama Jen: It was not the graphic scenes that made me squeamish. It was the brutality and complete disregard for life that bothered me. There were a few times when I found myself applauding someone’s death, and then I felt kind of dirty. This is one dysfunctional group of people.

The drama behind the drama

I am sure that most kdrama fans know the behind the scenes drama where the lead actress switched from Go Hyun Jung to Park Jin Hee midway through Return’s airing. Since the only thing we have to go on is he said she said regarding Go Hyun Jung’s issues with the production company, we are not going to delve into the rumors. Instead, we are going to comment on how it affected the actual drama. Did it work? Was there a huge difference in leading lady quality? Did it disrupt the narrative?

Kmuse: I was actually expecting there to be a longer transition period when they switched the leading ladies. Surprisingly, it only took one episode for me to be attuned to Park Jin Hee as the lead. To the point where I actually preferred her performance when portraying this character. There was a manic edge she possessed that was missing during the first portion of the show. In Go Hyun Jung’s defense, we had not arrived at the big reveal of her murderous ways and revenge driven plotting. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been as intense with Go Hyun Jung’s more mysterious portrayal of the character? Regardless, I felt that the character was well developed clear to the end and the actress switch didn’t take away from that.

Kdrama Jen: The strong lawyer lady I was admiring suddenly cut her hair and transformed, right at the point where I had to accept that this character might not be someone I should be cheering for! It was a dramatic moment, and then we really started to see the layers and full craziness of the plot, so I barely noticed the change.

Revenge done right

Kmuse: One of the things that bug me the most about revenge dramas is when the people getting revenge pull back and have a change of heart. This was not one of those dramas. The body count on both sides should tell you that. But while revenge was achieved, justice was not ignored. I felt that everyone got what they deserved whether it was prison, losing family, or death. For that matter, it was one of the most satisfying endings of any revenge show I have watched. I was very pleased with how things turned out for all the various characters.

Kdrama Jen: So… I have two episodes left to watch. I will reserve judgment, but if this wraps up with the same kind of power it has sustained throughout, then I will be satisfied.

Best performance

Since it is impossible to say that we actually liked any of the characters since they were all horrible human beings we decided to share which performance we thought was best.

Kmuse: For me it has to be Shin Sung Rok.  That man just gives me chills anytime he goes all evil mastermind killer.  I loved him in My Love From Another Star and he cemented my love of him as the big bad in Return.  He stole the show in my opinion.

Kdrama Jen: I also love Shin Sung Rok. I worry that he will never be able to leave his villain-like ways behind. Even when he has been cast as a good guy, I could never fully trust him. I was always waiting for him to start twisting his nail-ring as he wishes someone good health. Regardless, he does chilling and heartless really well! The other actor who intrigued me in Return, though, was Bong Tae Gyu. He played the rich and clearly unbalanced “foundation heir.” He was abusive and horrible in so many ways, but I could not stop watching him. He wasn’t handsome like the others in the group, yet he somehow attracted the wife of his friend. He seemed like the most heartless and evil to me, but then there was a scene where he was completely broken because he tried to kill his friend. The character was despicable, but the acting was incredible. He has mainly been in movies for the past ten years or so. I think the last drama he was in was Personal Taste. I read somewhere he is going to be in Return of Superman and I just want to scream, “No! Don’t let him near your babies!”

Would we recommend?

Kmuse: I would recommend this drama. It is different from what we have seen in the past and the storytelling and pacing were spot on. There were no huge plotholes and the crazy characters and the intricately layered plot had me engaged the whole way through. The ending was so satisfying that I actually bumped this up to an 8.5/10 on MDL. I highly recommend this drama to anyone who enjoys a good revenge/murder mystery and does not mind the lack of romance…or ethics.

Kdrama Jen: Assuming the ending holds up, then I would recommend this to anyone who like their revenge full of plot twists and morally ambiguous characters. Actually, the majority are not even ambiguous; they are straight-up dark and crazy. So, if you are looking for a compelling show that will have you texting your friends things like, “What???? I thought they buried her!” and other exclamations of surprise and horror, then this is the revenge drama for you!

There you have it.  Our thoughts on the drama Return.  Be sure to come back in the future as we share drama reviews and all other drama news daily.

Til next time,

Kmuse & Kdrama JenDramas With a Side of Kimchi

3 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Return – The drama that defied our expectations

  1. “I was always waiting for him to start twisting his nail-ring as he wishes someone good health.” > LOL!

    Also, I loved the end to Money Flower which is my fav makjang so far. I was bracing myself for an entirely other ending and the one I got was so satisfying.

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