Hyun Bin finally (finally) returned to the small screen this week with “Jekyll, Hyde, Me.” The show stars Hyun Bin in a dual role as cold, uptight chaebol Goo Seojin and his alter ego, the warm Robin, and Han Ji Min as quirky circus performer Jang Hana. So how’s the show shaping up?
As Goo Seojin, Hyun Bin once again plays a rich dude with lots of issues and allusions to past trauma. Only this time, he also has dissociative identity disorder, which causes him to have an alter ego, Robin. Robin appears whenever Seojin’s “Metamorphosis Signal Point” (MSP) hits 150. Seojin has managed to keep his other self from appearing for five years, through a strict regimen of calming exercises, prayer, and hypnotherapy, administered by Dr. Kang, delightfully played by “Misaeng” actress Shin Eunjung. To keep the ol’ blood pressure down and avoid hitting his MSP, he’s also avoided all displays of human emotion and female contact.
Han Ji Min plays the oft-seen hardworking, lower-class perfect girl with a quirky occupation, which this time is circus performer. She hails from a family of circus performers, in fact.
The show opens with a cryptic dream that Seojin can’t decipher the meaning to, in which he saves a woman in a large performance center. It then introduces Seojin and his issues. What comes next is one of the more cringey drama scenes I’ve seen, involving a CGI gorilla on the loose in Seojin’s theme park, Wonder Land. I’ll spare everyone a play-by-play on this, but it’s awkward and mostly just serves to introduce Hana and Seojin’s cousin Seungyeon, who also works at the park and with whom he has a tense relationship.
Hana comes to Wonder Land just having returned to Korea. She takes charge when she finds out that Wonder Group CEO Seojin does not intend to renew the circus group’s contract because they suck.
Dr. Kang calls Seojin to tell him she’s found a cure-all treatment to rid him of his disorder forever. He immediately leaves to go to her office, running into Hana trying once again to get him to reconsider the circus contract. Although he tries to escape her, Hana follows Seojin to Dr. Kang’s office. There, she stumbles onto a dangerous scene, seeing the doctor beaten on the floor of her office. When she goes to examine if Dr. Kang is OK, a masked man attacks her. She tries to get away from him and attempts to grab onto Seojin for help as he gets in an elevator. Seojin jerks his hand away from her touch to avoid raising his blood pressure, but it’s too late. He stops Hana from getting in the elevator with him, but her touch turns him into Robin nonetheless. As the masked man tries to strangle Hana on the roof, Robin saves her, though not before he removes his jacket and tie, rolls up his sleeves, and unbuttons a couple shirt buttons (because having the two personalities simply act differently would be too confusing for the audience. They must look different, too.) Afterward, Seojin wakes up in the hospital with no memory of saving Hana but fears the worst when he realizes his MSP hit 150.
Hana tries to talk to Seojin about what happened, but he denies saving her. Since she doesn’t yet know about his dual personalities, she starts to walk away, confused, but suddenly notices the pendant he’s wearing. This brings her back to a time during childhood when she was saved in a similar situation by a boy wearing a pendant like that.
When Seojin’s dad hears suspicions that Robin has returned, he asks his son to leave before some upcoming inauguration. Seojin refuses, claiming he’s different than he was five years ago when Robin last appeared.
Back at the hospital, Hana gets discharged and is on her way to bug Seojin about the contract when an investigator begins questioning her about Dr. Kang. It’s revealed that the doctor has gone missing, and Hana is initially suspected of having something to do with the disappearance. This theory dies quickly, though, after Seojin reveals why Hana came to the hospital. The three go to the crime scene so Hana can describe how she came upon Dr. Kang and what happened to herself. While there, she remembers seeing the man who attacked the doctor, but can’t recall his face. It’s determined that she has short-term memory loss from the incident. Basically, PTSD.
Seojin demands Hana get hypnotherapy to help her remember the culprit’s face and help solve the mystery. Hana uses this as leverage, agreeing to get hypnotherapy if Seojin renews the circus group’s contract. He caves and takes her to the surprisingly hot Dr. Yoon, played by Sung Joon, who was Dr. Kang’s protege.
Dr. Yoon and Hana work to uncover her memories of the attack.
Meanwhile, Seojin’s dad (and his eyebrows) tries again to convince his son to leave the country before Robin appears again.
Seojin refuses to go before he finds Dr. Kang and tries her new treatment but promises to gtfo if, in the end, it doesn’t work.
After her sexy hypnotherapy sess with Dr. Yoon, Hana meets back up with Seojin at Wonder Land. The masked man follows her, but is prevented from directly attacking her by Seojin’s presence. Seojin then tells Hana he’s putting her into witness protection program in which he plans to watch her 24/7. As part of this, she has to obey everything he says or leave Wonder Land. She scoffs at his suggesting she leave, talking about her childhood there with her father and all her memories attached to the park. Things then take a weird turn when she asks about whether he’d so easily cast aside his memories of the place, and he flashes back to when he was kidnapped as a child with a little girl (obvs Hana) at Wonder Land. It’s the second of two weird flashbacks involving the two as children.
The two part ways, but living up to his promise, Seojin follows Hana. He suddenly realizes he’s living his own dream from the beginning of the first episode as Hana walks into a performance center. He suddenly transforms into Robin, saving Hana from death by falling disco ball.
I’m enjoying “Jekyll, Hyde, Me” so far, though I hope it starts differentiating itself from other shows more. It’s treading all-too-familiar ground. Hyun Bin plays basically the same character he did in “Secret Garden” and “My Name is Kim Sam Soon.” The only differences are his other personality (which you could argue is similar to when he switched bodies in “Secret Garden”) and the Clue-like conservatory in his house. Han Ji Min’s strong-willed, lower-class nice girl character has appeared in many dramas, too, most notably her own “Rooftop Prince.”
My biggest complaint is the inclusion of the “past history trope,” where it’s revealed that the male and female leads had met before as children but don’t realize that yet. No kdrama trope makes me want to vomit more. It’s always done in the most overly sentimental way.
As far as the acting goes, the two leads carry the show so far, though that’s not a surprise. The secondary characters are mostly flat at this point, with the exceptions of Drs. Kang and Yoon. I hope the other characters, particularly the other circus performers, get to develop, too. I hate when shows focus solely on the two main characters and don’t give the other characters any depth. Too many times, the secondary and tertiary characters are merely plot drivers, or worse, props.
Random bits of nonsense
- I want to know why Seojin and everyone around him hates Robin so much. The show’s been vague on this point. The most anyone’s said was when his dad expressed unhappiness not knowing where Robin would go or who he hung with. My guess is Robin either fell in love with some woman and wanted to give away all Wonder Group’s money or that Robin just wanted to shirk his CEO duties to be in the circus. I only have the latter theory because at one point in the second ep, he escapes some company thugs through gymnastic means. Minafriend also wondered whether Robin was Seojin’s original persona but his family created the Seojin personality to keep him away. I could totally see that, too.
- Seojin’s damn pendant bugs me. It reminds me too much of the “Dream High 2” pendant, which itself just copied the “Hunger Games” pendant. This one rips off the “Hunger Games” pendant even more than DH2, actually.
- Seojin is CEO of Wonder Group, which reminds me a little two much of Winner Group from the underwhelming “Birth of a Beauty.”
- My favorite quote so far, from Hana to Seojin regarding the contract renewal: “You can go shit yourself if you’re scared.”
- I think the most important question at this point is “Where the hell is Hyeri?”