Heirs Kdrama Review, or, Why Coco and Vivi Are So Hard on Kim Tan

So, we actually managed to cover most of our Heirs-related feelings in our finale commentary, but we figured we should probably give a more thorough (and serious) analysis of the show as a whole.  After all, it has consumed so much of the kdrama community for the past 2+ months that it deserves some parting words!

Here's the one-paragraph overview: Heirs started out kind of ridiculous.  Then it became a train wreck, but also the most boring train wreck I have ever seen. Then it somehow improved for the last handful of episodes.  Is it worth watching for people who skipped it while it was airing?  I give it a decided meh overall, bordering on "Is it over yet?  What about now?"



Let's start with the positives.  Many of he the secondary characters were interesting, funny, and charming.  It took a while to get invested in some of them (like Hyo Shin) just because we were jumping back and forth between so many people, but the side friendships and romances were often a welcome relief from the main couple.  The two superstar couples of this show were Chan Young/Bo Na and Ki Ae/Hee Nam (the two mothers).  In both cases, I didn't particularly like the characters at first, but they gradually grew on me until I smiled every time they entered the scene.

The second positive is Kim Woo Bin as Choi Young Do.  Wait, you already knew that Coco and I are completely and totally biased in favor of Young Do?  How ever did you figure it out?

I know I'm not the only one who started this show feeling a little guilty that I found Young Do more interesting than Kim Tan in pretty much every scene.  My theory is that Young Do had to be disturbingly cruel and violent at first to at least give people a fair shot at favoring the intended main couple.  Even then, the early episodes were a mental tug-of-war where one side said, "But VIVI, you should never favor bullies!  It's despicable!" while the other side said, "I can't help it!  He's so fascinating!  Plus, Kim Tan is about as interesting as watching cement dry!"  It also helped that we knew from episode 1 that this guy would never actually get the girl, so it's not like we were really advocating abusive bully boyfriends anyway.


Even when I couldn't really like Young Do because he was too scary, he was always interesting to watch, and full credit there goes to Kim Woo Bin for making every facial expression in every scene meaningful.  He has won a few new fans over here for sure.

And now...the bad.

Really, most of the problems in this show boiled down to the central couple. There was very little romantic scaffolding at the beginning of the show to indicate why Kim Tan would be so obsessive about Eun Sang, and there especially wasn't any strong reasoning for Eun Sang to return his affections.  The male lead was already asking "Do I like you?" in episode 2, which pushed the show into the "romantic obstacles abound" phase before it had time to develop the romance in the first place.  That's also probably why the middle of the show felt so draggy--we skipped ahead to freeze frame love triangle standoffs by episode 5.  What options did they have by episode 10 but to repeat this standoff for the twentieth time?  Oh, wait, they could always go for the sad drive-by ignore walk.  I counted five of those in one episode alone! FIVE!  Sure, there was some cute banter in the last few episodes, but it was a little late by then.


Without this romantic scaffolding in place, we just kind of had to trust the writer's word for it that this couple was madly in love.  I remember that I talked a little about internal versus external kdramas in my review of Nice Guy.  If that drama was internal, this one was a step beyond external.  These characters didn't even look like they were in love.  Eun Sang looked horrified every time Kim Tan invaded her personal space (over and over and over again), and yet, the words "I like you" suddenly came out of her mouth.  If the dialogue says it, it must be true!
He just confessed his feelings.  She's literally trembling with fear.


Doesn't that face say "I'm so happy you kissed me"?

Yup, suuuuuper happy right now.  Ah, young love!

"It only looks like you're hurting me against my will!  And this struggling is struggling for joy!"

This kind of forced feeling plays into a bigger theme on Heirs, and that theme is that it's all about Kim Tan.  I finally realized that Kim Tan's obsession was never even about Eun Sang as a person--it was always about Eun Sang as his personal symbol.  He chased her down obsessively, but that relationship was still very self-focused.  Here are some examples:

  • Kim Tan's dialogue often focuses on himself rather than Eun Sang: "Do I like you?" "Why don't you ever listen to me?" (Uhhh, because you've been ignoring everything she says?) "I'm going crazy because I want to hug you." (Followed by a hug.  Against her protests.) "But I like you!" "Just do as I say!"  
  • He instigates violence against Young Do time after time after time, and he almost always uses Eun Sang as an excuse. (Fun fact: In four out of five fights, Tan gets physical first.  Young Do only hits Tan first when he's trying to sober him up.)                                                                                                                                                                                         But if you look at the most troubling of these scenes (where he kicks down the door while shouting "I'm gonna kill you!"), his first thought isn't to take care of Eun Sang's safety (while "bad guy" Young Do does manage to shield her).  Instead, his first thought is to punch Young Do and hit him with a chair.  It's not so much about protecting Eun Sang as it is about his own rage against Young Do.
  • I was happy that Kim Tan finally realized the impact his rampaging tactics had on Eun Sang's life, and I guess his decision to stop chasing after her was some twisted kind of selflessness, but he followed it up by going on that absurd bender of violence and pouty tears.  Was he only sad about Eun Sang, or was his inability to "protect" Eun Sang mostly emblematic of his powerlessness against dear old daddy-o?
I saw Kim Tan progressing in some ways (like self-confidence and less family neediness), but for the most part, he wasn't much better at the end of the show than he was at the beginning.  While Young Do apologized to the kid he bullied, I wasn't convinced that Kim Tan wouldn't just punch someone else in the face if they got in the way of what he wanted.  Is that kid who broke down the door and grabbed the chair gone, or was he pacified because everyone changed around him?  His brother supported him, his dad had a stroke and caved, and even his mommy troubles came to an end.  What bad habits did Kim Tan abandon in all of this?

In the end, though, I'm glad I watched Heirs.  Even the painful music and the ridiculous styling were fun to mock!  Love is the moment, guys.  Never forget.  Or is love my pain?  Or is the moment my pain?

One more terrible styling choice for the road, okay?
The caked on face makeup in this scene kind of makes it look like his face is melting, like a Barbie that got left in the sun too long.
Note: After a recent layout switch, we're seeing comments posted before April 7, 2017 missing on a few posts. We're working on a solution, and in the meantime, any new comments you leave will work!

Comments

  1. I want to marry this review. I can't even comment on anything further, because you've said it all. *high five!*

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    1. Thanks! I gladly accept your high five!

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  2. I totally agree.
    I also felt that the story was so short and repetitive, all the time I was kind of waiting for one great moment that could shake the story, but it never happened. Over all the final wasn’t the worst but it felt a little bit empty, odd.

    And as you say, i just realize i was more aware of Young Do`s history.

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    1. I noticed that they kept trying to take little things and turn them into that big moment. They would start playing insanely dramatic music, and I would be thinking, "Wait, this isn't really a big deal!"

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  3. Totally agree with everything you said about Kim Tan. In fact, I have decided that the entire drama is Kim Tan's dream. The audience is an unwilling victim, pulled along through this story dictated by a vain, spoiled, and self-obsessed little boy. Twenty hours of it left me a bit queasy; the only relief came in those finer points you mentioned.

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    1. Haha, it wouldn't surprise me if the whole thing WAS Kim Tan's dream. How else can you explain Eun Sang's willingness to date him?

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  4. "Kim Tam is about as interesting as watching cement dry." LOL!!!

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  5. Well said! I agree with your entire assessment. Kim Tan may be my least favorite "hero" ever to the point that I don't think I'll ever be able to think of Lee Min Ho the same way, but Young Do was so dynamic and Kim Woo Bin impressed me so much that he's one I'll watch now in anything.

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  6. I think it a good drama even thou they left out some issues unattended, like Tan's brother without a fare ending.

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  7. Hear hear! I agree with everything you said. Kim Woo Bin was great as Young Do. Kim Tan drove me crazy and not in a good way.

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  8. I haven't even FINISHED it yet (I temporarily stopped watching after episode 10, but I just picked it back up and am now on episode 13), and I still agree with this...

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  9. And I forgot to include this in my previous comment, but Kim Tan's stalker-i-ness in this drama (and the realization that he's like this in varying degrees in BOF, Personal Taste, and City Hunter in addition to Heirs) has caused me to give him his own personal nickname: "Creeper."

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  10. Yes, thank you for not getting slurpy over the leads. With all of the young dynamic actors out there how in the world did they cast Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye as teenagers? I did not buy into the story because I didn't believe either of them. Yeo Jin Goo and Kim So Hyun might have brought more to the story. And, by the way, Park Shin Hye never brings out the best in her male leads; no spark from her.

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  11. 1000x yes to everything in this post. Heirs is the first k-drama I started watching solely because I (honest/sad moment, guys) – I had become one of those "Lee Min Ho is my oppa!" girls. And what did this seasoned crew do? THEY PUT HIM IN COOKIE MONSTER SWEATERS THAT ALMOST ATE HIM WHOLE. THEY GAVE HIM SADFACE RUST HAIR. AND THEY PUT HIM IN LADY PANTS THAT MADE HIM LOOK LIKE ELLEN DEGENERES WHEN HE WALKED AWAY. (So many leg shots and scenes of him walking away. Why?) If you're thinking he wears lady pants in every drama, you're right. I think he wore a full on two-piece lady suit in City Hunter. But Heirs was especially bad because Kim Tan was such a monster buttface that it was impossible to move past the assaulting visuals. You really have to work to make LMH look unappealing. Great work, dummies. Lee Jae Yoon is my new oppa.

    One other thing, can we start a Blue House petition banning PSH from all romantic leads? She's adorable, but she's the anti-shekshi. Second lead and unrequited love roles only. The kissing in Heirs was so, so painful. I was surprised when the closet scene didn't end with the sound of a Lucille Bluth rape horn. If I were to ever write a k-drama about a perpetually sad and confused girl that had to live life in a plastic bubble, PSH would be first on my list. "No touching!"

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  12. Hi, I'm new to your blog, and I must say that I love it!! I totally agree with this review!

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  13. such a brief phscological analysis of the character..........ha ha ha i second every word.......

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  14. loved all your posts and reviews on Heirs... loved lee min ho in the drama n everyone else tooo....

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  15. Thank you for this analysis, it was spot on. It itemizes everything that is wrong with Heirs/Kim Tan. Couldn't have said it better myself!

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  16. Great Review. The Heirs was very disturbing specially for the main couple. Kim Tan is obviously disturbed, and he didn't love any other than himself. Eun Sang is a strange character as well, because I feel we never get to know what is going on ih her head. Young do at least as a redemption moment. I feel really sad for the bad screenwriting, because I really like Lee Min Ho, and I feel he didn't have a good character here.
    Goo Jun Pyo compared with Kim Tan was a saint and a great boyfriend ;)

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  17. I agree with you !! brilliant !!
    But... Kim Tan is what his family and his life made him. We don´t see a k-drama miracle. We saw a young man in a real life , slowly changing ... blow after blow
    I suspect it was,Woo Bin, always in writer´s mind to be the " real main character" ( sorry LMH fans), after to saw him in A gentlemen´s dignity. Where he was strong and charming.
    In The Heirs he had stolen every scene. I will waiting more from him.
    About PSH , she must change and grow up ! NO more suffering when a handsome man touch or kiss her ! please !

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  18. I wish Eun Sang had chosen to stay single instead. I honestly don't think neither Tan or Young Do was worth it. Although, yeah, I did find Young Do much interesting than Tan. But ultimately the love triangle bored me. Like a lot. I was way more interested in the side-characters.

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  19. Annie_MotherOfInventionFebruary 12, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    Yes i agree. I thought this series was a big waste of time and only kept on watching because i wanted to see what younger viewer were so taken by. This drama was awful. The actors were too old for their characters and i just don't like the actress playing Eun Sang... she had this weird suffering look on her face through out the whole drama.

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  20. I hated it just for the main girl (Eun Sang). God, she was just so boring. I understand that not every female lead is spunky/ confident but seriously? She looked like she was going to pass out in every scene and, when she FINALLY did speak up for herself, it would be over something really stupid and unnecessary. The makers of this drama spent too much time assembling a good looking cast and not enough time focusing on the characters/ storyline...

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  21. Is it bad that I absolutely loved Heirs? I mean, I can agree with most of what you say but I still ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT and binge watched it in 4 days? I guess I felt like it was a nice break from all the fluffy crazyness of all the other kdramas? I don't know man, I don't know.

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  22. I´m agree Maria ... it was a nice break. Sometimes, we need some sweet stories.
    The Heirs told us the KT and JD ´s life journey , and the others accompanying them
    I saw for the second time, and I enjoy better at the first . Second readings of more value and deeper. Copy my preview coment : "Kim Tan is what his family and his life made him ( lonely, aggressive and posesive ). We don´t see a k-drama miracle. We saw a young man in a real life , slowly changing "
    ( uff sorry for my bad english )
    Finally, we know this not real life ... it´s fantasy. ¿ Right? ! I´m enjoy it every day !
    saludos desde mi lindo Chile

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  23. I totally totally TOTALLY agree with you on every point you've made... Seriously, I'm not sure why this drama was so popular. Only for the casting -.-

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  24. This review is so dead on its not even right... you took the words out of my mouth .. I actually stopped watching it half way through but have considered forcing myself to finish it I really liked him better in "the great doctor" not that it was an oh so much better drama but he looked way better helped lol but great review loved it!!!

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  25. I loved Heirs because I love Lee Min Ho and will watch him on anything and everything.

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