Mirae’s Choice: First Impressions

Finally, the drama I was most excited for this crazy October drama season. Cue a big sigh of relief – I love it just as much as I was hoping.

The setup is simple, but it works: Na Mi-rae travels back in time 30 years to divert her past self from marrying her husband, and set events on a different course from what apparently ended in tragedy. I like that there is no attempt at fancy-schmancy science fiction and she simply uses a time machine – although I wish the time machine was a bit more sleek and fabulous. Cast iron with analog numbers for something from 2043? (Maybe it’s vintage?) Anyway. I feel like sometimes time-travel dramas try to make the actual science too complicated and then they get tangled in their own constructed logic when it comes time to end the show. (Queen In-hyun’s Man, anyone? Though I wasn’t as annoyed by that as some were, I could see the leap that was made.) Here it’s just that technology has advanced in thirty years and somehow people can travel through time. The explanation for why, then, everyone is not doing it willy-nilly may be that future Mi-rae had to, as she tells present Mi-rae, “risk her life” to come to the past… er, present.

Why do I feel a headache coming on…

I’m going to call them Big and Little Mi-rae because that’s less confusing to me. (Also, why not a gratuitous reference to Master’s Sun, in honour of one of the cutest OTPs I’m still missing?) I like that we have a reversal here of the conflict we see more often in time-travel dramas. Usually we have the traveler be the main character, who often has to juggle how much to reveal when traveling back into the past, and how much to change. Here we have Little Mi-rae as the main character, while Big Mi-rae (who is, okay, technically still her, but you get it) is the one who suddenly shows up spouting what sounds like insane warnings about the probable future.

Even once Little Mi-rae accepts that her older self is telling the truth and wants to help her, she has to decide how much of Big Mi-rae’s advice to take, and whether she wants to listen to her older and perhaps wiser self at the expense of following her heart. So far, aside from the free tickets to Jejudo, she seems to be mostly doing the latter, as evidenced by her choice to go for the broadcast writer job despite Big Mi-rae’s dire warnings. But the conflict is evident, and it’s compellingly written and acted. Both actresses are excellent in their roles, but Yoon Eun-hye is really doing a good job of selling her character as woman who has lost confidence in her dreams, and faces a terrifying but also exciting opportunity to do something about it.

It all comes down to Mi-rae’s choice, doesn’t it? Not just the simple (and difficult) one Little Mi-rae faces of which man to choose, but of how much of Big Mi-rae’s warnings to believe, and whether that will really give her a better life as Big Mi-rae assumes. Not to mention Big Mi-rae’s choice to travel back in time in the first place, with its associated risks and consequences. (Which is why I like the original Korean title better than the English one they chose.) There’s also the question of whether the choices she makes will actually change things in the long run, or if she is fated to marry Kim Shin no matter what, and it’s only a matter of how it happens. She’s certainly destined to meet him via car accident. If anything, diverting the first one made it worse, because now he thinks she’s a scheming gold-digger. Oy. Though perhaps that’s not a bad thing in Big Mi-rae’s eyes.

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Speaking of the two men Mi-rae has to choose between, I’m also really happy with both male leads, which hasn’t happened in a very long time. I’ve always found Lee Dong-gun to be a bit odd looking if very charismatic, but he is so handsome now. I can only describe him as debonair – does the man ever clean up well in a suit! He was adorable with Han Ji-hye in Sweet 18, but he’s got a new depth and stillness in his eyes here, which is impressive and not surprising given what caused his hiatus from show business. But not only is he good looking (the acting goes without saying), his character is so enjoyable. He is prickly, overly serious and obsessed with details, has a foul temper and a foul mouth and a rather arrogant manner – and yet despite all that is so damn likeable. I think it’s the underlying idealism and integrity that he refuses to hide which is so endearing. He’s a bit old-fashioned, and I love it. I can’t wait to see how Mi-rae will turn his carefully ordered, dictionary-enunciating, journalism-is-not-a-business world upside down.  (I also really, really want to see that perfectly styled hair get messed up.)

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And then we have Jung Yong-hwa as Se-joo, undercover chaebol, which subverts all the usual cliches of the heroine’s first meeting with the chaebol heir because, well, she thinks he’s just the maknae VJ, and a nice guy. So we have him playing the usual second lead sweetheart, but with a twist. Because in episode 2 Mi-rae has already heard his secret (though she doesn’t believe it yet), but it hasn’t thrown off their blossoming friendly rapport.

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Plus you get the hilarious moments of Kim Shin yelling at him like he is way below him in the food chain, because ostensibly he is – except that he’s not. Which will totally upset the power balance between the two men once Shin finds out who Se-joo is, and I don’t doubt they’ll already be on antagonistic terms by then because, you know. Petty jealousy and all that.

Something else I find fascinating about this story is the as yet unknown terrible consequence of Mi-rae’s marriage to Shin. We only know that Shin will be responsible for killing the person Mi-rae loves, which we find out in episode 2 is Oppa. But I have a hunch he doesn’t actually kill him and it’s one of those “He’d still be alive if it weren’t for you” type deals. That scene in the hotel room when Big Mi-rae tearfully tells Little Mi-rae never to think of suicide because it’s selfish and terrible makes me think Oppa killed himself, and that she blames Shin. I guess we’ll see if my guess is anywhere close to right.

I could go on about the thing I love about this show, but I’ve written an essay already. Suffice it to say, I’m super excited for next week’s episodes, and I’m crossing my fingers this will turn into love!

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