My tastes in dramas have surely been wandering. I can't keep up with the hype of modern dramas, and while 2007 isn't technically that long ago, for a Kdrama there's a world of difference between this dark melo of the past and the world of today's trendies, including some of the more recent melodramas I've been able to sit through. So while everything I tend to start these days ends up perpetually 'on hold', something about watching this class act from the not so distant past took me back to the days when I had just discovered Kdramas - when every thing was new and wondrous, when dramas could shock me. Unlike my encounters with the first Kdramas of personal experience though, this one even made me a little bit scared.
Que Sera, Sera is sometimes listed as having one of the darkest, twisted plots you can find. Let me tell you something: it fits the bill. Okay maybe not as far as totally sicko, disgusting, or morbid. There's no gore or psycho killers. But there's no villain! And that's kind of the whole point. Our lead man Kang Tae Joon, played by Shinhwa's Eric Moon, is poor. Our lead girl Eun Su (Jung Yu Mi) is also.. get this.. poor. The second leads are not-exactly-siblings Ji Soo and Joon Hyuk (Lee Eun Soon and Lee Kyu Han respectively), the richer duo, and not a single person in this whole drama is happy. Poor man falls in love with poor girl, but dates rich girl so he can take care of poor girl's debts. Rich girl gets a fake boyfriend to taunt her not-a-brother former lover, and not-brother genuinely falls in love with poor girl. Seemingly standard fare except the cross mixing of these four's relationships with one another are simultaneously exhilarating, and downright disturbing.
Here's just one small reaction hint: It's a kiss scene. Our girl is running out of a hotel room in the rain, trailed by hot Eric Moon who spins her around violently, and she gives in initiating steamy smooching.. I'm sitting on the floor in front of the TV while all this is happening, and my husband just comes in from work through the front door. He finds me, Rosie, sitting stunned, hands covering my mouth. "Good scene?" he asks with a mistakenly placed smirk. "No!" I answer with a horrendous squawk and burst into tears of rage over the events on screen. When did ever a kiss scene go wrong? You'll find out when you watch Que Sera, Sera.
|I still have nightmares.|
Note to readers - This drama is kind of amazing. Sure it's old and the cinematography and production values are a bit lacking. The second girl a plastic nose identical to a dozen other same era actresses, and every character in the show will at some point make you want to rip your hair out - except where in most Kdramas where it's cliches and crappy plot twists or character non-development that make you want to end your life, here it's because Que Sera Sera has a raw edge to it that I've rarely seen even in the movies, let alone television. And whether or not you like the characters, the actors' portrayals sell the whole thing, and it's impossible to quit and not wonder what on earth is going to happen to them all.
Read for more some SPOILERLY
Que Sera Sera, as a genre of Kdrama, has a lot of things going for it: an older vibe, less polish, and raw emotion. The character archetypes are recognizable, but they writers don't treat them as such. There's enough real human emotion in them that I can believe these people exist in some form in some part of the world. I can understand their actions even if I don't like or approve of them, and as such it makes this show semi hard to watch. Like watching close acquaintances slowly destroying their lives with bad decisions and not being able to do a damn thing to change their minds. (This isn't new to me at all, but in contrast to all these shiny flashy dramas of recent years, where I just sigh and shrug over characters' dumb decisions, for the leads of Que Sera Sera I felt all their anguish plus my own.) You know what I liked best about this show? Class consciousness. Kdramas do it all the time, but rarely with such realism. It's even less rare to see all four corners of a Kdrama love square forced to explore the ramifications of their intermingling.
Disclaimer - I did not like the ending because of how the OTPs were aligned or severed. Explaining this though (even to myself) is hard. Too hard, because after 16 hours of watching our characters deal with their situations rashly and brutally, I not so casually came to the conclusion that I. did. not. like them. Any of them! Not one character is perfectly sweet, or perfectly evil. It's important to note though that this doesn't rule out watchability. Rather, Que Sera Sera is more captivating for all their imperfections. But in dramas, I tend to ship characters based on a mentality that 'he/she deserves the happiness being with [x] lover would bring.' I could not get behind this here however. Had the four been completely severed and no one happy in the end, based on the story's trajectory, that would have been a more satisfactory end. Maybe I'm revealing my more realistic non-romantic inclinations, but Que Sera Sera moved me in such a way that I would've been content to end with the pseudo-tragedy of unhappiness. This show got us halfway there.
|Can you feel the love?|
Crossed Pairing 1: Tae Joon and Ji Soo
Starting with Tae Joon, our lead man is a player, shamelessly exploiting the willing ladies of the uppercrust, and he initially refuses to fall for Eun Su because she's a poor girl with nothing to contribute to his lifestyle. But it's his relationship with the heiress Ji Soo that is most intriguing. We almost never get to see a rich woman poor man scenario in this genre, and Ji Soo kicks his ass in the arrogance department. I'd almost say her influence over Tae Joon is greater than Ji Soo's love. Setting the [not exactly innocent] romance between the poorer lovers, Ji Soo propositions Tae Joon into a fake relationship, treats him like shit, and then has the guts to fall in love with him. They'd have made a great pair, maybe as the non-loving, cynical parents of a future Kdrama star character.
Not that it was meant to be, because our beautiful handsome leading man is still a cut above most Kdrama asshole men. He can't quite retaliate against Ji Soo directly, so he hurts her by repeatedly running after Eun Su. Enough times that I was screaming for him to leave her alone. Ji Soo's development as a character was already chaotic: from the heartbroken over Joon Hyuk wreck, to selfish pursuit of Tae Joon, to the lovestruck fool once again. It was good to see her stronger for all her trials, even if it was painful and emotional journey.
|Can you feel the angst?|
Crossed Pairing 2: Eun Su and Joon Hyuk
I liked these two; I really did. But I won't say it's because I shipped or that I had second-lead-syndrome for Joon Hyuk, or anything as remotely easy to assess. This couple just worked, in a fashion. At least before Joon Hyuk became a selfish, jealous bastard and Eun Su a cheater. Initially though they fit together - Joon Hyuk may be the adopted son of the boss man, but he was in his heart an orphan. He never lived up to his given wealth, he never believed he'd ever be allowed to love Ji Soo, and when he comes across the battered Eun Su, she's all he can think about. I craved for them to learn how to be with one another, before and after their marriage. They got married! She was pregnant! Forced circumstances, people! If there's ever a time when I want a couple to work out it's when they're fighting such uphill odds of stability and uncertainty. But he would be an asshole, he would force her to become a housewife, and I ached for Eun Su when she made all those sacrifices. Just when she was ready to learn how to become a good wife, after all those difficulties, Joon Hyuk leaves her because he's finally figured out this isn't good for either of them. Well shit. You might have thought about that before you made Eun Su miserable.
|Can you feel the tension?|
Crossed Pairing 3: Joon Hyuk and Ji Soo
They were doomed from the start. Raised as siblings, it's the kind of thing every drama likes to throw in for the fauxcest ratings bonus points. The sad thing is they actually had chemistry. The sadder thing is how they both became such blatant reactionaries at the 'end' of their relationship. The even sadder thing is how they ended up becoming partners in hatred and abuse. The good thing is that they never reconciled and got back together. I'm relieved - it's the small things that make consistency.
|I repeat - can you feel the love?|
Real Pairing 4: Eun Su and Tae Joon
If ever there was an OTP I knew would happen but hoped wouldn't, it was them. What starts off as mutual repressed attraction quickly spirals into a brutally unequal partnership. It's doable at first, and I was a little whipped when Eun Su actually filed a case for sexual harassment after their first experiment at kissing. Did you even know such a thing could exist in dramaland? I know, shocking. Feeling indignant for Tae Joon in his confusion, I even forgave the incident. If only everything had stopped after that..
Why do I choke at their apparent love? Because it was a brutal story, for them and for the others. A catalyst for insane jealousy, sordid affairs, and misery all around. I can't believe they found their way back to each other, even with the couple year time jump. But maybe that's just always been their story. Eun Su and Tae Joon were always inseparable. They would be together, no matter what. I just don't have to like it.
Conclusion - Don't make me ever rewatch it. But I can't imagine not knowing this story and these characters, and the toil they put me through. Confusing, much? Yeah me too.