At first glance, Brilliant Legacy seems like a typical romance series, with promos featuring two females and two males. A-ha, the viewer will say, another story of boy meets girl, boy and girl probably don’t get along, peripheral boy and peripheral girl somehow complicate things and misunderstandings ensue, then in the end, boy and girl get together.
The first episode though, was probably the hardest thing for me to ever watch. It took me three days to get through it, because I kept having to pause it and calm my anger down. The two vaguely likable characters, Go Eun Sung (female protagonist) and Park Joon Sae (male deuteragonist) didn’t really have enough screen time to make them solidly likeable. And aside from Go Eun Sung’s father, who had even less screen time, making him forgettable yet an important catalyst to the story, everyone else was hateful. Minute after minute was harder to watch, as greed, deceit, betrayal, vanity, cruelty paraded across the screen. A glorious start to a romance series for sure.
Brilliant Legacy isn’t really about love between a boy and a girl. And it’s a series that’s really worth watching. Granted, you’ll have to have enough patience to weather through the first thirteen episodes of only liking five characters in a series with a rather large cast. I should note that only two of the five characters are central to the series, so it leaves a lot of room for the evil villains to fuck with them and to drive your blood into a hot boiling rage.
What the series does, and what sets it apart from any other show that’s aimed at the teenage girl demographic, is that it concentrates a lot on human nature. Central to the theme and often mused upon by the main protagonist is the scary influence of money. Greed plays a large driving force behind the actions of many of the characters. They are willing to lie and destroy the lives of good-hearted people for the sake of securing money for themselves… when they already have enough to survive on more than comfortably. It brings into sharp focus the horrors of the rat race of wealth accumulation. Would you be willing to give up your morals and values so that you can buy… stuff? Often the series shows the main villain, Go Eun Sung’s step-mother, who does the most lying and cheating, sitting in her room late at night panicking because her latest lie might be exposed. I certainly wouldn’t want to destroy my life and my peace of mind just for extra pocket change. And the main character wouldn’t either. As a sharp contrast to the villain, even in Go Eun Sung’s ultimate poverty where all she can eat are left over rice dumplings she failed to sell, she willingly takes in an old lady who has no memory, no money, no identity, and no family. Even at the depths of her own misery, her human nature and compassion wins out and Go Eun Sung cannot turn away the helpless.
Then there is also the subject of family vs. strangers. Many cultures have a belief that you always stand by family, no matter what. To pick yourself or a stranger over a family is almost like the ultimate betrayal. This theme is explored through a variety of ways.
- 1) Sun Woo Hwan (male protagonist), his sister, and his mother all act like spoiled brats and spend the grandmother’s money without a care for the future, hard work, and her well-being
- 2) The grandmother, after losing faith in her own family as decent human beings, decides to sign over her will to Go Eun Sung, who has shown unusual compassion to a stranger.
- 3) Yoo Seung Mi (female deuteragonist), despite knowing that her mother is an evil and soulless bitch, lets her originally good and caring nature become influenced until she becomes hateful as well.
- 4) Park Joon Sae (male deuteragonist) decides to go against his father who is trying to steal the grandmother’s company.
And that’s only some of the examples. It’s a look at how loyalty that families normally demand should perhaps be earned. How far will familial love and devotion extend until the sins of your family member are just too great to forgive?
The last major trait that I want to discuss is how far a person is willing to go for love. Seung Mi has loved Woo Hwan since she was little, and it contributes to her willingness to go along with her mother’s schemes to destroy Eun Sung. There is a poignant scene, right before the blackening of Seung Mi’s heart, where she cries to her mother saying that Woo Hwan is a pure person, and that she doesn’t want to be associated with anything as evil as her mother is doing, because Seung Mi wants to be able to be around Woo Hwan with a clear conscience. In addition, the series takes care to establish her character as originally a good one – she sympathizes with Eun Sung at the beginning and tries to convince her mother to stop her evil ways. Yet despite this knowledge and her innate character, Seung Mi decides that her own morals are worth throwing away for love. Incidentally, this is the final straw that drives Woo Hwan away from her. It’s an interesting look at how far we are willing to change so we can get the object of our heart’s desire.
This only brushes the surface of the evil and good that is embroiled in the series. As the grandmother said best, “That is why people are scary. You can’t look inside them.” I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind a look into how evil people can be. I forgot to mention, you’ll still continue to be angry until the last few episodes. But then again, life isn’t a happy thing.