If you’re in the midst of watching Stairway to Heaven (2003) and are rooting for Han Tae-hwa (Shin Hyun-joon) to win the girl, don’t.
None of the guys in this post gets the prize they most covet: their beloved. Consider that your Wet Blanket Statement of the Week.
Not all kdramas feature a love triangle (or quadrangle). But for those that do, it’s almost a sure bet that the ones playing second fiddles will not emerge victorious. Still, that does not stop many of us from fervently hoping the tide will finally turn in our favorite second fiddle’s favor. Even after getting our hopes crushed multiple times, we still believe there’s a writer out there farsighted enough to write a different ending for the traditional loser. Haha.
This post is for all the second fiddles in our kdramas, who are left with nothing in the end but heartache. Most of the ones here I have loved ardently, a few I have heaped venom on. All of them deserve our sympathy. (Or perhaps not.)
Let’s start with my Numero Uno Detesto. (Excuse the mangled Spanish, but you get the gist.)
Meet the second fiddle I most detest. (I tried looking for a solo pic of him and stupidly typed “Winter Sonata.” Do that and see what you get. The guy’s so overshadowed in the pics department it’s a wonder he hasn’t developed some sort of complex.)
Sang-hyuk has clingy pat down and zilch understanding of the words “Buzz off.”
Okay, so your girl can’t forget her first love and promptly dumps you when he appears. Can you blame her? Your rival puts more effort into styling his hair and wears more mufflers than you. His pearlies can blind, can yours? And so what if you have more history with her? In the ten years you were together, did you master The Kiss? Obviously not. That was one area you could have beaten your rival hands down! But what I hate most is your “Woe is me, I’ve been jilted so I’m going to just lie here and waste away” pathetic ploy to win your girl back. Boo!
Sympathy votes: 0
I actually pumped my fist when I found this image. What a shame that there isn’t a single pic of Lee Dong-gun in the ROYOW photo gallery (official site). Granted ROYOW maniacs (am proud to be one, yes!) worship the lead characters, but Reporter Han is so funny and deserves some love, too.
In many dramas the male lead starts off as a flawed character and is eventually transformed by love. In contrast the second fiddle, a gentleman, has a perfect first meeting with the female lead and is ever so attentive and caring. Then, as he senses he’s losing the battle, he starts edging toward the dark side, becoming more possessive.
Well, not so for Han Dong-jin. He gets slapped the first meeting. He is shallow and self-centered and has awful taste, buying his love this hideous-looking lamp from Venice that she can’t discard. After failing to woo his object of desire, does he mope like the Winter Sonata second fiddle we saw earlier? Of course not. He moves on in search of the next conquest. He’s flawed from start to finish and I adore him!
Sympathy votes: 6
Maybe Dojin’s training as a Black Shadow has equipped him with the ability to foretell the future. Knowing thus that he will never win the girl, he figures he might as well go through life looking pained all the time.
Not just pained, but plank-like. Dojin becomes Dowood and every episode it’s a race to see who will be more wooden, he or the female lead. (Some of the funniest scenes are of the two just standing together, like wax museum exhibits.) But when the need arises, trust our Dowood to swing to the other extreme and display such a concerted effort to emote I thought his face would explode. (Imagine what it’s like to be extremely constipated and you’ll get the picture.)
But it isn’t just the uneven acting. It’s how Dowood seems incapable of affection for anyone other than his girl. He will slay and betray, he will use and be used, just so he can get what he wants.
Sympathy votes: 2
This second fiddle pains me, literally. Whenever I remember Binnie, my heart hurts because I want so badly for him to win the girl.
Wait. I don’t actually want him to win the female lead’s hand because I’m not fond of her, to be honest. (She’s rather insipid compared to the female second fiddle.) But I hate seeing Bin sad. He isn’t the sort to whine and wail; he just suffers quietly, which makes it worse for those of us who love him (and who are on the wrong side of the screen, dammit!). I hate seeing him end up with nothing. He needs to be giddily happy!
Unlike some second fiddles whose past we know nothing about, we have seen Bin grow up. We know his mom hasn’t been exactly affectionate, so he has lived his childhood and youth fending for himself. He is at turns charming and brooding. His smile can dissolve decades-old grievances; his glare can silence a dozen caterwauling chimps. (And there I go with my hyperboles again. Stop doing that to me, Jang Bin!) Have you seen how he hugs, even with his wrists handcuffed? No second fiddle protects his girl the way our Bin does.
Sympathy votes: 10
Another second fiddle who pains me, but for completely different reasons. Jin Yi-han, you were this righteous Joseon police officer in your first drama (that 2007 masterpiece), so what tipped you over the edge onto the other side of the law?
How did you become a two-faced villain in Who Are You? How could you devise this wicked scheme to steal a dead man’s prized artwork? How could you send your underlings to beat up the man’s ill friend who’s safekeeping the paintings? How could you be in love with the man’s daughter and yet be so crooked with her? How could you not know that the way to her heart is through a couple of turtles? HOW COULD YOU?
Okay, got that admonition out of the way. Now may I gush? Never has wicked been so attractively packaged. He really isn’t all that bad. I mean, see how he makes his girl smile and giggle, how he sings and dances for her, how he berates that odious guy who’s chewing the girl up in the convenience store where she’s working, how his eyes tear up when he realizes his girl loves that odious guy, of all people! He admits his wrongdoings, makes amends, and throughout this life-changing experience manages to remain utterly desirable. Tall feat, wouldn’t you say?
Sympathy votes: 8
If your mom died a painful death before your eyes and your dad looks like a drag queen in disguise, that you might grow up pissed is no surprise.
In Legend, Ho-gae’s parents hanker for him to ascend the throne. He, on the other hand, longs for something even more unattainable: the love of a woman with fiery powers who isn’t the slightest bit in love with him. Thus Ho-gae spends most of the drama in anguished torment, caught between a dad wearing dangling earrings who wants him to think about how to be king over the land and not knave to one fire goddess. It’s enough to drive our second fiddle bonkers.
(I’m eternally grateful that Ho-gae isn’t fighting with the king over one Sujini. Even if his true love looks like his aunt, at least she doesn’t overact. Imagine if our hyperactive kid in the drama has two strong-willed guys competing for her affection. Oh, the theatrics that will ensue.)
Sympathy votes: 7
Let’s not beat around the bush here. This second fiddle is a cad. In his late teens he makes a bet that he’ll bed a girl and when he succeeds, gloats to his friends about fait accompli. He then leaves town with nary a care, unaware that he has become a dad to be.
Hmm, put that way he doesn’t seem such a cad after all, does he? It’s not like he dumped the girl knowing she’s expectant; he had no idea. Still, he did demean her publicly, causing her much shame in their school. False bravado or not, knowing how she felt about him and yet belittling her feelings means he deserves to be called scumbag. No wonder many viewers dislike him. (And just as many love him, so there.)
But he repents. He begs her forgiveness when he finds out the truth years later. He does not insist on reclaiming what is rightfully his. Instead he seeks to do what is best for the girl and their daughter. (May I also add that he plays basketball like a pro? And that he never once ill-treated the girl’s dog, unlike some people?)
Sympathy votes: 8
I know why our second fiddle in this drama lost the girl. But keep this a secret and don’t tell him, because he’s already shed enough tears to soak up ten towels.
I think it’s because the girl is too taken by his beauty. You see, she saw a likeness of him in a movie that had shattered Korea’s box office records and she thought to herself, “I really like him, this Seo Jung-woo. He’s so strong and has such awesome martial skills. He’s also sweet and sensitive and… so pretty. Aigoo, he reminds me of that actor in that hit movie! How can I fall for a pretty man? Dad will kill me.”
Okay, admittedly our second fiddle’s features make some girls weep with envy. But please don’t equate his looks with soft femininity. He is very bit as manly as the first lead, that gangly guy that the girl loves. Just watch how our second fiddle runs. See how he fights off thugs, local and foreign. Yet he hurts easily; he cries. He’s a total SNAG!
Sympathy votes: 9
A famous actor who loses his girl to a man self-described as a dog. A second fiddle who is a total mama’s boy. Who spends much of the drama horizontal, on a hospital bed. A whiny second fiddle you want to strangle, to put a quick end to his misery and ours.
Poor Yoon. (And poor Jung Kyung-ho, having to play second lead to one of the most gorgeous actors this side of the Equator. Calls for extra sympathy votes, don’t you agree?)
He loses his girl, he falls gravely ill, he learns his mom has a past she can’t tell the world, he wins the girl back and loses her again, he unearths a birth secret, he tires of the hospital food, he discovers he’s not an only child… Which idiot told him stardom was easy? I’m doing to clobber that idiot! Life sucks so much now I’m going to lie on this bed, breathe the purified air, and never leave!
Sympathy votes: 5
Nothing beats being a prince… except being exiled, recalled, then exiled again. Talk about baggage, a chip on the shoulder, that thorn in the flesh. You poor miserable thing.
Prince Yul starts off charmingly, charming everyone who dislikes his rival, that snooty prince. He is sweet and gentle and so handsome. Every inch his mother’s pride and joy, he is. But alas, it isn’t long before he starts singing a certain song which goes like this: “My family was banished to a faraway land. Oh, the humiliation. Oh, the suffering. For as long as I live I shall never forget our banishment!”
Over and over he sings the song, reminding his girl what a victim he is and why she should therefore accept his love, because how can she add to his suffering? Never! It’s enough to make nauseous Prince Shin’s supporters execute hastily the following plan:
WAYS TO BANISH YUL TO GODFORSAKEN SHARK-INFESTED ISLAND
Sympathy votes: 3
Finally, the second fiddle who inspired this post. The one who deserves to win the girl, but who will most likely be left holding the door for our lead couple as they glide happily past him. Darling Jun-se.
Sympathy votes: 10