[I'm sure you're just as thrilled as I am to see a new post from Michael. Whether you have watched Dong Yi or not, this is one review that's going to have you smacking your lips in delight. Happy reading! —thundie]
I initially wrote about 90% of this almost 2 years ago, but as much as I loved Dong-Yi, I couldn’t help but drag, procrastinate, and rationalize to delay the inevitable because I generally don’t feel as comfortable watching or translating sah-guk (사극, historical drama). Why? Because it feels like writing about a foreign film when I don’t quite understand the foreign language fully. So what, you say, because that’s how most of you feel watching Korean dramas? Well, that’s because you don’t have to decipher old Korean language into English. I was, and still am, suffering from lack of confidence as to whether I’m correctly translating the old Korean into English. So do cut me some slack and let me down gently when you (you know who you are – a few of you out there who are sah-guk virtuoso – yes, dramaok, that means you, too) see any glaring mistakes.
Writing this recap (after a break of two months) feels like coming home.
Before I started, I randomly picked a few of the previous recaps and read them in their entirety. As I did, all the old feelings came rushing back. Hwan making me giggle, he an open book of conflicting emotions. Jun-se making me swoon, again and again, his eyes these crystalline pools. Sweet and spunky Eun-sung, caught between the two men who loved her (thus turning me green with envy!) and between her own dreams and fears. Grandma — the heart of the drama — confounding me with her abstrusity and, lately, frightening me with her vulnerability. The witch and her witchling, their sheer desperation holding me transfixed.
Each one I have missed. Watching them again in Episode 24, I am reminded afresh of all the reasons why Brilliant Legacy is one of my favorite dramas this year.
The episode opens with a flashback to how Episode 23 ended: It is morning and Hwan and Eun-sung awake next to each other in Grandma’s hospital room, the first thing they see being each other.
In a children’s story beloved for nearly a hundred years, a little railroad engine takes over a task rejected by much larger engines and successfully pulls a long line of freight cars over a hill, puffing as it goes: I think I can, I think I can.
The name of the story? The Little Engine That Could.
More recently, a friend has coined a similar name for Brilliant Legacy: The Little Drama That Could.
I love this pet name and have been using it as a nutshell answer when people ask me what is so special about this drama that I’ve been recapping from the first episode. But why ‘little’ drama?
An old couple, unrelated to any of our characters, appears in this episode for the first time.
She’s ill and craving the Jin Sung beef soup. He, who is tending to her and can’t leave her side, calls to place an order. The manager (and increasingly I believe he was sent to the second branch by a power higher and wiser than Grandma) asks Hwan to deliver the soup. He does it a tad reluctantly at first, because the minimum order for home delivery should be two bowls but this customer orders just one.
Inside the couple’s dim and decrepit room, we see the old lady on the floor, her husband sitting next to her. He is delighted to see the soup. Apologizing to Hwan for his single order, he looks for the money to pay (and we see that he has just small change left after paying). Before Hwan leaves, the old man presses two mint candy into his palm. For all your trouble, he says.