Never run back to what broke you!

The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The Innocent Man    (2012)
Also known as
Nice Guy
Melodrama,    Romance
Written by
Lee Kyung-hee (screenplay)
Directed by
Kim Jin-won    &     Lee Na-jeong
Country of Origin
South Korea

oh! brief

A talented, smart and up-and-coming surgeon, Kang Ma-ru, is exploited by the woman he loves and cherishes at that time, Han Jae-hee, a budding reporter. He sacrifices his career and his quasi-family to save her from criminal charges.

Their situation and friendship are forever changed by his decision.

Jae-hee manages to escape her life of poverty and abuse by manipulating her way into the life of a rich CEO. Choosing a life of comfort and wealth over the long wait for the man who sacrificed it all for her, she sees her fate.

The brutal betrayal leaves Ma Roo angry and embittered.

An opportunity later in life presents itself to Ma Roo, and he jumps at a chance to enact his revenge. But, in the process, he and the person he uses as a pawn to act out his revenge, Seo Eun-gi, fall in love.

oh! talks drama

Buckle up … this is going to be a long one!

Revenge and obsession are core to this drama series, which started off so well!

The storyline is believable, at the beginning at least. You can almost pity the characters … almost.

That is until you realise the nice guy, aka noble idiot, is being taken advantage of by one of the leading ladies. And in return, he is taking advantage of the other leading lady.

Whoa! Backup a little? Talk about warped logic!

But try and understand how I came to hold this opinion.

Nice guy, Ma Roo, makes a life-altering decision during an intense and dramatic event caused by Jae-hee. He ends up going away for a long time and when he returns he’s not the surgeon he planned on becoming, he’s a bartender who moonlights as a gigolo. This is the best his life can offer him. In other words, he’s worse for wear.

He has the misfortune of running into the cause of his downfall, Jae-hee, when he once again comes to her aid. Not willingly mind you. I think this meeting triggers his rapid descent into revenge hell. And he drags everyone with him on his crazed mission.

Like I said, the storyline is believable and the beginning of this kdrama is well-written and narrated. Betrayal, obsession, and revenge all work against the very character that should have been receiving unconditional love, respect, commitment, loyalty and friendship – the nice guy.  And those themes — betrayal, obsession and revenge, rear their ugliness again and again.

There once was camaraderie and trust between Ma Roo and Jae-hee, flashbacks highlight this. They also highlight the dysfunction, abuse and abject poverty Jae-hee endured as a child. Perhaps you might be inclined to excuse Jae-hee’s betrayal because of her upbringing, but I couldn’t. And then, the tables turn and Ma Roo is betraying Seo Eun-gi.

Jae-hee is obsessed with overcoming her poverty, so much so that initially she clings to Ma Roo. He is her way out of the abuse and poverty because he is willing to care and support her, and, he’s an up-and-coming surgeon. But then she finds a richer meal ticket, one that will give her not only extreme wealth and comfort but also the potential for power down the road. So she easily casts aside the nice guy and does it with such manipulating talent. Her manipulation is sickening.

Poor Ma Roo, he made an incredibly handsome but inexperienced sacrificial lamb, don`t you think?

But the table is turned again and Ma Roo becomes obsessed with bringing Jae-hee to her knees, and if it means his own destruction, he doesn’t care! But, you never really know if it is because he still entertains affection for her and wants to punish her, or because he hates her and everything she represents. Initially, he doesn’t care who he uses, or what he does, to bring about the ultimate downfall. He’s just focused on his end-goal. Unfortunately for Eun-gi, she is his pawn. And Eun-gi is the very thing that drives Jae-hee insane with jealousy. It’s more than just understanding what she lost when she tossed Ma Roo to the kerb, its obsessive love disorder.

Eun-gi starts out in this drama series with all the characteristics of someone obsessed too. But her obsession is not love-related. She is obsessed with meeting and receiving her father’s approval and potentially even exceeding that approval. And there are reasons why, which you’ll have to watch in order to understand. (There’s only so much I’m willing to share without providing spoilers outright!)

While I understand the rationale driving Ma Roo’s revenge, I can’t wrap my head around how any one individual can waste so much of their life and time plotting out or devising someone’s downfall. There are always innocents caught in the middle, who get hurt whether intentionally or not, in this case, Eun-gi and Jae-hee’s son. Ma Roo suffered bitterly, but now the tables are turned, the nice guy is the cause of bitter suffering for others. If he was such a nice guy, you would think he would act differently, no?

The contrast between Ma Roo and Jae-hee is tangible — nice guy versus calculating harridan. But as the drama progresses, they both start to share similar traits – selfishness, morally and ethically corrupt, self-absorbed, unyielding. For Jae-hee these negative traits are second-nature, for Ma Roo’s character it is far from the compassionate, empathetic young man he starts out as. Jae-hee’s desperation and fervour are intensified as the drama series evolves. I’m really impressed that while the storyline goes off the rails in a lot of places, the writer really paid attention to developing the main characters.

I neither loved this kdrama nor hated it. My thoughts and opinions fall somewhere in the middle. There were some positives:

  • The drama was fast-paced;
  • there were multi-faceted relationships that were engaging;
  • you felt conflicting emotions;
  • the drama was engaging in spite of it being illogical at times;
  • characters were layered and complex and were brought to life by a stellar cast;
  • the drama caused thoughtful and deep consideration of very real-life issues including ones not already suggested, such as redemption, the extremes that break our human spirit, the lengths people will go to in retaliation; but most importantly
  • happiness is worked at and earned, not a given in life.

There were some negatives:

  • The drama was too intense and extreme occasionally which worked against the audience (numbing them instead of engaging them);
  • the audience was continually having to abandon all reason to draw logical conclusions from character behaviour and the direction of the storyline (it made it intense);
  • the ending was rushed, even though there was a lot going on during the drama;
  • it never delivered any twists or surprises that blindsided the audience which one expects with melodrama; and of course,
  •  all that misery and suffering as the ending unfolded very strangely – from Jae-hee and Ahn Min-young to Ma Roo and Eun-gi. Did Ma Roo die? Was this ending a figment of the imagination? Was it a dream? No, it was weird – plain and simple!

When I decided to watch this kdrama, I originally thought this story was well-suited for the ‘second chance’ category and that is what I looked for in the ending. I was miserably disappointed. I guess you could still view the ending as a second chance, but in my mind, there is little hope that a second chance at life would be successful long-term for Ma Roo and Eun Gi. There would always be a niggling reminder of complete betrayal and unchecked obsession, at least in my opinion.

Segue-way into characters? I’m taking it!

Starting with Lee Kwang Soo played by Park Jae Gil. This character was absolutely and undoubtedly essential to balancing the over-the-top intensity. He brought such welcome comic relief and made me laugh when I really wanted to smack Ma Roo, Jae-hee and Eun-gi on the backs of their heads. He was a riot! And the entire unrequited love thing he was the object of was very funny! He was very meticulously portrayed by Park Jae Gil and in all sincerity the saving grace for this drama.  And he has his sincere moments too, sometimes his insight was exceptional given his ‘clown’ status.

If you didn’t hate Jae-hee or even if you felt a little sympathy for her, then Park Si Yeon accomplished her job. I really loathed Jae-Hee. I could not find a single ounce of sympathy or empathy for her. When it comes to manipulative women, I hit the ‘off’ button. They grate my nerves and bring out the nasty in me. But, Park Si Yeon convincingly portrayed Jae-hee’s ‘poor me’, selfish, conniving, self-absorbed, entitled attitudes. I really believed that Jae-hee was broken. Her moral compass was out of whack and certainly influenced by her drive to escape abuse and poverty. It was taken to a whole different level. Tremendous acting!

I absolutely loved, loved, loved Eun-gi at the beginning of this drama. She was this tomboyish, abrasive, sassy, feisty, borderline crude powerhouse. WOW! I imagine this isn’t easy to pull off as a female Korean actress. But Moon Chae Won stepped up to the plate and dominated the role!  It is so tragic that the writers determined that Eun-gi would take a backstage to Jae-hee’s character. I get it! I know why, but she becomes zombie-like and it is appalling! Fortunately, Moon Chae Won pulled this off too and delivered a believable performance, but it just didn’t feel right. Eun-gi becomes pathetic, disconnected with reality and floundering around like a half-dead fish. Or better yet she is teetering on the edge of sanity and I was too watching the woman who was living so aggressively, abruptly disappear.  And then, when she finds her feet again, she mirrors Jae-hee and Ma Roo! Insane! We have a small glimmer of the potential person she could be, you know, that feminine, doe-eyed, love-struck beauty was merely a tease.

In my humble opinion, Song Joong Ki was moulded for the role of Ma Roo. Aside from the fact that he is devilishly handsome, he exhibited a natural talent to mimic the expressions of someone so resigned to their fate, so disbelieving of their situation and so deeply hurt. It was remarkable that he could then quickly turn those facial expressions around and become steely-eyed, defiant, hardened in the face and devoid of all emotion. Flawless acting! And when you least expected it, he portrayed Ma Roo’s vulnerability and tenderness, even as he was determined to finish Jae-hee. I admired his performance from start to finish. In spite of the clumsy writing, and narration, Song Joon Ki, excelled in this role!

The cinematography wasn’t something to rave about, this wasn’t a kdrama where the scenery was integral to the story. Also, the soundtrack was odd at times, but generally speaking, the music was appealing and something I’d listen to again.

One distinct scene that struck me for its simplicity and deeper meaning was the parting bench scene at the very end. Ma Roo is seated on a bench with his back to the harbour obviously waiting for Eun Gi and she joins him, seated at the other end of the bench. He then shyly pushes a jewellery box down the space between them both. She picks it up and opens it to reveal a set of rings. She looks up and him and he smiles. The second chance at happiness that should have been afforded Ma Roo is about to begin? Maybe!

I think I wanted, hoped for, or longed for a life-sized mirror to reflect the big what ifs?

  • What if Ma Roo ignored Jae-hee’s phone call?

  • What if Ma Roo encouraged Jae-hee to do the right thing?
  • What if Ma Roo was never on the flight?


oh! that’s a wrap

If the revenge type of melodrama is not your thing, then my advice is:

steer clear of this kdrama

It’s burdened with revenge from more than a single character and all the charged emotions and exaggerated behaviour associated with retribution.

What I came away with after watching this drama was a better understanding of how far someone needs to be pushed in order to reach the level of depravity to plot revenge.

oh! … tidbits

One detail that changes during one episode that you might miss if you’re not watching, is the pocket watch that can be seen during the opening sequence. Typically the pocket watch hands move backwards – in other words going back in time. In Episode 20, they change, and the hands moved forward as if time was actually moving forward. Go watch! You’ll see I’m not wrong.

Also, in the same Episode (20) at the end of the opening sequence, Ma Roo is smiling, instead of the usual tear running down his cheek. Did you catch this one too? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Betrayal is possibly the most devastating loss a person can experience. You cannot betray or be betrayed unless you trust someone and the violation of that trust is a loss, the kind of loss you would grieve – shock, denial, bargaining, anger, sadness and eventual acceptance. Innocence is often shattered by betrayal.

Obsessive love and jealousy is a delusional symptom. It has been romanticised in literature and theatre for centuries (e.g. Romeo and Juliet). Being obsessed is often portrayed as desirable with little comprehension of the devastating aftermath of the behaviour. The object of obsessive love for females is typically someone who has helped them in their life.

The passion for revenge can be potent and overwhelming. It is destructive and a violent response to perceived injury or humiliation and often is a misguided attempt to transform shame into pride. Unfortunately, we are subjected to the subliminal teaching of revenge through society at large — governments, religions, traditions, cultures etc.

 oh! soundtrack

No Such Thing As  A Nice Guy

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers


oh! … nooz

Ukrainian Viewers Will Soon See “The Innocent Man” from Korea

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