I think the best part of this drama is the characters. Sure, I enjoy the plot, the humor, and the chemistry between the actors. And let's not forget the amazing shoes—mmmm, the shoes (jerking out of glassy-eyed daydreaming), but it's definitely the characters that make this series truly awesome.
Lets start with Hwang Ji An (natch), the driving and very driven force in this drama. Kim Sun Ah is, as always, amazing in this role, one that is different from her typical strong yet fun-loving/cheerful heroine. Ji An is such a dominant character, oftentimes even a domineering one, who knows what she wants and has dedicated every moment of her adult life to her only love—shoes. She is generally disliked by those around her, even to the point that her underlings call her Medusa, since they freeze at the sight of her. Even her best friend Joon Hee makes note of her unbending and difficult nature, and tells her that in all the world, the woman least synonymous with the term mother is Ji An. Honestly, though, the Medusa aspect is more a reflection of how people view her strong character than how she really is. She is no-nonsense and demanding, straight-forward and strict, but she isn't petty and conniving. She is intense, but she's not mean or malicious.
|The Devil changed brands.|
Next we have Tae Kang. He too has a somewhat dominant personality and is very hardworking and diligent. But he also has a very open, warm, and caring personality, despite his denial of this fact in the first episode. He is able to see beyond Ji An's crusty exterior and is attracted to the person she truly is. He respects her position in society and the workplace as his elder and superior and mentor, but he doesn't let that interfere with getting closer to her. And while her personality is more dominant than his, he also isn't unreasonably submissive to her.
The best example of this is after Tae Kang wins the design competition, earning him a position in the company. After Ji An demands that he give up on that idea, she storms out, thinking she has the upper hand after kneeing him in the groin. She returns to the crowded banquet hall, only to be followed by a hobbling Tae Kang, who calls out "Noona!" and then says that if it's really what she wants, he'll give her up, even squeezing out a tear. He then turns, limping off, and pauses long enough for a sly smile to himself.
|Just who do you think you're messing with?|
Although somewhat immature, creating this public scene was his way of showing her that he's not intimidated by her, and while his status is in many ways below hers he's not just going to submit to her because of that.I also love how he is able to handle Ji An in a productive and non-manipulative way. He genuinely cares for her and her happiness and does all he can to promote her well-being. He makes sure she eats, and while sometimes he has to practically coerce her into doing some things, he does it with such charm and sincerity that it's endearing rather than pandering. Great examples are when he steals her purse in order to get her to come with him to eat, and when he carries her into her house, telling her "I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it for the baby."
In discussing Eun Sung, I want to start by saying that I like him. I really do. I know he has a lot of haters out there, but I think he is sincere, especially where Ji An is concerned. He is a man who never intended to marry, and was pretty much planning on being a player his whole life, but in the course of one date was suddenly able to envision a completely different future for himself, as long as it's with Ji An. His excitement to cook for her and have a real date is incredibly adorable, and I almost cried for him when she unintentionally stood him up.
Like Tae Kang, Eun Sung also tries to take care of Ji An, but his manner isn't as winning as Tae Kang's, and his approach takes more of an I-know-what's-best-for-you line. Because he's a doctor. He does try his best, but I don't see his personality harmonizing well with Ji An's in a long-term kind of way. I just don't see them as a good pairing.
I find it heartbreaking when he tells her that he can't deal with the revelation that she is pregnant with another man's baby and is considering an abortion, something he is strongly opposed to, both professionally and personally. He even goes so far as to tell her that she is the worst. But really, what his face is saying is that he wants to hate her, but he's too far gone for it to be that simple, and he's not ready to let her go.
Next we have Na Ri. I really don't like her. She is the true witch of this story—nice on the outside, but in reality she's manipulative and cunning and selfish. I hate that she feels so entitled to take over the company just because it's her father's, when Ji An has been instrumental in revolutionizing it into a major Korean label. Na Ri doesn't hide that fact that she sees Ji An as her rival, but it's only when they're alone that she really shows her true nature. The contrast between Na Ri's and Ji An's characters is best demonstrated when the team manager explained her reasoning for choosing to be on Na Ri's team in the collaboration. "Had I chosen Ji An's team, she wouldn't hold it against me whether we won or lost. But I don't think it's the same with Na Ri."
I even tried to like Na Ri. She wants so desperately to win her step-mother's approval and to make her father proud. But then there was that moment in the elevator when she told Ice Queen chairwoman that she had renounced all her mother's family, so that she could be recognized as junior Ice Queen and inherit the company. I'm not saying it's a bad thing for her to want to improve her relationship with Ice Queen, but I hate that she has cut her maternal relatives completely out of her life.
The closest I've come to actually liking Na Ri was the scene on the rooftop where she asks Tae Kang to teach her to swear. Her complete inability to scream out her feelings was actually somewhat endearing.
There are other great secondary characters in this drama, but I'm just going to finish up with the parents. Ji An's parents are very conservative, and definitely represent the values of an older generation (with the exception of her dad telling her to get an abortion). I like them individually, but I hate how Ji An's oma is so cringing in their relationship. Her dad has a terrible temper (obviously, Ji An inherited this), and while I wouldn't consider their relationship abusive, oma definitely fears his temper. Every time he shows his anger, she flinches away from him, and is fearful of causing him displeasure. I understand that they represent different ideals and a culture different from mine, but I hate to see any relationship where one partner has to constantly walk on eggshells for the other. That's why I love it so much when Tae Kang stands up to Ji An, because I know that their relationship is more balanced emotionally and temperamentally.
Finally, we have Tae Kang's dad. He is amazing! The father/son dynamic is incredible between this pair, and I love that they're best friends. They have so many great moments together, from trying to remove Tae Kang from the family register, to wrestling matches, helping Tae Kang study and learn about the shoe business, as well as cute celebratory dinners. Also, in one of Tae Kang's fantasies about being married to Ji An, the two men are wearing couple's tees! Adorable!
Also, Tae Kang's dad wears a wig at one point.