AGAINST ALL ODDS
Detective Baek Hong Suk (Son Hyun Joo) goes after a presidential candidate Kang Dong Yoon (Kim Sang Joong) once he learns of his involvement in the death of Hong Suk’s daughter.
I wrote about this show in my Bananas post earlier this week. I had expected to write the review later but due to the writer collapsing from the stress of the show, the drama ended at episode 16 instead of 17. I’ll mention the major characters and the major plot points but unfortunately I can’t include everything I loved about this drama. There are a lot of characters and a lot of complex relationships. All these characters are chasing after something but depending on what you’re chasing after, it’s a very different type of battle. Hong Suk and Dong Yoon live in two very different universes and it collides when their goals directly conflict with each other. One chases after justice but it’s an arduous, uphill battle while the other chases after ultimate power but he’s got everything to lose.
Lee Hye In – 나리꽃 (Lily)
The drama starts off with a bang, literally, as Baek Hong Suk shows up in the courtroom of idol singer, PK Joon (Lee Yong Woo), because he wants to know the truth behind his daughter’s death. He uses a gun to scare the idol but ends up killing him when Hong Suk struggles with him.
The conflict stems from a hit and run accident of Baek Soo Jung (Lee Hye In). For her birthday, her father had quit smoking in order to save money to buy PK Joon concert tickets for her and a friend. On Soo Jung’s way home, Seo Ji Soo (Kim Sung Ryung) accidentally hits the teenaged girl and her first instinct is to help the girl. However, her fellow passenger, PK Joon, stops her.
In order to prevent a public scandal because Ji Soo is cheating on her husband with him, he tells her not to help the girl and even runs over Soo Jung once more in an attempt to kill her.
Ji Soo’s motive to keep quiet is also influenced by the fact that her father is a chaebol businessman and that her husband is running to become the next president. A lot is on the line for Kang Dong Yoon and while his wife has an affair with other men, he cannot just leave her. He craves the power of the Seo family and a divorce wouldn’t be a positive thing for his campaign.
So he bribes Soo Jung’s doctor in to killing her with a codeine injection so that she’d never be able to testify against the events of that night. However the doctor, Yoon Chang Min, just happens to also be a friend to Hong Suk.
From the very beginning, your heart goes out to Baek Hong Suk and his wife, Song Mi Yeon (Kim Do Yun). From losing their daughter to evidence planted to make it appear as if Soo Jung was a prostitute and a drug addict to the Korean Assembly wanting to make a new law about wayward teens and call it the Soo Jung law, it’s extremely heartbreaking to see what these parents have to go through.
Then Mi Yeon has a mental breakdown and in one instant, Hong Suk loses his wife as well.
Son Hyun Joo plays the grieving, revenge seeking husband/father so convincingly that there is no doubt as to where your alliance lies. Whenever he eyes welled up with tears, I couldn’t help but cry too.
There are so many brilliant but heartbreaking scenes featuring him but the one I continually think of is when he returns home after losing his entire family and sees his dining room table fully set for 3; he cries holding the spoons that were used by his wife and daughter. It’s such an insignificant object but yet it’s a symbol of the home life he once had.
Kim Bum Soo – 굳은살 (Calloused)
On the opposite end, there’s Kang Dong Yoon who only cares about obtaining power. He grew up poor and worked up the ranks and yet he’s an outsider at home. The relationship between him and his father-in-law, President Seo (Park Geun Hyung), is very strange. He’s like the ignored stepchild. They don’t respect each other very much and trust each other even less.
Though President Seo grows to respect Dong Yoon to a certain extent, the revelation is also a bit strange. It’s not illogical, it’s just an aspect of that chaebol world that I can’t fully comprehend.
I’m not even sure why Dong Yoon continues to live in that home but it’s because Dong Yoon has a narrow view of what real power is. For Dong Yoon, being president of South Korea doesn’t compare to the power of a powerful businessman. It’s just a stepping stone to that bigger prize. He eventually wants to sit where his father-in-law sits.
It’s interesting to compare President Seo with Dong Yoon’s father. His father is a small-time barber and the character barely has any lines. While Dong Yoon loves his father, a middle class person like him has no voice (aka power) in this world.
Shin Hye Ra (Jang Shin Young) has the same dream as Dong Yoon. She loves him but he sees nothing more in her than a colleague with the same goals. She also comes from a humble past and wants to see Dong Yoon become president in order to gain more power and is willing to do whatever it takes to see it through.
However, Ji Soo continues to stand in her way. Ji Soo reminds her that she’s Dong Yoon’s partner in life and together they’ll ascend to the throne. Ji Soo loves Dong Yoon while Dong Yoon seems to have married her because of her status. With just one kind word from Dong Yoon, she’s willing to throw away her family in order to help him.
Unfortunately for her, Dong Yoon never fully lets his guard down in front of her. He only does that with Hye Ra. So it’s interesting to see that both these women want to see Dong Yoon succeed but they occupy separate divisions of Dong Yoon’s world.
Choi Jung Woo (Ryu Seung Soo) is a smart and effective prosecutor but he fails to win the trial over PK Joon because of corruption. He wants to the do the right thing for Baek Hong Suk but he’s an overworked civil servant. Too many cases and too little time.
Reporter Seo Ji Won (Go Joon Hee) clues him in to the corruption behind PK Joon’s case and together they join forces to uncover it. Unfortunately for Ji Won, Jung Woo first gets wind that her family may be involved in it somehow and when he tells her he isn’t all too sympathetic about it.
He remains very matter-of-fact by telling her that she needs to make a choice. Either be the chaebol daughter or be the investigative reporter because she can’t be both.
Additionally, though her entire family had alienated Dong Yoon, she had liked her brother-in-law and tried to be kind to him. When she confronts her sister and Dong Yoon, he condescendingly dismisses her as a child thus making Ji Won realize which side she needs to take in this war.
Ji Won isn’t the only person in the Seo clan that switches sides. The truth is many people in this drama switches sides many times over in this drama. However, Seo Young Wook (Jun Noh Min) is put in an interesting position. He loves his family and more importantly, his sisters.
He had to leave Korea because Dong Yoon ratted out some information about his business dealings that weren’t quite on the up and up and so he doesn’t like Dong Yoon.
However when he’s betrayed by Ji Soo as well, he takes matters into his own hands.
In reality, Hong Suk is a pawn in the rivalries of the rich and powerful. When one side wants him killed, the other side tries to save him and therefore he always seems to be one step behind the real culprit. He realizes that he needs to put aside his emotions in order to connect all the dots in this conspiracy.
He can’t fight this war alone and enlists the help of his secondary family. Detective Jo (Park Hyo Joo), Detective Hwang (Kang Shin Il) and eventually gangster, Park Yong Shik (Jo Jae Yoon) and they are all very willing to help Hong Suk.
I love that because of their occupation, they have this connection with the seedy underworld. It proves effective when Hong Suk becomes a fugitive because he has no choice but to seek out shelter with someone whose not quite so law abiding.
Despite all the sadness, there are some great moments between Detective Jo and Yong Shik that lightens the weighty drama.
The acting is simply incredible but the twists and the commentary on the state of our current society kept me going ’til the end. And there is so much commentary that ranges from being ironic to relevant. From how fans idolize stars to a god-like status to how Dong Yoon tells Hong Suk that forgiveness can only come from a person with power to how Jung Woo comments how an election isn’t about picking the best candidate but rather eliminating the bad one, it was very thought-provoking drama.
I suppose the ending might be a subject for debate for some viewers but I was satisfied by it. Ultimately, Hong Suk gets justice for his daughter. He asks for nothing more and nothing less. I’ll leave it at that. Nothing more and nothing less.