A phenomenally impressive drama has just come to an end. Perfect Wife had all the trappings of a makjang drama about a married woman (Shim Jae Bok, played by Go So Young) who has a cheating husband (Goo Jung Hee played by Yoon Sang Hyun). A lawyer by profession, Jae Bok gets fired because of her inability to juggle her duties as a wife and mother, with her work. She has it worse because her husband is incompetent and is unable to secure a job for more than a few months because his real interest is playing music. Back when they were in university, Jung Hee was every girl’s heartthrob and a lot of women were envious of the fact that Jae Bok got to marry him. In the present, he would rather flirt with his colleague than help in improving himself.
There was not really a concept of supporting acts in this show, where almost all the four main characters received equal attention, according to the script. For the other important female character, we had the elusive, Lee Eun Hee/ Moon Eun Kyung played by Jo Yeo Jung. I have previously seen Yeo Jung in I Need Romance, where she had played a rather clear-cut character. Lee Eun Hee, on the other hand, has to have been a very difficult character to enact on set. An obsessive compulsive, manic depressive, Eun Hee stalks Jae Bok when she finds out the latter needs a place to stay. She forces Jae Bok to rent out the first floor of her own house, when in reality she has ulterior motives. The highly convoluted nature of Eun Hee’s character added great depth and meaning to the entire show. By the end of the show, I was quite sure, that this is why Bertha Mason had to be kept locked up in Jane Eyre. I understand the cultural and social sensitivities of Jane Eyre and the postcolonial critique of the book regarding its approach to colonized states of its time. But if we reduce it to a story of just a woman locked up in the attic because of her mental state, Eun Hee becomes a signal. She represents the sheer chaos that such a woman can be when set free. Where the two characters of Bertha and Eun Hee truly meet is the ending of the entire drama, where we see the two madwomen acting quite similar to each other in ending everything around them.
I usually start off my reviews with how I fell head over heels with this and that actor, and yet, I haven’t even talked about that here simply because, Eun Hee did take the cake. There are great Korean actresses but the way Jo Yeo Jung did Eun Hee justice was truly commendable. Now, to my favourite male actor. I have always expressed great admiration for Sung Joon, ever since I watched him in Shut Up Flower Boy Band. The man has great talent, and he may not be the most handsome actor, but his dialogue delivery, and his acting chops get better day by day. He was horrible in High Society, though, but that’s where bad script writing was to blame, and not the actor himself. His role as Kang Bong Goo was fantastic. Jae Bok’s boss, who gets kicked out of his job the same day as she does, Bong Goo, gets a job with a friend of his, and then has his friend hire Jae Bok since she is unemployed. As Jae Bok’s personal matters worsen, Bong Goo gradually begins to play a greater role in her life, as he graduates from sidekick to potential romantic interest. His silent presence exudes warmth and comfort, which she needs most in her eternally unstable life. He never influences her or takes the wheel in her matters, and yet remains a constant existence that allows her to rescue herself.
This is where Jae Bok deserves an ode of her own. Never in Korean drama history have I seen a lead female this strong. She takes on all the problems she is faced with, be it her husband’s infidelity or the threat of her children being torn away from her. Jae Bok takes all of these in her stride and faces them head on. She never flinches in the most critical of situations and shows great strength as well as calm while dealing with the toughest of situations. There were so many instances within the show where Jae Bok could have been turned into a damsel in distress, by the script writer and the director, yet Jae Bok always rescued herself from the worst places possible. Never has such a female lead ever been seen in Korean dramas before.
Lastly, for a script full of mystery and psychological trauma, the writing was as sound as it could possibly be. The facts surrounding the central mystery were revealed at this perfect speed where every episode left your mouth hanging open since we, as the audience, could never predict what would happen next in the course of events. Often times I wanted to believe it when Eun Hee would tell somebody that she was much better now, only to realize how badly I was mistaken the next minute. I loved all the surprises and u-turns that the story made. Many a times I felt like the director and script -writer must be bent double laughing knowing how badly we mistook a certain sign in the show. The show was almost, ultimate perfection, with its great skill of deceiving its audience. It wasn’t just perfection though, it was a drama that was truly one of kind. Another idea that it explored beautifully was the friendship between women. The way Jae Bok and her two friends support each other is greater than any of the romantic relationships the show has to offer. Perfect Wife gets 10/5 stars from me.