I’m short of words right now… After Nam Joo Hyuk’s fantastic performance as Jung Joon Hyung in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, I had mixed emotions about him taking such a ‘godly’ role next. I wasn’t sure a rookie actor like him would be able to pull of the grandeur and pomp of a water god, but I came to realize that he has a lot of untapped potential. My only concern being that this potential needs to be honeㅇ and groomed for him to be able to do such dynamic roles.
Bride of the Water God, on its surface was a drama that boasted Goblin-like storytelling in its trailers with the same wistful tone. My first concern was; Nam Joo Hyuk is no Gong Yoo, which is why I was expecting lesser than many people. Lots of the audience went in expecting Joo Hyuk to play a role as weighty as the one of Goblin played by Gong Yoo. Nevertheless, understanding Joo Hyuk’s freshness, I was wary of this role of a god. Still, on watching the drama, I realized that Joo Hyuk has immense potential. He did as much justice as he possibly could with this role of a haughty, arrogant god who had no sense of how humans survived in their own realm. The characterization and acting was as good as it could get. My only concern was with the scenes where he had to act like a brooding hero, the typical makjang Korean drama lead. Joo Hyuk generally seems to have a bubbly and fun personality which made such a role difficult to handle. Nevertheless, he did it as much justice as possible.
Moving on, Yoon So Ah (played by Shin Se Kyung), was a very unique type of female lead character in a Korean drama. I have never seen a lead woman who isn’t fiesty and super excited, on the verge of being hyper, ever. Therefore, seeing such a complex character who was so utterly uptight and inexpressive was a good addition. Her inhibitions and her complexes represented the common girl/woman who can falter and may have suffered scarring experiences causing her to lose confidence in mankind. By turning such a character into a psychiatrist, only makes it worse, despite creating layers, in the sense that everyone pictures a psychiatrist attending to the emotions of their patients. If they themselves are closed up, then they can never maintain a healthy experience with their patients. Seeing her evolve through the influence of Ha Baek, the water god was a great thing. The audience saw her gradually come to terms with all of her worries and also learning to open up to her patients was very motivating because a little love can go a long way to improve a person.
Our next character was Shin Hu Ye (played by the dynamic antagonist, Im Joo Hwan). Im Joo Hwan is one incredibly good looking Korean actor who has been doing roles verging on villainous for quite some time now. His quality lies in making his characters more human, which he was able to bring to Hu Ye as well. The way he brought a complicated and emotionally challenged CEO to life was deeply moving and fascinating for the audience. This was my favourite role in the show, simply because it wasn’t two-dimensional and his story was layered making him a more complex character which was deeply reliant on the way any actor would play it. In truth, his scenes had more excitement and an edge in them compared to all the others because he was able to make the audience sympathize with his background.
Next, was the water goddess, Mu Ra (played by f(x)’s Krystal), who was a character I had some trouble with. She nailed the haughty attitude of a goddess, and egged Nam Joo Hyuk on at embodying the same arrogant attitude. However, I had great trouble understand the intentions and motives of Mu Ra. Either the character was way too complicated or she enjoyed messing with everyone’s mind, because I usually couldn’t make head or tail of her intentions. She seemed to be in eternal opposition of everything and everyone, to the extent that I started finding it utterly annoying as character trait. I wonder if the writers were aiming for a character that is inexpressive and unable to state her intentions. No matter, I did not understand her and that’s a huge bother since she was playing second lead after all.
The last member of our main quintet was the sky god, Bi Ryeom (played by the rising Gong Myung). In the way the character was introduced prior to the drama’s airing, I had expected a trickster god, the likes of Loki in Norse mythology, and I was utterly thrilled to see Gong Myung play it, especially ever since I saw him wow us in Individualist Ms Ji Young. I don’t know what I got with his character as well, because it was seriously confusing. Most of what he did looked muddled up in the script, and the reveal of why he behaved the way he did was explained far too late. By the time that happened, the audience had already pretty much lost interest.
Now, coming to the cinematography, I think the show was shot pretty well. I loved the scenes in the water and those shot at night time. The icing on the cake was all the scenes shot in the Water Kingdom, but unfortunately, we were shown those sparingly. I’m sure digital artists and dress designers worked hard on those scenes and it felt sad that we didn’t get enough of them to be more in awe of these gods. By showing us so less of the other realm, we felt a disconnect with their true identities, and so most of the time they became useless human potatoes, especially when the thrill and suspense was always on the backburner.
I can’t believe I wrote this right now. I absolutely wanted to defend Nam Joo Hyuk and the show because he made such a huge leap in his career with it, but as it turns out, it seems to be a leap backwards. What a low blow for a rising actor, especially when his fans just heard about his breakup with Lee Sung Kyung a week ago. The charm of Weightlifting Fairy lifted with this news for Nam Joo Hyuk, but as a fan, I sincerely hope he can recover from this, and please sign up for a youth drama! He has so much potential and he’s just so lovable with his puppy eyes. Nobody can resist him, so I hope he fixes the wrong he made in his career. Noona still loves you, Joo Hyuk! Don’t lose hope!