Welcome to part three of our K-Drama story-analysis series. I took a short break during the holiday season, but I’m back at last, with the next installment. As a reminder, this is the series where I am discussing two of my all-time favorite K-drama’s, and using our knowledge of the Three Act Story Structure (by K.M. Weiland), to view the story through a writer’s lens. I have been an avid K-drama fan for several years, and it has always been my dream to combine the worlds of K-drama, and writing. If you missed part one of this series, you can click here to catch up, before continuing. Now, let’s begin our discussion of:
Link: Eat, Love, Kill
From the very first episode, I realized this series is a genre-bender. It’s a murder mystery/thriller, but there is a supernatural or magical element which sets it apart from the typical thriller genre. For this discussion, I am going to focus on the Character Arcs of the main characters, instead of the Plot. In doing so, I hope to avoid major spoilers, and showcase some of my favorite personal character journeys.
Let’s Meet the Characters
This series has many deeply entangled, and intertwined relationships but the main focus is on two. The first character is Noh Da Hyun, a girl trying to find her footing, as she navigates school and work, while living on her own in the big city. She is a bit of a mess, but her struggles are endearing in a way many people can relate to.
Next, we have an up-and-coming chef, named Eun Gyehoon. He is currently working as the head chef at a Michellin-recognized, restaurant, and is making quite a name for himself among his peers. Though he appears successful and happy on the outside, we soon see a troubling, darkness beneath the surface. We learn that a terrible tragedy occurred when he was young, and we sense that his old wounds never truly healed.
Now we get into the supernatural element of the series. Quite early on, we learn the specifics of Gyehoon’s tragic history. His twin sister went missing when they were just ten years old, and still no answers have been found, (nineteen years later). But Gyehoon and his sister shared more than a birthday, they also shared a strong emotional link. Gyehoon was able to feel every emotion of his sister’s as though they were his own. On the fateful day of her disappearance, that link was severed…until now. The intense surges of emotion have returned, but how and why?
How the Plot Gets Rolling
The story really takes off with the inciting incident, at the end of episode one. Dah Hyun and Gyehoon meet by chance in the city, but things don’t go so well. Dah Hyun gets a bad impression of Gyehoon after a misunderstanding, and thinks he’s a creep. Soon after, Dah Hyun is forced to move back home with her mother and grandmother. Surprisingly, Gyehoon has recently purchased a vacant building across the street, hoping to start his own restaurant. Without giving away any spoilers, suffice to say, something extremely unexpected happens to Dah Hyun, and her family decides to keep it a secret. The only problem is that Gyehoon is a possible witness. The family decides to keep a close watch on him, and in order to do so, Dah Hyun gets a job at his restaurant.
Now that we know a bit about our characters, and the premise of this series, we can dive a little deeper into the character arcs.
Noh Dah Hyun
A word I would use to describe Dah Hyun, is lost. Dah Hyun is like a lot of young people who deal with the pressures and expectations from family and the world, to have their life plans meticulously laid out. Her university plans didn’t work out, her part-time job is not all it’s cracked up to be, and moving back home feels like a major setback. She might have had a better time adjusting, and finding herself again, if it hadn’t been for the traumatizing event that happened in episode one, when she makes a lethal mistake, irreversibly changing her future. Throughout the next episodes, she continues to make bold, impassioned decisions, in a great display of Character Agency. If you’re not familiar with the term, (I’m still new to it as well), essentially, it is the character taking the reigns of the story.
K.M. Weiland describes it in three words, Choices, Conflict, Consequences. When our character makes a choice, (in this case, Dah Hyun hiding a major secret), it creates a whole host of conflict in the days to come, which inevitably leads to an even bigger set of consequences. In real life, none of us would ever dream of dealing with such a situation, but in fiction, it creates an almost infinite amount of source material for the story. With a character that is actively driving the plot, the viewer/reader can’t predict what may come next, which keeps them turning the page, or in this case, watching the next episode.
Another way to describe Dah Hyun, would be disillusioned. In the world of writing, we would note that Dah Hyun is living in the vast, dark world of her Lie. But it’s not just a simple truth that can bring her out of that darkness. She is suppressing a lot of emotions, as a result of the traumatic events surrounding the Inciting Incident, which then grows into a larger piece of what is known as the Ghost, an event from her past that is overshadowing her present. The Truth that Dah Hyun needs to recognize may be as simple as accepting her true self, as someone more satisfied by simple things in life. That Truth is disguised from Dah Hyun, as the traumatic event and failure from her attempt at success is keeping the forest hidden behind the trees.
From the beginning, we see that Gyehoon is a complicated guy, many times coming across as cold, or even rude. And while the tragedy of his past doesn’t excuse that behavior, it creates an interesting layer to his persona. Pieces of Gyehoon’s past are slowly revealed over the series, and with the new information, our understanding of him grows. The character Eun Gyehoon, is one of my favorite examples of the literary device known as the Ghost, that I mentioned above. (Ghost: an event from the past, that heavily influences a character’s behavior/choices.) His character shows that no matter how successful, or “okay” someone appears on the outside, they may still be struggling deeply within. For nineteen years he has been battling with the pain of losing his sister, and the difficulties in life that followed. The unsolved nature of her disappearance prevented him from ever finding true healing or solace.
When Dah Hyun steps into his life, it is both a blessing and a curse. She quickly begins to upset the Lie that has been governing his life for nearly two decades. As an act of self-preservation, Gyehoon has hardened his heart, guarding it strongly against any future hurt. The viewer knows that the Truth he needs to acknowledge, is that letting others into his life may bring hurt, but more importantly, may bring love, and healing, that he so badly needs. Stubbornly, he holds onto the Lie. As viewers, our hearts are deeply saddened by this, as we also feel proud of him for pushing through the pain, and not giving up.
Gyehoon’s determination to find the truth about his sister’s disappearance is both gripping, and emotional. But as Gyehoon, and Dah Hyun start to form a bond, the viewer will begin to see troubled waters ahead. The Truth that each of the characters need, is reflected in the eyes of the other. But in order to see that Truth, and accept it, great conflict and even their worst fears must first be recognized, as every skeleton in the closet is brought to light.
In the next part, and conclusion to this series, we will see the climax and resolution of Dah Hyun, and Gyehoon’s character journeys. We will touch on the beauty of settings, and how they can become characters in their own right. And how the seemingly separate stories of side-characters can tie into the bigger picture. Be sure not to miss it!
Until next time,