[Thespian Review] Lee Seung Gi – “Shining Inheritance”

14 Oct

Shining Inheritance is still one of my favorite Korean dramas. Sure, there were many times when I wanted to strangle the main characters but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t well-written. In fact, the writers set us up for big payoffs towards the end of the drama. It wasn’t a perfect drama for sure but it’s definitely one of the better ones.

Part of what made Shining Inheritance a great drama is the actors’ performances. Most of the actors here are delivering great performances, particularly the supporting actors: Kim Mi Sook, as the tyrannical step-mother, inspired me to start the Thespian Review; Bae Soo Bin is equally heartbreaking and lovable as Park Joon Sae, and Moon Chae Won, as Yoo Seung Mi, perhaps delivered the best performance. Still, we have to give credit to the main actors for anchoring a show, and no one can anchor a show quite as well as Lee Seung Gi.

Lee Seung Gi plays Sun Woo Hwan, the egotistical, condescending, and spoiled heir –apparent to the Sun family’s food company. In essence, he’s a typical male lead in a Korean drama except he’s facial expressions are more sour, he’s more territorial, and he’s more offensive than any other male leads I can think of. It’s a testament to the writers for making Lee Seung Gi—one of the most adorable and vibrant personalities in the industry—play such a straight-up asshole.

In the beginning, Hwan seems amiable, especially with the way he treats Seung Mi in the car ride from the airport. We also see the ego from the start with the way he talked about his life in New York. Despite this show of ego, there’s something sweet and loving about the way he talks to Seung Mi, that at first you’d think they are in a relationship. However, we need to give Seung Gi his credit for avoiding that path. Hwan isn’t infatuated with Seung Mi the way Seung Mi is with him. Rather, he’s literally like a big brother type of “oppa” not the lover type of “oppa.” He sufficiently gives us enough information through his body language and through his reactions that Hwan doesn’t have any romantic feelings for her.

His relationship to his family is similarly acidic. He treats his mother and sister with indifference and he’s quite mean to his grandmother, fully aware that she favors him a lot. When his grandmother tried to get him to work at a lowly restaurant, he balks and condescends to her job. It’s a very bratty performance with Seung Gi giving us full-on bitchface all throughout the earlier episodes.

At work, he’s worse; Hwan is such a spiteful person that it’s hard to redeem him after all the dumb things he’s done: throw money at the manager, punching the manager, and never working properly. The only time he shows any sort of admirable qualities is when he is with Seung Mi.

That’s why Go Eun Sung’s arrival to the picture threw Hwan’s perfect world off. With his grandmother giving them an ultimatum, it’s up to Hwan to try to clean up his act—to show that he can work. This is really where Seung Gi’s work becomes more subtle and impressive. It’s the writer’s goal to show how much Hwan has changed from his earlier spoiled brat act to the genuinely admirable and lovable guy he becomes towards the end.

His relationship to Eun Sung becomes the catalyst for this tremendous change. At first, he’s antagonistic towards Eun Sung because of his territorial nature. He essentially blames her for him having to work. Still, he never resorts to evil tricks to win over his grandmother. Instead, he learns slowly to adjust to his new way of life. Despite his perceived hatred towards Eun Sung, he can’t help but be attracted to her. The way he peeks with curiosity at her either at work or on the way home, the way he seems to be processing his emotions towards her, and the way he can’t help but lighten up a little when she’s around are all subtly acted. He builds up all this romantic feelings for her until he can’t deny them anymore. The belated kiss on the bridge, as cliché as it was, remains a vivid display of acting for Lee Seung Gi. The conflicting feelings are etched in his face. His sourpuss face jumps from confusion to annoyance to genuine love in quick succession. Although he never loses the sourpuss face by the end of the story, he’s calmer, more approachable, and far more endearing. It’s a great thing, too, that Seung Gi refused to get rid of his sourpuss expressions. It will seem out of character and impossible for him to lose a signature trait of Hwan.

But the kiss at the bridge is not the only moment where we see Hwan’s true feelings bubble to the surface. There’s a particular scene with his grandmother where he finally reveals his role in his father’s death. It’s an especially poignant scene because we finally understand many things about Hwan: his sourpuss face, his explosive temper, and why he is cold to his grandmother. He’s all pent up emotion and exterior rage in the majority of the episodes that this breakdown scene reveals such an interior full of pain, regret, and guilt.

Lee Seung Gi is one of my favorite people in the Korean industry. He can act, sing, and he’s incredibly funny. Here, he shows just how well he can act compared to the other singers-turned-idols. I admire this performance for giving us a character trajectory that makes sense. Seung Gi’s Hwan maybe a ticking bomb but he’s arresting when he’s conveying pent-up feelings and true emotions.



One Response to “[Thespian Review] Lee Seung Gi – “Shining Inheritance””

  1. Osi October 29, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    “Lee Seung Gi is one of my favorite people in the Korean industry. He can act, sing, and he’s incredibly funny. Here, he shows just how well he can act compared to the other singers-turned-idols.”

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