Angry Mom Review

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Review.
  Angry Mom is a 16 episode 2015 Korea Drama about a mom that goes undercover in her daughter’s high school to expose and end the corruption after official channels prove fruitless.

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Nutshell Pluses:

1. Kim Hee Seon as Angry Mom, Jo Gang Ja.She was the heart of the show. Her drive and determination to find the truth was the focus of the story.
2. Story had riveting moments. There were shocking, violent, tender, touching, and satisfying moments throughout this series.
3. I enjoyed the music and subsequent Original Sound Track (OST). The music was unique in that there were a couple of vocal songs and the rest of the music was jazzy instrumental pieces.
4. The young actors evolved to bo the emotional core of the show. The evil adult characters were so jaded and dreadful, it was the high school characters and their portrayal by the young actors that became the emotional touchstone for the series.
5. The comedic relief was Han Gong Joo, played by Ko Su Hee, a high school friend who was a tough woman with a flair for costumes versus clothes flanked by her two faithful minions who were also decked in interesting outfits that usually included tiaras. She was a loyal supporter of Gang Ja’s mission to expose and eradicate the evil in her daughter’s school.
6. No A, played by Ji Hyun Woo, started as the naive teacher but turned into champion and crucial to winning the battle against evil. After the subpar writing Hyun Woo endured in his comeback drama Trot Lovers (see review) after completing his military service, this series writing must have been a welcome relief.

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Nutshell Minuses:

1. The evil characters were scum and so powerful at times it seemed that good could not defeat evil. Power corrupts was another theme for the show. It was never hopeless but it certainly seemed doubtful at times.
2. There were moments when our angry mom’s undercover status at the school could and perhaps should have been exposed sooner. Once the mother in law found out, the husband found out, it bordered on ridiculous that the evil guys didn’t check out this girl that was front and center.

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Overall Opinion:

This series was darker than I expected. I thought this would be a light romp in high school as our mom taught the mean kids to be nice. That was NOT this series. Instead, the series gave a complex layering of corruption and collusion centered on greed for power and money. Untangling the evil guys’ ties and methods was a process for our Angry Mom and her band of helpers (who grew as the series progressed).
* Our Mom was front and center until her own actions were viewed negatively pushing her back a bit in the story line. This allowed others to step forward and complete the retribution process.
* The high school characters were not one note, they had layers and reasons for their actions. The initial high school character that died, Yi Gyeong, was never forgotten and was an important driver for the story until the end.
* The writer, Kim Ban Di, delivered gripping episodes that I enjoyed watching. Angry Mom is his debut series. Kim won a screen writing contest for MBC for Angry Mom. This series was and was not a typical kdrama, which in itself was a treat. Snippet of a article on the writer: “I was angered by the Sewol Ferry accident the same way any other ordinary Korean was. While preparing for the scriptwriting contest I was bombarded by daily news of the sinking, and I guess the feeling of anger and hopelessness was so overpowering that it was directly reflected by the script. I think that at the core of this issue was our educational system, so I decided to start my story in a school. I strongly believed that the ruling elite should be blamed and face punishment for what happened, and that adults in general should reflect and feel partly responsible for such a tragedy. So that was the message, to find the courage to speak up when you see injustice, and to create a society based on ethical values and common sense.”

What I liked about Angry Mom:
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1. Angry Mom Jo Gang Ja played by Kim Hee Seon.
Gang Ja, a tough girl in high school, was perfect to infiltrate her daughter’s high school. She did not cow tow to the pecking order and learned this was a complex problem. She had blind spots: a. Initially she thought Principal Do was a good guy and I fretted that he would find out about her before she found out about him. b. She thought her friend Ae Yeon would not betray her, though she betrayed her in high school. She turned out to be wrong about Ae Yeon. She was determined and would not give up even when the forces of evil seemed to have every advantage. She was willing and open to others joining her cause once she realized the problem was bigger. No A (Ji Hyun Woo) was initially naive but he evolved into a crucial crusader and rightly realized it was the Moms of the school that could, should, and would demand justice. Gang Ja sought out support from Gong Joo, who was wonderfully wise and willing to help. When she portrayed Gang Ja’s mother, it was comedic gold.
2. Stellar moments and the ending.  There are moments that were shocking, violent, tender, touching, and satisfying and that includes the ending:
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* Shocking – a. Episode 3 – Bold as brass Yi Gyeong confronts Principal Do as he exits the secret room. He says her curiosity about things she should not know about is not good for her. She counters that she knows he’s behind the attack on Ah Ran. She says “even though I can not be your woman, I can tell everyone about that room. I can become your Achilles’s Heel.” Holy smokes! b. Episode 3 – Dong Chil tells Bok Dong to take the fall for a murder he did not commit because murder only carries a 2 year penalty in jail because he is a juvenile. That was messed up!
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* Violent – a. Episode 4 – We first realize in horror that Dong Chil raped Gang Ja after beating her for dating his brother. b. Episode 4 – We first realize see that Chairman Hong’s anger issues when he throws an object hitting Ae Yeon. Later when Ae Yeon showers we see the extensive bruises on her back from the Chairman’s beatings. Good grief! c. Episode 4 – Yi Gyeong knows that the sex scandal is not enough to control Principal Do. She heads to the library, to find the secret room. Principal Do startles her. Dong Chil starts to move in on her. Yi Gyeong runs to the roof. Oh no, this cannot end well for Yi Gyeong. We don’t see it but she is thrown over the roof and onto the ground. She dies and her blood stains the sidewalk.
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* Tender – a. Episode 10 – Sweetly Bok Dong rips into Gong Joo for abandoning her daughter. Recall that was the rumor at school. With an earnest heart, Bok Dong tells Gong Joo that Gang Ja’s behavior with older men is a product of her abandonment. Bok Dong captured my heart in this episode! b. Episode 13 – Sang Tae thanks Ah Ran for the opportunity to go against his father. Abandoned by his mother, he hated her, but could not hate her, for leaving. Ah Ran apologizes for misunderstanding him. She takes his hand and thanks him for not telling about her mother. He clasps her hand. It is a sweet moment.
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* Touching – Episode 16 – Dong Chil on the run from the police, calls Ah Ran. She tells him he must turn himself in. She asks if he escaped to see her. Tears fill her eyes. He claims he is not her biological father, it is his brother. Dong Chil admits he killed his brother by mistake (not her mother). He hands her the precious picture of himself and his brother. She cries. He cries. Dong Chil tells Ah Ran to study hard and be healthy and listen to her mother. It is a lovely moment. A touching moment. A moment we waited for.
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* Satisfying – a. Episode 15 – The Chairman enters the vault. It is empty. The Chairman turns and reporters rush into the vault. The good guys stares at the Chairman as he realizes Dong Chil betrayed him. b. Episode 15 – Bok Dong tells the court that Principal Do framed him for the murder. He states Yi Gyeong found the vault in the library…that is why she died. He yells at Principal Do, “over something so trivial, you did not have to kill her!” Superb! Compelling! Finally!
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* The ending
– the bad guys go to jail. It looks dicey for Gang Ja when the Chairman decides to seek revenge but Dong Chil saves the day. Gang Ja confirms that Dong Chil is Ah Ran’s father. The evolution of Dong Chil was particularly touching, as his love for his daughter was evident. In the end, Bok Dong longs for Gang Ja. I’m calling it…they end up together in my mind!

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3. Young actors became the emotional center of the show. The evil adults were so despicable that the high school characters were a breath of fresh air.
a. I loved Ah Ran, Gang Ja’s strong and smart daughter. She was loyal to her friend Yi Gyeong and willing to fight for her.
b. I grew to love Sang Tae, the Chairman’s son. Initially he was the mean leader of the school with a cruel father but then we saw he liked Ah Ran. He went against his father for her.
c. My heart was stolen by Bok Dong. Initially a bully controlled by Dong Chil, he respected Gang Ja’s gutsy ways. When that turned to concern and love, he captured my heart. When he found out Gang Ja was not 18 but 34, he was distraught but didn’t give up caring for her. I was scared the show would kill Bok Dong in episode 14, but he survived. I was thrilled. I loved his sweet, tender ways.
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4. Best friend Han Gong Joo (Ko Su Hee), was the comic relief of the show. Sometimes the show was so dark that if Gong Joo and her minions had not been there to balance it, I don’t know how palatable the show would have been. Everyone one of Gong Joo’s outfits made me smile. Her own style was wonderfully unique. The show’s stylist had fun with her.
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5. No A was the teacher and fellow fighter against evil. Ji Hyun Woo portrayed a character that evolved, maintained his ethics, but understood the world more realistically at the end. He never doubted that good would triumph and his belief was correct.


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What I did not like about Angry Mom:

1. The balance of good versus evil veered to evil having the upper hand too many times. The evil trio – Principal Do, the Chairman and the Minister of Education were despicable. Dong Chil in comparison, was an awful guy but his Achilles heel was his daughter Ah Ran and it kept him human and more than muscle for the evil trio.
2. Angry Mom’s undercover status got to the point that only the evil guys didn’t know she was an undercover mother. It was a bit silly that the evil guys did not check her out and determine for themselves who she was. The evil guys could not see the forest for the trees.

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Final Thoughts:

* Superior debut show for writer Kim Ban Di. I will watch this writer in the future. This show was compelling and watchable. It was darker and more violent than I expected. It was a fascinating journey to peel back the story and learn more about our characters and watch them evolve throughout the series. If you can take a darker edge to a series, I recommend Angry Mom.
* My thanks to the crew and actors that created this series. I appreciate their hard work.

OST:
Angry Mom has a 5 period (part) OST with 7 songs. An additional OST of 14 songs has 4 songs from the 7 part OST plus 10 additional variations of those song or instrumental tracks. A compilation OST has not been released as of this writing. Drama Wiki has all the details. The key song “I Love You, I’m Sorry” by ALi captured the angst of this show perfectly.
Period 1. I Love You, I’m Sorry by ALi
Period 1. I Love You, I’m Sorry instrumental
Period 2. Angry Mom by Lee Joo Han featuring Kim Min Hee
Period 2. Sunny Side Up by Ashbun
Period 3. Happy Magic by Lee Joo Han
Period 4. Happy Magic by Lee Hyun Woo
Period 5. Teleport Me by Aberdeen Orange featuring Jasmine
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The OST songs are in my YouTube Playlist (link or embedded below)

Last images as we fade to black…
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Posted in Angry Mom, Kdrama, OST, Reviews

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