Mask’s premise is there are doppelgangers, someone that looks exactly the same as another person, but not a twin, rather a double of a living person. Couple that with the idea of stepping into someone else’s life is and you’ve got an intriguing basis for a show. After 7 episodes, I’m hooked!
Summary Episodes 1-7:
Brother in Law Min Seok Hoon is portrayed with relish by Yeon Jeong Hun. Our leading lady, the replacement Seo Eun Ha and dead Byeon Ji Sook is portrayed by Soo Ae. My favorite is our heir with issues Choi Min Woo who is played with the right amount of tender angst and smidgen of crazy by Ju Ji Hoon. Can’t be a quadrangle without a jealous boozy half sister Choi Mi Yeon portrayed by Yu In Young who nails the snide looks.
A woman driving a van dodges a deer and goes down an embankment and hangs perilously over the cliff. The phone call from a mystery man offers her the choice to live or die. Desperate, she agrees to whatever he wants. The van then plunges into the sea and she apparently dies.
We then see that there are two women, rich Eun Ha who is marrying our leading man Min Woo as part of an arranged marriage. She warns him she loves another man when they meet. Min Woo couldn’t care less, this is a business deal not romance. Then there is poor saleswoman Ji Sook whose family is consumed by her father’s debt. One day Ji Sook and Eun Ha see each other to their mutual shock.
While dining al fresco at Min Woo’s house, there is an accident and Eun Ha falls into the pool. Jeong Hun (her lover) saves her but she’s brain dead and in a coma. We learn she drank drugged wine. Min Woo also drank her wine and can’t remember the accident. Mysteriously, the security footage of the accident is erased. What to do? Jeong Hun remembers Eun Ha told him about meeting her doppelganger, and the idea is formed. He and his evil henchmen track down Ji Sook. At first she will have nothing to do with Jeong Hun. She has a chance encounter with Min Woo who finds her drunk on the street and thinks she is Eun Ha.
Everything comes to a head when Eun Ha’s family is returning from America. Jeong Hun is desperate to control Min Woo’s fiancee. With the lure of cash, he convinces Ji Sook to impersonate Eun Ha. Jeong Hun sets her up as Eun Ha. Initially, Ji Sook rethinks her choice and tries to go to the police but Jeong Hun proves that power and money are king. “What the ones with the power say is true. What the ones with no power say is false.” He spins a tale for the police that dead Ji Sook committed murder. Stuck, Ji Sook backs down and marries Min Woo. Their relationship? She sleeps on the couch and they pretend to be a loving couple (minus the touching that he can’t stand).
We learn that Min Woo lost his mother when he was around 8. She was swept away in a river after saving Min Woo. They were being pursued by unknown people. This story point has been dropped and I assume will be resolved later. Min Woo went to live with his father, who he’d never met before. He grew up in the cold household and has OCD tendencies. I really like this character.
So now the question is how long can Eun Ha fool everyone? She’s learned that Jeong Hun is not be trusted. She does not know that Eun Ha used to be his lover. Jeong Hun is trying to make Eun Ha dependent on him. She’s resisting, but he’s her lifeline. Or is he?
Eun Ha and Min Woo have found common ground in the new shopping mall project. The local merchants (similar to Ji Sook’s family) are in an uproar their shops will be closed and their lives destroyed. Eun Ha and Min Woo go undercover and she shows him how these Mom & Pop stores, stalls, businesses are these people’s lives. Min Woo comes up with the idea to incorporate local merchants into the shopping mall, a solution that seems to mitigate the issue.
Eun Ha and Min Woo have a moment when they dance the waltz. She does not know how to waltz, much to his surprise. Eun Ha is in a gorgeous dress and they enjoy the dance, until her brother shows up. He is led away. She meets him later and tells him she is not his sister. He rejects her offered money. Every time she tries to give her family cash, it does not work.
Eun Ha and Min Woo further bond when he takes her to his mother’s grave on the anniversary of his death. Eun Ha is touched he shared this with her. This also unnerves her and she runs to the river to collect her thoughts. In a stupid move, she loses her wedding ring in the river and wades in to find it. Min Woo locates her in the river and the parallel to his mother’s death comes rushing back to him. He helps Eun Ha back to shore but she slips and becomes drenched. As he drives her home the car fails. We learn half-sister tampered with the car to give them alone time. Freezing and afraid of hypothermia, Min Woo undresses a sleeping Eun Ha and himself opting for the skin to skin methodology of warming her up. When Jeong Hun’s finds them (after learning his wife tampered with the car) he believes Eun Ha has successfully manipulated Min Woo. He also feels jealously. In a sweet moment of the series, Min Woo carries Eun Ha from the couch to the bed so she sleeps comfortably. The next night he convinces her to sleep on the bed again, and he watches her sleep in another nice moment.
Inching closer to each other, Eun Ha considers telling Min Woo the truth of her situation. They drink. She desperately wants to tell him she’s not who she thinks he is. She starts to tell him. Jeong Hun is listening and watching. Min Woo sees her distress. He pulls her into his chest and tells her for this moment, she can cry about whatever is troubling her, no questions asked. She does. They pull away from each other and stare into each other’s eyes. Min Woo tells her while he doesn’t like that she a wimp (always apologizing or saying thank you or sleeping on the couch), her lips draw him. Gently, he kisses her. She pushes away. He feels the sting of rejection. Wanting to unburden herself, she tells him she’s not Eun Ha. Perplexed, he asks, then who are you? The cliffhanger is what will she say next?
1. Mask was on fire the first four episodes and settled into a slower pace the next three episodes. From the opening scenes where the van plunged off the cliff, to the mystery man phone call, to the character’s death, the first two episodes were gripping and demanded you continue watching to learn what was really happening. Now the show has settled into a main couple that has potential, but a big lie, waits to implode them. Unfortunately at this point, our leading lady is passive and does not appear to be that smart. She needs someone to solve her problems. The mastermind brother-in-law is compelling. Not so the jealous half sister (and brother-in-law’s wife). It’s our leading man, who is kind and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) with a haunting past that I’m a fan of. I want his happiness. I want him to sort out his issues and overcome his demons.
2. What stands out after 7 episodes?
* The parallel story of our leading lady coping with her new life yet wanting to help her family makes sense. The fact that she can’t manage to give her family money to erase their debt…while the show makes the case she’s trying…it makes the character come off as limited and wimpy.
* The internal family intrigue is working. Everyone has an angle and wears their own mask.
** Patriarch wants our leading man to succeed but is ready to doubt him a moment’s notice.
** Patriarch’s wife (and half sister’s mother) does not want our leading man to succeed though she lies about that.
** Half sister knows her husband had an affair with our leading lady (the real one not the replacement) and is jealous. She wants the marriage of her half-brother to work simply to get rid of the competition.
** Brother-in-law is the mastermind and wants our leading man to fail so he can take over the business and win favor with his father-in-law. The writer gave him control and fire initially, now he’s in more of a reactionary mode, watching the closeness develop between our leading couple. Does he want something personal from our leading lady or is it strictly use and dispose?
* The first two episodes set the stage for a story that if done correctly can be a great ride for the entire series. The writer, Choi Ho-Chul, was the winner of the “Excellence Award” at KBS One-Act Play Script Contest in 2012 for “Secret Love”. I have not seen Secret Love so I’m blind on this writer. With 20 total episodes the complexity set up in the first several episodes was needed.
* Love the support staff. The internal house staff are cute and supportive. LOL when they prep items for our OCD leading man. The brother-in-law’s evil henchman is cold.
* There are moments of humor. Each episode has a joke or fun moment. It isn’t all melodrama all the time, which I appreciate.
* Our couple has potential. I love him. She needs to find a backbone.
3. What could use a boost?
* The debt ridden family of our leading lady are not compelling. Best of the bunch is the mother. Dad, our debtor, doesn’t have much going for him. The brother, played by Hoya, has potential but the actor limits this character’s impact.
* Everyone recognizes our leading lady as her former self and she falls for it every time. The contrived back story feels flimsy, like it should fall apart any second.
* The loan shark sports a terrible wig and is a dreadful person. He may be the one to figure this out though. His instinct tells him that is something isn’t quite right.
* The car chases, which this show relishes, are not very good.
4. The first song of the OST is called “Only One Day” by LYn is pretty ballad. The well produced opening van over the cliff scene starts the video. Check it out via the link or watch the embedded video below.
[…] First impressions (up to episode 07) […]