Beautiful Mind Review
Beautiful Mind is a 2016 Korean drama with an intense leading man, Young O (Jang Hyuk), who battles the label of psychopath. He finds his “wi-fi” / supportive person in leading lady, Jin Sung (Park So Dam) who helps him trust in his ability to love.
1. Intense leading man. Young O was arrogant in the beginning of the series. He was driven by the need to prove his expert status and renounce the monster label. When Young O hit rock bottom he found an ally in Jin Sung, whose gentle support helped Young O evolve. The show purported that Young O did not have empathy. The show purported that Young O’s frontal lobe was altered. But the writer, Kim Tae Hee, was not clear in the scripts on these plot points. This caused many, including myself, to doubt their validity. Only the writer knows. The murky writing begged debate by those that watched. The comment sections of the recaps lit up with superb discussions on “emotions”, labels of “psychopath” versus “sociopath,” and character machinations (Min Jae in particular). I thoroughly enjoyed these conversations.
2. Story was dark and compelling. The leading man had a label of psychopath. People judged him with the preconceived notions of a psychopath first and by his actions second. It made me think about how we are all labeled in society – at work, at home, and in the world. Often other’s perceptions and our actions match the label we wear. It is unusual to consider such things when watching a kdrama. Young O and the hospital began as a dark place full of people pursuing their own agendas and using others (co-workers, patients, politicians). It evolved to a degree but the management was rotten through and through. The writer lightened the series in episode 8 by injecting humor, focusing on Young O’s evolution and backing away from the rotten core of the hospital. This changed the tone in the latter half of the series.
1. Story morphed into a happier clone of its early darker self and left unanswered questions when the network, KBS, eliminated 2 episodes due to low ratings below 5%. Decisions like this are driven by money. The tone of the show changed in episode 8 due, I suspect, to pressure from the KBS to lighten the show to increase ratings. When that didn’t drive ratings upward, KBS decided to eliminate 2 episodes. Dramabeans article gives KBS some latitude stating “…Beautiful Mind bears some responsibility for its fate — not for its ratings…but for its messy, disorganized start when it delayed filming for weeks while Jang Hyuk finished up activities in China and Park So-dam wrapped up her prior project, Cinderella and the Four Knights. And KBS did its part in buying time, trying to strong-arm Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho into an extension and then scheduling in a short 4-episode mini-drama Baek-hee Has Returned at the last minute. Had Beautiful Mind been able to premiere on time, it would have cleared the Rio Olympics and I bet KBS would have let them run the full course…” I think the Rio Olympics were an excuse. The timeline KBS gave notice to the production team was tight. KBS dropped the bomb Friday 7/22. Episode 11 and 12 aired Monday 7/25 and Tuesday 7/26, leaving the writer and production team 1 week to revamp and shoot/reshoot Episode 13 and 14 which aired Monday 8/1 and Tuesday 8/2. I wonder how much money KBS “saved” by eliminating 2 episodes.
2. Characters got away with evil and bad behavior. The no accountability poster child was Chairman Kang. The best thing he did was force the murdering Doctor Chae to turn himself in to the police. Of course this was self serving on Chairman Kang’s part. Dr. Oh, bitter about being stuck in a wheelchair by his actions, also got away with lying to Young O’s father for a decade.
The Characters that worked for me:
1. Young O (Jang Hyuk). Several actors were offered the role (Kim Soo Hyun, Yoo Ah In, Lee Jong Seok, and Choi Jin Hyuk) but they all declined. Jang Hyuk took the demanding role and made it uniquely his. One of Jang Hyuk’s strengths is the subtlety that he brings to scenes. Jang Hyuk made me care for the emotionally wounded, discriminated, and targeted Young O. What Jang Hyuk does with his eyes, his body stance, the inflection of his voice, brings a character to life. As the series progressed Jang Hyuk revealed the humanity of Young O and I was “all in” wanting this character to discover the potential that he’d not thought possible his entire life.
2. Jin Sung (Park So Dam). This police officer was initially heavily involved due to the hospital deaths. She went to the sidelines until she became Young O’s “wi-fi”, then this character blossomed. One of my favorite moments was in episode 9 when Jin Sung told Young O was the most hopeful person she knew. I’m sure Young O did not think of himself as such, but Jin Sung helped him reevaluate himself and discover his untapped depths.
3. Young O’s father, Lee Gun Myung (Heo Jun Ho). Young O and his father was the pinnacle relationship of this show. This character was not likable. His cold behavior towards Young O was difficult to watch. As the series progressed “who is the monster” was an underlying question. Gun Myung was revealed to be an abusive father who drugged and brainwashed Young O into believing he was a monster and harangued Young O not to become a surgeon. In a brilliant twist Gun Myun learned his fundamental belief about Young O was wrong and his treatment of his son was reprehensible. Then the writer allowed this character to evolve. In the end he accepted his son, praised his son, and sacrificed for his son. Young O saw it for what it was, and was touched. I was touched too.
4. Nurse Jang and the Surgeons. The hospital staff weren’t fans of Young O until he started to evolve and the writer changed the tone of the series in the second half. Nurse Jang had two stellar episodes with direct interactions with Young O. She was forthright. He learned to respect her. He asked for her help. Initially the cadre of surgeons were jealous of and negative to Young O. But they lightened up creating a camaraderie that was a fun part of the show especially when Young O was accepted.
Do I recommend this series? Yes. This show worked for me. The writing made me think. The acting made me feel. The evolution of Young O was gripping. This character demanded a great actor to make this character likable, lovable and someone you rooted for. Jang Hyuk delivered a stellar performance.
The OST has 2 songs in a 2 part OST. This show wins shortest OST! See dramawiki for details. My favorite is song is “Dirt” by Bernard Park. The playlist is embedded below or check it out via the link.
1. Dirt by Bernard Park
2. I’ll Hold You by Nu Ri