Not Much Brain, But Plenty of S(e)oul
by Ender’s Girl
Kang Ji-hwan, Han Ji-min, Ryu Jin, Han Go-eun
In a Nutshell:
A thoughtless wager among friends pits the Capital’s most notorious dandy against its most infamous prude! A gisaeng concealing a deadly past and an even deadlier cause matches wits with a detective harboring (ta-daaa!) a secret identity! This being a K-drama, paths inevitably cross. Sparks inevitably fly. Hearts are won, and then broken. Oh, and yeah, all this is happening while an underground independence movement struggles to overthrow a cruel occupation force through blood, sweat, tears, and all that jazz.
(SpoilLert: Couple of big ‘uns down the bend!!!)
Well. Love and revolution during the Japanese annexation of Korea? The blurb was interesting enough, and oh boy was I psyched! It didn’t take me long to do the math: Kang Ji-hwan in normal clothes! (yep, paisley vests and satin bowties are NORMAL compared to those horrible Salvation Army cast-offs he wore on Hong Gil Dong) + the jivey dance routines! + the heady romanticism of a period drama! + the danger and suspense while resisting a powerful oppressor! + the general goodwill from fans the (Soompi) world over! = One vastly entertaining period rom-com!!!
I suppose the best way to enjoy Capital Scandal is to NOT take it too seriously. Despite the politically incendiary backdrop of the time (fraught with danger at every turn!!! NOT), it remains just that — a backdrop, a canvas against which Wannie (Kang Ji-hwan) and Yeo-kyung’s (Han Ji-min) love story unfolds… and soars. Forget the countless atrocities committed by the Japanese imperial government against the Joseon people from 1910-1945. Forget the indoctrination of Korean education and history using Japanese revisionist propaganda. Forget the relentless crackdown of the Japanese military on Korean freedom fighters. Forget the suppression of free speech and the rampant violation of human rights. Forget the debasement of an entire people straining under the yoke of a colonial master. None of these come to the fore in this drama.
Instead, what we have is a cartoon… with live actors! The only thing this show has in common with similar-themed movies and dramas is the Liberty!Equality!Fraternity!Death to (insert foreign power of choice)! springboard. Unlike other works touching on the same subject matter, Capital Scandal ditches the somber mood and inherent complexities of such a geopolitically sensitive setting — in favor of oversimplified, feel-good situations and a heavily bowdlerized approach to storytelling. The whole tenor of the drama is as two-dimensional as the cardboard facades and set pieces that serve as the Capital’s cityscape. The Japanese officials are portrayed as either cold-blooded automatons (well, helloooo, Choi Philip, aka The Second Coming of Yonsama!), or indulgent but impotent buffoons (well, helloooo, Dude Who Played Minister Seo on Hong Gil Dong!). Plus, the collaborator cop and subordinate of Ryu Jin (ahhh, Ryu Jin and that ratfink, what a fine pair they make! the Tool and the Stoolie! lol) is likewise shown as a sadistic weasel whose general idea of Being Badass is to perennially scrunch up his face, squint evilly, and snarl threats at his fellow Koreans — while his hair drips with cheap pomade. Puh-leeeze. This facile characterization of the “bad guys” only underscores the drama’s inability to transcend such lazy stereotypes. NOT a sign of good writing in any corner of the universe.
Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!