Have you ever had a serious crush on someone?
Well, that seems to be the story of Pyo Nari’s life, played by the always adorable Gong Hyo-Jin from Master’s Sun and Producers. Similar to the media production of Producers, Jealousy Incarnate is also set in the television production world, namely a news station where the competition is fierce and the backstabbing ongoing.
Now I love Gong Hyo-Jin and have always been thrilled to watch her in any series or movie she stars in. But is anyone else getting a little bit tired of her being typecast in the same role? Sure, her image lends itself to being the nice, lost girl who is the eventual object of desire in any Korean drama plot, but she’s a fine actress who I feel could easily play a different, less lovable role. In story after story, Gong is cast as the same girl in different storylines. Be it Producer, Master’s Sun, The Greatest Love, The Last Present, Pasta, Thank You, or It’s OK, That’s Love–it could essentially be the same character across all series. She offers a little more flexibility in movie roles, but on television, she plays the same character over, and over, and over again. But I think she has the talent to play a rotten, disgusting character as much as she can any sweet, innocent character, but either this is all that’s offered to her, or these are all that she accepts–and it’s becoming a bit tiresome.
BUT – you shouldn’t let that take away from watching Jealousy Incarnate.
The entire series is good. Starting from episode 1, it reels you in and doesn’t let go throughout the series. But the real star in this series is Cho Jung-Seok with his aloof, but oddly appealing and strangely warm but cold performance. His exasperated expressions, mumbling and complaining is absolutely hilarious, and in Jealousy Incarnate, you can’t help but fall in love with his character, Lee Hwa-Shin. It’s a little similar to his performance in Oh, My Ghostess! but better.
Hwa-Shin’s best friend and eventual archnemesis in Jealousy Incarnate is played by Ko Gyung-Pyo, whom we last saw in Answer Me 1988. In it, he played a high school student, but in this series, he’s playing an adult role. While he did a good job, it was a strange casting job in that he’s so much younger than the other two that it’s a little hard to believe. (Gong and Cho are both 36 years old whereas Ko is 26 years old–and looks like it.)
His character, Jung-Won, is from a rich family and he’s the owner of a dynastic fashion brand. Known as a wealthy bachelor, many women strive to have him, but he’s noncommital to all…that is, until Pyo Nari, of course.
The two best friends have history of liking the same girl, unbeknownst to one another, but they discuss it openly years later. They were childhood friends, and have continued with a beautiful friendship between the two men. Pyo Nari, Gong’s character, has had a crush on Hwa-Shin for three years whereas he openly treated her terribly, never giving her the time of day. He finds her “easy” and loses no opportunity to degrade and belittle her, and resents that she even likes him.
But she loves him nonetheless and follows him around like a little puppy no matter what.
Then enters the gallant Jung-Won who immediately sees something worth adoring in Pyo Nari – a concept that is foreign to Hwa-Shin.
In a supporting role is Seo Ji-Hye who played Hong Hye-Won, a daughter of a wealthy man and a talented newscaster who is almost on par with Hwa-Shin’s status in the news industry. She is conniving, beautiful, and calculating–and decides that she had Hwa-Shin would make a good match. The more he is degrading toward her, too, as he is to everyone–the more she finds him desirable. I thought Seo Ji-Hye played this role remarkably.
Next to Cho Jung-Seok, the two powerhouses of Jealousy Incarnate are the comedic but delightful performances by Lee Mi-Sook (one of my all-time favorite actresses) and Park Ji-Young, two ruthless rivals in Jealousy Incarnate. Their history is complex but wholly intertwined, and they are the female, older versions of the two male leads. They provide incessant laughter in the series, but also glimpses into the intricacies of getting older in the industry, and the changing priorities a woman has while getting older. This pair of actors were simply outstanding.
I’m not sure if it was an extension or if Jealousy Incarnate was always planned as 24 episodes, but the series really is quite fun throughout all episodes. I’ll admit right now that I wasn’t altogether pleased with the ending–the latter half of the final episode–but until then, I couldn’t get enough of these characters, particularly Cho Jeong-Suk’s role of Hwa-Shin. His character is one that is a boy-at-heart, in a full grown man’s body, reminiscent of little boys who insult girls to get attention. But he plays the role endearingly. Furthermore, the way he tackles one issue that happens to him — which I won’t divulge here — will have you in tears at a later point in the drama.
Jealousy Incarnate also covers the notion of loving two people equally–something I believe is actually possible, if not at all desirable. What does a girl do when caught between two good and decent men? Do you follow your heart, or do you follow your brain? Do what’s sensible, or do what makes no sense? All of these topics are covered in Jealousy Incarnate, and it’s good enough that during the 12 weeks where I literally had no time at all, I religiously would find two hours to sit down and watch this series as soon as it was released.
This is a definite must-watch of 2016 Korean dramas!
You can watch the first full episode right here from Dramafever.