Big is quite honestly one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. Watching bad entertainment is such a big sport these days there’s a vernacular which surrounds it- “It’s so bad it’s good!”, “trashtastic” etc. We enthuse about being entertained despite ourselves, about being moved to tears and laughter even though what we’re watching is sometimes objectively terrible. What we’re really saying is that we’ve enjoyed being swept away, that some magical combination has allowed us to experience a show or a movie viscerally, from the gut, often throwing ‘good taste’ and logic out the window. Enjoying something to the degree we can forgive its many flaws is often more rewarding than being unmoved by something objectively great. I think it’s fair to say there’s a good amount of K-dramas that fall into the former category- there’s a reason why so many people rank their favourite dramas with two ratings: how much they enjoyed it, and how good they actually think it is.
Big is not one of those shows. Big as a whole is simply bad, and what little charm it had at the beginning, slowly, irrevocably eroded away until any goodwill I was feeling for the show was also gone. It wasn’t frustrating in the sense that we complain about some ridiculous plot but still excitedly reach for another episode. Big was just frustrating, it was just bad, it was just disappointing- it was just a bit of nothing; a bag of hot air.
To be honest, I was really concerned from episode six onwards. The fact the show had just taken a major leap by inserting a one year time jump at the end of episode five excited me (I was really excited! I thought the show was about to kick into high gear, oh wrong I was), and I watched bewildered as the episode sort of traversed the same territory as before, not taking advantage of the myriad of possibilities the jump promised. I mistakenly assumed that all my concerns (and if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve had a lot) would eventually be addressed and ironed out. Right until the very end I honestly thought that at the very least, given the amount of non-action and filler we were getting, we’d have a strong finale, that the writers were saving the best for last. I have no idea why I thought that, but I really did. It turns out however, that they couldn’t give us anything, because they had nothing to give.
I’ve read elsewhere the Hong sisters commenting about how the show is a coming of age story, about growing and becoming mature, not just a love story. What I don’t think they understand, is they failed to deliver either of those things. To call this show a coming of age story is a disservice to every other fantastic coming of age story I’ve experienced. This was a poor imitation AT BEST. I’ve never been someone who demanded whizz bang pizzaz plots and spectacular shenanigans to be entertained or to appreciate something. A lot of my favourite shows and movies are quiet and slow and contemplative- they say a lot with very little, so saying that I can’t appreciate Big because it wasn’t punchier and bigger is a poor excuse. Big failed at being entertaining, but it also failed at being small, atmospheric and moving. When it needed to be small, by which I mean when it needed intimate, well written scenes between two people, it was too big (broad brush strokes, bad writing), and when it needed impact, it was too small (as in nothing happening- often).
I am actually going to go through the show point by point the things that I think contributed to the show’s failure (funnily enough, a lot of them are things I wrote about previously. Believing erroneously, that the writers would eventually prove me wrong), but first let’s quickly address the last two episodes.
Episode 15 basically decided that it also wanted to shit on the one thing I had been enjoying about Big- Kyung Joon, and gave him a case of the Da Rans (that would be being an idiot, and doing incomprehensible things for muddled reasons), while Da Ran for once behaved almost like an adult, but I still couldn’t give a shit, because too little, too late. The end of the episode where Da Ran declares her love for Kyung Joon, was a climax the drama had been working up to from the beginning, so why did it feel like it lacked so much? I also need to know, why is it that for one person to behave normally on this show, the other one has to be act like a brainless fool?
Episode 16 was ok, I guess. But you need to care about these characters to be moved by what’s going on, and frankly, the show had completely lost me by this stage. The scene that sent me over the edge is the one where Da Ran plucks flowers from that flowerbed, looking deranged and not quite there, and THEN she bursts into a Pororo song in the middle of the street. It was supposed to be a sweet, romantic moment, but I thought it was farcical. It wasn’t romantic, it turned Kyung Joon’s previous sweetness (getting her flowers, singing her a Pororo song) into something laughable and insane and ultimately empty. It basically shat all over what those gestures meant by merely mirroring them, but not honouring the motivation behind them, which really, is a bigger metaphor for the drama as a whole. Get it, get it? I really think this drama is empty! I know, I’m so repetitive, but so was Big, and in the end, all for nothing. Because when I look back, the thing that bothers me the most, is not all that much changed by the end of the drama. Stuff happened, but it might well have not. Structurally, by returning to how we started, the audience should feel a sense of synthesis, they should be able to feel how things have changed and how far the characters have come, but for me, that was largely absent. I feel like we took a lot of shortcuts to get a sense of resolution, but it didn’t feel organic or earned. I’d be happier if this drama didn’t exist really, except that Gong Yoo was so great as Kyung Joon. Sigh, moving on.
Actually I can’t write anymore. I was going to address a whole list of things, but I really can’t bring myself to write about this show anymore. I’m not mad or disappointed, I’m just incredibly ambivalent. For fans of the show, I should perhaps admit I’m not a huge fan of the Hong Sisters in the first place. I’ve watched a few of their dramas, and personally I think they’re mediocre writers. I find their characterisations two-dimensional, some of their dialogue clunky, and I truly dislike their tendency to hit you over the head with a metaphor over and over. They have a paint-by-the-numbers style that I generally find off-putting, not cheeky, knowing and clever. If a joke or a metaphor has to be sign-posted to death, I don’t consider that a successful wink to the audience, I consider it to be a sledgehammer demanding praise: “Look how clever I am!” However, in their other dramas I’ve seen, that sledgehammer was oftentimes effective; causing growth, change and movement, and wrapped in enough charm you could mostly forgive its blunt style. I wrote in my episode five post, that early episodes of a show are a promise to its audience- Big most certainly broke that promise, failing to build upon the foundation of its early episodes, quite possibly because it was never really there.
Everything I’ve written on Big:
Big, A Prediction (Ha! This was soooo wrong).
Big, The endgame (Wronger! Haha)
Big Episode 9: Revelations (No thoughts in this one, just a recap)
Big Episdoe 10: Da Ran’s Episode (Me being charitable…)
Big Episode 11: Desperately Seeking a Heroine (I genuinely think this is the most accurate thing I’ve written about Big)
Big Episode 12: Movement and Foreshadowing (Apparently I didn’t need to be worried, bc nothing freaking happened)