TYPE OF REVIEW : CHECK-IN REVIEW
Mild spoilers through episode 18. First Impression Review here.
SBS’ Five Fingers started out as a good, if not by-the-numbers, soap opera. A true Korean Makjang drama if there ever was one.
I started to watch series for Ji Chang Wook, a guy that’s become one of my favorite Korean actors after strong turns on Smile, Donghae and Warrior Baek Dong Soo as well as for Joo Ji Hoon whom I enjoyed in the film Antique Bakery. My interest shot up even more with the unexpected and somewhat controversial, but definitely welcome casting of Jin Se Yeon who was fresh off of a breakthrough role in Bridal Mask.
The soapy tale of revenge and illegitimate children, the selfish rich versus the less fortunate; Five Fingers started off and was poised to be nothing more than a juicy, guilty pleasure.
But now I am at episode 18 after slowly pushing through episodes 6 through 12 and Five Fingers has become an endless roller coaster ride of twists and turns, insane emotions, and an unexpectedly brisk pace of story developments that have made the series even that much more fun and exciting.
Two weeks away from the series’ end, I expect to get caught up before the final four episodes air in Korea. With the way things have already unfolded so quickly since episode 13 and the news that a strict policy of closed sets and confidentiality agreements are being instituted to keep the shocking ending from being spoiled, I can’t even imagine what’s ahead.
Five Fingers may be typical soap for many, but what it has set out to do, it has done well. Twists and turns that’d usually be saved for closer to the end are getting dropped like missiles left and right over these last few episodes. Whether unexpected or predictable, the surprises and sudden turns of events have made the show exciting and edge of your seat.
Usually, you hate when the villains are always one step ahead of the supposed hero or heroine of the story. You hate when the hero continuously gets used and abused, yet continues to act naïve and weak.
While Five Fingers isn’t immune to those soapy problems and actually walks right into them much of the time, the immediate consequences, quick turnarounds and high stakes make it all okay and worth all the emotional swings. It’s most interesting how that frustration when our hero, Yoo Ji Ho (Joo Ji Hoon), becomes pitiful or kawawa in Filipino, it isn’t annoying, but actually intriguing and exciting.
That whenever ultimate villainess Chae Young Rang (Chae Si Ra) and troubled son Yoo In Ha (Ji Chang Wook) stick another knife into Ji Ho’s back, it actually pumps you up that much more.
Typical Korean or Filipino dramas that take the villainy and the pitiful hero or heroine to extremes end in the most disappointing ways. The most common way, our hero forgiving everyone that’s ever done anything bad to them and going along their twisted, marry way.
But with Five Fingers, all the scheming, backstabbing, set ups, and scapegoating seem to be building up to one big “Frack you!” Not to us the viewer, but to the villains we love to hate. And with all the apparent secrecy around the final four episodes, it seems like we’re in for a big whopper.
Episodes 13-18 have been incredibly brisk and fearless. Secrets revealed, evil personified and the ultimate heartbreak and pain for many of our characters.
The writing has been strong, especially in finding ways to turn the familiar into something freshly exciting. But I believe most of the credit goes to the strong cast.
Jun Mi Sun and Jung Eun Woo as mother and sun who’ve been engulfed with vengeful rage has been able to portray that hurt and resolve, but also the dark side of living life with only revenge on the mind. Cha Hwa Yun as Young Rang’s stepmother Gye Hwa started out as merely the funny, almost comic relief, grandmother who is only concerned with money. But she became the cleverly pragmatic angel to Ji Ho and incessant thorn to Young Rang’s side.
Jin Se Yeon has finally been given some meatier material to play with as Da Mi and I can only hope this is just the start. Her first few episodes were soft and light, but has since started to get those emotional scenes that she does very well. Like on Bridal Mask, she has a sincerity and humility that comes out in her performance. Something that not many other young actresses may be able to do, especially in a role like this.
Joo Ji Hoon also, finally, gets stronger material as Ji Ho now that he’s been clued in to what’s happening around him. The countless epiphanies that have helped him piece together the painful puzzle of his life so far has been fascinating to watch, thanks mostly to Joo Ji Hoon’s performance.
Ji Chang Wook has already proven his versatility with his previous roles, but Five Fingers has allowed him to really shine. As the troubled and tortured In Ha, Ji Chang Wook has gone to places he never had the chance to go to with characters like Donghae/Carl Laker or Baek Dong Soo. The dark places In Ha has gone are so excellently portrayed by Ji Chang Wook, you just feel every emotion he is going through.
But maybe the heart, however cold, of the show is Chae Si Ra as Chae Young Rang. How deliciously evil and what a conniving bitch she is. Have you ever seen a villainess this crazily heartless on a Korean drama before or at least in recent memory? For a story like this, a character like this absolutely works and is what has driven the entire story. Chae Si Ra is magical (strange word to use for such a character!), her performance just masterful. She makes you absolutely despise Young Rang and then appreciate Chae Si Ra’s performance right after.
Five Fingers has built up and collected a list of conniving atrocities and now they are just starting to issue payback. And that is always fun to watch. That is in addition to a mix of sibling rivalry, family struggles, and a few illegitimate children.
With its strong cast and a dizzying, yet exciting roller coaster ride of twists and turns, Five Fingers delivers what is already an enjoyable and satisfying series.
Don’t let me down, drama!