TYPE OF REVIEW : FIRST IMPRESSION REVIEW
No Spoilers. Click here for the Hindsight Review.
Netflix’s The Glory (더 글로리) wastes no time in setting the stage for what has to be one of the most refreshingly unflinching revenge dramas in a long time. Through these first eight episodes, Song Hye Kyo leads an excellent cast as the series chronicles one woman’s painful journey from being a victim of high school violence to now having a chance to exact revenge on the perpetrators.
Moon Dong Eun was a high school student who despite her poor background dreamed of becoming an architect. Those dreams were shattered once she became the victim of brutal school violence. And since those painful days 17 years ago, Dong Eun has been planning revenge on the perpetrators and those who turned a blind eye to her suffering. The time for her ultimate revenge is now as her tormentors are at points in their lives where Dong Eun believes they have the most to lose.
The Glory does not hold back in depicting the vicious torture Dong Eun is subjected to in high school. Jung Ji So, who plays the younger Dong Eun, delivers a heartbreaking performance through the difficult scenes. But she is also able to take the character into a confident space that helps effectively tee up Song Hye Kyo taking over as the older Dong Eun in the middle of executing her revenge.
It is an excellent opportunity for Song Hye Kyo to take on a role that is far different and far less glamorous than her more recent projects. Dong Eun is definitely not some romantic lead. And in recent years, Song Hye Kyo has received some criticism for her work. The Glory is her chance to prove those detractors wrong. And she absolutely is up to the task.
Considering this is only the first half of the series (the second group of eight episodes will premiere in March), there looks to be much heavier material to come. There are instances of great depth with the characters, but overall, it is a familiar set-up. What works in The Glory‘s favor is how it is able to get the audience to crave justice as much as Dong Eun does herself.
Song Hye Kyo, in these initial episodes, already commands attention. It’s not hard to be drawn into Dong Eun’s fight. Half of that success is in the writing and the other half is the performance of Song Hye Kyo. You are just able to feel the pain and the anger in Dong Eun, but are still also able to see the vulnerability of someone who might feel alone in that fight. And that’s all on Song Hye Kyo. It is a nuanced performance that makes Dong Eun a multi-faceted and always captivating character.
The Glory introduces doctor Joo Yeo Jeong (Lee Do Hyun) and housekeeper Kang Hyeon Nam (Yeom Hye Ran) who join Dong Eun in her fight. But things are of course never as simple as they might appear to be. Both Lee Do Hyun and Yeom Hye Ran grow to become the perfect sidekicks, so to speak, to Song Hye Kyo. Both characters have the depth necessary to not only keep you guessing, but are also able to stand on their own. Especially heading into the second half of the series.
Meanwhile, Shin Ye Eun and Lim Ji Yeon do their part to make Park Yeon Jin (the leader of the group that terrorizes Dong Eun) as contemptable as can be. Lim Ji Yeon, as the older Yeon Jin, shares some electrifying moments with Song Hye Kyo. Those confrontations perfectly highlight the series’ quiet tension. And the two actresses are equally matched and give a taste of even more to come later.
Experienced actors Park Sung Hoon, Kim Hieora, Kim Gun Woo and Cha Joo Young round out the adult versions of the violent perps. And each character is also written with some welcome depth, not as a way to potentially redeem them per se, but to add extra layers to Dong Eun’s plans. Jung Sung Il as Yeon Jin’s husband Ha Do Yeong also emerges later in the first eight episodes as an important piece to the carefully crafted plans.
Its story of revenge is one that pulls no punches, especially being a streaming series rather than being confined within linear television restrictions. That alone sets it apart from other revenge dramas (a familiar theme ripe for television drama). But the performances of the cast really elevate The Glory. Song Hye Kyo and the rest of the ensemble cast deliver some captivating performances. And its through those performances that the tension effectively builds through these fast-paced, though well-balanced eight episodes. By the end, the cliffhangers (yes, with an “s”!) definitely whet your appetite for the concluding group of episodes.
The Glory is a familiar story. But it sets itself apart from the rest with its unflinching storytelling and raw emotions, effortlessly brought to life by the excellent cast. It’s not often a series can draw such visceral reaction. And The Glory does that and then some.