tvN’s Reborn Rich (재벌집 막내아들/The Chaebol’s Youngest Son) is a creative, high concept series that gives an interesting twist on familiar themes. Song Joong Ki’s charisma and charm is utilized to full effect and the ensemble cast is an important part of what helps the series reach its climax. While there are some missteps along the way, especially in its final acts, Reborn Rich is nonetheless an intriguing and refreshing drama.
Song Joong Ki is Yoon Hyeon Woo, a senior manager at Soonyang Group, one of Korea’s largest chaebols. Though he is a trusted and loyal employee, he finds himself betrayed and murdered while running an errand for the family in a foreign country. To his surprise, however, Hyeon Woo wakes up in 1987 and finds himself reincarnated into the body of Jin Do Jun, the youngest grandson of the Soonyang family.
Once he comes to terms with the situation he’s found himself in, Hyeon Woo-now-Do Jun spends the next 15 years deciding to search for the mastermind behind his murder and exact his revenge on the family by using the knowledge from his previous life to eventually take over Soonyang Group.
Reborn Rich is a revenge drama at its core. Hyeon Woo/Do Jun is intent on finding who ordered his murder. But now as Do Jun, he learns some shocking truths about his previous life and family, further fueling his quest for vengeance.
The series creatively weaves in many seminal moments in Korean and world history. Not only as a backdrop, but also to inform Do Jun’s every careful move.
The first few episodes of Reborn Rich start off a bit slow. The always great Kim Kang Hoon helps to carry a lot of the load in those episodes as young Do Jun. And once the series does gain its footing, it’s full steam ahead. For a while, that is.
As Do Jun grows up, he also grows closer to Soonyang patriarch Jin Yang Chul. Regarded as a cutthroat, but brilliant business mind, Jin Yang Chul sees in Do Jun what he doesn’t see in his own children. And again, the situation offers Do Jun an opportunity to achieve his ultimate goal of revenge. But as he gets deeper and deeper into the familial politics of Soonyang, he begins to see many things (about his present and past life) in a different light and from perspectives he never imagined before.
Reborn Rich offers an interesting twist on time travel and transmigration. But in keeping with some of the familiar, basic tenets of the genre, the series is at its strongest when it focuses on emotion and character-driven story to keep everything together.
And in Reborn Rich, it is when it focuses on family that it is at its best and most engaging. Whether it is Hyeon Woo/Do Jun fighting for his family in his previous life and trying to correct injustices toward them or the backstabbing, betrayal and soapy infighting of Soonyang Group’s Jin Family; it is that character-driven drama that is most impactful.
That is partly why when the series shifts away from those family dynamics and turns more heavily toward the corporate drama, it holds the series back. Character interactions and relationships are hindered by the business side of the story which almost sucks the energy out of the series that it had fostered for most of its first two-thirds.
Regardless, Song Joong Ki and a commanding performance from Lee Sung Min as Jin Yang Cheol lead a strong (and large!) ensemble cast. All of the main cast of characters are necessary to help build and solidify the world of Soonyang Group. And with the talented cast assembled, all the family and corporate drama is able to land safely, if even a bit bumpy at times.
Whether you think the ending is a satisfying one will depend on what you end up looking for as you traverse the series’ 16 episodes. When it comes to the more plot-driven aspects of the series (and that is how the last third feels like), you might have to temper your expectations. If you end up holding on to the characters (who are reasonably well-developed with Hyeon Woo/Do Jun and Jin Yang Cheol at the center), then it will be a perfectly pleasing ending.
Overall, Reborn Rich offers something different to familiar themes and situations. It is far from being a perfect series. But its large ensemble cast pick up the slack for what is an ultimately engaging soapy ride.