Good Ol’ Review: Jang Hyuk and Jang Na Ra Not Enough for “Family: The Unbreakable Bond” to Overcome Its Many Stumbles

Family Korean Drama Review

Very minor spoilers.

Jang Hyuk and Jang Na Ra, both on their own or when together, will always deliver. Their experience, especially together as an on-screen pair is definitely needed in tvN’s Family: The Unbreakable Bond (패밀리). And that’s because an interesting concept and lots of potential are unfortunately held back by a strong tonal imbalance that does what it can to pull you out of the action instead of reel you in for the ride.

The series centers around husband and wife Kwon Do Hoon (Jang Hyuk) and Kang Yoo Ra (Jang Na Ra). Yoo Ra believes Do Hoon is just an ordinary office worker, but he is actually a secret agent and veteran sniper for the National Intelligence Service. Along with their young daughter Min Seo, Yoo Ra thinks she has the perfect family she’s always dreamed of. But the arrival of a mysterious man threatens to shake their peaceful lives and reveal a secret from Yoo Ra’s past.

On paper, that’s a solid premise. A mix of mystery, action and family slice of life. A perfect recipe, actually, for some exciting and emotional drama with opportunities for some fun and lighthearted moments.

Which is why it is so disappointing that the series is ultimately unable to hit its targets. Pun intended. The series struggles with trying to figure out if it is a family comedy or a secret agent thriller. It can definitely be both, but the series is unable to be any of them.

The series starts off a bit odd. Heavy on the familial slapstick even as we are quickly introduced to Do Hoon’s secret agent job, it all feels a bit awkward. There is a sort of uncertainty as to what to expect or how to absorb the domestic scenes featuring otherwise normal, everyday family shenanigans. Of which include their daughter, Do Hoon’s father and Do Hoon’s brother and pregnant sister-in-law.

Family Korean Drama Review

These scenes should provide an interesting contrast to Do Hoon’s NIS work. That juxtaposition of the peaceful homelife and the volatile missions Do Hoon is sent on by his boss Oh Cheon Ryun (Chae Jung An). But the arrival of Jo Tae Goo (Kim Nam Hee) who ends up being an important and tragic piece of Yoo Ra’s past kickstarts the series diving into a darker storyline involving child mercenaries and government-sanctioned atrocities.

Different themes like how your past can come to affect your present and future. Or especially your family and the ones you love. Or what are the kinds of things you would do to protect your family and loved ones. And also the idea of being able to find a family or people important to you, especially during difficult times.

Again, this sharp contrast between the two sides of their family life should be a perfect backdrop for great, character-driven story. And the series somehow concludes in a good place. But the road getting there is flimsy at best. And the lack of a true connection between those contrasting sides and from beginning to end in turn prevent the audience from forging a connection as well.

Instead of a seamless blend of stories and a well-balanced narrative, Family: The Unbreakable Bond never achieves the kind of depth and cohesion that makes for a truly fulfilling experience. That lack of cohesion prevents any of those ideas, along with the establishing of the family’s dynamic, from ever fully developing.

Everything ends up feeling half-finished and undercooked. And the often sloppy execution of solid ideas leaves you searching for something to hold on to and make it to the end.

Without that connection to the characters, it really is difficult to forge that necessary connection to care about the bumpy ride they experience through the series. And by the time the series does manage to offer up possibilities for our main characters, it is too little, too late.

All this means heavy lifting for the cast, which is strong. But not strong enough to save the series from its many stumbles. Jang Hyuk and Jang Na Ra must rely on their experience to do the best they can with the material given to them. Their obvious chemistry can be enough to get you through the series. Though it can definitely get difficult at some parts.

Family Korean Drama Review

The series has many individual, and isolated, scenes that are sincere highlights. And Jang Hyuk and Jang Na Ra are definitely a part of most of them. But those fleeting moments only highlight how much the rest of the series pales in comparison. The potential is on full display. And that makes the end product all the more disappointing.

So despite the solid cast, led by Jang Hyuk and Jang Na Ra, Family: The Unbreakable Bond falls short and never realizes its full potential. A great premise on paper unable to be translated to the screen.

Share your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top