As some of you may remember, I recently began my K-drama journey with Descendants of the Sun. As my initial experience was positive and led to such high expectations, I had been on the prowl for another K-drama series to devour. However, my search took longer than expected because a) Netflix’s selection is not that big, or at least I do not know how to navigate it and b) I only looked for k-drama’s on Netflix for convenience’s sake which limited my pool. Enter Beating Again/ Falling for Innocence. The show is referred to on Netflix by the former, but is titled the latter on many other websites. Hence, I’m going with both titles. Anyways, truth be told, I was quite hesitant to begin the drama. I wasn’t a big fan of the general summary plot-line because I felt like the potential for exploitation/ manipulation of characters would be really big. In short, the show was about the male lead undergoing a heart transplant and falling in love with the girlfriend of his donor. In other words, ick. However, since the show was rated so highly and because I had really been craving a K-drama, I just swallowed all my feelings and put on the show. Although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was still pretty good.
The show begins with an introduction to Kang Min Ho, played by Jung Kyung-Ho. He’s shown to be this ruthless and rude businessman. He works for an American multinational corporation, Gold Partners, and part of his job requires taking over bankrupt companies and selling them to others. Through his work, he fires people daily without any regard for them, i.e. he doesn’t care how hard they work or how much they need the job. Due to his callous behaviour, he doesn’t have many friends or really care about acquiring friends. His company sees him as a huge asset and his employees are terrified of him, to the point where they nickname him the ‘serial-killer.’ In other words, he fits the archetype of the ruthless businessman with no care for others. He’s willing to do anything and he just doesn’t give a damn about making money as his motive is something else.
At the same time, we’re introduced to Kim Soon-jung, enacted by Kim So-Yeon. She works as a secretary to the Chairman of a huge beauty company called Hermia. She’s an extremely efficient worker, incredibly loyal to her company, and cares for the well-being of all employees, even those working in the warehouse/ factories (her work is mostly within the headquarters). She’s a super nice woman and seems to enjoy her work. She’s engaged to a police detective, Ma Dong-wook (played by Jin Goo from DOTS!). Childhood sweethearts, the two adore each other and share a loving relationship.
The two leads interact when Min-Ho comes to take over Hermia. His goal is to destroy the company. Soon-jung halts his initial entrance to the company and after learning her name, Min-Ho makes it a goal to punish her/ ruin her life. This is also where his backstory comes out. Apparently, Min-Ho’s father had founded Hermia with the noble goal to have a company that would serve its employees and put them before the boss. However, due to a heart disease, Min-Ho’s father died early. Taking advantage of Min-Ho’s dad’s soft nature, his brother, Kang Hyun-Chul (played by Park Yeong-Gyu), forged some papers, making it seem like Min-Ho’s dad committed fraud and put Hyun-Chul in charge. Hyun-Chul, with the help of other headquarter employees, quickly take over, effectively betraying Min-Ho’s dad on his deathbed. Hyun-Chul also cuts off Min-Ho and his mother, making them penniless. Stunned by the events, Min-Ho’s mom commits suicide, leaving the 10 year-old Min-Ho an orphan. Hyun-Chul doesn’t care and just abandons the boy. Min-Ho swears to be a hard and strong businessman (unlike his father) and to destroy his uncle and Hermia, along with the other employees who betrayed his dad. Hence, he grows up, excels and gains employment with Gold Partner’s. However, in a sad twist, Min-Ho inherits his father’s heart disease, giving him only a few years to live. As a result, Min-Ho rises to the top quickly and acts ruthlessly in order to complete his revenge before he dies. By the time the show starts, Min-Ho is around 35 years old and has only a month left to live. Along with Soon-yung blocking his efforts, he also hates her because her father was one of the employees who betrayed his father and helped Hyun-Chul usurp the company.
As the show continues, we’re also introduced to Hermia’s Director of Legal Affairs, Lee Joon-Hee, played by Yoon Hyun-Min. Joon-hee is friends with Soon-jung and Dong-wook and managed to rise to the position of Director at such a young age, because he was seen as Hyun-Chul’s lapdog. In other words, Joon-Hee did Hyun-Chul’s dirty legal work. For example, he handled felonies committed by judges, or the family members of judges, in order to get the judges favour’s when it came to handling legal conflicts against Hermia (aka biasing the judges and bribing them). Recognizing that his position as Director would be gone as soon as Hyun-Chul stepped down, Joon-Hee teams up with Gold Partners as a double agent, to bring down Hermia and become its next CEO. Having secretly been in love with Soon-Jung since childhood, he believes that once he becomes a rich and powerful man, he’ll be able to gain her love.
Anyways, in the plot-line, one of Hermia’s products is discovered to have unapproved ingredients, causing the company’s stock to fumble. At which point Min-Ho steps in, claiming that Gold Partners had bought most of the stocks and would shut down the company. Hyun-Chul refuses to give up Hermia and claims that they’ll pay back their investors (they’re bankrupt I think, or at least close to it). Min-Ho agrees, while secretly attempting to sway the investors to his side through secret meetings (as he only has one month to live). He enters Hermia as a Director, in order to ensure that they don’t do further illegal stuff to pay back. He also spitefully takes Soon-jung as his secretary and makes her do a crap load of things and stuff that makes it seems like she’s betraying the company (she’s not). Joon-hee helps Gold Partners secretly but pretends like he’s fighting against them in Hermia. Seeing Soon-jung stressed, Dong-wook finds out about the unapproved ingredient case and begins investigating, despite Soon-jung asking him not to. Meanwhile, Hyun-Chul figures out that Min-Ho only has a month to live and is able to take back all the investors Min-Ho had swayed. Angry that his revenge is falling, Min-ho yells at Soon-jung (thinking she ratted him out) and begins throwing things around in his anger. His heart starts acting up and he collapses into a table and is taken to the hospital by Soon-jung. Meanwhile, Dong-wook figures out who was responsible for the unapproved ingredients case and then gets killed in a hit-and-run case. He’s taken to the hospital and his heart is transferred into Min-ho. Min-ho awakes from his surgery and discovers some new habits/ thoughts of his. For example, he gains sudden urges to suck on lollipops (a habit Dong-wook had, to prevent himself from smoking) and tapping people on their noses (something Dong-wook also did). He also finds himself attracted to Soon-jung and having a greater moral compass. However, he’s also incredibly weirded out and worried by these changes.
The rest of the drama is about what happens to Hermia, how Min-ho changes/ his character development, the relationship between Min-ho and Soon-jung, the love triangle between them and Joon-Hee, and various other small side plots.
I had originally thought this drama to be a comedy and put it on. To my dismay, it’s quite melodramatic. There’s a lot of twists and turns and surprising suspense. That said, there is some comedy in the form of Min-Ho and his secretary/ friend, Oh Woo-Sik, played by Lee Si-eon. Min-Ho is HILARIOUS. There’s a scene where Soon-jung is taken captive by a thug and Min-Ho tries negotiating with the thug. He uses the same technique of distracting thugs using expensive watches that Dong-wook did, to the surprise of the police colleagues who are friends with Soon-jung and a part of the kidnapping situation. However, the thug doesn’t fall for the trick and instead the watch breaks. Min-ho, being Min-ho, FREAKS OUT and starts yelling at the thug about how expensive his watch was, etc. Somehow the thug lets Soon-jung go and gets into an altercation with Min-Ho. Dong-wook’s fighting abilities are somehow transferred to Min-Ho and he dodges and defeats the thug, to his own surprise. Min-Ho literally pauses and goes like, “holy shit, I dodged that!” and then once the thug is on the ground, Min-Ho screams again, takes off his shoe, and begins spanking the thug for ruining his watch (lmfaooo). And then while in the police station for questioning, he begins trying out more fighting moves, feeling cool (LOL). It’s seriously hilarious. His comedic moments literally MAKE the drama in my opinion. He’s amazing.
And the growth journey his character goes throughout the show is wonderful. One of my fears about the show was that his character would completely change to be like Dong-wook and that the reason he’d love Soon-jung is because he had Dong-wook’s heart. But he actually doesn’t change all that much. Sure he adapts some of Dong-wook’s habits and sayings, but he also remains Min-Ho. He remains the smart businessman, he remains the easily excited and angry guy and still acts rudely sometimes. But he also changes. He begins to feel empathy and sympathy. He realizes that the way he was living wasn’t sustainable anymore. He lived with the belief that it didn’t matter he didn’t have any friends or a personal life because he was going to die soon anyway. However, now with a new, prolonged life, his old ways no longer applied and the loneliness got to him. Similarly, he recognized that in his greed for revenge, he was turning out to be the exact same person his despised uncle was. Also, when it came to his love for Soon-jung, once he realized he had Dong-wook’s heart, he tried to rationally sort out his feelings. He tried to figure out if his feelings toward her were from him (mind) or Dong-wook (heart). However, as his ‘experiment’ keeps failing, he realizes that it doesn’t matter because ultimately, both belong to him and that love is irrational itself. I really liked that message because a) I hadn’t expected it and b) it’s quite true. Love doesn’t always have a definite starting point and that there is no rational way to define love. It’s awkward and confusing and ridiculous and even absurd at times.
I also really enjoyed the relationship Min-Ho had with Dong-wook’s father, the Hermia Factory Chief, Ma Tae-Soek. It was kind of like a surrogate father-son relationship. Tae-soek lost his real son, but gained a new sort-of son, same with Min-ho except vice-versa. Tae-soek also shared an incredibly warm relationship with his ex-daughter-in-law-to-be Soon-jung. In one touching scene, he goes to Soon-jung and tells her to let go of Dong-wook and move on. He makes her understand that life goes on and she can’t shut herself off from love. I just, I found that so moving and sweet. He does the same for Min-ho and gives him ideas on how to woo Soon-jung. The trio had all lost people (Soon-jung was also an orphan) and ended up making their own family of sorts.
On that note, the acting was also really good in this show. Kyung-Ho was ridiculously good in this show. He emoted so well and shined in all of his scenes. He was so good as the ruthless businessman. There’s a scene where Woo-sik asks Min-Ho why he sleeps on the sofa despite being so rich and Min-Ho replies that lying down in the bed aggravates his heart and that he’ll only lie down once he’s dead and finished his revenge. It was kind of chilling how softly and resignedly, but determinedly Kyung-Ho enacted that scene. A very layered performance. And his comedy scenes where hilarious! He’s not afraid to make unattractive faces or anything and as a result, his comedy scenes are so funny! He just acts up so much, you cannot help but laugh at his ridiculousness. Here’s a screen-cap of his antics after a breakup (LOL). And his little bromance with Woo-sik was hilarious as well. The two acted really well across each other. So-Yeon also acts really well as Soon-jung. It’s very easy to see how everyone falls in love with her. I liked how So-Yeon kept her reined in and didn’t make Soon-jung too happy or positive. She felt like a real person, as far as K-dramas go LOL. Plus, she was a really great female lead, you really (or at least I did) root for her to get her happy ending because she deserves it so much. And the side actors/ characters were great as well. Woo-sik’s character actually had his own little love story with one of Dong-wook’s detective friend, Na Ok-Hyun, played by Jo Eun-Ji. Although they regrettably didn’t have that many scenes together, I enjoyed their scenes together immensely! Everyone acted very well!
Along with acting, the soundtrack for this show was really great as well! There’s this ringtone/ song by Toy called “Whenever,” that played a large role in the show as it was the song Dong-wook used to propose to Soon-jung and was the song that Min-ho couldn’t stop listening too after his surgery (I’m in the same boat as Min-ho, it’s so catchy and I can’t stop listening to it!). It was super catchy and worked really well with various scenes. There were also other songs, like this guitar song, that were quite pleasing to the ear and helped amplify situations. Really enjoyed it.
Similarly, the cinamatography was top-notch as well. I’m beginning to think that its a constant of all k-dramas. As I’m still a newbie, I cannot say it for sure. But as my k-drama journey continues, I’ll keep this in mind.
What I didn’t like, however, was part of the storyline. It was actually pretty dark with quite a few deaths and dramatic moments. And the whole Hermia plot was extended too much. I mean, the story does move along pretty fast, but problems keep cropping up. For example, Min-Ho eventually takes over Hermia with the goal of restoring it, but then has to face the exact same strategies he used to bankrupt Hermia. I mean, in theory it sounds like a good idea. And I did enjoy the scene where Min-ho breaks down and feels like Hermia being attacked by Gold Partners again is like his karma. But it just stretched on too long. And to be honest, some of the business stuff was kinda confusing and even boring at times. I would’ve much rather had a more concise business battle, rather than a rehash of similar things. I also was a little confused on how Joon-Hee’s character became the main antagonist. He always had a crush on Soon-jung and believed that if he became rich, he could get her love. Actually, no his turn did make sense, but not the extent he went through. He ended up becoming absolutely ruthless in his quest, and after a while, it just didn’t make sense to me. Why was he going to the extent he was? What was his goal? His original goal was to get Soon-jung but she already said no to him. And then his goal was to make Min-ho go down. But in that goal, he was ready to sacrifice everything? In Min-ho’s case, it made sense because he was going to die so he didn’t have anything to lose. But Joon-Hee was still living. He was being promoted when he was with Gold Partners. Was it just a self-esteem issue? Was it because he needed to justify his dad’s death? I guess what I’m saying is, his turn to the antagonist made sense. But his actions, namely his intent and fervour to destroy the company didn’t quite.
Also, I really wasn’t a fan of the way Min-ho behaved around Soon-jung, in terms of physicality. When he hated her, he had the tendency to jerk her around by grabbing her hand or whatever and dragging her to where he wanter her to be. When he fell in love with her, he would often try to hug her forcefully. Soon-jung wasn’t really appreciative of the jerking around and she did get annoyed by it, but she never said anything either. As he was her boss, I guess she thought if she complained, she could get fired. But even after the two get together as a couple, she doesn’t necessarily say anything. And Min-ho is the same. He never apologizes for his forceful handling of her. I just, I really wasn’t a fan of it. It ruined some of their sweeter scenes. For example, when Min-ho realizes that Soon-jung needs to cry and grieve for all that she’s lost, he forcefully hugs her in an effort to get her to release her feelings. She tries pulling back and asserts that she’s fine. But Min-ho just grips her tighter and claims that he needs the reassurance. It’s after that, she finally lets herself go and begins to cry and mourn for everything that went down in her life. I mean, it is a sweet scene. But just the forceful hug sorta ruined some of the sweetness of it.
Similarly, the ending of the show was lukewarm as well. In term of logic, it just sucked horribly. There was no real resolution to the Hermia conflict or Min-ho’s plot. All we got was Min-ho in the hospital, when the screen fading to the sky and then an epilogue where Woo-sick and Ok-Hyun got married with Min-Ho and Soon-jung as the best man and bridesmaid respectively. I wanted a more real resolution. The only reason the ending was somewhat warm (good), was because of the end Min-Ho and Soon-jung scene. It was incredibly cute and saved the ending from being absolutely horrible. But even then, it was an incredibly unsatisfying ending to what was an enjoyable drama.
My rating: watch it for the comicalness that is Min-ho and be prepared to enjoy his character growth, along with witnessing the wonderful acting of Kyung-ho and So-yeon, but remember that this is not a comedy show and so expect a lot of deaths and dark scenes.