This review covers season one of Mine, currently streaming on Netflix.
If you've been rubbing your hands gleefully while waiting for episodes of K-drama Mine to come out every week, you're definitely not alone. Now that it's done and dusted, what a dizzying ride it's been!
The series has consistently topped the Netflix popularity charts after its first two weeks of premiering on Netflix, and bears a striking resemblance to the incredibly successful makjang dramas Skycastle (2018) and Penthouse which aired the much anticipated episodes of its third season in June.
So what sets Mine apart from these other two chart topping dramas?
First off, there is an invigorating addition of the supporting cast from the view of the Han family's household's servants, which gives the show an added dimension, similar to that of Downton Abbey.
Great props go to Park Sung Yeon who plays the obsequiously pretentious head housekeeper Joo Min Su, aiding and abetting all the crimes and petty cat fights within the Han family, switching sides whenever it suits her, using her position to lord it over all the other maids in the house, and most importantly being able to tolerate the migraine-inducing, childish tantrums of the Chairman's wife, Yang Soon Hye (Park Won Suk).
Her role has played no small part towards contributing to the success and failures of the family's political feuds, and even more towards the deliciously vengeful ending of the drama.
Surprisingly, what helped the show do well was the portrayal of minorities, which included women and lesbians.
I was half-heartedly hoping for the show to turn completely on its head and pit the women of the household against each other, particularly the relationship with in-laws Jung Seo Hyun (Kim Seo Hyung), Seo Hi Soo (Lee Bo Young) and young heir Ha Joon's (Jeong Hyun Jun) birth mother Lee Hye Jin (Ok Ja Yeon).
Usually makjang dramas as political as this one would not hesitate to use such betrayals to gain even more viewership, seeing as the Han family is significantly wealthier than the households of Skycastle and Penthouse, possessing a veritable army of servants and a chef at their beck and call, and even living in primary and auxiliary residences within a sprawling estate.
I was pleasantly surprised as the women banded together against the patriarchy after managing to reconcile their differences, and never once turned on each other. Instead, they focused their combined efforts into dethroning the cruel and power-hungry Han Ji Yong (Lee Jyun Wook), whose portrayal of the unloved and deplorable villain was impressively baleful and icy.
Speaking of portrayals, I don't recall in my very long obsession with K-dramas that positive LGBTQ depictions have ever been shown.
Usually, we have tropes of gay men being trotted out as one-dimensional predators who seek out the pleasure of younger men in exchange for favours. However, Mine makes a beautiful side-love story out of lesbian Jung Seo Hyun, the eldest daughter-in-law of the Han family.
Her affair with artist Suzy Choi (Kim Jung Hwa) was poignant and staidly depicted with a strong sense of suppressed longing, which gave it a twist of flavour similar to the puppy-love of one's first, yet discreet relationship. Although her sexuality is eventually discovered by other family members and used against her as blackmail, no negative consequence ever comes of it.
Even when her husband Han Jin Ho (Park Hyuk Kwon) discovered her pretence, he was remarkably understanding and even expressed conciliation as to why their relationship has been cold and unloving for so many years, in spite of their arranged marriage.
If anything, hers is the happiest ending of the entire demanding, tantrum-throwing, power-grabbing and vomit-inducing lot that is the Han family.
Perhaps that is an overstatement. Along the course of the series, one gets almost too fond and intimately acquainted with each and every character, all of whom received a steady treatment of character development by director Lee Na Jeong.
It's really hard not to feel for any of the characters, particularly the household staff who are treated quite horrendously by the family, and when they steal or cheat and try to extort money from the family, it inspires a silent sense of smugness from viewers, who know that one lost blue Lazare diamond won't really be missed by this undeservingly rich aristocratic family.
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