[Mostly Spoiler-Free Drama Review] 'Shopping King Louie'
I highly recommend you watch this drama. It's been so long since I watched a series that I actually enjoyed throughout, so I was immensely happy to find this little gem.
Yeah I was pretty hungry for a decent drama, too...
I have to admit that the drama had a very slow start, which was reflected in the viewer ratings. The biggest problem I had with it was the pacing, as not much happened in every episode, but this became one of the positive highlights of the drama. I got used to the pacing a few episodes in and realized how it helped you to fall in love with the story, the romance, the characters, and all of the relationships.
The drama doesn't use exciting storylines to propel itself forward. Actually, the main story is pretty cliche with the male lead losing his memory, the male lead being a chaebol, and there being a struggle to take over the company. But the way the story was told was incredibly refreshing, and the laidback, consistent pacing helped. Even though everything progressed slowly, there was enough intrigue and cliffhanger endings to keep you hooked. The plot twists were not a surprise, but they were still well done.
The drama is purely one that focuses on family, romance, and human relationships, which makes it an incredibly beautiful tale. The drama starts off with the lonely leads who find each other, and then their family continues to grow and grow until near the finale, you feel like a part of this huge, bustling family that would spend crazy holidays together. Each character was, well, a character. They were so well-developed and unique and well portrayed by the actors. Casting was perfect.
The chemistry between not only the two leads, played by Nam Ji Hyun and Seo In Guk, but also the whole cast, even antagonists, was absolutely incredible. You could tell from the drama that the actors all got along incredibly well on set and really enjoyed one another's company. You couldn't even hate the antagonists, and even though the story has a makjang element to it with hidden conspiracies and all, the drama almost seems to be making fun of and parodying the genre by adding in a lot of unexpected humor. For example, the biggest antagonist's evil intentions was offset hilariously by his kindhearted and somewhat ditzy wife who acted as his foil. His daughter has on a fake mask, but nothing goes her way and no man she likes is interested in her, so you can't even hate her! Lim Se Mi, who plays the character, ends up strangely endearing. A drama with a cast and crew that are like family ends up being one of the best.
Moving on from the whole cast's chemistry, Nam Ji Hyun and Seo In Guk have amazing talent for great on-screen chemistry. The actress won 'Best Couple' award for 'What's With This Family?' with Hyungsik last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if she won it again this year with Seo In Guk. The two portray one of the best and most realistic relationships I've ever seen in a K-Drama - something that is healthy with both sides relying on and respecting each other and loving without inhibition. There's a sweet, genuine tenderness to their lovey dovey moments that reached the perfect balance. Nothing is cringeworthy, and everything is pure relationship goals.
The two are really good at acting out their characters, too - especially their crying scenes were absolute tearjerkers that had you feeling their pain acutely - but I really have to give full props to Seo In Guk. I was not a big fan of him before the drama. I was purely apathetic, actually, but he impressed me to no end in the drama by fully adopting the character with dedication - he truly became Louie (or Louis). Everything was perfected in his mannerisms - from the constant blinking of the eyes and puppy pout to the way of speaking and common phrases like the way he says he's very sorry and exclaims, "What?!" You can tell he put a lot of thought and effort into turning his character into a 3D one, into completely immersing himself.
Puppy eyes on point, son!
In contrast, I did have a problem with Yoon Sang Hyun's acting. It was unique and comical, but it seemed corny at times. I liked his growls and gruff mannerisms, but I also questioned the importance of his character, who basically seems like a guardian watching over Nam Ji Hyun than an actual romantic contender. The love triangle was promising in the beginning of the series, but quickly dwindled out, making his importance and weight in the drama questionable. He even resorts to calling himself "Daddy long legs" later on, and that's really all he becomes - but I still love his addition to the family-like atmosphere because his parents are hilarious and his relationship to his dad is adorable. And the ahjummas' relationships are also adorable.
Although I question his character's importance, everybody plays a notable role in the show - no one is left out, truly adding to that family-like quality of the drama. Even the curly-haired man from the office is utilized effectively as he always surmises things that are spot on but his co-workers scoff at his theories. The handsome detective, whom probably everyone fell in love with throughout the drama, seemed trivial at first but quickly grew to a favorite. Even the three bullying high school girls were not forgotten with their recurring roles.
Another thing I have to applaud - and I mean with a standing ovation - is the OST. To be frank, I'm not that keen on the instrumentals. They seemed a bit corny, too simple, and ineffective, but they grew on me, as well, and the ambience wouldn't be the same without them. But the OSTs with actual singing were incredible. Umji's soothing "The Way"; Juniel's poignant "The Time"; the OSTs everyone was waiting for, MONSTA X's "Tiger Moth" both rock and acoustic versions… They kept adding new music in, like the duet later on, and everything worked so well to add onto that sentimentality the drama portrayed with perfection.
Lastly, the writing was superb. You could watch it comfortably, and even though the drama was not 100% pre-recorded, the script gives off the feeling of being written fully in advance and with leisure because everything ties in super neatly. A lot of pre-planning went into the drama, so there was no rush and loose ends, and considering how most k-dramas are terrible at this, I found it very admirable. The ending, especially, will leave you in awe, touched by a surprise move on the writer's part. We could fully invest our trust into the production crew to sit back and enjoy the ride. They asked nothing of us accept to watch their take on life and relationships and fate. The editing was a bit confusing as each episode kept starting way before the ending of the previous episode, but it was a quirky charm, as well. It only inconvenienced me because I kept going, "Did I miss something?" and went back to the previous episode to double check, then gave up and continued watching to go, "Ohhhh." Overall, the editing was not problematic. Everything was balanced - there were moments that'd make you laugh, make you smile, make you sad, and touched you to tears.
Me after watching the ending:
Nooo please come baaack (wait, there are rumors of a second season?!)*
There's really no way about it - I absolutely adored the drama, the character, and story. It's left a huge hole in my heart and time and I don't know what will fill it up again. Sometimes the long wait is worth it when a gem like this comes your way. It's one of those dramas that leave you feeling bittersweet because you felt like you were such a big part of the family, but you have to say farewell. This is, hands down, the best drama I've watched in 2016 - in many years - and I highly recommend it! It's a slow start (which sadly kicks down the pacing score) but stick it through and you'll see why the viewer ratings made a huge climb!
*If they do do a second season, that'd help with some of the open endings (Spoiler Alert: Ma Ri x In Sung, Yoon Sang Hyun x Wang Mong Shil I think was her name, rooftop ahjumma x bouquet prediction). For those who watched this series, would you like a second season?