International Dramas: The Bride of Habaek

Screenshot of Nam Joohyuk in ‘The Bride of Habaek’. Copyright goes to Studio Dragon, tvN, and Netflix.

Hi! It’s Annie!

As I do when I watch K-Dramas, I barely ever just stop with one. So, yes, I did also just finish ‘The Bride of Habaek’ which actually has been on my radar for quite a while. I really couldn’t figure out if I should just watch it or skip over it because this series has such mixed reviews. And I mean, really mixed reviews. It seems like this is one of those dramas where people absolutely love it or they hate it. And the people who say that they hate it really seem to hate it. I’ve heard this drama be called everything from a waste of time to one of the worst K-Dramas you could possibly ever watch. And my opinion of this show is (as my opinions usually are of widely debated shows) somewhere in the middle of loving it and hating it. There were things I loved about this show and things that I didn’t like so much about this show. But over-all I would say that this show kept me entertained. And I certainly do have a lot of thoughts about it. So let’s get into it! As always- MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!! And I will be talking about possibly triggering things that were featured in the drama. Netflix was really good about listing triggers for each episode just in case. But this is your POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING!!

Synopsis:

‘The Bride of Habaek’ follows Soah, a psychiatrist who struggles with her business and with past trauma. Soah does not know that ancestors in her family pledged all the generations of her family to servitude for the gods. Habaek is the water god who must ascend the throne and to do so has to find several sacred stones that are down on earth with the god of sky, goddess of water, and god of land. In the process he finds Soah and enlists her to help him on his quest.

Fit For Gods:

CEO Shin/Hooye- One of my two favorite characters in the entire thing and the second lead. Yes, once again, I’m suffering from second lead syndrome. But I didn’t experience second lead syndrome in this drama in the way that I usually do. Normally, for me second lead syndrome means I personally would choose the second lead but I can see why that wasn’t in the cards for the main character and why the writing didn’t steer in that direction. That was not the case here at all. I wanted Soah to end up with Hooye. Much of it was because of Habaek, who I will get back to later, but much of it was because of Hooye and the chemistry between the two characters. Hooye is the quintessential complicated character of the show if that’s what you’re looking for. He’s a good guy but he’s more of an anti-hero. Hooye first appears to be a regular CEO, albeit a very kind one. He has dedicated his life and his company to the service of the poor and struggling purely because of his kind heart and compassion. As the series goes on you find out that he’s a demi-god and the only godly wielder of fire. He is seen by most of the gods as a disgrace and his powers are often uncontrollable and deadly. There are several times where he is made angry by the other gods in this show, sometimes for understandable reasons and sometimes because of stupid things, and he almost lashes out or actually does accidentally lash out. And this poor man is always horrified by his actions. Including this absolutely heartbreaking scene where he wanders into the middle of nowhere so that he can curl up in a ball and cry. My heart broke for him so many times throughout the series. But one of the best parts of him is that even knowing that he’s a god does not change the way he acts. In fact he tells Soah that she’s like a god to him because he comes to view godly actions as good you do for other people. He’s a huge sweetheart. And I could go on and on about him. But seeing this character grapple with his own humanity and his godly powers is one of the best and most interesting parts of the entire series.

Biryeom- The god of the sky. He was interesting to me in a completely different way. There were times where the show made you absolutely hate him or view him as immature because of certain actions he took. Most of the time it was because of how willing he is to kill Hooye and for mocking him by calling him “halfie” for much of the show. But the show always brings you back around to his side. You don’t realize until later that Hooye accidentally killed one of Biryeom’s closest friends. Biryeom is another character that feels like more of an anti-hero. But he’s the mischievous god. And what usually comes with that territory is being the most unpredictable character in the show. I never knew if he was going to threaten someone’s life, make a funny sarcastic comment with a huge heartwarming smile on his face, or suddenly be super kind to Soah and try to defend her. This was yet another character where I felt his writing was brilliant. He had all the carefree nature you would expect from the god of sky, but he was also incredibly grounded. Sometimes he had the wisest advice of everyone and sometimes he wouldn’t seem to care about wisdom at all. I just loved him so much.

The Sub-Plot Romance- This is between Biryeom and Moora and it is adorable. Firstly, Biryeom is always extremely respectful of Moora and some of their most lighthearted scenes for the characters individually happened together. You could really see Biryeom chip back at the resolve that Moora had stuck in place until she was the one pursuing him. Which was so nice to see. The build up of their romance had to be one of the most well done of any sub-plot romance I’ve seen in a K-Drama. When they finally got together it really felt like the culmination of what the series had been working to. It felt so earned. Unlike the main couple. They also unfailingly treated each other as equals and with an incredible amount of respect, even when they were insulting each other. Also unlike the main couple. This was the romance in this show that I liked most. They were so cute!

The Godly Realm- I absolutely loved all of the shots in the godly realm. The godly realm was done much more practically than I thought. While some things were not real, a lot of the set pieces were. Which made everything feel that much more elegant and regal. I also loved the hair and costume design for each of the gods when they were in that realm. It felt both historical and mythical at the same time. For the designs they also seemed to mix several myths and it’s because of that it felt like a lot of thought had gone into the design of that world. I loved every moment it was on screen.

The Action- It’s weird to mention, but all of the action felt earned, well-placed, and kept the show entertaining. There wasn’t a lot of it specifically, but I liked when it was used and I thought it added an extra interest to the story.

Neutral:

Soah- I don’t usually have a neutral section, but there were seriously characters here that I either had too many thoughts about either way or no thoughts about at all. Soah was one of those ones where I barely had any thoughts about her. I suppose in a way I liked her. I didn’t hate her when she was on screen and I love Shin Sekyung as an actress. But I didn’t feel like this character demonstrated enough wit and intelligence for her. Because she’s extremely good at being witty and this character felt like it was written more like a blank slate. I think it was because she was the one playing this character that I didn’t feel like she was completely bad. But her lack of complete story arcs and her willingness to just do whatever Habaek told her no matter how mad she was at him, was not my cup of tea.

Moora- I had a lot of feelings about her. I couldn’t decide whether I really loved how she was written and how powerful she was or if her loyalties seemed too weirdly divided for me to like her. We know Moora isn’t the nicest person from the very beginning. She’s determined to marry Habaek and she throws small fits when she doesn’t get her way. But what made me like her is that when it came to the prospect of harming a human, she was often the most compassionate god present. And yes, that even includes when Habaek was present. The story at one point made me a huge fan, and then she started doing weird things about Habaek and Soah’s relationship that didn’t make any sense. At one point the show tried to wave off her interference as trying to make sure that Habaek didn’t die. But then she still showed disgust towards the couple even after that issue was resolved. I found it difficult to follow her train of thought through much of the show. And she’s not supposed to be a mischievous goddess so I can’t explain her actions that way. But I will say, I did probably like her more than Soah. She was consistently fun to watch even though she was also very confusing.

Psychology- The way psychology is treated in this show is really weird. It gives some really good advice. Such as saying that taking care of your mental health is the same as taking care of physical health. But then it shows most of the patients that Soah takes care of as being pretty insane. Seriously mixed signals here. And most of the time the plot forgets about the psychology thing altogether. Though this show does also mention the near death experience of Soah by her own hand and deals with that well and in a helpful way. Such as encouraging the characters to learn to cherish their lives. I just don’t know why it treats psychology as a whole so badly unless it’s dealing with very specific characters or situations.

Perishables:

Habaek- You probably already gathered from the rest of this post that I was gearing up to roast him. Which is exactly what I’m going to do now. Habaek feels like he should be an interesting and well written character. But he’s too dislikable for me to care. As a boyfriend, he’s absolutely atrocious. He constantly insults Soah, barks orders at her, or just flat out ignores her if he’s mad at her. The scene that insured my dislike of him occurred towards the end when everything in his and Soah’s relationship was already supposed to be repaired. Hooye comes to Soah’s house unannounced specifically to give her the information that he had very generously bought the building her business was in so that she could keep it running. Habaek tries to kick him out, while Soah invites him in for the breakfast she just made. Then, over breakfast and right in front of Soah, Habaek tries to dissuade Hooye from liking Soah by detailing all of what he perceives to be Soah’s faults. Then he leaves Soah to do the dishes by herself and barks at her to make tea for them, which she does. I was seething by the end of the scene. Was that supposed to be romantic? Because I think that might be one of the most toxic scenes of a relationship I’ve ever seen in a drama. It’s interesting because you have this contrast of Hooye telling Soah that she’s like a goddess to him while Habaek spends more of his time listing off her faults. I wonder who the better boyfriend would be? There’s a scene where Biryeom and Habaek are having a conversation about how Biryeom is now dating Moora. Biryeom tells Habaek that he listens to his girlfriend, which prompts Habaek to call him a pushover. I think that says enough about how Habaek acts in a relationship. Habaek is supposed to find the value of humanity on his quest in the human world but it seems like he only finds the value of having a girlfriend. He still treats most other humans like they’re beneath him. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t stand this character.

Objectification- I have to mention this, there is constant objectification of women in this drama. Part of this just comes from the objectification of humans by gods. But some of it happens in the dick measuring between Habaek and Hooye. You know, the typical, “I’m going to steal your girl!” “No you won’t!” conversation that occurs where both parties are making decisions for the woman in question without actually consulting her. The difference here is that Hooye doesn’t actually treat her like this whereas Habeak definitely does treat her like an object. But either way, it’s not fun to sit through.

Twins- Obviously I had to talk about this because it sucked. Biryeom’s friend that dies has a twin brother who he is seeking revenge for. Already an eye roll situation. But wait! They add in the twin brother saying that in the realm of gods one twin is always meant to die because they are only supposed to have one fate! Not only did they use the ‘one twin must die’ trope, but they also inferred that twins can’t have separate lives and basically said it was only natural if one of them died anyways. I couldn’t believe a show that was supposed to be about the importance of human life treated twins so horrifically. If it wasn’t such a small part of the show, I would have stopped watching then and there. I’m still angry thinking about it.

Sub-Plot Romance Two- There was another sub-plot romance between Hooye’s assistant and this one rich girl who did business with Hooye’s company. And every time they were on screen I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why they were there. None of them had anything to do with the main plot or any of the other characters. It felt so disconnected and jarring that every scene with them felt like a commercial before I could get back to the actual show. Seriously, what was that about?

Finale- Yet another K-Drama with a really bad finale! The drama picked up on this story about Soah’s father that we barely explored and made a lot of needless drama surround that. In the end it just felt like a useless way to try and ensure that Habaek learned his lesson. But, once again, it was about him taking care of his girlfriend rather than seeing the value of humanity. I could have been fine with this show ending one episode early. If you decide to watch this drama, I would highly recommend skipping the last episode. It barely wraps up any storylines and it feels pretty useless to the plot.

There you have it! Over-all I enjoyed watching it. The things that I loved about it I really did love! But this drama was also pretty problematic at times. I think in the end I would recommend this drama, with the caveat that there are dumb things about it too and you really have to be prepared for that. But I would watch it again for Hooye and Biryeom. It wouldn’t be my first choice for a rewatch, but maybe if I was in the mood I would. Not the best I’ve ever seen, but not the worst either!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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