Netflix released the second half of their latest revenge K-drama “The Glory” on March 10. The series is written by Kim Eun-sook, the mastermind behind other K-drama staples such as “Descendants of the Sun” and “Goblin.”
“The Glory” was the most watched show on Netflix from the week of March 6-12, racking up 124.46 million hours of watch time. This made the series the ninth most watched non-English Netflix Original. Despite the typical runtime of K-dramas of around 16 hours, the episodes in “The Glory” seamlessly transition into one another, making it feel like a much shorter watch.
The premise of the drama follows Moon Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo) who left her dreams of being an architect behind when she had to drop out of high school to escape bullying. Bullying is a kind term for the pain she had to endure; her assailants mocked, beat and burned her body with a hot curling iron. Now in the present — her skin entrenched with red marks to serve as reminders of her grueling past — Dong-eun has one thing on her mind: revenge. She does not seek to kill her perpetrators; death would be a sweeter release than what she has meticulously planned ever since she left high school. She sets out to punish her enemies by destroying them from the inside and turning them against each other. In particular, she has her sights set on annihilating Park Yeon-jin (Lim Ji-yeon), the main instigator of the cruelties Dong-eun had to endure.
As is the case with any revenge story, the main character is outwardly devoted to her cause, but Dong-eun is not visibly vengeful. She does not tearfully glare at the camera in a fit of rage and vow to bring justice to those who wronged her. Either due to her nature or past experiences, Dong-eun is always stoic; no matter the circumstance, her face remains calm and her composure completely still. However, when figures of her past emerge, like the mother who abandoned her, Dong-eun’s calm demeanor starts to crack. In one emotional scene, she demands to know how her mother could discard her own daughter while her apartment is engulfed into flames. Moments like this help ground Dong-eun to the person the show introduced her as, a simple schoolgirl who lived in a world that wronged her. Years may have passed but she is not the complete apathetic person she appears to be. Her scars have healed and no longer bother her, but her past still appears to sting.
Compared to part one, we see more of this expressive side of her in the second half — a passionate, vengeful and even loving Dong-eun who places her entire future at risk to make up for her past. Her shift is also reflected in the way she dresses and presents herself. Once always dressed like the Grim Reaper in her black coat, she ditches the dark colors for beiges and grays. Other parts of her personality shine through with Joo Yeo-jeong (Lee Do-hyun), her love interest. After hearing the truth about her past, he unconditionally devotes himself to her cause, nicknaming himself her “headsman.” Dong-eun’s uninterest in developing close relationships with others and Yeo-jeong’s utmost dedication to her makes the progression of their dynamic an engaging one.
Similar to a game of Go, a large motif of the drama, Dong-eun starts to enclose in on her enemies, plucking them off one by one. Each of them is given a divine punishment at the hand of Dong-eun. At every point of their downfall she stands in the background like a harbinger of chaos. Even after her meticulous efforts bear the sweet fruit of revenge, the ringleader remains.
Both as a plot point and a means for development in the main character, Yeon-jin played an integral role in the drama. After graduating high school, her life is largely picture perfect. She works as a famous weathercaster and is married to a wealthy CEO; she has a beautiful home and an expensive wardrobe to accompany it. In simple terms, she has the most to lose. Yeon-jin is the final chess piece on the board; she is incredibly intuitive and much harder to outsmart than the rest of the group. Dong-eun warns Yeon-jin that she plans to strip her life of all its valuable things — her family, her career, her reputation, her wealth — until she is left all alone in the confinements of her own misery.
Each of the actors do an incredible job of portraying their respective characters; their behavior behind the scenes is completely paradoxical to their interactions on screen. In particular, the portrayal of the impenitent Yeon-jin by Lim and Shin Ye-eun, the older and younger versions of her respectively, are deserving of praise — especially because of the psychological impact the latter had to endure when taking on such an evil character. Perhaps the most astonishing part of the drama is that its uncensored portrayal of bullying is not too far detached from real life occurrences. The show’s dedication to showing the extremities of school violence make it a gruesome watch in some scenes, but it highlights a problem that has not been adequately addressed in society.
The drama’s ending is arguably satisfying, but it leaves the door open for a possible continuation. Once a girl with big ambitions, Dong-eun transforms herself into a living nightmare. As she continues on with her plans, her future after her revenge concludes is unknown. After all, if you set everything on fire, what is left when the flames die down?
Kamilla Jafarova is an Entertainment Staff Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.