It’s not every day that we get to watch a K-drama so convoluted yet so addicting at the same time. Private Lives did its best in terms of storytelling and acting, but the drama seemed to have failed in sustaining the interest of its audience until the end. Harsh, yes. But where is the lie? On a personal note, I enjoyed watching the drama mainly because of its four leads, not the story itself. I labored through it for the sake of closure, but even the ending was lackluster. The web of events that was hyped up by the non-linear narrative did not deliver a satisfying end.
Before we delve into the bad, let’s discuss the good first. The world we live in isn’t ours anymore. Private Lives captured scaringly how the world now revolves under the control of the few powerful people. Governments and private entities invest trillions for data gathering, and it’s not really a revelation anymore that all our actions are calculated (heck, even predicted) by technology. In the drama, the power of surveillance was handled impressively by GK Technology Group, a tech company that employs a secret Vision Room, where all our private data are not really private. They have access to everything, and this power enables them to make or break a person.
This is a drama about con artists and how they navigate through private information in the gameplay called “Kingmaker.” The introduction of the four main leads: Cha Joo-eun (Seohyun), Lee Jung-hwan (Go Kyung-pyo), Jeong Bok-gi (Kim Hyo-jin), and Kim Jae-wook (Kim Young-min) was the best part of the series. I enjoyed watching Joo-eun’s journey from being the veteran swindler to being duped herself. If other dramas used “love” as a weakness of its lead characters, Private Lives took advantage of Joo-eun’s sincere feelings for her husband Jung-hwan. Despite revelations about Jung-hwan’s ties in the evil scheme of the Vision Room, she was able to use her skills in going up against GK. Of course, I can’t just praise Joo-eun without mentioning her ever-reliable mentor and savior, Hanson (Tae Won-seok). If the Joo-eun and Jung-hwan duo is already a power couple, the Hanson samchon and Joo-eun tandem is an unbeatable feat.
I’ll try to summarize the drama into four parts: Low-tier swindlers aka Joo-eun’s parents were duped by mid-tier con artists Jae-wook and Bok-gi. While avenging her father’s misfortunes, she met her match, GK shadow agent Jung-hwan, and they fall in love. Meanwhile, in a bid to elect their chosen presidential candidate, Jae-wook, together with the Vision Room, created a massive scheme that eventually forced Jung-hwan to fake his own death for survival. Upon learning that her husband is alive and well, Joo-eun, now teaming up with Bok-gi, helped Jung-hwan in uncovering the evils of GK.
Private Lives really tried to tie things up neatly. But the story went all over the place as it progressed. All the fake deaths, new identities, and predictable plot twists only worked in the first half of the drama. The magic was lost by the second half at the start of the Kingmaker plot development. Jae-wook became annoying, instead of amusing. Bok-gi never really had her character development until the last few episodes. It’s as if we’re just watching a series of flashbacks molded into a pretentious love story between two dead fraudsters with resurrected identities.
The drama was not a love story, I get it now. It’s about the fight of a couple against the sinister government and its mighty allies in the private sector. Though the drama opened its tale by introducing the main leads’ love affair, their screentime together was very limited.
Now for the dreaded ending, it was so much of a disappointment to see Jae-wook not getting his much-needed revenge after all that effort. His evilness was caused by grief, and to see his downfall just like that, was anti-climactic, to say the least. But then again, as I reflected on Jae-wook’s fate, it just meant that choosing revenge would never guarantee your enemy’s defeat. Hmmm, but the twist in his character’s final appearance was another WTF moment I don’t want to elaborate anymore.
Another annoying part of the final episode was the wedding. We never really got a proper wedding scene for Joo-eun and Jung-hwan and we don’t deserve that! Even the OTP didn’t deserve that treatment! And what the hell was that cliffhanger in the end? LOL. It felt like the show was trying hard to tease us into another season, which was, of course, a bad idea.
Overall, the drama was still a fun watch because of the many layers in the story. If not for those hiccups in the end, I’d still recommend it for someone who wants to watch a spy thriller. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like looking for easter eggs and context clues, Private Lives could be the drama for you.
🏍️ I want to see Go Kyung-pyo and Seohyun in a romantic comedy. Their chemistry was outstanding!
🏍️ Just look at those visuals, MOM and DAD.
🏍️ I rest my case.
🏍️ Joo-eun’s hilarious family business was what glued me to this show. I could watch them dupe clueless citizens all day!
🏍️ Detective Kim Myung-hyun’s (Lee Hak-joo) discreet crush on Joo-eun was also cute.
🏍️ As a fellow ONCE, this is easily my favorite scene in the drama. 🤣