[Warning: Too many spoilers and unnecessary bad words in this review but who cares, right?]
After a treacherous ride, we finally reach the end of Season 1! This series is so exhausting to watch honestly, but I just couldn’t drop it. Maybe it helped that I’m super tolerable when it comes to makjang dramas, and I even enjoy all the over-the-top scenes sometimes. It hella funny, yet it makes your blood boil.
The Main Characters of Hera Palace
The “war” started with Cheon Seo-jin (Kim So-yeon) and Oh Yoon-hee (Eugene) during their high school days at Cheong-ah Arts School. Oh Yoon-hee, despite coming from a humble family background, managed to outshine Cheon Seo-jin, whose father is the school head. Both of them were really good sopranos, but life shits on you when you’re blinded by greed. During the prestigious school competition which guaranteed the winner a sure spot at the Seoul National University of Music, Seo-jin was crowned the champion despite having a lackluster performance. Believing that she was the rightful winner, Oh Yoon-hee cornered Seo-jin and persuaded her to give up the trophy. This ended in a bloody encounter that had cost Yoon-hee her singing career. To make matters worse, Seo-jin also seduced Yoon-hee’s college boyfriend Ha Yoon-cheol (Yoon Jong-hoon) and the two ended up getting married.
Continuing the saga of these two mortal enemies, their children whose dreams reflected their parents’ past selves also got involved against each other. True to her lineage, Seo-jin’s daughter Ha Eun-byeol (Choi Ye-bin) also delivered a very disappointing performance during the screening for freshmen applicants of Cheong-ah Arts School. Meanwhile, after all the shenanigans of being raised by a poor single mother, Yoon-hee’s daughter Bae Ro-na (Kim Hyun-soo) was able to outperform all hopefuls during the audition only to get waitlisted in the end. Of course, Yoon-hee suspected that Seo-jin was behind the manipulation of scores. Desperate to make Ro-na enter Cheong-ah Arts School, Yoon-hee engaged in all sorts of schemes for her daughter. Little did they know, more complications just arose because of their own doing.
Moving to another part of this convoluted drama world, we also got to know Penthouse Queen Shim Su-ryeon (Lee Ji-ah) and her evil prick of a husband, Joo Dan-tae (Uhm Ki-joon). Dan-tae is a real estate magnate who involves himself in various under-the-table negotiations to gain more assets. His hobby is to rake in more money as much as he could and kills everyone that gets in the way. Also, he won’t be a complete asshole if he doesn’t have a mistress on his side. Cue in Cheon Seo-jin, the perfect, sophisticated woman who will fulfill all of Dan-tae’s sinful desires while being a manipulative scum at the same time. On a scale of one to Cheon Seo-jin, I think I’ve watched enough dramas to prepare me for this dangerous duo. Both of them are filthy rich, and they know their common enemy. It’s safe to say that Yoon-hee and Su-ryeon were just two innocent mothers who got well-played by one of K-drama’s most annoying villains this year.
Speaking of Su-ryeon, she was my one of my favorite characters but she was too good to be true! She’s old money and has a pure heart. We all know that could never exist in a drama like this, right? One way or another, she could get either killed or lose all her precious loved ones. I’m still hoping the drama would pull off a great plot twist in Season 2 about Su-ryeon’s fate but let’s believe, for now, that’s she’s not going to be with us anymore. Min Seol-ah’s (Jo Soo-min) tragic end should have been a warning for everyone who attempted to break the wheel. I know it has been revealed that Yoon-hee was the real killer but let’s not forget that everyone in Hera Palace was involved in one way or another. Yoon-hee may have pushed Seol-ah to her death but had it not been for Dan-tae and Seo-jin, Seol-ah wouldn’t be on the 45th floor.
What I liked about the series was how they tried to trick us and root for Yoon-hee as the main protagonist just because she’s the most practical choice. She’s poor and she’s striving to give Ro-na the best life. She knows how to pick sides and use her cards to her advantage (of course, this was not the case during the last few events of Season 1). I honestly didn’t believe that Yoon-hee could have been the culprit because of how our subconscious painted Dan-tae and Seo-jin as the main villains. Well, it’s true though that they’re still the wicked ones – the fact that Seol-ah was killed by the most unassuming suspect was both funny and annoying. They even made Yoon-hee as Su-ryeon’s BFF as if it’s not enough that the dead Seol-ah was revealed to be the madame’s long lost daughter.
“Adults are just outdated children.”
The ladies of Hera Palace are a fun bunch. They’re elites, yet low in class. 😂 I don’t know how I would describe them properly, so I’ll just say they’re all “new money” to me – except for the family living in the legit penthouse.
Kang Ma-ri’s (Shin Eun-kyung) double life had me cracking up nonstop. She’s the typical neighborhood gossiper who dedicates her life to be on the good side of the rich and famous. She and her daughter Yoo Jenny (Jin Ji-hee) have the most potential for character developments in the coming season.
Former announcer Go Sang-ah (Yoon Joo-hee) and her baby daddy Lee Kyu-jin (Bong Tae-kyu) seemed to be the type to stay on neutral ground for a long time. They will make good allies of the Dan-tae and Seo-jin tandem while occasionally betraying them for some instances.
Now, let’s talk about the children. I honestly taught Eun-byeol would have turned out opposite her mother. She was the only nice person towards Seol-ah, but I guess I’m not a good judge of character. I pity her for experiencing such a traumatic household. The out-of-this-world expectations from Seo-jin, the one-sided crush on Joo Seok-hoon (Kim Young-dae), and the pressure of witnessing Seol-ah’s torture were so bad she lost herself. But as a personal belief, mental illness could never justify problematic behavior. She chose to be mean and no one but her should be blamed for it.
From one mean little bitch to another, Seok-hoon’s twin sis Joo Seok-kyung (Han Ji-hyun) is another character who chose rudeness instead of healing. Yes, she has daddy issues. Both of them are being hit by their father. Seok-kyung isn’t good in academics, and many more imperfections. I don’t understand her sometimes. Did she genuinely loved Su-ryeon or did she just realize her worth when she was gone? Enlighten me because I wanted to empathize with Seok-kyung and I just can’t.
High anticipation build-up for Season 2
I wanted to like Logan (Park Eun-seok) mainly because he’s Seol-ah’s adoptive brother and he tried to help Su-ryeon get revenge for her daughter’s death. But as a character, he’s just easy to manipulate. The sexual tension between him and Su-ryeon was also hard to ignore and I couldn’t stand it. Now that he held an injured Yoon-hee captive (yes, she’s not dead I’m sure of it), maybe Logan would take on more significant appearances in Season 2. His moves were very predictable and chaotic. Let’s get him some character development, too, please?
Hmmm, I’ve read in some fan theories that Su-ryeon will return in Season 2, not as a flashback but as a real alive person who’s set to get revenge for the second time. Well, it’s a long shot but since Penthouse had this reputation of bringing the dead back to life (no, not as a zombie), I think it’s possible. I want to believe that it’s possible because Su-ryeon is such a refreshing character!
Lastly, I know it’s satisfying to learn that Eun-byeol was the one who blackmailed her mother about the death of the school chairman aka the family patriarch. But please, let’s have some more batshit crazy antics from Cheon Seo-jin in the new season? LOL. I’m still having fun seeing my main bitch succeed in her intense power play. May the next season have a good buildup for resentment and disgust so that the downfall would be highly satisfying.