Reflection of You | Series Review

Unlike other K-dramas where we watch a character climb from rock bottom to the top, Reflection of You offers the reverse. Everyone here is self-destructive and the real antagonist in their stories are themselves.

With the series starting in medias res, it wasn’t at all surprising that it piqued my curiosity right from the very beginning. The main protagonist Jeong Hui-ju (Ko Hyun-jung), who seems to be living a perfect life, ended up killing someone. The who, how, and why of this supposed murder remained a mystery up until its last episode – a move I didn’t really anticipate. Because after watching its pilot episode, I thought Reflection of You will have quick-paced storytelling suited for such stories. But the series didn’t go instantly on full throttle. It waited. It even felt a bit draggy in the middle and some parts in the first and second act felt a bit frustrating. But the pace started to pick up around episode 11 when the all characters started to reveal their real colors. 

Jeong Hui-ju’s color is red – an attention-grabbing color suited for someone with a burning desire to be seen. She didn’t exactly want attention from everyone but she wanted the people that matters to her to recognize her. And choosing to live a stable and almost-perfect life, didn’t give her that. The family of her husband, An Hyeon-seong (Choi Won-young), treated her as if she’s an outsider or a servant. She didn’t even have a say with how she would raise her children without her mother-in-law interfering. Then came into her life, the bright art student Hannah who taught her how she would express herself through painting and art. She was just a lonely woman seeking passion but it burned her in the end. Much thanks to her very questionable life decisions. But this was expected as everyone in this series has negative character arcs that ultimately led to their destruction. 

Hui-ju’s destruction was really a frustrating process (and this time I meant this as a compliment). She wanted a stable life with her family but she also chases her desires. Gu Hae-won (Shin Hyun-been) was on point when she pointed out that Hui-ju is greedy to the point that she destroyed everyone around her. She fully knew that the affair she started with Seo Woo-jae (Kim Jae-young) was one big mistake in her life but she never really admitted she wronged and ruined someone because of this “little misstep.” And it wasn’t just that for Hae-won. While Hui-ju and Woo-jae enjoyed their time in Ireland, the once optimistic talented student was ruined to the core. 

Out of all the characters in this series, Hae-won was the only one who showed her real intention from the start – make Hui-ju feel the pain she felt when she took away everything from her. I was on board on her revenge plan and was actually enjoying how she played Hui-ju in the first few episodes of the series. But I suddenly felt her plans sort of changed when Woo-jae woke up from his coma. I think Hae-won thought she could somehow still change this man-trash but of course, she couldn’t. Hae-won was destroyed by everyone around her but she dug her own grave when she kept on obsessing over a cheater. And I know, Woo-jae was her everything but Hui-ju also has a point when she told Hae-won that she chose to stay living in a mess. I do agree that Hae-won did ruin her life by living in the past BUT I do understand why. The world doesn’t even acknowledge Hae-won’s pain so how can she move on from it. My favorite scene for Hae-won was when she poured water over Woo-jae. After that, she perfectly expressed how it felt to get deceived by the people you trusted the most. It wasn’t really about them having feelings for each other. It was them cowardly hiding it to her, lying to her, and ruining her ability to trust people. And both Hui-ju and Woo-jae didn’t acknowledge that until the end. 

The only person that sees Hae-won as a true victim of these cruel people was Jeong Seon-u (Shin Dong-wook). He was the only person who understood what kind of pain Hae-won lives in (physically or emotionally). I was kind of annoyed at him when he sided with his sister at one point but that was kind of a given. But he also compensated for that when he straightforwardly told Hui-ju that she need to apologize to Hae-won because she wronged her and not for any other reason. 

Seon-u was so unlike Woo-jae who is a walking embarrassment to the already tarnished image of men. He is just as shameless as Hui-ju when it comes to their affair. Actually, he was worse than Hui-ju. Woo-jae used Hui-ju in her most vulnerable state be it in the past or in the present. He lured her into his trap and claim it as love. I sometimes feel piteous towards Hui-ju but not with Woo-jae. That’s most probably because I don’t understand where this character was coming from. He was just plain reckless and coward.

He’s the opposite of Hyeon-song, who was also a victim of Hui-ju and Woo-jae’s irresponsible decisions. Hyeon-song was very calculative but to be honest, he’s also kinda obsessed with Hui-ju but he’s more similar to Hae-won in that aspect than to Woo-jae. Both of them gave their everything to the wrong person. Hyeon-song chose to be in the mud with everyone else when he could easily escape given his status.

In the end, everyone paid for every wrongful decision they made. The middle part of the series was a bit messy and slow but the subsequent denouement for each character was worth the wait. It went full circle with Hui-ju living an obscure life without her family and wealth. Woo-jae died which was an ending he deserve since his desire was already taking over his ability to think rationally. Hyeon-song got away with the almost-homicide he did in Ireland but in the end, he still suffered because of Hui-ju’s disappearance. Hae-won got stabbed by the person she used for her revenge just when she was about to give happiness a chance but at least – even though we didn’t see it on screen – she got another chance in her ruined dreams. Even the children, Lisa and Ju-yeong, did have a good ending. I feel sad for these two. They had to suffer because adults around them don’t act like one.

Overall, I think the series wrapped up everything well. Although, I was actually expecting more of a psychological battle between Hui-ju and Hae-won because that’s what should have happened if we based it on its original material. But the series do away with it to cater to its target audience – those who love intense dramatic scenes. And the series was really good at that. It turned out good because of the combination of well-written dialogues and moving portrayals of all the actors involved.

Ko Hyun-jung was so good at changing her expression from obedient Hui-ju to the anxious self-destructive Hui-ju. She could do that with the blink of an eye. Her lifeless smile in front of her family still gives me goosebumps. And I’m really glad she and Shin Hyun-been really shined in this series. The praises they’ve got here are really well-deserved. Hyun-been, for her part, didn’t hold back when she was acting alongside veterans like Ko Hyun-jung and Choi Won-young. But the scenes where she shined the most was every time Hae-won contemplated on her pain. Her eyes could tell you a story even without uttering a single word. And I like that the director knows that and used a lot of tight shots for Hae-won. If the story favors or leans more to Hyun-jung, the directing favors Hae-won. That kind of balances things out for me.

Reflection of You had a vague storyline when it started but slowly it turned out to be a story focusing on human’s most destructive trait – obsession. The series would take you to the darkest form of that state and how everyone has a different meaning for forgiveness and peace. Even if the story isn’t what you prefer, no one can deny how beautifully written the emotional dialogues are, how detailed the acting is, and how impactful the cinematography is of this series. 

Afterthoughts:

-Kim Jae-young, let’s meet in a drama where I’ll root for you okay?

-I almost spurted out the tea I was drinking when Woo-jae referenced Wuthering Heights. Like how dare he compare his obsession to a Bronte classic?! But I kinda see the semblance of their stories – obsessive and destructive.

-In this kind of story, my biggest takeaway would always be: MEN ARE TRASH. Half-kidding. My biggest takeaway from ROY is ‘what goes around, comes around.’ 

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