Hyde, Jekyll And I

하이드, 지킬, 그리고 나
SBS (2015) 20 Episodes
Melodrama, Crime / Mystery, Romance

Grade: A-
Korean Drama Review by Alison, USA

Having been on hiatus from K-dramas for many months, I finally decided it was high time to indulge myself again. The drama I chose to watch was 2015's Hyde, Jekyll and I aka Hyde, Jekyll and Me, starring Hyun Bin and Han Ji Min. I'd been intrigued by the concept of this story ever since reading Jill's comprehensive review -- it dealt with a rather rare form of mental illness, and I always enjoy the exploration of human psychology. Plus I am a huge fan of Hyun Bin - is anyone NOT a fan of his? - ever since I saw The Snow Queen years ago and bawled my eyes out.

This tall, handsome actor projects such intelligence and decency, and has the most engaging smile. He puts both his gravity and his charm to excellent use in playing a man struggling with Dual Identity Disorder (DID) - a condition I'd seen portrayed in American movies like The Three Faces of Eve and Sibyl. But neither of those films speculated on what it would be like to fall in love with someone whose personality has been splintered into distinct and separate selves. In fact, the last time I watched anything remotely like that was the American soap opera One Live to Life. I had gotten hooked on that when I was a teenager because it featured a story line about a young woman who had two personalities - one prim and proper, and one wild, and wouldn't you know it? There were two male best friends, and each of them was in love with one of the personalities.


So with great anticipation, I settled down with a cup of cocoa (a Christmas present from Jill), my dog and three cats to watch. As always, the K-drama didn't disappoint and drew me in.

Interestingly, it used a clip from a Richard Gere film - Primal Fear - to first introduce the concept of DID. In that movie, the character with two personalities - one a shy, awkward boy and the other a cold-blooded killer - was revealed to be faking his alter ego (guess which one was real). But the protagonist of Hyde, Jekyll and I is genuinely afflicted. And unlike the classic Jekyll Hyde tale, this is not a case of one personality being good while the other was pure evil. Both men are flawed, incomplete, and vulnerable in their own way. Seo Jin suffered a traumatic event in his childhood which left him fearful and disconnected from his emotions. His solution was to draw from far within himself to create another personality - Robin (shades of Batman and Robin!)  -- who can relate to others in a way he cannot, who is in fact ideally programmed to be a savior of others, a hero who can be loved.

Seo Jin Vs. Robin
Who Will Prevail?

The Story: When we first meet Seo Jin (Hyun Bin), his alternate personality Robin has been dormant for five years, and he's left behind some friends who have been missing him terribly, including a young girl with a big crush (Lee Hye Ri, cute as a button and just verging on being annoying). Robin comes alive when triggered by the appearance of a beautiful woman with a past history to both Seo Jin and Robin (in Korean drama, hero and heroine usually meet as children and Hyde, Jekyll and I is no exception). Jang Ha Na is a circus performer and manager, and she's portrayed by the exquisite actress Han Ji Min, whose big limpid eyes and quiet dignity ground the more outlandish elements of this drama. Ha Na bursts onto the scene by helping to tame a large (and to my mind laughably fake looking) gorilla which has somehow escaped from the zoo and is terrorizing people just like King Kong. While Seo Jin is frozen with fear, he sees this young woman call out to the gorilla and engage it in play (apparently they are old friends and like the original King Kong, this one likes pretty females).

Ha Na with Seo Jin

Ha Na has just returned from the US - visiting Las Vegas as so many K-drama characters do - and is set to resume her management of the circus which has a contract with Seo Jin's Wonderland, some kind of amusement park subsidiary of a larger corporation run by Seo Jin's father (Lee Deok Hwa, a character actor who specializes in playing dominating fathers). I could never really figure out what the company was selling or why it had an amusement park with a circus, but what does it matter? Seo Jin is an uptight corporate type with wire rim glasses and Robin is a free spirit with artistic talent. Seo Jin has no interest in Ha Na (or anyone else for that matter) but her presence draws Robin out of hiding and into her life and heart and this sets the stage for a highly unusual romance.

Ha Na with Robin

For a detailed synopsis and analysis of the plot, please read Jill's review. I won't rehash the story line here, but wanted to provide a few additional impressions of this drama, which for me, despite some reservations, is a must-see. Fittingly, as I watched the drama unfold, I experienced a little of Seo Jin's dual personality - part of me loved it, and part of me became frustrated. On the plus side, Hyde, Jekyll and I showcases a pitch perfect performance by Hyun Bin, who conveys two distinct individuals with little more than a change in hair style, expression, and the way he carries himself.  He is terrific - and lovable - in both roles, quite a feat because initially Seo Jin is anything but lovable.  He's the kind of guy who pushes women who are begging for help away from him so he can save himself (that behavior will be explored later in the drama, it is the key to his fractured self).  Meanwhile Robin comes to the rescue - more than once - with all the appeal of Clark Kent / Superman rolled into one (was that another case of DID?).

Hyun Bin's leading lady Han Ji Min as Jang Ha Na is also excellent- she is spirited, warm, and compassionate and fun loving and it's easy to see why even a cold fish like Seo Jin isn't immune to her. The supporting cast is also fine, and I especially liked the actor who played the loyal advisor to both Seo Jin and Robin, named Young Chan Kwon (delightful actor Seung Joon Lee of Descendants Of The Sun and Nine: Nine Time Travels). I thought that the depiction of a man struggling with this particular mental illness was credibly handled, and in a way that makes you wonder what in the world you would do if you fell in love with someone with such a condition. I found myself forgetting that Seo Jin and Robin were really inhabiting the same body, they were truly so different. Ha Na has the same experience, and she loves only one of them, even while wanting the other to be able to live a full life cured of his illness. The story of Seo Jin and Robin's evolution is very touching - as always with K-dramas I found my eyes filling with tears many times. And I could barely drag myself away from it especially in the first half. The dog and cats eventually went to sleep but I stayed up late into the night watching episode after episode.

Now for the down side. I did think that the drama dragged a bit, with repetitious scenes - Robin nearly being exposed, Seo Jin having to impersonate Robin, Robin having to impersonate Seo Jin, the two personalities confronting each other by leaving videos for the other to view. The chief villain is revealed long before the drama concludes and for the life of me I could not really figure out what his agenda was as he keeps taunting Seo Jin and manages to kidnap the same person not once but twice while the police sit around with their thumbs up their behinds. Somehow the plot line is not as taut as it could be, and the drama features a roster of classic K-drama cliches - childhood meeting, man carrying woman on piggyback, offering her his umbrella, walks in the snow, kissing with eyes open, hugging from the back, etc. I had to laugh sometimes at the hesitating way the characters often spoke.  You - big pause. Why are you here? - big pause. Don't know.

And really, don't the Koreans ever want to get busy with anyone?  Even on a wedding night, a couple is just cuddling. You would think they MIGHT want to make love, but no, they want to watch videos. 

"I'm Falling!"

All these minor quibbles aside, the final episodes are terribly romantic, terribly sad, and terribly human. When the series ended I felt I really knew these characters and had experienced their triumphs and heartbreak. It was ultimately quite an emotional roller coaster. Seo Jin's journey to self-discovery is a profound experience for him and for the viewer. I give Hyde, Jekyll and I an A - and highly recommend it if you're looking for something romantic and thought provoking, and to see one of Korea's best actors, Hyun Bin, giving another unforgettable performance.