The Gist: Poor but hardworking Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye) dreams of running off to America to escape her life of too many jobs and a mute mother (Kim Mi Kyung). The chance comes when her sister, studying abroad, announces her engagement and Eun Sang dumps all her money in a plane ticket to move to America. That dream is short lived when her sister’s ‘engagement’ turns out to be her mooching off a sketchy guy and disappearing with Eun Sang’s hard earned money. Stranded and alone in a foreign country, Eun Sang is saved by Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho), illegitimate heir to one of Korea’s biggest corporations living in America. Kim Tan falls for her fast despite having a contractual engagement to another one of Korea’s richest Yoo Rachel (Kim Ji Won), so far as to follow her back to Korea into a complicated and strenuous family environment. Luckily he’s not alone as Eun Sang’s mother has become a live-in maid in Kim Tan’s house, forcing Eun Sang under his roof. If the pressure from his family wasn’t enough, Kim Tan and Eun Sang’s relationship comes to a breaking point when they head off to Tan’s ritzy school, where Eun Sang has to pretend to be new money, lest she bring the wrath of Kim Tan’s old friend Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) who is determined to kick the charity cases out of their school.
Ok, normally I’d list a few of my favorite characters in the love category, but I just can’t pick a few for this show. They’re all so interesting, well developed, and well-acted that I’m going to take a chunk of just listing out all the best things about everyone.
Cha Eun Sang – Not exactly original, how many times have we seen the poor girl, rich guy plot? Still, Park Shin Hye shows some serious acting chops as Eun Sang is thrown one obstacle after another and she handles them all smartly, plucking up the courage to hold her head up high in a tough world.
Kim Tan – Speaking of tough world word, Kim Tan’s story had my heart breaking: a mother he has to hide, a brother he loves who hates him, a background he has to be ashamed of, a lost best friend, a loveless engagement, and a father who has too much expectation without compassion. Yet, Kim Tan faces it all head on and with a smile, always trying to figure out how to help the people he loves without hurting anyone.
Choi Young Do – Speaking of heartbreak, I think everyone has to love this character by the end of the show. In another universe, tough guy Young Do would definitely get the girl. Young Do shows the most growth of anyone in this series, shirking his childish bullying ways to step into the responsibility his family bears. It’s also good to work towards some catharsis between him and Kim Tan as you can tell they care about each other.
Chan Young (Kang Min Hyuk) and Lee Bo Na (Krystal) – God, I love this pairing! It’s so nice to have a solid relationship not caught up in triangles and just dependable. Chan Young brings out and adorable side of Bo Na, an otherwise jealous and annoying character, and their support of Cha Eun Sung was an unexpected delight.
Rachel – Like many of the young heirs, growth for Rachel comes in breaking down under terrible circumstances –a fiancée looking to leave her, an instable home life. She isn’t offered as much growth as say Kim Tan or Young Do, but she comes to a point of acceptance about her life and even gets a few moments of genuine connection with another human being and that person is…
Lee Hyo Shin (Kang Ha Neul) - His dry humor and wit lend a good humor to the stress that a lot of our characters are under, including himself. Under strict parents that don’t care about what he wants and an impossible love, Hyo Shin is on the upswing in this show, coming back from rock bottom to figure out how to get what he wants.
Kim Won (Choi Jin Hyuk) – Unrelenting in his harsh demeanor, Won had me angry at him from the start. Yet, when you understand how much he’s had to fight for in his family and out to realize his dreaming of running the company, his attitude becomes understandable. He and Kim Tan have opposite priorities in love and business, which means Won has to sacrifice his happiness to dedicate himself fully to his path.
The Moms – Kim Tan’s real mom (Kim Sung Ryoung) seems spoiled at first, but boy is her life hard. Her budding friendship with her maid, Eun Sang’s mom, had my heart full as she has no one else to rely on. There’s a nice parallel as their kids grow together, so do they.
So yeah, that’s a lot. But the show juggles its enormous cast gracefully, keeping you equally invested in many storylines. Several of the adults had me seething through the show, but the only one who really escaped any kind of sympathy or redemption was Hyo Shin’s parents.
2.The Beginning and the End
I’ve already mentioned a bit about the beginning of this drama in my sneak peak, but I think the time Eun Sang and Kim Tan spent getting to know each other, alone, in California is some of the strongest scenes in the show. There was a real plain and simple enjoyment out of watching the relationship develop before heaping on the obstacles. Likewise, the ending had a very smart finality to it. Instead of using the last episode as some grand gesture in their romance, it focuses more on the heirs coming into their own as several company and family crises force the younger generation to step up. The kids you know as high school students get a glimpse at adulthood, their chosen paths in life and a lot of relationships are still on the mend. It wasn’t tear worthy or perfect, but it didn’t yank our characters apart and focused on the bigger picture.
3. Getting Ahead of the Problems
YAY! I was so worried about the reveal about Eun Sang’s financial status, but she owns it like a boss. In fact, I love the way the Heirs handles all its problems. Some of them are cliché, some of them drag out a little, but they never lose their pacing in fixing things up in time for a nice moment before the next struggle. I’ve said it before, this show was just a simple joy to watch, fun if not a little thought provoking.
So while I loved the romance between our two leads and the chemistry between our favorite actors, there is a sweet spot in the middle of this show when Eun Sang just wants Kim Tan to stay away from her. He is not having any of it. Once you realize that Eun Sang doesn’t really want him to stay away, it’s cute, but initially it causes a lot of problems for Eun Sang and makes Kim Tam seem like a selfish jerk.
2. How About Not?
So maybe I don’t understand about company and shareholding, but it seemed to me that when his father tried to tie him down by giving him a bunch of shares in his company, he should have just given them to his brother or his mom right then and there. Maybe he couldn’t since his father was his legal guardian, but I felt that he should have walked away a lot sooner to get control of his life again. That said, I get that he didn’t want to leave his mom in the house alone, but for an episode or two I was like why is this even a problem? He doesn’t even want the company!
Since I did like this show a lot, I minded its length much less than other shows I’ve seen. That said, I think this could have done fine in 16 episodes what it did in 20. It doesn’t lag at all, but I also don’t feel like we’re making big strides in the story in the middle section that we haven’t made already. However, I do appreciate the amount of its long run time it dedicates to a spectrum of character development rather than rehashing our main duo over and over and over again.
1.No Son of Mine Will Ever Be Happy!
I’m not sure how many times I’m going to have to say that I’m so sick of the rich parent who doesn’t care about his or her child’s happiness. The Heirs is chock full of them, but Kim Tan’s dad is the worst. His sons hate him, hate their moms, hate each other, and are all in all just generally despairing all the time, but hey, as long as they’re rich, who cares? There always seems to be some hard lesson they’re trying to bestow, but not everything in life has to be a business transaction. Just once I want a decent rich parent! He wasn’t super rich but Chan Young’s dad was an exceptional parent. Gah! Enough with this storyline already!
So… I had my doubts about this show, about the chemistry between two big name actors, playing characters much their junior, but I liked it immensely without even trying. I didn’t have to make excuses, it was simply entertaining, heartbreaking and warming, with a somewhat unique take on a familiar tale. Would definitely recommend.
Final Grade: A-