The Gist: When a false media frenzy leaves Gi Ha Myeong (Lee Jong Suk) without a family, he is adopted into the family of a grandfather who thinks he is his dead son, Dal Po. Dal Po assumes this mutually beneficial identity. Choi In Ha (Park Shin Hye) and her father move in with In Ha's grandfather after a nasty divorce and find Dal Po living there, but agree to keep the secret for grandfather's sake. When Dal Po discovers In Ha's mother (Jin Kyung) is the reporter who spearheaded the attack on his family, he holds a serious grudge against In Ha, his now effective niece. But as they grow up side by side, that feeling is steadily replaced by another, one he does not dare to vocalize. When In Ha decides to follow in her mother's footsteps and be a reporter, Dal Po is horrified, unable to trust any reporter after his tragedy. This turns out to be a hard move for In Ha, who is a Pinocchio - someone who hiccups when they lie. In an effort to support her and eventually find justice for his family, Dal Po makes an even harder decision, to become a reporter alongside In Ha. Soon, they find themselves at competing companies, working not only on the story of the week, but together in justice for Dal Po's family and retribution against In Ha's mother.
(for ease in this review, I'm going to just refer to Jong Suk's character as Dal Po)
1. Truth in Media
It was a very interesting combination watching this show right after Liar Game, which holds truth at the core of the story. This story poses all sorts of interesting problems. To what degree are reporters responsible for the facts they report and the consequences of reporting those "facts?" Additionally, should it be impossible for someone who is a Pinocchio to become a reporter? To what degree does a reporter need to lie to get at the truth? Pinocchio takes a pretty firm stance on this - reporters should be held responsible for the stories they tell. Yet, Dal Po finds out on his first report, that it's hard to be 100% sure when you're reporting that you're in the right. Still, the fervor with which Dal Po and In Ha ferret out the truth shakes up some of the seasoned reporters, making them examine their beliefs. I must admit this show has me watching my local/national news with a new eye - especially in the way they pester victims of a tragedy. This show has an abundance of food for thought, which I find lacking in a lot of the fluffy happy dramas I watch.
2. Speaking of fluffy...
Alright, so this show is about 50% justice porn and 50% romance. I loved Dal Po and In Ha's chemistry; the casting made this story sing. The almost sibling-like familiarity between our leads is a pretty unique look on a relationship. You'd think that would disrupt their relationship, but In Ha's brash honesty lends itself well to someone who knows that about her. I really appreciate that this show barely even hints at a possible love triangle/square. Let's face it, our supporting cast never stood a chance. Dal Po and In Ha are solid, even when it's heartbreaking for them both and I love love loved it. As far as pacing for this show goes, I appreciate that it doesn't tease out their confession too long so that they can really be a team for the vast majority of the show. Likewise, I like that Dal Po's secret is revealed in decent time, so it's not this huge shadow over the entire show.
3. Tissues everyone?
Every now and then a real tear-jerker is just what the doctor ordered. The amount of times I teared up during this show is not countable - I mean, that is one heavy pilot. Still, I find that the heavy added a lot of weight to the plot. Every moment I could feel the hate against Song Cha Ok in my very bones and I whooped out loud every time In Ha or Dal Po confronted anyone about his family. It made for an exceedingly satisfied feeling when watching. The only thing that is just too sad is poor hyung. He absolutely has it the worst of anyone on Pinocchio and the lengths to which he goes out of grief still sits like a stone in my stomach. I will give Pinocchio props for the dedication in which it is willing to destroy our characters in a show that is still overwhelmingly funny and romantic. Ah, I can't talk about teary scenes without bringing up that scene with Dal Po and grandpa on the bus. I cried. I really did. But in the best way.
*SPOILERS* So I'm going to say the biggest shock in this show is that we actually found some measure of redemption for In Ha's mom. After hating her so solidly for the entire show, our characters find some common ground and mommy dearest helps us take down the big bad. I must admit, I was amazingly surprised at this turn of events. I really didn't think we'd get any redemption out that character and it really added another level to the catharsis - that sweet/sweet catharsis.
I feel very conflicted about this point because this show has excellent pacing. No episode feels drawn out and the suspense is kept tight and yet, by episode 11/12, I kept wondering, how are there almost ten episodes left in this show? How is there this much story left to tell? Honestly, I find for most 20 episode dramas, they could have told the same story, better, in 16 episodes. I definitely wouldn't use this point to dissuade someone from watching this show because each episode is enjoyable, but looking back on it, it is definitely long.
2. Beom Jo (Kim Young Kwang)
I feel like I really wanted to like Beom Jo and it really just never happened. The initial creep factor of him reading all of In Ha's text messages for years just never totally went away for me. I mean, the whole reason he's in this story is really because he was stalking In Ha. While he's a good guy at heart and he does end up being more integral to the central plot than is first apparent, I just never really got invested in his character. Part of sacrificing a true love triangle is that the audience is always going to be solidly focused on our pair and never wonder about the side characters. Yoo Rae (Lee Yoo Bi) I think does a better job of being a character independent of Dal Po and In Ha. Just still don't care that much about Beom Jo.
Dal Po's hair at the beginning of this show! Fan girls every breathe a sigh of relief when he finally "cuts" it. *shudders*
So... this show had me amped up for justice and for love and for truth every episode. What delight. People are tough on Park Shin Hye, but I've always really liked her and this show was definitely no exception. Her on screen chemistry with Jong Suk is a sparkling addition to a show with a compelling plot. I would probably watch this show again. Also, side note, the music was really stellar also.
Final Grade: B+
Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody!