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A vengeful high school reunion

SONG HYE-KYO as Moon Dong-eun

Tv ReviewThe GloryNetflix

A WOMAN revisits her past to take revenge on her high school bullies in Netflix’s latest Korean drama, The Glory.

Written by Kim Eun-sook (The King: Eternal Monarch and Descendants of the Sun) and directed by Ahn Gil-ho, the story centers on Moon Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo) who suffered violent attacks from her bullies, which eventually led her to drop out of high school. 18 years later, she moves to an apartment overlooking her former bully’s family home. While there, she orchestrates a plan to seek revenge on her former bullies, led by Park Yeon-jin (Lim Ji-yeon), who is now a weather forecaster.

While in town, Dong-eun applies as a homeroom teacher in the same elementary school which the daughter of her then-bully attends. She also gets in touch with her classmates — now with successful careers — who enabled her bullying and trauma.

The opening scene follows Dong-eun in her new apartment, stapling pictures of her former bullies to a wall. Bruises and scars are seen on her arms and shoulders. Yeon-jin enters the scene, and Dong-eun strikes her opponent’s face, and pledges to come after her.

The first episode focuses on flashbacks to the main character’s senior high school days when she was bullied by their leader Yeon-jin. The rest of the group: Lee Sa-ra (Bae Kang-hee), Jeon Jae-joon (Song Byeong-geun), Choi Hye-jeong (Song Ji-woo), and Son Myeong-o (Seo Woo-hyuk), meet at the empty gymnasium where they intimidate and torment Dong-eun.

The bullying scenes in the series are very graphic and emotionally distressing, and can be difficult to watch. With the violence depicted in the series, I began to question why the main character did not seek help from school administrators. It also contains dialogue where the victim is gaslighted by people in power such as the police and school staff.

As the series progresses, Dong-eun eventually recruits Yeon-jin’s home helper Kang Hyeon-nam, as well as her love interest, the medical intern Yeo-jeong in her revenge plot. She also meets with Yeon-jin’s husband, as well as the friends she kept in touch with, and makes them realize the goal of her arrival in town.

I had to keep reminding myself that the events in the show are fictional and that resolving problems with violence is never the best option, even if it portrays the protagonist achieving their deserved justice.

Actress Song Hye Kyo shows a wider range of her acting outside her popularity in romance dramas. Her character is serious, and expressionless most of the time. Her wit in the abstract board game go (where two players aim to surround more territory over the opponent) serves as a metaphor for her ambition.

With each episode running for almost an hour, the series can be slow-paced as it narrates how each scenario; every character helps to build the revelations later in the story. Unlike other Korean dramas which end each episode on cliffhangers, The Glory, instead, unfolds elements of the story that drive motives forward in the middle of each episode.

By the end of the eighth episode (which serves as the season’s finale), the viewer is made to think of their own interpretation of the ending and stay curious, as many elements have yet to be resolved.

The Glory is streaming on Netflix. The eight-episode Part 2 of the series will be released in March. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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