Type: Korean Drama
My Rating: 4 out of 5
What is it about the quintessential Cinderella rags to riches story that is so entertaining? Or the romantic intrigue of an arranged marriage that turns into true love? Or the fascination with two people who trade places in life (like in the many variations of The Prince and the Pauper)?
Soo Ae as Byun Ji-Sook
Mask is all of that and more. A drama cram-packed with familiar and well-liked tropes, Mask stylishly pulls the pieces together in an exciting and intriguing journey. From the first episode we’re hooked as we watch the heroine, Byun Ji-Sook, face imminent death from loan sharks that have hounded her family. She’s offered a deal from a ruthlessly brilliant lawyer, Min Suk-Hoon – one that will save her life in exchange for becoming his pawn and masquerading as a recently deceased rich socialite, Seo Eun Ha, whom she resembles. Ji-Sook agrees only to find herself completely under the power of Min Suk-Hoon, who she realizes is out for blood from the family she must now marry into.
Ju Ji-Hoon as Choi Min-Woo
Ji-Sook’s new husband is the troubled Choi Min-Woo who’s struggled with worsening hallucinations and voices in his head. Fearing he’s going crazy, Min-Woo fights to survive in a cold and conniving house of relatives who are all out to get a piece of the family business. Min-Woo and Ji-Sook’s marriage is merely that of business arrangement between families. But Ji-Sook is not the same Seo Eun-Ha that Min-Woo knew and he starts falling in love with the woman with countless mysteries surrounding her but a genuine heart of gold underneath.
Ji-Sook finds her own heart growing attracted to Min-Woo but is burdened with her secrets and lies. Worse still, Min Suk-Hoon is hell-bent on seeing the Choi family ruined with Min-Woo as his target and Ji-Sook his weapon.
Mask was a breath of fresh air for me as I haven’t really found that many K-dramas I’ve wanted to watch so far this year. I quickly fell in love with Byun Ji-Sook’s character played by the lovely, classy Soo-Ae. I haven’t seen her in any other dramas, but already she’s a fave. She has a natural presence on screen and easily made you feel her character’s pathos as well as her courage and strength.
Yeon Jeong-Hun as Min Suk-Hoon
As a villain, Min Suk-Hoon was a blast. There are some actors that just completely embody the role and take it to a place it never could’ve reached without them (Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, for starters). What could have been a boring, run-of-the-mill character became a twisted, intriguing and almost sympathetic man whose life had been wrecked by pain and the lust for vengeance. You can’t help getting excited when he comes on the screen!
But my favorite of all was Choi Min-Woo. Manipulated his whole life, desperate just for love and companionship, he starts out cold and distant. But we quickly see the gigantic tender heart Min-Woo has underneath. How quickly and adorably he fell in love with Ji-Sook was what kept me watching episode after episode. Just seeing them come together and eventually fight together and not against each other was so exciting!
Mask had its downfalls – I could feel it slowed down during the last six or more episodes. I felt it squandered a bit with the plots and took us on some merry-go-round rides. Nor did all of the questions get answered. (They rarely do in tv shows, lol). But by the end of the journey, I had another K-drama winner on my list of favorites. And that’s tv show magic, people.