I Summon You Gold (2013) Review: I want to see some more double action!

I Summon You Gold: I want to see some more double action! 


Hello. This is a Korean in America! Today, I will be discussing the full series K-drama “I Summon You Gold”. It is a typical slice of life drama with a "good" double and "bad" double twist. I am doing this review after seeing 35 episodes and the show has currently aired 40 [late august] episodes.

Introduction
This series,” I Summon You Gold” is a typical full series K-drama centered around two families tied together through marriage and other complicated history. A typical characteristic of a full series K-drama is that their worlds are very insular and the storytelling in very incestuous in regard to the characters’ connections. Looking at the characters and their relationships, ” I Summon You Gold” is not an exception to the norm.

Story setup
At the one end of the story, you have the Park family that runs a large high-end Jewelry distribution company.  At the other, you have the Jung family whose mother has worked for the Park family’s almost all her adult life.  In accordance to the K-drama tradition, the events of the series are limited to these two families. It is like nothing else happens to the world other than the shenanigans between and within these families. Also, the connections that keep tying the families together is so convoluted that it makes any U.S. soap opera seem tame in comparison. It even uses the semi-forced arranged marriage cliché as a major driver of the narrative which is not really relevant in current Korean society.


If you start thinking about it, the whole narrative of ” I Summon You Gold” is driven by marriage related storylines. The Park family’s situation is all centered on the patriarch’s problems with his marriages…well a marriage since he officially does not have a wife anymore. He only has mistresses. All three of his sons and their marriages are reflections of the father's distorted marital and extra-marital relationships.


The Jung family is not so different even though they are on the lower spectrum of the social hierarchy. The power imbalance in the parents’ relationship has also affected their children in a serious manner. The son is a young over-educated slacker and entitled chauvinist that only the current Korean society can produced. It is funny that the term “entitled chauvinist” does not go well together with “masculine” in Korean society now. In the past generations, men were more blatantly chauvinistic. At the same time, they were forced by society to act and think in a more masculine manner. In the present, men are more effeminate or “metro-sexual” if you want to use a fancy term while still being stuck in the chauvinist mode though less blatant than the past.

You can see this with the patriarch of the family. The father was a typical company man who has lost his masculinity by giving up providing for his family at all after retirement.  The eldest daughter is the typical responsible daughter who quits college to work as a street vender. At the same time, she has a hidden sense of resentment that she is ashamed of and suppresses deep in the heart where no one, even her, can find. Even the younger daughter who seems to be more the passive and gentle one has a strong sense of being a burden which she tries to relieve by marrying into the Jung family half-heartedly. From the mother to the grandmothers who only create discourse, it is the females that are stronger people in the Jung family.


Full series K-dramas as a collection of subplots 
A common problem with full series K-dramas are that they do not have enough plot and the narrative wonders aimlessly between various subplots. This problem originates from the fact that full series K-dramas tend to be slice of life dramas using a loose serial form of storytelling.  Rather than having a central plot drive the narrative, they tend to aggregate several multi-episode subplots loosely without a strong central plot. This in itself is not a negative. However, compared to a more episodic form of storytelling, every subplot has to work more or less well. If not, those subplots become just fillers that take up the audience’s precious time without any payoff over multiple episodes. Other examples of a full series K-drama would be “Assorted Gems” or “You’reThe Best Lee Soon-Shin”. I have review of those series if you are interested.

In this aspect, ” I Summon You Gold” does pretty good. At the minimum, the subplots that run through the series are generally entertaining although they are nothing ground breaking. I contribute this success to the series’ initial setup and its selection of characters.


You have two families at the onset of the series. With one family on the verge of imploding with the buildup of sibling competition, and infighting and the other family on the verge of exploding with all the resentment cause by economics and power imbalance within relationships, there is a lot of room for interesting stories to be told. In addition, you have central plot centered on the mysterious doubles positioned in each family. These doubles act as a conduit for the narrative to push the families and their drama together.    

Characters
Leaving aside their positions within the family dynamic and drama, each character is interesting on its own. What is more important is that they all have one partner, who they can really bounce off from, to form an effectively entertaining duo. Thus, the creative team of the series can just put these duos on screen to fill in the gaps between the actual materials and still be entertaining. And they do just that! You can have nothing happening for 20 minutes and just have the grandmothers bicker to each other or have the daughters in laws growl at each other but still be entertained.


Pacing and fillers
This is great for the series since there are not enough content to fill its allotted 50 episode run. In general, the subplots are not boring and can even be described as being entertaining. However, because of the insulated nature of full series K-drama, the scope of the subplots is very narrow. I mean, this series is not Dynasty by any mean!

Most of the infighting in the Park family can be associated with the mistreatment by the father. All the sons are  trying to get is a solid footing within the family and even somehow get the father’s approval. None of them have a specific vision or huge ambitions.  The Park family itself is a small fish in a large pond. While being rich compared to the other 99% of the population, there are nothing compared to the people who make up the top 0.1%. Thus, the number of stories that could be told by the Korean entertainment industry is limited.

As a result, most of the subplots seem to be tying up their loose ends around episode 35. It left the audience wondering if this is the time for the series to take its hidden card out of its sleeve. And the audience was right!


Love some doppelganger action
The central plot of ” I Summon You Gold” is that the eldest daughter of the Jung family and the eldest daughter in law of the Park family are doppelgangers. They look exactly like each other.  In contrast to the eldest daughter of the Jung family, the daughter in law version is this elegant, spoiled, and troubled adopted daughter of a rich family located in America. The eldest daughter of the Jung family, Jung Mong-Hee, is the typical nice girl character common in K-dramas. While she is a street vender because of her family's economic situation, she dreams of being a Jewelry designer. Have you ever noticed that there are a limited number of jobs in K-dramas and the number of cool jobs a much fewer? Is Jewelry designer the new cool job for females? I remember when advertisement was the cool job in Hollywood movies. That fad seems to have died since then. "Mad men" is the exception.

Considering that one version falls in love with the other version’s husband, you would expect a clash to happen. The fact that there is also a mystery element in their birth also increases the audience’s anticipation. However, the series sends the daughter in law off to somewhere abroad to make room for the other version to do a “popper and the prince” routine.   So, we are left waiting for the other shoe to drop while seeing the husband and the other version of his wife fall in love. This is the hidden card. Around episode 35 when the series starts running out of material, the series bring the daughter in law version back! We’ll have to wait and see if the show lives up to expectations.


Up to now, I have had a lot to positive things to say. However, the series is not without its flaws. Some of the plot lines are weaker than others. The pacing does start to drag around episode 30. 

Cons My major problem is with some of the female characters. The other Park family daughter in law is too over the top for the show tone and she is too incompetent for what the show wants her to be. I never believed she was this effective villain of the series.  She simply cannot pull her weight in the intense family infighting dynamic. I would have to put the blame on the actress as she is not a match for the acting talents surrounding her.


The other female character that I have a problem with is the series’ protagonist. Jung Mong-Hee, played by Han Ji-Hye, is a typical Candy archetype who innocent and likable but scrappy. I like Han Ji-Hye as an actress but she is just doing the character she has always played. I liked her daughter in law version much more. That character, Yoo-Na, has much more charisma and complexity to her than her doppelganger. So, it was a disappointment that the show removed Yoo-Na from the series early on. I just wanted to see one on one scenes between the doppelgangers. But the most I got was a dream sequence. I have my fingers crossed for the remaining episodes. Because of the complexity of having characters played by the same actress on screen together, I do not expect that I will get many chances. The series should make good use of what they can do.


Another problem with the Han Ji-Hye's Candy archetype character is that she does not have great chemistry with the husband character played by Park Hyun-Soo. It is not bad but not great either. The odd thing is that the doppelganger, Yoo-Na, had this great love/hate chemistry with her husband. Both were twisted and damage people. So, when you see them arguing, you can imagine how great the makeup sex would be.  

As a side note, do any of you know what a Candy archetype is? That archetype is from the 70s and early 80s. Even I barely know that reference. You can just imagine that the screen writer is in her 40s. It is weird to see a lot of references in many K-dramas that only people in my age range and above would get considering how youth oriented Korean entertainment has become. If you see “9end 2 outs” which aired during 2007,  the actors are using a zip drive which is basically a fancy floppy disk. No one after the end of the 20th century used a zip drive. I do not think most of the audience knows what a zip drive is. However,that show was full of references to the past. They even have a laptop which was a HUGE brick circa 1996ish.

After thoughts
Overall, ”I Summon You Gold” is good for a full series K-drama. While it is unclear if the hidden card will be executed to optimize its potential at the moment, there is a good possibility that the remaining 15 episodes will be entertaining. 

I need some great doppelganger drama! So, go see it and not be discouraged by the 50 episode number.


Series Streaming Link: Good Drama Net

30 comments:

  1. Plenty of doppleganger action for sure in the last episodes, but the story changes so much and the ending....drrrraaaggged out! So, guess it's up to you to finish the last 10. I did because I had too much time invested to stop now.

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  2. yes the plot ended before episode 40.they should have just made the doppleganger the main plot.

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  3. I saw this drama last week. The premise was interesting, it started out great and then somewhere in the middle, it just sort of fizzled out.
    What I liked-
    a) The poor family dynamics were really refreshing. I loved the two grandmas and wish there was a spin of series with them...
    b) I liked that the third brother had the guts/ decency to fight for what he wanted and was able to give up his wealthy lifestyle and do it in a non-dramatic manner. Also liked the pragmatic nature of his wife. At first, it seemed she was being a pushover to marry a man who was obviously not into her. But I liked how she handled the situation and was honest with him about what she felt.
    c) I liked that they didn't make a huge deal about the twins/ birth secret- they sort of explored it in a matter of fact manner. The poor twin found out she was adopted and she and her sister visited their mother's grave. They didn't dwell on their past/ what ifs, which I thought was great, since they had their own lives and had no connection to their biological family.
    d) I liked the older rich twin giving back in terms of back talk to her in-laws. She didn't mince words when talking back and called a spade a spade.
    What I disliked (and boy, that is a long list, lol)-
    a) The mom of the poor family. She got all her priorities twisted in a knot that neither she nor the writer knew how to unravel. I didn't understand how she kept harping about her oldest son studying in a university, and the tantrums she threw over him first working at his sisters stall for some real world experience, and then getting a girl pregnant and wanting to marry her.
    b) The mom of the second rich son. She was psycho in the truest K-drama sense. Her character could have had so much depth. Why did she turn out like that? She didn't share any chemistry with the dad, so it was hard to see why he kept her on as his mistress. It seemed that the mom of the third son was a better fit for him than this lady.
    c) The second son and his wife. They were the weakest of all the characters. The second son just seemed like pouting pushover and his wife was super strange- appearance and behavior. The whole secret child thing was so drawn out. They also created a storyline with the ex boyfriend dying, but did it in short bursts that you could really care less if he died or not.
    d) I disliked the poor family's eldest son as well. I'm not sure I got the chauvinistic vibe from him. I got the entitled vibe only because his mother treated him better than her daughters, with the oldest getting the worse possible deal. To me, it seemed like he was a grown up mama's boy who needed to get out of living at home and start being independent.
    e) Everyone had so much make up on. It was extremely distracting to see how unnatural they looked.The worse offenders were the rich twin and the rich second daughter in law.
    f) The fact that you can wrongfully frame a person, have them kicked out of their home for twenty years, make them lose connection to their child, and the only way to redeem yourself, is to kneel down in front of the person you wronged and say you're sorry. And then everyone forgives you and you can move on.
    g) The typical korean drama mother living vicariously through her sons. I have a question about this- In a lot of asian dramas, you have an elder taking an unnatural interest in the professional or work life of a younger member. Like why haven't you gotten tenure, or why haven't you gotten your own clinic or why haven't you.gotten the Nobel Prize and so on..... Is this normal? I mean, do these elders know what it takes to excel in a professional setting? I almost want to turn around and ask them, why didn't they try to go to med/ law/ business school and get their own freaking career off the ground, instead of sitting and bitching about others.

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  4. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Very nice comment!

    To answer your question, it is a common in Korea to say "The only pleasure in life is seeing your children grow up!"

    Living vicariously through one's children is not a uncommon thing in any culture. Korea is more so because of the society. If you see K-drama, no one really has a hobby except for drinking and sometime going to see a movie. Work is always stressful and time consuming....

    The society is setup to exploit individuals and not the other way around!

    As a consequence, everyone is unsatisfied. Every thinks that just if circumstance they could have done more! Be more! It is a fantasy caused by dissatisfaction.

    Now, while it is still hard to live in Korea, it is a little better. So, for the parents, the fantasy kicks in when evaluating their children. "Why can't they do more when they are given so much? If it was me~~~" Thing!


    This is the consequence of the society Koreans live in. Since you have no real joy in your own life, that dissatisfaction needs to be expressed some how.


    But this is not very different from US. 40 years ago.

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  5. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    I personally would have liked to see the focus be the twins with the actress doing two roles constantly and how the family interacts with them rather the the so so typical K-drama plot.
    I loved the rich twin the most in the beginning rather than the typical "candy" archetype twin.
    I just did not think the the K-drama had a point to say!
    Did you find a point or even a theme?

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  6. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    One funny thing is that the dislikes you end up listing is a very common aspects of Korean society! Funny!
    It is so common that most K-drama use them because the Korean audiences are so familiar with those now cliche elements.

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  7. Yeah. I hope I don't come off as being overly critical. Some of the characters are clearly mentally ill, but they are pigeon-holed into crazy family member/ elder and have no real support.

    Off topic, do you have any recommendations for dramas that deal with sort of Korean perspective on current global issues? For example, the economic crisis of 2008, or the whole war in iraq and so on. Maybe I am asking for too much in a drama?

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  8. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Ha ha! If you read more of my stuff and especially my tweeter discussions, you'll see I'm far more critical!


    Korea really needs a total army of shrinks air dropped on it! but sadly, where in the 60s in regard to mental health... Only crazy people go to shrinks!

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  9. That kind of trope bugs me in most shows (not just Korean dramas) haha. I see this drama was released in 2013 with present day sensibilites. That really should have been an indication to the producer/ writers not to include any cliches if they wanted to the drama to succeed.

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  10. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    for your question, cannot really recall any K-drama that has any teeth regarding social commentary.
    In J-drama, social commentary is almost a genre on its own. But It is difficult to find any K-drama going beyond rich people are bad level.

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  11. Yeah they did a poor job showcasing the contrast between the twins. I am pretty sure somewhere in the middle, the writer was kidnapped by their own doppelganger who then rewrote the rest of the drama.

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  12. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    First, like 70% of K-drama audiences are women over 35 in Korea for family dramas. I think I mention the old references in my article. K-drama are made primarily for those audiences.

    They want what they have seen and know rather than more sophisticated story telling.

    it is like 55% for more "Trendy" miniseries but the same thing applies. the more well rounded young people watch US stuff on cable for their sophisticated story telling rather than asking for it in K-drama.



    Just equate K-drama to Soap and you'll understand.

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  13. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    It you see, considering that all males go to some form of military service, there is almost no representation of that in K-drama for the last decade and a half. The only thing that come to mind is Kings 2 Heart which is a fantasy.



    Compared to that, US is plastered by military stuff even though US military experienced per ca pita is low compared to Korea

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  14. Haha, yeah...Its a lot more addictive than watching Days of our Lives for sure....I don't think I will attempt to marathon any of the soaps that are playing on american tv, ever...
    In what direction do you see the K-drama movement going, especially now that they have a global audience?

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  15. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    I've been watching Orphan Black (BBC) and the clone scenes are fantastic.
    K-dramas are notorious of not having a real plan which is weird for a serialized shows!
    Some miniseries K-dramas can be edited down to a movie without a problem.
    Full series just meanders around! Have you seen "Please Marry Me"
    http://www.gooddrama.net/korean-drama/please-marry-me

    That shows middle section is so slow!

    For a current Full series, A Little Love Never Hurts is good!

    The pacing is tight for this type of family drama although I think its time to start moving it more along.

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  16. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    I think more of what we are getting or worse what we are getting with heirs and merry him if you dare.
    The value of K-drama is with it as a modern replacement for soaps. the main audience segment overlaps with primarily focusing on the female segment.
    While there is a global audience, it is primarily focused on Asia. K-drama does not make much money off western audiences. Difficult to monetize since the audience is still niche and primarily distributed online.

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  17. Yeah I've noticed that there is nothing about the military in the dramas. Also, the issues with North Korea seem to be downplayed, I think there are a couple of dramas that have a spies from north korea in a romantic/ comedic setting (from the synopsis). On some level, I am equating K-dramas with Bollywood (minus the dancing and singing). Although now, the trend there is more towards better stories, direction and acting etc as opposed the bubblegum crap that they dished out in the nineties and early two thousands.

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  18. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    I'm starting to shift back towards J-dramas.
    More episodic, tight and easy to get into

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  19. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Talking about Bollywood? or K-drama?

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  20. I love Orphan Black. Tatiana Masley is a fantastic actress. BBC America has a bunch of really good shows. Have you watched any of the netflix shows- house of cards, orange is the new black? They are pretty good too. To be honest, I think well played shorter korean dramas -16 eps or so, are much preferable to watching shows like Scandal or Revenge or crap on ABC. Have you watched Parks and Recreation/ 30 Rock? Those are some really good sitcoms.

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  21. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    K-drama had it renaissance during the nineties and early two thousands. While focusing on specific genre stuff, what they did not tighter and better written. The development time was longer and willing to take more risks.


    Primarily, it was the constant incorporation of J-drama elements into K-drama during that period after the mid-90s.

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  22. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Generally share your tastes! could not get through house of cards...
    It didn't click with me

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  23. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    OK. It is weird what K-drama-ish has become. Just see how K-drama remakes of J-dramas.
    it's really odd!

    J-dramas are focused on making a point and consistent themes. When it goes to K-drama, it becomes a mushy ... something

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  24. I think that Japanese dramas are a bit out there with story telling, which might work with the sci-fi channel, lol. I like the more 'human' aspect of K-dramas but yeah, they need to get super polished to get more acclaim.

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  25. Yeah. They are trying to please all of their audiences. I think the genre of 'flower boys/ high school' did a real disservice to K-dramas. It brought a lot of teens/ young adults but also dumbed down the stories. I absolutely disliked Boys Over Flowers and the ones that followed. They need Disney/ Nickolodeon for those kind of shows.

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  26. Have you seen the original version?

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  27. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Well before 90s there was much more more 'human' aspect in K-dramas. The 90s was a breath of fresh air.

    Japan is still seen as superior in culture including dramas in Korea. That's why there are so many remakes.

    J-drama has dramas with heavy 'human' aspects but they are more straight dramas which are rather dry. K-drama may have more 'human' aspects but at the same time it is overly melodramatic with a consistent sense of desperation.

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  28. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    No... British stuff can be very dry sometimes. Don't get really dry stuff.

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  29. A Korean in AmericaOctober 27, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    I don't get those shows either. But, one or two people are writing the shows. So I understand that they could not put enough time into it.
    I like the system of writing with the writers' room. Have more people contribute to the writing.
    And the showrunners are primarily writers.
    K-drama is a Producer run system.

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