“Heirs” First Episode Review: Is the hype deserved?

Hello. This is a Korean in America. 10/9/2013 was a special day. It was the day that the most hyped K-drama of my long and old memory aired its first episode. And what did we get? Let’s find out.

“Heirs” is set around a group of Korean teens who all come from the upper one percent Korean families with one exception. This exception is our main protagonist or at least one part of the main breeding pair, the poor girl. It is about their lives of privilege and pain…

From this description, if you have seen a few K-dramas, you will have an image pop in your head. Add a generous dose of camp for flavoring on that image and you will get the “Heirs”. It is that generic kind of K-drama. You have the poor girl without much reason mingling with rich kids. You have the adults being controlling, petty, and pretentious. You have “Dynasty level” luxury splashed all on the screen…

If you think about it, “Heirs” is the teen version of “Dynasty”. This is not a surprise since Korea is similar to the American’ 80s at the present state. Too much money, not enough sense, and zero class. However, this does not mean “Heirs” is cannot be entertaining! “Dynasty” was a blast in its day.  

The problem with “Heirs” is that it is mediocre. The first episode functions to introduce the characters and just it and nothing more. While I personally think 60 minutes is too long to only do this, it is a K-drama trend. So, even though basically nothing happens, I can roll with it. The problem is that you don’t really get to know about the characters other than a one paragraph blurb.

The male part of the breeding pair, Kim Tan played by Lee Min-Ho, is a second son or bastard of Jeguk Group. It is not clear what his position hi is in other than he is figuratively exiled to California. The other part of the pair is Cha Eun-sang who is his family servant’s second daughter. She is played by Park Shin-hye.

I got more information off the wiki page about the characters than I got from the episode. If you are going to setup the characters for a whole episode, the audience should understand who they are and how they fit into the overall dynamic of the show. Considering that the series’ setup was never meant to be in-depth, not making it clear off the bat is a problem.  It creates a sense of blandness.

Blandness is a good description of the first episode of “Heirs”. The actors do not help with this issue. If the characters lack definition, they should at least be physically different. However, this is not the case of “Heirs”. Not only are the characters not well defined, the actors themselves are look the same with their pretty faces. The only noticeable differences are the hair styles.

Oh…The hair styles!

The characters all have Manga hair styles with a lot of product. What I mean by manga hair is that hair is usually the only significant differentiation factor other than wardrobe in manga as a single artist is drawing every one. The result is pretty funny.  

The episode itself goes like this…
You have Kim Tan wining about his lot in life while he is just chilling in California using a pretentious voice over. I so don’t like voice over!
You have Cha Eun-sang whining about she is poor and has to work all the times doing. She hates that her mother is a servant and her older sister is studying in the U.S.
You have Choi Young-do who is basically Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter but Asian mean.You have Rachel Ryu who seems to be the 3rd wheel girl… I think…Plot
First, Choi Young-do and Rachel Ryu meet because of some shenanigans with their single parents marrying or something.  Cha Eun-sang flies to California for some lame reason and bumps into first Rachel Ryu and then Kim Tan even though California is huge.
The end.

Leaving aside the generic episode plot, the main problem with the episode is that none of the characters are interesting. Both of the breeding pair are whinny and have no real redeeming quality.  Kim Tan is so without direction that he cannot even rebel properly.
I'm sorry you don't have to do anything but chill on the beach! 

Cha Eun-sang complains about her life but what we see of her life that is difficult is that she has to work a few jobs. Working a lot is tiresome but she is not starving or have a kid to support. I mean her mother still works as a servant even though she cannot speak and puts food on the table. And she has the nerve to complain her mother is using sign language. Even though she is poor, she is as spoiled as Kim Tan. 
I'm sorry you have to work like most of the people in Korea!

So, this is what the first episode of “Heirs” is: Generic plot, underdeveloped and uninteresting characters.
The acting itself is not overtly terrible but all the cast closely distributed around mediocre even the more seasoned actors who should do better. For a start, it is not the best but may pick up.

I may see the next episode but do not have much expectations of improvement!

The following are the live tweets I did while watching the first episode:
Live tweeting

for a culture that is concerned about $ so much, Korea doesn't appreciate the nature of the transactional medium itself.

$ is liquid power not tied to social hierarchy and traditions unlike wealth from land. It's relatively free...

8 minutes into ... not great but not as bad as I think

9 minutes in ... starting to get bad...

Wow more non actor white people on screen

i cannot differentiate the dudes on this show

catchers? In # heirs. I mean no one in Korea have seen a dreamcather out of a Hollywood movie

the unspeaking maid writes fast like it!

Ok the main lead girl is the daughter of a maid who cannot speak! Should have expected that

I don't like the voice over.! If you are going to do vo..why not just make the maid speak?

20 minutes into and going down hill.

The can't speaking maid even texts faster than possible.

why are all the characters so bland? No one is awful but no one is a really above average actor

yes we know that working as a dishwasher...we don't need to see all the dishes
the poor girl is doing an heartfelt monologue infront of a inappropriate person. Need to put more effort into the writing

halfway in... why does everyone look the same?

the maid has reply sentence flash cards... clever. Why is this a sad scene?

you know how hard to legally stay i n US! I've been trying

wow 35minutes in and this male lead has terrible English

the first meeting between the girls is really forced! Writer... you can do better

Funny the girl just arrived in US and compare her boobs with white beach girl boobs... looking down sadly

In 5 minutes the poor girl bumps into all other characters in US

Who comes to US without even contacting the person who will provide room & board.

stop with thw VO!

why are all the white guys sleazy? And its California! Where are all the black people?

Finished watching episode 1. Nothing special. A typical with a generic cast and bland story.

End of live tweeting episode 1

Video Review:


  1. You watched so I don't have to. Too juvenile for my old self. And reading this makes me believe I was right.

  2. Racheal Carter-RaganOctober 14, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Hi, I just found your blog, and I've been enjoying many of your posts. It's so great to read an opinion of both Korean and American culture from some one who is Korean and lives in America. I couldn't agree with you more about the drama "Heirs." It had a lot of hype built up around it, but it's been very bland and stereotypical thus far. I left this comment on dramafevers website in response to some individuals (probably teens) getting upset over some American's complaints about the stereotyping and these girls saying "if you don't like it, don't watch it then and stop complaining":

    " I'm not sure that this is a valid argument. Just because some writers
    are idiots doesn't mean it's okay. It's not okay when American writers
    are culturally insensitive and it's not okay when Korean writers are the
    same. I love Kdramas but I'm not giving them a pass just because I like
    these two actors. I'm allowed to be offended and you're allowed to not
    be. Honestly though, I think if everyone would put the superficial
    aspects of this show (how good looking everyone is) aside, we could
    openly express some discontent. After all the hype, the story is falling
    a little flat. Also, if you don't like it, don't watch it is a little
    childish. People may not continue to watch it, but they were willing to
    give it a chance, and were disappointed, so I think they have a right to
    express that disappointment."

    You can imagine how well these girls took that! I think this issue is especially pertinent after reading your review of the movie "Wedding Palace." That's an example of an American screen writer being a culturally insensitive ass. It's not okay, even though many Korean shows exhibit the same negative stereotyping. I wish people could understand that. We have to stop portraying anyone whose foreign as caricature!

  3. A Korean in AmericaOctober 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    thanks for reading my stuff!

    Heirs got at least better actors than previously but not professionals!
    K-dramas are cheap! Always have been. LOL

    K-dramas like to stereotype even about Koreans! It is revealing about Korea. In Korea, you never really get to know people other than what role they play in your life and what their position is in within the social hierarchy.
    So, on a basic level, it is difficult to purely like people in general. They are all networking assets that you need to develop or avoid and exploit.

  4. A Korean in AmericaOctober 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Oh and follow me on tweeter!

  5. A Korean in AmericaOctober 14, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Yep!... And I don't expect it will improve!
    The cast is overall too inexperienced!

  6. After watching the first episode, I recognize the flood of old archetypes - rich boy/poor girl falls in love; third-wheel arrogant rich girl that always try to put down the poor girl, rich parents plotting, romantic triangles....blah blah blah. Korean dramas = good-looking, one dimensional actors + stereotypes + some wheezy, soapy romance.

    And men, the white actors. I found out a comment on Youtube that said, "even the dead body in CSI can act better" , not to mention all these very awkward English conversations. The cast should really train harder in speaking English so it comes off as pro.
    Love your post, by the way :)

  7. Hello. Nice to see a new face on my blog.
    I've heard people say that they do not know what the series is about even almost at its end.
    Only watched the series up to episode 4.

    Again, Welcome and read some of my other stuff!

  8. Haha, nice to meet you. I'm new on blogspot as well, never written a blog on my own. I was just watching The Heirs because my friend was so crazy about it, and felt quite put down because it did not live up to my expectation. When I stumble upon your blog, it speaks really well about what I think about the Heirs, so that's cool. Glad to read your reviews on movies :D

  9. Lol, I learned more about the characters in this post than I did within the actual duration of the show. It's overdramatic for what the characters, particularly Eun Sang, has to face.