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Dali and the Cocky Prince (2021) Episodes 9-10
This post contains a major spoiler…
I spent too much time on the weekend thinking and defending elsewhere one single scene in Episode 10 which meant I wasn’t able to get to what I thought was actually the more important aspects of the recent episodes. Too much energy in my opinion was spent on the controversial lead-up to the kissing scene in Episode 10 that the fascinating revelations in the same episode got lost in the rough and tumble of internet discourse. Jin Moo-hak has a chink in his armour. He’s a great male lead except that he’s also capable of being possessed by the green-eyed monster. And capable of spiteful thoughts. Especially when the woman he likes is sending mixed signals. As for me, I don’t ask for perfection… just consistency. Was he consistent? I think so. Because the boisterous Moo-hak is a simple soul who hates being played and is quite capable of saying hurtful things in a fit of jealousy.
More important than whether or not Jin Moo-hak was a complete moral failure or even if the writing failed at this point, is the perennial tension between nature vs nurture and how that feeds into other questions about how much responsibility rests on individuals making choices along their life journey. Is the system rigged to benefit some? Wiser minds than mind have debated that and are still debating that as we speak. Possibly. And if so, to what extent and what is could the remedy be? Few would dispute that having a good headstart with the right kind of parental guidance certainly helps but as we see in the case of Kim Si-hyung, the unsavoury cousin who is up to his neck in debt — it’s no guarantee of success even when one is born into wealth. Acknowledging the unfairness of life is one thing. However, the show doesn’t easily let anyone off the hook because it is careful to note the intersection of personal responsibility and the hand that one is dealt at the start of the game. Luck, fate or God might not have been kind to you at birth and compassionate people can look on you with pity. They may even offer a helping hand. Circumstances may have even been out of your control but sooner rather than later, a person ultimately has to take responsibility for all the choices they make when the chickens come home to roost.
This is further reinforced by Kim Nak-cheon (Da-li’s father)’s philanthropic impulses to pluck youngsters with potential out of a path that leads to destruction through timely intervention. The man was genuinely kind and put his money to good use. Won Tak, now a cop is one beneficiary and the snippy Ms Na Gong-ju, barmaid turned art curator, is another. What could potentially be explosive is that Da-li herself might be another one of Kim Nak-cheon’s good deeds. At least if the resentful Na Gong-ju is to be believed.
Gong-ju imagines that Da-li’s success in life has to do with the luck of being chosen by Kim Nak-cheon at a young age. (That’s the language being deployed) Da-li got a head start. It could have be any other girl and she would have done just as well if she grew up in a home of privilege and wealth. The implication seems to be that natural ability or character or good choices are secondary or even irrelevant to success in all its forms.
There seems to be some kind of indication that Na Gong-ju paints herself as a victim of bad luck which explains her irrepressible resentment of Da-li. That is until Won Tak tells her that Kim Nak-cheon was the man who saved her from a bottomless pit of debt and indentured labour. She was given a second chance when offered a plum job at the gallery but she squandered the opportunity apparently when she got herself tangled up with Kim Si-hyun, running his errands in illegal fashion.
In contrast is Moo-hak who may or may not be an anomaly in the way the world works. The world is unfair to the those at the bottom of the food chain and yet there are those who can defy expectations through hard work and talent to rise up in the world. The man is born entrepreneur although not with a silver spoon in his mouth. Secretary Yeo is at pains to remind Da-li that Moo-hak the self-made nouveau riche deserves every bit of success he’s achieved. His stepbrother supposedly more educated is eager to prove himself hence the secret land buy-up. He declares that he’s been lucky finding his step family and now all he wants is what he deems the opportunity of a lifetime. But we have become privy to the behind-the-scenes maneuvering — if anything is too good to be true, it probably is.
Won Tak himself is a product of the Kim Nam-cheon School of Thought. A lad who had a sense of justice but was prone to violent outbursts, was once given a leg up and has come good. He was aimless but someone gave him a reason to better himself and to use all that energy to contribute to society.
Not a lot is known of Jang Tae-jin’s background at this juncture who of late seems determined to be as repugnant as he can. There’s a theory floating around that says that the loathsome cutting snobbery is just an act. I’m not sure what he would be trying to achieve playing that dual role. It certainly doesn’t endear him to Da-li. To me he’s someone who plays to win at all costs and after that recent display of peevishness my feeling is that Da-li dodged a bullet five years ago when he left her bewildered and hurt in the pouring rain. He made his choice five years earlier when he put whatever it was before the woman he claimed to love. Da-li is too nice and she really needs to remind him much more often that she really doesn’t owe him anything by way of trust.
I don’t think it’s too hard to see what was going on when Moo-hak took umbrage and was slapped for his trouble. He had crossed a line and she retaliated accordingly. It could be the sort of thing that happens when two people who like each other very much already but aren’t forthcoming about why they’re hurt by the other. I can’t say for certain because it’s beyond the scope of my experience. :D