Kim Tan is one of those intriguing characters because he is your brave, atypical chaebol male lead, but then can act so pathetic at the same time. I’m pretty impressed with how Lee Min Ho is portraying him because he really takes his role seriously, playing up all the emotions to the hilt. But sometimes it becomes really apparent that Lee is really good at making wisecracking jokes, and not too great in grounding the relationships between Kim Tan and everyone else. And in that sense, this intriguing character suddenly becomes the least compelling one on screen.
In the beginning, I liked Kim Tan a lot. He was a joker and very laid-back. He did not see being rich as a great thing, and he wasn’t an ass for it. He had learned his lesson about being a jerk to others, and he began to atone for it by choosing not to bully. He realized that bullying others for being of a different social status was hypocritical, and for that he was quite admirable. He had guts to love the people who hated him, and to learn to love someone else (Eun Sang). I liked the fella.
But then he started to get a bit boring. His one life goal was to secure Eun Sang’s love and to be with her forever. He had no ambitions for the future and he wasn’t very proactive about taking care of his family. He put his mother in his father’s care, ignored his stepmother, and accepted easily that Kim Won would never like him. Now I understand that he probably endured a lot of crap from his family to reach this level of nonchalance, but then it made his focus of chasing Eun Sang appear that of an aimless and hormonal teenager. His narrow goal became petty. I paid way more attention to the side characters who had stronger, more compelling personalities and had their stories linked to each other. They interacted way more with each other. Kim Tan always felt distant and above everything that happened in the school. The only thing that linked him to “the real world” was Eun Sang, and it was because of her that he would interact with the other students.
Finally he decided to take a stand against his father and declare his love for Eun Sang. He used his position as the second son, used the shares that he inherited, and used his money to ensure that Eun Sang would never disappear from his side. He told Eun Sang repeatedly to trust him because he had a plan to make sure “all the doors in the world would be opened for her.” She believed him. I believed him. I thought, “Here we go! A corporate showdown of back-door deals and backstabbing! Delicious!”
But no. None of that happened. In the end Tan and Won were played by their father, who devilishly manipulated them the entire time. Tan’s plan of giving all of his shares to Won for a new apartment was quite flimsy. I mean, buying an apartment and a car is going to leave a paper trail, yunno? You don’t think your father would have figured it out, even if you’re getting it through Won? I think Tan would have gotten further if he gave Eun Sang a house behind the neighborhood convenience store to hide in than if he gave her a penthouse apartment overlooking the city. I understand that he was willing to stake all of his shares just to protect Eun Sang, but that’s not exactly smart. You still need to keep your Ace card in your hand, just as Young Do tried to preserve his Ace card of knowing Tan’s secret. Then again, Tan is 100th in his class and he took a cab to Eun Sang’s cafe even though he had no money, so we know that he lacks some smarts. (Unless he aces his finals by next week’s finale episode.)
Once Tan lost Eun Sang, he broke down and became completely weak. NO. This is NOT what I want from my male lead. I don’t need to see him broken and crying like a pathetic child for two episodes. One episode was enough – two is pushing it. Why? Why won’t I give Tan some room to breathe, to express all of the feelings bubbling inside him? Because we’ve seen before that Tan is stronger than that. If he can brush off his brother’s hatred for him, if he can stand up to his former friends at school, if he can withstand the pressures of his family, he shouldn’t break down and give up completely to his father just over Eun Sang’s disappearance. That’s lazy and irresponsible. Perhaps he should have been saying, “I’m too lazy to fight!” during episodes 17-18. He fought against his family over his engagement with Rachel, and while many did not approve of it he weathered through it just fine. But when he spent all that effort to find Eun Sang only to decide to leave her alone, he just became a stupid idiot. Perhaps a noble idiot. Thinking that it’s best to leave Eun Sang alone is a thought that should have come to his mind back around episode 6. When she was pushing him away and giving him reasons why they couldn’t be together, he persisted. So why didn’t he persist now? Why did he choose to cede all control of his life to his brother and his father?
I don’t understand how Tan’s heart could have broken when he loved Eun Sang so much and knew where she was. In my opinion he acted so pathetically, and had to have Won mend his love life for him, for no reason at all. It’s not enough of a reason that his mother is a mistress trapped in a gilded cage for me to pity him and say, “Oh poor little rich kid.” The fact that he had a mother who stuck by him despite her own circumstances, the fact that he got the girl he loved, and the fact that he even got to see his mother before she was nearly sent away to the States makes him a luckier brat than Young Do – and so for that Young Do gets all my sympathy. He should not have asked Won to send him to America, because running away is not going to solve the problem.
On a side note about Won, it’s interesting that Won never rebelled against his father over love as much as Tan did. It puts to question over his sincerity for Hyun Joo. But at the same time, he was also quite smart. Tan’s plan crashed and burned; Won is just slowly building up his foundation to ensure that he can have Hyun Joo and no one will be able to outmaneuver him to steal her away.
There was an article about if Jeguk High were Hogwarts, what houses would the characters be sorted into? Kim Tan was put into Gryffindor, and at first I agreed. Then I disagreed. Then I agreed. Why? Because Kim Tan is like Harry Potter: brave and loyal, and courageous to a fault. Willing to get himself into trouble and then realize that he doesn’t know a way out of it. Then he’ll need to find people to guide him out of it. (See: Young Do, Won, Eun Sang.) Kim Tan is reckless but full of love. An idiot who thinks he’s God’s gift to mankind/The Chosen One. I guess that’s why I hate him and love him at the same time.
In two episodes, everything can change, and Tan might win back my love. Actually, all he really has to do is crack a sarcastic joke and bam he’s back in my good graces. But it’s kind of frustrating and boring to watch your main characters just give each other googly eyes and cry when they don’t see each other. Please. Others have finals to worry about.