This was one drama that I enjoyed more for the ride than for the desire to reach the end. It’s a drama that if it had more time might have been fleshed out more properly, but with a writer who’s only got one other drama to her name I’m not sure if she could have improved upon it any better.
I don’t wish to go over the plot of this drama because it was confusing enough to zip through two weeks the first time around, and then have to go through it the second time with many more complications and serial killers along the way. Suffice to say, we never get an explanation as to how Kim Soo Hyun (Lee Bo Young) and Ki Dong Chan (Jo Seung Woo) travel back in time. They just do thanks to some mystical plankton.
The plot was overwrought with red herrings, serial killers, and confusing clues that came out at the nick of time. Conclusions were jumped to give half-satisfying explanations for everything. It did not help that the countdown for the days were all wonky, or that the writer was playing a game of “how many more twists can I add,” or that the editing was clunky. I guess it’s partly due to the live-shoot schedule, but I think the issue lies more with the writer, Choi Ran.
Choi’s last drama was Iljimae and while I haven’t seen that drama I find it quite strange that she’s only written one other drama before God’s Gift. She’s tackling a colossus of a drama for her sophomore outing as a writer. She provides inane dialogue for Lee Bo Young, whose oft-repeated catchphrase is “Where is my daughter?” to anyone unlucky in having to listen but wouldn’t know the answer. One can only repeat it so many times before appearing a little desperate and pathetic for repeating the question to someone who doesn’t know the answer. She also tends to talk to herself too much. While I understand that it’s for the audience’s benefit so that we may know what she’s thinking, it’s such a time waster. Time is of an essence in this drama! Choi also adds too many flashbacks in the drama as a device to explain Soo Hyun’s discoveries or reasons for her actions. While it’s an attempt to keep the story moving forward while giving us more of an explanation, it also throws me off in the already confusing timeline. How long ago did she discover that clue? And how long has it been since she’s acted upon that clue?
By episode 13 the plot became even more confusing because so many people got involved. We have Cha Bong Sub as the Moojin and Gangnam serial killer. He killed two women in Moojin before Soo Jung’s death, and then let Ki Dong Ho (Jung Eun Pyo) take the fall for those two murders when he was caught “killing” Soo Jung. Cha is caught after the Gangnam murders because Soo Hyun thought he was Saet Byul’s kidnapper. Cha gets killed by Han Ki Tae, a lackey on a motorcycle who himself is killed so that there are no loose ends. Han was paid to kill Cha because Cha knew that Dong Ho was not the Moojin serial killer.
Then we learn that “Tattoo Guy” is the one who kidnapped Saet Byul. “Tattoo Guy” is a nickname for Hwang Kyung Soo, a special ops agent who is part of President Kim Nam Joon’s security detail. We learn that stationery shop owner Jang Moon Soo knows the identity of Hwang, but he is also a shady character with his own obsession and a serial killer in his own right. Jang is almost like a red herring because he fits the profile of Saet Byul’s kidnapper in many ways but is not her kidnapper. Then we learn that “homeless” Choo Byung Woo (Shin Goo) and Tae Oh (No Min Woo) are both looking for Soo Jung’s killer because they know it’s not Tae Oh’s older brother Yoon Jae Han.
And at this point we realize that Soo Jung’s killer and Hwang are not one and the same. Instead, Soo Jung’s killer is nicknamed ‘Hephaestos’ due to his limp, and he’s Kim Shin Yoo (Joo Ho), President Kim’s son. Jae Han, along with Yoo Jin Woo (Im Ji Kyu) and others became accomplices to Shin Yoo’s murder of Soo Jung. They all took turns stabbing her because Lee Myung Han (Joo Jin Mo) threatened to frame them for the murder unless they became accomplices. Jae Han killed himself over the guilt (although Lee Myung Han ruled it as an accident and Han Ji Hoon (Kim Tae Woo) ruled it as murder), and Jin Woo ended up going into a mental hospital because of it.
We also have Joo Mi Na, Soo Hyun’s assistant who happens to be having an affair with Ji Hoon and got pregnant with his baby. He forced her to abort it, but when she loses it in a miscarriage she takes it out on Saet Byul. We think that she could be the kidnapper and the one that wants Saet Byul dead, but nope! She is just another disgruntled character. She puts Ji Hoon in a bad light, and makes us suspect that he could have had something to do with Saet Byul’s death. However she ends up disappearing completely from the drama after her failed suicide attempt in Soo Hyun’s home.
Because Soo Hyun discovers evidence in Cha’s house that points him to being the Moojin killer, Ji Hoon uses it to blackmail Lee Myung Han for covering up Soo Jung’s murder case. Lee’s reaction? He has Hwang Kyung Soo kidnap Saet Byul so that they have something to trade. Hwang happens to be working with evil Lee Myung Han because he was promised that his son’s serial killer would be killed first through the death penalty. But when Hwang realizes that Saet Byul must be killed because she knows about Kim Shin Yoo, he lets her go instead and tells her to run.
Unfortunately Saet Byul is knocked out by a bunch of unknown gangsters – not any of the killers we met along the way – and is left to die in a field by a lake. Dong Chan is drugged and then brought to the field where he is left to think that Saet Byul is dead. Out of grief he thinks that his mom killed Saet Byul, who by the way “kidnapped” Saet Byul earlier in exchange for Ji Hoon proving that Dong Ho is innocent but then returned Saet Byul to her father. To cover up for this, Dong Chan dumps Saet Byul in the water, only to have a moment of clear-headedness where he realizes that this is all deja vu and that Saet Byul doesn’t have to die.
So he dies instead.
So if you happen to follow along with all that, you’re amazing. I could not for the life of me understand what was going on until I had many discussions with friends and wrote everything down. To recap: Bad guys= Lee Myung Han, Kim Shin Yoo, and Kim’s momma. Good guys = Soo Hyun, Dong Chan, and Saet Byul. Those stuck between a rock and a hard place = Ji Hoon, Choo Byung Woo, President Kim. Everyone else = irrelevant. Oh and a bunch of gangsters (at least 2 groups) who chase the good guys all over the place and we don’t know exactly whom they’re working for.
It was an ambitious plot, and I commend the writer for attempting to tackle this beast. It is a thriller and she certainly made it so. However, she left a bunch of plot holes along the way. For one thing, we never really understand what happened the first time around, the first two weeks. If Dong Chan killed Saet Byul the first time around, it makes no sense as to how he got to that point because Lee Myung Han’s meddling only really happened the second time around thanks to Soo Hyun’s own attempts to thwart fate. Even though Lee does give some sort of exposition explaining how things will progress, it’s unlikely that this parallels the situation the first time around because he would not have been involved if the evidence from the Moojin serial murders had not been found. And those pieces of evidence would not have been found if Soo Hyun had not gone after Cha Byung Sub. I did think that whatever happened the first time around was irrelevant, that perhaps Saet Byul was an unfortunate victim of a kidnapping. But when Lee explained to First Lady Kim about how things were going to progress, and that certain scenes were beginning to parallel what happened the first time around, it just made things a lot worse because now there were plot holes that were not sufficiently explained.
The ending was the worst because if Dong Chan became aware of what was happening, there was no reason for him to kill himself. He had thwarted fate already by realizing that he was killing Saet Byul, and that Saet Byul was alive. Why did everyone listen to Soo Jung’s mother, who never reappeared in the series after the first episode? Why did she have to dictate Dong Chan or Saet Byul’s fate? If anything, the drama is called God’s Gift, which I assume is the gift of life and that one must treasure that life instead of wasting it away. One must treasure the life of a child, who is young and has a future to change the world. And one must treasure the life of the virtuous who will do anything to pursue truth and justice to protect his loved ones.
So again, WHY MUST ANYONE DIE? Aside from any baddies, of course.
Aside from my complaints on the details and plot holes, I think that the theme of the drama was served to us quite clearly. To me, God’s Gift was about mothers and their willingness to do anything for their child(ren). It’s about that motherly instinct to protect and love. We see it manifest in so many ways in both good and bad. There’s Soo Hyun who goes on a wild goose chase to capture the killer before her daughter can fall into harm’s way. There’s Dong Chan’s mother who would resort to spying and kidnapping out of desperation to save her wrongfully-jailed son. There’s Mi Na who resorts to vengeance due to losing her own baby. And then finally we have First Lady Kim who will do anything to protect her son Kim Shin Yoo from imprisonment. She is the most dangerous of all the mothers as she wields the most power and strangely has control over Lee Myung Han. (Side note: I feel like he harbors a crush on the mother because I can’t believe that he protects Shin Yoo merely out of loyalty.)
The theme is probably one of the few things I like about this drama. Another thing I liked was Jo Seung Woo who was the joy and light of my computer screen whenever I watched the drama. He was quite a wonderful comedic sidekick/lead actor when put against the more depressing Lee Bo Young. And he sang. And he wears a suit so well like no other man. As for the things I didn’t like, I’m sad that my love Jung Gyu Woon was pretty much wasted in this drama. He barely served a purpose other than to be a detective with dubious motives, and only gets a send-off in the series by lying in the hospital bed; Methinks he was itching to get to his honeymoon. I did not like the editing of this series, which could have been a side effect of the live shoot system, because certain scenes would go on for too long or we would cut abruptly into another scene and have the background soundtrack cut mid-song. It was uneven and disconnected, and the scenes that were supposed to be flashbacks or dreams were not conveyed as clearly as they should have been.
All in all, I think there were more things I did not like about the series than liked. HOWEVER, that’s not to say I’m dismissing this drama entirely. I think that the journey and the acting was well worth the watch, and I really enjoyed the tension that I felt as Soo Hyun and Dong Chan did everything they could to save Saet Byul. It’s just that if I think too deeply into this drama – and this is a drama that certainly merits deep thinking – the plot holes and the unsatisfying conclusion ruined the experience. At the end of the day, I’m torn between recommending this drama and telling people to stay away.
Verdict: 6.5/10. A solid drama but I’m docking points for the poor plot execution.