A Good Wife: Eps 1-3
In case you haven’t noticed, the tw-drama season is severely lacking in the good drama department. Well here comes A Good Wife which is doing a great job so far. (It’s a summer drama, still airing now.) I already had high expectations for it because of the solid cast, the human genre and the touchy subject matter. Yup, it’s about a wife who is tempted to cheat on her husband. And if you don’t like dramas about cheating…before you run away from it, just let me say that normally I don’t like cheating dramas…but I’m still enjoying A Good Wife so far. It is more than just a drama about cheating, instead it is more about marriage, family, and how that defines one’s identity.
^Yi Zhen (top two pics) / Shao Wen (bottom left) / Sheng En (bottom right)
Yi Zhen (Tian Xin) is a housewife who has married into a rich family. She loves her husband, Shao Wen (Christopher Lee), a lot but she is also unhappy because he is a workaholic and his parents seem like monster-in-laws. Yi Zhen is constantly pressured by the monster-in-laws to adhere to the family standards and to start giving them grandchildren. So far she has had no children and is having trouble getting pregnant. Eventually she has her 2nd miscarriage which only makes things worse with her in-laws and husband. Later on she stumbles across a bookstore that gives her some solace and she becomes friends with the bookstore owner, Sheng En (Darren Qiu).
I know, I know, it sounds like the typical unhappy-wife-trapped-in-rich-family-with-bad-husband scenario where you are totally rooting for the wife to just divorce the good-for-nothing husband already. Actually, A Good Wife is does not take that stance although it does focus a lot on how Yi Zhen’s family circumstances are making her unhappy in her marriage. The drama shows all sides of the characters, so much so that already in just 3 episodes we are seeing the different layers of Yi Zhen, her husband Shao Wen, and even the monster in-laws.
For instance, Shao Wen is not a total jerk! Remember in The Fierce Wife when the husband was such a jerk? Well, Shao Wen isn’t. You can’t really hate him, especially when it shows things from both sides of the story. There are some moments when I totally go “OMG HE CROSSED THE LINE”…but there are also moments when I know he is trying to make things work in his marriage. He actually really cares about Yi Zhen, and wants her to be happy. However Shao Wen is divided between his work, his parents, and Yi Zhen..all of which have conflicting interests. Shao Wen is also flawed in that he is sexist–believing that only men can work in his profession (he’s an architect) and that women should stay home and take care of the household. Later on we see some of the underlying influences on his sexist views–his dad is always harping about how women should stay out of the men’s matters..and Yi Zhen’s first miscarriage was due to her overworking.
One thing that is interesting about Shao Wen though, is that pretty much all of his stills for the drama show him in dark lighting with a serious look or a powerful pose. He is really sweet when he interacts with Yi Zhen but I wonder if the possible cheating scenario will also show his darker side.
I’m really loving Yi Zhen’s character. She is a difficult character to portray and so far Tian Xin is definitely doing her role justice. The hard part about Yi Zhen’s role is that she is full of so many conflicting desires and characteristics. She is really strong even though she is also oppressed by her in-laws. There are so many moments when I think to myself that I would’ve been bawling my eyes out if I were in her shoes..but Yi Zhen always puts on her game face and manages not to have a meltdown. O__O I think it’s also interesting that Yi Zhen is a housewife by choice; she could’ve been working in the architecture field if she wanted to but she chose to stay at home to try to start a family. In this sense, Yi Zhen does not have to depend on her husband for her livelihood nor does she always have to live in his shadow.
On the other hand, Yi Zhen also has her vulnerable side which balances out her strengths. Although she has incredible fortitude and, IMO, courage, she blames herself for not being brave enough. She is unhappy and lonely, frustrated with her circumstances and uncertain about her future with Shao Wen. She struggles with the concept of what it means to be a wife and finds it hard to compromise between her own desires and Shao Wen’s desires. And, this is where the title “A Good Wife” comes into play–what exactly is ‘a good wife’ and how far does Yi Zhen have to go to fulfill this role? Is this what she wants in her life? Does a wife have to sacrifice everything for her husband?
There are several super charged and tense scenes, especially in eps2-3 but I won’t explain them in much detail. Let’s just say that after Yi Zhen’s miscarriage in ep1, a lot of crap goes down in eps2-3. I think my favorite scenes are…
-Yi Zhen and Shao Wen’s first argument. Shao Wen refuses to cancel Yi Zhen’s baby shower even after she has a miscarriage and wants her to pretend that she’s still pregnant. I love Yi Zhen’s reaction–she looks so overwhelmed and hurt, she tells him she just can’t do it. Shao Wen continues to try to persuade her and she just turns to stare at him with a look of utter disappointment in her eyes.
-Yi Zhen ends up agreeing to go to the baby shower but ends up ditching it right at the last minute. She finds herself back at Shang En’s bookstore and, while listening to the most peaceful angelic music, her eyes start brimming with tears. :'( Omg, you have to watch that scene to get what I mean. The peaceful music just made it that much sadder.
-Monster-mother-in-law finds out about Yi Zhen’s miscarriage. Yi Zhen tries to reach out to her mother-in-law after finding out that she also entered the Li family and had to learn to live by their rules. She says that she feels like she has no freedom and no voice. The mother-in-law is visibly affected by this (there are hints she’s also unhappy) but she responds with a really harsh put-down instead. Omg, the look on Yi Zhen’s face as she holds back her tears. :((((
I didn’t talk much about the ‘third party’ aka Sheng En whom Yi Zhen will be getting involved with. Their chemistry is alright but there is nothing really off-the-charts about it that made me really feel their instant attraction when they first met. But the drama tries to show that from day 1, they can connect and talk about really deep stuff like the meaning of marriage, wanting to run away from reality, etc. etc. To me it didn’t feel as natural as it should’ve been. Later on it also shows that Sheng En is physically attracted to Yi Zhen (it shows him thinking about her LIPS o__o). At this point though, Sheng En only sympathizes with Yi Zhen and is almost like her life coach or something. I think the main reason I can see them being together is that Yi Zhen can actually show her genuine smile when she is around him. I don’t want Yi Zhen and Shao Wen to break up though so I’m not sure how I feel about the future cheating plot.
Overall, the build-up of A Good Wife is slower than most tw-dramas. It gives us ample time to get to know the characters but doesn’t dilly dally around the more major points of the story such as Yi Zhen’s miscarriage, her arguments with Shao Wen, and her friendship with Shao Wen. The writing is not so subtle in some parts, like when they talk about a popular novel about a wife that cheats on a husband (OH GEE, FORESHADOWING?) or when Shao Wen & Yi Zhen gaze at a picture with the words “Runaway” on it and Yi Zhen claims “I don’t wanna run away!” Guess what the title of the next episode was? “RUNAWAY!”
Opening Theme Song MV:
Where to watch: A Good Wife is English subbed on Viki.