Sometimes you want a big, soapy kdrama that you can flail at and/or throw pillows at, depending on the day. Here are my four favorite melodramas, which made me cry, made me throw things, and/or gave me all the feels:
Secret Love Affair (JTBC | 16 episodes | March 17 to May 13, 2014)
Are you in the mood for an unforgettable drama about a woman who found herself trapped in a cage of her own making by sacrificing her morals and time and youth in order to acquire wealth and prestige? Are you in the mood to watch her rediscover her love of music, crave quiet moments of happiness, and find passion and desire with the help of a much younger man? Secret Love Affair boasted one of the smartest scripts in 2014, and its detailed camerawork and gorgeous soundtrack ensured that the audience paid attention to every detail.
Kim Hee-ae and Yoo Ah-in’s performances as the two lovers were breathtaking. If you want smart, sophisticated, morally gray, and engaging storytelling, make sure you check this out.
Scent of a Woman (SBS | 16 episodes | July 23 to September 11, 2011)
It’s a terminal illness melodrama that sometimes verges on inspiration porn and occasional makes me want to tear my hair out and in a few memorable instances made me cry. Watching the heroine reclaim her life and do the things she had put off for a future she no longer had was a delight, whether that was give herself a makeover or go on vacation or quit a job she hated or take tango classes. When the hero wasn’t being ridiculous, the romance was great, though the second leads could be less than pleasant from time to time.
The ending is contentious: I was in the camp of mostly liking it, but it didn’t make everyone happy.
Punch (SBS | 19 episodes | December 15, 2014 to February 17, 2015)
If modern-day political thrillers featuring a cast of mostly morally bankrupt characters sounds exciting to you, then this is a show you’ll want to watch ASAP. Even though I spent a good chunk of the time wishing violent, humiliating failures on 90% of the cast, Punch was a compelling, fast-paced drama fueled by intense performances, constant backstabbing, and a time bomb in the form of a terminal cancer diagnosis. Despite some serious missteps in the final episode, Punch delivered (and raised my blood pressure) every week. A not insignificant portion of my love for this show is due to the powerful ladies who fell on different spots in the character alignment chart.
Nice Guy/The Innocent Man (KBS | 20 episodes | September 12 to November 15, 2012)
Honestly, this is the closest kdrama has ever gotten to making me ship horrifically toxic relationships, on both sides of the love triangle. Self-loathing Ma-ru went to prison for his girlfriend, Jae-hee, only for her to betray him and marry a wealthy, older businessman. Upon his release, he tries to seek revenge on her by using Jae-hee’s adult stepdaughter, Eun-gi, who is fighting not to be ousted as successor to her father’s company by Jae-hee (and Jae-hee’s son, her half brother). A twisted love triangle ensues, which cannot be stopped by car crashes, brain damage, amnesia, or creepily obsessed secretaries. The ending is a mess, but it is a delightful, if occasionally frustrating, ride.