Premise: A mother and a deadbeat ex detective travel back in time to save the life of her daughter. They have 14 days to stop her kidnapping while unravelling the mystery of a past murder which links both their fates. Will they triumph over fate or succumb to it?
I was prepared to give this drama a good grade for being a solidly entertaining, if underperforming, fantasy thriller. After all, it had lots going for it: a compelling mystery with enough twists and turns to keep armchair detectives occupied for days, a gritty crime-laden premise, leads with lots of appeal and a breathless pace.
Unfortunately, the drama delivered a spectacularly bad ending too impossible to overlook. It might sound harsh, but a poor finish mars everything. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, isn’t it?
It’s a case of biting off more than it could chew. God’s Gift’s problems, apparent from the start, such as mechanical storytelling, poor editing and overambitious plotting, simply got the better of it. Together with what I suspect are the rigours of the live shoot system, made the entire operation collapse on itself in its final moments.
I’ll get to the ending later, but the drama does many things right. The drama’s greatest strength to me, was its pair of well-drawn, complicated leads and their partnership. Soo Hyun (Lee Bo Young) starts out as a ‘tiger mum’ with a fraught relationship with her precocious daughter Saet Byul. As the drama progresses, while hell bent on preventing her daughter’s impending death she hurls herself into harm’s way and gets her hands very dirty, and is forced to reconsider herself as a mother.
Backing her up is a messed-up wastrel ex-cop with a crapload of emotional baggage, Ki Dong Chan (played by scene-stealer Jo Seung Woo). Together they’re scrappy tag team who are much better together than they are apart. As comrades, Soo Hyun and Dong Chan ground the story with their relationship based on genuine care, support and respect. As outsiders against the world battling unseen forces, they have guts and gumption.
Dong Chan and Soo Hyun’s teamwork and charming platonic bond is the heart and soul of the story. While Dong Chan nurses a crush (can you blame him? Ahjumma is pretty awesome), he thankfully never oversteps his bounds. It’s pretty rare in dramaland, and I’m glad this didn’t blossom into a romance.
When the plot started to go haywire with increasingly contrived situations or absurd diversions, these two kept me anchored. This is a drama that spits out political conspiracies, family dysfunction, dodgy husbands, suspect cops, vengeful grandmas, obstinate kids, countless murders, multiple killers, and even a rock star, with lightning speed. Dong Chan and Soo Hyun function like a fixed point amidst a whirlpool of chaos. There’s a lot of stuff going on in this drama, and not withstanding a healthy suspension of disbelief (pretty much a given in these sorts of genres), having these two around makes it go down a lot easier.
To the screenwriter’s (previously of Iljimae) credit even bit characters (and there are quite a few of them) make the most of their screen time so that they’re both functional and entertaining in various ways. It makes the shenanigans much easier to swallow when you enjoy watching whoever is doing the shenanigan-ing! Take Dong Chan’s sidekicks at his detective agency for instance—Jenny (Han Sun Hwa) was a nifty operator, sassy comic fodder, and even had a righteous hero moment of her own! And who can forget Heidi, the funniest fanboy with whom every K-pop fan can relate?
For a drama with a sprawling conspiracy that stretches literally through time and space, I also think it boasts some really crafty plotting, niftily doling out pieces of the puzzle one by one like a trail of breadcrumbs.
There’s a pulpy fun to some of the craziness and it was entertaining enough so that I was happy to gloss over the plot excess. Besides, it all sped by so blindingly fast. The adrenaline rush was addictive and those early cliff hangers were some of the most nail-biting and hair-raising I’ve ever experienced. And there was, as always, the dynamic duo of Soo Hyun and Dong Chan.
But as the episodes flew by, the drama started to feel less like a mystery unravelling than a machine churning out twist after twist. The plot wound itself tighter and tighter into knots. Somewhere between multiple escapes and multiple red herrings, characters stopped begin true to themselves and ran around fruitlessly instead. It got tiresome.
I certainly wasn’t expecting the drama to offer a neat and tidy wrap-up. That was hopelessly beyond its reach anyway. All it needed to do was tie up its main thread and give its leads some closure, and I would’ve been satisfied.
But I was shocked by just how badly it botched the ending. Slap-dash and barely coherent, it was as if the drama just gave up. Beyond more of the same last-minute curve balls that ate up far too much time, what was supposed to have been the climax of the entire ordeal—the reveal of final piece of the puzzle—happens in a split second and lands with zero impact.
The thing is there’s a glimmer of logic and enough skilful planting of clues all throughout to make a credible case for why it ended the way it did. But it’s told so shabbily that it’s practically nonsense.
And nothing sticks in my craw like a wishy-washy, fanservice-y ending. Killing off the show’s most popular character appeared to be the end game from the start. Kudos for sticking to the game plan show, but have the guts to commit. We’re adults. We can take Dong Chan dying if we’re convinced it’s best for the story. But the problem is no one is even quite sure what happened, much less why it had to happen, and so it feels like we all got screwed. Including Dong Chan!
So closure? What closure?
So what started out as pretty gritty, entertaining popcorn thriller couldn’t stick a decent landing to qualify for a passing grade. Disappointing.
God’s Gift–14 Days
Starring: Lee Bo Young, Jo Seung Woo, Kim Tae Woo, Jung Gyu Woon
Overall rating: 2.5
Recommended: Erm, nope.
Director:Lee Dong Hoon
Screenwriter: Choi Ran