Flaming with Desire

Moments like this, quiet but saturated with so much warm and goodness, are what drove me to pause my streaming video and take random screencaps (with the ancient Print Screen method!). Sure sign that I start to care too much – against my will.

I am a makjang newbie – well, there’s that drama which masqueraded as a warm family drama but turned out to be a traumatic / sorry attempt of makjang that makes you think the writer hates everyone in the world, but I rather not count that. I started to watch Flames of Desire because of four things: (1) the much lauded scriptwriter Jung Ha-yeon – whose work that I’ve seen is limited to Shindon Episode 1, (2) the amazing Seo Woo whom sadly garnered more interest for plastic surgery accusations rather than her acting prowess – the more I see her, the more I wanted to scream “Who cares?!?!”, and (3) Yoo Seung-ho – whom I last saw as a little boy in The Road Home, and (4) Seo Woo and Yoo Seung-ho as husband and wife – ain’t the noona love, but more the tragic star-crossed kind. Heh. I thought, it’s going to be interesting to see whether they’ll look like kids playing house or not, and from what little I saw in episode 1, they sure did NOT.

But makjang! Makjang! I hate all kinds of horror movies, and as a clueless outsider me thinks makjang is a variant of horror, the torturing and mental kind. So with half tremor, half nervous excitement, I started.

It’s as if the heavens understand my fear and give me a whole lot more, gleefully taunting, “Here’s what you want! And more! Ha! More!!” while bombarding me with makjang bombs. It’s like watching an airplane crashing in fast forward – an extraordinary explosion of ten minutes of episode 1. It started with a fur coat so extravagant, the wearer was wailing and kneeling to a very angry and very handsome boy, there was dramatic music, angry reckless driving, and thousands of candles litting up a melancholic room – and a girl dramatically, gracefully suicides in front of the fur coat lady after swigging pills.


What no one told me before is that… it was good!!

They say the task of episode 1 is to hook audience. My usual 16 eps format romcom staples do this by impossible, forced, funny, chaotic, jumbled series of events – all frantically screaming “Pay attention to meeee!” Most of the times they are not that good. Sometimes I pity them. Comparing them with the opening of Flames of Desire is like comparing squirt guns with flash flood.  Was I hooked? Of bloody course.

Damn! I watched the first two episodes with glees and smirks, because this is so delicious and dramatic like watching a train wreck from a safe side walk. Ever so slowly though, Flames extended it hooks and suddenly to my absolute horror I’m already inside the burning train!!*&$Yelp!!

Flames of Desire is about a chaebol family that self-destructs because of money, greed and power struggle. It’s about a ruthless, ambitious woman who’s willing to do what it takes to get what she wants.It’s going to be about birthsecrets so stinky it will drive our young and beautiful star-crossed lovers crazy.

Yoon Na-young comes from a poor family – a debt-ridden father and older sister Jung-sook. She’s strong willed, choleric, assertive, ambitious, and she loathes… and I mean loathes – said with hissing seething hatred – her poor background, which practically means her father. What a polar opposite is her sister, so calm, quiet and gentle. So when her father’s chaebol friend – who’s indebted to him – came to their hometown for a betrothal to unite their clans, she saw dollar sign. And she did find herself attracted to this nerdy boy with large glasses. Nevermind that his Young-min was to be betrothed to Jung-sook and not her. “Do you have any other sons?” she asked boisterously. And from that moment on her little head was filled with ideas – marrying the right (rich) man is the way to lead a good life.

Jump to ten years later where Na-young lived in Seoul, seeing a rich bastard of a boyfriend who made an empty promise to marry her when what he wanted was to get out quick. So what did the bastard do? He arranged for thugs to gang rape and bash her and so she got pregnant. Quietly she returned to her hometown, hiding an increasingly large belly – first to try to abort the child, and when that failed, she went into premature labour. Even in extreme pain, she pleaded against Caesarian. After all, if she had a scar, who would marry her?

When she regained consciousness, she asked her sister, “Did the baby live or die?”

Na-young weeped for her child. Not knowing that Jung-sook lied to her – because this child would ruin all her ambitions of a rich husband. And about the same time adult Kim Young-min – now sporting tiny Harry Potter glasses – returned to their town to fulfil the promise. Na-young then realised this is her golden ticket… after all, didn’t that hot-headed ex-gangster Joon-goo like Jung-sook so much? If they’re to end up together, she will have Young-min for herself. Now all she has to do is to play her cards tactfully… .

Yoon Na-young, Yoon Na-young. So repulsive, but at the same time it’s fascinating to watch her descent deeper into the darkness. It’s like she’s testing, daring how far, how bad she could go, surprising herself each time. Even so, with hints of vulnerability, when I saw flashes of the deeply insecure woman behind the ruthless façade – and the sorry things that happened to her (after all, this is makjang) – when I wasn’t scared or disgusted, I find myself feeling truly sorry for her. And Jung-sook, so meek and plain the first time I saw her… gradually becomes so beautiful. She’s fully aware of her sister’s nature – and yet… and yet her unconditional love is just mind boggling. A fool perhaps… but the more I saw her, the more intrigued I am by her mystery.

The most interesting pair of siblings since Do-woo and Eun-soo from Story of A Man.

It’s not even just these two. The mild-mannered, bookish, obedient Kim Young-min is not as simple as he seemed. Daddy chaebol Kim – what’s the purpose of this betrothal, a gesture to make amends to an old friend while making himself feel better, or a move for his advantage in the political struggle in the family? (He doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. I see a lot of fainting and strokes in the future). The remorseful Joon-goo who feels he’s not and will never be good enough for Jung-sook. Na-young’s hidden child, Hae-jin, who’s like her mother in so many ways but is not as embittered – what kind of person will she grow up to be? Young Kim Min-jae, itching to rebel, stifled in his mum’s aspirations to make him the heir of Atlantic Ocean Group no matter what.

In primary school I had a classmate just like this Min-jae. Always top of the class, artistic, musical, good looks, extremely ambitious mother. Last time I checked, he dyed his hair bright orange, swapped books for girls, and went to art school.  But I digress.

Everyone in Flames is so so interesting. The dramatic things happening to them impossible but riveting. I’m all hot and bothered, it’s not even funny. No wonder they called Jung Ha-yeon the Master. So here I am, waiting for a double dose of burning train every early weekdays (slight Viikii delays). What will I do when I go overseas with no reliable internet sources?


About toopai
part time couch potato, full time movie and drama enthusiast.

2 Responses to Flaming with Desire

  1. soxxy15 says:

    I like your review. This drama is really interesting. It’s my first time watching a makjang but I’m totally hooked.

    • tupai says:

      Thanks! I’m glad many people love this drama too, it’s awesome. But I suspect a makjang that’s both engrossing and clever like this one is a rarity.

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