Review | K-drama review: Big Mouth – Disney+ series starring Lee Jong-suk is so full of plot holes, it’s like the Korean drama equivalent of Swiss cheese
- Korean superstar Lee Jong-suk and Im Yoon-ah from Girls’ Generation star in Big Mouth, a series that doesn’t bother with plot lines or consistency
- Lee’s character, Park Chang-ho, seems to learn skills out of nowhere as he transitions from mediocre lawyer to criminal kingpin.
This article contains minor spoilers.
Following 16 turbulent episodes of breathless plotting and sharp reversals, crime drama Big Mouth has come to an end. It gave us political intrigue, prison power struggles, medical and corporate malpractice and even a rushed election, but what was the point of it all?
A lot happened over the course of the show, but precious little was in service of a coherent story, and hardly any of it made sense for the characters, who were tossed around different situations to suit the script’s tempestuous needs, regardless of their personal trajectories.
Late in the series, Park is exonerated and released from prison when the real Big Mouse is revealed. Almost as soon as he is unmasked, the brilliant mastermind Big Mouse is summarily dispatched, and within a few scenes Park takes over his mantle, thereby becoming the real Big Mouse. He then becomes a leading mayoral candidate.
Before his stint in jail, Park exhibits little to no professional skills and is married to his high-school sweetheart, nurse Go Mi-ho (Girls’ Generation’s Im Yoon-ah). Before things went south for them, the pair engaged in cutesy homemaking replete with matching pyjamas.
There are no hints of Park’s impending transformation. He’s not a frustrated skilled character whose abilities are suddenly pushed to the fore in a high-pressure situation. In prison, his life is immediately threatened and out of nowhere, he rises to the challenge, becoming someone he simply wasn’t before that moment.
We are forced to accept this merely because Park is played by Lee Jong-suk, a handsome actor who generally plays the smartest and cockiest man in the room.
Putting aside the threadbare characters for a moment, what sort of entertainment did Big Mouth offer? Earlier in the season there were a couple of flashes of Park as a master behind-the-scenes orchestrator (whether the character deserved that distinction), such as when he upstaged a court case with a viral video, then turned up on the court steps within a van complete with a jumbotron.
It was a preposterous gambit but at least it was fun to watch. It’s the kind of grandstanding set piece we tune in to see. Lee gets to be the dashing prodigy and we don’t have to worry too much about the fuzzy details of how he got there.
Regrettably, the show never reached this admittedly low peak of irreverent fun again. Park has to fend off countless other attacks from among the story’s many antagonists, but his counteroffensives are drearily derivative and lack suspenseful build-ups.
While Park finagled his way out of tight spots and his many opponents constantly switched allegiances, the only consistent major character on the show was Go, but what a thankless role that turned out to be for Im.
Go is the supportive-wife archetype on steroids. Being a nurse, we would imagine that her life is dedicated to other people, but in reality she’s dedicated to Park. After he goes to prison, she goes to work at a hospital connected to the shadowy Nine Rivers Project.
She tries to dig up dirt there, even though everyone knows what she’s doing. Later on, she works directly in the prison, once again without masking her intentions, which puts her in constant mortal danger. Anyhow, she likes to trot up to menacing characters and spout out zesty threats such as, “I’ll show you true despair, as you cry tears of blood.”
Go eventually succeeds in uncovering corporate malfeasance, when she discovers waste water that is making people very sick. She finds this out only when a pipe bursts over her as she attempts to save a prisoner, and for her troubles she develops acute stage-four lymphoma.
She keeps this horrifying news to herself for a while, and opts to reveal it during a live mayoral debate between Park and former mayor Choi Do-ha (Kim Joo-hun). She uses the limelight to uncover the illicit activity of the Nine Rivers Project and affords her hubby a minor ratings boost.
However, Park loses the election and Go dies with her husband at her bedside in a simpering scene that is bereft of any real emotion.
Like many a Korean vigilante these days, Park takes matters into his own hands by swapping out the water from Choi’s beloved dive pool with the waste water that killed his wife.
Towering over his arch rival, Park watches as Choi coughs up blood and sinks into the depths of the pool for the last time.
Why did Park enter the mayoral race? What has happened to the Nine Rivers Project? How have a dozen other characters fared? All these questions and many more remain unanswered.
One could be generous and suggest that answers could be forthcoming in a theoretical second season, but the truth is that there is no mystery, just a series of gaping plot holes. In the end, Big Mouse has turned Big Mouth into a big block of Swiss cheese.
Big Mouth is streaming on Disney+.