I’ve finally completed the roller coaster ride that is Bride of the Century. I’ve mentioned before that I was worried Bride may have bitten off more than it can chew, having to juggle with various themes and narratives. Surprisingly, the result isn’t that bad — there are remaining loose ends, but the show still manages to pull off a fairly complete ending to its viewers.
Contention: The relevance of the ghost to the plot
Resolution: The guardian ghost is central to the plot
I was frustrated with the female ghost’s relevance to the narrative at the start of Bride. The show implied that she is as a spirit that kills the first wives of the Choi household. But right from the start, her actions are confusing and her intentions are ambivalent. Is she helping Do-rim? Or harming her? Why does Kang-ju place such trust in her? Is she protecting him or does she have a personal agenda? Then later on, the “curse” is revealed to be nothing more than human interventions — evil mother-in-laws killing the Choi eldest sons’ first wives. By then, I am thoroughly annoyed. So what is her ROLE in the whole show? Finally we get the answer in the last 3eps of Bride, when she reveals her backstory and her intention for hooking up Do-rim and Kang-ju.
The ghost’s name was Byul, and during Kang-ju great-grandpa’s era, she entered the Choi family as a mute maidservant. But Byul had a darker purpose behind her employment. She was there to avenge her family, who is killed? separated? cos of the Choi clan. However, Kang-ju’s great grandpa fell in love with her, and she with him…and her desire for revenge disappeared. She eventually got pregnant, but Kang-ju’s great grandma (who was barren) resented her and wanted to destroy the liaison. So she sent her trusted housekeeper, who was none other than Yi-kyung’s mum (or rather, her previous reincarnation), to murder Byul and her newborn son. Do-rim, in that era was daughter to Yi-kyung’s mum. She was also best of friend with Byul. She witnessed her mum murdering Byul and managed to save Byul’s son before he suffered the same fate. Byul’s son was later adopted by Kang-ju’s great grandma.
So now we have the ghost’s motive for her seemingly at odds actions. Basically she is one patient vengeful ghost. She wants revenge on Yi-kyung’s mum for the murder, and at the same time, to pay back the favour she owes Do-rim for saving her son. Also, she keeps an eye out for her descendents — those Choi heirs who are descended from her son raised by Kang-ju’s great grandma. Thus, she helps Kang-ju escape from the kidnapper and even plays matchmaker. (although I asked myself why she only favours the first sons and not daughters or subsequent children?)
Contention: A curse that turns out to be…fluff
Resolution: Making use of superstitions
Besides the family ghost, the second theme that is tied to her and central to the plot is THE CURSE. When we know the curse is unrelated to the ghost, and Kang-ju dad’s first wife was murdered by his mother-in-law, we assume that all first wives in the Choi family had suffered the same fate. But, we are given hints in the show that Do-rim’s granny is somehow the first (purchased) wife of Kang-ju’s grandpa, which the show lead us to believe in the prologue. And we think she’d seen the ghost and jumped off the cliff — leaving only a red shoe behind. A red shoe which Do-rim’s granny had the other missing match.
That kinda points towards the direction that the so-called “curse” may be false or manufactured. The show confirms this by having Byul reveals that there is no curse, and she has been testing Do-rim all along on whether she is brave enough and loves Kang-ju enough to even die for him. (duh?) Finally, in the last ep, Do-rim’s granny admits that she had been temporarily the first wife of Kang-ju’s grandpa. And the manufacturer of the curse is Kang-ju’s grandpa.
Kang-ju’s grandpa fell in love with Do-rim’s granny at first sight. However, due to their disparaging status differences, he could never wed her. So to “chase” off the potential suitors, he spread rumours that the Choi family’s first wives are cursed to die — backed conveniently by previous first wives who did die of natural causes/ accidents. Given that people are superstitious (and they remain the same in the present, as exemplified by Kang-ju’s mother weird plan to use Yi-kyung), the rich families soon stop sending their daughters on matchmaking sessions with Kang-ju’s grandpa. And he successfully managed to wed Do-rim’s granny. Unfortunately for him, Do-rim’s granny already had a fiance. On the wedding night, she spiked Kang-ju grandpa’s wine and before long, he concussed. She escaped with her fiance, and planted one of the bridal red shoes near a cliff. The interesting bit is although Kang-ju’s grandpa later learned that his new wife had ran off with another man, he chose not to dispel the curse or pursue her.
Thus, the “curse” continued to prevail to the present day — with mind boggling plottings and counter plottings to circumvent it.
Contention: The “twin sister” who is not biologically related in any ways
Resolution: One of them is a changeling
This enters the realm of the supernatural wholesale…even if you had kinda ignored the presence of Byul and what she means to the plot. The show gives us the “birth secret” tickle on the onset, but tells us upfront that there is NO birth secret, the two girls juz “happen” to look 100% alike (in looks, tone of voice, whatever). Then leaves us to believe that this is a coincidence. (yeah, like how many people will look exactly like your splitting image?)
At the end of Bride, we get this really weird reason for their unrelated twin-ness. Byul had gone to Yi-kyung’s mum after she gave birth to Yi-kyung and changed the poor child’s features to look exactly like Do-rim. Of course, that would also mean Yi-kyung’s mum came under a spell too — she couldn’t be that blind not to realise her infant had changed looks! In other words, Do-rim is Do-rim (Byul refers her to the “sun”) but Yi-kyung is doomed to be the “sun’s shadow” or “little sun”. (hello there, Master Sun‘s reference!)
Even if Byul does that in order to exact her long awaited revenge, I pity Yi-kyung. Not only does she lose her original physical features in a wave of immediate (magical) plastic surgery, but she also loses an identity as a character. The show doesn’t do her much justice, she plays the 2-dimensional bit*hy second lead cum the evil “twin” sister to Do-rim. In Byul’s convoluted revenge plot, Yi-kyung is the the innocent collateral damage.