My sister started telling me about The Glory a month ago. We tend to share the same taste in watching stuff, but for some reason I put it off till my 15 year old son basically said “I’ll watch it without you”, which he did and that finally pushed me over the edge.

So the wife and I finally finished it last night after several days of intense binging and…I have some thoughts.

As a survivor of the Malaysian boarding school system, and more recently, a parent extremely aware of the depths of cruelty young humans can descend to and inflect on each other, I was vaguely informed of the plot via social media osmosis (and my sister’s continued insistence that I start watching), but it didn’t take long after starting for us to get hooked.

Getting Your Own, Monte Cristo Style

Netflix’s K-Dramas have a certain DNA to them, for want of a better word. Perhaps, free of the constraints of product placement and sponsorship (and perhaps the requirement to remain clean for terrestrial broadcast) the pace is faster, and the plots often darker and edgier, with more profanity and nudity than in most other similar shows. The Glory mainly stays true to this formula, although I suppose the writers felt the need to stretch the story to contractually fulfil the 16 episode requirement, when I figure it could have successfully done the same in 10.

As it is, it’s basically The Count of Monte Cristo, but adapted, updated, and improved to suit the sensibilities of a K-Drama and the hungry, attention-deprived masses of Netflix’s core customer base. It does work as a wish fulfilment fantasy, because who amongst us hasn’t had that thought before falling asleep, of finally taking that step – and hatching the perfect revenge? Nevermind that some parts of it require massive suspension of disbelief, I wanted to root for the protagonist, and I wanted her to win. In a world where some of the most popular shows just highlight how the rich keep winning at everything, a script that takes its time to bring us this kind of satisfying conclusion is sorely needed.

Do You Believe in Life after Love

It’s notable that quite a few of the main actors are actually theater graduates, and their performances reflect that. Each of the villains are delightfully hateful, some more cartoonish (Cinderella’s stepsisters come to mind) than others, but they are essentially vehicles for the viewer to project our own frustrations and hatred toward. We’ve all known someone, or many someones who are exactly like the bullies in The Glory, and while we may empathise with some parts of their lives, we would be only too happy to stand by and watch them get what’s coming. Why not? Life is hardly ever fair, and the bullies in our own lives never seem to get their comeuppance.

In any case, the casting and acting are superb, and watching them only reinforces the sense of just how far South Korea’s industry has gone, and why Malaysia’s own little version is completely mired in self-defeat.

How Do You Sleep At Night?

I would figure some people would be uncomfortable with the premise and actions of the protagonist, and I have to say I am not one of those people. Wish fulfilment fantasies fulfil an important role, especially in a world that very rarely sees a preferred version of justice being done. An interesting conversation can be had about the morality of the protagonist – why, if she’d already clawed her way to relative success, is she fixated on the idea of enacting revenge on her former tormentors? Why not move away, and live quietly, like that social media quote we keep saying about the best revenge being to live a good life, or some such bullshit?

Because this is a TV show about revenge, godamnit. And what kind of a revenge fantasy would it be without morally ambiguous characters playing an extremely long game of 5D chess (or Go, as it turns out) to finally exact their utterly complicated, ludicrous, and yet satisfying revenge?

A very bad one, definitely. Anyway, this is a solid 4.5 backstabbing knives over 5.

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