The Glory (Season 1, 2022)
Director: Gil Ho Ahn
Cast: Hye-Kyo Song, Do-Hyun Lee, Ji-Yeon Lim, Sung-Hoon Park, Hye-ran Yeom, Sung-il Jung, Kim Hieora, Joo-Young Cha, Gun-woo Kim, Sang-Im Park
A woman lives for absolute revenge against her childhood bullies who destroyed her life. – IMDB
Revenge is a dish best served cold. The director and writers for The Glory really took this saying and crafted an entire 18 year revenge plan put in motion. The 16 episode series takes you on a two part journey since it was released in staggered 8 episode chunks. The first part is the motive for the revenge and the set-up for her revenge plan and the second part sees her revenge plan in motion as she breaks down her bullies one at a time. In case you don’t know the story and the IMDB synopsis isn’t quite detailed, a woman who was physically (and mentally) bullied by a group of rich kids and their not well off but wanting to be rich friends when they were in high school decides to come back with an elaborate revenge plan to reveal them for their wrongdoings and destroy their status. With the help of some friends she meets along the way, she sets these plans into motion to mostly psychologically disturb them.
The Glory is an intense narrative. It comes with the territory when the intense level of bullying that happens in the first part is revealed. The first part keeps a strong sense of hatred as the main character Dong-eun still has these moments haunt her from her youth. I’m not going to say what the bullying is to avoid spoilers. The story itself focuses on the injustice of the situation because of the group’s status in society that creates a situation where Dong-eun is unfairly treated and betrayed. The first part acts as a stepping stone to truly understand why she is targeting these people as they either hurt her or treated the situation unfairly, all contributing to her plan not only including the five bullies but also a few people. In many ways, as we see her past, the characters in the present also prove to be even worse than they were, making them even more abhorrent.
To be fair, the first 8 episodes lays the motive and hatred on very thick and in some ways, it feels almost too much but when the last 8 episodes come in and the revenge plan unfurls, all the build-up in the first part makes a lot of sense because it makes it easier to fully embrace how she manipulates each of these situations, setting herself up through meeting certain people or verbally creating fear and controlling the situation then actually dealing the harm herself. Its a clever plan that might be morally wrong but its a strong message that if she was heard when she was experiencing this, perhaps it wouldn’t have turned out like this. There’s a few decent twists throughout the series as well, with one of the biggest ones probably in its finale.
While the writing itself is done pretty well, the true shining elements of this series is the cast. Dong-eun is played by Hye-Kyo Song which probably credits for the start of the Korean series popularity internationally with Autumn in My Heart (at least to my knowledge), a role that is very different from this one. This one digs much deeper into a vengeful psyche and she’s able to create a lot of friction especially facing her main counterpart, the leader of the high school bullies Yeon-Jin who is casted incredibly accurate with Ji-Yeon Lim who truly captures the condescending and self-centered elite when faced with the much less fortunate like Dong-Eun and believes that there is nothing wrong with treating them that way. She is the ringleader which sparks the fire for her little group of bullies which not only physically but mentally traumatizes their victims (yes, its not only Dong-Eun) to fulfill their constant need to prove what they can do. She has these little facial cues which reveals how her character is feeling even if she doesn’t say it.
The group itself also has its own diversity in characters. The whole group being rather well-casted to fit their own profile uniquely to fit into the revenge plan and ends up all finding their own fates in the end with a slight guidance in the revenge plan by all digging their own grave. The other shining characters has to be Dong-Eun’s amateur detective Hyeon-nam, played by Hey-ran Yeom who was also in The Uncanny Counter (review) who has a rather sad backstory but is the comedic and heartwarming relief that balances out all the negativity much like Dong-Eun’s love interest aka “executioner” who is a plastic surgeon with his own set of inner turmoil Yeo-Jeong played by Do-Hyun Lee previously seen in Sweet Home (review) who adds that little element of comfort in this whole plan but he also ends up playing the hidden sly character that helps her out of situations.
Overall, The Glory is well-deserving of its hype. The story itself highlights a lot of societal issues that stem from the basic foundation of the mentality that divides the elites and anyone below them which transfers from its generation. Bullying becomes a means to make them feel powerful and in control. The execution of the TV series is pretty clever since sometimes, the guilty only need a little nudge to drive themselves into their own doom when their dirty laundry is laid out for everyone to see and they need to desperately seek a path of redemption.
As an ending note, while The Glory does set up the stage for a potential second season if they do want to do it, I’m not really sure it needs to have one. The characters are great but when the stage shifts to the revenge plan for this other character, it might not quite have the same effect. Who knows, right? I say that but if a second season were to happen, I’d probably still watch it just to see these characters again.