lee jae-wook the impossible heir

If you manage to make it through two hours of The Impossible Heir without turning it off, you might assume that something this generic has to be written by ChatGPT. While the series isn’t actually written by the controversial chatbot, it is plagued by cardboard characters patchworked from a checklist of K-drama clichés and a woefully predictable plot that’s intent on hitting every tired trope you’ve ever seen.

The story begins with Han Tae-oh (Lee Jae-wook), an impoverished teen with a tragic backstory and a brilliant intellect. Seeing as his father is imprisoned for the murder of his mother, Tae-oh has a tough time making ends meet, hustling between part-time jobs and high school. When he comes across the entitled, attention-seeking antics of classmate Kang In-ha (Lee Jun-young), they instantly become enemies.

Unlike Tae-oh, In-ha comes from obscene wealth as he’s the third child of billionaire tycoon Kang Jung-mo (Choi Jin-ho). However, In-ha’s life is not as privileged as it seems. As it turns out, In-ha is despised and shunned by most of his family due his status as an illegitimate son, leading to his resentful personality.

After a couple of scuffles, our mismatched leads begin to bond over their respective stations. In-ha agrees to be Tae-oh’s “golden rope” – a means for him to ascend to fortune and power. In return, Tae-oh agrees to use his genius mind to help In-ha take over his father’s company, the Kangoh Group.

This tentative alliance quickly develops into a sturdy friendship as we follow the duo into university. Together, they’ve hatched a long-term plan to install themselves in Jung-mo’s empire, but their bond hits a snag when both boys become enamoured with a girl named Na Hye-won (Hong Su-zu), who lives across the street from Tae-oh and goes to his college.

We later learn that she’s motivated by her rough upbringing as well, as the daughter of an abusive, debt-ridden mother. Hungry and ambitious, she’s keen to use both suitors to attain her goals, even if she does end up developing genuine feelings for In-ha and Tae-oh.

As far as premises go, The Impossible Heir’s may be shopworn, but it isn’t necessarily bad. The fault lies in its insipid and heavy-handed execution, as if it’s told in point form, with no real depth and nuance as it shuffles from scene to scene. Underdog heroes scheming to overthrow a shady corporation have been done to death, as have their cookie-cutter backstories. That’s even before we have to sit through yet another contrived love triangle.

We desperately want to root for the leads, if only they weren’t banal boilerplates of hackneyed character traits. Perhaps, we’d be more inclined to invest in them if the show’s villains were more formidable. Sadly, In-ha’s Logan Roy wannabe dad, cackling evil stepmother Jang Geum-seok (Kim Ho-jung) and two buffoon brothers, In-joo (Han Sang-jin) and Seong-ju (Lee Ji-hoon), are so cartoonishly over-the-top and petty that its difficult to take them seriously.

Admittedly, The Impossible Heir’s first two episodes do only serve as an extended prologue to the main narrative – which time jumps five years into the future when Tae-oh and In-ha are already working in the Kangoh Group (how? what? huh?) – so the K-drama could conceivably get more interesting as Tae-oh and In-ha’s hidden strategy unfolds. But as it stands, the series’ record-breaking ₩20billion price tag appears to be an unwise investment.

The Impossible Heir is available to stream exclusively on Disney+.

The post ‘The Impossible Heir’ review: patchworked from a checklist of K-drama clichés appeared first on NME.


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