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'The Glory' serves cold dish of revenge

"The Glory" stars Song Hye-kyo as Dong-eun, a woman seeking revenge on her childhood tormentors. – Photo by @whatonnetflix / Twitter

If you've been on Netflix over the past two months, you may be familiar with the K-drama "The Glory" (stylized in Korean as 더 글로리). When part one was released in December 2022, clips from the show went viral, spawning a seemingly endless stream of edits and fan theories about part two, which just premiered in March.

The drama stars several titans in the Korean entertainment industry, including Song Hye-kyo, Lee Do-hyun and Lim Ji-yeon. The cast feels cohesive, and each role feels custom-made for the actor who's playing it. There are several names I hadn't previously heard of, but after their phenomenal performance, I'll be sure to pay attention to them in the future.

The basic premise of the show is that Moon Dong-eun (Song) was relentlessly bullied as a high schooler by a gang of students. As a result of a poor support system at both her home and school, Dong-eun dropped out of high school.

But after a few years, Dong-eun is determined to exact her revenge. She spends many hours keeping tabs on her high school tormentors and decides to begin her plot for revenge by getting a job at an elementary school attended by the child of one of her former bullies, Park Yeon-jin (Lim).

Song plays her role with remarkable grace and poise. She manages to capture a full spectrum of emotion with her acting, from the highs of finally teaching her bullies a lesson to the lows when things seemed to never go her way.

I especially loved her chemistry with Lee, who acts as her accomplice in helping her exact her revenge. His fun, boyish personality provided much-needed comedic relief to this otherwise serious drama. The acting, while exaggerated at times, in my opinion, conveyed the personalities of each of the characters.

I found Yeon-jin's character the most compelling, as she was a villain without any substantial backstory. She was just a horrible person for the sake of being one, which is a bit refreshing in today's day and age, where there's always some sort of origin story for antagonists.

It's noted that Yeon-jin and the other high school bullies didn't just harass Dong-eun, but other students too. Despite their transgressions, in the present, these former bullies face little to no repercussions for committing school violence and are enjoying their lives as part of society's elite.

Perhaps one of the reasons "The Glory" is so successful is due to this connection to current events. School violence is a big problem in Korea, and more often than not, victims don't get justice. Some of the bullying scenes are based on real-life Korean cases, such as when Dong-eun gets burned, which is based on a real case from 2006 that took place in a girls' school in Korea.

Inequality is also a key theme in the show, exploring the contrast between the lives of the poor and the rich. Dong-eun comes from a poor family that can't afford to care for her. Yeon-jin comes from a wealthy family, with a mother who pays thousands of dollars to silence anyone accusing her daughter of school violence.

Even at school, when Dong-eun finds the courage to finally tell her homeroom teacher about the school violence, he hits her repeatedly as punishment for lying. These glimpses at inequality reflect larger societal concerns surrounding how wealth can allow some to seemingly live without consequences.

One specific observation I had was the great beauty in every scene where the traditional Korean temples and the shama were featured. There's something extremely interesting about divine retribution, and seeing this theme through two different viewpoints (bully Lee Sa-ra's church and Yeon-jin's mothers' temple) added to the depth of the story.

I tend to be pretty picky with my K-dramas, but "The Glory" thoroughly impressed me. If you like dark, gritty dramas and have a penchant for revenge, add "The Glory" to your list.

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