‘Family’ Review: A Mismatched Blend of Family Comedy and Spy Thriller

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: tvN

The chemistry between Jang Na Ra and Jang Hyuk is nowhere to be found. The tvN Monday-Tuesday drama Family: The Unbreakable Bond gathered attention as the fourth collaboration of Jang Na Ra and Jang Hyuk, but unfortunately, it failed to captivate audiences in the early stages. It premiered with a rating of 4.875% but has since steadily declined, dropping to 2% in the fourth episode. The Jang Nara-Jang Hyuk card that tvN pulled out amid their struggles with viewership is not working in their favor. What is causing this drama to drift away from viewers’ interest?

Family revolves around the thrilling daily lives of a husband (Jang Hyuk), who is an undercover black agent disguised as an ordinary office worker, and his wife (Jang Na Ra), who dreams of a perfect family. Although the plot isn’t particularly novel, reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis’s True Lies, it piques interest with the combination of delightful comedy and suspenseful espionage. And especially, the reunion of the two actors who’ve shown impressive chemistry in their previous works as an “extraordinary” couple make Family even more appealing.

The drama begins by humorously portraying the relationship between the couple, Kwon Do Hoon and Kang Yu Ra. As a black agent, Do-hun is a veteran capable of single-handedly taking down criminals, but as a husband, he falls short. He realizes only after completing a mission that he’s missed his 10th wedding anniversary trip with his wife. Furious, Yu Ra embarks on the trip alone, and Do Hoon becomes desperate as he has repeatedly missed big family events such as his wife’s birthday and his daughter’s first birthday. The dynamic between the couple raises the question of how long Do Hoon’s double life will remain hidden from Yu Ra, the family’s top dog.

This is where disappointment sets in. Instead of focusing on the story of intelligence agent Do Hoon and his unsuspecting wife Yu Ra and delivering the delight of a family comedy, the plot becomes unnecessarily intricate as it tries to cater to side characters and their respective narratives. Perhaps the creators were trying to remain loyal to the title “Family.” Family centers around the daily bickering and squabble of the couple’s big family, including Do Hoon’s father and his brother’s family, and this overtakes the main plotline, making it difficult to find the initial charm and humor. Specifically, episodes 3 and 4 feature a tedious and irrelevant argument between Do Hoon and his brother Ji Hoon (Kim Kang Min) over their father’s (Lee Soon Jae) remarriage.

Credit: tvN

Furthermore, the spy episodes of black agent Do Hoon, another central story, are as disjointed as oil and water from the main narrative. At home, the clueless husband Do Hoon undergoes a serious transformation when working. However, so far, there is no significant connection between the family narratives and the spy thriller, making them appear as separate stories.

Conflicts between Yu Ra and Do Hoon, caused by his frequent absences, are conveniently resolved. Instead of Do Hoon directly addressing the issues, the built-up emotions and misunderstandings are cleared through a dramatic encounter between Yu Ra and Chief Oh Chun Ryeon (Chae Jung An). In the process, Do Hoon is seen as a character solely focusing on his bedroom affairs with Yura, diminishing the audience’s interest in his character.

The conservative portrayal of family dynamics in the drama is also disappointing. Yu Ra, who everyone in the family walks on eggshells around, represents the stereotypical eldest daughter-in-law who takes responsibility for all family affairs. Just putting macarons on the ceremonial table instead of traditional homemade food doesn’t mean the show’s reflecting on changing times. Although the family shares a strong bond, Yu Ra’s overly active involvement in her husband’s family affairs seems excessive, especially considering her own family is excluded. However, episode 4 revealed that Yu Ra is not just an ordinary housewife, so it remains to be seen how the story develops.

As a result, the anticipated chemistry between Jang Na Ra and Jang Hyuk is buried under the sitcom-like progression of the extended family story. With the twist in Yu Ra’s character in episode 4, will the upcoming narrative change? Although reminiscent of the animation Spy x Family, the episodes revolving around the couple, who are unaware of each other’s true identities as an agent and a killer, could potentially turn things around. If the lukewarm presence of Oh Chun Ryeon, who Yu Ra mistook as Do Hoon’s affair, becomes more defined, and the yet-to-appear Jo Tae Gu (Kim Nam Hee) brings a new flow, the drama may regain its vigor. As the real story has just begun, one can only hope it will make up for the initial disappointment. (6/10)


Edited Hong Hyun Jung: I am a K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.

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