Thursday, October 14, 2021

[Short Review] The Witch's Diner

A short review of a short drama (8 episodes, some even 40+ minutes only) from Tving. This is most certainly a Song Jihyo's drama as her character is the gravitational center and creator of the plot that flows not too dramatically, not too snoozy. And drama shows that most of the things we want, we get not by magic but through tests and tribulations.
First thing first because I might forget about it - this little drama has some really nice, meaningful and wise script. I caught myself nodding so many times while watching, because yes - a witch might grant a person some wish, but will not grant an ability to foresee all the consequences of such wish. And as we see, our titular Witch was the first victim of such rushed wish.
We often hear "be careful what you wish for" and this drama plays on this saying, however it plays on more broad, and in my opinion, more nuanced aspect of the wish - the consequences. Not immediate - like the bag of gold found on the table, for example. Magic always involves the short waiting period between casting a spell and the wish coming true. That's how some experts differentiate magic from religion (well, that and many other aspects). People turn to magic because they don't want to wait for the next life, karma working or intervention of gods. They want results here and now.

I would even say that the expression on many variants of: "let the lightning strike me dead if I lie/whatever" is taken directly from pre-Christian magic. We have the immediate reaction in the face of some transgression. In here the effects range from either immediate or prolonged. And turns out that the wish we make in a heat of the moment, in a haste, often is a wish of doing someone's harm.

Jin, our human protagonist, leads an uneventful life and what she needs, to start the plot of the tale, is one bad event piling onto some bad events which finally makes her desperate. She loses her job and also is dumped by her boyfriend. Tricked by their friend, she opens with her Mom a restaurant that goes under very quickly. To cut the costs of living in the city, Jin's mother moves to the country and Jin makes a deal with... a witch. At first, half-believing half indifferent to her own misery, she makes a wish for the bad woman to pay for driving them to being broke. In turn, Heera can open her own restaurant in Jin's place.

And boy, she makes those wishes come true. Along them creep the consequences. Also, as a payment she asks for various items, sometimes not making sense to the person making a wish. Like the unlucky guy who just wanted to find a decent job - she asked for two fingers. The real ones. And he lost them while trying to defend a woman mugged in the alley. The loss made him famous for a 5 minutes and then a homeless man living in the tunnel. And imagine - in this very tunnel he was found by the woman whose life he saved. Classic tale of a brave youngster fighting a dragon, getting scarred but at the end - becoming the princess' husband.

Some wishes are cruel, and some wishes have cruel consequences. Jin learned this firsthand when she asked for a punishment for the lady who scammed them. The lady died of a heart attack and this shook Jin to the core. However the punishment was adequate to the crime committed. A woman with tricky and sly heart dies because of it. And Heera learned about this as well when she, in the moment of anger, rage and betrayal, made a wish that turned against her and as a payment she became a witch. She wished for a life full of hardship for her lover's child (interestingly not for him, not for his wife he never said he had, but for a kid, knowing fully that misfortune of kids brings more pain to the parents). What she didn't know was one tiny detail - the wife couldn't have kids, and the one person pregnant was Heera.

She left the newborn with the man's wife who accepted the child brought up by a woman he had an affair with. This caused a rift in a marriage, but Jin was always loved. And then they both were scammed by a sly woman and Jin ended up meeting a witch... 
One story really made me unbearably sad - a story of a girl who was in an almost decade long relationship just to be dumped when guy didn't need her anymore. She wished that his feelings for her return. And while waiting for this to happen she realized she might have stop loving him and have some budding feelings for someone else. And this way an innocent wish for a person to love her, made few people unhappy for life. For me, this was the saddest of stories there.

But of course drama also had its funny moments, not counting the talking mandrake. Jin became a witch, and Gil-yeong, who up to this moment was unsure about his path in life, suddenly became very sure. As he was told by Mr. Oh who accompanied Heera, becoming a witch's advisor makes one bound to her for life. What better outlet a puppy love he had for his nuna than becoming a lifelong partner? But to do that, he needs to study not one, but many different subjects.

Perhaps this was a story of reconciliation, Jin accepted her fate, and for the first time in her life became happy, running The Witch's Diner. Heera found her inner peace as well, even though that did not turn her into a mellow person at all. It was a story of searching for and finding one's own path in life, no matter how unbelievable it might seem at the start. And it was also a story of causes and consequences. We don't need to make a wish at some witch's abode, we make countless choices and sometimes have to live with their aftermath whole life. Because what else is a wish but not a choice? We CHOOSE to decide to ask heavens/a witch to punish somebody. On the other hand we can choose not to. But what drama has shown really right is the fact that most hateful or desperate wishes appear in the situations of an emotional turbulence, like anger, rage, feeling hurt, betrayed or otherwise some volatile state.
To really end this, this drama is carried by Song Jihyo, her presence you can nearly feel, and smell the faint cigarette smoke. Her velvety, husky at times, voice somehow enshrouds the wishes people make in a fog, not particularly threatening, but no one can refuse the payment she asks for.

and others, also nice cameos.