With its suspenseful blend of murder, mystery, upstairs-downstairs drama, and jaw-dropping set-pieces and fashion, this high-society drama consistently drew in high viewership ratings throughout its run. A female-led drama through and through, Mine stars Lee Bo-young and Kim Seo-hyung as strong, capable women who have married into the Hyowon chaebol (conglomerate) family and are responsible for raising its heirs, while the all-female tandem of PD Lee Na-jeong and writer Baek Mi-Kyeong calls the shots behind the scenes. In this review, we dive into why this groundbreaking drama made our list of best dramas of 2021 so far.
The ultra wealthy and powerful Hyowon Group is thrown into disarray with the arrival of two additions to the Han family’s household staff. At the center of the storm are the two daughters-in-law who must fight for what is theirs amidst the cutthroat chaebol family environment.
Seo Hi-soo (Lee Bo-young), a former actress, finds her seemingly perfect marriage to the youngest son Han Ji-yong (Lee Hyun-wook) threatened, while Jung Seo-hyun (Kim Seo-hyung), fights against societal discrimination as she asserts her competence and ambition in the fight for succession.
Mine starts out as a high-society k-drama on steroids, will all the themes and elements that one would expect from the genre: heirs battling over succession, a rich boy-poor girl romance, closets full of skeletons, infidelity, and even a good old-fashioned murder mystery. At the very onset, it establishes that the Hyowon Group is a cut above other chaebol families we’ve seen before. Cloistered in a vast, wooded estate dotted with modernist mansions, the members of the Han family are tended by a battalion of uniformed servants, lounge around in Valentino and Louboutins, and throw Hermés plates at each other like it was nothing. Even the oxygen they breathe is set at a saturation level 15 times higher than normal, and their drinking water is imported from Antarctic glaciers.
Although the spectacle of the family’s wealth, amplified by fantastic production design and cinematography, is fun for us plebeians to gawk at, it’s really just a side attraction. The meat of the story is really about how, together, the two women who have married into this family navigate the difficulty of the unique challenges thrust upon them, and the unravelling of the murder mystery introduced within the first few minutes of the pilot episode.
In a genre where women are all too often pitted against each other, it was so refreshing to witness the close relationship between Hi-soo and Seo-hyun, portrayed with warmth and great chemistry by Lee Bo-young and Kim Seo-hyung. The groundbreaking role of the first lesbian lead character in a k-drama seems tailor-made for the formidable Kim, while Lee brought both sweetness and strength to her role as a woman whose seeminlgy perfectly life comes crashing down.
PD Lee Na-jeong (Fight for My Way, Oh My Venus) and writer Baek Mi-Kyeong (The Lady in Dignity, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon), deserve all the praise they’ve been getting for bravely bringing such strong women characters together as allies in a primetime drama.
The two female leads are supported by a capable ensemble cast, with Ok Ja-yeon proving to be quite a revelation as the mysterious tutor hired for Hi-soo’s son, while Lee Hyun-wook is in his element as Hi-soo’s husband who may be hiding a secret or two. Park Won-suk and Kim Hye-hwa are pitch perfect as the spoiled women of the Han family, who seem to have been inspired by these real life chaebol women, while Park Sung-yeon and Lee Joong-ok brought humor to their roles as key members of the mansion staff.
Well-paced and equipped with plenty of unexpected twists and turns, Mine keeps its audience constantly guessing about the events leading up to its central murder story, which are revealed in cryptic flash forwards throughout the 16 episodes. The young lovers side story is a little bland and was probably thrown in to attract a certain demographic, but it was practically discarded towards the end. Entertaining, thrilling, and certainly empowering with its most welcome depiction of women supporting women, Mine makes for a great weekend binge over a bottle of red wine and some nice charcuterie (or cream buns).
Stream: If you love female-centric stories and high society dramas.
Skip: If if the trials and travails of the elite don't interest you.