Mawang: A pry into The Devil’s mind

“You can forget the past, but the past will never forget you.” – Kang Oh Su

Today I woke up with my eyes swollen red and hard. A friend reminded me to have a box of Kleenex prepared going into the final episode of Mawang (The Devil) last night. But having not cried or shed stream of tears watching the first 19 episodes, I thought I’d be as tough as steel. Didn’t heed her advice. First 30 mins into the finale, I was still as hardened as before – no crying no tears. And I thought I was an emotional freak when it comes to K-drama.

Then it happened – the final confrontation between Kang Oh Su and Oh Seung Ha.

The scene which drained free my tear-glands. Left me jaw-dropped, dumbstruck, brain-mushed and literally lost for words. Karma and revenge are bitches, and I so very much hate them for making me lose myself (morale and rationale) with them, with Oh Su and with Seung Ha. They even made me wet my shirt and pillow arrrhhh…

Nope I’m not attempting to write a proper review on Mawang now, as most of you have already seen it by now (it’s a 2007 drama), are already aware of how awesomely good it is and with me knowing how my ineloquence of words can never be enough to illustrate its devilish beauty. A drama that tackles revenge, redemption and forgiveness in a class and league of its own, I fear words do not even suffice. This is a drama to be seen and to be felt.

I’ve long embraced a kind of fascination for dark and vague characters. Characters which are complex, indistinct and mysterious. Characters which aren’t mere caricatures or stereotypes. Characters which I can hate with a passion but understand with heart.

Mawang has not only 1 but 2 of such characters. 2 characters who are so distinctively different personality wise, but cannot be so similar to each other in any other way – their inability to move on from the past.

Oh Seung Ha (Joo Ji Hoon) is a reserved, aloof and distant man. Often just decked in neat black and white, the man carries himself with little or no emotion. With an utterly deadpan expression (to the point of irritating sometimes) hanging on his face, he isn’t somebody you’d feel comfy with. Also a lawyer, oddly and ironically a man of few words, he speaks when needed only and doesn’t bat an eye-lid at the slightest of things. But behind that massive quietude of his, lies a mastermind of extreme WTF-ery. A sick and twisted mind. A mind of driven to brink of insanity. A mind of the DEVIL.

I never sided with Seung Ha from the very beginning, amidst all adverse circumstances and situations he’d had to endure. Though driven by the pain and agony of having lost his family at such a tender age, to a mistake and truth nobody knew except for Oh Su, though driven by the anger overly grave injustice and unfairness (caused by Oh Su’s father), even though I understood perfectly why he had to sell his soul to the Devil to take revenge, I didn’t feel it was the only right thing he could have done. Taking lives of others and putting them at stake for a cause justified to him was plain dreadful and devastating to see. How could he, having fully understood the pain or torment of loss, take someone’s life for granted? It disgusted and scared me to a point that I couldn’t let myself feel bad or sorry for him.

I came across an interesting article yesterday, about the lives and feelings of parents who had to live with the fact that their children were murderers of innocent lives. Almost all begun with the sentence akin to: “XXX was a nice kid… angel at heart. He’s a murderer, but he’s still my son, I love him.” Immediately Seung Ha came to my mind. How people around him trusted him, believed in him and even sought to protect him even after the revelation of his identity. Even having found out that he was the indirect perpetrator/conspirator to the murders. Why didn’t they say anything to the police? Why didn’t Hae In tell  Oh Su? Why didn’t they try harder to stop him (even tho he was already unstoppable)? Why did everyone feel so protective over him?

I didn’t feel anything for him or so up until the last 2 episodes, let me explain why. What I loved about Mawang (it’s engaging storyline and addictiveness) made me distraught at times. Distraught in a way that I wished that they had sped up things a bit more, showed the vulnerable and weak side of Seung Ha more often (not just in front of Hae In, but in front of Seung Ha as well), and gave Seung Ha more human touch. The drama is no doubt a masterpiece of intricacy and detail. But it got a bit tiring mid-way, with Seung Ha always winning and him being the upper-hand over Oh Su. If drama had shown a slightly more dilemma-stricken Seung Ha, esp when dealing with lives of others, or just Oh Su as a person (not the Oh Su from 12 years ago), I would have felt for him more, empathized with him or even pitied how his vengeance or grievance over something in the past had taken over his life. If Seung Ha had shown even the slightest human vulnerability earlier, it would have been way easier for me to connect to him as a character.

Some may say, perhaps I just never tried hard enough to understand him.

Perhaps so. It wasn’t until Episode 20, the final confrontation scene between Seung Ha and Oh Su, that the Devil finally came to face himself, his devil incarnate. It wasn’t until then, that my initial perception of the cold and devious seeker of retribution changed for the better. And it’s not just because of Joo Ji Hoon‘s amazing performance in that scene (I really thought he nailed it with perfection. I really mean it!), but because I finally got to see the Devil’s human side. His weakness. And his susceptibility to fear.

Watching the final scene, it got me pondering and thinking. What if Seung Ha had never met Hae In, had never received any comfort or consolation from her, had never been reminded of the warmth and inner conscience hidden inside his rock cold shell, would he have wavered? Would he have reacted the way he did in front of Oh Su? Would he have still have gone all the way? If Oh Su had admitted to his mistake (in spite of him being powerless against his father) or had at least made an effort 12 years ago (or along the years), would anything have changed? Would it have made Seung Ha felt better?

In moments and times of Seung Ha crumbling and tearing up thru out the course of the drama, I was constantly in a puzzle as to why he’d suddenly weakened. Now as I recollect the scene of Seung Ha calling out to Oh Su in the final scene again, I feel a sense of emptiness and desolation sink into my body all of a sudden. It was only then that I’d realized how utterly alone and lonely Seung Ha had been in the world. How much he’d yearned to have someone to cling on to. How much the Devil had taken a toll on his mentality, his life. His breakdown was heartbreaking, and perhaps befitting in correlation to the grave misdeeds he’d committed. I cried and bawled my guts out for him, my heart torn into pieces seeing him break apart before Oh Su. In an instant second, he was a just a human Seung Ha before me, filled with immeasurable insecurity and fear. A weakling seeking to be forgiven.

I will be lying if I said I didn’t hate Seung Ha for his ingeniously planned out plots against Oh Su’s fall. I hated how smart and confident he was, hated how he took Oh Su for granted, hated how he thought he had the world in his grasp. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to see how far he could go, it didn’t stop me from wanting to see how it’d ultimately end for him. I wanted to see if he’d stop with so many people thriving to protect him.

Seung Ha’s ending definitely shocked me to a certain point. I knew he was already on the verge of mental collapse with his identity and vulnerability exposed. I knew he was ready for a final showdown with Oh Su when he urged Kim Young Chul (his conspirator) to flee the country. I knew deep inside, he was already ready to be punished. But what I didn’t know and expect was that – he also yearned to be free from the Devil.

Someone once told me, the hardest and most difficult thing to take away or get from someone – forgiveness. One can easily forgive, but one cannot possibly forget easily. Hence, the difficulty in seeking the truest and most genuine form of forgiveness. When Seung Ha broke down in front of Oh Su and pleaded with him to end his life, it was the last straw for him. He wanted to be free from the bridles of evil, he wanted to end everything. In my opinion, he wanted to redeem himself and be forgiven by Oh Su.

I think it’s brilliant that writer Kim Ji Woo chose to end Mawang the way it ended. There couldn’t have been a more perfect or befitting ending to the 2 suffering and destructive souls.  The only way out for them was to move on from the past – and that was it. Their only way out.


So yeap, there goes my random thoughts on Oh Seung Ha. I thought of writing about Oh Su as well, cos Uhm Tae Woong’s a cutie and I loved his character equally. Reckoned it’d be better if I did it in another post (if I do get to it some day hehehe…), knowing how long-winded I may get. I’m not sure if anyone will read this or even finish reading this, since it’s been so long and I tend to get over-repetitive, but if you do, thanks! It’s been long since I’d actually done a review on a finished drama (it’s not a proper review I must say). But I tried and I hope you liked it. 🙂

Mawang rating: 8.5 / 10


10 thoughts on “Mawang: A pry into The Devil’s mind”

  1. You almost make me cry from remembering one of the most perfect endings i’ve ever seen. I loved Devil so much even if it makes me suffer so much. The last episode made me cry tons but i wouldn’t love the drama taht much if the ending were diferent.
    I always love Seung Ha, i think i always root for bad twisted tormented souls, i did understand him and wanted him to be free from the start…

    1. I don’t think I’m going to re-watch Mawang anytime soon. Not only because I already know the story (so mystery isn’t there anymore), but also because it pains me to see both Seung Ha and Oh Su go thru such insufferable ordeal once again. The ending definitely upped the drama and respect I have for writer Kim no doubt. It was tragic and sad, but it was also lovely because it ended the way Oh Su and Seung Ha wanted.

  2. Hey there! Excellent piece. Seeing how soon you polished this off after watching ep20, and how immediate and vividly it reads, it’s written straight from the heart, as the best reviews are.

    What an ending, right? Even though any sensible viewer would KNOW that this all must end in tears, and even if as you say the plot got mechanical at times, it’s a real corker of an ending. And so brilliantly acted. Still one of my favorite endings of all time. 🙂

    1. Omo hi hi chinggu!

      Awww thanks for commenting. I didn’t think anybody would actually read this, let alone comment hehe. And nah, I’m no where as good as you and Thundie are. *bows*

      So with you on Mawang’s ending. One of the very best I’ve seen, and one of my favorites as well. I think it tapped right into both our morale and rationale dilemmas and gave us choices to make as well, not just Oh Su and Seung Ha. How do we as viewers want things to end for them?

      Although I wished they’d been given a chance to actually befriend each other as a person and not as enemies, I appreciated how it ended with them totally seeing thru and understanding each other souls at last.Oh Su’s calming and endearing look before he breathed his last pained me, Seung Ha’s last cry-out shattered me. I couldn’t have asked for more.

  3. Love Love Love this drama and this is my all time top 3 drama.. i cried my heart out at the ending… and yes.. right from the beginning… we should know that the ending of this drama will not anywhere close to any type of happy… and how awesome is Joo Ji Hoon.. for portrait such complex character in such perfection… i would never imaging him being that great after seeing him in goong… and let’s not forget Uhm Tae Woong and Shin Mina..

    i know i will forever love this drama… and thanks for the write up.

    1. Welcome kaleido, Mawang was quite some time ago didn’t think anyone would bother to read hehehe.. thanks so much!

      Haha I actually laughed after writing this, totally omitted Oh Su and Hae In altogether LOL but Seung Ha just affected me so much at the end I couldn’t help but want to write and write about him and him only. I may come up with an Oh Su/Hae In write-up later (if time permits and no promises heh) but do agree that UTW and SMA did give very solid performances as well.

  4. This was a wonderful read! Thank you! I’m so glad you watched it and loved the ending.
    I don’t believe there is a better kdrama ending out there! This drama is on my top 5! It does everything it should and then some.
    I hate it took you so long to understand Seung Ha but then again, that reluctance or indifference and confusion led to this post… so I can’t complain 🙂
    I always seem to be able to understand diabolical characters (esp males). I think that oft times they are the most “human” characters out there. I didn’t like anything that he did but I understood his motives, his mindset, his isolation. It was Oh Su I had issues with. Love him but I felt he was a little self-righteous at times.
    This is also the drama that made me loved SMA. I hated her hair and she was a little “too pure” for me but I understood the need and purpose for the characterization. She was solid. The boys were amazing and I can’t wait for JJH to blow me away again now that he’s back.
    Anyway, so glad you took the time to share your feelings. And… anyone who loved Mawang will read this post, believe me!

    1. Unni, you’re back! ^^

      I think both Oh Su and Seung Ha were fascinating characters, but the reason I felt more for OS in the beginning, probably stemmed from the fact that he was always losing out to SH (I’m more of an underdog supporter hehehe). In terms of wit, intelligence and EQ, SH always knew better. And it didn’t help that OS was constantly trapped in guilt: for not having redeemed himself earlier (or at least made an effort), for not being able to stop the mass murders, for not being able to find the murderer and most importantly, and for not being able to protect his closest and best friends. Self-righteous and rash as he might have been, it all came down to wanting to stop Seung Ha, and I felt bad for him that no matter how hard he’d tried, the Devil always won.

      Hae In to me was pivotal and crucial to both OS and SH’s conscience, she couldn’t have been more perfect a shelter for both of their broken souls. But her character did bug me a bit in a way that she was just too nice and sorta one-dimensional. SMA did a good job, for the material given didn’t require her to do much.

      All in all, it was both UTW and JJH’s show.

  5. Ma Wang had a mind-blowing ending. I love it to bits and if given a chance and change it if I could, I would not dare to. So far, I consider Ma Wang’s as the most unforgettable ending for a Korean drama.

  6. hey there…
    what a nice review…..this is the second time i’ve watch the i’ve wandered around to see others review….the first time i’d watch it was when it was aired in my country and that was about two or three years ago….at that time i got to watch only the several last episodes…the ending was superb and i really respect the writers that come out with the ending because it gave a very big impact to the whole story…honestly i was on seung ha side…why?

    hehe first because of joo ji hoon-i’m his fan…
    second because of his capability to predict the actions of the people his manipulating….he’s really a genius, he’s amazing
    third because he made me sympathized with his life

    fourth because it is a virtual story….a drama and this is a most important point because if it happened in reality i’ve wouldn’t have rooted for him….why….because
    he has so many choices in life but yet he choose to go down the path of revenge and he’d choose to hurt himself by avenging and playing with other people life….of course the four musketeers and oh soo’s family was in the wrong so i wouldn’t say anything about that…but in the whole process he has to use the other character like mr hwang, mr. jung dong yup,, sora’s mother which has no relations to the incident…he left unforgiveable scars in their life…and that make me hesitate if it happened in real life…and if the incident really happened in real life i’d would like it if seung ha goes on with his life and seek his own happiness and as for the event.. he could have demand fairness though a legal ways since he’s a lawyer….he could do it the way “lawyer seo in woo” did in drama prosecuter princess……

    Well overall i have a high respect to this drama…the writer’s was really something and the ending was perfect…i’d understand if seung ha want to die ant the end. and if in other drama i’d would have hope that the hero will live happily with the heroin in this drama i’d hope seung ha would be relieved from his sufferering because he has suffered enough……..

    this is just an opinion…………………….

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