K-Drama Review: ‘Money Flower’ an Intriguing Story about Revenge

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A Revenge Plot Like No Other

In Korean dramas, revenge plots are among the common tropes that drive the story forward. Whether it be revenge for a dead parent or revenge to a past lover, it is one of the most exploited mainstream themes that has been brought up time and time again on various different types of works. What sets Money Flower apart from the rest as another work driven by revenge is that it serves a twist, something that cannot be found in other works in the Korean industry.

So what is it about Money Flower that made it one of the most anticipated dramas in the past year? What is the secret behind the success of the drama? Stay tuned as we take a deeper look at the drama Money Flower!

Thoroughly Twisted, Yet Completely Captivating Story

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Managing director Kang Pil-joo, played by Jang Hyuk, is a character that hides a dark past in relation to the company he works in now, belonging to the Cheong-A Group. He is known for his intelligence and diligence by his co-workers, making him one of the most admired workers in the company. Despite it, he gets into the company as part of his revenge, to avenge the death of his mother, and with it comes the responsibility of hiding his true identity and serving the family with all his might to gain their trust before executing his main plan.

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His plan was to make Na Mo-hyun, portrayed by Park Se-young, a science teacher and activist close with the group’s foundation, fall in love with the young Cheong-A Group scion, Jang Boo-cheon, portrayed by Jang Seung-jo, for his revenge. This will avenge his mother’s death as with it comes the power to make the group feel and suffer from the pain he suffered before. Yet through it, he finds himself falling desperately in love with Na Mo-hyun’s free-spirited and earnest personality. Money Flower tells a story of interlinked relationships between Pil-joo, who is capable of bringing down Cheong-A, Mo-hyun, who seeks love, and Boo-cheon. And these characters all come to the fore as money dictates their lives in a web of desire, greed, and love.

While Pil-joo’s plan was solid, he didn’t account for Chairman Jang not allowing his son’s name to be tarnished and making moves that he did not account for, risking the failure of his plans. In one instance, Pil-joo revealed that Chairman Jang’s son worked against his father and Chairman Jang disciplined but did not disown his son. Pil-joo’s plan accounts for all-out internal warfare, thus breaking down their bonds from the inside but this move proves that blood is the most powerful tie in Chairman Jang’s eyes. Pil-joo can’t win every battle, nor should he, but he is set to win the war. Pil-joo’s mind constructs solid plans to achieve his goals, with a backup plan always at the ready, which seem to help counter all the unexpected moves Chairman Jang throws his way. Nothing better than to see Pil-joo’s smirk of pleasure when he wins a point in this long-standing family game of power. 

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Writer Lee created a cool, calm, and collected character that handled everything that life threw at him and came out on top. Often in revenge dramas, team evil has the advantage until the end when the long-suffering hero triumphs, creating a seemingly unfair advantage and somehow an almost too small of a probability for the hero to win. This makes the drama slightly uncomfortable to watch and unbelievable to the audience. But Money Flower definitely counters that very well with a refreshing take on the genre. Pil-joo really broke that mold, as he had the upper hand most of the time. When he didn’t, he rolled with the punch, regrouped, and triumphed. This is an intellectual drama, not one driven by unreasonable emotions of the hero’s tragic past. 

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The ending of the drama is also very appropriate as a way to tie up Pil-joo’s goal as he has achieved his revenge, just not in the way we expected, but it is the most satisfying way. When he read his mother’s will, she wished that he wouldn’t waste his life seeking revenge. But Pil-joo wouldn’t have changed his path if he was given a do-over. This running theme was also brought up again in his goodbye scene with Mo Hyun, which was just magical, in a way that it gives a hopeful ending for both characters that silently communicate their love for each other without turning into a cliché. Pil-joo is a wonderfully complex character with an inner compass that refuses to stop until he achieves revenge and in the end, he gets his revenge, with the company running the way he wants to and the supposed evils paying the consequences.

As for Mo-hyun, she takes Pil-joo’s advice and continues to work for the foundation. Mo-hyun’s father admits his wrongdoing and goes to jail and the father she once respected finally returns. All of it leaves an open door for Mo-hyun and Pil-joo to begin anew and possibly restart their romance. Meanwhile, Boo-cheon pays the consequences with a crazy mother. Boo-cheon’s declaration that he and Pil-joo will not acknowledge each other is standard, but Boo-cheon is right to move on without Pil-joo, his crutch for so many years. This also satisfies the possibility that maybe the only way for Boo-cheon to redeem himself and live a happy life is somewhere away from the company and Pil-joo completely.

The Cast

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Jang Hyuk as Kang Pil-joo/Jang Eun-cheon/Jo In-ho (37): Managing Director at Cheong-A Group and a former attorney, is the top lawyer for a corporation and works diligently to support the Cheong-A group. He is cold and cunning and the company “fixer,” but does it with a reason, which is to avenge his mother and brother’s death. His mother and brother were murdered when they were all tossed from a boat into a lake. Pil-joo, the sole survivor and orphan, was thrown in prison instead of the rich kid that did the crime. His affections for Na Mo-hyun incite the warmth in him once more as he struggles to exact his revenge.

  • Nam Ki-won as young Kang Pil-joo
  • Jo Byung-gyu as teen Kang Pil-joo

Park Se-young as Na Mo-hyun (35): Environmental activist and a substitute science teacher, who won gold in swimming at the Korea National Games. She is caring and kind, yet a pawn played by Pil-joo to go through with his plans to take down the Cheong-A group. She wants true love and still remembers a boy she rescued from the lake long ago.

  • Kim Ji-min as teen Na Mo-hyun

Jang Seung-jo as Jang Boo-cheon (37): Scion of Cheong-A Group fortune and son of Jung Mal-ran. He is the grandson that wants to be the next CEO but falls short when compared to his rival cousin. He’s initially weirded out and skeptical when Pil-joo proposes he marries Mo-hyun, but relents when his grandfather assigns him a dead end position in another country.

  • Chae Sang-woo as teen Jang Boo-cheon

Lee Mi-sook as Jung Mal-ran (59): eldest daughter-in-law of Jang Kook-hwan, Cheong-A Foundation director. She wants her son, Boo-cheon, to become the next CEO and take over the Cheong-A group but her father presents as an obstacle along the way. When Pil-joo offers a plan to edge out the rival, she is immediately on board. She goes to Mo-hyun’s father and offers to help him rise from the political ashes if their children marry.

Lee Soon-jae as Jang Kook-hwan (89): Chairman of the Cheong-A group and is the elderly CEO whose dream is a new high-rise tower as a monument to himself. He is the head patriarch of the family and enacts all the supposed bad deeds that Pil-joo has been suffering the consequences of. When Pil-joo offers a plan to get the elusive permits through the political cache generated when Boo-cheon and Mo-hyun marry, he agrees to rescind his banishment of Boo-cheon. His main goal is to protect the longevity of the company and his family at all cost.

Han So-hee as Yoon Seo-won (35): secret lover of Jang Boo-cheon, former information desk employee at Cheong-A group office headquarters.

The Soundtrack

Not only was the writing and acting fantastic in this drama, but also the soundtrack that accompanies the scenes. The selection of songs ranges from a variety of singers, that are the industry’s household names, such as MC The Max, EXID, Hyolyn, and more. Check out the songs below!

“My Way” serves as the main soundtrack for the series, describing the struggles and obstacles that Pil-joo has had to face. It also beautifully depicts his desire to take down the company that has made him suffer all this time.

The second soundtrack to be released is “Dreamy Love” sang by former Sistar member, Hyolyn. The song describes the first love that Mo-hyun has dreamt of since she saved Pil-joo at the lake. It depicts the longing the two had ever since that moment. Meanwhile, the third soundtrack, “Healing” by Lee Seok-hoon, depicts their relationship in the present, how they have a positive effect on each other, hence the title. The two songs below, “Flame” and “Waiting Here for You”, sang by EXID and Min Kyung-hoon respectively, will then be a continuation of that and represent the romantic struggles of both parties and the hopeful ending they receive in the end.

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch Money Flower

This drama is the perfect showcase of Jang Hyuk’s superior acting skills, as expected from a veteran actor. He’s a gifted actor that hasn’t been fully utilized in recent dramas, that are mostly focused on romance and quite sadly gimmicky plotlines. Money Flower’s spotlight was squarely on Pil-joo every episode, his plans and his every move to take down Cheong-A group. Jang Hyuk delivered a character that was a cool as a chess master, cunning and calculative. It also helps that the styling for this drama is simply on point, hugs his figure in the right way and also supports the character of Pil-joo, dressed in beautiful suits and outerwear. Bottom line, Money Flower revolves around Pil-joo and Jang Hyuk in every episode.

Secondly, the drama uses cliffhangers in such an effective way as a storytelling tool and it matters in every episode. They don’t aim to agitate viewers and make them curse at the writer, used just enough to make viewers wonder what will happen next. It is also not used in critical reveals that drive the plot forward, only in part, to create suspense, not to withdraw information. Writer Lee Myung Hee consistently surprises, driving each episode to a pinnacle point ending. For those who have been cheated out of cliffhangers in the past, give this drama a watch and truly understand how they are used to motivate viewers to dig deeper.

Not only that, the drama has an excellent pace and flow, different than other dramas that seem to drag out every reveal at the end or push all the exposition at the beginning, thus, having nothing by the end. Money Flower is beautifully written, with amazing pacing that leaves just enough for each viewer to develop his own theories and predictions, that are to be confirmed in the next episode. This drama is intellectual, a battle between the elite Jang family and the resourceful, clever, Pil-joo, a back and forth match that keeps our eyes trained for every little detail and leaves us wanting more every week. An exciting watch for those wanting to theorize with friends and other viewers.

A hopeful ending that ties up the plot but also leaves room for the viewers to interpret how it relates to the overarching themes found in the series. The ending is satisfying enough that fans are not disappointed that some of their expectations were not met, but also does not push the creators to create a second season. It was nice, clean and simple, in a way that some more dramatic revenge dramas aren’t. The plot does not drag on too long either, which is perfect for those just looking to watch it as it ends in the first season, nothing more.

It is not your typical mushy romance drama that seems to be clouding the Korean drama scene lately. As the Korean drama industry is currently oversaturated with romantic comedies, this will serve as a refreshing work that jogs our mind while we watch it. It is not to say that those romantic dramas are boring, but it could be monotonous to keep watching the same recycled romantic tropes, so hopefully, the romance in this drama is enough to suffice.

So what do you think about Money Flower? Is it a drama worth binging over the holidays? Or will you skip and find another revenge drama to watch? Comment your thoughts in the section below!