“WOMAN OF 9.9 BILLION” & ITS FAILED ATTEMPT TO REVEAL THE STAKES IN DROWNING IN YOUR GREED
Woman of 9.9 Billion is a very disappointing show and it’s certainly not for everyone.
Jeong Seo-Yeon (Cho Yeo-Jeong) wanted to kill herself. She was stuck in an abusive relationship with her husband Hong In-Pyo (Jung Woong-In) and was deeply unhappy with her life. She was so miserable that she betrayed her childhood friend Yoon Hee-Ju (Oh Na-Ra) and slept with her husband Lee Jae-Hun (Lee Ji-Hoon). Their affair finally allowed her to feel a semblance of what she imagined unconditional and unrestrained love to be, or at least the love she imagined Hee-Ju and Ji-Hoon shared. But it wasn’t enough. She didn’t have the money or carefree lifestyle that Hee-Ju took for granted. Every time she momentarily escaped with Jae-Hun, she would still have to return to her pitiful life with Hong In-Pyo as he contended with his failing food supply business and endure his abuse and then serve him. So, on one of Hee-Ju’s invite to vacation at a cabin in the woods, Seo-Yeon and In-Pyo decided to use that opportunity to enlist their help in gaining a contract that would finally support In-Pyo’s business and hopefully give them a new start. Still, it meant that Seo-Yeon had to pretend a lot, pretend that her husband was respectful and loving towards her and pretend it didn’t hurt when Hee-Ju was condensing towards her. But she was tired. She was tired of her painful existence and wanted to end it. In the mist of trying to take her life, as Jae-Hun was attempting to stop her from committing suicide, they heard the sound of what seemed like a loud explosion. When they found the source of the sound, they discovered 9.9 billion won. No witnesses were in sight but Seo-Yeon learned that two men were horribly hurt in a car crash and even though one man was still alive, she kept quiet and left him to die so that she could gather the money. Her greed and determination to keep the money she found is what made her a “Woman of 9.9 Billion.”
Despite the thrilling way the story starts, at heart, “Woman of 9.9 Billion” is a very disappointing show and it’s certainly not for everyone. First Seo-Yeon is very passive and deceptively so. Initially, she comes across as calculated and careful, but as the show progresses, it’s clear that she is very naive and impressionable, qualities that make her unsuited for her criminal activities. Because if a person is going to steal millions of dollars with many people hunting after them, you would at least expect said person to be some what clever but Seo-Yeon isn’t. (It’s a shame, because her friend Hee-Ju turns out to be the most interesting character.)
The story progression feels congested and slow. The plot is dreary because it feels like it drags on. From the point at which Seo-Yeon steals the 9.9 Billion won, to when she’s confronted with the realities of her greed, there are so many intense exchanges and plot twists one after another that lead to narrative angst. There is never any real relief throughout the show and viewers are constantly left to sit in a feeling of uncertainty about what will happen to her next. At some points, it feels worth asking, where is all of this going? It makes the viewing experience emotionally draining.
It’s very clear that screen writer Han Ji-Hoon wanted to firmly demonstrate how greed can ruin your life, yet the plot and character development were so weak that it lessened Hoon’s intention. In it’s place is a convoluted story about how Seo-Yeon finds hope and learns that she can legally earn money with her own will and achieve her goals instead of cheating her way to her dreams. It makes the show less punchy and thrilling to watch and lame when you realize this. It’s entirely because the show has unrealized potential as it builds in excitement. In the beginning, Hoon is able to create a situation similar to an adventure quest among the different parties racing for the money, the sort of plot you would find in a traditional American adventure story or anime where a bunch of hopeful thieves are vying to win a treasure, but it quickly flops. The excitement and adventure in the beginning of “Woman of 9.9 Billion” takes a sharp turn into a sappy story about overcoming one’s greed and so Hoon really loses the opportunity to make something special of the series.
Perhaps, the real failing of the story has to do with the American western storytelling tools employed in the story which make the show corny. Take for instance the very first opening scene when a group of men stand at a construction sight as an excavator digs a hole into the ground while a song, similar to American country rock music plays in the background. That moment felt like a scene taken from the show Breaking Bad which makes the show feel redundant because it feels like the story has been done before. Even our introduction to Kang Tae-Woo (Kim Kang-Woo), a defunct police officer who investigates the origins of the money and its ties to his dead brother, is basic in its similarities to American TV shows. Unfortunately, even the dramatic music choices including those similar to Opera which attempt to drive the vivid intensity of the characters’ desire, couldn’t save the story. No matter how strong the cast’s acting was, or even how enjoyable and well placed the music was, the plot as a whole, failed to really capture you into the story and make you invested in finding out how everything ends.
Put simply, “Woman of 9.9 Billion” is boring. Seo-Yeon should have been more clever, the villain less predictable, and the resolution less corny. Also, it would have better served the story to have supporting characters play a more meaningful role beyond being placeholders or instigators in short scenes. For example, Gil Hae-Yeon’s role as Jang Geum-Ja (who ends up housing Seo-Yeon away from her husband) didn’t really help to push the story direction along beyond providing short instances of unintentional comedic relief because of how shocked she was whenever people entered her house unannounced. Her character just makes you wonder why her front door was never locked. Ultimately, it feels like there are a lot of characters who are added for no reason so moments meant to be grip viewers fall flat. It’s hard to really touch on how dissatisfying the series is except to describe the feeling of watching it like having a conversation with a friend about a shocking story with the promise of an amazing and thrilling reveal at the end, only to discover that the conclusion to the story is very ordinary; it cheats you out of your time.