East of Eden. Shining Inheritance. King of Baking Kim Tak Goo. Ghost and Bridal Mask.
All of these dramas have one thing in common: they raised my blood pressure.
The characters, the decisions being made, and the way the plot unfolded made me so mad it threatened my health! I haven’t felt my throat tighten with rage since the injustice I witnessed in Bridal Mask, but now another drama has joined the Rage Ranks.
And it’s The World of the Married. The drama about marriage and infidelity starring Kim Hee-ae premiered a few weeks ago, and became a fan favorite. The quick pacing and suspense gave it high ratings that dethroned Sky Castle, making it the most watched drama on Korean cable TV.
The World of the Married was adapted from a British show called Doctor Foster that aired in 2017. I happen to also love British dramas, so I watched it on Netflix a few years ago. It was entertaining and infuriating just like its Korean counterpart.
In fact, both shows are great in their own right. That’s why I thought it’d be fun to explore their similarities and differences.
Plot-wise, The World of the Married stayed faithful to its source material— which is more than I can say for Tae-oh or Simon Foster.
Both shows explore the devastating effects of infidelity in a marriage, and the family unit as a whole. They also paint grim portraits of what happens when a person has a vengeful heart.
The Korean adaptation kept all the infamous scenes; from Gemma Foster (aka Sun-woo) imagining stabbing her husband at his own birthday party to the dinner that revealed every shred of dirty laundry.
Where I thought the The World of the Married excelled was highlighting the double standard society still has for men and women, workplace discrimination, and how hard it is to get out of abusive relationships. The depiction of mental and physical abuse in Hyun-seo and In-gyu’s relationship was horrific. So was the emotional abuse in Ye-rim and Je-hyuk’s marriage.
The World of the Married was also a bit more realistic to me. Some of the dialogue in Doctor Foster seemed outlandish. It could just be a cultural thing though. It’s said that the British tend to be straightforward.
Sun-woo & Gemma: They began their respective dramas as admirable women and ended them as empty shells. However, I felt that Sun-woo was more likable. She was also more calculating when it came to her revenge. Sure, she had her “crazy” moments (Who didn’t?) but Gemma was plain volatile. She even tried to help Simon commit suicide at the end of season 2, which is something I can’t see Sun-woo doing. Sun-woo started out as a better mom too.
Tae-oh & Simon: I hate Tae-oh with a passion that burns hotter than a thousand suns, but somehow he still felt more sympathetic than Simon Foster. The World of the Married did a better job with his characterization, and Park Hae-joon brought out a vulnerability that was missing in Bertie Carvel’s performance. Both characters were disgustingly selfish, but Simon’s coldness bordered on sociopathic.
Da-kyung & Kate: Siri, play “Man-eater” by Hall & Oates! I wanted to slap Kate, but I wanted to have a WWE cage match with Da-kyung. She was way more aggressive, and looked for ways to antagonize Sun-woo. Kate never planted her lipstick on Simon so Gemma could find it or threw tantrums every chance she got.
Joon-young & Tom: These poor babies! They didn’t start out well-liked, because they seemed to be siding with their cheating fathers, but their descent into “troubled teen” was eye-opening. Joon-young came across angrier though.
Ye-rim & Anna: Ye-rim and Je-hyuk had bigger roles than their British counterparts, so I don’t even know if character comparisons would be fair. But Ye-rim’s situation felt more tragic, because she loved Je-hyuk whereas I didn’t see that with Anna and Neil. Ye-rim also ended up being a better friend (You know, after the whole not telling Sun-woo her hubby was cheating thing…)
Je-hyuk & Neil: Both were disgusting cheaters. And cocky to boot. But Neil was sleazier and less remorseful about everything.
The Ending/Final Thoughts
In both versions, Joon-young and Tom run away after witnessing their fathers trying to kill themselves, and realizing they will always be in the middle of their parent’s toxic relationship. The scenes don’t happen in the same sequence (Simon tries to kill himself before their last family dinner, and then again alone), but they’re still hard to watch no matter the language. What kind of parent wants to make sure their child sees them die?
Doctor Foster ends with Gemma staring out at a garden. She says in a voiceover, “I’m here. Tom, I’m your mum. I’m sorry and I’m here. I’ll always be here waiting. When you want to come back. Whenever you want to come back.”
Ouch. The kid stays in the wind, whereas in The World of the Married, it’s implied that Joon-young comes back home to Sun-woo.
I prefer that hopeful ending.
So which show did I enjoy more?
The World of the Married! The characters were more fleshed out, the dialogue was better, and it delved deeper into social issues.
It was a stressful, unforgettable ride, but I’d gladly get on it again.