In the story by Hans Christian Andersen, the Little Mermaid longs to be free from a life underwater and to live on the land as a human with a prince she once saved from drowning. It makes sense that the book is a favourite of Seul-bi’s (played by Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun), one of the central characters of new K-drama Jinxed At First – she and her mother Mi-soo (Yoon Ji-hye) have spent their whole lives trapped in a secret room, only able to dream of the outside world that humans inhabit.
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Seul-bi and Mi-soo are not humans, but female shamans who possess the gift of seeing the future of whoever they touch. For centuries, they and their ancestors have had their talents taken advantage of by men desperate to attain power and wealth, and currently they are in the possession of Seon Sam-joong (Jeon Gwang-ryul), chairman of the Geumhwa Group.
But Seon loses one of the things that is most precious to him when his son Min-joon (Ki Do-hoon) invites friends to their penthouse suite at the hotel they own and Gong Su-gwang (Na In-woo) becomes curious about a mysterious wall in a secluded part of the room. On the other side, Seul-bi has taken interest in the noise the friends are making and, as they both touch the same part of the secret door, sees Su-gwang and immediately falls in love with her “prince”. The door opens and she sneaks out of the hotel after him, following him like a puppy until he lets her have a day out.
When Su-gwang returns her to the hotel that night, though, he’s greeted by an angry Seon who vows to ruin his life. Seul-bi, meanwhile, is given to Min-joon, who treats her slightly kinder than his father. When he grants her her wish to have one afternoon outside, she spots a familiar face and makes plans to run away to be with the one she loves. After she puts her plan into action, though, she realises real life fairytales aren’t always as straightforward and simple as those she’s read in books.
So far, Jinxed At First is a fun and warm watch, giving a unique twist on a fantasy fairytale and bursting with infectious energy in its scenes, storylines and stars. Seohyun is a vibrant joy as Seul-bi, who slowly proves herself to be much more multi-faceted than the childlike wonderer who gets excited over the smallest things, like clouds and canned coffee. There are darker undertones to the show, just like her character – she might seem away with the fairies a lot of the time but she’s also very smart and cunning, as we find out when she has get herself out of dangerous situations as more and more humans find out about who she really is.
While the central focus of the series is the relationship between Seul-bi and the down-on-his-luck Su-gwang, there’s much more at play here too – a big part of what keeps things so pacy and intriguing. The episodes touch on ideas of fate and destiny, luck, power imbalances, men taking ownership of women and what it means to belong to someone in the first four episodes alone. As it continues, expect things to get even more complex, intriguing and utterly enchanting.
New episodes of Jinxed At First air on South Korean TV channel KBS2 every Wednesday and Thursday, and will also be available to stream on iQIYI in select regions.