A perfect revenge story starts when the protagonist plans the best kind of revenge. In the case of Ahn Gil-ho’s The Glory (더 글로리), Moon Dong-eun (Song Hye-kyo) is left with only one solution: to torment her childhood bullies until they all break apart. The series, which is broken into two parts, follows the story of Dong-eun who is bullied to the point where she drops out of school. Ahn introduces the harsh realities of high school bullying and class disparity in South Korea. The Glory is an uncomfortable revenge story that involves a woman’s fight for survival and her road to destroy the lives of her childhood bullies.
The series opens with Dong-eun moving into a new apartment. She staples pictures of Park Yeon-jin (Lim Ji-yeon), a famous weather forecaster, on the wall. She has been obsessively following Yeon-jin’s and her friends’ lives for many years.
In the summer of 2004, a young Dong-eun (Jung Ji-so) is being bullied by the ringleader, Yeon-jin (Shin Ye-eun) and her group of friends. After an incident where Dong-eun involves the police, Yeon-jin and her friends force her into the gym and the ringleader decides to test her curling iron. She orders her friends to press the curling iron on Dong-eun’s arms and legs, which causes scarring and bleeding burns. Dong-eun doesn’t have anyone to help her, so she drops out of high school because of the bullying. The parents of the bullies try to pay Dong-eun’s mother a large sum of money. She accepts the money and runs off, leaving Dong-eun behind to fend for herself.
Years later, Dong-eun makes an elaborate plan to get revenge on Yeon-jin and her friends. Her scars have never forgotten what happened to her in the gym, and she plans to go after her enemies with everything she has got.
The Glory is certainly not an easy watch. In the first few episodes, Yeon-jin and her friends physically assault Dong-eun using a curling iron. These kinds of incidents of bullying are common in South Korea, and fans of k-drama will often see a bullying plot written in the series. The series shows that the physical and mental impact of bullying has a permanent and deep effect on Dong-eun. Her entire life is turned upside down because Yeon-jin and her friends’ parents are rich, powerful and influential people who use money to make things go away.
The Glory explores the class disparity between Dong-eun and Yeon-jin and her friends’ parents. Yeon-jin’s parents treat her badly and yet, use their influence to get her out of terrible situations. Dong-eun lives in a small, dilapidated building and her mother find her to be a burden. Yeon-jin and her bullies pick on her for being poor and having no familial support. The rich and powerful use their influence to ensure that their children never get any sort of punishment, while students like Dong-eun suffer for their violent actions. Kim Eun-sook, the writer of the series, wants the viewers to understand that while the show focuses on Dong-eun’s plans for revenge, ultimately, it is about class issues. Dong-eun’s upbringing and her trauma progress the story forward. Her circumstances haven’t been easy for her but her desire to get back at her enemies fuels her story because justice is more satisfying when it’s on her own terms.
The narrative shifting between past and present allows the audience to understand Dong-eun’s story. Every detail of her revenge is filled with flashbacks and it doesn’t slow the series by shifting the narrative too many times. By constructing the series this way, it allows the audience to understand the characters’ histories. From Yeon-jin’s violent bullying to Dong-eun’s plans of revenge, which took years of patience, it has a pretty cohesive structure that doesn’t feel like it’s overstuffed with too much information.
One of the best parts of The Glory is Song’s quiet performance. Her impressive portrayal as Dong-eun stands out, as she brings anger and determination to her performance. Even though the series has a lot of trauma, she shows sympathy, as well as fear and terror that justifies her actions.
The Glory focuses on Dong-eun’s intricate plans for revenge. The first part of the series sets the groundwork for the revenge plot and the introduction of the characters and the flashbacks work seemingly well. It is dark and uncomfortable but as the story progresses forward, it is incredibly cathartic to watch Dong-eun’s desire for revenge play out. Occasionally, the show slips into melodrama, but the trauma and torture are used as a form of drama. The first part of The Glory is only just the beginning of what is yet to come in the second part, which will conclude Dong-eun’s plans for revenge.