The Bequeathed is Netflix’s new Korean crime thriller, and I’ve said this a dozen times already, but this is a genre that will forever be loved in the Korean entertainment industry. It’s almost as if every Friday, Netflix is churning out one of these mini-series that can be binged in a day and forgotten by night. Oops! I don’t think all Korean thrillers are forgettable. In fact! There are some absolutely fantastic ones. I mean, we all know that some of the best thriller films (and the most unnerving ones) come from South Korea. However, this might be the reason the genre is becoming a little bit oversaturated in 2024. Of course, it’s not easy to come up with something new so often, but this same old story that’s recycled with new packaging is getting a little old. The Bequeathed is neither hot nor cold; it’s an average show with a good cast that carries the 6-episode-slow burner, but I suppose there’s no punch anymore when it comes to the big reveals, or maybe I’m just unflappable.
The Bequeathed is your classic maternal love-revenge thriller that slowly unravels into a family drama based on a mystery. It sparks a conversation about taboo subjects like incest and does a decent job of painting a picture around the whole thing in non-judgmental colors. Despite being a slow-burn show, it moves rather quickly in terms of the action that takes place in it. The first episode could give you anxiety with the number of terrible things that happen to the protagonist, Seo-Ha. The first four episodes go into establishing the back story, why Seo-Ha is inheriting a piece of land that she never knew about, who her brother is, why he’s trying to “steal” it from her, and what the real story is about her father. Myung-Hee was first introduced to us as a neighborhood grandma who knew of the old man who died in the village. This old man happened to be Seo-Ha’s uncle, and she didn’t even know of his existence. Nobody pays heed to this old lady, but soon we’ll get to know who she really is and about how she’s been around the whole time.
Myung-Hee is Seo-Ha’s aunt and Young-Ho’s mother. Seo-Ha always knew Young-Ho as a half-brother because she always felt like he stole her father from her. However, when she learns that he is actually her father and her aunt’s son, her jealousy turns to disgust. At first, Seo-Ha can’t help but judge the siblings for committing such a sin; however, when she sees Myung-Hee with her son and how desperate she is to keep him happy and alive, she really starts to feel for them. Myung-Hee’s entire life has been one of desperation. She was born with a cleft palate and was terribly bullied. Now, in a country like South Korea, where beauty is a symbol for everything—class, status, and even intelligence—we can imagine her life must’ve been quite miserable. The only person who ever sided with her was her brother. This is probably why she clung to him for the rest of their lives together. At a tender age, Myung-Hee was married off to a stranger who ran away with her dowry to be with somebody else. Misfortune over misfortune, and again, it’s only Myung-Ho who empathizes with her. Rumors start to spread that the two of them are lovers, and their father decides to throw Myung-Hee out.
Myung-Hee runs away, trying to take her own life, as her brother follows. He stops her from jumping off a cliff, promising to look after her always. To Myung-Hee, Young-Ho is a symbol of their love. Despite facing the hatred of the village about her and Myung-Ho’s relationship, she always protected her son and made sure nobody found out that he was a child of incest. More than anything, Myung-Hee never wanted Young-Ho to suffer the way she did. After all, he never had anyone else to keep him safe. Myung-Hee’s only mission was to make sure that Young-Ho never faced any hardships because of her. Her first kill is Seo-Ha’s husband. Maybe she just knows that he’s the greedy type and will convince his wife to keep the land for herself. She never hesitates to use the rifle. When the guy is left behind by Seo-Ha in the middle of nowhere after they have a fight because he was cheating on her, Myung-Hee doesn’t lose a second; she shoots him clean in the head. Ironically, he was thrown out of the car because he claimed that he deserved the burial ground as Seo-Ha’s husband (disgusting).
Her second kill is Kang, the private detective hired by Seo-Ha to spy on Young-Ho. Seo-Ha’s very scared of Young-Ho and thinks he’s killed her husband, so she asks Kang to find out everything he can about the guy. Kang is so close to sharing the family portrait of Myung-Hee, Young-Ho, and Seo-Ha’s father with her, but Myung-Hee manages to kill him just in time. She’s not evil; these are not signs of her becoming a serial killer; she just can’t have anyone know the truth about Young-Ho’s birth. Not even Seo-Ha, because she would fight him further if she knew. In reality, Seo-Ha would’ve simply given the rights to Myung-Hee if she had known that she was alive. This whole time, she believed she was dead. Even so, Myung-Hee wouldn’t have been able to pass it down to her son because nobody would know he’s her son; they only know he’s Seo-Ha’s half-brother.
At the end of the day, we could say everything Myung-Hee did was for love, but it was also because of hate. If she hadn’t been mistreated as a child, it’s possible she never would’ve needed protection, and so maybe Young-Ho wouldn’t have been a taboo child. At the end of The Bequeathed, Myung-Hee is buried with her brother and her love. She decided to kill herself because there was no way she could deal with any more hatred in life. It’s unfortunate that she would leave her son alone after all this time, but even if she had stayed alive, she would’ve been imprisoned, so this was the best answer for her. Despite her fears, she never managed to make Young-Ho self-reliant, so it will be really almost impossible for him to live without her. Ultimately, we can only hope that Seo-Ha will eventually come to his side in whatever way is possible.