If someone told you about a drama where a demon and a CEO enter into a contract marriage, you might have some expectations. Slapstick comedy, absurdist scenarios, and the nature of evil. After all, that’s what demons are. My Demon refutes all of that. It’s personal, and poignant, driven by one powerful force: choice.
This review contains spoilers and mentions of abuse.
Do Do-hee (Kim Yoo-jung) is a CEO of a subsidiary company whose adoptive mom and boss, Ju Cheon-sook (Kim Hae-sook), is desperate to see her married, even though she prefers to be alone, only for said mother to die and Do-hee to find herself in a Macbethian tragedy. Jeong Gu-won (Song Kang) is an immortal demon, happily making deals with humans and otherwise ignoring them. When their paths cross and things go haywire, Do-hee ends up as the carrying case for Gu-won’s powers, and they make the choice to form a team and face their problems together.
That is the major sticking point of My Demon. There is no fate here, no destiny. God and demons and magic, sure. But there is no cosmic entity setting up dominos so everything falls exactly the right way. Instead, there are choices, and there are consequences of those choices. Maybe it’s your own choices you’re dealing with, and maybe it’s other peoples. But everything always comes back to someone making a choice.
This is clearest with Gu-won himself. Normally, we think of a demon as meaningfully evil, tempting the otherwise good into sin. Gu-won is more akin to an immortal cashier. He simply appears to the desperate and offers a deal: your deepest wish and 10 years to enjoy it, in exchange for your soul. No cajoling or persuading; just a choice. You say no, that’s fine. But if you say yes, there is no one to blame but yourself. Rather than act as embodiment of evil, Gu-won is a mirror. What do you want, and what are you willing to give up for it? It is not the mirror’s fault if you don’t like the answer.
If Gu-won is the mirror, than Do-hee is the consequence. After losing her parents in a car crash on her 10th birthday, she has spent her whole life alone, something that she now actively pursues. Madame Ju is her only real connection, as she is isolated from her adoptive family by jealousy and has no friends by design. She believes that everyone she loves will leave her, so she chooses not to love people. Instead, she throws herself into work, cultivating an image of ruthlessness that covers her pain at having no one around her, even if it is her own actions that lead her here.
Moreover, Do-hee finds herself battling the outcomes of other people’s choices. Her beloved Madame Ju was murdered, and she herself is the next target. This forces her into a more active role in her own life, no longer able to confine herself to work. Instead, she has to make life-altering decisions about trust, revenge, and her own safety. Even her ending up with Gu-won’s powers is not an act of fate, but choices made lifetimes ago finally coming home to roost.
The two form an adorable odd couple. Gu-won is playful, irreverent, and a little gothic, which puts him into conflict with the sugar-and-ice queen Do-hee. Do-hee is a powerful CEO, but she is honest and scrupulous, having great consideration for the human cost of her decisions. Yet they form a quick bond, anchored in the relief of having someone by your side after a lifetime facing the world alone.
The supporting characters are just as driven by choices, both made and unmade. Madame Ju is wracked with guilt over decisions she made 20 years ago. Her son, Noh Seok-min (Kim Tae-hoon), makes unthinkable choices in the name of power and money, while his wife, Kim Se-ra (Jo Yeon-Hee), has to live her choice to overlook his domestic violence towards their son, Do-gyeong (Jang Seung-ho). And Ju’s daughter Noh Su-ahn (Lee Yoon-Ji) makes petty power moves that always fail because she never thinks her actions through. Even Do-hee’s assistant Ms Shin (Seo Jeong-yeon) is haunted by her divorce, seeing it as proof of failure at being married, even if it was the best choice. The only exception is God (Cha Chung-hwa), who is above such things and seems to enjoy humanity’s struggles like we do a soap opera.
However, the true power of choice is that choices provide the ability to change. Gu-won’s butler, Park Bok-gyu (Heo Jeong-do) had sold his soul to Gu-won in two previous lives. In this one, he’s learned and is instead Gu-won’s confidant, alongside traditional dancer Ga-young (Jo Hye-joo). She’s in love with Gu-won, but doesn’t let that dictate her life, instead acting as a loyal friend to repay the help he gave her earlier in life.
Even the structure of the show puts emphasis on living with your choices and letting them change you. The driving plots— the murder of Madame Ju and Do-hee getting Gu-won’s powers—are wrapped up with three episodes left, to allow the characters to reflect on their choices and what they mean long term. This is when Do-hee is forced to confront the fact that her husband kills people, and Gu-won has to cope with Do-hee being mortal.
But it also allows us to see everyone making new choices and moving forward. Ga-young becomes the avenging angel for an abused girl, as Gu-won was once for her. Se-ra opens a shelter for domestic violence victims, to atone for her failures as a mother. And Su-ahn lets go of her pettiness by reconnecting with her remaining family and turns to Catholicism… which she uses to write a weight-loss book. But it is a step forward, and everyone takes the olive branch. Even a bizarrely loyal gang is able to turn over a new leaf and go legit.
One other fantastic element of My Demon is the costume design. Every character has a distinct look that conveys exactly what they’re about. Do-hee favors suits and outfits with a 70s influence, always in pastels, showing she’s professional, feminine, and has a sweet side. Gu-won prefers black, leather, and crosses, reveling in his nature and how people react to it–and also making it adorably clear when Do-hee has picked something out for him.
Seok-min’s suits are impeccable and expensive, showing his preoccupation with wealth, while his cousin Seok-hoon’s (Lee Sang-yi) are rumpled and lived in, because he’s more focused on work than money . Even the make-up is flawless character work. Ga-young’s heavy eyeliner is intimidating, but always smudged as if she’s been crying. Su-ahn’s, on the other hand, never fails to look equal parts expensive and tacky, belying her emphasis on status symbols irregardless if they actually work for her. Modern costuming tends to get overlooked, but My Demon gets full marks for fully using its visual medium.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that a show with such heavy Catholic imagery and influence would be driven by free will, but that’s often underplayed in Christianity. Fate is comforting, because it removes responsibility. My Demon puts it right back. It’s a cute love story, but it’s also a sharp reminder that you are responsible for your choices, and how you react to others doing the same. It might be easier to put the blame on other people, but sooner or later, the devil will come looking for his due. Sadly, he probably won’t be as pretty as Gu-won.
(Images via Netflix, YouTube)