I’m excited, y’all!! I hereby bring you the first joint post this blog has ever hosted! Woot!
Most of you know by now that I’ve fallen into the habit (trap? heh.) of taking a show apart for its review, and examining each little gear and piston, and writing up a storm in the process. Although I never specifically set out to write epic reviews, it’s become a bit of a trend on this blog now, and I’m grateful to those of you who actually enjoy coming on these epic journeys with me. Thanks y’all. It means a lot, really. ❤
In the midst of all you wonderful peeps who put in the time to read my reviews and share your thoughts with me, I discovered a particular sort of connection with the lovely Betsy Hp who hosts Creating Volumes. If you’ve been following the comments threads in some of my reviews, you might have noticed that Betsy Hp and I sometimes exchange (very) large chunks of thoughts. It’s like her thoughts inspire me to more thoughts, which then inspire her to more thoughts. It’s often a cycle that evolves and grows and gives birth to new and completely unexpected thoughts and ideas, which, Too Cool.
I then said (only) half in jest to Betsy Hp, that we should try joint-posting, just to see what these thought babies might look like, given the room to grow. And so – ta-dah! – here we are! *blows noisemaker*
Join us as we dive – with our thinking caps firmly on! – into the twisty world of Nine!
How This Works
Before getting into this post proper, I recommend that you take a read of what we’ve each already written about the show, coz our respective reviews are the springboard for this particular conversation. And you know I always say context is everything. 😉
You can check out Betsy Hp’s Reaction Post here and her review here. And you can find my review here. If you really can’t spare the time to read our reviews first, well, this should still work. Mostly. I think.
Oh, and this is going to be just bursting with spoilers.
Ready? Come talk drama with us!!
kfangurl: So I clearly had trouble with the emotional hook – or for me, lack thereof – in this show.
Betsy Hp: I think some of the elements that pushed you out were the very elements that pulled me in. The twisty writing is right up my alley. I love plots that twist and turn and demand you pay attention and then reward you for doing so. (That last bit is important. Sometimes twisty writing is just a way to cover up the sloppy plot.) The writers obviously had the story scripted out. There were some bobbles but not any real loose threads or dropped plots. And I love time-travel if it’s handled well — and this drama handled it well. (Making the two times parallel did a lot to keep the tension up.)
kfangurl: Definitely agree with you on the payoff being crucial with twisty writing! I hate when twisty writing turns out to be an attempt to cover up sloppy plot. Worse, when that attempt fails, coz then we feel doubly cheated, right?
It’s really interesting how we reacted so differently to the writing in Nine.
Betsy Hp: I agree with you about Jung-woo’s death not being all that moving. But I think that fell more into the “makjang mood” trap. Which, I do agree got too excessive there and therefore pushed me out of the story for a beat or two.
But once we were back into time-travel excitement I was right back on board. 🙂
kfangurl: It’s fascinating to me, that for you, it was the makjang stuff that took you out of the emotional engagement for a bit. Whereas for me, the makjang was a secondary factor – though it still did affect me, to be sure.
With the possibility of a timeslip to fix each new twist in the plot, I felt like the stakes were lowered. My internal monologue would go something like, “Jung-woo’s dead?…” Or, “Min-young’s his niece?… Well, let’s see how the show fixes that. We’ve got X timeslips left, I wonder how they’d make that work..”
Compared to a regular non-time-travel show, where there are no timeslips allowing one to go back, and all solutions must take place in the here and now, I felt the stakes were somehow lowered in Nine, coz there’s always the possibility of some kind of do-over. And because of the lowered stakes, my emotional investment just turned out to be less too, I guess.
Betsy Hp: Hah! Proof that writers should write what they want, because there are so many different tastes out there and someone will like it, so if you enjoy it, do it. 🙂 Because your thought, “Well, let’s see how the show fixes that” is exactly what pulled me in. 😀
Though I’d think more, how will Sun-woo fix that, which shows I was inside the story. But yeah — it was triggering the kind of questions I enjoy. (The makjang felt like Sun-woo, and the plot, spinning its wheels — kind of sinking into the despair of it all. I liked it when the tinkering got going again.)
I’ll also add I completely agree with you about the 3 emotional hooks that worked for you. Maybe if they’d concentrated more on those elements — cracking Sun-woo’s armor, playing up Jung-hoon and Min-young’s involvement — instead of sinking into makjang stuff… Though… I can see how the surprise!incest and Sun-woo’s despair do tie into those three things. Just — if they’d done it better. (Helpful advice from me to the writers: Do it like that, only better! ;P)
CHARACTER / RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT VS. PLOT DEVELOPMENT
kfangurl: Ok, so given that Nine was brought to us by the same team that gave us Queen In-hyun’s Man, I find it pretty fascinating to look at where these 2 shows are similar – AND different as well.
Betsy Hp: Yes, like how it’s interesting that both dramas had their core relationships be pretty much right and perfect and lovely right from the get go. Neither character had to grow to recognize the love right before them. That was especially true of Nine. Sun-woo does have to have his moment of realization — but it happens just before the drama starts. And, of course, Min-young’s known all along.
So getting the couple together in the first place obviously isn’t what interests the writer — it’s testing how important that love is — what would you sacrifice for it? With QIHM, Boong-do has to weigh his entire world and also his duty against Hee-jin. With Nine, Sun-woo has to weigh his brother’s happiness (and I think you could also say Min-young’s — but his original reason for not “fixing” his mistake was his brother’s happiness) against his own.
Which can make for a really deep romantic story (see QIHM) and gave the romantic storyline in “Nine” a lot more oomph than it could have had if it’d been more focused on Sun-woo realizing he was in love with Min-young. He had to know exactly what he was giving up to make his initial sacrifice meaningful. If that makes sense. 🙂
kfangurl: Great point. In fact, I think beyond giving oomph to the romantic storyline, in handling the story that way, Nine shifts our focus to bigger things than the Big Love Line, which is too often the only focus of many dramas. Not that the Big Love Line is a bad thing, coz I do love me some well-done romance. But once in a while, it’s nice to have our focus elevated to bigger questions and larger issues.
I actually liked that the love line in Nine occupied a more supporting role sort of space, allowing us to explore bigger questions like, “What price, playing God?”
There’s also the question of nature vs. nurture (which I’m only just seeing now, thanks to being fresh-ish from my White Christmas review), ie, how much do we change because our circumstances change? And how much of our person is part of our essence, that remains across any given set of circumstances, and in this case, timelines?
We see this played out in all our characters, but we see it most in Sun-woo, Jung-woo, and Min-young. As their circumstances change across timelines, there are always certain constants about each character, while other facets of their personalities shift. I found that thought-provoking.
Betsy Hp: Ooh — good point about keeping characters in a similar… I guess you could say emotional space, so that we can more readily see the changes the actual circumstance change brought. (Mostly for Jung-woo, I think. Because Min-young stayed the same in essentials.)
Which does mean this drama really does center on Sun-woo. He’s the only one able to change emotionally because, in many ways, his circumstances don’t change in that he’s aware of the changes. If that makes any sense at all. 🙂
kfangurl: Hm.. Keeping them in a similar emotional space is one thing.. I think what intrigues me more isn’t quite the similar emotional space.. It’s the question of what forms the absolute core of these characters. That, come what may, these are things that don’t change about them.
Like for Min-young, part of her essence is her attraction to Sun-woo. Whether in the past or the present, whether as his colleague or his niece, there’s just something in her that is drawn to Sun-woo.
We do see that given a different timeline and a different childhood, Niece Min-young has a somewhat more sheltered (pampered?) air about her, versus Original Min-young who became independent much sooner due to different circumstances.
Part of Young-hoon’s essence is being a loyal grumpypants bestie to Sun-woo. And part of Sun-woo’s essence is approaching his life with a proactive sort of determination. We see this in both Sun-woos, and what’s interesting to me, is that each Sun-woo uses that proactive determination in a different way. Original Sun-woo uses it to time travel, and to the very end, believes fiercely there is a way out. New Sun-woo uses that proactive determination to decide how he will look at life and live it, choosing to live the life he wants, and loving the girl he wants, never mind what went before.
In that sense, I don’t really see a whole lot of change in the characters.. the changes we see are peripheral, almost. They remain pretty true to their core, and as circumstances shift along with the timelines, I feel like we get to divide what is core and what is peripheral, in these characters. If that makes sense, heh.
Betsy Hp: It does make sense. Though… the circumstances that did change with the time shifts were smaller things, relatively. I think the question the story was ultimately wrestling with was your first one: what price playing God? And apparently the cost was: *bam* “Your girlfriend’s now your niece! How you like them apples?” 😉
kfangurl: Um. Oopsie?
LEE JIN-WOOK AS PARK SUN-WOO
kfangurl: So I wasn’t too bothered by the similarity between Sun-woo and Lee Jin Wook’s character in I Need Romance 2012, though I did notice the similarity was, well, there.
Betsy Hp: I noticed the similarity between this character and his INR2012 character, too. Odd that I despised the INR2012 character and adored this one. Lee Jin-wook is really, really good at banter and boyishness. I did find his character sexy in INR2012… until he just kept on keeping his secrets (I think right to the very end? or close enough anyway) and holding the female lead at arm’s length.
That was a difference that changed everything in “Nine”. He wasn’t a cipher and, while he kept secrets from Min-young, they weren’t kept for long. She was able to find them out. So there wasn’t the power issues that bugged me in INR2012. Mystery solved!
kfangurl: That’s true, that the 2 characters were different beyond the surface similarities.
Another difference that I’m just thinking of now, is in the attitude each character takes towards their lives. Lee Jin-wook’s character in INR2012 was basically fatalistic while in Nine, Sun-woo is all about taking things into his own hands and doing everything in his power to solve things and set things right. Right to the very end, he refused to believe that there wasn’t a way out. Night and day, in that sense.
Having said that, though, there’s something about Lee Jin-wook in both shows.. I have difficulty feeling connected to him as a character. I can’t speak for more than these 2 shows since that’s all I’ve seen of him. But in both shows, I felt disconnected from him. In Nine, I felt mentally engaged by Sun-woo. But even though there were times that actual tears left my eyes during some Sun-woo scenes, I just didn’t feel emotionally close to his character the way I usually do with a lead character. I.. can’t explain it.
Maybe it’s not him.. Maybe it’s me. Or maybe it IS him. I dunno.
Betsy Hp: Hmm… You know — that might explain why I was more enraged by his INR2012 character (as opposed to the female lead — and yes, we’re talking relatively here ;)) than you were. That lack of emotional connection? Because I did connect to both his characters — just the first one really, really angered me. (And I love your point about that character’s fatalism, because that can frustrate the heck out of me. So even more explained.)
But now I’m wondering what it is that pulls me into a character and what doesn’t. Is it actor-specific? I think it definitely can be. For example, Lee Seung-gi is an actor that has to work to pull me in. I don’t know why, but part of the reason I was impressed with The King 2 Hearts was that I ended up really caring for his character in a way I’m not used to with him. But otherwise — I get that he has an adorable smile but it’s an intellectual thing. I don’t melt though I can see how it might melt others. (This might be why I don’t love My Girlfriend is a Gumiho as much others did.)
So is it a style thing? Because I do think Lee Jin-wook has a fairly set style (you know, based off the two dramas I’ve seen him in — I cannot claim expertise here!) — he definitely uses his grin to convey charm and boyishness and I think he has a pretty set speaking meter as far as tone and speed and he does this blank-look thing as a comedy beat. Those things work for me — I like them — but I’d say they’re… acting tricks or tics that he relies on.
I wonder if… would a really good actor be able to pull you so far into the emotional world of his character it doesn’t matter if his surface tics are the sort of thing that work for you? So maybe it’s more Lee Jin-wook is a serviceable actor but not a great actor and if his particular bag of tricks don’t do it for you you’ll enjoy the story for the story but that emotional connection won’t be there?
At the same time — I think he did a great job being Park Sun-woo. I think he was well cast to play that part and I’d have a hard time seeing someone else in the role…
Hah! I’m kind of walking a line here where I really like the character but I can see how it could be hit and miss because there’s definitely a style there.
kfangurl: Yes, I definitely think the actor himself has a lot to do with whether I’m pulled into the character’s psyche. I’d consider that part of the actor’s skill, talent and charisma too. I think. Sometimes, knowing that actor outside his roles detracts from my ability to connect with him in character. And sometimes, it actually helps. Weird, I know.
But I think knowing his aegyo side in 1N2D would not have helped me, coz I really want to see him as the cool, charismatic characters that he plays in both shows.
On the other end of the spectrum, seeing Lee Seung-gi in 1N2D actually endeared him to me, and I found it easier to like the characters that he plays. I wasn’t too taken with him during my first watch of My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, but one watch of The King 2 Hearts and several episodes of 1N2D later, I actually liked him significantly more on my re-watch of MGiaG.
Coming back off that tangent, though, I definitely agree that it has a lot to do with the actor’s skill. And Lee Jin Wook strikes me as a competent actor, who’s not (yet?) ah-mazing. I see the similarities in both his Nine and INR2012 characters partly because of those acting tics that he uses. And yes, I do wonder if I would’ve felt more emotionally connected to the character in a different actor’s hands.
But, well, we’ll never know (unless they do a Nine remake sometime?). That said, Lee Jin Wook did a very decent job of being Park Sun-woo.
Betsy Hp: Aaand… now I want to see a variety of different actors doing the exact same scene. 😀 Just to see how they’d handle it and how I’d react to it and… yeah, I’m this kind of dork. 😉
JUN NOH MIN & SEO WOO JIN AS PARK JUNG WOO
Betsy Hp: In your review you’d mentioned that both Jung Woo’s (young and adult) were acted rather woodenly. I personally thought it was an acting choice. Because the character is, in a sense, sleep-walking through his life at this point.
Acting aside — I really loved and ached for Jung-woo. I feel like he’d had a hard row to hoe his whole life, and that he’d managed to shield his brother from it. And then it got even harder and he got bad advice and took it and just… shut down from that point onwards.
I think my sympathy stems from his conversation with his father just before the big death scene. When he comes to his dad and tells him he’s going to marry Yoo-jin and he’ll give up the hospital and any inheritance — basically taking the punishment. And his father tells him it was never his in the first place and denies being his father and then attacks his mom and…
I felt like that gave us a taste of what Jung-woo’s life had been like up to that point. That his father had always been distant and cold at best (maybe even actively disliking Jung-woo), that his father had always treated his mom with a certain amount of contempt. (I got the sense this wasn’t the first time she’d been beaten by him.) Jung-woo was fatherless in many ways.
My thought was Sun-woo, as the younger brother (the one the father was sure was his) had been sheltered from a lot of that. For one, his dad would have been at least kind and loving, even from a distance. For another, he had an older brother who (per those scenes when he came barging into Jung-woo’s room to share his weird day or when their mom was calling Jung-woo to go get his brother) was involved and interested in his life.
So I took those two things (Jung-woo having a bad upbringing; Jung-woo caring for his brother) and added those into his character and his weakness — while, yes infuriating — made sense. And because he was definitely haunted by his weakness it felt okay to sympathise. Since he didn’t turn it on anyone else (become abusive himself, for example), it felt like a good person made to endure more than he could handle alone.
Not that I want to go too extreme and argue that Jung-woo is heroic! He’s not. He definitely falls victim to his own weakness and deals with it (or tries to, anyway) by running away, leaving Sun-woo effectively orphaned. Just… I could see the hows and whys that got him to that place. So I still felt for him.
kfangurl: Wow, those are some pretty insightful observations, Betsy! I think it’s the sympathetic bent of your personality that helps you tease out these things. That, and give love to dramas that not everyone loves, heh.
Ok, I do feel more sympathetic towards Jung-woo as a character (kudos to you for accomplishing that!).. And I do see more vividly – now that you’ve laid it out – how his circumstances would have shaped him.
Betsy HP: Hee! Yay — mission accomplished! 😀 (That might also be why I’ll really, really hate dramas that let me down? Because I gave them so many chances and still they turned on me. 😉 )
kfangurl: I confess I probably still feel less sympathetic towards him than you do. Mainly because I believe that while our circumstances do play a big part in shaping who we are, we don’t have to be defined by them. I wanted Jung-woo to rise above those circumstances and choose to be a stronger person, and I think that’s where I was often disappointed.
Granted, Jung-woo was really young at the time that all the worst things happened in his life, so it’s hard to expect someone so young to be strong in the face of overwhelming circumstances. I do wish, though, that over time, (and he had a lot of time; 20 whole years, in fact) that he’d have overcome that part of himself, and found courage within himself, to live his life in a more empowered, less impotent manner.
I suppose, though, that if he had, then we wouldn’t have much of a drama?
Betsy HP: Yes, Jung-woo was definitely weak. I think we got glimmers of the strength he might have had if he’d been better fathered in his last… I can’t think of a word… existence? Where he confronted his “father” (which — I have a hard time thinking of Dr. Choi as his dad in any way shape or form; I know he’s the biological daddy, but that’s it) he showed strength there.
(Okay — that was his second to last existence. Closest to what he becomes when the final change comes around though, right? *headache*)
But yeah — he’s definitely not the hero. He has a hell of a time rising to the occasion and needs several kicks in the butt to get there. Which is why he’s always a step behind. (He dies in the mountain — Sun-woo makes it through. There’s a reason for that, I think.)
kfangurl: And it’s the same reason he’s not our protagonist too, I think. Imagine having Jung-woo’s lens on throughout the drama. That would be a totally different experience – and probably not a pretty one. Eek.
Betsy Hp: Yeah — my sympathy would dry up pretty quick if I had to follow him around watching him not making decisions all day. 😛
LEE YI KYUNG: BRAT TO NERD
Betsy Hp: You totally blew my mind with your throw away comment: “As an aside, I’m particularly tickled by how Lee Yi Kyung is all hardworking & nerdy in Nine, when he was a little gangster brat in School 2013.”
I was like “whaaa?” And then I had to look up Lee Yi Kyung and his actor pics look totally different from Young Hoon. So then I was very frowny faced because I couldn’t quite place him. And then I looked up his pics from “School 2013″ and… mind blown! I totally adored his character in “School 2013″ and his frustration when his two best buds were fighting and yet I didn’t make the connection at all. I cannot believe it’s the same actor even as I see it’s totally the same actor. That is totally awesome. Talk about acting chops!
kfangurl: Hee! I think part of it is the styling.. He was styled really differently in School 2013. The middle-parted hair and the big-framed glasses did help to disguise him quite well in Nine. It was just his smile and manner of speech that clued me in.
To me, his acting is still rough around the edges, but I do see an upward trend.. I thought he did a lot better in Nine than in School 2013. Or maybe Nine just gave him more room to shine.. I’d believe that, since his role in School 2013 was really quite a minor one. I loved him as Young-hoon though. So very adorkable!
Betsy Hp: Styling is definitely a huge part… but I kind of pride myself on seeing past that to at least pinging to an actor looking familiar. (I watched a lot of B-scific tv back in the day and they were all shot in Vancouver so there was a lot of actor crossover and spotting familiar faces became a game. I’ve had some training, is what I’m saying. ;))
Probably the smallness of his School 2013 role played a part in my missing him, too. But I’m impressed he went for an entirely different role, anyway. Means he’s learning. (I’ve spotted the class clown from School 2013 in Two Weeks — but in many ways he’s playing a similar character.)
kfangurl: Yes, I definitely like that he’s not simply picking similar roles. I think the Young-hoon role did stretch him a little, as an actor, and I liked seeing his range emerge. I hope he keeps picking interesting roles.
Y’know, he’s been brat, and he’s been nerd. I guess it’s time for him to play a 2nd generation chaebol prince? Heh.
Betsy Hp: The cool thing about k-dramas? I’d be more shocked if it didn’t happen. 😉
kfangurl: Hey, maybe he’ll show up in Heirs? Practically every cast member would be a chaebol prince or princess. Or so it seems.
JUNG DONG-HWAN AS CHOI JIN-CHEOL
kfangurl: Ok, the OTT-ness of Evil Choi so did not work for me.
Betsy Hp: I think this is a personal taste thing (I had an easier time with the sideways walking guy in Return of Iljimae as I recall, so maybe I have more of a taste for farce or something? ;))
Something I know to be true about me is I do enjoy exaggerated stories — operatic feelings and emotions and bloodspray — probably a bit more than the next person. (I blame my parents playing Wagner for me as a tiny little one. If The Flying Dutchman is your favorite bedtime story, it’s going to shape you. ;))
So I really liked how Dr. Choi got more and more frazzled and mouth-breathing and fell out of dignity as he revealed his evil, selfish, greedy side. I do see that there’s no real dimension or depth to him. But… sometimes I just like the villain to be a villain. I did like that he was smart. So his silliness in his OTT badguy-ness didn’t translate into foolish plans that were too easy for Sun-woo to get through.
I also liked that, since he wasn’t conflicted about being bad, he went all out. That he would go so far as to kill a child… Putting Sun-woo up against someone who really would go that far, so he couldn’t rely on basic human decency kicking in, meant Sun-woo had to plan for and react to the worst case scenarios. And since I was all about watching Sun-woo react to worst case scenarios — I was happy with my villain.
kfangurl: Heh. It’s cute that you liked Dr. Choi’s OTT villain. I clearly didn’t take to the OTT interpretation of the character very well.. Mostly because he was the only one in that space, and it felt jarring to me among a cast of characters who mostly seemed normal. But hey, at least someone’s appreciating him!
I wonder how many other viewers liked him too? Maybe I’m just the odd one out, and everyone else thought he was a fun villain to hate?
Betsy Hp: Well… I’m not sure it’s a sign of love but… there were a lot of gifs. 😉 I honestly have no idea, though, how viewers took to him. We should do a poll! 😀
kfangurl: Ooh, but what if nobody answers the poll? Then we’d look.. pathetic. (sadface) Ok, y’know what, guys, if you want to let us know whether you loved or hated Evil Choi, tell us in the comments, m’kay?
SUN-WOO AND JUNG-WOO
Betsy Hp: Loved, loved, loved your pointing out Sun-woo reaching out for his brother as he’s wheeled away. In a sense, this whole adventure was Sun-woo reaching out for a brother that had turned away for some unknown (to him) reason.
kfangurl: Ooh, I love how eloquently you put it, Betsy, that it’s really all about Sun-woo reaching out for Jung-woo. That even in our first and last scenes, Sun-woo is always reaching out to Jung-woo. How apt, coz this is something that rings true across timelines and circumstances, throughout the show. A story of one man reaching for his brother, across time and space.
Betsy Hp: Hee! Mutual love-fest for the win! But yes, if the opening and closing scenes makes up the encasing time-travel loop, I think they also make up the encasing theme. This is really about Sun-woo saving Jung-woo. His father, as it turns out, is a by-the-way. The important story here is his brother.
I do kind of hate that their mom never really gets better. She’s probably one of the most tragic characters in the story and it’s too bad Jung-woo doing the right thing and confessing doesn’t… I don’t know, magically heal her or something. I feel like she got tangled up with two not great guys — well, one evil guy and the other at the very least a self-righteous jerk — and never managed to get untangled. Ah well — at least her sons turned out well and loved each other.
kfangurl: Yeah, I really wish their mother somehow got better as a result of the time-traveling and fixing of things. I kind of feel like she was forgotten, almost, y’know? I would’ve taken anything. Even if it’d just been a small improvement in her condition. Without it, she felt like a very static character – to the extent that she could’ve been a piece of furniture and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
Betsy Hp: I wonder if the mom was a dropped thread? Except Jung-woo mentions her at his last lunch with Sun-woo before heading out to Nepal. (She’s doing better — but not while he’s around, which… weird choice. Not only do we viewers not see it — her sons don’t see it.)
It is interesting that they turn the dynamic so completely around where it’s the younger brother looking after and saving his older brother. I mean, I surmised that Jung-woo probably did a lot for Sun-woo when they were kids, but we don’t actually see that in the drama. What we see is Sun-woo risking everything (and at one point losing everything) for his older brother. I don’t know that there’s any deep meaning to that — but I like it.
kfangurl: I totally agree about Sun-woo taking on the role and responsibility of the older brother for most of the show. But I have to respect Sun-woo for refusing to go over his brother’s head and make those decisions for him. He insisted that Jung-woo make those decisions, and he resolved to live with whatever Jung-woo chose. So in a way, it was like Sun-woo was helping Jung-woo to grow up?
Betsy Hp: I think you’re exactly right. Just as he did for his younger self, he was being a father-figure for Jung-woo. Giving him the chance to make the right choice. Pretty cool. (So we have awesome father-figure stuff going on, but the mother… nothing.)
SUN-WOO & MIN-YOUNG
Betsy Hp: So their romance was a given — in pretty much all the modes. Which is interesting in that Sun-woo doesn’t have to work to earn Min-young’s love. It’s more, he has to find a safe place for their love to happen. Or maybe, give himself permission to let it happen?
The last scene when he’s flying out to Nepal and he’s made the decision to screw fate and love the girl he loves — allow what will be to be… It’s the closing scene on Sun-woo’s life. He knows that his time-traveling persona died in the past. I got the sense that he was throwing away a sense of responsibility that he’d have to shape things. He won’t time travel to “fix” things — even if given the opportunity. Instead he’ll live the life he wants to live and love the girl he wants to love.
kfangurl: Ooh, interesting insight! And it makes sense. Min-young’s always loved Sun-woo. It’s just part of who she is. And in each timeline, there’s always something preventing Sun-woo from allowing that love to be. First, the brain tumor, then the whole she’s-his-niece thing. And later, it’s Original Sun-woo’s warning to young Min-young.
So, when we look at it that way, the drama – as far as the romance goes, anyway – is always about Sun-woo deciding that he is going to let it happen. Brain tumor? I’ll love you anyway. Niece? I’ll love you anyway – if you want me to. In the end? I’ll love you anyway.
Betsy Hp: Oh. My. God. *squee!!* and *thud* That is totally my favorite kind of romance!!! Seriously, where a guy with incredibly high standards and purposes and whatevers realizes he’s willing to, and going to, risk it all for love. I loves it!!!
Yeah, it can be done completely wrong (100 people die — but I’ll love you, doesn’t quite work) but when it’s done right? Favorite thing ever! So you’ve just pointed out yet another reason why Nine worked for me. Thanks, kfangurl! 😀
kfangurl: You’re welcome? 😀 I don’t know how I ended up being the dot-connector there, but I’m happy to take the credit. *bows*
SUN-WOO & YOUNG-HOON
kfangurl: I freaking LOVED the bromance between these two! (Or, should I say, four? Since there were 2 pairs of them?)
Betsy Hp: Loved it too! 😀 Loved Young-hoon as the loyal Watson to Sun-woo’s Sherlock. Young-hoon made for a great foil — giving Sun-woo someone to bounce ideas off of but also coming in with existential warnings that turned out to be, unfortunately, fairly accurate. (Time travel is dangerous and there is a price to pay.)
I also liked that, while Young-hoon definitely brought the humor, he was also pretty sharp himself. He does actually save Sun-woo’s life through his own sleuthing and tenacity. I really did love the relationship between Sun-woo and Young-hoon.
kfangurl: I also love that the two men are quite different at heart – Sun-woo’s all scientific and analytical about everything, while Young-hoon is more philosophical – and yet, they are so inseparable and their bond runs so deep. There’s something about that dynamic that gives me an extra shot of warm fuzzies. I think it is because they don’t allow even these core differences to keep them apart. Like, bromance trumps all. D’aw.
Betsy Hp: The peanut-butter to his chocolate. 😉 (I’ll let you pick which is which.)
kfangurl: I’m gonna pick Sun-woo as the peanut butter. He’s saltier.
Betsy Hp: And nuttier! (‘Cause he’s got crunch…? I’ll stop.)
kfangurl: Although, Young-hoon could be pretty nutty himself. Remember when he ran screaming through the hospital, arms flailing?? If I saw that, I’d call him nuts.
Betsy Hp: Best reaction to time travel. Ever.
SUN-WOO & SUN-WOO
Betsy Hp: Loved this story line! Seriously, loved it. Sun-woo was so kind to his younger self. And I loved how much his younger self seemed to hero-worship Sun-woo (which — guy saves your life — kind of hard not to ;). I also loved that his younger self was smart enough to work through what kept Sun-woo from keeping his promise to meet with him. It was really cool to not only have the younger version around, but to have him doing things as well.
kfangurl: I was also really taken with how kind Sun-woo was to his younger self. And how much younger Sun-woo looked up to and trusted adult Sun-woo. That really was a huge highlight for me.
Betsy Hp: I think it gave that final episode, with the younger Sun-woo all grown up, more emotional weight than it would have if we didn’t know this version of Sun-woo. So, even though time-travelling Sun-woo dies, it’s like a part of him does continue living. A part that he put a lot of effort into protecting and guiding.
It really was like a father-son relationship. Even to the point of the now matured Sun-woo making the decision to ignore the warning time-travelling Sun-woo gave little Min-young and instead follow his advice to decide for himself. He stepped outside his “father’s” path and started walking his own. If that makes sense.
kfangurl: OHH! LOVE your father-son insight! It rings so true throughout the span of their interactions. And at the end, New Sun-woo making his own decisions is totally reminiscent of the moment that a young man chooses to live by his own rules instead of his father’s. Momentous and necessary, in the process of him becoming his own man.
You so smart! 😀
SUN-WOO AND CHIEF OH
Betsy Hp: A little cookie that I think might have been deliberately placed was Chief Oh’s references to mentoring Sun-woo up through his reporting career. He was constantly there as a father-figure to Sun-woo (an awesome father-figure!) from the very beginning. So time-traveling Sun-woo sending his younger self to then Reporter Oh for help doesn’t change their relationship much. If at all.
Which! Makes me wonder if there’s this built in paradox that Sun-woo has always been shaped by time-travel in some way or another. (Who was the original holder of the incense sticks who fixed what needed fixing then left the nine sticks behind?) How many times can a loop get played? We know the loop we see play out in the drama is encased in a larger loop of Jung-woo dying on the mountain and twenty-years-older Sun-woo coming to rescue him. Is there another loop crossing that one?
Because Sun-woo becomes something completely different than what his family had planned for him. And the first Sun-woo we meet is a reporter while his brother is a washout with at least mental issues if not drug addiction issues. Why a reporter? Wouldn’t he have been more impelled to take on the family enemy on the home turf of medicine? Wouldn’t he feel more impelled to honor both his murdered father and his tragically broken brother by taking up the doctor mantel they’d both dropped?
His best friend goes on to study medicine. I’m sure it was expected, right up to the moment his father dies, that Sun-woo would be studying medicine, too. So I imagine they were planning on attending the same schools.
Without a Chief Oh to show him what the power of reporting can be… how did Sun-woo make that switch? And how would they have crossed paths without an outside nudge?
Or… I might be overthinking things. 😀
kfangurl: Ooh.. I like that cyclical train of thought!
All valid questions that I hadn’t even given thought to. It totally makes sense that Sun-woo would’ve picked medicine instead of journalism. That the show doesn’t show us the reasons for that does give rise to the question of whether this time travel thing is somehow cyclical even though it’s not shown to us as such.
Wouldn’t it be fun if they did a special episode or something, to show us that B-side?
I do really like the idea of loops interacting with one another and affecting one another, and that what we happened to see in Nine, was just the one loop, is all. But that it doesn’t negate the existence of or interplay with other loops. Oh, the possibilities!! 😀
Betsy Hp: DVD writers commentary, I tell you. It’d be awesome. 🙂
kfangurl: SOLD. Where do we sign up for that?
TIME TRAVEL THOUGHTS
Betsy Hp: I saw Sun-woo as the rock thrown into the water. The water is effected one way (closer rings are clearer, etc.) but the rock has its own experience. I think the objects (the record, the incense) and the memory staying with Sun-woo was part of the time-travel paradox. Because he had jumped to the past and then came back, he developed an awareness that should be impossible. He actually created the world he came back to — it wouldn’t have existed without his travelling through time. So he was, in many ways, outside that world. It’s why his memories were wonky compared to those around him and it’s why the objects specific to him remained with him. He was no longer fully of that world.
It’s a paradox — which is why I think he decided it was useless to pursue the answer. It was philosophy (interesting but not really important) and he had things to do. But, with each leap his separation from the world he was creating got stronger, and the result was his being stranded in the past. Which I think becomes the answer. Once his travelling is done — the sticks run out — he has no link to that world anymore. The sticks became his link with that first leap.
kfangurl: Woah, that’s a bit of a mind-bender you have there! Verryyy interesting stuff.
I like your explanation of Sun-woo becoming more distant from the world that he creates with each timeslip. It is robust enough to provide us with some answers that the show never explicitly provides: why the objects stay with him, why his memories behave differently than that of the people around him, and most of all, why he got stuck in the past.
Betsy Hp: I don’t think he had to die at that point in time — but I don’t think he’d have ever had a way back. So he would have been fully abandoned. No ties, no identification. (And I doubt he would have approached any of the people he knew. He wouldn’t want to burden them. Especially his past self.)
I had thought that, once he died, the world he’d created would collapse in on itself. But I think that’s probably too dramatic and too Sun-woo centric. The drama constantly referred to forces bigger than Sun-woo, God or Fate or some sort of Powers That Be. We stop seeing that world after Sun-woo dies because it’s Sun-woo we’re following. But there’s no reason it doesn’t continue on.
kfangurl: Well, I’m of the opinion that the world Original Sun-woo creates continues to exist beyond his death. There’s no rule that says what we create can’t continue to exist in our absence – particularly with this idea, that Sun-woo gets more and more distanced from the world he creates. In fact, I’m thinking that his increasing distance, in some ways, implies that world’s increasing “independence” of him, if that makes sense.
Betsy Hp: Ooh, you just gave me this lovely aha moment. Because isn’t that parenthood? Kid’s continue on even if you’re absent. Maybe the link is too tenuous but… Sun-woo was such a father to so many people in his past. So that’s my leap. 😀
kfangurl: Parenthood! I like that analogy! And that’s why, to me, it feels like that there is a timeline where a Young-hoon and a Min-young grieve for a Sun-woo who never made it back from his final timeslip.
Betsy Hp: I think that part is left up to the viewer to decide — do you like the idea of multi-verses created by every decision made? Or do you prefer that universe to collapse into the one with young Sun-woo so that Min-young and Young-hoon aren’t left bereft? (I like that the writers leave it open — not doing anything that definitively states it’s one way or the other — instead just ending that story with Sun-woo’s death. Sometimes when you try to tie bows too neatly it kills the soul of the story. I like leaving it up to the viewer.)
But I think the big philosophical question of the drama is, how do you handle fate? Since Sun-woo is our hero and he seems to be heading for a happy ending at the end there, I’m going to say the writers lean towards — don’t overthink it, live how you want to live, love who you want to love.
Whereas his brother — who always needs some kind of rescuing — is really hung up on his past and how it shaped his fate and if he could change it things would get better. (The time he was at his strongest was when he was confronting his birth-father and basically saying, “our ties are our ties — but I’m done with you and moving on,” so again — not getting hung up on past issues.)
So maybe by using the incense — a tool used to meddle with the past — you tie yourself to the past and end up opting out of your future.
kfangurl: Yes, I do feel like the show’s emphasis is live how you want to live, and love who you want to love – looking towards the future rather than the past.
LOVE your sum-up too: by choosing to use the incense to meddle with the past, you choose the past, and thereby choose to opt out of your future.
Profound Betsy. That should be your new nickname, maybe? Heh.
Betsy Hp: Hah! And now I’m picturing the looks on people’s faces when I introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Betsy. But you can call me Profound Betsy!” Hee! I’m not sure it’d go over. 😀
kfangurl: I’ll call you Profound Betsy, even if no one else will.
kfangurl: Ooh. That Ending. So many possibilities!
Betsy Hp: I think there’s a lot of cookies stuck in the drama about time-traveling occurring in more places than just the story we’re following.
I rewatched the last two episodes (and the very beginning of the first episode) today and — while I think Jung-woo dropped a hint that maybe he was going to Nepal for the incense (his pointing out how strongly Sun-woo looks like the man who helped them way back when) — I’m not sure it’s that version of Jung-woo, necessarily, that went up to the mountain and started to die and then got rescued. For one, Sun-woo follows on his heels really, really quickly. (He flies out that evening — while his brother would have left around the same time Min-young did at the earliest. Since she was heading out just when Sun-woo was coming back from lunch with his brother.) So — just logistically — it’s a tight time table. Doable — but tight.
But we also see Jung-woo get rescued in the very beginning. Which doesn’t happen in the story we’re watching because Sun-woo is coming to claim his body. Then there’s whomever stuck the incense in the mattress in the first place. And then there’s the oddity of Sun-woo choosing to become a reporter. (When young Sun-woo is talking to Reporter Oh, he specifically says the idea had never occurred to him before. So what triggered it?)
kfangurl: Ooh, good spotting, that young Sun-woo said he’d never thought of being a reporter before. I hadn’t picked up on that as a clue, but now that you mention it, it just kinda thickens the plot that much more, doesn’t it?
Betsy Hp: It does! So I think, honestly, the writers put that stuff in for funnsies. It’s the kind of thing that, if you enjoy this sort of thing, can be a lot of fun spinning out theories and possibilities. But they don’t set anything in stone because it’s not necessary. It definitely tells us Sun-woo isn’t fated to die young — because here’s an older Sun-woo. But other than that? What would you like it to mean? (Which, by the way, I love. Because this is the kind of thing I enjoy. :D)
kfangurl: Yes, I do agree that the writers put some of that stuff in just to tickle our minds and bring forth lots and lots of ideas, theories and discussion, and may not even have made up their minds about the actual version of the story that they are telling.
My preferred interpretation is close to your multiple interacting loop theory, that there are other loops and other Sun-woos out there, making decisions and time-traveling. Which makes that final scene really flexible in the interpretation. (Which, cool!) It could be our New Sun-woo, coming back from 20 years in the future. Or it could be another Sun-woo from another loop. Or my favorite one (which, I admit, is a bit of a stretch), a Sun-woo from another loop, approaching Jung-woo in the mountains, in an unveiling of what really happened in that moment, in episode 1.
Betsy Hp: I would seriously love to get, like the writers’ notes or dvd commentary with the writers where they talk about it. (Where do we sign up for that?) What did they have positively nailed down? What was loose? What was, oh dear Lord, we didn’t mean that at all but… hey it works, we’ll roll with it!
kfangurl: Ha. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the writers actually turned out to not have thought of any this stuff that we’ve been chewing on? Like, how this show is all about one man reaching out to his brother and all that?
We’d be like magicians, conjuring up analysis out of nothing. That could be our superpower: Analysis, activate! ;D
Betsy Hp: If it comes with a super cool power-activating ring for each of us? I’ll take it! 😀
kfangurl: It does, actually! So I’d like to propose a toast – to our very first joint post, and many more to come, hopefully! – with superpower rings activated!